KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Committing to energy independence is key to the long term revival of the US economy, former Florida governor Association convention Jeb Bush, told delegates attending the 74th annual Truckload Carriers Association (TCA).
It is one of four pillars necessary to bring about the “profound change” Bush believes is necessary to deal with the “dysfunctional elements” of the US economy revealed by the Great Recession, which started in 2008 and has been followed by a slow recovery. The other pillars include a pro-growth immigration policy, outcomes-based regulation reform and a transformation of the education system –
“We can turn our country’s decline around by focusing on long term growth. But it will take profound changes,” Bush said. “The power of compounding can be our friend if we do a lot of the right things. But if we do nothing, it can be our enemy.”
He added that while US growth is currently forecasted at around 1.5-2% over the next decade, if policies were put in place to boost that growth to 4%, the additional $3.8 trillion of economic activity added by the tenth year would be larger than the current GDP of Germany.
“Wealth doesn’t come from safe streets and good schools. Wealth creates safe streets and good schools. ..We have to restore our free market system so that it’s safe for anyone to start a business,” Bush said.
The first issue that must be addressed is US dependence on foreign oil, according to Bush, arguing that history shows great countries can only depend on foreign sources of energy for so long before the dependence leads to decline.
“If we could cut our energy imports by half, we could be putting $150 billion into our own economy rather than subsidizing regimes that destabilize the world,” he reasoned.
He pointed to natural gas in particular as a growing energy source that is easily available within North America , calling for incentives for people and business to convert to natural gas use. He also said the Arctic Wildlife Reserve should be opened up to energy exploration .
He also called for an immigration policy that is “faithful to our heritage”, arguing that “it’s in our (US) DNA to absorb people from all over the world.”
He said the US should open its doors to “aspirational, hard working people” — for example, highly educated, high achievers — and get tougher on those who come to the US illegally. He added that 20% of illegal immigrants to the US actually come with a legal visa and stay beyond the visa’s expiration because the US is not doing a good enough job of tracking them down and exporting them.
For the US economy to grow at an annual rate of 4%, it will require a 2% growth in its population, he said.
American business is suffering from “insidious uncertainty” over the direction of regulation which keeps business from investing, Bush said in making the case for legislative reform based on outcomes.
“There is no shame in saying I want to be as wealthy as possible through hard work. We need to celebrate every time someone starts a new business in this country, not rush to regulate it,” Bush said.
He said the US Congress should require a cost benefit analysis be done before any legislation is drafted and also called for a sunset clause for antiquated legislation. He also called on Americans to look themselves in the mirror when it comes to pushing their politicians for legislation. He said that restoration of personal responsibility would lessen demands on politicians to do something about every unfortunate event.
“It’s time for us to realize that life is not always going to be perfect,” he said.
The final pillar of Bush’s plan to revitalize the US economy involves transforming the US education system, the quality of which he said is dropping behind other industrialized nations.
“We have lost our way on education,” he said.
He called for reform along the lines of what he put in place in Florida while he was governor of that state and saw its high school graduation rate improve every year after being the worst in the country. He said there should be pay for performance for teachers and a rethinking of tenure combined with “high expectations for students, no excuses and consequences for mediocrity.”
Bush also had a fair bit to say about how to best deal with the deficit, the seriousness of which he believed both major US parties were underestimating.
“The only way to attack the deficit is to say everything is on the table,” Bush said, arguing that could include raising the retirement age.
He also said Europe’s austerity measures , or “eat your broccoli” approach won’t work because it doesn’t also focus on growth.
“Without growth this stuff doesn’t work,” he said.
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