Michele Bachmann photo

Address to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, California

October 20, 2011

In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams wrote, 'You and I ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other.' The challenges we face today have summoned a variety of opinions about the best course of action to solve them. As a former federal tax attorney and a creator of a small business, I can think of no better place than the Commonwealth Club to offer my 'explanation' into the crucible of public debate.

I am honored to be here today at this time honored forum to speak with you about a subject that's little discussed, but eminently important in this 2012 presidential campaign. Over the last several months all of us have been rightly concerned about high unemployment in the midst of an economy that continues to stumble. But little noticed by most Americans was a startling piece of news that is partially responsible for our grave economic times, the fact that America has slipped to fifth in the list of competitive nations.

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid summed up quite nicely the fantasy economic thinking that dominates Washington, DC today when he said, 'It's very clear that private sector jobs have been doing just fine; it's the public sector jobs where we've lost huge numbers, and that's what this legislation is all about.'

That's despite the fact that since 2007 private sector job losses have been three times greater than governments, and that federal employees took home $126,000 annually which is two and a half times the U.S. median wage. That statement qualifies for Ripley's Believe it or Not.

The United States of America, history's most successful political and economic experiment, has proved that a nation rooted in free market competition has led the world in innovation in areas that have advanced the disciplines of medicine, science, technology and made our quality of life second to none.

But when government gets in the business of picking winners and losers, as in the case of the Solyndra's of this administration, it becomes our cash for government's clunkers, and worse, American competitiveness in the world is badly damaged.

For America to regain its competitive edge in the global economy, we must fundamentally restructure how Washington spends money, radically reform the tax code, educate more and better trained Americans, provide for more efficient movement of goods, encourage fair trade relationships, and reduce unilateral regulatory barriers for entry into the marketplace.

The passing of Steve Jobs saddened us all. He was more than the co-founder of Apple. He was an icon who represented what is great about America, and he never settled constantly asking employees if they had produced their best product.

We have always been about being on the cutting edge leading the world in new ideas and innovations. Steve Jobs represented that ideal at its best. Who could have imagined just a few years ago that you could have all of your music, a camera, video camera, your photos, your phone, an encyclopedia all connected to the world at your fingertips? Steve Jobs could. He and his team changed our world for the better.

The Steve Jobs spirit still exists in the imaginations of young entrepreneurs today. A recent Wall Street Journal article indicates that 77 percent of all students surveyed by Gallup about their aspirations responded that they wanted to be their own boss. Forty-five percent of America's youth want to start their own business and 42 percent said, 'I will invent something that changes the world.'

The next generation of 'Steve Jobs' is out there waiting to step up and drive the engine of American innovation and competition. Entrepreneurship is the fastest-growing course of study on campuses nationwide. So the desire to succeed remains. The challenge is that many of these students lack basic information and experience to enter the work force, much less start companies.

Now take, by comparison, a government enterprise, the Post Office, which yearns to remain committed to paying higher labor costs that bear no comparison to wages paid in the private sector. The Wall Street Journal reported, the U.S. Post Office so desperate for self-preservation is considering selling hunting licenses, country music CD's, and coffee to try and make ends meet.

They have failed to innovate and keep up with the free market systems of delivering products to consumers and now are billions in the red and looking to the taxpayer for money. They have failed the tests of innovation. If these gimmicks fail to get them to break even, perhaps they'll resort to bake sales.

The Post Office proves why government shouldn't displace propriety functions—that is what Steve Jobs practiced as one of his secrets to success —'simplicity and saying no to 1000 things.' Instead, the oxymoron of government run businesses is that they say yes to everything and will spend anything because they're not driven by the need for profit.

Researchers, entrepreneurs and investors across America have been paralyzed by this president's anti-business policies that have created severe uncertainty. As president, I will signal by way of leadership to innovators, that the time has come to once again unleash the genius of Adam Smith's 'invisible hand' working to create the wealth of the nation.

What drives investment and the execution of innovative ideas is an environment that fosters it. A perfect example is Israel, which enjoys 2.5 times the venture investments than the United States, as a result of their culture embracing innovation.

My American Jobs, Right Now solutions are aimed at fostering that culture, which will turn our economy around and create high paying jobs that come with increased competitiveness and innovation.

Our nation's ability to compete in the global economy begins with education. We must demand strong schools so that young Americans enter the workforce with the math, science and problem-solving skills they need to succeed in the knowledge economy. Education has always been the gateway to a better life in this country, and our primary and secondary schools were long considered the world's best. But on an international math test in 2003, U.S. high school students ranked 24th out of 29 industrialized nations surveyed.

Our schools can do better. I got into politics because of education. As a mom I saw the politically correct, dumbing down of their curriculum and decided I needed to work to improve the education system for our kids. That's why I would close the Department of Education and return the control of education resources and the decisions about how those resources are allocated to the local level where they are best made. Not only does the Department of Education not know what's best for local schools, they have taken billions of dollars from the states to pay for their expensive bureaucracy. That sort of government behavior must end.

Our competitiveness depends on well-educated people. American educated scientists and engineers have been the driving force behind our tech revolution but we're not graduating enough of them. To keep our competitive edge and remain the world's top tech innovator, we need to raise the math and science skills of our students.

College tuitions are out of control while paradoxically the availability of information has never been greater. The nation's young entrepreneurs are graduating with enormous debts that often steer them away from pursuing starting a new business, and instead toward stable jobs that increase their ability to pay down their loans.

Every child deserves a quality education so they can succeed in life while keeping America strong economically and militarily.

We must never ignore the power of human capital in our quest to be the leading force for innovation and competition. And we must never forget that education begins at home and that the family is the most important component of any child's education—we must protect the integrity of the family in the life of a child.

Part of producing an effective workforce means that we have to reform employment laws. Employees deserve the right to work, and the federal government's National Labor Relations Board shouldn't interfere with that right like they are doing with Boeing in South Carolina.

Reforming employment law also means making it easier to reward good employees and to find bad ones a new line of work. This also means reforming our unemployment insurance system that was created 50 years ago to help workers through temporary layoffs. Under the model, after business picked up, they could go back to the same job, in the same factory, at the same company, selling to the same customers. That is not the world in which employees now live. Now when workers are laid off, the job is gone.

Today unemployment insurance, even by the admission of the administration's newest economic council member, Alan Krueger, is a disincentive to work and increases the length of joblessness.

Another pillar for competitiveness is a healthy investment climate so our technology industry will continue to thrive. Hi-tech capital investments will flow to the country where Internet delivery is fast and efficient, where financial markets are strong, and where taxes are kept low.

To promote innovation, we should make the research and development tax credit permanent to maximize the private sector innovation it encourages in our economy. That's why I have serious concerns about government getting involved in regulation of the Internet, and about ambiguities in this legislation, which could lead to an explosion of destructive, innovation-stalling lawsuits.

In the 1980′s Ronald Reagan enacted tax reform that created a period of unparalleled prosperity. I intend to increase our competitiveness by following his blueprint for tax reform, which had as its core principle to stop taxing investment and productivity.

If America is to once again regain its footing as the world's competitive leader, we must abolish the U.S. tax code and replace it with a fairer, flatter, more simple one that has at its core a corporate rate that is one of the lowest in the world.

In addition to extending the capital gains exemption and modifying the code to promote investment, the corporate tax rate must be lowered substantially. I will.

As part of this revision, I would address the problem of foreign earnings trapped abroad and enable these companies to bring those earnings home and invest in America, a practice known as repatriation of American dollars.

Repatriation and a low corporate tax rate would incentivize American businesses to return to America's shores and spur manufacturing in America. And most importantly repatriation is a stimulus to the U.S. economy not funded on the backs of taxpayers.

Uniquely American values include the right and opportunity to work, and the right to keep the fruits of your labor—that it is your money and not the government's to spend or waste. Without private property rights there can be no liberty, and without liberty there can be no America.

Fourteen million of out of work Americans, most of whom were laid off through no fault of their own, have lost their economic liberty. And America's job creators and small business owners like myself, have lost our economic liberty under the weight of $1.8 trillion annually in compliance costs with government regulations. "Together we sent $2.2 trillion in taxes to the federal government this year. By comparison, job creators spend nearly as much annually to comply with bureaucratic mandates.

'Entrepreneurs here are forced to test promising medical devices in costly animal studies for years before they can advance their products into clinical trials,' Scott Gottlieb writes in The Wall Street Journal. 'This is no way to run a regulatory process if the FDA is serious about promoting medical innovation and advancing the public health.'

FDA overregulation is killing the medical device and drug innovation sectors in the United States, and this is but one example of how government regulation is stifling American innovation and competition.

I will repeal massive government overregulation, beginning with the Environmental Protection Agency that is killing thousands of United States jobs. That is the first step in legalizing American Energy Production and creating 1.4 million jobs. We already have an EPA in each state today.

This past week I returned to Washington to vote for one of the components of my American Jobs, Right Now economic recovery plan, finalizing free trade agreements that the president could have passed years ago, but chose not to.

The benefits of American leadership to open global markets in the past half-century have been enormous — a total of $1 trillion higher income every year or nearly $3,500 for every man, women and child in America. The advocates of bigger government could try to spend twice that much and not accomplish one-half the good.

I have always believed in the power of the American people, and the importance of keeping marginal tax rates low. I've observed first hand the tax reform the economic geniuses in Washington can dream up doesn't begin to match the prosperity generated by pursuing private opportunities. The failure to seek new markets is a tax on the American dream.

We can look around and see the fruits of bringing down barriers to trade — it has helped keep inflation under control, interest rates low, and made many goods more affordable to lower- and middle-income consumers.

My American Jobs, Right Now solutions call for repatriating over 1.2 trillion American dollars from overseas; massively cutting federal spending by eliminating government agencies and the size of government; repealing Obamacare in its totality—the government takeover of our healthcare system; cutting taxes on investment and productivity, including corporate taxes; repealing the Job and Housing Destruction Act, better known as Dodd-Frank in its totality; repealing $1.8 trillion in annual job killing regulations; increasing exports by finalizing free trade agreements; spurring new investment in America; inspiring innovation; and legalizing American energy production, including decreased regulations on developing new energy supplies from our abundant domestic energy resources; and finally enforce America's immigration laws—ending taxpayer benefits and magnets to illegal aliens and their children.

When the government borrows 43 cents of every dollar it spends you know we're choosing an economic train wreck. Which is why Admiral Mullen said, our national debt has profound national security implications.

John Adams recognized that at critical times in history, a generation is required to set aside its preferred pursuits and embrace the sacrifices needed to secure the blessings of liberty for the next generation.

We saw it happen with Adams' own generation, the founders who put everything on the line and everything they owned to form a new kind of government, one founded on the consent of the people, and one dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. This is our nation's creed.

Americans have always looked forward to new opportunities, and embraced new challenges, and we can do so again to leave a better country for our posterity.

We can restore United States' competitiveness, but to do so we must constrain the reach of government and protect the rights our founders gave their last full measure of devotion to ensure. May each one of us as true servants of the people and most assuredly of our blessed constitution go, and do likewise.

Bill Gates said, 'During the past 30 years, U.S. innovation has been the catalyst for the digital information revolution. If the United States is to remain a global economic leader, we must foster an environment that enables a new generation to dream up innovations. Talent in this country is not the problem — the issue is political will.'

Answering great challenges is nothing new to America. It's what we do. We created the technology that landed man safely on the moon not because it was easy but because it was hard. We've sent space probes to explore the distant reaches of the universe. We harnessed nuclear energy, mapped the human genome, created the Internet and pioneered integrated circuits that possess the computing power of Apollo spacecraft on a single silicon chip you can barely see.

We can once again be the leader in global competitiveness. America's time has not passed, only the baton of responsibility has passed to the next generation of 'Steve Jobs' and the next generation of leaders needed to create the competitive economic culture they need to flourish. I am ready to meet those challenges and do the hard work necessary to restore America to the economic leader it can be for America's children—your children, my children.

God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

Michele Bachmann, Address to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/298824

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