In an interview last year with Newsweek, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) affirmed his view that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid were all unconstitutional programs creating “a Ponzi scheme” that was bankrupting the government:
NEWSWEEK: The Constitution says that “the Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes… to provide for the… general Welfare of the United States.” But I noticed that when you quoted this section on page 116, you left “general welfare” out and put an ellipsis in its place. Progressives would say that “general welfare” includes things like Social Security or Medicare—that it gives the government the flexibility to tackle more than just the basic responsibilities laid out explicitly in our founding document. What does “general welfare” mean to you?
PERRY: 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. What they clearly said was that those were issues that the states need to address. Not the federal government. I stand very clear on that. From my perspective, the states could substantially better operate those programs if that’s what those states decided to do.
Such views put Perry squarely in line with GOP presidential primary candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tx.), who’s long argued that all these federal entitlements are unconstitutional for exactly the same reasons. Here’s Paul back in May on Fox News, in which he compared the Supreme Court’s view on entitlements to antiquated views on slavery:
WALLACE: You talk a lot about the Constitution. You say Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid are all unconstitutional.
PAUL: Technically, they are. … There’s no authority [in the Constitution]. Article I, Section 8 doesn’t say I can set up an insurance program for people. What part of the Constitution are you getting it from? The liberals are the ones who use this General Welfare Clause. … That is such an extreme liberal viewpoint that has been mistaught in our schools for so long and that’s what we have to reverse—that very notion that you’re presenting.
WALLACE: Congressman, it’s not just a liberal view. It was the decision of the Supreme Court in 1937 when they said that Social Security was constitutional under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.
PAUL: And the Constitution and the courts said slavery was legal to, and we had to reverse that.
Such revelations may be a reality check for those insisting that Perry will quickly sweep the field in the Republican primary.
And it wasn’t the first time that Perry challenged fundamental, broadly held assumptions about entitlements. Last year, Perry was among the governors who toyed with dropping out of Medicaid altogether, insisting that federal requirements for the program were bankrupting Texas. Economically, opting out would probably prove far more costly for states in the long run, even if they were to drastically reduce benefits. But ideologically, ditching Medicaid completely fits into Perry’s view that federally run entitlement programs are for the birds.