I would like to share with the citizens of the first district of Wisconsin something about who I am and what I believe in. To me, a person's principles and beliefs are absolutely the most critical part of anyone's character, especially for those who seek to represent others in public office.
Having worked in Congress, I gained critical experience that has taught me how to get things done in Congress. Along with this experience, I quickly learned that the values I learned while growing up and living in Janesville were not reflected in Washington. Not only is Washington a different city--it is a different planet with a different language, a different culture and a different code of values. The vast majority of people in Washington are drawn to one thing--POWER. The power to control, the power to tax, the power to spend and the power that comes from the feeling that Washington can solve all problems.
I believe that during much of this century, our federal government, and the political philosophy which has guided it, has deviated greatly from those timeless principles that built this country and formed our national government. After winning two World Wars and a Cold War, surviving the Great Depression, building an interstate highway system, etc., opinions about the proper role of our federal government have changed from a system of limited government to one with virtually no limits at all. From the New Deal through the Great Society, wherever a " national priority" arouse, such as housing, education, energy, we answered it by centralizing solutions into new federal bureaucracies which were designed steer and micro manage these priorities in our society.
Well, after spending trillions of dollars on these centralized solutions we have found that the problems we sought to solve through Washington have actually worsened in many cases. Educational scores have declined. Violent crime has risen over time. Out of wedlock births and the social pathologies that follow in their wakes have multiplied. Class envy economics have placed the American dream out of reach for millions of lower class families. Cold social programs from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services have displaced good citizenship. In short, in this effort to build a great society --we built a government that took away our greatness--a greatness that is achieved through individual endeavor.
And now we are faced with a $5.5 trillion debt, a crushing tax burden, a regulatory leviathan, and a command and control education regime that stifles local innovation. In short, I believe these results are the product of a 20th century paradigm shift in which the government replaced the individual as the center of our governing philosophy.
I have spent my career fighting this belief, because what I learned growing up in Janesville, in a large, close family is that the genius of America is each of us and our families, not the central planners in Washington.
I am, however, optimistic about our future. I believe the American people are realizing that the welfare state has failed. Now, our challenge is to replace it with a government that is rooted in the principles that founded this great nation. By recognizing the facts that a government closest to the people governs best and that the nucleus of our economy and our society is the individual \endash not the government \endash we will be able to renew America.
Specifically, I believe we must pursue three very important principles. The first is Freedom.. I believe we must restore the concept of freedom by re-limiting the federal government and focusing on its core functions. I want the federal government to do less with less, and I want to see our families do more with more. We must take power and money from Washington and return it back to the states, local governments, and above all the people. Wisconsin is living proof of this idea. Our state welfare reforms are the most successful in the nation.
The second is Growth.. I believe we must pursue a bold agenda of growth by casting aside the shackles of class envy and promoting economic growth and opportunity through lower taxes and by ultimately replacing the tax code. Globally, we must stay ahead of the competition--and that means an end to punishing risk takers and entrepreneurs. Morally, we must help our families get the financial freedom to work more for themselves and less for their government.
The third principle is Renewal. Many believe our culture is in great decline. Parents feel like they are fighting the culture while raising their young. In many ways, morals have become relative and ethics have become mere technicalities. But, just as modern liberalism has failed at social engineering, so to will modern conservatism if attempted. I believe we need to replace moral relativism with the values that built this country like faith, truth, hard work, and recognition of a higher moral authority. I believe the best way the federal government can improve upon our culture is by taking the " Hippocratic Oath" to do no harm to our values. We can start by cutting the tax burden on our families and businesses and by reducing costly regulations on our charities. We can help restore good citizenship be freeing up individuals to become good citizens.
I believe these broad principles are three absolutes of American society that go hand in hand. Indeed, they are the very principles that founded our country. Guided by these principles, we can unite around a common cause to replace the welfare state with an opportunity society that transforms our safety net from a hammock into a trampoline.
The question that is posed before us as we enter the next millennium is simple: Do we want to continue sending more of our hard earned money to Washington to take care of more of our needs, or do we want to take power and money from Washington and return it to states, localities and most importantly to our families so we have the means to take care of ourselves?