If the President were to ask me my advice on how to deal with the worst recession since the Great Depression, I would politely ask him to turn off the teleprompter. It’s hard to have a conversation with the American people when speaking through scripted words. And besides, the script really isn’t working.
I would tell the President, politely, to turn off the teleprompters. To turn off and maybe to quiet the loudmouths who are calling us – those who oppose some of his plans – “terrorists.” Those who are hurling invective at us as if that is somehow constructive. I would tell him to turn off or disassociate himself with this type of rhetoric.
Leadership means accepting responsibility. Accepting responsibility for where we are after nearly three years of his administration. For the first year or two it was always Bush’s fault. The economy, the recession – it’s all Bush’s fault. But at some point and time leadership means accepting responsibility.
We have unemployment nearly ten percent. This administration is set to accumulate more debt than all 43 Presidents combined. With the unemployment, 2 million new workers are out of work. Leadership means accepting responsibility. And I would ask at this point that he accept some responsibility for this failed economy and for these failed policies and that we try something new.
Leadership isn’t just attaching blame to the other side and saying it’s just the Republican’s fault. But likewise, it’s not us standing up and saying it’s just the Democrat’s fault. It’s both sides admitting that there’s blame to go around.
The No. 1 problem that fuels our deficit crisis – that has us pushing on toward this deficit problem – is entitlements. And this is not anyone’s fault. It’s not the Democrats fault. It’s not the Republican’s fault.
Entitlements are broken because of two incontrovertible facts: No.1, people are living longer; No. 2 there are less workers than retirees. When Social Security was started there were dozens of workers for every retiree. Now we’re less than three workers for one retiree and we’re headed toward a time where there’s going to be one worker for one retiree. Social Security now pays out more than it brings in. These are just facts.
We can fix these programs but we can’t fix them if we involve ourselves in the rhetoric where each side or one side is calling the other terrorists. Mr. President, we need to get beyond that type of rhetoric. We need to sit down together and try to figure out our nation’s problems.
Likewise, I don’t think it’s good for you to simply say it’s the rich, blame the rich, the rich are not paying their fair share. Well, the facts speak otherwise: We have a progressive income tax in our country. In fact, the top 1 percent of wage earners who earn about 20 percent of the income, pay 38 percent of the income tax. The top 10 percent of wage earners which earn about 50 percent of the income, pay 70 percent of the income tax. So the only thing the facts could tell us about the tax code is that the wealthy are paying their fair share – their fair share and then some.
You point out examples and say, well, this corporation didn’t pay any tax or this individual didn’t pay any tax. Those are anecdotes and anecdotes do not make a trend and do not make the truth. The truth is that the middle class and the rich pay the vast majority of the income tax. In fact, the bottom 50 percent, nearly half of all income tax is paid by those above, nearly have of income tax, nearly half of wage earners don’t pay any income tax.
So really we need to get our facts straight and get beyond sort of this blame-the-rich game. This class war-fare, this class envy. We need to remember that this is America; where the American dream is open to all. You, Mr. President, are a product of the American Dream. You should be proud of those who gain wealth. You should be proud of those who make a profit. We should extol the successes of American businesses, of American individuals. That would help us to move forward.
Now we do face a problem, we do have great joblessness in our country. How would we fix it? I would have five different things we would do. I think if we did these then our economy would begin to rebound. We would see a recovery almost immediately.
No. 1: We need a balance budget amendment to the Constitution. For too long we have been running these massive debts and debt has a face. Some economists are saying that our debt causes a million people to be out of work each year. Debt also causes our prices to go up. Gas prices have doubled. That’s because we are financing our debt by printing new money, that’s what the rising price is. These rising prices hurt seniors; these rising prices hurt those who are on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder. So the first thing we need to do is get rid of our debt problem: a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
Now in order to do that you also have to have a spending plan. The second thing I would say is that we need a spending plan. You did propose a budget, but everyone voted against it. All 100 Senators; all the Republicans and all the Democrats voted against your plan. So obviously it wasn’t a plan that was acceptable to representatives on either sides of the aisle.
But I think there is a spending plan that America would accept and I call it the Penny Plan. The Penny Plan would cut the spending by one percent each year for six years. Cut one penny of every dollar of federal spending. Families have to do across America when times are tight, is there any reason why government couldn’t cut one percent of spending? If you cut one percent of spending for six years, and then free spending for two more years, your budget will balance in eight years. So it’s not enough just to have a balanced budget amendment, we have to have a spending plan that tells us and shows us how we could get to a balanced budget.
No. 3: I think we should immediately cut in half the corporate income tax, we should eliminate the capital gains taxes and we should make the tax rates that are out there now, give them some permanence, so businesses could have some predictability.
No. 4: I think we need a regulatory moratorium; we need to add no new regulations. In fact, I think it would be a good idea to repeal one regulation every week until the economy starts recovering. The regulatory burden is adding $2 trillion to the economic woes that we have in our country. And if we could get a business-friendly, regulatory-friendly government that acknowledges that we need some regulations, but that we’ve gone way overboard. I think that you would see an enormous recovery to economy.
And No. 5: We have to have an entitlement reform. Like I say this is no one’s fault. We are living longer; they’re folks-there’s just not as many workers to pay taxes anymore. So we have to fix entitlements and we can fix them. I’ve mentioned these to you and to others in your Administration. We could allow the age to gradually rise for social security over a 20- or 30-year period and we could allow means testing. Which would mean the rich would bear more of the burden for paying for their benefits and their entitlements. These are things that both sides of the aisle could come together on and I think if we did you would see an economic boom like we haven’t seen in a long time.
In order to get there though, many people say “Oh we have to compromise.” Well compromise goes both ways. You’ve put forward your ideas tonight. You need to come talk to us about how we could work with you, but that means you need to entertain some of our ideas.
Thank you and God bless America.