The nation's economy can grow much faster by unshackling government burdens on business, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told an audience of influential Detroit-area business leaders on Wednesday in his first major economic speech as a 2016 Republican presidential prospect.
In his address to the Detroit Economic Club, the son and brother of former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush offered the economic principles that would form the foundation of an economic platform, should he continue on the path toward a campaign. Bush was also expected to attend a fundraiser Wednesday evening in Detroit.
Bush spoke mainly about improving the economic fortunes of middle- and low-income families, especially in cities, such as Detroit, which has recently emerged from bankruptcy.
"I know some in the media think conservatives don't care about the cities. But they are wrong. We believe that every American and in every community has a right to pursue happiness," he told the audience of 600. "They have a right to rise," Bush said, borrowing from his economic mantra and the name of the political action committee he formed in December. Wednesday's speech was the first in a series of stops his aides are calling his "Right to Rise" tour.
Bush said the federal government needs to encourage economic growth among the middle class, which, he argues, has languished despite the ongoing economic recovery. Conservative economic policies, he says, would provide incentive for middle-income families to reach higher income.
Bush touted education as a way forward for struggling families, an issue he has long supported. In his first term as Florida's chief executive, Bush enacted the nation's first statewide school voucher program, aimed at allowing families in failing school districts to choose private schools at state cost. Although the Florida Supreme Court found the program unconstitutional, the Legislature created scholarship programs for low-income families and for special needs students.
The former governor also is in favor of paring down government, calling bloated bureaucracy, onerous taxes and voluminous regulations shackles to economic growth and American families' ability to climb.
The Detroit event represents a departure for Bush, who has spoken only at paid events and private fundraisers.
Aides also confirmed that Bush plans to make his first trip to Iowa as a presidential prospect in March. Bush plans to participate in an agricultural policy forum hosted by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and agribusiness leader Bruce Rastetter.