Although he later downplayed his remark, Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s use of the “S” word — secession — during one of the April 15 tea parties has focused attention on the growing gulf between the dramatic, unprecedented growth in the federal government’s power and spending, and efforts by individual states to maintain independent authority.
Any reference, however vague, to the notion that one of the 50 states might actually consider cutting the ties between it and Washington evokes howls of derision from the political establishment.
But the growing grass-roots sentiment that dramatic action is necessary to restore a semblance of balanced federalism in the country makes it likely such discussion will increase.
The fact that Perry also noted that some military veterans in the crowd at Austin might be “right-wing extremists” also reflected the growing chasm between government and citizens opposed to runaway federal spending and power.
The governor’s reference, echoed in other tea parties last week, was based on the fact that federal and state government law enforcement Web sites and publications characterize grass-roots organizations concerned about gun control, nationalization, unemployment, loss of civil liberties and excessive government spending, as “right-wing extremists” and “militants.”
That people would be viewed by our government as a possible threat because they express concern for the loss of freedom and our growing economic problems is itself so bizarre that references to secession are unsurprising.
Placing Perry’s remarks in the context of his position the previous day in support of a Texas state House resolution reaffirming support for the 10th Amendment strengthens the reasonableness of his position. On April 14, Perry expressed his “unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm the states’ rights affirmed by the 10th Amendment.”
He also noted that he and “millions of Texans are tired of Washington, D.C., trying to come down here and tell us how to run Texas.” Are such views “extreme”? Do they not, rather, reflect mainstream and historically accurate sentiments? After all, is not the resolution Perry supported simply a reaffirmation of the very words of and the philosophy underlying the 10th Amendment?
Much of the media, in addition to characterizing Perry’s comments as “reckless” (the words of one Texas newspaper), also have attempted to paint such views as economically irresponsible. This view is premised on the “loss” of federal funds that would befall Texas or any other state that might sever ties to Washington. In fact, many of the 50 states send more in tax dollars to Washington than the states and its citizens receive from the feds — making secession actually not that bad a business deal (Texas about breaks even).
In fact, the sky likely would not fall if some serious moves were made to break the stranglehold the federal government now maintains on virtually every aspect of state and local governments. There are, in fact, some examples starting to surface. The RealID program, with its mandate of a national identification card, has been brought largely to a standstill because of state opposition.
And at least a few states — Texas and South Carolina among them — are refusing President Barack Obama’s “stimulus monies” because of the strings attached.
Who knows? If Texas were to secede, the state might enjoy a significant inward migration of independent-minded citizens from other states, and precipitate a real boom in its economy.
Regardless, simply musing about such things, as did the Texas governor, is neither subversive nor pointless.