Move over Mitt Romney. Rick Perry has a bigger problem to defend from his tenure as governor. Remember the NAFTA Superhighway project? It was to consist of a two-mile wide $184 billion transit system of toll roads, rail lines and utilities from the Texas-Mexico border all the way up to the Minnesota-Canadian border, to make it easier to ship foreign goods from China and other countries into North America. It became so unpopular in Texas that the Texas portion of it, called the Trans-Texas Corridor, was renamed and mostly disbanded a couple of years ago. Perry was the only gubernatorial candidate in 2006 of four major candidates who supported it. Even the Democratic candidate opposed it.
Perry’s campaign website lists the Trans-Texas Corridor as one of his accomplishments, “Rather than taking decades to expand these important corridors a little bit at a time, Governor Perry developed the Trans-Texas Corridor plan.”But is it something Perry really wants broadcast as an achievement? The Texas Republican Party’s 2010 platform includes a plank specifically opposing the Trans-Texas Corridor. Some of the opposition to the NAFTA Superhighway has been dismissed as conspiratorial, but loud objections also came from people concerned with border security and one million rural interests and farmers that stood to lose their land to eminent domain.
Construction of the Trans-Texas Corridor began in 2007. Perry received substantial campaign contributions from the companies expected to benefit from the construction, Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transport and Zachry Construction Company. Cintra is a Spanish-owned company that would own the toll roads. This arrangement has been accused of being a hidden tax payable to a foreign corporation. Zachry was selected by the Texas Department of Transportation to construct the Trans-Texas Corridor. Perry initially opposed efforts by the Texas legislature to impede the construction, vetoing several bills. As opposition increased, the legislature was finally able to repeal the section of the Transportation code dealing with the Trans-Texas Corridor and pass an eminent domain bill protecting property. The TTC-35 project, a privately built multi-lane toll road, railway and utility line network that was to run parallel to Interstate Highway 35, was canceled. Perry finally backed down in the 2010 Republican primary for governor running against Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and opposed construction of the TTC-35.
NAFTA and expanding free trade sounds good superficially. Unfortunately, it has turned out to be considerably less than free. New York Times best-selling author Jerome Corsi, known for orchestrating the Swift Boat ads targeting John Kerry, wrote a book exposing the NAFTA Superhighway in 2009 called “The Late Great USA: The Coming Merger with Mexico and Canada.” Corsi’s efforts, as well as exposure by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and the website Corsi writes for, WorldNetDaily, may have contributed more to getting the Trans-Texas Corridor shut down than anything else.
Corsi explains in his book that the U.S. is at a disadvantage with “free trade” because unlike most of the world’s international trading countries, we do not charge a value added tax (VAT) to imported goods. This makes our products much more difficult to sell overseas, and other countries’ products much cheaper than ours. The price of union labor drives the costs up even more, making our own products less competitive here as well. This results in a trade imbalance leaving us heavily in debt to other countries, and part of the reason we have a debt ceiling crisis today.
With the economy currently in the tank and nine percent unemployment holding steady, the last thing Americans want is enabling China to sell us more products using cheap exploited labor. Corsi writes that the average age of a worker in a Chinese toy factor is between 12 and 15. The CANAMEX Corridor Coalition, a trade association that supports a transportation super corridor, reports that the average hourly manufacturing wage in the U.S. is $17.20. In Mexico it is $2.10, and in China and India it is $.25.
Furthermore, Corsi has put forth a compelling amount of information in his book showing how the plan to create a North American Union goes well beyond simple free trade agreements and purposely disguises efforts to subvert U.S. sovereignty to an entity that would operate much like the European Union.
Perry is hoping the NAFTA Superhighway quietly fades away. But has it really gone away? The controversial financing mechanism behind it that leases right-of-way to a private company – often Cintra – is still being used for freeways. That funding, known as Comprehensive Development Agreements, was recently used to build a toll road bypass to the Austin area, SH 130, considered part of the Trans-Texas Corridor. Trucks on Interstate 35 are still a big problem during rush hour in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio, so eventually a separate road will need to be built for them similar to what the Trans-Texas Corridor called for. On July 6, the Obama administration struck a deal with Mexico to re-open access to the U.S. for certified Mexican truckers.
Perry already has a record that hurts him with voters concerned about illegal immigration. In April, he stated that he would not support a version of Arizona’s SB 1070 for Texas. In 2001, he signed a bill allowing the children of illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition at Texas universities. He opposes using E-Verify, the federal electronic system for verifying prospective workers’ immigration status.
Unlike Romney, Perry has not completely disavowed his controversial history as governor. Romney distanced himself from Mass-Care by promising that the first Executive Order he would sign upon becoming president would be a waiver to all 50 states from Obamacare. Perry, on the other hand, proudly lists Trans-Texas Corridor as one of his accomplishments on his website. The state of Texas, multiple factions within the Republican Party, and significant numbers of Democrats oppose the Trans-Texas Corridor. They are not going to sit back and risk repeating an “accomplishment” like this on a national scale. Former president George W. Bush, who was also a Texas governor, was one of the biggest proponents of the NAFTA Superhighway. Voters have the hindsight now to realize that the NAFTA Superhighway is the wrong direction for our country.