Texas Governor Rick Perry has been under criticism for comments he made in his book Fed Up! and in an interview regarding Social Security and Medicare. In these comments, he stated that such programs were bad public policy and were possibly unconstitutional. His campaign has backpedaled a bit from these comments, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that:
But since jumping into the 2012 GOP nomination race on Saturday, Mr. Perry has tempered his Social Security views. His communications director, Ray Sullivan, said Thursday that he had “never heard” the governor suggest the program was unconstitutional. Not only that, Mr. Sullivan said, but “Fed Up!” is not meant to reflect the governor’s current views on how to fix the program…The book, Mr. Sullivan said, “is a look back, not a path forward.” It was written “as a review and critique of 50 years of federal excesses, not in any way as a 2012 campaign blueprint or manifesto,” Mr. Sullivan said.
I’m perfectly willing to take Sullivan and Perry at their word and assume that Perry’s theories about the constitutionality and inception of Social Security and Medicare won’t be central to how he would handle such matters if he becomes President. One can have critical views of how certain policies came into being and separate those views from how one handles such policies when given the responsibility of governance.
What I am wondering is this: when and why did Rick Perry come to believe that Social Security and Medicare are public policy blunders and are probably unconstitutional? The reason I ask is because Rick Perry used to be a Democrat. While one can change one’s mind on issues and parties, it seems like Perry’s explanation for why he changed parties is a variation on President Reagan’s famous statement that “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me”. The thing is, Reagan said that before Medicare was enacted and after some major ideological soul-searching that still didn’t call for a complete repeal of the New Deal. While Perry was a Democrat, support for Social Security and Medicare were well-established parts of mainstream thought throughout the party. It is true that the Democratic Party has moved to the left over the past forty years on social and cultural issues, but I don’t think one can say that the mainstream Democratic view on the constitutionality of and basic support for Social Security and Medicare has changed much since 1968.
This isn’t a gotcha question or a criticism of these views. (They may be right.) This is a serious question regarding public policy and how a Presidential candidate came to the views he has today. If Rick Perry was a Democrat who always thought Social Security and Medicare were unconstitutional policy mistakes, he was (to put it mildly) a very unique Democrat and if he didn’t believe that during his Democratic years, it is fair to ask when and why he changed his mind. He may not act on these views when faced with the realities of holding office, but it would be good to know how and why he came to believe what he apparently believes today.