Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave these remarks to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on September 17, 2012.
[Editor's Note: Click here for more CFR 2012 campaign resources, which examine the foreign policy and national security dimensions of the presidential race.]
Thank you, Hector, for that warm introduction. And congratulations to Cristina.
I'm pleased to be your guest, and to speak as we begin National Hispanic Heritage Month.
I'm also pleased to represent the party of Governor Susana Martinez, Governor Brian Sandoval, Governor Luis Fortuno, Senator Marco Rubio, and the Texas Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Ted Cruz. These leaders are Republicans for the same reasons as millions of other Hispanics: they see that ours is the party of opportunity, the party that will restore America's prosperity.
At our convention, Governor Martinez described an experience you may find familiar.
At the beginning of her political career, she was a Democrat. As her star began to rise, she and her husband accepted an invitation from two Republicans for lunch. The words "Democrat" and "Republican" never came up. They talked about issues, not about party – How do we keep welfare from becoming a barrier to work? How much government is needed before it becomes a burden to families and small business?
When the lunch was over, she turned to her husband and said "I'll be darned… we're Republicans!"
I love hearing stories like that. I am convinced that the Republican Party is the rightful home of Hispanic Americans.
But my speech today isn't about my political party. It's about the country we love and the future we want to build.
During the course of this campaign, I have traveled across our country. I have seen people who have fallen into poverty, people who are living paycheck to paycheck, people who are tired of being tired.
Over 23 million Americans are out of work, underemployed, or have just quit looking for a job. The number of people on food stamps has risen by almost 15 million since President Obama took office.
Median household income has fallen four years in a row.
Seeing such a poor jobs and income picture, the Federal Reserve has announced that it will once again print more money. The Fed knows this comes with a high cost and risk for the future, but it feels it has no choice: Our leaders in Washington have failed to produce a real recovery.
No one is exempt from the pain of this economy, but the Hispanic community has been particularly hard hit. While national unemployment is 8.1 percent, Hispanic unemployment is over 10 percent. Over two million more Hispanics are living in poverty today than the day President Obama took office.
In 2008, candidate Obama promised us a world of limitless hope. What we got instead is a world where hope has painful limits -- limits that make it harder to start a business, to grow a business, or to find a job.
The administration promised us that its policies would have brought unemployment down to 5.4% by now. They have not. Unemployment is still above 8%. And the difference between the 5.4% they promised and the 8% they delivered is 9 million more Americans not working. 9 million.
I expected the President, at his convention, to talk about the unemployed and to unveil a jobs plan. Astonishingly, he did not. I have a plan, and my Plan for a Stronger Middle Class will create 12 million jobs by the end of my first term. And it will raise take home pay.
My plan is premised on the conviction that it is freedom that drives our economy--that free people, creating free enterprises, is what creates good jobs with good wages. Government supports the job creators, but it cannot take their place.
My plan has five steps:
First, we will take full advantage of our oil, gas, coal, nuclear power, and renewables to achieve North American energy independence in 8 years. That will not only give us the affordable, reliable energy we need; it will also create nearly 4 million jobs. And it will help bring manufacturing back to our shores.
Second, we must give our fellow citizens the skills they need for the jobs of today – and give our children the education they need for the careers of tomorrow.
Today, too many of our kids are trapped in failing schools. As president, I will fight to ensure that children from every background receive a quality education. I will empower the parents of our low-income and special-needs students to choose where their child goes to school.
Third, we will make trade work for America by forging new agreements with nations that play by the rules, while cracking down on nations that do not. We can jumpstart our economy by expanding trade with Latin America – and our nation's 3 million Hispanic-owned businesses will have the most to gain. President Obama has not initiated a single new trade agreement with Latin America. I will.
I will also pursue a comprehensive strategy to confront China's unfair trade practices from Day One. President Obama may think that announcing new trade cases less than two months from Election Day will distract from his record, but the American businesses and workers struggling on an uneven playing field know better. If I'd known all it took to get him to take action was to run an ad citing his inaction on China's cheating, I would have run one long ago.
Fourth, we must cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget. I believe that it is immoral for us to continue to spend more than we take in, to pass massive debts on to our children.
I'd like to spend some time talking about this issue in particular. As businessmen and women, and as Hispanics, you understand the threat President Obama's spending poses for our future. Many Hispanics have sacrificed greatly to help build our country and our economy, and to leave for their children a brighter future. Today, those sacrifices are being put at risk by a President who cannot stop spending.
The President likes to claim he will reduce the deficit by $4 trillion. What he doesn't tell you is that he's including over $1 trillion in spending cuts that have already been enacted, or that he's counting deficit reduction for 12 years. Yes that's right: 5 years after he leaves office, even if he's reelected.
Under President Obama, federal spending peaked at 25% of GDP--a level not seen since World War II. I propose to bring federal spending back to its historical levels, about 20% of GDP, and cap it there. I will pursue a 5% cut in non-security discretionary spending on my first day in office. It's time for a president who is committed to cutting spending and balancing our budget.
I know how to balance budgets. We balanced our budget in my business, at the Olympics, and every year in my state.
I will put the federal government on a track to a balanced budget by eliminating programs that are not absolutely essential and cutting federal subsidies for things like Amtrak, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation, and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. I like some of these things but we just can't afford them. In fact, my test is this--is the program so critical that it is worth borrowing money from China to pay for it?
In addition, I will send a number of programs that have been growing uncontrollably fast back to the states where I will limit their funding growth to the rate of inflation, or in the case of Medicaid, to inflation plus one percent.
And finally, I will look to sharply increase the productivity of Washington by reducing federal government employment by 10% through attrition, by combining agencies and departments to reduce overhead, by cracking down on the $115 billion a year in improper payments in government programs, and by aligning government compensation with that of the private sector. These things combined will reduce spending by about $500 billion a year by the end of my first term.
The President has put us on the road to Greece. I will put us back on the road to a stronger America, one which stops spending more than we take in.
Fifth, to get our economy creating the jobs we need, we must champion small businesses.
I started a business myself. We began with ten people; today it employs hundreds of people. We invested to help start up other small businesses. Today over 100,000 people work at companies we helped start—companies like Staples, Bright Horizons, The Sports Authority, and Steel Dynamics.
Small businesses often grow into large businesses. Two-thirds of American jobs created over the last 15 years were created by small business.
I know small business, not because I studied it in school, but because I lived small business. And I know that small businesses are being crushed by President Obama's policies. Too often, government regulators treat businesses like the enemy, and they crush them with an avalanche of regulations.
And then there are taxes. I met an electronics entrepreneur in St. Louis. He said that he and his son calculated how much they paid to the government in federal income taxes, payroll taxes, state income taxes, gasoline taxes, sales taxes and real estate taxes. It amounted to over half of what his business earned. Over half! No wonder business start-ups are at a thirty-year low. But the President plans to raise the federal income tax on small business even more, from 35% up to 40%. That will kill 700,000 jobs. A recent study concluded that my plan to reduce the tax rate on small business will instead create 7 million jobs.
And let's talk about Obamacare for a moment, and how it is affecting jobs. The Chamber of Commerce surveyed 1,300 of its members. It found that three-quarters of them said they are less likely to hire people because of Obamacare.
Yes, I know that we need healthcare reform, but Obamacare is the wrong way to go about it. Obamacare will replace consumer choice with government choice, it will cause health insurance premiums to skyrocket, and it is already depressing job creation. I will repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that increase choice, slow down the runaway growth of insurance costs, and open the door to more new jobs.
I am confident that if we do those five things: take advantage of our energy resources, fix our schools, open more trade, cut the deficit, and champion small business, our economy and our jobs will come roaring back. We can do better than this lackluster economy.
My confidence comes from the entrepreneurs I have met across the country. We're in a room full of hardworking entrepreneurs right here. Martha de la Torre is here. In 1988, Martha co-founded El Clasificado, a Spanish-language weekly. Classified ads – now there's a tough business. But Martha adapted with the times. She became an expert in search engine marketing. And she turned ElClasificado.com into an online powerhouse.
We're joined by another successful entrepreneur, Dorene Dominguez. Dorene oversees one of the nation's top construction management firms. She's been collecting so many awards for leadership this year, we're lucky she didn't have a conflict on her calendar today.
I believe in entrepreneurs like Martha and Dorene. I believe the credit for their hard work goes to them, not to the government. And I sure don't believe that the government should take more of what they earn away from them.
This is at the heart of the difference between President Obama's vision and mine for the American economy: he wants government to tax more and regulate more because he believes government can do a better job than you can. I believe in you. I believe you can do a better job than government. I believe that you, and that your dreams and freedoms, will build a stronger future for all of us, and for our children. This belief in free people and free enterprises is the American heritage. This is why America has outperformed the world.
Finally, I want to say a word about immigration. Americans may disagree about how to fix our immigration system, but I think we can all agree that it is broken.
For years, Republicans and Democrats seem to have been more interested in playing politics with immigration than with actually fixing it. Candidate Obama said that one of his highest priorities would be to fix immigration in his first year in office. Despite his party having majorities in both houses of Congress, the President never even offered up a bill. Like so many issues confronting our nation, when it comes to immigration, politics has been put ahead of people for too long.
I will work with Republicans and Democrats to permanently fix our immigration system.
We will never achieve a legal immigration system that is fair and efficient if we do not first get control of our borders. I believe we can all agree that what we need are fair and enforceable immigration laws that will stem the flow of illegal immigration, while strengthening legal immigration.
I want to make the system far more simple and transparent -- you shouldn't have to hire lawyers to find out how to legally immigrate to the United States. I will shift our diversity visas to instead bring together immediate family members. I will structure our temporary worker visa program so that it meets the needs of our employers. And if someone gets an advanced degree, I want them to stay here, so I'd staple a green card to their diploma.
America is a nation of immigrants, and immigration is essential to our economic growth and prosperity. One million immigrants legally enter America every year--the largest number of any country in the world. I like that. I want to preserve our heritage of robust legal immigration. And I want to make sure that those who abide by the law and wait in line to immigrate here legally are not at a disadvantage.
That's why I oppose amnesty, because amnesty will make it harder, not easier to strengthen our legal immigration system. It's also why my administration will establish an employment verification system so that every business can know whether the people it hires are legally eligible for employment. If a business cheats, there will be strict penalties for that business.
In the midst of a difficult re-election, President Obama created what he calls a "stopgap measure" for children who were brought here illegally, through no fault of their own.
Instead of playing immigration politics with these children, I will pursue permanent immigration reform, and I will start by ensuring that those who serve in our military have the opportunity to become legal permanent residents of the country they fought to defend. Those who have risked their lives in defense of America have earned the right to make their life in America.
I've spoken often about how proud I am of my father. He was born to American parents living in Mexico. When he was five, they left everything behind, and started over in the United States.
My dad grew up poor. But he believed in a country where the circumstances of one's birth were not a barrier to achievement – a place where hard work could turn dreams into realities. He went from selling paint out of the trunk of his car to becoming the leader of a great car company and the governor of a great state.
My wife Ann's father was a first generation immigrant. He ended up founding a successful manufacturing company that made components and equipment for ships in the United States Navy.
Many of you in this room have similar stories. That is the American story. It is a story that is told over and over again. It is the story of the American Dream.
The American Dream is not gone; it has just been put a little further from reach. I know what it takes to bring it back, to have it inspire our children just as it inspired our fathers and mothers. They sacrificed so much, so that we might have it as part of our lives. Now it is our turn, our responsibility to restore the opportunity and prosperity and dreams that have invigorated this nation from its beginning. It's a responsibility we must fulfill.
Thank you, and God Bless America.