Why a Rick Perry Presidency Could Send Some Feds to a ‘God-Awful Place’

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered a crowded GOP presidential race on Thursday. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered a crowded GOP presidential race on Thursday. Tim Sharp/AP

Another day, another new presidential contender with radical ideas about reshaping the federal workforce.

Former Texas governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry made his second bid for the nation’s top office on Thursday, with the familiar refrain of reducing the size of the federal government.

“America is an extraordinary country,” Perry said in his announcement speech. “Our greatness lies not in our government, but in our people.”

“We don’t have to settle for crumbling bureaucracies that target taxpayers and harm our veterans,” Perry said. “Our rights come from God, not from government, and our people are not the subjects of government, but instead government is subject to the people.”

While he didn’t offer any specifics about how he might change “crumbling bureaucracies” if he is elected president, in his last campaign, Perry spelled out several ways he would shrink the government’s footprint. Perry said during a 2011 debate he wanted to eliminate three federal agencies, but in what perhaps became the defining moment of his campaign, he could not remember which three. 

As it turned out, Perry had wanted to eliminate the departments of Education, Commerce and Energy. Later, the three-term governor said he also wanted to get rid of the Interior Department. He has additionally discussed restructuring the Environmental Protection Agency and repealing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which would eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Perry also has criticized the Bureau of Land Management, telling Fox News last year it represented a federal bureaucracy that was “out of control.”

He also had an idea for how to deal with the red tape often involved in removing federal employees. He said at a town hall meeting in 2011 he wanted a workforce that would go along with his priorities, or as he put it, “having men and women who share my philosophy.”

“I don't think you can fire federal bureaucrats, but you can reassign them,” Perry said. “So reassign them to some really god-awful place.” It was unclear if Perry was saying this was the best way to punish feds for political purposes—which is illegal—or if he truly thought federal employees cannot be fired.

Perry’s record toward public-sector workers has not been all negative, however; in 2011, Politifact found the number of Texas state employees had increased by 15 percent under Perry’s watch.

More recently, Perry butted heads with the Obama administration when he deployed the Texas National Guard to the state’s border with Mexico to stem a surge of undocumented migrants making their way north from Central America. A Perry presidency would likely boost the rolls (and perhaps the role) of the Border Patrol.

Perry is not considered in the top echelon of 2016 contenders, though he holds more public-sector executive experience than anyone in the race. Expect to hear in the coming months more from the former governor on how he would use that experience at the federal level.

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