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Sanctuary Perry

When the $27 billion budget hole was made official, the governor ducked, demagogued, and covered.
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Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, his political popularity badly diminished by anti-tax policies that led to record budget deficits and the closings of hundreds of schools and state parks, reportedly fled his state early Thursday morning, under cover of darkness, in a National Guard convoy headed to the “sanctuary state” of California, or perhaps farther north into British Columbia. Three newspapers have reported, but we cannot yet confirm, that Perry’s convoy was pursued across parts of New Mexico and Arizona by a heavily armed, loosely organized caravan of middle-class “warriors” from suburban Harris County, including several schoolteachers and small-business owners and middle managers, who were heard shouting through bullhorns such slogans as “Texas Tough!” and “Don’t Tread on Us!” and “Bob Perry is Next!” The pursuing Texas citizens were stopped and detained at the California border on several charges relating to the illegal possession of firearms. …    —Wire Report, 6/17/11

Left-wing daydreams that will never come true. Rick Perry, who was sworn in for his third full term as governor a few days after I wrote this column, will never have the decency to get the heck out of the state he’s spent a decade helping turn into an inhumane, corporate-owned nightmare. And Texans, it appears, will never muster the outrage to run him off.

But Rick Perry takes no chances—at least not politically. He’ll gamble Texans’ futures on a “wealth-first” economic theory that has never worked in practice, but he won’t toss away his popularity without a fight. And so, on the week when Republicans returned to Austin with a state House supermajority and a $27 billion bundle of problems to grapple with, Perry stepped up like the leader he is. That is, he dissembled shamelessly and made a demagogic bid to change the subject.

In press releases, in speeches to the state House and Senate, and in a jittery address to the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, Perry poked fun at people who worry about the budget deficit. He blamed Texas’ revenue shortfall on the “national recession.” And with a rhetorical wave of the hand, the governor shimmied straight past the notion that millions of people will suffer from the budgetary bloodletting that is about to ensue.

“As families and employers are doing all across this state and nation, we will separate the wants from needs, and then cut spending,” he said.

Separate “the wants from needs”? That is, of course, a euphemistic way of telling working- and middle-class Texans that they’re just going to have to cut down on their opulent lifestyles and not make a fuss about it. Why does everybody have to have health care, good schools, that whole nanny-state business? Are such things truly needs, or merely “wants”? 

But this was nothing next to Perry’s even bolder gambit: While pooh-poohing the budget deficit, he invented “emergencies” to stir empty and loud debate and take the focus off that pesky $27 billion. On the Legislature’s first day, Jan. 11, Perry announced his “emergency items,” which are supposed to be pressing issues of such great and immediate consequence to the state that they can be considered and advanced during the first 30 days of the session. Other, lesser bills have to wait. And what are these matters of such great moment, as chosen by the governor? Eminent domain laws, a new round of “tort reform,” and a fictional creation called “sanctuary cities.”

“We must abolish sanctuary cities in Texas,” Perry informed the TPPF, about five of whose members applauded that weird sentiment. Perry himself could not name any sanctuary cities in the state, when the Associated Press asked, though he made noises about Houston.

The beauty part, for Perry the pol, is that the debate over sanctuary cities could get so loud, so emotionally violent, that it will do wonders to drown out the truly necessary debate over the human consequences of Texas’ mountainous budget shortfall. And as an “emergency” item, it can take center stage right away.

Rick Perry has been selling economic snake oil to Texans for a decade now, and peddling it nationally almost as long. At the same time, he’s been kicking the flimsy foundations out from under Texas’ ability to provide decent social services or schools or health care. No wonder, now that the fallout from his chicanery is about to hit millions of Texans right where they live, he’s desperately seeking political sanctuary. Let’s not let him have it.