MANCHESTER, N.H. - Armed with an anti-Washington message, Texas Governor Rick Perry appealed to workers at a defense manufacturing company with a policy of shrinking government.
“The metro region of Washington is the most affluent metro area in America because lobbyists, contractors, and overpaid czars haven’t suffered one bit while you all have been fighting the fight with the recession here,” Perry said. “Main Street sees business boarded up, while cash continues to flow to Wall Street financiers and Beltway profiteers.”
Bloomberg reported last month that the Washington, D.C. metro area was the wealthiest area in the nation, because of a concentration of lawyers and federal employees, with the typical household earning $84,500 a year.
Perry, a Republican presidential candidate, spoke at Granite State Manufacturing, a manufacturer that makes defense, medical, and other products – including Navy submarine antenna systems and robots to dispose of bombs. The manufacturer is a popular campaign stop – former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman visited in September.
The company has been hurt by the recession – dropping from a peak of 200 employees in 2008-2009 to about 140 people today. But it was an unusual choice of location to talk about cutting government – about 75 percent of the company’s business is with the government, through military contracts, according to company president Glenn Lawton.
Perry stayed away from talk of the military budget – saying only that he would reduce government spending overall to 18 percent of gross domestic product. Rather, Perry pledged to cut the legislative branch of government, by turning Congress into a part-time legislature and cutting members’ pay and budgets in half. Members of Congress today make $174,000 a year.
Perry portrayed himself as a Washington outsider who wants to overhaul the government. “Some candidates want to tinker with the status quo, work within the current system to achieve marginal change,” Perry said. “I don’t believe Washington needs just a coat of paint. It needs a whole overhaul. We need to tear down and rebuild Washington and the federal institutions that have been built there over the years.”
He touted the plan he unveiled yesterday in Iowa to end lifetime appointments for federal judges and halve congressional pay. He talked about his desire to abolish the federal departments of energy, commerce, and education, privatize the Transportation Security Administration, and downsize the Environmental Protection Agency. He accused career politicians of “liv(ing) lavishly off the taxpayers” while creating regulations that hurt taxpayers.
In other areas, Perry, in talking about his opposition to President Obama’s health care overhaul, defended people’s right to decide whether to buy insurance. In Texas, 26 percent of the population is uninsured. ”You look healthy as a horse to me,” Perry said. “It may be your choice that I don’t want to buy health insurance at this point in my life…That ought to be your choice, not government forcing you to buy something you don’t think you need at this point in time.”
Perry was greeted with applause, particularly for his criticism of Congress. Gary Blanchard, a program manager at Granite State Manufacturing and undecided Republican voter, said he agreed with Perry’s stance. “Congress is too big, too powerful, it’s become an elite institution,” Blanchard said.