Return to Transcripts main page


Mitt Romney Speaks about the Economy

Aired September 6, 2011 - 15:48   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And there he is just now taking the podium, saying his hellos, presidential candidate Romney about to outline his jobs plan. Let's listen.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is ennobling. It is great for human beings to participate in hard work, and it's also great for the country as people work hard and we're able to build a strong economy that can afford a military that can defend us. My heart goes out to those in our military and the lives that have been lost today.


We love and care for the people who serve us.

And thank you to Congressman Joe Heck for welcoming us here in his district. We appreciate his election and look forward to many more.


Now, this is going to be a conversation today. I don't have a text written. You can actually see here what I've got. I've got some notes. All right, I've got some notes of some things I want to tell you. I'm not going to be reading. I don't have a teleprompter here. Nothing wrong with that. I use them from time to time.


I just want to talk to you about our economy, about what's happening to American families, and what it's going to take to America back to work again, not just over the next couple of months, but over the next couple of decades.

Before I get into my plan, I want to describe for you the vision I have what this country ought to look like down the road. There are a number of things. One is middle income Americans, the average American ought to have the highest income in the world. They calculate that as GDP per capita. But let's just say simply, our people should be the best paid people in the world. That's number one.

Number two, it should be good to be in the middle class in America. You shouldn't have to wonder --

(APPLAUSE) -- how you're going to meet your bills and how you're going to afford college for your kids and whether you can take the prescriptions that have been prescribed. It should be good in the middle class in America. America should be a job machine, jobs being created all the time, people looking for employees to join their enterprises, young people coming out of college able to get jobs right away, people coming out of vocational schools able to get jobs right away, even those coming out of high school knowing there are opportunities for them. We should have a job creating machine in America.

We also ought to see the world buying the things we make. We should be proud of the fact that they buy as much from us if not more than we buy from them.


And we also -- I also see America being on the leading edge of innovation. When there's a new invention, new economy, new era at the very front is America. Innovation and being the innovation leader in the world is probably the best leading indicator of what the future will be.

And so with those elements of vision in place we know one thing, we'll never question whether the future will be brighter than the past. We're leaving to our kids a legacy of prosperity and liberty and America will remain as it's always been -- an example to the world, a shining city on the hill, and the hope of the earth. That's the vision.


Now to John and a few of the other older folks in the audience, like myself, that sounds a bit like more of the 1950s and 1960s and the 1970s. And you might say, can't we just go back to the way things were back then?

Well, a lot's changed in our economy globally over the last few decades. I hope we recognize just how much has changed. And the fact that so much has changed says that the right course ahead is to adhere to the principles that made us the powerful nation we are economically, but also to update our strategy, our economic policies in such a way that we can conform to the new realities of a new global economy.

And you know some of these changes. Why, 30 years ago China represented one percent of the economic conditions of the world, one percent. Now they're ten times that amount. And 30 years ago America was overwhelmingly the largest manufacturing nation in the world. This year China is slated to pass us as the largest manufacturing nation in the world.

About 30 years ago at the Nobel Prize awards, Americans or people affiliated with American institutions won three-quarters of the Nobel Prizes. Today it's less than half that amount. The world has changed. I mean 20 years ago if you wanted to make a phone call at the airport you took out a quarter and you went to the pay phone and you put it in the pay phone. Today you got these things, all right? You got a smartphone. A pay phone you put your quarter in, oftentimes an operator came on, told you to put in a couple more quarters, and you were connected to another person if you could find them, and you spoke voice to voice. If you happened to connect to a machine, like a fax machine, remember the screech it put in your ear? Today with these you're connected to the world. You can buy products from anywhere the world. You can read what's being written all over the world.

This is an entirely different economy than the kind of economy we knew in the '50s and the 1960s. And so our economic strategy has to be brought up to date and to make sure that we're able to provide the vision that I described.

The right course for America is to believe in growth. Growing our economy is the way to get people to work and to balance our national budget. The right answer for America is not to grow government or to believe that government can create jobs. It is instead to create the conditions that allow the private sector and entrepreneurs to create jobs, create jobs and to grow our economy. Growth is the answer, not government.


Now, over the last several months, my team and I spent a lot of time talking about what things we think we ought to do to update America's economic strategy for this century. And we put together a plan which I'll describe here in a moment and we've gone through an analysis to look and see what the impact would be on the American people.

And just to put this in context, in the first four years, if I'm lucky enough to be president, in the first four years this will grow the economy at approximately four percent per year for each of those four years. It will add 11.5 million new jobs for Americans. That's what I want to see happening.


Now let's just talk about how much the economy has changed globally and how we need to change our policies to take advantage of the changes. One is, back in the 1950s and the 1960s, every business in the world wanted to be located here. This was the place business was done. This was the largest market in the world. Nothing else compared with the market of the United States of America.

And so government could charge businesses whatever the heck they wanted in taxes because where else were the businesses going to go? This is where they were. This is where their capital was, their capital plant, their blast furnaces, transfer lines, assembly lines, all of them were here in the United States.

Today they are outside the United States. They're growing fast. America is not the only market in the world where enterprises wanted to participate. And so we now compete to convince them to come here and grow here and create jobs here. And so it's no longer a wise decision for us to have the highest tax rate for employers in the world. Our taxes are higher than any other nation besides Japan. The average of developed nations' tax rate for corporations is 25 percent. Ours is 35 percent. We've got to bring our tax rate down to that same 25 percent level. I will do that on day one.


There's something else we do that doesn't make a lot of sense. This was from the mind-set of the past. What we said in the past was if you're an American company and you're making money over in some far country and let's say you got a bunch of money you've made there, if you want to keep the money there and invest in that country, we'll let you do it tax free. You don't pay any U.S. taxes, you just pay local taxes.

But if you want to bring the money home and invest here, then we're going to tax you at our 35 percent rate. It doesn't make a lot of sense, does it? So we got to change it. They call it changing to a territorial system. We have to end the repatriation tax and get money back to America to change and create jobs and invest in America.


Now we also got to help the American people not just American employers but the American people if we're going to them grow this economy. If I were to ask who are the people hurt the most by the Obama economy, my guess is you would say the middle class. I saw it right there, the middle class.

And that's why I look at changes to our tax policy, the place I really want to make a difference is for the middle class. And one way I'd like to do that is to help people in the middle class be able to save their money. How do you do that?

I will eliminate any tax on your savings, if you're in the middle class. No tax on interest, dividends or capital gains. Let's be able to save our money for our own future.


Now back in the 1950s and the 1960s and the 1970s, you could put all sorts of regulatory burdens and government burdens and bureaucrat burdens on American business, and, again, where else were they going to go? This was the biggest market in the world. And so they swallowed it and stayed right here. Today they can go other places.

Of course, it's still important to have regulations to go after the bad actors and get them out of the marketplaces and to make sure markets work efficiently, but we've got to stop this extraordinary weight, this burden we put on small businesses and middle sized businesses as they try and grow or they won't be able to grow and start or they'll move elsewhere.

And so -- by the way, do you know how much the burden is? This is something that shocked me. Do you know how much we pay in taxes a year as a people? If you take all the people in America and all the companies in America and add up their income tax, the government collects about $1.1 trillion a year. That's the total amount.

The government does a calculation, however, of what the cost is of regulations per year. Now don't forget, the total tax burden is $1.1 trillion. Do you know what the total regulatory burden is? It's $1.7 trillion a year. This is not just some little side issue. This is burdens on enterprises from growing and expanding and starting in America.

And if I'm in the White House, the first thing I'm going to do on day one is say all those regulations that were put in place by President Obama -- and by the way his rate of adding regulations is about four times greater than President Bush's was. So all those policies, all those regulations he put in place, I'm going to stop in their tracks and say any of those --


-- any of those regulations, any of those regulations that cost American jobs, we're going to get rid of. That's number one.

Number two, we are going to say to every department in government, if you have a regulation you want to enact, you have to remove another regulation of equal scale. That's number two.


ROMNEY: And, number three, we're going to make sure Congress gets in on the act. And what I mean by that is, if some regulator wants to put in place some grand new scheme, I want Congress, if it's a major new regulation, I want Congress to be able to vote it up or down.

I want people who we can elect or remove if we don't like them having a word to say about the regulations and the burdens that are placed on American employers.


ROMNEY: Now, again, in the past, the 1950s and the 1960s, the 1970s, why, our market was king. Everybody wanted to be here.

Businesses that I knew were oftentimes thinking about international markets as sort of gravy, icing on the cake. This is where the real stuff happened, in this market. Today, some of the fastest growing economies in the world are outside the United States.

Do you realize that the world -- the global middle class is going to more than double over the next 10 years? So markets for our goods and services are expanding extraordinarily, and so we have to rethink trade. There's also a reality associated with a nation that's a high- productivity nation.

We hear that term a lot, high productivity. What does that mean? Americans are the most productive work force in the world. Well, productivity means output per person, how much stuff each person does. On average, in America, we're the highest in the world. But if people in this country can do more and more stuff per person, the question's going to be, well, why are we going to need so many people? How are we going to find jobs for all those people if the ones we have are making more and more stuff per person?

And the answer is, we will find more jobs for our people if we can sell our goods to other nations. For high-productivity nations, it's good to have trade, as long as the people we trade with play by the rules.

Over the last two-and-a-half years, the European nations and China have been putting in place trade agreements with other nations, and we have been sitting as if nothing's going on in the world, no trade agreements negotiated, no trade agreements signed.

And, by the way, that puts us behind. Those nations that establish those linkages with other nations, they get distribution. The consumers in those markets get used to the brand names. And when we come in 10 years later, there's not much of a market for us. This doesn't make any sense at all.

So I will dramatically increase the interest and the effort in our nation to establish trade relations with other nations. I will actually establish something I'm going to call the Reagan economic zone. I'm going to say to those nations around the world that want to trade on a fair and free basis, that will honor our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our know-how, if they will honor those things and float their currency and not cheat, they can come in this Reagan economic zone of prosperity.

And by virtue of doing that, we will trade in more places and American goods will be seen around the world. And one more thing I will do, and that is I will clamp down on the cheaters. And China is the worst example of that.


ROMNEY: And they have manipulated their currency to make their products artificially inexpensive. It's hallowed out many of our manufacturing companies in this country.

That's unacceptable. And I will label China as it is, a currency manipulator, and I will go after them for stealing our intellectual property. And they will recognize that, if they cheat there is a price to pay.

I certainly don't want a trade war with anybody. And we're not going to have a trade war, but we can't have a trade surrender either. We have to make sure that we protect Americans, that we have fair trade with nations that are willing to live by the rules. And we're going to insist on that with all of our friends.


ROMNEY: Now, you recognize, in the energy world, do you know that we're an energy-rich nation? But we're living like an energy-poor nation.

We have established in Washington barriers by politicians who think they know better than the American people and American markets, establish barriers that make it hard to use coal, hard to get oil, hard to get natural gas, virtually impossible to establish a nuclear facility, a nuclear power generation facility.

Look, I believe in wind and solar. And green jobs are great, except, where are all those green jobs? And a lot of those green jobs cost more other jobs than the jobs they create. I want to take down those barriers and get America's energy industries and companies back to work creating the energy we need at the price we can afford, and I will do that.


ROMNEY: Now, let me mention one more thing. And I got a long list here. And so I'm not going to go through all of them.

But if you want to convince businesses -- and, by the way, what is a business? It's John. If you want to convince people like John to say, I'm going to take my life savings and I'm going to go to my family and friends and say, would you loan me some of your money and I'm going to start a business -- and maybe it's big companies that want to build a factory somewhere and they're deciding whether to build it in a nation in Latin America or right here in the U.S. or somewhere else.

If you want to convince people to invest in America, they have to have confidence that America's currency and America's government are stable, and that we're not going to find ourselves in a Greece-like situation down the road.

And so it's absolutely essential to get this economy going long-term to stop this incessant practice of spending massively more money than you take in. You have to ultimately balance our budget.


ROMNEY: And so my economic plan lays out how I will ultimately get government to shrink, grow our economy, balance our budget, so that investors in new jobs and enterprises will have confidence in America.

Now, this is a pretty complete volume of the work that we have had over the last several months. It's about 150 pages with 59 different policy ideas. There are a lot more where these came from. But we have got one of these for each of you, if you would like to and read it.

If you don't happen to get one in your hand, you can go on Amazon Kindle, and you can -- I don't know if it's free or not. I hope so, but maybe not. You can get one of these and take a look at it. It's in color on Kindle. So you can take a look and see the specific 59 steps I would take.

This is an effort to really update our economic strategy for this century and the next century. This is a recognition that the old ways have principles that will work forever, that growth is the foundation of economic prosperity, but that our tactics and strategy have to be updated from time to time, particularly in a world that's changing at the rate at which our world is changing.

Now, I'm asked now and then, why isn't Obama working? Why is the Obama economy -- economy so tepid? How has it failed so badly to put Americans to work?

He will be giving a speech in a couple of days. I know what's coming. I haven't read it, but I know what's coming. I have seen version one, two, three, four, and five. They're not working.

And the reason is...


ROMNEY: You know, I mentioned a moment ago that we're now using smartphones, not pay phones.

President Obama's strategy is a pay phone strategy, and we're in a smartphone -- smartphone world. And so we're going to have to change. What he's doing is taking quarters and stuffing them into the pay phone and thinking -- can't figure out why it's not working.

It's not connected anymore, Mr. President. I mean, your pay phone strategy does not work in a smartphone world.


ROMNEY: I mean, we're going to hear about another stimulus and more quarters, trillions of them, getting stuffed in that pay phone. And I know what the results will be.

They won't be getting America back to work. They won't be restructuring and updating our economic foundation, so that we can have the kinds of jobs we need, a middle class that's prosperous, kids coming out of school, getting great jobs, leading the world in innovation, continuing to do so.

These kinds of outcomes, that vision requires dramatic change, not more coins in a pay phone strategy.


ROMNEY: Now, this is not just one silver bullet. There's not just one idea in here. There are 59 of them. And I take on almost every element to get our economy going.

It is practical. This was not created by a professor working alone in academia. Nothing wrong with that. This is the product of somebody who spent his life in the private sector and has done business competing with businesses around the world. It's been done with my team. I have got a lot of folks that I worked with on this and helped write this. This is the result of practical work. It's a practical plan to get America back to work and to strengthen the foundations of our economy. It's also immediate. This is not something which is going to take years and years to put in place. You see up here on these boards, in day one, I have got five executive orders I'm going to put in place.

Let's see, have I got -- yes. I wonder if that works. That -- let's see. We're going to see -- oh, there we go. See, look at that, magic of technology.


ROMNEY: I mean, day one, I'm going to put in place five executive orders.

The first one is going to direct the secretary of health and human services to grant a waiver from Obamacare to all 50 states, so we can stop that in its tracks.


ROMNEY: The second one is going to put all of President Obama's regulations on hold until we see if they cut jobs, and, if they do, we will get rid of them.


ROMNEY: The third one is open up production of energy across this country and get jobs as we do so and get Americans back to work.

The fourth one is going to send a signal that, while we love free trade, and we're going to open trade in a way no other president has ever done in history, we're going to clamp down on China for not living by the rules that they signed up to live by. We're going to make sure they get sanctioned.


ROMNEY: And, finally, we're going to say to America's workers that we're going to protect you with the right to a secret ballot and we're not going to impose unions on you if you don't want to have unions, and we're not going to have money taken out of your paycheck to go into political campaigns you disagree with. We are going to protect America's workers -- all on day one.


ROMNEY: I'm also going to file five bills on the first day and look to Congress to get them in place within 30 days.

Number one is going to make -- we're going to call it the American Competitiveness Act. It's going to lower our corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, so we're competitive with other nations, among other things.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: We're going to open markets. We're going to sign immediately the agreements that are outstanding with other nations, like Colombia, and Panama, and South Korea. And we're going to work very hard to open markets to our goods around the world and get American products around this country -- around this nation -- around the globe.

Number three, domestic energy. We're going to be pursuing legislation that allows us to take advantage of drilling in places across this country that are now closed to drilling. We want drilling for oil and gas. It will create jobs and get energy no longer being supplied by the dictates of the oil cartels.


ROMNEY: Retraining. Retraining. Do you know how many government programs there are for job training? We all know training for the jobs of tomorrow is important. Do you know how many federal programs there are for job training? Forty-seven. Forty-seven. Do I hear 48, 49?

Forty-seven programs, eight different departments managing 47 programs. Only five of them have been evaluate. And the ones that have been evaluated were seen to be of very limited help.

Look, I want to take those 47 programs, collapse them down to one and turn them back to the states. The states ought to be running the programs, not the federal government.


ROMNEY: And it says down there a down payment on fiscal sanity. I'm going to pass -- I'm going to propose a bill and ask for it to be passed within 30 days that says this quite simply. We're going to immediately cut all federal spending by 5 percent, except in the military and except our entitlements. All of our discretionary government spending will be cut immediately by 5 percent. And there's more to come.


ROMNEY: Look, this is a business plan for the American economy.

We have to recognize that our nation is in competition with other nations around the world, and if we want to create jobs, we have to have the best business plan in the world. We have the best people in the world, the most productive people, the most innovative people, the best universities and institutions of learning.

This nation cannot be stopped. The only thing that's stopping us right now is government. And we are going to say stop government and let's start growing again as a nation.


ROMNEY: Now, with all the talk I have just made about this plan, let me note something else which you recognize. And that is that the plan is not more than, I don't know, 25 percent or 30 percent of what has to be done.

If we're going to get America going again like it needs to go, we have to rely on a couple of other things. One is the American people. We are going to have to work hard and smart. We're going to have to tell our kids to get the best education they can, whether in vocational school or to push through high school or in college, to push themselves as hard as they can.

We can't just sit back and think we're entitled to the great wealth that we enjoy. We're going to have to work hard.


ROMNEY: We're going to have to stop demonizing other Americans.

One of the places where the president has disappointed me the most is the way he's attacked other Americans and found someone to scapegoat for any kind of problem that exists.

Look, united we stand. United we stand. If we disagree with other people, fine. Talk about those disagreements, but don't turn other people into enemies.


And even the president, by the way, he's not a bad guy. He just doesn't know how the economy works. He never worked in the economy.

I think to create jobs, it helps to have had a job. And I have. And so I'm looking forward to him coming back into the real economy.


And let me mention something else, and that is when you have a plan like this, and you have people ready to go to work hard, and to pull together as a people, you also have to make sure that you have leadership, leadership that knows what they're doing and knows how to lead. Just having a plan, a plan can be written by anybody, but it takes people and leadership to know how to execute a plan to make it work for the American people.

I remember looking at companies like General Electric back in the '60s and '70s under the leadership of Jack Welch. Apple Computer -- Apple, what a company. Even Starbucks. There's some stories there that were led by individuals.

I said to myself once, what would happen if there were competition between Jack Welch of General Electric and a second year business student describing what it takes to turn a business around? My guess is the second year business student might win. But he wouldn't have a clue or she wouldn't have a clue what to do with reality. Jack Welch would know what to do.

There was a time when Steve Jobs was removed from Apple Computer. Some other people had some things on paper that looked pretty smart, but Steve Jobs was the real deal. He was a leader. He is a leader. He knows. He's done it before.

That's the nature of real leadership. I don't have all the answers to all the problems that exist in America and around the world, but I know how to find the answers, and I also know how to lead. I was in the business world for 25 years.


I remember one of our very first investment opportunities in my company was to decide whether to put over $1 million of our investors' money into a new idea called Staples. You heard of that company, an office supply superstore.

And I went around, and my team went around asking people what they thought of the idea. And do you know what? Every person we talked to said it wouldn't work, it would not work.

They said, you know what? People will not leave their offices to go by office supplies for a few bucks less. They want convenience. They want delivery. Staples will not work.

And you know what? We proved them wrong. Staples now employs over 90,000 people. They were wrong.

I went to the Olympics in 2002. The Olympic games were held in Salt Lake City. There's one of our volunteers right there. This gentleman here was one of my volunteers back in the Olympics. He gave me his card as I came in.

And, you know, as I came there -- I came there in 1999, January or February of '99 -- there were people who said we ought to give the games back because they couldn't be successful. And people came together. That state and those people came together, and I was part of that leadership team, and we were able to turn those games around. And Dick Ebersol, who was the chief executive officer of NBC Sports, he said those were the most successful Olympic, summer or winter, ever.


I came to my state of Massachusetts after that. We had about a $3 billion budget gap we had to find a way to fill. Most people said you can't possibly do that without raising taxes.

I said we've got to do it without raising taxes, because raising taxes hurts people and kills business. And we were able to do that --