Jeb Bush started his political career (and ended it) talking about rising up from the economic malaise of the 1970s and 1980s, challenging the conventional wisdom of George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.” The state of the economy was bad; he knew what he had to do.
“In the early 1980s I visited the cities in my home state to talk to elected officials, union leaders, business owners and ordinary people about how we could do better for America by making public policy more efficient, more focused on problems and individual opportunity,” he wrote. “There is nothing more different from my political philosophy than the idea that the leadership of a nation is a team effort. In fact, most of the thinking I had done came from working with conservative leaders in Texas. That brings me to … a word of warning and advice.”
“Don’t try to be a fire department chief when you’re a firefighter. Don’t take it upon yourself to rush in and save your own bacon,” Bush said.
The lesson has stood the test of time, as Bush has pursued a policy agenda centered on lowering business taxes and regulatory barriers to economic growth. At least, on paper. His Cadillac-like program for Texas was a little unworkable at times, especially when his administration gave Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) a break, in response to President Donald Trump’s efforts to help the electric-car maker.
But there’s no disputing that Bush, like the son of another president, is invested in what he calls “Jeb’s Law.” It’s Bush’s idea of reducing dependence on fossil fuels through energy independence:
“We must become more energy independent, and make smarter use of our abundant resources. These changes will better protect our environment, create high-paying jobs, and become an even greater part of our nation’s competitive advantage.”
Bush says a law must not only protect our interests, but also enhance America’s. The former governor is looking at issues like energy independence and tax incentives as two of several things that could “accelerate and simplify” our economic growth.
Like his father and brother, Bush has a message for pro-growth economic policies. As he wrote in the New York Times earlier this year:
“In recent years, the Democratic Party has taken a different view — supporting policies that lower taxes and limit government regulation on American businesses, and giving more assistance to them to get ahead. Democrats promote a brand of economic thought: more government is better — with no questions asked — except where the cost can be avoided. The debate between governing and campaigning has a different outcome.”
By implication, that translates to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and winning presidency. Bush, along with every other Republican in the land, doesn’t appreciate the irony of such a message from the son of a Republican president who won his party’s nomination the year after the failed attempt to impeach his predecessor.
As he enters the 2020 race as a challenger to Trump, Bush has said that “What I’m going to do is stand up for free enterprise, American businesses,” according to his own former staff. And why wouldn’t he? When it comes to attacking Trump, he’s done it without apology, and without fear.
But don’t misunderstand: Bush still believes in successful government. His goal is a stable government, one that invites enough innovation and economic growth to ensure that middle-class families remain economically secure and enjoying the fruits of growth. If that sounds like conservative economic policy, it is. That’s the Texan in Jeb Bush.
And that’s how you judge the difference between the Bush-Trump camps.