Perry’s Campaign

by John J. Pitney, Jr.

As the long-serving and successful governor of a big state, Rick Perry should have been a contender. One of his problems was that he failed to think long and hard about why he wanted to be president, and what he wanted to do in the job. In this sense, the infamous “brain freeze” was not a huge problem in itself, but rather a symptom of a bigger problem. Another symptom was his handling of the tax issue. In announcing his candidacy, he railed against “the injustice that nearly half of all Americans don’t even pay any income tax.” He didn’t stop to think that the president who took millions off the income-tax rolls was Ronald Reagan. And although the idea of a flat tax has merit, the Perry version had huge problems. By making it optional, he would have left the existing tax code in place, largely negating two major advantages of the flat tax: greater simplicity and lower compliance costs.