It should come as no surprise to any seasoned political observer tempered by even a small dose of cynicism that, just days after Governor Rick Perry declared his candidacy for President of the United States, media scrutiny of the newest contender for replacing Barack Obama in the White House is at a fever pitch. Leading the feeding frenzy of the many ravenously hungry political wonks who smelled blood in the water off the shores of South Carolina on Saturday was the likes of Ezra Klein. In a recent article for the Washington Post, Mr. Klein takes issue with Governor Perry’s recent book, Fed Up. While praising Perry’s prose as “not boring” and far better than other recent titles from potential Republican nominees (I think that’s what we call damning with feint praise?), Klein has a hard time digesting the Texas governor’s premise that the Federal government has usurped the role of the states in many instances, thereby defying the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. According to Klein’s analysis, the 10th Amendment is in tension with the Commerce Clause of the Constitution (giving Congress the power to regulate inter-state and international trade) and the Taxing and Spending Clause (giving Congress the power to tax American citizens to provide for defense and the “general welfare” of the U.S.), and Rick Perry wants to swing America back to emphasizing the 10th Amendment at the expense of the Commerce and Taxing and Spending Clauses.
From there, Ezra begins to deliver his attempted refutation beginning with stating Perry’s emphasis of the 10th Amendment will take away the powers Congress has to “solve problems.” Oh, you mean like the Housing Bubble that Congress creating that set off the Great Recession? Or maybe it was the overspending that caused our national credit to be lowered with which Klein was referring? Whatever the case, Klein seems seriously scared that Congress’ “problem solving” skills will be severely tempered in a Perry administration.
Klein also takes issue with Perry’s view that the Federal government should get out of education. Well, not really actually. He just tries to be snarky by pointing out that George W. Bush passed No Child Left Behind, and Perry once said that Bush was an “incredibly good President.” Ok? Is that somehow supposed to make me shudder with contempt at inconsistency? I don’t follow.
Perhaps most confusing of all is Klein’s distaste for Perry not liking “activist judges.” Klein states, “[Perry believes] that we have a problem with activist judges, even though a world in which all these programs were declared unconstitutional would be a world in which activist judges basically invalidated a century of popular sovereignty.” Last time I checked, judges declaring acts of Congress unconstitutional was called “checks and balances.” It’s to make sure Congress doesn’t do something illegal or beyond the powers granted to it by the Constitution because, guess what, (I know this is going to shock you) politicians tend to be very untrustworthy and corrupt with the power given them. Limiting power as much as possible is what the Founders had in mind when they gave judges the ability to strike down unconstitutional acts of Congress. By claiming this is abridging popular sovereignty is either trying to be deliberately deceptive or just plain uninformed about the nature of how a federal form of government is designed to function under a system of “checks and balances.”
Klein’s crowning failing argument comes when he calls Perry’s belief that problems are solved best at the local level “a superficially appealing vision.” I mean, why in the world would we want the people that know the problems they deal with on a first hand basis actually fixing the problems themselves? It would be far better to have a government bureaucrat thousands of miles away or a politician who is motivated to get votes not solve problems with real, lasting solutions do it, right? This is elitist arrogance in the first degree, and a position not backed up by empirical data. The experiment of letting Washington D.C. centrally direct the affairs of hundreds of millions of Americans of the past eighty years has been an abject failure. It has left this country with a mountain of debt, a failing entitlement system, and a battered economy. Returning as much power to the local and state level as possible sounds like a reasonable idea to me. But that sounds scary to a ruling class who has a lot of power and money to lose. And even more terrifying to the elitist intelligentsia machine, of which Mr. Klein is an aspiring cog, returning power to the local level means returning power to you and me: average citizens. Those ghastly people who haven’t gone to the right colleges or made the right connections to govern.
To be fair to Ezra Klein, I haven’t read Rick Perry’s book, Fed Up. But it sounds like the kind of thing America needs.