On Wednesday night, Republican presidential candidates will gather in Michigan for another debate. All of us taking part are acutely aware that unemployment there remains over 11 percent. In Detroit, the city of my birth, far higher joblessness has brought a great city to the edge of ruin. There will be no one on that stage this week more pained by Michigan's struggles than I am.
Michigan is not alone. In eight other states, unemployment is over 10 percent. In Florida the unemployment rate is 10.6 percent. In Nevada it is 13.4 percent. At the national level, joblessness has been stuck over 8 percent for 33 consecutive months, the longest such spell since the Great Depression.
This is not the way things should be. Tens of millions of Americans should not be out of work, worrying about paying their bills and losing their homes. We should not have to talk about our 21st century economy—the economy of advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and information technology—in the same breath as the soup kitchens of the 1930s.
President Obama inherited an economy in crisis. He proceeded to make it worse. He recently put forward yet another jobs plan, or at least a jobs plan is what he calls his proposal. In fact, it’s just another budget-busting stimulus bill. Even members of his own party won’t back it.
If we want to create jobs in this country once again, there’s a better path.
Rick Snyder, Michigan’s Governor, is not a professional politician; he’s a businessman just like I am. And he’s been doing important things that are going to make a significant difference for Michigan’s economy, like lowering business taxes.
As Massachusetts governor, I did similar things, including balancing the budget each year, cutting taxes 19 times, and turning a $3 billion budget deficit into a $2 billion rainy day fund. But no state, including Michigan, is going to sail forward in the face of the hurricane-force headwinds blowing from Washington. We need to do on a national scale some of the necessary things that Governor Snyder has been doing in Michigan.
Cutting taxes is essential. If we are going to create jobs in America again, marginal tax rates need to be kept low; we need to encourage not discourage savings and investment. I would eliminate taxes on dividends and capital gains for middle-income taxpayers. I would cut the corporate rate; among the world’s highest, it is one of the factors that propels companies to invest abroad and take jobs with them. And I would press for an overhaul of the entire tax code to make it flatter, fairer, and simpler.
Cutting spending is no less critical. President Obama increased federal spending by a staggering 21 percent, from $2.98 trillion to $3.6 trillion. That is not money that is ours to spend. With runaway deficit spending, we’re borrowing a big portion of it. Our children and grandchildren will be the ones compelled to pay it back. I won’t stand for more of this cross-generational theft. And I’ve laid out a workable plan to cut $500 billion from the federal budget in four years and set us on a path to a balanced budget.
We also need to end the regulatory stranglehold on the economy. The federal government has estimated the price tag for its own regulations at $1.75 trillion annually. That’s far more than the IRS collects in income and corporate taxes combined.
From Obamacare to Dodd-Frank to his war on carbon dioxide, President Obama has added hugely to the reach of the regulatory monster. As president, I will work from day one to repeal Obamacare, and I will cap regulations just as I will cap spending. The costs of every new regulation must be offset by removing another regulation of equivalent cost. Every regulation issued by President Obama needs to be reexamined to see how many jobs it kills.
President Obama came into office pledging to spend $150 billion to generate five million “green” jobs. With politically connected firms vying for federal grants, the result has been fiascos. First came Solyndra, with taxpayers left to picking up the tab for a $500 million loan guarantee to the bankrupt solar-panel firm. Now it’s been joined by Beacon Power, another green recipient of federal largesse, which has also gone under.
There’s worse. For even as the Obama administration has been chasing expensive fads, it has severely restricted domestic energy production. Yet if we are going to grow again, we need to tap our nuclear know-how and our vast reserves of oil, gas, and coal. The price of energy--of heating our homes, of filling up our cars, of running our factories—is intimately connected to our economic performance. It makes no sense to lock up our own energy reserves in the ground while importing billions from unfriendly countries.
I’ve spent 25 years in business. I led an international consulting firm through difficult times to growth and success, led a financial services business from start-up to prominence, and led the turnaround of a Winter Olympics to world acclaim. I know what it means to meet a payroll. I know why businesses hire people, and why they become forced to lay them off.
Fixing our national problems promises to be a far more difficult challenge than any I have encountered. But we have no choice than to move in the direction of making government simpler, smaller, and smarter. We certainly cannot continue on a path that has loudly promised hope and change but has delivered only grim comparisons with the 1930s.