Texas Gov. Rick Perry writes in his book "Fed Up!" that big government has hurt America. In this excerpt, he shares why he believes politicians in Washington are to blame.
I grew up in Paint Creek, Texas. If you can’t find it on a map, I won’t be surprised. Just look for Haskell, Texas, population 3,000, and then go a few miles to the south and the east and you might find it. We were cotton farmers. We believed in God, we believed in taking care of ourselves and one another, and we believed that America was the greatest nation on earth. We still do. Serving as the governor of Texas for almost ten years has given me a unique perspective on the current state of things in our country. And from my vantage point, I see a nation filled with good, hardworking people who are wondering what happened to the country they knew. It wasn’t so long ago that we were expected to pay our bills, we were able to pray at the town meeting, and we believed it was important to rely on ourselves or our families rather than government.
Now, cynics will say that I decided to write this book because I seek higher office. They are wrong: I already have the best job in America. I wrote this book because I believe that America is great but also that America is in trouble — and heading for a cliff if we don’t take immediate steps to change course. I wrote this book in the hopes that it will lead to a new conversation about the proper role of government in our lives and perhaps be a step toward renewing our collective appreciation for the genius of our nation’s federal system of government — when it works the way it is supposed to.
I believe that government is best when it is closest to the people. I believe that states are the critical components of our federal system of government, that the Founders recognized their importance, and that empowering the states is the best way to ensure our God- given right to live according to the dictates of our consciences. I believe that we have let establishment politicians on both sides of the aisle empower Washington at the expense of states, and thus our liberty. I believe that our fight today is to restore the proper balance of power in order to ensure that America can remain free and prosperous — and capable of continuing to lead the world.
Something is terribly wrong. There is a sense among Americans that the world we have always known is in danger of being turned upside down.
Now, do not misunderstand me. America is great. Our nation has done, and continues to do, more for the cause of freedom around the world than any nation in the history of man. And our nation is filled with people, whether they were born here or came here in search of the American dream, who are driven by faith, determination, personal responsibility, and self- reliance. They are forging better lives for themselves and their children. This is the land of opportunity — a place where, after all, a rural cotton farmer from Paint Creek, Texas, can become governor.
Americans have fed more people, clothed more people, healed more people, and improved the lives of more people — and more quickly — than any other society the world has known. And we have done it by believing in the individual, by defending liberty, no matter the price, and by demonstrating a living, abiding faith that has compelled us throughout the generations to act against evil and to advance good. But America is in trouble, and the people know it. We sense that our way of life and, perhaps more importantly, our ability to decide how we shall live, is no longer in our control but in the control of an increasingly powerful and oppressive national government — a government run by people who simply do not share our values or our beliefs and blatantly ignore its limits.
In short, it is not America that is broken; it is Washington that is broken. You can’t argue with the fact that power has increasingly been consolidated in Washington. In 1960, the government of the United States spent approximately $92 billion annually, or $509 per person. By 1987, that figure had grown to $1 trillion, or $4,127 per person. This year, federal spending is projected to surpass $3.7 trillion, or $11,500 per person. There are over 2 million civilian federal employees, an additional 1.5 million in the U.S. military (that part is a good thing), and millions more involved in federal contracts. There are over 4,500 independent federal criminal laws and over 163,000 pages of federal regulations scattered across hundreds of agencies in 15 different departments. The federal tax code and its supporting regulations total over 9 million words across thousands of pages.
The federal government is massive and grows more so by the day. Indeed, by the end of the 111th Congress, there will likely be more than 6,500 new bills introduced in the House of Representatives and 4,000 more in the Senate, designed, ostensibly, to cure the nation’s ills.
Of course, it never occurs to the power brokers in Washington that perhaps they are the cause of much of what ails us. But it occur to the American people. I have had the privilege of meeting and talking with tens of thousands of my fellow citizens from all walks of life, and I can tell you one thing for certain: the American people are fed up.
We are fed up with being overtaxed and overregulated. We are tired of being told how much salt we can put on our food, what windows we can buy for our house, what kind of cars we can drive, what kinds of guns we can own, what kind of prayers we are allowed to say and where we can say them, what political speech we are allowed to use to elect candidates, what kind of energy we can use, what kind of food we can grow, what doctor we can see, and countless other restrictions on our right to live as we see fit.
We are fed up with a federal government that has the arrogance to preach to us about how to live our lives, and the chutzpah to haul every baseball player and other “evildoer” in the world before a congressional committee — or some comic such as Stephen Colbert. Meanwhile, Congress, arguably one of the most incompetent regimes with one of the worst track records of mismanagement in the history of mankind, runs up over $13 trillion and counting in debt.
We are fed up with bailout after bailout and stimulus plan after stimulus plan, each one of which tosses principle out the window along with taxpayer money. We can’t even keep up with all the spending, be it the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the auto industry bailout, the AIG bailout, or President Obama’s failed $787 billion “Recovery Act.” The list goes on and on.
We are fed up with a federal government that pledged $200 billion to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac when their mismanagement, coupled with ridiculous federal regulations, led to the inappropriate lending policies underlying the financial crisis in the first place. And we are fed up with tax credits that amount to pure giveaways to certain citizens at the expense of others — the government picking winners and losers based on circumstance and luck with no real benefit to the economy.
We are fed up with a Department of Homeland Security that refuses to secure our borders, resulting in more than 10 million people living in our country illegally, thousands more coming in daily from all over the world, and almost 1,000 children being born in our country every day to parents who are here illegally. Meanwhile, politicians use the issue of immigration as a political tool to divide Americans.
We are fed up with a self-interested Congress that spends its time earmarking over 9,000 pet projects in 2010 worth over $16 billion, a number Democrats tout as an accomplishment because it represents just over half of the peak amount of $29 billion under Republicans in 2006 — all of which corrupts the political process and wastes our money. We are fed up with a Congress that often fails to even read the legislation it passes and that increasingly writes laws, such as the health care bill, that are over 2,000 pages long.
We are fed up with activist judges who tell us what is right and wrong and deny us the right to live as we see fit — from deciding when life begins and where the Ten Commandments can be displayed to telling the people how to punish criminals.
We are fed up that Social Security and Medicare teeter on the verge of bankruptcy, amassing unfathomable liabilities for future generations, that the federal government refuses to admit it, and that there is no leadership in Washington to do anything about it — unless you count yet another committee chaired by a retired senator that will no doubt be appointed to fix them.
We are fed up with a federal government arrogant enough to declare it knows more about our health than our doctor and that is willing to risk the best health care system in the world while blatantly lying that it is not on the path to a single-payer, government-run system.
But perhaps most of all we are fed up because deep down we know how great America has always been, how many great things the people have done in spite of their government, and how great the nation can be in the future if government will just get out of the way.
America is great. Yet for some in our nation, to make such a statement is considered arrogant, close-minded, or jingoistic — the kind of thing said by cowboys, as if it is a bad thing to be a cowboy.
Excerpted from “Fed Up!” by Rick Perry. Copyright (c) 2010, reprinted with permission from Little, Brown and Company.