Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Moment

New York profiles Rick Perry, and it’s striking how much right-wing ideas become ever more right-wing. For example:
In his book Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington, he contends that the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments—which allow for the Feds to collect income taxes and for the direct election of U.S. senators, respectively—are both big mistakes. To many tea-¬partyers, in fact, these positions might look more like badges of honor than marks of shame.

He maintains that the key to job growth nationally is a radical form of federalism that would allow every state to compete with ruthless abandon for corporate investment—to compete, in other words, to out-Texas Texas. To many critics, this sounds like a recipe for an abysmal race to the bottom; they point out that the state, in addition to creating jobs, is also one of the most polluted in the country, has the highest percentage of residents without health insurance, and ranks 43rd in high-school graduation.

Is there a liberal politician out there with comparably extreme views? Perhaps Bernie Sanders, who’s a socialist after all, and perhaps Dennis Kucinich too. But these guys aren’t treated seriously at all and their ideas less so. More to the point, their ideas are typically somewhat new and fresh; Perry’s ideas are old reflexes and dispositions pretending to be new motions. These ideas were discarded for a reason—they’re utterly crazy—and so it’s distressing to see them brought back for any purpose other than mocking the past.

Perry’s ideas about the Constitution probably need no rebuttal, but his second idea is probably stranger: for someone to be an avid free-marketeer, it’s odd to embrace what is essentially zero-sum competition in regulatory matters. States will only get job growth in this manner insofar as they steal jobs from other states or countries, and generally the types of jobs that get generated aren’t exactly the win-the-future type that we want. (Well, mostly—but then again I doubt Rick Perry has it in his mind to deregulate licensing and in particular medical licensing.)

So if Perry is getting this type of play, it’s a sign that the ever-more-right-wing moment will expend longer and deeper.

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