Rick Perry and the Hucksterism of the Rich

Rick Perry’s announcement of his presidential ambitions marks the triumph of fantasy over reality in American politics. Among our more pressing problems are global climate change caused by human production of greenhouse gases; religious fanaticism and interference in governance; and the structural deficit faced by the US government

It used to be that political divisions were about the different methods proposed to deal with social problems by persons with different political philosophies. Nowadays, politics is about which fantasy-land the politicians and their admirers reside in.

In the mid-to-late twentieth century, liberals wanted to address lack of proper housing for the poor by building tenements for them. Conservatives like Jack Kemp (Housing secretary under Bush Senior) argued that market mechanisms could be enlisted to get them housed. It is not clear that the conservatives were right, but the liberals definitely turned out to be wrong. The public housing had no stakeholders and it quickly deteriorated into a kind of hell. But all parties to the argument, including Republican Kemp, took the problem of housing for the poor seriously, and everyone learned from the success and failures.

Nowadays, Kemp’s analogues would likely just blithely deny that there are any poor people lacking adequate housing.

Thus, Rick Perry not only denies global climate change but has sued to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from trying to curb emissions in Texas. Ironically, if anybody will suffer from global warming, it is Texans, and the warmer temperatures of recent years are hitting them especially hard.

Perry’s response to Texas’s drought? To pray for rain.

(If anything, the evidence from teams of scientists at MIT and elsewhere is that the pace of climate change has been underestimated by international bodies like the IPCC).

Perry has links to a theocratic evangelical movement that, like the Khomeinists in Iran, believes that religion should take control of the 7 power centers in society, including the arts, media, the family, and the government. He led a national day of Christian prayer to which he invited other governors, raising questions about his commitment to the separation of religion and state. The religion Perry promotes is not the social gospel of Jesus of Nazareth, but rather an absolute worship of property rights dressed up as spirituality. His religious commitments are to be imposed on the rest of us (as in Iran). Thus, he will work against women’s choice and against the rights of gay partners to be married, because of his own personal theology.

He is another one of those dreary Red State governors who denounces Federal taxes but is first in line for Federal help. In fact, he covered a $6 bn. shortfall in the Texas budget with $6 bn in stimulus money from Barack Obama, & now boasts of his governing skills with regard to the economy. The only way to eliminate the long-term structural deficit in the Federal budget without harming Federal programs like social security and medicare is to raise taxes on the wealthy (including closing their tax loopholes). Perry denies this simple fact.

Indeed, Perry has said he believes Texas has the right to secede from the union at will, making some wags ask the question of what country he wants to be president of. (Given his dedication to public imposition of religion, maybe he should try Iran).

Perry is in the American tradition of the huckster and the booster, the snake oil salesman who promises you a cure for what ails you that turns out to be one part pretty words and another part dream castle. He is no Jack Kemp, who saw social problems and sought fixes for them in the private sector or in public-private partnerships. Perry sees no problems that can’t be fixed by slashing taxes further on our 400 billionaires and then holding prayer meetings for the unemployed. This blindness is not an accident. The Republican Supreme Court’s interference in election campaign reform has ensured that the super-wealthy in this country can get the best politicians money can buy into office.

The preference of the campaign funders for colorful and slightly unbalanced fanatics sure to do their bidding is probably unwise, since in its pure form Ayn Rand selfishness among the rich is unlovely in the eyes of the public, especially when espoused by attractive neurotics. Perry has an advantage denied to the Bachmanns and the Palins, of being well-spoken and seeming like a normal person; but his positions do not materially differ from most of theirs.

And so our national debate is stunted and distorted. Instead of arguing over the best ways of dealing with our most pressing problems, we are reduced to disputing about whether a problem even exists. The latter is a rhetorical device of wealthy special interests designed to derail the ordinary workings of democracy. Perry is among their would-be standard-bearers.

29 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    What will the chaps at the ratings agencies be thinking on Monday as they look at the runners and riders in the Republican Primary stakes.

    Will they see the US facing Hobsons Choice. Will the choice be between electing an economically illiterate, religous fanatic, in the pocket of big business or big media as President, or watching them obstruct proper functioning of government for the following four years if they loose.

    That might be described as disfunctional government.

    Downgrade another couple of clicks?

  2. Right on, Professor Cole. To many of us, religion is important. That said, if we are to maintain our rights to freedom of religion, we must also maintain the rule of law. The commandments we strive to obey may not be covered in law. But our right to obey them should be protected. In many instances, US or State law has infringed upon religious beliefs that pose no threat to the community or the nation. Should that be the case? If we believe there should be no sex before marriage, does that mean we have to condone those who revel in sex as recreation? No, but if they are not engaging in illegal acts, we must look the other way. Unfortunate, but true. Once adultery, for example, was illegal. Now it is not. Still, many of us believe it is a sin.

    Since pre-Revolutionary days, the poor house, as it was then called, has been a major drain on community (or public) resources. Ever was it so. How to deal with it has been a debate since the founding fathers. I believe it will continue. We rich nations have spent ourselves into debt far greater than we will ever be able to pay. Not just the US. Who stands to suffer. Citizens of course, but if we have no money, how can we afford to give billions to the quake victims in Haiti or the starving women and children (you never hear about men starving) of Somalia?

    The more I watch and listen and ponder, the more I think no one person is capable of leading any major country. Things are just too complex for anyone to get their head around the problems.

    Thank you for your astute observations, but academia also does not have a very good record of problem-solving.

    • @ charles

      You said: “If we believe there should be no sex before marriage, does that mean we have to condone those who revel in sex as recreation? No, but if they are not engaging in illegal acts, we must look the other way. Unfortunate, but true.”

      Personally, I find your religious beliefs (as manifested in these comments) to be invalid and detestable — but, our freedom of religion allows you to believe and practice it, as long as it’s not violating any laws…

      So, everyday, I look the other way, even though artifacts and other manifestations of religious beliefs are impossible to avoid in my daily life (and I indirectly have to subsidize these beliefs through tax exempt status for your religious institutions), e.g., your crucifixes, your fishy fishes, and your inane promises to save my soul. “Unfortunate, but true” — I can say that too!

      What would be nice to see from the religious right is more “looking the other way.” That is, more tolerance for people who believe differently than you, and whose right to belief differently is just as valid as yours..

  3. What can I say, except right on the money about this shenanigan. For me being a Swede and have resided here in the USA for 31 years and watching this vicious cycle of dumbing down in the main media, in schools and a complete assault on the working American. When I came her in 1980 I could hardly see any homelessness on the streets in Los Angeles over night after Ronald Reagan took office and his assault on Traffic Controllers, Mental Institutions and unions here at home. And then there was the foreign assaults to Iran-Contra affair one of many as this Nation continue it’s endless wars in the name of Freedom and Democracy ! Being in this boat this days without a rudder and a crew arguing over what to do to get back into the harbor safe….a few good sailors know how to do it, by using the weight of the crew and their by being able to tack the boat….. I wonder how much more the working man will take to the street in this country and demand a change in Washington, put a stop to the corporate money flow into the elections and our so called elected officials. Watching all this politicians making their speeches and promises on what they are going to do and what they stand for really makes you sick to the stomach. Americans so blind to what is and that we have become what we supposedly fight against. Arrogance and Ignorance most offend go hand in hand together with the ego….. As in life without integrity there is no workability…… we need to work on the integrity and hold all elected officials responsible for their promises and action or lack of them…. We need to get sober and clear our heads from this illusion that we are number one….. we are not and have not been for a very long time.
    Juan wonder if you could come up with a 12 step program to get our compass heading back and a conversation worth having as a Nation….. I got a few, No more money in the elections, time limits, performance evaluation every year. We have the most exclusive Country Club in the World and we the people are not a lawed in….. Thanks for your great work Jaun !

    Kent Karlsson

  4. I didn’t pay much attention to it, but what I heard was that the prayer gathering was meant to try to get America back on track, get the economy going again. That was part of what they were praying for, I guess. I don’t have a problem with that. However, I knew enough about Rick Perry’s politics to know that it wasn’t truly religious, in the sense that you point out, Prof. Cole, namely, related to the actual teachings of Jesus. But who expects any politician, especially a Republican, to practice the social gospel? That just does not happen. If it did, if there was a leader who was actually preaching social justice and love for the least among us, we might begin to see some real change in this country. As it is, we get Christians like George W. Bush and his ilk, who think God tells them to invade other countries that didn’t attack us. Obama, also a Christian, uses his Nobel Peace Prize speech to justify war. As for economic policies, it’s tax cuts for the wealthy and slashing benefits, the little that people have.

    I don’t know if I agree with the bogeyman of Iran in this post. I understand it’s not what most Americans would want, an Iran-style government or society. But I wouldn’t compare these evangelicals to the Khomeini movement that overthrew a brutal dictator. I realize Iran has problems, and there’s a violent history there, but I don’t think it’s right to use Iran as a comparison to right-wing American Christians. From what I know, I think the spirituality of Iranians was sincere and, to me, at least worthy of respect. Khomeini, whether he followed through with it or not, spoke of the need to help the downtrodden. As you point out, these Republican evangelicals are just a fraud; they care for the rich only and are without any compassion for the poor. That, of course, is the antithesis of what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Christ.

  5. Preach on brother! This kind of needed commentary is completely missing from the so-called liberal mass media.

  6. Ayn Rand – it is correct Rand appealed to self- centerness and the greed of the rich, the greed setting the rich against the poor. Her influence is greater reaching than this, she also appealed to the selfishness within people and within families. Ayn who was raised under the banner of the Soviet Union, grew and come to America and taught American’s how to be self-centered and greedy. From life lessons – selfishness in nurtured in people from many walks of life and many political viewpoints. Americans as a whole appears to have become self-centered people, and many appear to have been unknowingly influenced by Rand’s views.

    Perry’s background is interesting, he was once a democrat and supporter of Al Gore then changed to a republican.

    I realized some may not like Perry, and people will have options to vote for or against him; however, I must admit taking some delight in seeing Perry’s announcement in South Carolina, and what a “slap in the face” it must have been to Romney. For a few of us who know well the dangers of a Romney reign – Romney complete with his many advisors linked to enhanced tortures and abuses; it is a welcome sight for entry to anyone who can knock Mitt out of the race, and hopefully knock Romney out of his last chance to run for POTUS, few realized the full danger of Mittens.

    Myself, I cannot get the picture out of my mind, of a handcuffed and stuffed into a squad car Mitt Romney representing America as our president; or the foul mouth Mitt Romney going off on officers during the Olympics in SLC. Or, Romney who could not tolerate a lone protester against Mittens having a rodeo at the SLC Olympics; surprisingly the protester was set-up as a terrorist.

    link to romneyfacts.com

    Romney terrorized rodeo protester below:

    link to youtube.com

    What were those agents wearing? Olympic jackets. Oh, Mittens.

  7. I think you misunderstand why the tenements were a bad idea: it wasn’t that the poor had no ownership, but that, as Jane Jacobs stated in Life and Death of Great American Cities, the tenements did not allow people to flourish. The “rational” designers didn’t fail because the reputed virtues (such as property rights) escaped them, but because they didn’t value diversity, the life cycle of cities, the importance of aesthetics to the “soul,” the limits of money, population instability, etc.

    Certainly, subsidized housing was part of Jacobs’ solution, but it only a part.

    Perry looks and acts the part: rugged, virile, confident. Just as OBL was claimed by the US government to dye his hair to appear younger and masculine, it’s clear that Perry hits the JFM too. I wouldn’t be surprised if Josh Brolin is probably already in talks with Oliver Stone for a biography of Perry.

    The continuing problems of unjust social policy, increasing income inequality, homelessness, decreased social capital, poor urban planning, etc., are not proof that Jack Kemp, or any lionized conservative figure for that matter, was correct, prescient or visionary.

    No one to my knowledge has written the kind of psycho-biography of Perry that would give us insight into the man. It’s very possible that even he doesn’t believe the shit he sells, that he senses the public’s resentment against Barack-the-Eunuch, the potential to ride the fundamentalist reactionary wave into the White House and do the bidding of the very wealthy, just as Dubya did, and Dubya’s father before that. (Obama castrated himself by cultivating a reputation for being “professorial”–that in reality, he is not, and that in fact, he seeks the approval of rich white guys, as Frank Rich wrote, does not matter.) Where is Justin Frank??

  8. Cole said, “The preference of the campaign funders for colorful and slightly unbalanced fanatics sure to do their bidding is probably unwise”

    And it sounds like a recipe for Adolph Hitler…

  9. Though I’ve argued this with others, I felt that Bush Junior really believed his theocratic religious spoutings. He really believed his kind were meant to run everything, and that sincerity cued the Christian fundamentalist faction to fall in line behind him without his having to seduce them in the media too blatantly.

    Rick Perry believes in nothing. He’s just more aggressive about selling out than Mitt Romney. He doesn’t bother with sincerity. He was a Democrat until Phil Gramm literally told him that he’d lose his job if he didn’t switch parties. Then he was a perfect extension of Governor George Bush for 8 years. Then he sensed the Tea Party wind and became a secessionist.

    So now I’m wondering whether the far right really gave a damn about sincerity at all, and whether they were simply judging whether a candidate would be an obsequious enough lackey to carry out their agenda regardless of the consequences. Rick Perry has no connections to any consequences; he’s nothing without politics and he will only be as rich as he is rewarded by his constituency du jour. He’s not part of a billionaire oligarchy clan like Bush.

    Either they’re willing to rent him to be a fanatic, or they reject him for another who really believes the theology.

    And thank you for discussing the New Apostolic Reformation (please Google, everybody), the ultra-theocratic Pentecostal sect that was all over his prayer rally, but carefully toned down their self-serving crackpottery (literally that everyone who disagrees with them is under demonic influence) when the cameras were on them. They’re a tiny, but fast-growing segment of far-right Protestantism, yet they count Palin as a long-time associate, Bachmann as a definite fellow traveller, and now they’ve made themselves indispensable for Perry. They sure want the White House bad- what do you think they intend to do with it?

    • Whoops! Found the answer to my own speculation at a blog (thanks to CWells for his reply):

      link to godsownparty.com

      “I doubt that the Seven Mountains Dominionists (aka New Apostolic Reformation) see Rick Perry as a King David. It is more likely that they see him as a King Cyrus, since the person who anointed him on September 28, 2009 said to Perry that he had prayed before his congregation “Lord Jesus I bring to you today Gov. Perry. I am just bringing you his hand and I pray Lord that he will grasp ahold of it. For if he does you will use him mightily.” Perry took ahold of it and the Texas and personal prophesies brought by those anointing him.

      “This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armour, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”‘ (Isaiah 45:1-3, NIV throughout).

      In his book, “The Heart of the Treasure Bringers, Robert Fraser of the International House of Prayer puts as a header to the above verses: “God will release untold wealth, the Cyrus anointing.”

      For several years Dominionist pastors have been preaching about “The Great Wealth Transfer” which will be transferred from the wicked – everyone who is not of their “faith” – to the righteous – everyone who is of their “faith.”

      ***

      In other words, Cyrus was an outsider (Persian king) who did the Jews a favor, and the NAR sees Perry as the same; a tool to power instead of freedom. They don’t need him to be of their twisted faith.

  10. How about fair (high marginal) taxes for the rich, and prayer-breakfasts for the rich at which they can examine the enormous wealth which will remain to them after paying those taxes?

    And let’s keep a list of the topics that are “unspeakable” in the (im)polite society of American politics?

    Reducing the vast military empire (and its costs) by 50%?

    Global warming responses in place of dithering (and this means no more exploration or production of tar-sands oil, frakked gas, etc.)

    Ending USA’s permission to Israel to violate international law by keeping settlers ANYWHERE within territories occupied in 1967, whether or not Israel intends to demand to keep these particular parts of the OPTs after a peace.

    Whether the low-low-low capital requirements for banks makes any sense after the calamities we’ve already seen (and not only inside the USA) due to this gambling-encouraging low-margin system.

    And, I should imagine. many more.

  11. USA is not alone in suffering from too-high military spending. Here is Gideon Levy on Israel

    Light tension has in recent weeks entered our relations with the neighboring state, though these relations remain excellent – thanks for asking. Their leaders may feel a twinge, as the far tips of their wings are clipped; but the damage is not serious. Since its establishment, the state of the Israel Defense Forces has lived amicably alongside the State of Israel. Borders between the two states are well-known, and are defensible. Ambassadors of this other state carry out their roles successfully within the State of Israel; they lobby and apply pressure, typical in relations between delegates of one regional power and those of another.

  12. Juan Coles’ good commentary only begins to suggest what Perry’s Texas has been about.

    I would strongly recommend people check out Texans for Public Justice which has excellent summaries of Perry’s tactics, policies, and ethics “challenges.”

    In its current incarnation, Texas increasingly resembles something we haven’t seen in the U.S. for a long time:

    …a slave state.

  13. Rick Perry looks like the thug in High Noon. Problem is, he acts like one too. Some of his pronouncements:
    Texas will secede.
    Pray for rain, but ignore global warming.
    Turn down $555,000,000 stimulus money for unemployment insurance.
    Support “intelligent design” in public schools. (Texas ranks 49th).

    If W. was the smirking chimp, Perry would be the brutish gorilla.

  14. “. Perry sees no problems that can’t be fixed by slashing taxes further on our 400 billionaires and then holding prayer meetings for the unemployed. ”

    Hypocrite, heretic.

    Chris Matthews has been pounding on Perry and his serious contradictions.

    “Perry is a clown”
    link to youtube.com

  15. Dear professor Cole

    Professor Krugman weighs in too.

    link to nytimes.com

    What Texas shows is that a state offering cheap labor and, less important, weak regulation can attract jobs from other states. I believe that the appropriate response to this insight is “Well, duh.” The point is that arguing from this experience that depressing wages and dismantling regulation in America as a whole would create more jobs — which is, whatever Mr. Perry may say, what Perrynomics amounts to in practice — involves a fallacy of composition: every state can’t lure jobs away from every other state.

    In fact, at a national level lower wages would almost certainly lead to fewer jobs — because they would leave working Americans even less able to cope with the overhang of debt left behind by the housing bubble, an overhang that is at the heart of our economic problem.

    So when Mr. Perry presents himself as the candidate who knows how to create jobs, don’t believe him. His prescriptions for job creation would work about as well in practice as his prayer-based attempt to end Texas’s crippling drought.

  16. Check this out not only is Doug Feith one of Perry’s main men…Bill Luti is on the Perry bus. These are two individuals who should be on trial at the Hague for war crimes.

    link to raceforiran.com
    “ForeignPolicy.com reports, see here, say that Perry’s foreign policy and national security briefings are being organized by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and feature such Iraq war masterminds as Doug Feith and Bill Luti. Dr. Paul has his work cut out for him.”

    Retired Lt Colonel Karen Kwiatowski has a few things to say about Feith and Luti her “The New Pentagon Papers”
    link to dir.salon.com

    “To begin with, I was introduced to Bill Luti, assistant secretary of defense for NESA. A tall, thin, nervously intelligent man, he welcomed me into the fold. I knew little about him. Because he was a recently retired naval captain and now high-level Bush appointee, the common assumption was that he had connections, if not capability. I would later find out that when Dick Cheney was secretary of defense over a decade earlier, Luti was his aide. He had also been a military aide to Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich during the Clinton years and had completed his Ph.D. at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. While his Navy career had not granted him flag rank, he had it now and was not shy about comparing his place in the pecking order with various three- and four-star generals and admirals in and out of the Pentagon. Name dropping included references to getting this or that document over to Scooter, or responding to one of Scooter’s requests right away. Scooter, I would find out later, was I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff.’

    • You have a couple of non-functioning links. Here’s how to insert a link into the comment box:

      Let’s say the link is to http://www.weather.gov

      I’m going to use [ to represent the less-than symbol, usually found above the comma, ( as in shift-, ), and ] to represent the greater-than symbol, usually above the period ( shift-. ).

      You would type

      [a href=”www.weather.gov”] link to http://www.weather.gov [/a]

  17. Perfect! The earlier the real Perry is introduced to the public, the better.

    If you analyze the job of the President you see an incredible web of diverse demands, all requiring intellectual comprehension, ability to analyze courses of action, leadership to implement required actions, and the communications skills to sustain public awareness and support.

    Yet when you look at the nominating and electoral process, none of these attributes are under examination. It’s just personalities, personalities, personalities, and personal trivia. It’s like a baseball team hiring a player without ever looking at his past batting and fielding stats.

    If one of these personalities is going to be the leader the free world, and the worlds most powerful head of state, then maybe we ought to let the rest of the world participate in the voting. Might get a better outcome.

    • I think the Tea Party, and the entire conservative movement for the last 30 years, has been a white petit bourgeoise rebellion against “interdependence”. They don’t want complex problems managed, they want the enemy exterminated.

      • I hate to break it to you, their are people linked to the liberal side who are involved also.super390.

        It is not as simple as, yuck conservative and the liberal side is without a blemish. A wise man said, “two wall hold up the same roof.” When the worst hits, ones rose colored glasses come off. It is not as simple as in your post super390

  18. “Nowadays, politics is about which fantasy-land the politicians and their admirers reside in.”

    Welcome to the triumph of post-Modernism!

  19. do a google search of “Rick Perry Gaza flotilla” for some interesting reading

  20. The way to ruin Rick Perry is to force him to take a position on the empire.

    He can’t take a status quo position – he’s already denounced Obama for that. But the far right in America is divided between two irreconcilable camps both founded on the idea that America is morally superior to the outside world. Either that means it shuns the outside entirely, or it attempts to conquer and “reform” the outside.

    Make Perry have to say which of those he wants. If he goes for empire to oppose Paul, he ticks off a lot of enthusiastic secular reactionaries, and looks too much like Bush Junior in the bargain. If he goes for isolationism, the entire Christian Right and the Israel Lobby freak out.

    While the Christians are a far larger camp, their support for escalating war (and persecuting gays) is running directly counter to the mood of the rest of the country.

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