Rick Perry has made no bones about his conservative credentials — he thinks that Social Security is unconstitutional and that the federal government should not be allowed to levy an income tax. Despite these Tea Party views, though, some liberal bloggers are pointing out that he might have something of a liberal streak. Though no bleeding heart, Perry supports some important liberal pet projects and might support policies that save blue states money.
It started last week when Robert Reich, current Berkeley professor and former Clinton secretary of labor, jokingly posted to his blog that Perry’s strict state’s rights economic plan would be a boon to traditionally Democratic states. Perry has made it clear that he does not believe in a federal income tax. Ironically, though, the income tax more often than not goes to fund programs in Republican states over Democratic ones. Whereas states like Kentucky and Alabama get back over $1.50 for every dollar they put in, California and New York get less than 80 cents to the dollar. If Perry did, in fact, introduce fiscal secessionism where states support themselves, then liberal states could afford to offer more programs for the same cost as what they’re paying now. In essence, Perry would stop blue states from subsidizing red states.
Though Reich was probably joking when he said that “Rick Perry’s fight to save America from Washington is really a secret plan to save blue states from red states,” Perry has actually passed a series of laws that would make any progressive’s wishlist. Tim Murphy at Mother Jones does something of a round-up of Perry’s more liberal policies. For example, Perry was the first governor to back and sign the DREAM act for his state, giving the children of undocumented immigrants a path to college education and citizenship.
He is also the poster-child for prison reform, reducing overcrowding and halting the construction of more prisons. With blue states like California dealing with unconstitutional prison overcrowding and New York refusing to evacuate its prisoners in light of Hurricane Irene, Perry’s prison record actually looks pretty good, especially for a Texas governor.
Of course, the problem with all of this is that Rick Perry, despite occasionally taking a progressive or reformist bent, is still one of the most conservative politicians vying for the Presidency. Given his recent flips on issues such as gay rights and abortion, it seems as though Candidate Perry is much less of an open-minded reformer than Governor Perry. At the very least, though, these revelations should serve as a wakeup call for progressive politicians who have a hard time decreasing the size of the prison industrial complex — if Rick Perry can make prisons more humane, so can the governors of liberal states like California.
Photo from eschipul via flickr.