(Photo by Gabe Licht)
Perry told the standing-room-only crowd which gathered at Pizza Ranch that his conservative record and values are in tune with their Midwestern values. He also assured participants that they can measure him as a leader by his walk, not just by his rhetoric.
"As governor, I've led that state with four pretty simple principles," Perry said. "Principle No. 1 is don't spend all the money. Two is have a tax policy that is light on the job creators as it can be. (Third is) a regulatory climate that is fair and predictable, and (fourth is) a legal system that allows for the creation of jobs.
"Washington, sadly, has really forgotten the fact that freedom does work."
Before fielding questions from audience members, Perry promised two things if he is elected president in November 2012. His first promise is to sign an executive order wiping out as much of "Obamacare" as he can.
"Every day it will be in my intention not only to create that environment in this country where small businessmen and women know that they can risk their capital and have a chance to create the jobs which, in turn, create the wealth in this country," he continued, "but I will go to work every day and try to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can."
A woman veteran seated in the audience posed the first question for Perry. She asked if he'd been appointed as one of the governors on the executive board for the Council of Governors. President Barack Obama signed an executive order in January 2010 establishing the council to further strengthen the partnership between the federal and state governments to protect the nation against all types of hazards.
Appearing to not be familiar with what she was speaking about, Perry instead thanked the woman for her honorable service. He then said, "We need to do everything we can to make sure that they (military personnel) are supported fully by the federal government and not ever put our military budget on the cutting table for political expedience. Our question should not be, 'How much can we cut or save from that military budget?' but, 'What is the cost of freedom and how much do we need to spend to make sure that we are free from those countries that are going to be oppressive to American interests and how much it costs us to secure our borders with Mexico?'"
Next, Aaron Knoup of Spencer asked the GOP presidential candidate if his initial plan for Social Security includes an opt-out option.
"We have made a solemn pledge to those individuals in this country that the Social Security program they paid into will be there for them," Perry answered. "Now, with that said, the young people in this country, between 26 and 35 year olds who are just starting out in the workforce, they know for a fact that if you pay money into that program today, with no changes, it won't be there when you get ready to retire. We need to have a very straight-up conversation in this country to talk about what the options are that we have."
Spencer resident Merlyn Winther, who queried which areas saw the greatest job growth during Perry's 10 years as governor of Texas, learned the most jobs were created in the areas of biomedical services and technology. Perry also touted the tort reform passed in 2003, which helped to put a damper on frivolous lawsuits and, in part, encouraged over 20,000 more physicians to practice medicine in the state.
"Ninety-five percent of all jobs created in Texas were above minimum wage," Perry said. " ... If you want to create jobs, government can either be an impediment to it or government can remove barriers like overtaxation and overregulation. Americans have lost confidence that Washington, D.C., understands what it takes to create private-sector jobs. We need a president of the United States who understands this and respects it. ... It's worked in Texas, and I will assure you it will work all across this country."
A fourth questioner mentioned pundits' harsh remarks about him - namely Joe Scarborough's alleged deeming of Perry "the I-shot-a-coyote-in-the-face candidate" -- and asked how Perry could get people on his side and still remain electable. Perry once again pointed to his record of job creation.
"I think they (voters) want somebody who will draw a bright line between themselves and Barack Obama. I can do that," Perry said. "There will be a bright line drawn between a president who has lost 2.5 million jobs while he has been at the White House and me, (who) created 1 million jobs in the state of Texas. That's what Americans care about. ... I will suggest to you Americans understand that government doesn't create jobs. We have built a huge debt in this country because government thinks they're smarter than the people out here and the rest of the country. I think on Nov. 6, 2012, we're going to send a message to Washington, D.C., that the people of this country know best and we're taking our country back."
Kathryn Parsons, an 88-year-old resident of Spencer, specifically asked Perry why he would like to help illegal immigrants with their college education. He started to answer by saying nobody has a stronger record on immigration than himself. Perry cited his passage of voter identification and push for sanctuary cities.
"When it came to that issue which you asked about, the states are forced to deal with those individuals. We have to give health care and we have to give education. That is required by the federal government," he explained. "They've failed on securing the border and then they dumped it on the states. (My home state) had this decision to make: Are we going to kick these people to the side of the road and let them become tax wasters, because they're going to have to use the government programs that are going to be there because they're unskilled, or are we going to give them the opportunity to go to an institution of higher learning, pay full in-state tuition, which we do, and require them to be pursuing citizenship? That's what the people of the state of Texas decided to do in 2001. The issue was really driven by economics because of the federal government's, again, failure to secure that border and us having to deal with it."
"Every state has the freedom to make that decision," Perry continued. "It's not a federal issue and I would never want it to be a federal issue. What I want to do is be the president of the United States that secures that border so future governors don't have to mess with that particular issue."