Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rick Perry and J.R. Ewing: Both Bad for Jobs

Now it's well, almost, official that Texas governor Rick Perry will throw his Stetson in the ring and seek his party's presidential nomination, though it's taking longer for him to declare than it takes most cowboys to die from a bullet wound in westerns.

And, right around the time the Republican National Convention meets in Tampa next August, Dallas will be back on the map not only because of Rick Perry, but because the hit TV series of thirty years ago will be making a comeback. While the show's producers might call this a coincidence, they couldn't have picked a better time to debut. The comparisons between the "Dallas" on TV, and the kind of country Rick Perry would work to preserve are irresistible.

Okay, I confess to have watched "Dallas" often myself, and to be captivated not just by the relationship between J.R. and Bobby, but by the Mercedes sports cars, and perfectly chiseled features of opulence. I found myself quickly sucked up into a vacuum of unparalleled luxury, and simultaneously excluded from it for, during the day, I joined the multitudes who were either working a nine to five job, or looking for one. The last part of the newspaper one might expect to find J.R. Ewing mulling over is the "help wanted" section. It's no easier to imagine Rick Perry mulling over the classifieds either unless he's looking to buy a new yacht.

Since he took over as governor of Texas, an office abandoned by George W. Bush in 2000 when he entered the presidential race, Rick Perry has been about as good for job growth as J.R. Ewing.

Yes, it's true that Perry will boast that, on his watch, Texas added more than a million new jobs, more any other state and, according to ABC News, it's equally true, and widely known, that they were predominantly low paying jobs. What the governor may not be too quick to admit though is that Texas ranks up at the top of the list of states having the most minimum wage workers.

The great partiarch of that Dallas ranch comes to mind when you consider how a governor could let an innocent man be executed knowing considerable evidence existed that showed the man was innocent. Consider the character of a public official who, when confronted with the man's likely innocence, opts to fire members of a commission working for the man's exoneration, and has the man executed anyway. If that doesn't smack of J.R. Ewing, what does?

Of course, there are differences, too. Rick Perry isn't an oil man like J.R. Ewing, though most of the state's economy still depends on oil and gas, and he hasn't moved one finger in the direction of changing that.

Do we really want a commander-in-chief who hails from a state that not only has had the most growth of minimum wage jobs in the past decade, but also the most executions, and how will this help contain our global military efforts?

Moreover, while Texas is one of the fastest growing states in the country, and has the second largest population, how does the state legislature, and its Republican governor plan to address the state's gaping budget deficit of $27 billion? By cutting funding for public schools by nearly $5 billion. According to the Huffington Post, layoffs in education and state agencies combined will cost about 100,000 workers their jobs. Keep this in mind when you watch the airwaves inundated with advertisements extolling Perry's prowess at job creation. Remember, too, that he'd rather hire more ranch hands and gardeners for J.R. Ewing than teachers, and fire fighters.

After all, when was the last time you saw gardeners involved in collective bargaining? Surely not in feudal times, and this is exactly where the governor of Texas, and his radical right cronies, would like to time travel most.

In fairness, Texas isn't the only state targeting education as a way to remedy their growing budget deficits. California, New Jersey, and Wisconsin have also done so. Notably, though, in the past decade, this has only happened on a Republican governor's watch. If there's ever a question as to who should be forced to endure the gravest austerity measures, make no mistake, it will be those least represented by unions.

The idea of balancing the budget on the backs of state workers is a heinous one, and that anyone could be taken seriously as a presidential candidate who would greenlight such a policy smacks of the right wing reactionaries who, with their phobic preoccupation with the federal budget deficit, mask their real concern which is keeping the wealth exactly where it has been for the past thirty years in the upper 2%, and insulating it from attack.

Public workers have something else that folks like Governors Walker and Perry want to do away with, strong unions. It's not the size of federal government, per se, that Tea Party supporters like Rick Perry think needs shrinking. They want to divest public unions of their power. In a clash of management and labor, Gov. Perry wants to ensure that labor loses, or if they get anything, what they get amounts to little more than the crumbs from the table.

It's not in the least surprising that Rick Perry joins the cowards chorus who want to see the public sector take the largest hit as he happens to be a fan of the Tea Party, a group that claims to support smaller government.

Yet, though he inveighed against the size of the federal government, as ABC News also reports, that didn't stop Governor Perry from taking every federal dollar of stimulus money he could get his hands on.

The next time you're at a rally, and you hear a candidate for public office advocate for smaller government, ask them if they believe in smaller government enough that they would resign to make it happen.

It's going to be hard for Gov. Perry to keep a straight face when he tries to talk about balancing the budget during the presidential campaign season in light of how he balanced his state's budget. It's also going to be too easy to defuse any pablum he puts out about job creation. If given half a chance, there would be no public sector if it were up to Perry. Walker, Bachmann, and Rand Paul, there would be only a "private" and a "less private" sector.

The truth is, Texas is now doing to public workers what Wisconsin did. Were the White House to be handed over to Rick Perry by election, or by Supreme Court, we'd see union busting unlike anything we've seen since the days of Ronald Reagan not to mention even greater cuts to education, law enforcement, and social agencies.

A Rick Perry presidency would only benefit those who are part of his cabal and hurt those who aren't. In 2007, he ordered all 12 year old girls vaccinated against HPV not because he's health conscious, but because a lobbyist for the HPV vaccine also happened to be a close personal friend. Sounds like something right out of the J.R. Ewing playbook.

As ABC notes, something else that might bring a big smile to J.R.'s face is if he were to hear Gov. Perry tell a rally of Tea Partiers, back in 2009, that having Texas secede from the union is indeed "an option."

So, if you find yourself seduced by that big Texan smile, the allure of massive amounts of testasterone at play, if you miss the cowboy mystique of his predecessor, George W. Bush, another Texan and former president, remember this: the only union Gov. Perry is interested in is the kind you can secede from.