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Tuesday, August 23nd, 2011

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

 RUNNING FOR THE WHITE HOUSE-

IS IT “GOVERNOR IN CHIEF?”

 How much more bleak can the mood of the country get?  Several new polls out this week show that only 15% of likely voters in next year’s presidential election say the U.S. is heading in the right direction.  According to the Rasmussen Reports national survey, that’s down 10 points from a month ago, and 20 points from just a year ago.  You would assume Washington would be abuzz with a consuming congress and White House trying to find some way out of a hole that continues to deepen each month.

Yet the President seems a bit less than concerned, spending 10 days on Martha’s Vineyard with the rich and famous.  Oh, he’s supposedly on a “working vacation,” and it may be “perception,” but it looks bad.  In politics, perception quickly becomes reality.  Congress, too, is on a break. With Democrats and Republicans in a stalemate, the urgency for a solution to the economic stagnation continues to grow as mindful action on the country’s financial health is nowhere to be found.

The Wall Street Journal, certainly a strong Republican mouthpiece, commented that Republicans are “desperate” for a candidate to emerge with practical economic solutions, and, according to the Journal’s editorial page, if “the current field isn’t up to that, perhaps someone still off the field will step in and run.”Â  As E.J. Dionne wrote in a Washington Post column last week,  “having the Journal’s editorial page  criticize the Republican presidential crop is like having Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, fret over the quality of cardinals who want to be the next pope.”

Enter Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the new flavor of the month, and our neighbor next to my home state of Louisiana.   Perry is the perfect fit for the Texas cowboy gunslinger who “shoots first” and delves into the details later.  And give the guy credit.  He says he shot a coyote that was attacking his dog as he was out for a morning jog.  No photos of the coyote though, and some folks say it was really a rat.  By the way, where do you carry you six gun when you are in jogging shorts?

Perry brags, with some justification, that 37% of all jobs created in the U.S. during the past 2 ½ years were created in Texas.  But he’s fuzzy on the details of just what policies he had in place to create these new jobs.  A major source of the new jobs was the increase in the price of oil.  Higher prices mean more jobs in production and distribution. Oil prices are five times higher today than when Perry first took office.  But government has no say in the economics of this job source.  A major increase in military spending throughout numerous military installations in Texas is another source of the new jobs that Perry claims for himself.  From Lyndon Johnson to George Bush and Dick Cheney (remember Halliburton?), Texas has been treated quite well out of Washington, re military spending.

And how about drug money?  Middle and upper class Mexicans, reports the New York Magazine, are flooding into Texas, bringing their savings and businesses with them.  According to the DEA, the magazine reports, “drug traffickers are cleaning up their proceeds by buying businesses in South Texas. They also spend on guns, warehouses, security guards, luxury cars and houses.  In San Antonio, a high-dollar drug trafficker can buy a $2 million or $3 million place and exist for a long time.”Â  Lots of jobs coming to Texas this way?

Low taxes?  Texas does not have a state income tax.  But at what price? Texas has a less than a mediocre school system, and the lowest percentage of citizens who have health insurance in the nation.   Many of the new jobs are for unskilled labor, and often, these jobs are merely diverted from another state.  So this does little for higher national job growth.  Texas is presently a little below the national average in unemployment, but Hispanic unemployment at 9.4% in Texas, is higher than the U.S figure of 9.2%.  Texas, in fact, ties Mississippi for having the highest percentage of its population receiving minimum wages.

When it comes to injustice in the judicial system, don’t count on Gov. Rick to be a champion for the wrongly convicted.  Texas is a hotbed for innocent citizens being falsely accused and convicted under Perry’s reign.    One of the worst cases was that of Cameron Todd Willingham convicted of burning up his family.  Following his conviction, mounting evidence surfaced that led any number of investigators to conclude that Willingham was in fact, innocent.

The Governor was unmoved and refused to halt his execution.  Later, the Texas Forensic Science Commission hired investigators to review the case, who determined that “a finding of arson could not be sustained.”Â  When the Commission agreed to reopen the Willingham case after the execution, Perry conveniently removed the Chairman and two other members to stop any further state investigation.  The morbid joke around those closely following the case was that “it took nerve to execute an innocent man.”

Perry has spent his first week of his new campaign saying that “it’s time to get America back to work again.  Great governor!  But tell us how?  What’s your plan?   We are hoping that you are not all hat with no cattle.

So far, Perry seems to be running for Governor in Chief, not Commander in Chief.   The nation is presently fighting three wars.  Libya has drawn out to six months when it was supposed to be just weeks.  There is no end in sight for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, although our primary foes there, Hussein and Bin Laden, are both long dead.  Iran continues on a path of acquiring nuclear weapons, but not one word on these dangerous and volatile national defense issues.

The bottom line is this.  The Governor of Texas is entitled to a little bit of time to lay out his plans for revitalizing the country.  But whether he likes it or not, he will spend a great deal of time on the campaign trail answering for what he did, and what he failed to do as the state’s chief executive. And ole’ Ranger Rick has a lot of explaining to do.

 *****

Take our politicians: they’re a bunch of yo-yos. The presidency is now a cross between a popularity contest and a high school debate, with an encyclopedia of clichés the first prize. ~Saul Bellow

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownla.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.

 

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