Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) first major policy speech as a likely Republican presidential candidate centered on two arguments: that the country’s recent economic gains haven’t really solved its economic woes, and that President Barack Obama is using government ineffectively.
Bush’s remarks came during a speech in Detroit hosted by the Detroit Economic Club. Bush, who has taken serious steps toward running for president, hinted that he’s planning to announce his candidacy soon when he said during the speech he’s “getting involved in politics again.”
Most of Bush’s speech focused on inequality, which will be a primary pillar of his presidential platform if he decides to run for president. Bush acknowledged that the economy has gotten better recently, but said those gains haven’t gone far enough.
“Six years after the recession ended, median incomes are down, households are, on average, poorer … and millions of people have given up looking for a job altogether,” Bush said. “Roughly two out of three American households live paycheck to paycheck. Any unexpected expense can push them into financial ruin. We have a record number of Americans on food stamps and living in poverty. The recovery has been everywhere but in the family paychecks. The American Dream has become a mirage for far too many.”
Bush outlined a four-point solution to fixing economic inequality: a strong family, a growing economy that isn’t hindered by regulations and laws, and better educational opportunities for young Americans. Most of these points didn’t go into specifics, and Bush said he’d go into detail in the future. One point where he did bring out numbers was on economic growth.
“If a law or a rule doesn’t contribute to growth, why do it? If a law subtracts from growth, why are we discussing it?” Bush said. “And for what it’s worth, I don’t think the US should settle for anything less than 4% growth a year – which is about twice our current average. At that rate, the middle class will thrive again.”
Bush also circled back to educational reform, one of his two signature issues alongside immigration.
“Accountability for teachers and school administrators, assessment of student learning, high standards, and choices,” Bush said. “These key elements of school reform work and we have the results to prove it.”
The part of Bush’s speech where he seemed most like a presidential candidate was when he was bashing Obama, during which he took a somewhat wonky approach. He criticized Obama’s new FCC proposal to regulate the internet like a phone service, and for proposing to cut a tax benefit on the 529 tax program. (Obama recently dropped the proposed cut.)
“Just last month, he thought it was a good idea to tax 529 college savings plans. Remember: 529s were created to be tax-free ways to save for college. Millions of people started them for their kids and grandkids,” Bush said. “So it’s no surprise people hated the president’s idea. And he dropped it. But it was an instructive lesson in the liberal and progressive mindset.”