Seeking to reclaim his image as an anti-Washington crusader, the Texas governor proposes to radically transform every branch of government.
How much does Rick Perry hate Washington? So much that he wants to kick out members of Congress and make them get real jobs.
Perry's plan to overhaul the federal government, announced Tuesday at a town hall in Iowa, demonstrates his beef with every one of its branches. He would end lifetime tenure for Supreme Court justices and slash numerous departments from the federal bureaucracy -- and yes, he remembered their names this time.
But it's Perry's proposals to demote and reduce Congress that represent his most resonant attempt to claim the mantle of the mad-as-hell, anti-government candidate. He would cut members' salaries in half, cut their staff budgets, and decrease the amount of time they spend in session, encouraging them to get jobs back home instead.
"We send members of Congress to look out for America, not enrich themselves," Perry said in his Bettendorf, Iowa, speech Tuesday morning. "But too often, they are taken captive by the Washington culture. That's why we need a part-time Congress. I say send them home to live under the laws they pass among the people they represent."
The idea of the humble "citizen legislature" composed of working men and women whose lives are just like their constituents' is a fantasy.
With its single-digit approval ratings and manifest failure to accomplish simple tasks like raising the debt limit, Congress is an easy target. Perry has been running against Washington for a long time: In 2010, running for a third term as the incumbent chief executive of one of America's largest states, he managed to convince voters he was the anti-establishment choice, largely by painting his main primary opponent, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, as an out-of-touch denizen of the Capitol.