Texas governor Rick Perry delivered a speech on Tuesday in which he outlined his plans to “uproot and overhaul Washington.” It was full of concrete proposals to rein in the federal bureaucracy. To mention a few: Pay cuts for members of Congress and the president; cuts to federal offices and staff; cutting the congressional calendar in half; a regulatory freeze before an audit of recently enacted regulations can be completed; a reduction of total federal spending to 18 percent of GDP; the privatization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Perry also explained how he would dismantle the Departments of Commerce, Education and (the one he couldn’t remember in last week’s debate) Energy.
Commerce would be eliminated largely because its responsibilities do not necessitate a separate bureaucracy, according to Governor Perry. The majority of its $9 billion annual budget is directed at regulating fisheries and monitoring weather patterns — “functions that do not mandate an independent department.” Rather the Department of the Interior should house these functions while patent and trademark oversight would be converted into standalone agencies, “reflecting their unique constitutional mandates.”
Education would be returned to the states under Perry’s proposal. By block granting funding and removing federal control, he hopes to empower states to “individualize” their education system which he believes is a superior approach to the “one size fits all” mentality of the Washington bureaucracy.
Energy is totally superfluous according to Perry who would rather let the market provide affordable energy options — with the exception of nuclear security which he would relocate to the Department of Defense.
Perry also wants to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Transportation Security Administration both of which, he believes, represent a vast and unnecessary overreach of federal power.
The governor’s plans for future spending restraint are solid — including a cap of federal spending and the need for a two-thirds congressional majority for tax increases — but he’s short on specific cuts besides eliminating the aforementioned departments of government which alone will not get him to a balanced budget.
Mainly responsible for long-term spending projections are the entitlement programs Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. Perry has already indicated that he would allow young Americans to save for their retirement individually rather than depend on a government pension but these plans he will have to flesh out in the months to come.
For now, his plan to “uproot and overhaul” the federal bureaucracy is a good start. It’s also a reminder that despite his lackluster debate performances, the Texan is a credible presidential contender who shouldn’t be ruled out so easily.