Reporter Michael Shear Defends Social Security, Obama-Care Against Gov. Perry's Attacks

New York Times online political reporter Michael Shear made Saturday's front page with his close reading of the oeuvre of Texas Gov. Rick Perry and was predictably disturbed by what he found. 'Perry's Blunt Views in Books Get New Scrutiny as He Joins Race' amounts to a handy bit of opposition research before Perry's debate debut on Wednesday (contingent on the wildfires in his home state of Texas).

Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, believes that climate change is a 'contrived, phony mess.' The federal income tax was the 'great milestone on the road to serfdom.' And the Boy Scouts of America are under attack by 'a radical homosexual movement.'

Mr. Perry also thinks that senators should be chosen by legislatures, not the people. And he says that Social Security, the retirement program for the nation's elderly, is a 'failure' enacted during a power grab called the New Deal and is 'something we have been forced to accept.'

Those blunt assertions are in two books Mr. Perry wrote while building a deep base of support in Texas among evangelical voters and Tea Party supporters. But the books have drawn new scrutiny now that Mr. Perry, a Republican, is running for president.

On Wednesday, Mr. Perry is likely to be asked about some of the statements he makes in the books when he takes the stage in his first nationally televised presidential debate. How he responds, and whether he defends the ideas or distances himself from them, will be an early test of his campaign.

Shear took it upon himself to play defense for liberal issues against Perry's attacks, suggesting Obamacare is based on a free-market paradigm.

Mr. Perry's assault on the retirement program is not a throwaway line or two. He asserts that the social programs of the New Deal - including Social Security - 'never died, and like a bad disease, they have spread.' He says the Social Security trust fund is an 'elaborate illusion cooked up by government magicians.'

Asked about the book recently, Mr. Perry went even further, calling Social Security a 'Ponzi scheme for these young people' and a 'monstrous lie on this generation.'

But his words skim over the financial reality of Social Security. Economists of all stripes agree that the program, while stressed, would exhaust the money in the trust fund by 2037. But even then, taxes would pay for close to 80 percent of the benefits currently promised.

In 'Fed Up!,' Mr. Perry contrasts himself with politicians who represent places like Massachusetts - who he said support same-sex marriage and state-run health care. The passage, written less than a year ago, seems squarely aimed at his current rival, Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.

When it comes to health care, Mr. Perry writes that President Obama's legislation on the subject was 'the closest this country has ever come to outright socialism,' largely ignoring the fact that Mr. Obama's plan relies heavily on existing private insurance companies, doctors and drug manufacturers.