The news that Rick Perry intends to pad his income by drawing a pension while serving as governor changes Texas politics. Before we learned about his double-dipping, and with his presidential bid looking bleak, it was possible to foresee the end of the Perry governorship, in January 2015. Perry would have to find a way to earn a living in the private sector--probably by making speeches and serving on corporate boards. By drawing his retirement pay, he can expand his income to more than $240,000 a year, plus Anita's salary at the non-profit where she works (paid for primarily by the lobby) plus free luxury housing, free travel, free security, and all the other perks that come with the office.
Why did Perry decide to take the money, particularly at this critical moment of the campaign? He has to know how bad it looks to double dip. Even worse, it takes him off message. Perry has railed at the special privileges of members of Congress, federal judges, and federal bureaucrats. One possible reason: the very expensive spinal fusion operation last summer that used his own adult stem cells. When asked how Perry was going to pay for the operation, a spokesman responded, "Whatever is not covered by insurance, the Perrys will pay for." Since so little is covered by insurance, the Perrys are on the hook for the bill. An extra $7,698 a month (pre-tax) will come in handy.
Ever since Perry announced for president, I have believed that the clock is ticking on his political career, and that the expiration of his term in January 2015 would be the crucial moment. Either he would have already decided to run again for a fourth full term by then, or he would have to go out into the world and find work. But double dipping enables him to extend his political career. He can stay in office and collect his pension and repeat the process indefinitely. Who is going to beat him? Certainly not a Democrat. He really could be governor for life.
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