Special Report

In Washington, But Not Of Washington

Rep. Michele Bachmann's keynote remarks, as prepared for delivery Tuesday evening at The American Spectator's annual Robert L. Bartley Dinner.

By 11.11.10

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Rep. Michele Bachmann's keynote remarks, as prepared for delivery Tuesday evening at The American Spectator's annual Robert L. Bartley Dinner.

It's a pleasure to be here tonight. This is the last thing Bob Tyrrell would want to hear, but he has managed over the past 40 or so years to turn The American Spectator into an institution. But to his and Wlady Pleszczynski's credit, the magazine has always stayed true to its Hoosier roots. While it may be a magazine that covers issues in Washington, the Spectator has never been a magazine of Washington. And as this past election has shown, not being a product of Washington is a good thing.

I also want to congratulate Fred Barnes on the honor of winning the Barbara Olson Award. Long before he helped found the Weekly Standard, Fred was reporting for the Baltimore Sun and writing stories for The American Spectator. Just like Bob Novak, Fred's made his mark not as a Fox News commentator, but as a shoe-leather reporter. In times like these, where vigilance is absolutely critical, we need more Fred Barnes', and it's heartening to know that magazines like The American Spectator are developing them.

It's fitting that all of us are gathered here tonight under the banner of a dinner named for Wall Street Journal editor Robert Bartley. I have to wonder what Bob Bartley would be writing nowadays. After all, this was a man who in his lifetime, and on more than one occasion, saw his ideas on economic growth and tax reduction subsumed by statist economics, and his support of a vigilant foreign policy replaced by accommodation and indecision, only to see his philosophy of free men and free markets ascend once again.

There has never been a time when we needed Bob's intellectual and philosophical leadership more, and thankfully, his vision is alive and well at the Journal editorial page and The American Spectator, which has inspired up-from-the-grassroots conservatism for almost half a century. Just this past July, the Spectator's cover story on the " ruling class" synthesized exactly why it was so important for conservatives to rise up this election year. And what an election year it was.

Joe Biden liked to tell audiences this election cycle that, quote, "This is not your father's Republican Party." Well, for once he was right. It's a lot closer to being our Founding Fathers' Republican Party.

We have witnessed the birth of a true, grassroots uprising of citizens and Constitutionalists, and we saw this uprising grow into a full-blown social and political movement that literally rewrote the political map of the United States.

The Republican Party did well this election cycle. But no one should misunderstand or misinterpret what has just taken place. The successes of the Republican Party have little to do with a national or a House or a Senatorial committee, and much to do with the men and women across this country willing to put everything on the line in town halls and rallies, on the campaign trails and in voting booths, to defend our exceptional American principles. They were Republicans, conservatives, Libertarians, Independents. They were moms and dads and students of all ideological stripes.  

What has come to be known as the Tea Party is not a red party or a blue party. It's a red, white, and blue party that has everything to do with our nation's founding principles of free men, free markets, the rule of law, and respect for every human at every stage of life. Those are our principles. Those are the principles we know are worth fighting for and defending.

In a time when our nation is in trouble, broke, and weighed down by bloated and over-reaching government, less respected in the world and seemingly incapable of keeping the American Dream alive, our fellow citizens made it clear they've had enough of Chicago-style community organizing repackaged.

They are tired of the same old Washington parlor tricks of 2,000-page bills that nobody reads, and the backroom regulatory deals that nobody understands that punish the American taxpayer, our economy, and our way of life.

They've had it with the constant threat of tax increases and intrusive regulations that create uncertainty in the marketplace and kill investment and economic growth.

They're done with bailouts and trillion-dollar stimulus packages that create not a single private sector job, but instead grow the size of government, all the time seeing our national employment rate hover at ten percent.

They are weary of a health-care plan that puts a fifth of our economy in the hands of yet more Washington bureaucrats.

They're finished with giving trial lawyers and organized labor and the leftist political class free passes, while the private sector small business community sacrifices to stay afloat.

They are exhausted from the larding of trillions upon trillions of debt on the backs of their children and grandchildren, and knowing that America is most certainly not better off than it was 14 trillion dollars ago.

And they've had it with being demonized as "enemies" simply because they believe in the power of freedom and America's founding principles.

Our citizens were looking for leaders willing to stand with them and confront these challenges with solutions rooted in the vision of our Founders and the principles of our Constitution, and it culminated last Tuesday.

Someone said last week that this election was a restraining order against the Obama Administration. We could also use an injunction, and someone over at the Department of Justice to enforce it… but we'll take care of that in 2012. In the meantime, we conservatives have a lot of work to do.  

Our challenge as leaders is to show our fellow citizens a clear road ahead…to define a path that will remove the uncertainty and the unpredictability that has prolonged the economic stagnation we've been saddled with … to grow our economy and jobs, cut the spending and shrink the size of government, support our troops who defend our freedom, and restore our nation to its rightful position as the leader of the free world.

Over the past year, I, as well as a number of other conservatives across the country, laid out a clear and ambitious agenda to get America back on track, which was based on our founding principles.  

First, we cut the spending, reduced the size of government, and put forward a balanced budget for 2011.

The Democrats fully funded their big-spending, big-government pet projects in the trillion-dollar stimulus they rammed through Congress, calling many of them "shovel ready projects," which President Obama now acknowledges never really existed.  

Now, the American people expect -- at the very least -- that over the next few months they will see proposals from Congress to achieve such things as a 25% cut in federal government spending, to offset the amount that President Obama has increased spending, as well as a commitment to no increased spending beyond population growth plus inflation. They want proposals that will cancel the dispersal of outstanding "stimulus" funds and return all repaid TARP funds to the U.S. Treasury. And they want a balanced budget passed for 2011 with no tax increases.

Second, we return to our past to ensure a more secure future.

This means Congress should pass the "mother of all repeal bills" to essentially turn back the clock on the four years of the Pelosi/Reid/Obama job-killing agenda. It's our turn for pro-growth Republicans to pass a repeal bill that does away with government rules and regulations that kill American job growth.

Imagine the economic after effects when we repeal and cut away all of the ugly, expensive tentacles of ObamaCare and allow Americans to purchase health insurance policies, with no minimum mandates, anywhere in the U.S., with tax-free dollars, and real tort reform. Or when we downsize the EPA's mission to conservation of safe air, land and water, and legalize American energy production in natural gas, clean coal, nuclear, hydro, petroleum, wind and solar -- all with public safety requirements and without federal subsidies.  

Third, we not only reduce the size of government, we reduce its role in our lives.

In other words, Uncle Sam would officially declare himself out of the bailout business. Whether we're talking about not bailing out under-funded public employee pension plans, those of unionized or non-unionized private businesses or Wall Street investors, all of them have seen the last of federal bailouts. This also mean getting out of running and owning private businesses, starting with Freddie and Fannie and Sally Mae, and encouraging competition in the mortgage industry by ending federally backed mortgage subsidies.

Finally, with spending reduced and government smaller, we will bring certainty and greater simplicity to our tax policy.

That means not only making permanent the Bush Tax Cuts in the short term, but taking a cold, hard look at our nation's onerous and confusing tax system in the long term.  

Our fellow Americans expect Congress to create a pro-growth economy. On the business side, we should consider such pro-growth tax policies as cutting the corporate tax rate from 34 percent to single digits, making ours one of the most attractive nations for business in the industrialized world. We should seriously debate zeroing out capital gains taxes, and if China can do it, we certainly can consider zeroing out the death tax.

For the individual taxpayer, all marginal personal income tax rates would be no higher than 20 percent. In fact, given the dire economic times we live in, now is the time for us to have a serious discussion about scrapping the current tax code and putting in place a fairer, flatter tax code that won't require more than 50 pages, double spaced, with a font size no smaller than 9 point. My guess is that even some of my Democrat colleagues would be able to read that bill.

Over the past few months, we've only been able to speak of these goals in the theoretical. They were a wish list. Now, certainty in the marketplace… smaller and limited government… lower and fewer taxes… the freedom to succeed are achievable.

Of course, with this opportunity to lead comes accountability. We've seen what happens when those entrusted fail to follow through or ignore the will of the people. President Obama and the Democrats might like to use public anger, or we the people being "hard-wired not to always think clearly" as an excuse for their losses, but really, this election was about their fellow citizens holding them accountable. They failed to understand that their Number One job in Washington was supposed to be creating jobs across the country. And then they pushed policies that ran counter to the principles of a majority of Americans, and made our economic crisis worse.  

The American people have given Republicans a second chance and I, for one, will work to ensure we are a Congress that is accountable and defends our nation's founding principles. We will not compromise on our commitment to fiscal sanity and responsibility and ending this era of big government and runaway spending. We will fight to secure our borders and protect our homeland. We will defend life and individual liberty.

That is the hope and change the American people are calling for in 2010 … a reliance not on Washington, but on our personal and combined strength and wisdom, on our abiding faith in God and our founding principles. This is how we will meet the challenges we face. This is how we as a nation will accomplish great things. And in the end, when we achieve our shared goals, the accomplishments won't be those of a President or a Congress or any one Senator or Representative. Our successes will be those of a people who stood and affirmed their belief in the ideals and principles of their nation's founding… that endure today, tomorrow and -- through the grace of God and the blessings liberty bestows on us all-- for generations yet to come.

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About the Author

Michele Bachmann is the U.S. representative from Minnesota's 6th congressional district.