Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty delivered the first major speech of his Republican presidential campaign in President Obama’s hometown, blistering the president’s handling of the economy and proposing tax cuts for businesses and individuals.
Speaking at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, across the street from where Obama once lectured at the university law school, Pawlenty contended his proposals combining lower tax rates with an emergency freeze on spending would be a “better deal” than what the Obama administration was offering.
He called Obama “a champion practitioner of class warfare” who is burdening business with over-regulation.
“How are you enjoying your recovery summer? That’s what the president said we were having. But that was last year,” Pawlenty said. “Gas is nearly $4 a gallon. Home prices are in the gutter. Our healthcare system -- thanks to ‘Obamacare’ -- is more expensive and less efficient. Unemployment’s back over 9%. Our national debt has skyrocketed. Our budget deficit has grown worse. And the jobs and manufacturing reports are grim.
“If that was a recovery, then our president needs to enter economic rehab,” he said. “And the American people need to stop his policies, cold turkey.”
Pawlenty’s speech, delivered using a Teleprompter, comes on the heels of last month’s slow job-growth numbers, an increase in the nation’s unemployment rate to 9.1% and Wall Street fears of a possible double-dip recession.
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll found about six in 10 Americans disapprove of the way Obama is handling the economy and deficit and by a 2-to-1 ratio say the nation is on the wrong track. The same poll, however, showed a Pawlenty rival for the nomination, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, as the most competitive with Obama at this point. Pawlenty runs 11 percentage points behind Obama, the poll showed.
Ironically, Pawlenty’s economic speech came only a day after Obama’s top economic advisor, Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, announced his return to the University of Chicago as a professor. Goolsbee is the latest in a string of Obama economic counselors to leave the White House.
Pushing a free-market agenda for job creation and economic growth, Pawlenty said he would target 5% growth in the economy, instead of what he labeled the “anemic” 2% envisioned by the president’s team.
“Such a national economic growth target will set our sights on a positive future and inspire the actions needed to reach it,” Pawlenty said. “By the way, 5% growth is not some pie-in-the-sky number. We’ve done it before, and with the right policies we can do it again.”
Pawlenty proposed cutting the current federal corporate tax rate from 35% to 15% coupled with closing loopholes. He also would give small businesses the option of using corporate tax rates.
For individuals, Pawlenty said he was proposing a “simpler, fairer, flatter” tax system. Those who currently don’t pay income taxes wouldn’t be affected. But he would impose a 10% tax rate on individual income of the first $50,000 and joint income up to $100,000. Income above those levels would be taxed at 25%.
“It would represent a one-third cut in the bottom rate and it would allow younger, middle- and lower-income families to save and build wealth. And it would represent a 28% cut in the top rate to spur investment and job creation,” he said.
“In addition, we should eliminate altogether the capital gains tax, the interest income tax, the dividends tax and the death tax. Government has no moral or economic basis to claim a second share of the same income. When you deposit a dollar in your bank account, every penny forever more should be yours and your children’s, not the federal government’s.”
On spending cuts, Pawlenty proposed the “Google Test.”
“If you can find a service or a good available on Google or the Internet, then the federal government probably doesn’t need to be providing that good or service,” he said. “The post office, the government printing office, Amtrak, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and others were all built for a time in our country and a different chapter in our economy when the private sector didn’t adequately provide those services. But that’s no longer the case.”
He proposed that Congress also grant the president the temporary and emergency authority to freeze spending at current levels and impound up to 5% of federal spending until the budget is balanced.
“If they won’t do it, I will,” he said.
Pawlenty also contended Obama was playing class warfare.”
“Elected with a call for unity and hope, he spent three years dividing our nation. He’s been fanning the flames of class envy and resentment all across America to deflect attention from his own failures and the economic hardship they have visited on America,” Pawlenty said.