These are the remarks, as delivered, by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush at the Iowa GOP's Lincoln Dinner, May 16, 2015 in Des Moines.
Thank you all very much. I am excited to be here because this is day 541. There are only 541 days left for the end of the Age of Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Look, many of you all know me as George and Barbara’s boy, for which I’m proud. Some of you may know that W is my brother. I’m proud of that too. Whether people don’t like that or not they’re just going to have to get used to it. But if I go beyond the consideration of running to actually being a candidate, I know that I’m going to have to talk a little bit about who I am. First and foremost, I am the husband of Columba Bush. We’ve been married 41 years. We have three great kids. We have four unbelievably perfect grandchildren. Columba and I have lived in Austin, Texas, Houston, Caracas, Venezuela. We’ve lived in Tallahassee, and we’ve lived in Miami. I did something kind of unusual for people who aspire to public life. I have actually signed the front side of a paycheck. I’ve been in business. I’ve built, with a great partner, we built the largest full service commercial real estate company in South Florida. And I took those traits of being in business, of taking risks, of understanding how markets work, and how you have to, through trial and error, get better. I took that, that basic belief and went to Tallahassee as governor of the fourth largest state - now the third largest state. And the experience that I had as governor is completely different than the experience that we’ve seen over the last six years in Washington D.C.
In the last six years, President Obama has increased taxes a trillion dollars to pay for Obamacare, an additional $600 billion over ten years because he could. In Miami, and in Florida, we cut taxes every year totaling $18 billion. By the way, we don’t have an income tax to cut. It took a little creativity to get there. In Washington the debt has gone to $18 billion, almost double in the last six years. In Washington, D.C. our national government now has been down-graded from triple-A to double-A. In Florida, I raised reserves from one billion dollars to close to $10 billion. They called me Veto Corleone, because I vetoed over 2,500 separate line items in the budget to bring budget discipline to Tallahassee. We reduced the state government workforce by 13,000 people, more than 10 percent of the workforce. And, we were the only state during those eight years to go from double-A to triple-A. There’s a difference between the liberal progressive agenda and a conservative agenda applied the right way.
Under this president our growth has been anemic, two percent growth over the last six years. There are five million more people living in poverty than before. Our welfare rolls have grown. Food stamps - now 48 million people are receiving food stamps, up from 32 million. And, household income - median household income in the sixth year of a recovery is down $2,100. People are suffering and this economic policy is pitiful. In Florida, our state economy grew by 4.4 percent. And we added 1.3 million net new jobs in Florida. Because we challenged every aspect of how our economy should work. And, whenever there was an impediment, as it related to worker’s comp costs, or tort reform costs, or training problems, or taxes, what we did was tear down those barriers so people could freely pursue their dreams as they saw fit. And 1.3 million new jobs were created, more than any state in the country during those eight years other than California.
We did a lot of other things other than just economic development. We had law after law to protect the Second Amendment of the United States. And because of that I got an A+ rating from the NRA year after year after year. And I was proud of that. We protected the most vulnerable in our society in Florida. I acted on my faith, and many others agreed with me and so we put the people most vulnerable in our society at the front of the line -- the unborn, the disabled, the frail, the elders. I think conservatives need to do that as a higher priority. That the most vulnerable should be taken care of, and we can do that. If we grow our economy fast enough we can take care of people. And, by the way, that’s pretty good politics, as well.
I’m proud of my record. I’m proud of my record of accomplishment and integrity as governor of the state of Florida. And I believe that it’s time to change the record of what’s going on in Washington, D.C. The Obama administration has politicized things that used to be sacred -- The Justice Department, the IRS. There are scandals of epic proportions. Today is Armed Forces Day. It is scandalous that we treat our military coming home from service in the Veterans’ Department, and Veterans’ Administration in a way where people should be fired. One person has been fired. There should be scores of people fired for withholding services for people that truly need it.
This administration has tried to regulate everything under the sun. Everything under the sun, whether it’s the FCC trying to regulate access to the Internet, the EPA regulating the air, mercury and all these levels creating huge economic dislocations potentially for our country. This administration uses executive authority that many times they don’t have. And it has frozen in place economic activity. And, for the first time, Americans are beginning to doubt whether our government and the basic institutions that we have had to trust, and we have trusted for 239 years, can be trusted anymore.
You know what though: we can fix this. We can fix this. And, we can do it with proper leadership. We can do it by creating high sustained economic growth, where more people have a chance at earned success. If we fix how we tax, how we regulate. Embrace the energy revolution that is here instead of trying to push it down. Fix a broken immigration system. Fix our entitlement system. This will be the most extraordinary time to be alive. I totally believe that, and I hope that you do too, because our children and grandchildren are deserving of that very basic promise.
You know what, if we’re going to do that at home, we also have to do it abroad. Leadership matters, and we see what happens when a president does not believe America’s power and presence in the world is a force for good. It starts by rebuilding our military. No more sequesters of our military. No more making it harder for us to have the best fighting force in the world. We have to be vigilant to make sure that we live in a peaceful world, and the best way to do that is peace through strength. We need to support our veterans, for sure. And, our friends need to believe in us and trust us, and our enemies need to fear us, once again. The next President of the United States is also going to have to rebuild the relationships that have been tattered to the core -- Israel, the Arab Gulf States, Canada, for crying out loud. We’ve managed to ruin, hurt our relationship with our largest trading partner. Country after country our relationships are worse. Name a country where the relationship is better than the day that Barack Obama came into office -- Iran, Cuba. I rest my case. If we want to have a safe country, if we want to have a world where people have a chance to rise up, we have to be engaged. But for the United States, who? Who is going to take care of the persecuted Christians in Iraq? Who is going to take care of the Christians that were killed in Kenya only because they were in university? Who is going to take care of the Christian girls in Northern Nigeria? But for us, who? The United States is a leader because our values are powerful, our might is powerful, and people have to know that the United States will be with them over the long haul. And if we do that, incredible things can happen.
Let me close with a story about a friend of mine. In Florida we turned the whole education system upside down. We have the largest number of kids going to voucher programs. And one of them is Denisha Merriweather. This was a child who was held back two years in a row. Because she was unruly, her family was moving around, there was not an order in her life. And, she got wind, her Godmother got wind of a corporate tax scholarship program. And she was sent to a private school. She went from being two grade levels back to graduating high school - the first in her family to graduate from high school - and the first in her family to graduate from college. Because there were people, including the governor at the time, that had the courage to challenge the institutions that weren’t working for the next generation. And because of that, Denisha is now living a life of purpose and meaning. For Republicans to win going forward, we have to be on the side of the Denishas of the world. We need to embrace them and share with them the joy and the possibilities of freedom and limited government, creating opportunities for them just as it’s done for us. God bless you all, and thank you very much for everything you do for the Republican cause.