Rick Perry’s books

Texas Governor Rick Perry, the current apparent frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, has written two books: one a defense of the Boy Scouts of America’s policy of discrimination against gays, agnostics, and atheists (On My Honor), and the other a tirade against the New Deal and modern government (Fed Up!).

I’ll say up front that I haven’t read either. But from the excerpts and summaries I’ve read, together with other things Perry has said (see my other posts on the subject), some of his views strike me as ill-informed and pretty far outside the American mainstream. Politico quoted Perry saying in 2010, in reference to Fed Up! (published last November), “I wouldn’t have written that book if I was going to run for the presidency of the United States.” Since then he has indicated that he hasn’t “backed off anything in my book.”

That would presumably include his views that Social Security is a “failure,” a “Ponzi scheme,” and “a crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal”; and that the 16th and 17th amendments to the Constitution, authorizing an income tax and requiring direct election of senators, were mistakes.

Admittedly, lots other people across the political spectrum are as misinformed about Social Security as Perry is. In fact, Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system financed by current tax receipts (just like rest of the government, except that the Social Security system is not allowed to borrow money). The Trust Fund exists only to collect surplus taxes and later make up the difference when taxes fall short. Hence even if nothing is done and the Trust Fund runs empty in a quarter century as the Trustees cautiously project, the system will still pay about 70% of scheduled benefits, and because scheduled benefits rise over time, even those reduced benefits will be on average about as big as average benefits paid today. (Some “crisis”!) The “Ponzi scheme” charge generally reflects ignorance of both Social Security and Ponzi schemes. A myth I haven’t heard Perry repeat (and bravo to him for that) is the notion Congress has “raided” the Trust Fund. The Trust Fund is by law supposed to be invested in U.S. Treasury Bonds (what’s the alternative, stacks of cash in the Grand Canyon? playing the stock market?), and of course that money gets spent since that’s the whole point of issuing bonds.

Getting back to Perry, I won’t go on at length (for once); I’ll instead just suggest you take a look at articles addressing Perry’s views in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico, ElectZu, The Atlantic, and The Los Angeles Times.

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