Yesterday my state's illustrious governor and defender of "states' rights" came to my campus to speak and hawk his book. Unfortunately, I was in a meeting, and so I could not ask him directly how he can claim to be against a meddling government when he opposes gay rights and abortion rights while forcing all state university professors to put their student evaluations and syllabi online and calling for predator drones to patrol the border.
In any case, in recent weeks Rick Perry has been busy taking his message outside of the Lone Star State, even to the Daily Show. I am constantly amazed at how much credibility he seems to get outside of Texas, as if he is some kind of innovator worth listening to. Perry is in fact a practiced political hustler of the smoothest and lowest sort. His state does not provide a shining example to the rest of America. In fact, it is a good example of how the hard Right's neo-Gilded Age ideas benefit the few at the expense of the many. I am getting tired of the kid-glove treatment that Perry gets fromt the national media, and the false narrative that his leadership of Texas presents some kind of success story. It's hard even to know where to begin, so here's a quick bullet-point list:
- Perry has refused to be part of the Race to the Top initiative, claiming to avert federal meddling in Texas' education system. It actually needs some meddling. Texas ranks dead last in the percentage of its population with high school diplomas.
- Texas also ranks 45th in average SAT scores.
- Mr. "small government" lives in a luxury apartment that has cost Texas taxpayers $600,000 over the last two years.
- This personal overspending is a small contribution to the state's projected 11 to 17 BILLION dollar budget deficit.
- Despite claims that Texas' low taxes (which have contributed to this mess) have saved the state from recession, the state's economic performance is almost identical to high tax, high spending New York.
- Over a quarter of Texans lack health insurance, the highest level in the country.
- In a real example of the "tyranny" he always rails about, Perry blocked an investigation into whether he put an innocent man to death.
In my experience living here, I've found Texas to be like Alabama with oil and better roads. The Texan penchant for bragging and self-importance seems to have obscured that basic reality from the rest of the country.