Columns » John Brummett

Texan wooed by Arkansas kook caucus



Texas Gov. Rick Perry represents everything that 20 of the most extreme right-wing Republicans in the Arkansas State House of Representatives want in their next president.

So they sent this near-tea partier a public letter the other day imploring him to do his country the noble favor of seeking the presidency, a prospect he seems to be edging toward.

Perry spoke at a tea party rally in April 2009 at which some participants were yelling for Texas to secede from these great and proud United States. Afterward a reporter asked Perry what he thought about all that secession racket.

Perry said that he didn't endorse it, but that Texans were an independent lot and that you never knew what might happen if President Obama did not stop over-spending and pushing the government to exert too much control over our lives.

This means that Perry may soon be the first post-Civil War American presidential candidate to have spoken openly of the prospect of his home state's illegal secession from the country he would be offering to lead.

It all sounds odder than it actually is, most likely. The best explanation is that Perry was merely fearful of the tea party and used his silly answer to appease the zanies to whom he had just spoken.

That should be reassuring, knowing, that is, that Perry is a pandering fraidy-cat rather than one seriously pondering the partial dissolution of America.

Perry is against the very idea of an income tax, which Texas does not have, and has even said that the greatest mistake the federal government ever made was granting itself the constitutional authority to take portions of personal incomes.

But it is simply a fact that a tax on incomes with a rate that rises according to income is the most efficient and fair way to generate money for government services.

Sales taxes hit poor people hardest. Natural resource taxes have their place, but they are unequal from place to place and, after all, they rely on depletion of nonrenewable resources. Some people like sin taxes, on alcohol and cigarettes, but those put the government in the position of depending on destructive citizen behavior.

Income taxes that exempt the lowest incomes and with rates that rise as incomes rise — they're hated, yes, and they can be made unfair by exemptions and deductions and credits. But they're hard to beat for money collected reliably and universally.

It is a standard Republican thing to want to cut income taxes in a way that would return most of the dollars to the richest people. But to want to do away with the income tax altogether — well, it will certainly net you a preemptive endorsement from the kook caucus of the state House of Representatives up in Arkansas.

We're talking there about people like the backslid columnist, David Sanders, and those Meeks boys from Conway and that Biviano fellow from Searcy who had that fender-bender outside the Capitol Hotel one recent Saturday night.

Perry also has consented to all that churchifying of the school textbooks by his state's elected Board of Education. He just appointed a member to the chairmanship of that board who insists on teaching creationism. Perry plans on hosting a mass Christian prayer rally in Houston in August.

Perry also just vetoed a bill to make it against the law to drive a car and send a text message at the same time. He called this attempt at life-saving "government meddling." Perhaps his free and independent nation of Texas would permit no silly seat belts, either.

If Perry runs, he will be the best Republican candidate. That is because he balances the rightward-appealing kookiness of Michele Bachmann with an admittedly stellar job creation record in Texas that trumps anything the mainstream Mitt Romney can say or claim to have done.

So bring it on, Obama v. Perry, the great American debate — apologetic liberalism versus a semi-libertarian and conservative Christian theocracy.

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