Sunday, August 14, 2011

Seventeen (17) things that critics are saying about Rick Perry | Pesky Truth

Seventeen (17) things that critics are saying about Rick Perry | Pesky Truth

Seventeen (17) things that critics are saying about Rick Perry

Note: there is a link to a separate post detailing the positive things that Rick Perry supporters are saying about him at the end of this piece.
[Last updated: 8/13/2011]

Over the past couple of months Rick Perry has been considering a run for POTUS. As of Thursday, August 11, it looks like the decision has been made and he’s in.

Since he’s been Governor of Texas for over ten years, folks from the other “56 states” are asking Texans what kind of governor he’s been and what we think. I decided that what I “think” isn’t good enough – I could be wrong. So, I decided to do some research on Perry’s record and form a more accurate, fact-based opinion on his qualifications instead of relying on my general perceptions.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I voted for Perry in each of the three gubernatorial elections since 2002 and I am a conservative and a registered Republican. It was easy for me to vote for Perry since the alternative(s) were either uber-RINOs in the primaries or liberal Democrats in the general elections. Under the circumstances, my choice was always easy.

While researching Perry’s pros and cons, I’ve read every article and blog post that I could find – over several weeks. Many of those posts had 2-300 comments associated with them – I read them all.

After reading literally thousands of comments, it’s become apparent that there are quite a lot of anti-Perry activists out there throwing all sorts of disparaging rhetorical crap against the wall in hopes that some will stick and they can influence someone, anyone, to become anti-Perry too. The unfortunate thing is that most of their negative statements are either completely false, at worst, or misleading, at best. They’re simply parroting something they saw on another hater’s blog. Yet they maintain that they are the knowledgeable ones and those supporting Perry are ignorant clods who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time – “ignorant” is an adjective that they like to use a lot.

It’s ludicrous to think that some asinine statement like “Gardasil, Perry blew it – ‘nuff said,” deserves any consideration. No, it’s not “’nuff said,” there is usually more to know about an issue before a reasonable person can make an intelligent decision. For that reason, I have attempted to present some additional facts that have not been widely publicized just to educate those who have not been privy to Texas politics until now.

In that spirit, I do realize that anyone who reads this summary has a right to be skeptical of my facts. I therefore invite those who might dispute my findings to challenge them by verifying what I’ve presented here. And cross-check via reliable sources rather than relying on a single posting by some anonymous blogger – some spout “facts” which have no basis in the truth. I will identify the source of my data and in many cases, I’ll provide a link to the source so you can see for yourself … the real facts.

And finally, remember that any politician in office for ten years will have his/her critics and will have stepped on some toes during their term(s).

Following are subjects that are claimed by detractors to be Rick Perry’s failings – they are in no particular order.

1. Gardasil

Gardasil is a drug developed by Merck & Co.. It is supposed to prevent cervical cancer caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it in June of 2006 and subsequently recommended vaccination in females aged 11 and 12, before they become sexual active. Since it is not effective against an existing infection, it must be given before a sexually-transmitted HPV infection occurs.

Governor Perry issued an Executive Order (EO) (RP#65, February, 2007) which mandated that all Texas girls be vaccinated prior to their admission to the sixth grade. Parents were allowed to opt out of the mandate by filling out an affidavit.

Perry was rebuked by both houses of the Texas legislature which overturned his EO by a veto-proof margin. Seeing the writing on the wall, Perry did not sign the law. He subsequently rescinded RP#65 with another EO (RP#74) and the issue is now dead in Texas. At least 18 other states (notably New York and Michigan) were considering similar actions with Gardasil, but none were actually implemented. Here is a link to additional data on other state’s decisions, from a 2007 article in Time Magazine Health.

Perry’s negatives related to the Gardasil issue were:

  • issuing the EO requiring vaccinations for young girls. Even though a parent could opt-out (for religious or philosophical reasons), refusing the child’s shot, people were upset that the EOrequired inoculation. Had the vaccination been voluntary, there would have been no question.
  • Perry’s former chief of staff (2002-2004) was a lobbyist for Merck at the time and is thought to have had undue influence on Perry on behalf of Merck’s drug.
  • Merck contributed a grand total of $6,000 to Perry’s reelection campaign. While it is unseemly in its timing, $6,000 is barely enough money to get noticed, much less to buy the support of a governor, least of all a “high roller” like Perry’s critics claim he is. That Merck contribution amounted to .00025 of the $24 million dollar campaign funds that he received that year.

There are still some who are convinced that Merck contributed more than a paltry $6,000 to Perry. They are simply wrong. Merck gave two checks, one for $1,000 and another for $5,000 to Perry in the 2006 election timeframe (in 2008, they contributed a whopping $2,500). Here is a source to view all of Perry’s contributions: ProPublica. In fact, Merck has only contributed $23,500 to Perry over a 1998-2010 span, not exactly George Soros money. For comparison, from 2000-2006 Merck gave $2,460,000 to state politicians across 40 states.

The other side of the story:

Gardasil was believed to be a way to stop certain types of cancer among young women. Studies appearing in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 found that Gardasil was nearly 100 percent effective in preventing precancerous cervical lesions caused by the the strains that Gardasil protects against. Gardasil’s effectiveness increased when given to girls and young women before they become sexually active. Gardasil was found to be extremely effective in preventing several (but not all) of the strains of HPV known to cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

Some critics maintain that Gardasil has a record of “very serious safety issues.” That obvious attempt to further tarnish Perry’s image by intimating that not only did he do the bidding of Merck in ordering the vaccinations, he did so without considering the possible serious side effects. There is little doubt that Governor Perry knew a great deal more about Gardasil at the time than those critics do now. The CDC has been following Gardasil since its licensing and some current facts follow. Taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website:

Since licensure, CDC and FDA have been closely monitoring the safety of HPV vaccines. “As of June 22, 2011, approximately 35 million doses of Gardasil® have been distributed in the U.S. and the safety monitoring system (VAERS) received a total of 18,727 reports of adverse events following Gardasil® vaccination. As with all VAERS reports, serious events may or may not have been caused by the vaccine.”

“Of the total number of VAERS reports following Gardasil®, 92% were considered to be non-serious, and 8% were considered serious. Out of 35,000,000 doses distributed, there were 1,498 occasions of serious complications; that equates to a .0000428 chance that a dose will cause a serious adverse reaction.” Hardly enough to consider the vaccine “a very serious safety issue” as claimed by some critics. Apparently, they are too lazy to “do a little research.”

As of June, 2011, the CDC says: “Based on all of the information we have today, CDC recommends HPV vaccination for the prevention of most types of cervical cancer. As with all approved vaccines, CDC and FDA will continue to closely monitor the safety of HPV vaccines.”Check out the CDC’s statements about Gardasil for yourself. And specifically check out the Summary at the end for the CDC’s conclusion about Gardasil’s effectiveness.

In Gardasil, Merck believed that they had a credible, FDA-approved, CDC recommended, fact-backed case for vaccinating young women and lobbied state officials to do so. Were they trying to make money on the drug? Without a doubt, that’s what a business does.

Perry maintains that the justification for his executive order making the shot mandatory was twofold: 1) that the vaccine offered a chance to save lives that might have otherwise been taken away by cervical cancer and, 2) that insurance companies wouldn’t cover the $360 cost of the vaccine ($120 for each of a 3-shot regimen) when it was simply an optional “recommended” vaccine. That put it out of the reach for most low-income Texans. This from the Time Magazine article (linked above), “Some pediatricians and gynecologists are refusing to stock Gardasil because many insurance companies reimburse so little for the vaccine, which costs $360 for the three required doses.”

When Perry mandated Gardasil, it would have become part of a school-related vaccine package which was then covered by insurance for simply the cost of a co-pay.

Agree or disagree, that does seem to be a reasonable justification for Perry’s actions.

2. Trans-Texas Corridor

The “Trans-Texas Corridor” (TTC) term identifies a plan, introduced by Governor Perry in 2001, that some saw as the beginning of a “North American Union” highway system. It was to extend from the Texas border with Mexico to the border with Oklahoma and would be a 4,000 mile system with routes crisscrossing Texas. The $175+ billion dollar project would have been the largest engineering project ever proposed for the state of Texas.

When details of the plan became public, critics became concerned that it would lead to a “NAFTA Superhighway” that would facilitate the United States, Canada and Mexico merging into a North American Union (a fringe conspiracy theory).

As envisioned, the TTC consisted of multi-use right-of-ways that would be up to 1,200 feet wide to accommodate six 80 mph vehicle lanes, 4 truck lanes, two tracks each for high-speed rail, commuter rail, and freight rail, a 200 ft. wide utility zone to accommodate underground water, natural gas, and petroleum pipelines, telecommunications cables and high-voltage electric transmission lines. A full-sized right of way would have required 146 sq. acres per mile.

While the concept of multi-use right-of-ways can be considered forward-thinking and progressive (in the proper use of the word), many were concerned that the proposed methods of land acquisition and financing could take advantage of landowners and the taxpaying public to the benefit of private entities.

In March of 2005, a Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDA) was signed with Cintra/Zachry, a partnership between Cintra (Cintra Concesiones deInfraestructuras de Transporte,S.A.), an international developer of transport infrastructure, and Zachry Construction Corp., one of the country’s largest construction companies. There were several other participants in the CDA, but these are the two most prominent.

Headquartered in Madrid, Spain, with subsidiaries on three continents, Cintra is one of the world’s largest private-sector developers of transport infrastructure. Zachry is a privately held company founded in 1924 and headquartered in San Antonio,Texas. The concerns that critics raised over the TTC were:

  • Cintra, a Spanish firm, was the largest financer. They would build, design and operate the highway (that included collecting toll revenue). While the Spanish firm would not own the system, they would benefit financially off of Texas’ infrastructure. All roads in Texas are owned by Texas and managed under Texas’ Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) authority.
  • Since most of the Trans-Texas Corridor roads would be toll roads, toll earnings would be used to pay investors (Cintra) and to maintain the roads. If any public money was used to pay for part of the TTC, it would constitute double taxation. Motorists would have contributed gasoline tax revenues towards building and maintaining Texas highways and still have to pay for tolls on the TTC.
  • It was estimated that 580,000 acres (906 square miles) would have been taken from private owners (mostly ranch and farm land) and either purchased by, or seized (via eminent domain) by the state for the Trans-Texas Corridor.
  • The possible misuse of eminent domain – confiscating private land for “public” use – was a major concern.

Perry’s defense was that as Texas continues to grow by about 1,200 people every day, the state’s infrastructure must be improved to accommodate the growth. The TTC was an attempt to create a state-of-the-art, coordinated system of thousands of miles of roadways, rail lines, and gas transportation systems without raising taxes by using a financing method called a “Public Private Partnership” (P3s). It is important to note that P3s are a procurement option, not a revenue source. Some current examples are: the Chicago Skyway, the South Bay Expressway in California, and the Capital Beltway high-occupancy toll lanes in DC. Here is more on P3s from the Federal Highway Administration.

The TTC is now a dead issue in Texas. It cannot be resurrected under any other name. In fact, the governor recently signed HB 1201, which removed all remaining references to the TTC from state statutes. Perry has not attempted to resurrect it or do an “end run” around the legislature and the people. Here is a local (Houston) story that sums up the public outcry over the TTC.

By law, toll roads in Texas can never be owned by anyone other than the state and are not being “leased away.” The public never relinquished ownership of any state roads.

The governor signed a law in 2005 that prevents a free road from being “converted” to a toll road. This is current law under the Transportation Code, Chapter 228.201 and he signed SB 18 on May 19, 2011, a bill which strengthened property owner’s rights when eminent domain is exercised by a government entity. Eminent domain “land grabs” were one of the big concerns that Texans had relating to the TTA.

Unlike the current administration in Washington, Rick Perry heard the people and backed off.

3. He used to be a Democrat and was Al Gore’s campaign manager in Texas

Both statements are true. Perry was raised in a Democrat family where his father was a long-serving Democrat county commissioner. It was natural for him to start his political career as a Democrat. He won his first election in 1984 when he was elected to the Texas house and soon became a rising star in Texas democrat politics. An opportunity to advance himself presented itself and he became Gore’s Texas campaign manager in 1988.

Those too young to remember wouldn’t recognize the Al Gore of 1988. He opposed the federal funding of abortion, supported a moment of silence in schools for prayer, approved funding of the Nicaraguan contras and was against the ban on interstate handgun sales. Gore’s platform was one that a conservative West Texas Democrat like state representative Perry could support when he signed up to chair the Senator’s Texas campaign.

From the election on, the Gore/Perry partnership began to crumble and the way that their paths diverged in the past three decades speaks eloquently to the way American politics has been reshaped. Gore has sailed left, while Perry’s political odyssey has seen him tack in the other direction — and to the opposing party.

Perry says that the Gore experience helped him to “come to his senses,” and he switched to the Republican party in 1989, fully 22 years ago. Perry switched parties over two decades ago and critics somehow think that bringing it up now is newsworthy? Sorry guys, as we say in Texas, that dog won’t hunt.

If you’re interested in more details, here is a Texas Tribune article titled “Rick Perry: The Democrat Years.”

If critics insist that it’s fair to criticize Perry now for his actions of 22 years ago, it is also fair to apply that same scrutiny and criticism to cover positions espoused by every other politician covering the past 22 years – President Obama included. Is it time to revisit Obama’s anti-American associations, his time in Rev. Wright’s church, his “present” votes, etc.? Let the scrutiny and criticism begin …

4. He wants Texas to secede from the union

Some say that Perry wants Texas to secede from the Union and he is a traitor for saying so. The governor never said that he wanted Texas to secede. Scholars know that Texas secession is an urban myth and certainly, the governor knows it as well.

What actually happened was that after people shouted “Secede!” at an Austin rally, he said that he understood their frustration but added, “We’ve got a great union. There is absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that. Texas is a very unique place, and we’re a pretty independent lot to boot.”

Perry emphasized that he was not advocating secession, but understands why Americans may have those feelings because of frustration. He said it’s fine to express the thought. He offered no apology and did not back away from his earlier comments. Perry’s remarks were in response to a question from The Associated Press as he walked away from the rally. The governor said he didn’t think Texas should secede despite some chatter about it on the Internet and his name being associated with the idea.

While some Texans still harbor fantasies about secession, it is not a serious issue. It’s an urban myth that Texas still has that right – most scholars don’t believe that. When Texas entered the union in 1845, it was with the understanding that it could pull out. However, according to theTexas State Library and Archives Commission, in the end, Texas negotiated the power to divide into four additional states at some point (not five) if it wanted to, but did not retain the right to secede. here is a link to the 1866 ordinance declaring secession and here are the operative words: “and the right heretofore claimed by the State of Texas to secede from the Union, is hereby distinctly renounced.” Passed 15th March, 1866.

Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court case Texas v White (1869) established the principle that there is an existing prohibition against any state seceding from the Union without the consent of the other States.

5. The jobs created in Texas have all been low paying jobs. Texas’ average wage is much lower than the national average.

That statement would imply that Texans are working for minimum wage and must be living at poverty levels compared to other states.

Here’s a thought … isn’t a low paying job in Texas better than being jobless in another state?

Having a job is only one part of the Texas equation – the other significant part is Texas’ low cost of living. The Cost of Living (COL) index takes into account prices on a variety of basic goods and services, including groceries, housing, utilities, healthcare, and transportation, as well as common expenses like movie tickets and newspapers. These disparate costs of living can mean that a salary in one city has a far different value than the same amount of money in another city.

While it is true that Texas median household income ($48,259) is less than some states like California, New York, and Connecticut, the state does fare well when the income is adjusted by the Cost of Living (COL). When the COL is factored in, Texas’ median household income ($53,009) exceeds California by $8,550, exceeds New York’s by $10,403, and Connecticut’s by $1,532. These are 2009 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau reported in a U.S. News article.

Note that those figures are based on median income (a midpoint, as many above as below). Please explain: if Texas has been creating only minimum wage jobs, how is the Texas median income still $48,259? A minimum wage job in Texas would only earn $15,080/yr?

Here is a direct comparison illustrating how much the cost of living affects one’s standard of living. Let’s look at two cities, Los Angeles and Dallas. When Dallas is compared to L.A., here is the result: “The cost of living in Dallas is lower than the cost of living in Los Angeles. If you make $100,000.00 in Los Angeles and move to Dallas, you will only need to make $62,862.55 ($37,137.45 less) to maintain the same buying power.” The comparison is from Inflation where you can compare two selected cities against one another.

And here’s another objective, authoritative comparison:

Texas is ranked third among “Best States to make a living.” The ranking is based on an Adjusted Average Income value which considers taxes, housing, and cost of living. Texas’ average is$41,427. Compared to Massachusetts: $38,665, Minnesota: $37,721, and California: $29,772 just to compare a few. This from CBS MoneyWatch, April, 2011.

And finally, Texas places two metro areas, Houston ($60,634) and Dallas ($59,217) among thetop ten metro areas in the nation with the highest real income. Real income is the median household income adjusted by the COL. Compare those figures with a couple of other large metro areas from the bottom ten: New York ($35,370) and Los Angeles ($41,331). The figures are from a June, 2011 analysis by the U.S. News using latest available (2009) data.

And what about wages? Texas has seen wages climb faster than the country overall. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage for employees in Texas rose 7.4% between May 2008 and May 2010 (the latest data available). For the nation as a whole, average wages climbed only 5%. This from

So, contrary to the poverty implied by the original criticism, the standard of living in Texas isn’t as bad as the “low paying” statement (if true) would indicate – the accusation is just an another attempt to diminish the job creation achievement, Texas’ standard of living, and by association, Governor Perry.

6. Texas ranks poorly in educational spending and high school graduations

That statement is true. Texas does rank near the bottom of generalized rankings in spending per student and high school graduations, but as usual, those rankings alone are misleading. The statement is intended to imply that the state does a poor job of educating its students and therefore its Governor, Rick Perry is to blame. It’s just another two-for-one Texas/Perry smear.

With Perry as governor, how does education in Texas really compare with other states?

To see how Texas stacks up, we’ll compare Texas to Wisconsin. We chose Wisconsin because earlier this year, during their sit-ins and demonstrations, Wisconsin teachers compared their state’s (supposed) #2 ranking in ACT/SAT test scores directly to Texas (at #47). Their reason for comparing to Texas was that Wisconsin teachers are unionized while teacher unions are illegal in Texas. This direct comparison was intended to show the benefit of unionized teachers in educating our children.

However, those rankings were found to be: 1) obsolete, using 12-year-old data, and 2) used questionable methodology. The ranking was debunked by PolitiFact and the claim has since been removed from the union’s website, in other words, they stretched the facts to fit their agenda.

One facet that makes a Texas comparison to many other states is the racial makeup of the student population. Minority students – regardless of state – tend to score lower than white students on standardized tests, and the higher the proportion of minority students in a state the lower its overall test scores tend to be. Regardless of the reasons, the gap does exist, and it’s mathematical sophistry to compare the combined average test scores in a state like Wisconsin (4% black, 4% Hispanic) to a state like Texas (12% black, 30% Hispanic).

But let’s ignore that mismatch and compare them anyway – broken down by racial groups. We’ll compare some 2009 standardized test scores (the latest available) for 4thand 8th grade students in the areas of math, reading, and science. A pilot program for 12thgraders is being tested, but national comparisons are not yet possible for that grade. The data supporting the following rankings are found at the Nation’s Report Card website (link below the rankings).

2009 4th Grade Math

White students: Texas 254, Wisconsin 250 (national average 248)
Black students:
Texas 231, Wisconsin 217 (national 222)
Hispanic students:
Texas 233, Wisconsin 228 (national 227)

2009 8th Grade Math

White students: Texas 301, Wisconsin 294 (national 294)
Black students:
Texas 272, Wisconsin 254 (national 260)
Hispanic students:
Texas 277, Wisconsin 268 (national 260)

2009 4th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 232, Wisconsin 227 (national 229)
Black students:
Texas 213, Wisconsin 192 (national 204)
Hispanic students:
Texas 210, Wisconsin 202 (national 204)

2009 8th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 273, Wisconsin 271 (national 271)
Black students:
Texas 249, Wisconsin 238 (national 245)
Hispanic students:
Texas 251, Wisconsin 250 (national 248)

2009 4th Grade Science

White students: Texas 168, Wisconsin 164 (national 162)
Black students:
Texas 139, Wisconsin 121 (national 127)
Hispanic students:
Wisconsin 138, Texas 136 (national 130)

2009 8th Grade Science

White students: Texas 167, Wisconsin 165 (national 161)
Black students:
Texas 133, Wisconsin 120 (national 125)
Hispanic students:
Texas 141, Wisconsin 134 (national 131)

To recap: white students in Texas perform better than white students in Wisconsin, black students in Texas perform better than black students in Wisconsin, and Hispanic students in Texas perform better than Hispanic students in Wisconsin. In 18 separate ethnicity-controlled comparisons, the only one where Wisconsin students performed better than their peers inTexas was 4th grade science for Hispanic students (statistically insignificant), and this was reversed by 8th grade.

Further, Texas students exceeded the national average for their ethnic cohorts in all 18 comparisons; Wisconsinites were below the national average in 8, above average in 8. That bears repeating: Texas fourth and eighth graders outperformed the national average scores in all categories.

Perhaps the most striking thing in these numbers is the within-state gap between white and minority students. Not only did white Texas students outperform white Wisconsin students, the gap between white students and minority students in Texas was much less than the gap between white and minority students in Wisconsin.

In other words, students perform better in Texas schools than in Wisconsin schools –especially minority students.

The above statistics and narrative was taken from Iowahawk’s great blog site (but they have been verified against the Nation’s Report Card site which was their original source).Read Iowahawk’s complete analysis HERE.

And here is a link to the Nation’s Report Card site – the original source of the data so you can compare and contrast any other state(s) you’d like to see.

About the website:” The Nation’s Report CardTM informs the public about the academic achievement of elementary and secondary students in the United States. It communicates the findings of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a continuing and representative measure of achievement in various subjects over time.

NAEP is a congressionally authorized project of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education.”

And lastly, this little publicized fact, Texas owns the top two spots (#’s 1 and 2) in the America’s Best High Schools list (Newsweek, June 2011) and has 19 of the top 100 best high schools in the country. How can it be that Texas, with about 8 percent of the country’s population, places 19 schools in the top 100 high schools in the country (that’s 19 %)? Here’s a link to the Newsweek article [be aware that the site has some display formatting problems, you'll have to scroll down to see the schools, but the data is all there, it's just in need of some TLC].

Is Texas leading the nation is education spending or achievements? No, the state must do better. Unfortunately, school budgets are being cut as we speak and that doesn’t bode well for the future of our children. That must change.

But Texas isn’t really the educational cesspool that the original accusation would imply – in fact, Texas is doing fairly well when actual achievements are compared to national averages. Is Rick Perry responsible? In some small measure, he is. Just as it would be wrong to credit Perry with all of Texas’s achievements, it would be just as wrong to assume that all of Texas’ problems are his fault. As governor, he certainly did contribute to both good and bad aspects of Texas life.