Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and get your ticket to see “Rick the Wonder Worker!”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is less than revered back home, where he is widely ridiculed as Gov. Good Hair. So he's now on the road with a traveling medicine show, billing himself as the “Texas Miracle Man.” From New York to New Orleans, he's been wowing the Republican hard core by telling astounding tales of his job-creating prowess in our state, suggesting he can do for America what he's done for Texas.
Such GOP sparklies as Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich are hailing the economic wunderkind, and his roadshow spiel has prompted some party stalwarts to tout him for the presidency, hoping he can do for America what he has done for Texas. As a giddy New Yorker put it, “We want a piece of that!”
Hold it right there. First, while the Texas unemployment rate of 8 percent is 1 percent lower than the national rate, 23 other states are doing even better — including New York. Also, his self-touted record of job growth is essentially the same as Democratic Gov. Ann Richards produced and far lower than what Texas had under George W.'s governorship.
Most damning, however, is that Perry-jobs are really “jobettes,” offering low pay, no benefits and no upward mobility. In fact, under Rickonomics, Texas has added more minimum wage jobs than all other states combined! After 10 years in office, Gov. Perry presides over a state that has more people in poverty and more without health coverage than any other.
Meanwhile, the Miracle Man has dug Texas into one of the deepest budget holes in the country — $27 billion short of the money needed to cover the same miserly level of state services Texans now get. Although his party controls the state Senate and has a supermajority in the House, he was unable even to get a budget passed in the regular legislative session, forcing him to convene a costly special session. His plan is to cut $4 billion and as many as 100,000 teachers from our public education system, even as school enrollment is growing exponentially.
Do Republicans really want a piece of this kind of “leadership”? PR hype aside, Perry is so embarrassingly inept at governing that he has lately turned to prayer as his official solution for all problems. Interestingly, the 1836 Republic of Texas Constitution banned “ministers of the gospel” from holding office. Our problem these days, however, is not ministers in office, but politicians posing as ministers, literally seizing the pulpit to preach and proselytize.
Perry's praying is not quiet and contemplative, but garish public displays — Elmer Gantryism in action. In April, with a biblical-level drought and some 800 wildfires ravaging the state, his gubernatorial response was to proclaim three “Days of Prayer for Rain.” The days came and went, but no rain. Presumably, Rick was praying up a storm, but not a drop fell from the heavens.
Undeterred, the gubernatorial padre simply doubled down on prayer politics. Proclaiming Aug. 6 as a “Day of Prayer and Fasting,” he has invited all other governors to join him in Houston for a seven-hour prayer-a-palooza, dubbed “The Response.” It's billed as “a nondemoninational, apolitical, Christian” event to unify all Americans by calling upon Jesus “to guide us through unprecedented struggles.” Wait … Jesus? What about all those Americans who're Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or other faiths? No room at the inn for them?
Adding to this PR fiasco, Perry's co-sponsor for The Response is the American Family Association — a Mississippi-based extremist outfit so infamous for bashing gays and Muslims that a watchdog group has characterized it as a hate group. So far, there's been no rush of governors RSVPing.
The governor's spokeswoman loudly insists that his Prayerfest “doesn't have anything to do with (Perry's presidential ambitions)” — which, of course, means that it does. But if this political show is even too hokey for Republican governors, I doubt that God will be tuning in.
Toward the end of George W.'s right-wing presidency, national columnist and Texas icon Molly Ivins wrote, “Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be elected president of the United States, please pay attention.”