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PORTSIDE  August 2011, Week 2

PORTSIDE August 2011, Week 2

Subject:

Perry's Entitlement Problem

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Fri, 12 Aug 2011 21:01:48 -0400

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Perry's Entitlement Problem

     Rick Perry kicks off his campaign tomorrow, but is
     he electable? In an interview last fall, the Texas
     governor advocated dismantling Medicare and Social
     Security.

By Andrew Romano
Aug 12, 2011
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/08/12/rick-perry-exclusive-newsweek-interview-calls-for-dismantling-social-security-and-medicare.html

For months, Republicans have complained about their
choices in the 2012 presidential race. Mitt Romney seems
unprincipled, they've said. Michele Bachmann is too
flimsy. Tim Pawlenty looks fine on paper, but in person,
not so much. And Newt Gingrich is just plain erratic.


But now disaffected conservatives think they've found
their man. His name? Rick Perry. This weekend, while
most of the field focuses on the Ames, Iowa straw poll,
the three-plus-term Texas governor will launch his bid
for the GOP nomination at the Red State conference in
Charleston, S.C.-and significant swaths of the
Republican base will heave a collective sigh of relief.
As The New Republic's Ed Kilgore puts it, "Rick Perry
seems to perfectly embody the Republican zeitgeist of
the moment, appealing equally to the GOP's Tea Party,
Christian Right, and establishment factions while
exemplifying the militant anti-Obama attitude that holds
it all together."

The only problem? Perry has almost no chance-unlike,
say, Romney, Pawlenty, or even Jon Huntsman-of beating
Barack Obama in the general election.

This isn't because he "sounds too much like" George W.
Bush, as almost every pundit in Washington has been
repeating, ad nauseam, since Perry first hinted in May
that he might run. And it's not because he's "too
religious", either.

The real reason Perry will find it nearly impossible to
win a general election is, believe it or not, substance.
He holds three positions that vast majorities of the
American public, Republicans included, will simply
refuse to stomach-that America would be better off
without the federal programs known as Social Security
and Medicare, and that the government should do nothing
(zero, zilch, nada) to counteract an economic crash.

Read the whole Rick Perry transcript

Texas governor Rick Perry speaks during the 2011
Republican Leadership Conference on June 18, 2011 in New
Orleans, Louisiana. The 2011 Republican Leadership
Conference features keynote addresses from most of the
major republican candidates for president as well as
numerous republican leaders from across the country. ,
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Despite all the hoopla surrounding Perry's candidacy,
few people have asked yet what the Texas governor
actually believes-and what sort of president he would
be. Fortunately, I spent the better part of an hour
talking to Perry about his political philosophy and
policy prescriptions back in the fall, right before he
released Fed Up!, his first policy book. At the time,
Newsweek chose to print only a short excerpt from our
interview; few readers knew who Perry was, or cared. But
now that he's running for president, it makes sense to
publish a longer version of the conversation, which
reveals a lot about Perry's politics. (For the full
transcript, click through.)

In the interview, Perry hints that he would do more to
limit the power of the federal government-or at least
attempt to do more-than any president since Calvin
Coolidge. His argument is basically that we should
dismantle most of the last 75 years of national policy
and relinquish even Washington's least controversial
responsibilities to the states.

Perry believes, for example, that the national Social
Security system, which he calls a "failure" that "we
have been forced to accept for more than 70 years now,"
should be scrapped and that each state should be allowed
to create, or not create, its own pension system. "I
would suggest a legitimate conversation about let[ting]
the states keep their money and implement the programs,"
he says.

Perry also includes Medicare in his list of programs
"the states could substantially better operate,"
suggesting that each governor should be "given the
freedom from the federal government to come up with his
own innovative ways [of] working with his legislature to
deliver his own health-care innovations to his
citizens."

And Perry thinks TARP was a total mistake-along with all
subsequent efforts to backstop or stimulate the economy.
Instead, he prefers an entirely laissez-faire approach
to job-destroying financial crises. "I think you allow
the market to work its way through it," he says. "I
don't understand why the TARP bill exists. Let the
processes find their way."

No Social Security. No federal health-care program for
seniors. And no Beltway involvement-at all-during a
crash or recession. These views will undoubtedly endear
Perry to the Tea Party faithful. But they would alienate
nearly every other voter in the country.

This isn't opinion-it's demonstrable, quantifiable fact.
In April, Gallup asked Americans to describe their
preferred approach to Medicare reform. Sixty-one percent
of adults said we should "not try to control costs" at
all or make only "minor changes." Another 18 percent
said they would accept "major changes." But only 13
percent were willing to countenance Perry's plan: a
"complete overhaul." Underscoring the impossibility of
Perry's position is the fact that the most popular
response among Republicans was not that Medicare needs
to be rebuilt from the ground up, as Perry believes.
It's that we shouldn't try and control costs at all.
Other polls (PDF) have found up to 81 percent of
Americans unwilling to tolerate "significant cuts" to
Medicare. One imagines that defederalizing the program
would be even less popular.

Social Security is a similar story. In national polls,
opposition to cutting the national pension plan ranges
from around 64 percent to about 78 percent (PDF).  And
Social Security cuts are especially unpopular in crucial
swing states, with a poll published in June showing
"that 74 percent of likely 2012 voters in Florida,
Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia, and Colorado say they
would oppose cutting Social Security benefits in order
to reduce the federal budget deficit," and another,
earlier survey pegging that number at an eye-popping 80
percent in Ohio. If you lose between 70 and 80 percent
of voters in Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia,
Colorado, and Ohio, there's no way you can win the
presidency.

Finally, while the stimulus has become pretty unpopular
in retrospect-it didn't do nearly as much good as
President Obama predicted it would-voters would be even
less fond of a world without it. The Congressional
Budget Office has reported, for instance, that the
stimulus "[i]ncreased the number of people employed by
between 1.4 million and 3.3 million"; TARP, which wound
up costing only $19 billion, arrested a financial free
fall that may have led to another Great Depression; and
the auto bailout likely saved the car industry and tens
of thousands of Midwestern jobs. None of which would've
happened if Perry were president at the time, meaning
that people would probably be even more peeved than they
are now.

Again, there are plenty of Tea Party Republicans who
will be thrilled by Perry's agenda. There may even be
enough to propel the Texas governor to the GOP
nomination. But if Republicans really want to defeat
Barack Obama next November, they should be wary about
topping the ticket with someone whose views on the
federal government are further to the right than even
Ronald Reagan's-by a country mile. People like to rail
against bureaucracy, but they also expect Washington to
help them out in a few fundamental ways. Reforming
Social Security and Medicare is fair game; no reasonable
observer would disagree. But dismantling them
altogether? Somewhere, Obama's aides are already
dreaming up the attack ads.

---

Andrew Romano is a Senior Writer for Newsweek. He
reports on politics, culture, and food for the print and
web editions of the magazine and appears frequently on
CNN and MSNBC. His 2008 campaign blog, Stumper, won
MINOnline's Best Consumer Blog award and was cited as
one of the cycle's best news blogs by both Editor &
Publisher and the Deadline Club of New York.

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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