"A New Conservative Vision"
National Press Club
September 22, 1995
Steve Forbes' Presidential Announcement
It's no secret. I am here today to announce that I am running for President of the United States."
This is, to say the least, an unusual candidacy, and I expect there are a few skeptics in the room.
But, I am throwing my hat into the ring today in full confidence that this campaign for President can and will succeed.
For the last two decades I have been working in one of the most entrepreneurial sectors of American life, magazine publishing. And as any entrepreneur will tell you, the really big changes, the quantum leaps, are made by those who take risks and challenge the conventional wisdom, who do something new and unexpected.
This campaign will talk a lot about what entrepreneurship and the new economy mean to all Americans. I'll be taking a lot of risks -- saying what no other candidate is willing to, or dares. I'll be living what I'm preaching.
Usually candidates come to a race like this after years in either state or federal government. In the past, that may have been a good thing for the country. But no longer. Not today.
I am running because I believe this nation needs someone in the White House who can break the old patterns, someone who can unlock the stranglehold that the political class has on American life. An outsider who knows first hand, as I do, the promise of the new economy, who sees how government is dragging down all Americans and is determined to change it.
I am running because I believe the American people share the same desire for an end of politics as usual. I believe that they share the same vision of an unshackled future-- a future that embraces all the wonderful opportunities in the new economy.
I think a lot of people would agree, there is an empty feeling in this campaign so far. One reason is that none of the other candidates is raising high the banner of economic expansion and opportunity -- like John F. Kennedy did with his promise to "get this country moving again," and like Ronald Reagan did when he cut taxes and regulation and ushered in the longest peacetime expansion in American history.
But there are other reasons for the empty feeling. The fact is, the other candidates, on both sides, are insiders. And we all know that if the insiders had the answers, they would have implemented them by now.
That has been my life.
As so I am not an incrementalist...not a cautious suggester of cautious changes... not a compromiser with the bully state.
I reject the grim notion of the Washington Politicians that America must learn to make do with less -- that the American people have spent too much and now the American people must pay, that the wagon is heavy and crowded and now is the time to start throwing people off. And I reject the equally grim notion that the American people must constantly pay in taxes for the mistakes the politicians make in Washington -- such as a deficit, which despite years of bluster and two of the largest tax hikes in history --continues to grow.
I see a different reality, an America of vast potential -- greater than anything that has ever been seen before -- waiting to be released. I see an American economy that is the most innovative and productive and technologically advanced in the world -- hamstrung by high taxes and counter-productive regulations.
We are like the greatest marathon runner in the world, but we're trying to compete with two 50-pound cinder blocks chained to our legs. It's time to remove the dead weight of Washington, and let the American economy run free.
It's true that we're already changing.
In the election 1994, the people of America voted resoundingly and decisively against -- against higher taxes, against bigger government, against more intrusive rules and regulations, against assaults on family life, against socialized medicine, against the old way of doing things. And they voted against Bill Clinton, against his ideology and soft ambivalence, against his weak and aimless foreign policy
But in 1996 we can vote for. For a new way of doing things, a new Washington -- for a new America full of energy and dynamism and ready to lead the world.
I believe in my heart that the American family is the soul of this nation, and that if the political class would stop interfering we could build a family-friendly America.
I believe that the time-honored American values of hope, opportunity, family, faith and community are the moral bedrock of our nation -- and every action by Washington should be judged by one and only one criterion -- does it help or hurt those values.
Does it create stronger communities, stronger families? Does it create more opportunity, greater security, greater faith in the future?
The career politicians here in Washington, unaware of the fantastic growth waiting to burst forth in our economy, spend their time dividing up an ever shrinking pie. They take from one group in order to dole out favors to others, undermining our trust in the basic fairness of the American system and causing division, envy and bitterness. In order to get their way, they libel the good American people with accusations of racism, sexism and selfishness. And then they wonder why politics has turned into such a nasty business.
And they do this all in the guise of compassion. It reminds me of that old saying that the ten most frightening words in the English language are: "I'm from the Government and I'm here to help you."
America needs to take a new road, one toward an expansive future that is bigger and better than our past. That's why I'm proposing today, and will be talking about throughout my campaign, a liberation movement to take power away from Washington and put it in the hands of the people. A "Boston Tea Party," if you will, that puts an end to the taxing and spending party in Washington, DC. I mean to free the mighty American economy from political repression.
The first element is dramatic pro-growth tax cuts.
I'm not talking "revenue neutral" fiddling with the tax code, the usual game in Washington that pretends to cut some taxes while raising others. And I'm not talking about fiddling around the "margins," cutting taxes that only help the well-to-do.
I am talking about across the board tax cuts that are deep and wide and permanent, that reach down to all Americans and get the suffocating weight of the IRS off their backs.
Start by scrapping the tax code. Don't fiddle with it. Junk it. Throw it out. Bury it. Replace it with a pro-growth, pro-family tax cut that lowers tax rates to 17 percent across the board and expands exemptions for individuals and children so that a family of four would pay no taxes on the first $36,000 of income.
Not one cent to the IRS on the first $36,000. Anything over that would be taxed at a flat, fair 17 percent.
The flat tax would be simple. You could fill it out on a postcard. It would be honest. It would eliminate the principal source of political corruption in Washington. It would be fair. Millions of people would be off the federal income tax rolls.
There would be no tax on Social Security. No tax on pensions. No tax on personal savings. It would zero out capital gains taxes. It would set off a boom by letting people keep more of what they earn and by lowering barriers to risk taking.
I will underline here this distinction between my proposal and those floated by other candidates in this political season:
I am straight forwardly calling for a tax cut to expand the economy and make everyone better off.
The old-style Washington politicians hide behind the deficit -- they give us shell games rather than tax cuts because their one principle is never, ever take money from Washington. As we all know, the deficit was the prime rationale for the last two tax hikes -- two of the largest tax hikes in American history -- which put the country on a down-ward spiral, destroying growth and -- guess what -- expanding the deficit.
I am proposing real tax cuts because I believe that growth is the key that will unlock the deficit prison.
Will I cut the budget? You bet. Commerce, Energy, Education, HUD, will be stripped of all but their essential functions. A whole alphabet soup of agencies will be eliminated. But cutting alone won't solve our problems.
The fact is, I don't just want less government -- I want better government. The way it is now, good men and good women come to Washington and get caught in a culture of corruption. They enter a place whose rules and realities almost force them to put their own interests before the country's. And they wind up becoming the very people they come here to fight.
I want to change the culture of Washington by changing the rules of the game. And to change the rules of the game, you have to do two things: You have to take away the politicians' power to manipulate the tax code, to trade tax loopholes for re-election money. And you have to limit their terms.
Do those things, and you change the dynamic completely. Do those things and you'll change Washington forever. Do those things, and the people will get their government back again.
And as President, the 17 percent flat tax will be only the beginning. I will continue to cut taxes from the bottom up, expanding family exemptions dollar for dollar for every cut in the budget. That will make it dramatic for all America to see -- that every dollar Congress chooses to spend on a pet project is coming right out of America's families pockets.
So I want not only a flat tax, but a flat tax that is a tax cut. And let me caution my party that we must beware the 'ER' candidates -- those who put the letters 'er' at the end of every word, like "I want a tax that's flatter, fairer, simpler." The 'ER' candidates will end up putting our country in the Emergency Room.
Another pillar of a family-friendly policy is sound money. That is, low mortgage rates.
The house your parents or grandparents bought in the 1950's or '60s was probably bought with a 4 1/2 percent mortgage. But in the mid-1960s, the Washington politicians took control of our money and started manipulating it for their own ends. They sat here in Washington, pushed their levers and buttons, and turned the everyday economic reality from "Ozzie and Harriet" to "Nightmare on Elm Street."
The legacy of their power grab is the historically high interest rates that make families today slaves to their mortgages. High taxes and high mortgage rates have put families on a treadmill, and the treadmill is winning. This is why two family incomes today don't seem to do the job that one did in times past.
The answer: We must take our money out of the hands of the politicians. We can bring back 4 and 1/2 percent mortgages, lower interest rates, and give the economy a boost. As we did throughout our nation's history until the late 60's, we must tie the value of the dollar to a fixed measure, such as gold, so that a dollar today will be worth a dollar tomorrow.
Imagine what it would be like if you woke up tomorrow morning with a 17% flat tax that exempted the first $36,000 of income and a fixed long term mortgage of 4 1/2 percent. Imagine what that would do for family life.
We would see a renaissance the likes of which has never been seen before. Families could step off the tax treadmill; wage earners could relax a little, save more easily; parents would have more time to spend with their children and with each other; they would have more time to devote where it belongs -- to the home and hearth, where all true value lies.
It is only by restoring wholeness to our nation's families that wholeness will be returned to our nation.
It is only by a serious commitment to family values -- not just of rhetoric, but of resources -- that the moral and spiritual decline that so troubles us today will be arrested.
The family is the irreducible foundation of any civil, just and humane society and cannot be replaced -- and the liberal, ideological attempts to do so have disastrously ripped our social fabric.
Everyone talks about values -- this is a campaign after all -- but let me tell you how I see the values issue.
Values mean returning to the inspiration of our forefathers that all of us are created equal.
Values mean respecting parents enough to return control of the schools to them. That means giving parents the means to educate their children in the school of their choice.
Values mean having a government that keeps its promises, like on Social Security and like working on a plan to provide for younger workers who now know they will get nothing.
Values mean giving opportunity to all people by removing the red tape and taxes that suffocate our cities.
Values mean welfare programs that help people rather than destroy them.
Values mean real prison sentences for violent crimes.
Values also mean refinding our moral compass in this world as a leader and light among nations, a bastion of freedom, as strong as we are restrained. We need a President who has a U.S., not a U.N. foreign policy, one who understands that the wise and judicious use of American power is now, and has been, the best hope of the world. This world is still a dangerous place; peace through strength must still be our watchword.
At their most fundamental, I truly believe that values and economics are not separate issues -- they are the same issue. A flat tax will restore honesty to the tax code and give the people back their government. In such an atmosphere -- so different from the one we have now -- traditional American values will flourish. Thrift, hard work, and charity; individual responsibility and working towards shared goals; commitment to family and community; faith in the future. These will describe not just the America we want but the America we actually have.
Let us sew up our nation's tattered social fabric. Let's bind up the wounds caused by three decades of mistaken social policy that has undermined America's families. Let us alleviate the anxieties of parents, and broaden the future for our children; bring harmony and hope back to our lives, and return to the truths that have guided this country so well for so long.
The election before us is not just any election. We stand at the threshold of a new era of possibility. The next President's term will end on the cusp of a new century.
A new century that demands new thinking, new perspectives, the imagination and creativity of all the American people.
I am an optimist.
But I am well aware of the pitfalls of a national campaign. You don't give up the security and freedom of private life to go into the meatgrinder of presidential politics in the modern age, unless you have a serious purpose.
I have one. I intend to offer the American People something they haven't been offered so far: a vision and a voice, a true vision and an honest voice.
For the other candidates talk about a flat tax -- but I mean it, and I'll do it. They talk about term limits -- but I mean it, and I'll do it. They don't even dream about making our currency sound and stable, and never mind talking about it. But I'll talk about it, and I mean it, and I'll do it. The other candidates talk about changing the culture of Washington. But they are the culture of Washington.
I'm the one who will change Washington. Because I'm the one who means it.
We must re-discover and revitalize the American experiment, the essence of which is giving individuals the opportunity to discover and develop their God-given talents. In America, extraordinary deeds are done when seemingly ordinary people are allowed and encouraged to take responsibility for themselves, for their families and for their communities.
If the American experiment is renewed and re-energized, we will astound ourselves and the world with our opportunities and our achievements. The people of the world will ask themselves and their governments, "If America can do it, why can't we?" By following our example and our principles, they will.
And I'll leave you with a final thought. Fifteen years ago, in 1980, the candidacy of a man named Ronald Reagan was considered right here, at this great Press Club. And his prospects seemed so bad that when you listed candidates and their support, he got an asterisk. That's pretty much where I'm starting. But, like Reagan, that's not where I intend to finish.
I thank you all very much. And now, if you have any questions.
Source: Steve Forbes for President Official 1996 Web Site
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