The Perry Doctrine

Article excerpt

Byline: Evan Smith

Last week NEWSWEEK contributor Evan Smith of The Texas Tribune met with Gov. Rick Perry to talk about W, Obama, the New Deal, and his own political future. Excerpts:

Exactly one year ago today you were on the steps of Austin City Hall, talking about the possibility of secession.

I said that we live in an incredibly wonderful country, and I see absolutely no reason for that to ever happen. But I do understand people's concern and anger about what this administration is doing from an economic standpoint--in particular, the long-term debt that's being created for not only them but for future generations.

A year later, you're more resolute about the divide between the states and the federal government.

The federal government wants to be the epicenter of all thought and policy and one-size-fits-all. It's very clear that we have very, very different ideas about the structure of this country and how it should work. The tea parties are a reflection of that. I think they are highly economic-driven. At the end of the day, it is about the economy--that's really what drives people. Government is basically saying, "I don't care how hard you work. We are going to take more of [your money], because we know best how to redistribute it around the country." It really irritates a lot of Americans.

As you know, our state has the highest percentage of its citizens without insurance: senior citizens, children, working families. If you don't like reform coming out of Washington, what do you do to solve that problem?

For over two years we've had a waiver request in front of the [federal government]--before this administration got in place, I might add--that would allow us some flexibility to use federal dollars differently than what's mandated by the federal government to create insurance opportunities for those who are uninsured today. That's one example.

We are about to enter a legislative session with a biennial budget shortfall of anywhere from $10 billion to $20 billion, depending upon whom you talk to. Last session, the federal stimulus was used to help balance our books--and to help pay down our debt from two sessions ago. By the way, if you hate the feds so much, why did you take $16 billion in stimulus money?

Texas is a major donor state. We Texans send billions of dollars to Washington, D.C., in the form of federal gas taxes and income taxes. These are Texas-earned, Texas-generated dollars--monumental amounts of money, substantially more than flows back into this state. So the idea that we're going to be purer than pure and not take any money back because it's been identified as stimulus dollars? These are our dollars. This is our money.

You've been in public office for more than 25 years, and you are the longest-serving governor in the history of the state. Yet you've managed to run for the last few months as an outsider.

I disagree that I paint myself as somehow outside. Now, I did run a campaign as us--Texas--versus Washington. Washington is the center of bad public policy in most people's opinion and has been for some time--not just in this current administration, though this administration is carrying it to new levels. Do you want Texas to be run the way it has been run, with a Texas-centric philosophy, or do you want this person from Washington, D. …