It's great to be here. It's great to be able to give this speech before Bill Clinton gets a copy and tries to give it himself.
But let me tell you, this is one speech Bill Clinton will never be able to give.
I am running for president because I believe America can do better. I believe that every family, wage earner and small business in America can do better -- if only we have the right policies in Washington.
That's why I am here today and that's why I am announcing a program that is the opening salvo in a battle to repeal the current tax code, to end the IRS as we know it and to get the American family's income moving up again. It is a program to:
Balance the budget;
Cut the tax burden on the middle class;
Provide new educational opportunities for Americans;
Reform our broken-down lawsuit system;
End needless federal regulation;
and restore the promise of the American dream.
It is built on my conviction that we live in a time of unparalleled -- and unrealized -- promise.
America today is competing in the most dynamic world economy we have ever seen. New markets are opening to American goods and services. Entrepreneurs are developing new technologies and creating products that weren't even imagined a few short years ago.
I believe that America stands on the threshold of a breathtaking future, with greater opportunities for growth and prosperity than at any time in our nation's history.
But we are like an Olympic runner with 50 lb. weights attached to our legs. It's time to unshackle the U.S. economy from the big-government ball and chain and "go for the gold."
Our history shows that the greatest force for economic growth, for lifting the poor from poverty, for opening opportunities for productive, fulfilling lives for all, is the force of a free people -- free to go where God and their dreams guide them.
That is what built America into the most prosperous, generous nation on earth. And that is what my program is all about.
That is why we are going to balance the budget, cut taxes, and remove the dead weight of government -- to unleash the full potential of the American people once again.
Now let me say: the current Administration has a different philosophy. Rather than seize the opportunities of this new era, they have taken a "grow slow" approach to economic policy. They had a choice -- between a dynamic future that is as great as the aspirations of the American people -- or the high-tax, high-spending policies of liberal special-interest politics.
And they chose the special interests over the future of the American people.
My message today is that I will put the American people first.
Let me tell you how I see this Administration's economic performance falling short and how I will change it.
Clintonomics has produced an economy that is squeezing the middle-class between high-taxes and low-growth. The astounding fact is that we were growing 50% faster in 1992, when Bill Clinton described the economy as the worst in 5 decades.
The economy then was roaring out of a recession. It was strong and should have gotten stronger. Instead, this Administration has given America the slowest growth of any economic expansion since the last century.
If our economy today could be sent to a doctor, it would be committed to an intensive care ward to be treated for anemia.
In this sputtering economy, some quarters have been better than others. Still, the Administration itself projects growth through the end of this decade at an incredibly lackluster 2.3 percent. The Clinton Economic Program has been described as modest -- well, it has a lot to be modest about.
Let me say this: In my administration, we won't be satisfied with second, third or fourth best. America will be Number One again.
I believe, that if we are going to compete in the 21st century, we must cut loose from the big-spending special interests and discard the old-style liberal thinking that is holding us back.
We must commit ourselves to a far more ambitious path that puts growth -- expanding opportunity, rising incomes, soaring prosperity -- at the heart of economic policy.
That is why I want to be president and that is exactly what I will do the day I move into the White House.
I learned long ago, if you don't set ambitious goals, one thing is certain -- you'll never reach them.
Bill Clinton's approach to the economy is like the nay-sayers to the space program when John Kennedy said let's go to the moon. He wants to stay earthbound. I say, today, America can reach for the stars.
Let's look at the Clinton record.
The economic insecurity felt by the middle class is not in people's imaginations. You can see it in all the indicators.
The Administration rejoiced recently when the unemployment statistics went down. But the reality behind those statistics was nothing to cheer about. The disturbing fact is that we've seen the return of something we thought had disappeared more than a decade ago -- the worker who is so discouraged about finding a good job at a good wage that he has dropped out of the labor-force and no longer appears in either the employment or unemployment statistics. These are the "Forgotten Workers" of Mr. Clinton's Middle-Class-Squeeze economy.
In my administration the "Forgotten Worker" will be remembered. Growth will put those women and men back on the job, paychecks in their pockets and hope in their hearts once again.
But the "Forgotten Worker" is not the only victim of the Clinton Administration's "Squeeze Economy." Today millions of Americans are afraid to leave their jobs because they can't find other good opportunities. Economists call it "job lock," and it has been at recession levels since Bill Clinton took office. This means millions of Americans feel trapped, unhappy where they are, not able to realize their potential to the fullest, but with no place else to go.
I give this promise to all Americans who yearn to build a better life: In my administration, we will break the "job lock" and return opportunity to America's working men and women.
During Bill Clinton's presidency, real wages have stagnated and the real median household income has actually dropped. No wonder Americans feel they are working harder and longer and taking home less.
It is as if Bill Clinton has been "downsizing" the entire American economy. I say it's time for us to "upsize" our economy again, and we will, starting on Inauguration Day.
Under Bill Clinton, the personal savings rate has fallen: families aren't able to put away as much for the future, and they've been forced to put more and more on their credit cards just to get by. Meanwhile, productivity growth has been cut in half -- causing real raises to be a thing of the past.
The national debt has risen sharply, as have interest rates in the months since Bill Clinton vetoed our balanced budget and twisted arms to defeat the proposed Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. And with that, mortgage rates have risen and the value of homes has virtually stagnated.
This year, Tax Freedom Day -- the day when we stop working for the government and start working for ourselves -- came later than ever before in American history. The result is that in too many two-income families, one spouse works full-time for the family while the other works full-time for the government.
The fact is, while the Administration has waged a class-warfare campaign, the dirty little secret of its Middle-Class-Squeeze economy is that the income of the middle-class has fallen, even as the rich have gotten richer.
Think about it: What Clintonomics means is that the rich are getting richer while the middle class gets left behind. We've tried it your way, Mr. President. Now it's time to do something new.
It's time for a new "Independence Day" for the American taxpayer.
Because for too long now, Bill Clinton's liberal policies have hovered like an alien ship over the American economy, blowing away growth and opportunity.
Well, in 1992 -- he arrived.
In 1993 -- he attacked.
In 1996 -- America strikes back.
And we will bring America back, I promise you that.
Today, as I said, I am announcing my economic program for America's renewal -- a program that will return economic growth, rising living standards and prosperity for all Americans to the center of our policy.
It starts with the "twin necessities" of a balanced budget and tax relief for America's working families.
We have long had a debate in our party about which should come first. Growth advocates say tax cuts first. Fiscal conservatives say a balanced budget first. I say they're both right.
The fact is that the budget deficit and high taxes are two halves of the vise that is producing the Clinton middle-class squeeze.
High taxes pick the American family's pocket directly. Incredibly, that family now spends more on taxes than on food, clothing and shelter combined.
Meanwhile, the budget deficit is a "stealth tax" that pushes up interest rates and costs the typical family $36,000 on an average home mortgage, $1,400 on an ordinary student loan and $700 on a car loan. Every time a family uses its credit card, it pays a "stealth tax" to the Federal government.
There is no magic in fixing this problem. With today's pro-growth Republican Congress, cutting taxes and balancing the budget are just a matter of presidential will. If you have it, you can do it. I have it. I will do it.
I will support and work for the balanced budget amendment.
I will reduce the size of the federal government.
I will balance the budget by the year 2002.
As I am doing that, I will follow the example of many Republican governors across this country. I will reduce taxes while I am balancing the budget.
My program follows two principles: no dollar should be taxed that would go to providing the basics for a family and no dollar should be taxed that would go to creating a job.
In my administration, the "squeeze economy" will be replaced with an opportunity economy.
The press has done a good job in getting the word out about this program. They say it's "dramatic." It is dramatic. Let me tell you about it.
To put it in a nutshell: I intend to lower the federal income tax bill of a family of four making $35,000 a year by 56% -- cutting it by more than half.
Let me repeat that: This tax reduction will mean that such a middle-class family will take one dollar out of every two dollars that they now pay in income tax and put it right back in their own pockets.
And more dollars will also stay with the women and men who own the smaller business that will create the jobs those families depend on.
We will do this by:
First, a 15 percent across-the-board tax cut that will repeal the Clinton tax hike on the middle class. In fact, it will return total taxes to where they were when Ronald Reagan left office.
Second, we will give every middle-income family a $500 per child tax credit. That's a tax credit, not a deduction. That means, if you're raising one child, take back $500. If you're raising two children, take back $1,000. Three children, $1,500 and so on. Those are dollars from your paycheck that should go to your family and that I am determined will go to your family.
Third, we will cut the top rate of the capital gains tax in half -- because the capital gains tax hits smaller and growing businesses hardest, and they're the ones who will create most of our new jobs in the decade ahead. I want those businesses to use their growing value to give people better jobs, better opportunities and better incomes -- not just to pay more taxes.
Fourth, I will call for expansion of Individual Retirement Accounts so that people can put more away for their old age; and I will call for a repeal of the 1993 Clinton tax hike on Social Security benefits.
Finally, I will call for a super-majority -- a 60% vote of Congress -- before income tax rates can ever be raised again on the American people.
Let me be absolutely clear: I don't want to be president because I like how things are going now. I don't like how things are going. I want to make America better and I know that we can make America better, for everyone. And this program is the first step.
As of this moment, Bill Clinton and his party are the defenders of the status quo. We are the party of change.
And this is only the beginning -- Phase One.
We will not stop until we repeal the entire tax code and replace it with a simpler, fairer, flatter system that will allow Americans to file their tax returns without the help of a lawyer or an accountant, or both.
Let me give you one example -- an important example -- of what this first phase will mean. Today, in too many families both spouses work because they have to work. When we have achieved our goal, if both spouses work, it will be because they want to work, not because one is forced to by higher taxes.
Our objective is to spur growth to a healthy, vibrant 3.5% a year or more. The nay-sayers will say that's too ambitious -- but the truth is they're not ambitious enough. In the last 5 expansions, the American economy averaged 4.4% growth. The post-World War II average -- counting recessions -- was 3.3%. We were growing, as I mentioned, at 3.7% before Clinton big-government policies put the breaks on our economy. The question is: why is the Clinton Administration selling our economy and the American people short? Why have they given up on the American dream?
We're going to give the engine of the American economy a full tune-up and a new tax filter -- to filter out big-government residue -- and get it humming again the way it ought to be.
History has shown us that tax cuts, by stimulating growth, bring in more revenue. But let me be clear -- the purpose of tax cuts is to leave more money where it belongs -- in the hands of the working men and women who earned it.
Of course, as this is an election year, Bill Clinton has promised again that he will cut taxes -- not raise them -- if you give him another chance in the next four years. But when he tells you that, ask yourself this question: how many times has he kept his word in the last four years?
My program does not stop with low taxes and a balanced budget. One of the costs of stuffing a size-ten government in our size-eight pocketbooks is that the IRS has taken an ever bigger, more oppressive role in American life -- and this in itself has become a drag on growth.
Today the IRS is twice as big as the CIA and five times as big as the FBI. It takes the equivalent of nearly three-million people working full time -- more people than serve in the U.S. Armed Forces -- just to comply with our tax laws.
The other day I met a woman in Tennessee. She told me about her two-year fight with the IRS. It's cost her time, heartache, and now they're threatening to seize her property. And what's got the IRS so angry? -- a dispute over $127. Gotta hand it to those guys, they really know how to spend the taxpayers' money.
We're going to downsize the IRS and upsize the amount of money Americans get to keep.
I'm an optimist. I believe the IRS can be retrained to do something useful.
I'll start by shifting the burden of proof in IRS audits so that taxpayers in America are once again presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
I will end the IRS's KGB-like "lifestyle audits" where there is no clear evidence of criminal activity. I will eliminate IRS-filing for 40 million low- and middle-income taxpayers, privatize many IRS functions, modernize the rest and shift the duties of IRS personnel so that their job is to help Americans give the right answers on their forms, not punish them for innocent mistakes.
In short, my administration will free the American people from tax tyranny. I will eliminate the IRS as we know it.
In my administration the Clinton regulatory assault on economic growth will also end.
We will thoroughly review all new and existing regulations to determine what works, what doesn't, what's too expensive, and what's too oppressive.
And we will end the Clinton exemption to the IRS on the Paperwork Reduction Act.
I will insist that what the American people get from regulations is more than what they pay to comply with them.
Lawsuit reform is also part of my program. A few months ago, I met a little girl whose life depends on a medical device that may not be available in a few years because of the litigation explosion that has corrupted our civil justice process. Our out-of-control lawsuit system is a drag on growth and undermines competitiveness -- driving up prices for all Americans, and even endangering the lives of some, while making a few predatory trial lawyers fabulously wealthy. Even Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller accused President Clinton of -- quote --selling out to "special interests and raw political considerations" when he vetoed our lawsuit reform bill at the behest of the trial lawyers -- Clinton's biggest campaign contributors.
In a Dole administration, we will reform our broken-down lawsuit system. We will:
Put a limit on outrageous punitive damage awards;
Revoke the trial lawyers' license to search for deep pockets;
Curb the abuse of the contingency fee system to ensure that most of the award money goes to those who were injured, not lawyers;
Change auto insurance laws so that car owners have more choice as to the kind of coverage they buy;
And promote early settlement of claims by reducing the incentives lawyers have to run up fees by keeping lawsuits alive instead of settling.
In my administration, the predatory, ambulance-chasing trial lawyers will no longer have a special friend in the White House -- the American people will.
Finally, economic reform requires getting children and workers ready for the jobs of the future. The Clinton administration puts our educational future in the hands of bureaucrats and the liberal ideologues of the national teachers' unions. I will do things differently. My program includes:
"Opportunity Scholarships for Children" that will enable parents to chose the best school for their child.
Allowing low- and middle-income students and parents to deduct interest on student loans; and giving them the opportunity to set up tax-free "Education Investment Accounts" with the $500 from their annual per-child tax credit.
Allowing workers to receive tax-free education grants from their employers.
And increasing workers' access to tax-free job placement assistance from their employers.
In short, I will take education out of the hands of the unions and bureaucrats and put it back in the hands of parents -- where it belongs.
Now, I know there are going to be a lot of questions about this economic program from our friends in the press -- particularly about the tax cuts I have proposed. Fine. Let's have a debate on economic growth, and let's start with a few of the questions that will surely be asked:
Question Number One: Aren't you abandoning your commitment to cutting the deficit?
Let me tell you something, I grew up a poor boy in Russell, Kansas. I know the importance of living within your means and I know the consequences of not doing that. Deficit reduction is in my blood and a balanced budget will be my legacy to America.
President Clinton will tell you a balanced budget is impossible -- at the same time he has vetoed two balanced budgets, proposed one of the biggest pork-barrel spending programs in American history, passed the biggest tax hike in history and submitted a budget of his own which forecast deficits as far as the eye could see. What is impossible for a Democrat president captured by liberal, special-interest spending pressures is eminently doable for a Republican president with a Republican Congress -- especially when the President is armed with the Line Item Veto.
I will be that president. I will get it done.
Question Number Two: Aren't you just proposing a tax cut for the rich? No, I'm going to give tax relief to every single taxpayer in America.
I know the Democrats will revert to their same old mantra, "Tax breaks for the rich, tax breaks for the rich." Of course, their definition of rich is anyone who has a job.
There is one constant in American life: a growing economy is good for the middle class; a stagnant economy is bad. I will restore vitality and growth to the American economy.
Question Number Three: Isn't this program a return to the, quote, "failed" policies of the 80s?
Let's talk about the 1980s: During the Reagan years, we vanquished inflation, brought interest rates down from double digits and averaged nearly four percent economic growth in the longest, peacetime expansion in history.
I take great pride in my reputation as a deficit hawk. But let me also say one of my proudest achievements was helping to pass Ronald Reagan's historic, across-the-board tax cut. That tax cut helped restore America's economic greatness.
I want to return to tax cuts -- this time balancing the budget with a Republican Congress and finishing the job Ronald Reagan started so brilliantly but could not complete because the Democrats refused as usual to reduce spending..
Just as we rolled back the Soviet Empire in the 1980s, we're going to roll back the empire of liberal, big-spending special interests and big government in the latter half of the 1990s.
Finally, people will ask Question Number Four: Bill Clinton's spin doctors have their own numbers showing that everything is great. Their motto is, "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Who are we to believe?
Let me suggest this simple test: Ask yourself, do you believe America is on the right track today? And do you believe that we are building a future that is better for our children?
When I finish here today, a lot of commentators will try to tell you who this program is for. So before they do, let me tell you who in my mind it is for.
I'm thinking of the mother who works, just as her husband works, because one income is no longer enough to make ends meet.
The mortgage payment on their house just went up, because interest rates jumped between one-and-a-quarter and two percent after Bill Clinton vetoed our balanced budget package, and she's wondering where she'll find the extra money.
She works in a small company, the kind that has created most of America's new jobs over the last decade and a half -- except that it hasn't been growing since Bill Clinton passed his tax increase on the "rich." The owner can't afford to invest in its growth, and as a result, the pay raises that used to come regularly have stopped coming.
Her husband works for a big company. But even as it has found itself in a new, more competitive global market, it has been hit by one new regulation after another at home. There's been talk of corporate downsizing, and she's not sure what the next year will bring.
As Americans always have, she wants her children to have a better life. But the schools seem worse than when she was growing up and they can't afford a private school. She wonders if her kids will be ready for the world they graduate into.
The family's taxes have crept up over the years until today they're paying tax rates that only millionaires used to pay.
She knows that, if taxes were down and growth was up to the level of the mid-80s, the family could make ends meet.
This mother and her family are the ones my program is for.
They are the reason I want to cut taxes and regulations and balance the budget, end the litigation explosion and revitalize education and training.
You might ask if I know such a family and the answer is, yes, I do. Many things have changed since I was a boy, but the story is the same now as it was then. The families described could be my family, my next door neighbors, or the people down the street. The farmer's family and the shopkeeper's family and the teacher's family in my home town. We all worked. We all struggled to make ends meet. We all knew what it meant to struggle in Russell, Kansas.
So who am I doing this for? I'm doing it for mothers, and fathers, and children -- for families all over America.
That's why I am running for president.
So that as we enter the new century, America will be stronger, freer, more vibrant and hopeful than ever before, more nurturing of its families, with greater opportunities for each and every American to pursue his or her dreams.
As Winston Churchill said so many years ago, "Give us the tools and we will finish the job." I say today that if we give America a new birth of freedom, there is no limit to what the American people can achieve.
I know in my heart, our best days are yet to come.
Thank you and God bless you.