What Rick Perry Believes About the Constitution

What Rick Perry Believes About the Constitution June 5, 2015

Rick Perry and his make-me-look-smart glasses are officially in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. ThinkProgress takes a look at some of Perry’s views on Constitutional matters which are, to say the least, outside the mainstream.

1) Social Security and Medicare are Unconstitutional

The Constitution permits the federal government to “lay and collect taxes” and to use the funds raised by these taxes to “pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.” This provision lays out the constitutional basis for federal spending programs such as Social Security, Medicare and numerous other such programs that seek to advance the general welfare.

Perry, however, believes these programs are unconstitutional. “I don’t think our founding fathers when they were putting the term ‘general welfare’ in there were thinking about a federally operated program of pensions nor a federally operated program of health care,” Perry told the Daily Beast’s Andrew Romano in 2011.

He offered similar views in a 2010 address to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) National Policy Summit. Proclaiming that “the nearly unlimited scope of the federal government contradicts the principles of limited, constitutional government that our founders established to protect us,” Perry claimed that an assault on this principles “continued into the Roosevelt New Deal.” He then named “a bankrupt Social Security system” as an example of a New Deal program he opposed.

Later, in the same speech, he claimed that President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society “further eroded our founding fathers’ boundaries that they had put upon the federal government.” He also specifically named Medicare as an example of Johnson’s supposed sins against the Constitution…

Perry also listed Medicaid in his ALEC speech as an example of a Great Society program that, he believes, violates the Constitution. Similarly, his statement that Congress’s constitutional authority to spend money does not permit “a federally operated program of pensions nor a federally operated program of health care” sweeps broadly, implicating all federal health care programs. So that means that programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program or much of the Affordable Care Act would also cease to exist under Perry’s vision.

Perry has also made statements suggesting that any federal laws regulating the health care industry are unconstitutional. “There is nothing in that Constitution that says Washington D.C. is supposed to be telling us how to deliver health care,” the former Texas governor told a crowd of New Hampshire voters in 2011, reiterating a view he’d expressed on Glenn Beck’s now-defunct Fox News show a few months earlier. Taken to its extreme, this view would not only prevent federal regulation of health insurers and hospitals, but it would also eliminate the Food and Drug Administration’s power to keep dangerous drugs and quack remedies out of pharmacies.

3) Federal Clean Air Laws are Unconstitutional “Nonsense”

Perry also claimed that the notion that the federal government is “telling us how to . . . clean our air is really nonsense.” It’s likely, moreover, that Perry’s objections to environmental regulations extend far beyond the Clean Air Act. A section of Fed Up! argues that the Supreme Court has read Congress’s power to “regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states” too broadly. Although Perry does not explain in detail how he would interpret this provision of the Constitution, he does suggest that Congress has overreached its constitutional authority in a long list of policy areas, including “the environment,” “guns,” and “civil rights.”…

9) But Activist Judges Are a Serious Problem

Having laid out a long list of laws he thinks should be declared unconstitutional, Fed Up! pivots to a rant against Supreme Court justices who act as “‘Grand Ayatollahs’ of the Constitution.” He objects to Supreme Court decisions supposedly dictating “where we may and may not pray to God, when life begins, whether contraception must be allowed to be sold, whether and how we can celebrate religious holidays, what level of pornography and vulgarity must be allowed, whether those other than man and woman must be allowed to marry, what level of discrimination may or even must be carried out . . . whether a state must allow women to attend an all-male military academy, who may be executed and whether we may execute criminals at all.”

So basically, he wants to turn back the clock a century or so to the days of child labor, widespread violations of the Establishment Clause, bans on interracial marriage, legal discrimination and wholesale dumping of toxic waste into the air and water without limits. Sounds charming.


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