Declaring that it’s time for Washington to start working for Americans and not the other way around, GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley laid out her economic “Freedom Plan in a speech Friday in New Hampshire.
The former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador is proposing a litany of middle-class tax cuts, regulatory relief and “third rail” entitlement reforms in a proposal she asserts will check communist China aggression through American prosperity.
In short, it’s time to unshackle the freedoms that President Joe Biden and the administrative state have been grabbing from the American people, Haley said.
“In this battle, now is the time time to bring out our secret weapon, the force that produced the greatest economy in history and made Americans the envy of the world. It’s freedom,” she said. “Freedom is the engine behind our great middle class. And freedom made America the world’s leader in innovation — doing more good for people than any other country in world history.”
Haley said the Biden administration is “swapping freedom for socialism” in “building the biggest government in American history.”
The former governor’s “Freedom Plan” begins with a number of tax cuts, particularly aimed at middle-class Americans, to lift the burden of high inflation marking the Biden era.
She proposes eliminating the federal gas and diesel tax. At 18 cents and 24 cents, respectively, Haley acknowledges killing the fuel taxes is a modest beginning.
Haley proposes a broad middle-class tax cut and the oft-turned idea of simplifying a byzantine federal tax code — “so simple, every family can understand it.”
“The average taxpayer should not have to hire an accountant to do their taxes,” she said.
Her plan calls for making the small business relief provisions in the 2017 tax cuts permanent. Those tax cuts, coincidentally, were signed by Haley’s former boss, former President Donald Trump, and are credited in no small part for a booming and mostly resilient U.S. economy.
Haley said she would eliminate Biden’s $500 billion in green energy subsidies, which have benefitted manufacturers in China.
The only woman in the GOP presidential race, Haley blasted the men who have held the highest office in the past 15 years of reckless spending.
“Joe Biden, Donald Trump, and Barack Obama added more to our national debt than the previous 42 presidents combined,” she said, noting that the debt tripled from $10 trillion to $33 trillion on their respective watches.
Haley’s plan calls for cutting spending. She vows to veto any spending bill that comes in above pre-COVID levels. Pandemic spending added trillions of dollars in U.S. debt.
“We had a massive — and in many ways a foolish — explosion in spending during the pandemic,” Haley said. “But the pandemic is over. It’s absurd to keep spending at those same crazy levels.”
The presidential contender who has risen to fourth nationally in the polls said it’s time to place a real limit on spending, although Congress, the branch that has the power of the purse, would have much to say about that.
Haley’s plan touches the so-called third rail in politics: entitlement reform. As president, Haley said she would protect those receiving Social Security and Medicare, and that the programs will remain in place for those currently in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and older. She would limit benefits for “wealthy people,” without spelling out what “wealthy” constitutes. And she would raise the retirement age, but only for “younger people who are just entering the system.”
“Americans are living 15 years longer than they were in the 1930s. If we don’t out of the 20th century mindset, Social Security and Medicare won’t survive the first half of the 21st century,” Haley said.
Reforms that include cuts to Social Security and Medicare aren’t real popular. An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll in March found 79 percent of respondents oppose reducing the size of Social Security benefits and 67 percent are against raising monthly premiums for Medicare.
While Haley has talked about changes to the popular but expensive entitlement programs for months, the far and away frontrunner in the crowded field of GOP presidential candidates, Donald Trump, has bashed such plans.
“Under no circumstances will we allow anyone to cut Medicare or Social Security for our nation’s seniors,” Trump said in a speech earlier this year. “We’re not going to allow that. They paid in, and you can’t allow it, and you shouldn’t allow it.”
But a federal report released earlier this year warns the trust fund underpinning Social Security will be depleted by 2034. If that happens, beneficiaries will see automatic reductions.
Haley says she wants term limits for politicians and bureaucrats alike.
“Republicans always talked about cutting red tape, but we’re way past that now. We need to take more drastic measures. The federal bureaucracy is unelected, unaccountable, and running riot over our rights,” she said.
Some of her rivals plans to curb the administrative state go much farther, however. Ohio entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, for instance, has proposed an executive branch reorganization plan that he said would eliminate agencies like the FBI, the Department of Education, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and trim the federal civil service workforce by half in his first year in office.
Haley insisted her freedom plan is ultimately a national security plan because it is aimed at unleashing the kind of American prosperity that will sharply limit Communist China’s threat to the U.S. and the world.
“Freedom is still our secret weapon,” she said. “If we unlock it, Communist China doesn’t stand a chance because nothing is more powerful than the American people.”
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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.
Photo “Nikki Haley” by Nikki Haley.