Gov. Perry's Remarks at the ALEC 2010 States and Nation Policy Summit
Thank you, Noble [Ellington] and thank you to ALEC for having me.
A lot has transpired since I spoke with you in California last August and I’m not talking about the Texas Aggies’ success on the gridiron.
A month ago, the American people went to the polls and used their votes to send a very clear message to the country in general, and their elected officials in general.
In short, they said they are fed up with a government that has grown drunk on its own power and fat on their tax dollars.
Americans are fed up and tired of waiting for those in office to do the right thing, so they took action.
The Democrat Party certainly bore the brunt of their anger, since the 2008 elections had kicked off a rampage of spending, legislating and interfering worse than anything in recent memory.
The Democrats certainly made life easier for labor unions and activist judges, but they rubbed a lot of people the wrong way in the process.
At the same time, there were more than a few Republicans who had jumped onto the same spending bandwagon, embracing bailouts, voting for so-called “stimulus” programs, and supporting big government giveaways.
Some might call it “Potomac Fever” but people across the country have had enough with folks who came to DC with good intentions and seemingly lost all semblance of fiscal discipline as soon as they took office.
The Texans I have talked to are clearly not the only ones who understand the true threat posed by mountains of debt, and are increasingly perplexed by bankrupt federal programs like social security and deeply frustrated by federal officials who do nothing to address these serious problems.
Throw in the increasingly intrusive hand of government in their personal and professional lives, and you have a citizenry that finally took action.
I believe they not only cast votes against those leaders who have been party to the unprecedented expansion of the federal government, but also those who have stood idly by as unelected judges have issued blanket opinions on everything from the definition of marriage to the display of the Ten Commandments.
As a life-long conservative, I was more than pleased at the outcome of the 2010 elections because I sense people reconnecting with the fundamental precepts of our republic enunciated so clearly by our Founders.
Every time we learn of another drilling moratorium or discover another expensive wrinkle in the federal healthcare regulations, another batch of small-government advocates is born.
Kind of like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings.”
Those small government advocates are rediscovering the Constitution.
As you know from our previous conversations, I celebrate the whole document, but am particularly fond of the Tenth Amendment, and the narrow role it casts for the federal government.
Its key phrase reads…“powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution…nor prohibited by it to the States are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
I believe our founders’ experience with the oppressive nature of a distant, centralized government and their exposure to the vitality of the American colonies convinced them that the government closest to the people truly governs best.
In my view, the federal government’s shameful disregard of the 10th Amendment pushes us backward down a slippery slope.
Unless that slide is arrested and our nation returned to its embrace of state sovereignty, we’ll end up in a heap at the bottom of that hill with the essence of our republic lost forever, along with our God-given freedoms.
To me, the November elections are a key step in arresting that slide, but the real work lies ahead of us.
At the state level, my fellow governors and I need to work with legislators of both parties to prove the wisdom of America’s founders when they limited the power of the federal government and entrusted the challenges of day-to-day governance to leaders at the state and local level.
In Federalist No. 45, James Madison wrote “[t]he powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite.”
Madison and his peers were incredibly clear in their beliefs, and America’s success proved their wisdom for a long, long time.
Free people work harder, live better and take better care of one another.
People being crushed under the weight of an oppressive government have little ownership of their future and even less incentive to excel.
With liberty as its starting point, America grew into the greatest nation the world has ever known…bar none.
Unfortunately, that greatness is threatened because Americans have carelessly allowed Washington to expand at the expense of liberty.
The nearly unlimited scope of the federal government contradicts the principles of limited, constitutional government that our founders established to protect us.
Those principles took a big hit during the Progressive Era, specifically at the adoption of the Constitution’s 16th Amendment, which gave the federal government access to our wallets in the form of taxes.
The assault on those boundaries continued with Roosevelt’s New Deal, which honestly had little to do with ending the Great Depression.
Instead, the New Deal’s legacy is a glut of federal programs, including a bankrupt social security system, that Americans understand is essentially a Ponzi scheme on a scale that makes Bernie Madoff look like an amateur.
Unfortunately, the New Deal and its beloved programs have essentially become the third-rail of American politics that indiscriminately kills the political careers of any leader bold enough to criticize it or the programs it created.
Layered on that foundation of excess and overreach, President Johnson’s Great Society further eroded the founders’ boundaries for government.
Medicare and Medicaid represent more than $106 trillion in unfunded liabilities…for which we have zero dollars set aside to pay for them.
A family or business couldn’t live that irresponsibly for that long, and it’s time for Washington to change its ways.
I’d encourage them to take a look at how we do things in Texas.
You’ll excuse my partiality, but I truly consider our state to be a working example of just how responsive and effective government can be when it is closer to the people.
You may be aware that Texas has long led the nation in job creation, including half of all jobs created in the US between 2009 and 2010.
The jobs were created by Texans who risked their capitol and worked the long hours, but they did it in an environment defined by our fiscally conservative rules.
First, we don’t spend all the money, so we have resources set aside for a rainy day…at last count, near $8 billion.
Second, we’ve defended a predictable regulatory climate, so employers know what to expect and can take those risks.
Third, we reformed our legal system to cut down on a plague of junk lawsuits that had our employers and doctors tied up in the courtroom.
Fourth, we introduced accountability into our school system, so our young people are getting better prepared to compete in the workplace.
My fellow Republican governors, including Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey, are doing the same thing and seeing strong results.
That’s not to say each state is a problem-free nirvana: the challenges are still very real.
Whether they wrestle with pension fund issues or debt problems, states have their work cut out for them.
However, the difference in scale compared to Washington is drastic.
For example, Texans face about $520 in debt per capita, while per capita debt at the federal level is around $42,600 and growing as we speak.
At the same time, the average Texan pays $1691 in local taxes and $1750 in state taxes, but a whopping $8916 in federal taxes.
Even if you subtract about 25% for national defense, and that is a check we’re all happy to cut, the federal tax burden is about twice the local & state tax combined.
Trust me, our citizens can do the math…and they clearly see the difference in value between the state and federal approach.
The question is how to shift the distribution of power back into its constitutionally-prescribed balance.
Last month’s vote totals are a significant step in that direction.
On November 2nd, 2010, the people pushed back against a Washington establishment that spends and borrows too much, while blissfully ignoring both the Constitution and the wishes of the American people.
This affirmation of the power that individual Americans hold and the repudiation of an overly-controlling central government can and should serve as a catalyst for a national dialogue.
As our citizens elect leaders who are willing to fight for our beliefs and hold them accountable to deliver on their promises, including that one about repealing nationalized health care, we will see our country begin to turn in the right direction.
We need to repeal ALL of the federal healthcare law…or at least de-fund it, because you can’t go through that kind of legislation piecemeal and parse every element.
Instead, they need to start from the premise that the states can handle these questions better…and look to support them, not punish them.
As leaders at the state level stand boldly on our constitutional powers, and push back with everything from court cases to protect them to the refusal to be bribed with our own tax dollars we can continue turning the tide.
At the same time, the new leaders in Washington and those who profess to be conservative, should vote to handcuff the big spenders by simplifying our tax system once and for all and amending the Constitution to restrict federal spending.
A balanced budget amendment like the one put together by the team here at ALEC would be the perfect tool for that, and it would protect future generations for new administrations that run rampant upon taking office as it keeps America moving forward with liberty.
Here in our nation’s capitol, in a room filled with like-minded conservatives, I don’t see storm clouds and sadness on the horizon as much as I see a bright and prosperous future for America.
That future depends on our willingness to take some real risks that will return us to our essential constitutional values and the individual freedom for which they were written.
Restoring a constitutional, limited government will take a massive effort, but our people are more than equal to the task.
Surely the people who have willingly died on foreign battle fields in defense of freedom for others and sheltered complete strangers in the aftermath of storms like Katrina and Ike have the heart and compassion to tackle this.
With the continued influence of conservative groups like ALEC and bold leadership from elected officials at every level, we can surely recapture what is great about America and restore this nation to pre-eminence in the world as a beacon of individual liberty and economic prosperity.
There is no greater cause in our time…and I look forward to fighting those battles with you.
So, God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless this nation we love so much.
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