Perry Plays the Socialism Scare Game

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sovietamerica_thisis_smallLike a too-slick Marvel Comics villain,  the famously well-coiffed Rick Perry stands in his expensive tailored suit (Italian? English Socialist Tweed?), and leads his Midland Country Club audience in a kind of awkward, unpoetic “We Shall Overcome” moment. These Midlandistas just don’t look like there’s much left for them to overcome.

Obama, Perry says, is punishing Texas. Obama’s is “an administration hellbent on taking America toward a socialist country,” he adds. Chopping-chopping the air Nikita Kruschev-like with his (French cuffed!!) hand,  Perry calls for bigger and better tea parties.

Maybe this is just some kind of tragicomic nightmare planted in my infant brain by Atomic Spiders or precious-bodily-fluids-poisoning spies.  I must be dreaming of the sick and paranoid ’50s, when even Dwight Eisenhower was accused of coddling communists. Are 21st Century Texans really believing this insane shit? How stupid are they? Don’t answer that.

There’s not three of them in that audience that could give a high-school civics class answer to what socialism even is. Was the infamous oil depletion allowance that built Midland socialism? For those new to Texas, the depletion allowance allowed oil companies a 27.5 percent income tax reduction. That meant the government forced the rest of us to cough up taxes that became oil company profits. Passed in 1924, it’s not socialism, technically, but it smells of crude corporate welfare to me.

I suppose all this hatred and all these lies have something to do with health care reform and the fact that folks with Obama’s skin color were barred from most Texas country clubs in the not-so-distant past Perry would take us back to. I still find it hard to believe that any ideology — even a crazy, paranoid, bigoted ideology —  prefers the current health system. It causes unnecessary suffering and death. Do these people really, truly believe that a newly healthy child is a harbinger of socialism or communism or something worse like, I dunno, an unavailable, back-ordered Lexus?

Are they so scared of losing all their precious privilege — which they won’t — that they would consciously allow the unnecessary suffering and death of fellow Americans to keep their stuff safe from dangers that don’t exist? Really?

The rhetoric grows more and more extreme. I have a bedrock faith in the American people and their common sense. Sooner or later they will send demagogues like Perry packing. It will happen sooner if the media will call the talk what it is. But I fear too many Texans are sitting back wondering just how far it will go. That’s dangerous.

For the record, I am the son of a Kentucky southerner who moved to Texas in the ’20s and built a life from the bottom up. My father was a capitalist, a small business entrepreneur. I inherited his optimism and his strong belief in self-reliance. But he also never turned his back on those in need. He never profited from the suffering of others. He taught me that we have a responsibility to others. Acting on that responsibility is not socialism. It is what another Smith — Adam — thought citizens of a civilized nation would do.

Author: Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith has spent the past 30 years in journalism and politics, where he’s made a name for himself as a writer, campaign manager, activist, think tank analyst and, as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas says, a “legendary political consultant and all-around good guy.” “There’s no one like him,” says author George Lakoff. CNN commentator Paul Begala says, “He has unmatched experience, a graceful pen (or pixel nowadays) and deep insight into the best and worst of us.” Novelist Sarah Bird speaks of his “lucid and lyrical” prose. And, she says, he’s fun. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington says Glenn writes with “grace and abundant humor” and “uses his colorful experiences in Texas to enlighten us all.”

Smith led Ann Richards’ successful 1990 campaign for Governor of Texas. He worked for former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Earlier, Smith was a political reporter for the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post. He’s coordinated national campaigns for groups such as MoveOn.org. In 2004, he authored the highly acclaimed book, The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction. He also wrote Unfit Commander, a book that detailed George W. Bush’s mysterious disappearance from military service.

In 2004, Smith was featured in the film, Bush’s Brain, a documentary about Karl Rove. Smith provided commentary on Rove’s role as then-President Bush’s senior advisor. He has made numerous media appearances with Chris Mathews on Hardball, Joe Scarborough, Brit Hume, and many others. He writes a regularly for top national web sites, including FireDogLake and Huffington Post.

As a senior fellow at George Lakoff’s prestigious Rockridge Institute in Berkeley he studied, wrote and taught on the power of metaphor and narrative in political communications. He also lectured on religion and politics at the Starr King School for Ministry in Berkeley. As a sponsor and organizer, he has pulled together numerous national events with progressive religious leaders. He also organized a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King at Riverside Church in New York City as well as “Freedom and Faith” bus tours, which was a nationwide campaign for social justice and progressive values.

Smith’s play, Double Play, which explored American Western myths and legends, was held over to sold-out audiences. He’s even written and performed songs in the Americana tradition, such as his best-known song, “Helping Marty Robbins,” a tribute to his hometown, Houston.

Most recently, Smith is the creator of DogCanyon, a political and cultural web site covering state, national and global issues from a Texas perspective. DogCanyon is an exhilarating and unique site that gets the connections between politics and culture and explores both the personal side of politics and the ups, down, craziness and beauty of “life its ownself,” as humorist Dan Jenkins would say. DogCanyon offers heartfelt personal essays, hard-hitting political analysis, and, most importantly, laughs.

As Paul Begala said, Smith writes in “the finest, firmest, fearless tradition of Texas essayists like Molly Ivins.”

12 thoughts on “Perry Plays the Socialism Scare Game”

  1. In the continuum from a state (in the larger sense, not just Texas) that favors a smaller group over the many, whether the smaller group is big business or government, corporatism or fascism to socialism, I hope we do move more toward socialism! That’s the problem, Perry won’t own up to what we have now.

  2. Perry has devolved until he really presents a danger to the state’s social and economic integration with the nation. Any politician facile enough to think he smells which way the political wind is blowing and then willingly line up with the Palins, Bachmans, Limbaughs, and even thinks it’s a good play to publicly hint at becoming the next Jefferson Davis, has no rudder in the water whatsoever. We are leaderless, or worse.

  3. I have no love whatsoever for Big Oil (or other mineral extraction industries by and large), but I’ve never had anyone explain to me why mineral depletion allowances are reprehensible, but similar levels of tax abatement for capital machinery “depreciation” are okay. In both cases, you are getting something off your taxes for things you own that are being exhausted and for which you must ultimately finance replacement. And yet I never heard Congressmen from either party get het up about the enormous tax savings for big manufacturers. I understand that in Republicans, but Democrats from Rust Belt states never seemed to have a problem with it either, but only tax savings that went to the richest in other people’s states and regions.

    Instead of either of these ripoffs, I would much rather see tax deductions only for people whose labor is for sale, and for whom it is a VERY exhaustible resource!

    1. Good point. One difference: the depletion allowance created an incentive for vertical integration, the more each sub-unit of a big oil company paid for crude, the bigger the tax savings. It was, in other words, manipulated in ways simple depreciation isn’t.

  4. Glenn, what’s the landscape looking like in the race? Perry or Kay in the polls? Is any Democrat in play?
    I lived and worked in Houston for a year and liked it. But the political climate there now makes me glad I left. Perry is weird and I’ve not yet figured out what Kay is except a Republican.

    1. Perry appears to be rounding up the right-wing extremists, and the one recent poll we have follows conventional wisdom that the GOP primary will be dominated by the extremists. Kay simply hasn’t really campaigned. Ongoing frustration is that Texas continues to let a minority on the right-wing dominate. If everyone voted, we’d be a blue state. Many moderate independents and Republicans are worried about the extremist domination. They realize Texas is not prepared for a future in which the middle class sinks further into poverty, the only job growth is in low-paid, unskilled work, and the routes to opportunity and prosperity are slowing disappearing beneath the sand. Question is, will they do something about it.

  5. Dare I suggest a Republican Rogue Ticket of Perry Palin in 2012. These two should go on a road show. David Letterman would have a field day.

  6. I'd rather be burned at the stake than vote for Kay Bailey OR Perry in the next election. I don't care about the math. My hand won't be able to twirl that button in the R direction. Just won't.

    Glenn, you're spot on – if Texans (and Americans in general) don't start talking out loud about the right wing fringe (and not so fringe)ideology and its ludicrous, selfish, pandering, bilking ways, we're all gonna die in a cheese line.

  7. I suggest that Democrats vote in the Republican primary next year.

    As I see it, there is little to no chance at all of a Democrat being elected Governor. Perry or Sen. Hutchison will be elected. We can increase the chance that Hutchison will be the nominee by voting for her in the Republican primary.

  8. “I’d rather be burned at the stake than vote for Kay Bailey…”

    If so, you might as well not vote in the general election for Governor, because Perry will win if he gets the Rethug nomination.

    Lucky for you, Perry has not yet brought back burning at the stake.

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