Editor’s Note: Later today I plan to send out an overview of last night’s speeches at the Republican Convention, but in the meantime, here is a speech I just gave about an hour ago at the Jefferson Area Tea Party’s “Oust Obama” rally in Charlottesville—our way of welcoming President Obama to our town. Incidentally, for anyone who is disappointed that this speech makes no reference to Ayn Rand or Atlas Shrugged (as my Tea Party speeches often do) don’t worry. The speaker before me, a local Republican Party chairman, had that angle covered. Such is the intellectual impetus of the Tea Party movement.—RWT
I could get up here and talk about economics or history or political science, and I will do a little bit of all of those. But first I’m going to boil everything down to one simple question.
Is this good enough? Is this economy, Obama’s economy, good enough? Is the state of the country, the spirit of the country, good enough? Is America power and stature in the world good enough? [Note: Every time in this speech that I ask "Is this good enough," I was eliciting—and got—a loud "No!"]
Or: can we do better? Do you deserve better, do we deserve better, does America deserve better?
Underneath all of the important ideological issues, this election is fundamentally a basic choice about the American spirit, about our sense of what is possible to us in life.
I say this because, in asking you to re-elect him, Barack Obama is asking you to settle for this, for his stagnant economy. His policies didn’t turn around the economy, they stifled the recovery. So now he’s telling us that it’s not his fault, it’s just the “new normal.” He said recently that it’s normal that after a financial crisis like we had in 2008, that the economy will take ten years to bounce back. Ten years! It’s less than five years since the financial crisis, so that means we’re not even halfway through. And notice something else: Obama has now given up even promising that the economy will recover during his second term. This is just as good as it gets and we’re supposed to accept it. Do you think this is good enough?
Let’s think a little bit more about what this new Obama normal is. I was listening to the radio this morning on the way into town, and the news was that economists had upgraded the figure for economic growth this Spring, for the second quarter of the year. They upgraded it from a 1.5% rate all the way up to 1.7%. I feel better now, don’t you? Is that good enough?
Let’s put that 1.7% into perspective. They’ve changed the way they calculate inflation these days, so they don’t put much weight on food and fuel—which of course are how most of us have actually experienced rising prices recently. So there’s a good chance that real inflation is above the official levels, and that it is higher than 1.7%. So the chances are we’re not in a slow-growth economy, we’re in a no-growth economy. Is that good enough?
It gets worse if you look at income. Another new report—and this didn’t get the press it really deserves—said that the average American’s income declined by more than 4% during the recovery. To put that in perspective, income only declined by about two and half percent during the recession. So we’re worse off after three years of so-called recovery than we were at the bottom of the recession. Does that sound like a recovery to you? Is that good enough?
This is a so-called recovery in which we have more people on food stamps than ever before, in which Social Security disability has doubled. It’s not because we have more disabled people, it’s because we have more people who are using that system to get a government check for the rest of their lives because they can’t get a job. Is that kind of society, a society of dependence on government, is that good enough?
Now let’s a little bit more perspective. The average growth rate of the American economy since World War II has been a little over three and a half percent—more than twice the growth rate of this so-called recovery. And longer term, if you go back to the founding of this country, the real “normal” rate of growth has been 4% or above.
And that’s what we’re going to need if we’re ever going to grow out of the debt we have, or have any hope of even partially meeting all of the entitlement obligations our government has taken on. You know, as an individual, this is easy to grasp. The easiest way to get out of debt is if your income is growing.
Let’s say you’re a young Obama voter, and you graduate from college with big student loans. Now let’s say you have a degree in a field with no real economic value, like I did. I have a degree in philosophy, which these days maybe qualifies you for a job making coffee at Starbucks. And with that income, you’re going to have a big problem paying for your loans.
Now let’s say you get a degree in a useful field—maybe engineering or business—or maybe you’re just resourceful and entrepreneurial, like I was, and you work hard to build a business and make something of yourself, and every year you get more experience, more skills, and rise to a higher position and your income keeps going up. Then your debt is not so big a burden because know you’re going to be able to grow your way out of that debt.
But as a country, we’re not on that path. We’re on the same path as a lot of European countries. They adopted the same policies that Obama has brought here—strangling regulations and bloated welfare states—and they got the same results: stagnant economic growth, permanent high unemployment, and a debt that keeps rising and rising. And rather than turn back from that path, they just kept going until it finally became obvious that without real economic growth, they are never going to be able to pay back their debts.
That’s what we see all across Europe now. That’s the end of our line. Is that good enough?
No, it’s not good enough. It’s not good enough, has never been good enough, for America. This has always been a country that believes in achievement, that believes in independence, that believes you can shape your own destiny—that you do not have to resign yourself to stagnation.
You know, the Obama campaign and the mainstream media still don’t get why it was such a disaster when President Obama said “you didn’t build that.” They don’t get it because they don’t grasp how deeply it goes against the grain of the American character. We are people who do build that. We don’t resign ourselves to stagnation, we take the responsibility of providing for ourselves and lifting ourselves up.
But that’s not Obama’s vision. In his nation of people who didn’t build that, no one can do anything unless he sits and waits for government help. Did anyone else see this feature on the campaign website for Obama, the life of Julia? It’s a history of a fictional woman, where all of the milestones in her life are not about what she does for herself, they’re about how the government helps her. That’s Obama’s view of life. Is that good enough?
But this isn’t really about Obama. It’s about us. It’s about what we expect of this country and of ourselves.
If believe we do build that, then we will demand the freedom to build it, which means the ability to make our own decisions, direct our own actions, bear the costs of our failures, and enjoy the rewards of our success. There is a connection between freedom and the restless ambition characteristic of the American.
But to pursue those political aims, we must have, to support them, a belief in America’s greatness and potential and a belief in our own potential for individual achievement.
Carole mentioned earlier [in the rally] that Mitt Romney was not the first choice for many of us. I actually remember saying in the primaries that my position was “anybody but Romney.” But I also said at the time that when the primaries were over, “anybody but Romney” would be trumped by “anybody but Obama.” And as he has become the nominee, I have come to like Mitt Romney better. I have come to like him because, despite various ideological disagreements, he comes down on the right side on the most basic issue of all. He believes in achievement, and he believes in America’s greatness.
The current situation, America as it is under Obama, is definitely not good enough. We expect better, we demand better, and in November we will go out and get it.