KISSIMMEE, FL. Jeb Bush, 43rdgovernor of Florida, son of former president George H. Bush and now head of consulting firm Jeb Bush and Associates, addressed the packed opening session of the Truckload Carriers Assn. (TCA) conference here this week. Four profound changes are required for sustained growth, he told the audience.
Among those changes Bush called for:
- A “patriotic” energy policy based on U.S. energy resources and innovation
- A growth-oriented immigration policy
- A reduction in the number and complexity of regulations
- Serious education reform
“We have the means to get to our energy resources safely and efficiently,” Bush noted, thanks to “the two greatest inventions of the past five years—horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking.” He called the processes “examples of American innovation,” noting that they have created significant growth and opportunity for the country.
“Imagine that we had a true energy policy that did not require young men and women to risk their lives [abroad],” he said.
Bush outlined several energy policy steps he considers vital to success: incentives for using natural gas and possibly even for producing it for export; an end to subsidies for heating oil in the north- east, to be replaced with a delivery mechanism to the region for natural gas; opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling; completing the pipeline project with Canada; and expanding drilling permits, including off-shore drilling;
The government should let the marketplace decide the winners and losers, rather than backing certain solutions with grants, he added.
When it comes to immigration, Bush was bullish about increasing quotas for highly educated immigrants from all over the world. He was also, however, in favor of tightening borders and sending those visitors home who are staying on illegally with expired visas.
Bush called America’s current catalog of regulations “mind-boggling and expensive,” adding that a climate of constant regulatory activity and pending activity contributes to uncertainty about the future—uncertainty that causes people not to act until they know what will happen.
“Even if rules are well-intended, they often favor one group over another,” he added, noting that an independent cost-to-benefit analysis should always take place ahead of rule-making. Bush also advocated so-called “sunsetting” of regulations to trigger mandatory reviews over time.
“As citizens, we should not expect the government to regulate all aspects of life,” he noted. “Life is not ever going to be perfect….We need to return to greater-self reliance” rather than burden the entire population with too many regulations in an effort to address problems caused by a very small percentage of people.
Education transformation is “the glue that will hold all this together,” according to Bush, who pointed out that American students are falling behind other countries in academic achievement, especially in math and the sciences. “We have lost our way,” he noted.
To address education’s failings, he advocated “radical change not reform along the margins, including greater accountability for results on the part of educators paired with greater consequences for mediocrity and rewards for achievement.” Bush also said that he favored pay-for-performance plans for teachers and greater schooling choices for students from public and the private sector.
Although he outlined a long list of threatening problems facing Americans, Bush described himself as optimistic about the nation’s future. “We have to restore our free market,” he said. “There should be no shame in someone saying that they want to be as successful as possible through hard work.
“Wealth belongs to the hands and brains that create it,” he noted. “We should celebrate when a new business begins and if the founder is indeed successful, not think of them “as a rich person, but rather as a formerly poor person who did well.”
“Wealth is not the problem,” he observed. “Wealth pays for the safe streets and the good schools.”
During the question and answer session, Bush also addressed questions about the national deficit. “Growth is the best way to solve the deficit,” he said.
Bush charged both sides of the aisle with underestimating the deficit problem and called for a more comprehensive and aggressive approach to budget cutting, noting that “everything has to be on the table,” including entitlements like social security and Medicare. He also called for major tax reform involving lowering tax rates and lessening deductions at the same time.