Republicans, Race and Economic Opportunity for All

by Rick Perry, July 8, 2015, wsj.com

Too often we Republicans—myself included—have emphasized the 10th Amendment but not the 14th.

From remarks by Rick Perry, a Republican presidential candidate and former Texas governor, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., July 2.

We are a country with Hispanic CEOs, with Asian billionaires, and a black president. So why is it that today so many black families feel left behind? Why is it that a quarter of African-Americans live below the poverty line? Even after the impact of federal programs like food stamps and housing subsidies, the supplemental poverty rate for African-Americans is nearly double the rate for other Americans.

Democrats have long had the opportunity to govern African-American communities. It is time for black families to hold them accountable for the results. I am here to tell you that it is Republicans, not Democrats, who are truly offering black Americans the hope of a better life for themselves and their children.

I am proud to live in a country that has an African-American president. But President Obama cannot be proud of the fact that the prevalence of black poverty has actually increased under his leadership. We cannot dismiss the historical legacy of slavery, nor its role in causing the problem of black poverty. And because slavery and segregation were sanctioned by government, there is a role for government policy in addressing their lasting effects.

But the specific policies advanced by the president and his allies on the left amount to little more than throwing money at the problem and walking away. We spend $450 billion a year on Medicaid. And yet health outcomes for those on Medicaid are no better than for those with no insurance at all. Instead of reforming Medicaid, the president expanded it under ObamaCare.

In the cities where the left-wing solutions have been tried over and over again—places like Detroit and Chicago and Baltimore—African-Americans are moving out, and moving to cities like Dallas and Houston.

Listen, as Americans I think we are all united by certain aspirations. We want access to opportunity. We want good schools for kids. We want to live in safe neighborhoods. We want to live in cities and states where housing and college and everyday expenses are affordable. We all want to experience the American dream.

From 2005-07 more African-Americans moved to Texas than all but one other state, that state being Georgia. Now, many were coming from blue states like New York and Illinois and California. Many came from Louisiana, where they had lost their homes due to Hurricane Katrina. But each one of those new residents was welcomed to Texas with open arms. They came to a state with a booming economy. We kept taxes low, regulations low, we kept frivolous lawsuits to a minimum. We worked hard to educate every child.

Let me be clear, we have not eliminated black poverty in Texas, but we have made meaningful progress. In New York the supplemental poverty rate for blacks is 26%. In California, it is 30%. In Washington, D.C., it is 33%. In Texas, it’s just 20%. . . .

I know Republicans have much to do to earn the trust of African-Americans. Blacks know that Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964 ran against Lyndon Johnson, who was a champion of civil rights. They know that Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, because he felt that parts of it were unconstitutional.

States supporting segregation in the South cited “states’ rights” as a justification for keeping blacks from the voting booth and the dinner table.

As you know, I am an ardent believer in the 10th Amendment, which was ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights. The 10th Amendment says that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” I know that state governments are more accountable to you than the federal government is.

But I’m also an ardent believer in the 14th Amendment, which says that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

There has been—and will continue to be—an important and legitimate role for the federal government in enforcing civil rights. Too often, we Republicans—myself included—have emphasized our message on the 10th Amendment but not our message on the 14th—an amendment, it bears reminding, that was one of the first great contributions of the Republican Party to American life, second only to the abolition of slavery.

For too long, we Republicans have been content to lose the black vote because we found that we could win elections without it. But when we gave up on trying to win the support of African-Americans, we lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln. As the party of equal opportunity for all. It is time for us to once again reclaim our heritage as the only party in our country founded on the principle of freedom for African-Americans.

We know what Democrats will propose in 2016—the same things Democrats have proposed for decades: more government spending on more government programs. And there is a proper and important role for government assistance in keeping people on their feet. But few presidents have done more to expand government assistance than President Obama. . . .

If we create jobs, incentivize work, keep nonviolent drug offenders out of prison, reform our schools, and reduce the cost of living—we will have done more for African-Americans than the last three Democratic administrations combined.