Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry's Remarks At the National Center for Policy Analysis

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Friday, October 15, 2004  •  Speech

Thank you Louis. Let me also thank Dr. Goodman for this invitation to speak to you today as part of the Hatton W. Sumners Distinguished Lecture Series.

It is my great honor to appear before the membership of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a prestigious research institute that has worked to expand freedom by promoting pro-growth policies and fighting efforts to further tax workers’ earnings. You have made a difference in the lives of entrepreneurs and small business owners, factory workers and working folks who punch a clock, all who desire to be freed from the burden of excessive taxation.

With three weeks left in this election, I believe America is approaching a defining moment that is rare in times of peace and common in times of war. And the answer we provide on November 2nd will be in response to an age-old question: “what will be America’s role in the world, and on behalf of the cause of freedom?”

I believe decades from now history will judge the actions of George W. Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan as critical decisions that brought stability and freedom to troubled regions, and peace to Americans at home. Just as Reagan stood on the right side of history in the fight against communism, so stands George W. Bush in the fight against terrorism.

Senator Kerry stands on the wrong side of history. He did so in 1991 when he voted against joining a large, multi-lateral coalition in evicting Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait, and he does so today in stating America must meet a global test before defending the security of our people. His many positions on the War in Iraq should offer the American people little comfort. And if that weren’t bad enough, he scared a bunch of us Aggies when he showed up for that first debate with a burnt orange complexion.

Upon taking the oath of the presidency in 1981, Ronald Reagan responded to the economic ills facing the nation, saying: “in this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem.” With those words he marked the end of an era that had dominated political thought for more than 40 years, the era of the expansionist state. As Reagan understood, the power to tax represents the power to control people’s lives. Over-taxation forces breadwinners to work two jobs instead of one, forces small businesses and other employers to lay off workers instead of growing jobs, and causes families to save less so government can spend more. The failed social experiments, the growth in marginal tax rates, the doom and gloom of the “blame America first” crowd had run its course.

In 1980, Americans charted a new course. That is not to say there were not some great accomplishments from FDR to the election of Reagan. The passage of sweeping civil rights protections, and the enactment of a strong safety net, though later expanded beyond its intent, remains vital components to a better America as we head into the 21st Century.

But the effort to produce a better government in fact produced a bigger government, one that encroached upon our lives, and expanded its reach into our resources, as good intentions went awry. Social programs designed to empower our citizens entrapped them. Tax hikes passed in the name of the poor made it harder to leave poverty. Families began to spend less time with their children because one parent, and more and more often both parents, began to work longer hours to pay the bills.

In 1980, conservative ideas began to take hold in politics, catching up with the views and values the majority of Americans had held for a long time. Tax cuts unleashed the American spirit of entrepreneurialism. Welfare reform ended the notion of the free ride. Today conservative education reform is beginning to transform the classroom. And if anyone mistakes the power of conservative ideas, think back only a few years ago to when Bill Clinton, of all the unlikely messengers, stood before the Congress and declared the “era of big government is over.” I just about fell out of my chair when I heard that.

For 24 years, conservative governance, defined as limiting the size of government, and its power to tax and spend, has been the dominant philosophy nationwide, and certainly here in Texas. The state of liberalism is so bad today that nine out of ten liberals would rather be called progressive. Liberals like John Kerry can try to avoid being labeled what they are, but they can’t run away from the record.

The question is “why don’t they proudly proclaim it?” The answer is because they know Americans will reject it. Americans want fiscal discipline. They want government to do a few things and do them well. They want investments in schools and infrastructure, for our homeland to be protected and our troops well-armed, and a safety net that helps people, not one that exists to perpetuate itself.

The only thing that galls me more than Democrats disguising a liberal agenda with conservative campaign rhetoric is when Republicans do it. In the late-1990’s it was easy to make a lot of folks happy because government was awash in tax revenue. But it suddenly became real hard to keep taxes low and still spend enough to please the liberal elites when the economy slowed down three years ago. And a lot of self-examination happened in state capitals and Washington, or as they say in the locker room before the big game: it was gut-check time. And we found out who really believed in fiscal discipline, who would keep their word to taxpayers in the face of the vitriol and venom of the big spenders.

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