JOHNSTON, IOWA -- Texas Governor Rick Perry played up his agricultural roots and emphasized his anti-Washington rhetoric at a town hall that will probably best be remembered for the GOP presidential hopefuls closing line, one that seems destined to be repeated on the campaign trail for months to come.
“Are you better off today than you were $4 trillion ago?” Perry asked, a grin of satisfaction creasing his face, at a town hall at Pioneer Hi-Bred, a hybrid seed plant.
Perry has made this outsider message the signature of his campaign efforts in Iowa this week as he has talked about taking a “wrecking ball” and a “sledgehammer” to Washington. In Iowa Thursday, he said the nation’s capital doesn’t have the “intellectual firepower” to make one-size-fits-all policies for all of the states.
The populist message extended to the financial markets as well as government. “I happen to think Washington and Wall Street have been in bed together way too long,” Perry said. “I wouldn’t have bailed anybody out. If you are too big to fail, you are too big.” He did not elaborate on whether this meant he would attempt to use his executive authority downsize such large firms.
Responding to a question from an audience member about how he would stop “stupid” financial CEOs, Perry blasted the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, saying it institutionalized the very behaviors it sought to stop. He has pledged to repeal the law if elected.
“One of the reasons that the establishment really doesn’t like me and doesn’t like my tax plan is because they know that I’m going to show up in Washington with a sledgehammer, and they’re not going to like it,” Perry said. “And that’s exactly what I think this country needs in Washington is somebody who’s not afraid to go in and to really crush that system that is in place.”
The irony of the statement is that the 20 percent flat tax Perry has pledged to implement is voluntary, and preserves the existing tax system for anyone who chooses to use it. When an audience member asked why, Perry replied that some companies might want to use the old system because they have made “substantial plans” relying on its structure.
While audience members seemed less than enthused by Perry’s anti-establishment message, they did seem to appreciate the reverence for agriculture from the one-time farm boy and former Texas Agriculture commissioner.
“All too often, in this fast-paced world, in this effort to find the next big thing, agriculture gets overlooked. And it shouldn’t, because I will suggest to you that at the end of the day, that phrase that we hear often – if we don’t get this right now, the quality of life for people is going to be substantially poorer,” Perry said.