BREAKING: Rick Perry Retires

Okay, sorry, that headline is a little deceptive.

Rick Perry is still Governor of Texas. Rick Perry is still running for President of the United States. He is still making money as the author of the bestselling book Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington, which decries the role of government in our lives.

And yet, Rick Perry is retired. According to the Texas Tribune, Governor Perry officially retired in January so he could start collecting pension benefits.

Perry makes a $150,000 annual gross salary as Texas governor. Now, thanks to his early retirement, Perry, 61, gets a monthly retirement annuity of $7,698 before taxes, or $6,588 net. That raises his gross annual salary to more than $240,000.

Not only is he getting a bump in his take-home pay now, but he can expect another one when he leaves the governor’s office. Perry is in two public pension systems: the “employee class” and the “elected class.” He only retired from the former.

While public workers see their pensions slashed across the country, small government champion Rick Perry gets to retire not once, but twice with pension benefits courtesy of Texas taxpayers.

Most people who spent their careers railing against government spending would think twice before simultaneously drawing salary and pension from the public dole.

But this is Rick Perry, a politician who has always exceled in manipulating public institutions for personal gain.

As Governor, Perry has made little effort to hide the way he rewards his wealthy campaign donors with government contracts. Matt Taibbi, the formerly Moscow-based journalist who did a feature about Perry for Rolling Stone in October, even compared Perry’s Texas to a Soviet protectorate. With a confusing track record that swings back and forth between open hostility with the federal government (suggesting that Texas secede from the United States) and what some would call government intrusion (mandating HPV vaccines), all of Perry’s actions can be explained by who was giving him money at the time, and what business they were in. Perry’s chief of staff, for instance, got a lucrative lobbying job for the pharmaceutical giant Merck right before the HPV vaccination order provided Merck a windfall of public money.

Is your stomach flipping? It should be. This is exactly the kind of cronyism, nepotism, and back-door dealing that makes the other 99 percent of us sick.

But now that Perry is so openly cashing in on Texans’ tax dollars, why not play the game with him?

Here’s how it will go, Rick. You’re bringing home an annual $240,000 worth of hard-earned taxpayer cash, so it’s time to do us a few favors:

Raise the Texas minimum wage –The so-called economic “Texas miracle” was built on extremely low-wage jobs. Let’s raise the state minimum wage above $7.25 per hour and put some real spending power in the pockets of working families who need it most.

Rebuild crumbling infrastructure – In his piece, Taibbi details how Perry granted a huge contract to a big donor for a nuclear waste depository. Now that it’s our dollars in Perry’s pockets, it’s time for him to use some lucrative bridge and road repair funds to put thousands of unemployed Texas construction workers and engineers back to work.

Get teachers back in the classroom and rescue Texas education – The Texas education system is in trouble. By 2040, 30 percent of Texas workers don’t have a high school diploma. You turn these trends around by getting laid off teachers back in the classroom now.

We the taxpayers don’t usually demand much. But with Perry taking home such a big check from us while talking trash about public employees, I think doing us a few solids is the least he could do.

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