Perry and Romney: Rivals in Love With Plutocracy

Roger Bybee

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has entered the GOP presidential nomination race with both guns blazing, playing simultaneously to an extreme wing of the Christian Right while also pandering to the Corporate Right.

Boasting that Texas has accounted for 40 percent of job growth in the United States since 2009 — a claim that major media have incessantly reported without examining the quality of the jobs — Perry thunders, I have been a pro-business governor and I will be a pro-business president!”

But Mitt Romney will not be easily out-done in this duel of plutocrats who advocate more profits, power, and privileges for corporations. At the Iowa State Fair, Romney was recently faced with a heckler who insisted that big corporations ought to pay more in taxes. Romney memorably retorted: Corporations are people, my friend.” (This despite the fact that the notion of corporate personhood” is rejected by 80% of Americans.)

Almost as if directly answering Romney, the populist William Jennings Bryant argued in 1912 that corporations, unlike humans, have no conscience to inhibit their conduct as they strive ceaselessly drive for maximum profit:

Man acts under the restraints of conscience and is influenced also by a belief in a future life. A corporation has no soul and cares nothing about the hereafter…

That pretty much describes the way Romney’s venture capital firm Bain Capital has operated, buying up firms, shedding large numbers of workers, closing plants and walking away with profits. (Romney co-founded the firm in 1984 and left it in 1999.)

Similarly, Rick Perry’s Texas is a laboratory for plutocracy — rule by the rich — where corporations are free to act without the restraints of conscience.” With right-to-work” laws crippling the growth of labor unions (management can easily choose to hire anti-union employees who will refuse to join and eventually vote out the union) and lacking a progressive income tax, Texas has become a paradise for corporations and the rich, while huge numbers of Texans remain stuck in minimum-wage jobs with no health insurance and little hope that their children will receive a quality education to escape poverty. 

Public funds have been massively diverted from public education to corporate tax breaks and incentives, often for distinctly non-needy corporations including GE. The outcome has not been a new burst of shared prosperity for Texas, but a continuing growth of jobs that keep workers impoverished.

Of the 211,000 jobs added last year, 37 percent (or more than 76,000) paid at or below minimum wage, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” reports David Mann of the Texas Observer. According to Paul Krugman of the New York Times, one in four Texans lacks health insurance, the highest proportion in the nation.”

But inside the mind of Rick Perry, it is corporations who are being ruthlessly victimized by an evil federal government hostile to Texas-style economic growth. Perry has declared he intends to take back the country from the grips of central planners who would control our healthcare, spend our treasure and micromanage our businesses.”

The governor’s mentality was revealed when journalist Ruben Navarrette Jr. had the temerity to mention the case of one Texas corporation supposedly hounded and harassed by the U.S. government while interviewing Perry a few years ago. The firm, a foundry, had atrocious safety practices — which produced a number of deaths — that were exposed by the New York Times. As Navarrette explained at nytimes​.com last month, 

Concerned about government regulators, the company would only do business in two places: developing countries and Texas. I asked the governor if he was bothered by this fact. He wasn’t, to put it mildly.

Well,” Mr. Perry said in his trademark drawl. I don’t take direction from The New York Times.” Then he changed the subject and proceeded to make the case for why many other companies had moved to Texas. 

The foundry’s CEO could surely have made the case even more powerfully than the governor: Perry’s economic strategy has resulted in Third World-like wages and working conditions into Texas.

Roger Bybee is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and University of Illinois visiting professor in Labor Education. Roger’s work has appeared in numerous national publications, including Z magazine, Dollars & Sense, The Progressive, Progressive Populist, Huffington Post, The American Prospect, Yes! and Foreign Policy in Focus. More of his work can be found at zcom​mu​ni​ca​tions​.org/​z​s​p​a​c​e​/​r​o​g​e​r​d​bybee.
Brandon Johnson
Get 10 issues for $19.95

Get the whole story: Subscribe to In These Times magazine.