Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is looking to resuscitate his ailing campaign and catapult himself to the top of the 2024 presidential polls by presenting voters with an economic agenda that he suggests is the opposite of Bidenomics. In Rochester, NH, on July 31, DeSantis unveiled his ten-part plan, named the “Declaration of Economic Independence.” What’s inside the presidential contender’s economic agenda? And is it essentially Trumpism without Trump? Let’s dive deeper.
Ron DeSantis Takes on China
The first priority of this proposed economic agenda is to “end our abusive relationship” with the Chinese Communist Party. According to DeSantis, this would involve eliminating growing trade deficits, banning imports of products manufactured using stolen intellectual property, bolstering protections to halt child and forced labor, and abolishing the country’s preferential trade status. Is this easier said than done? In the first five months of 2023, the US-China trade deficit topped $106 billion. Last year, it was more than $382 billion, the second highest on record, according to the US Census Bureau. But the leader of the Sunshine State thinks he can achieve less dependence by repatriating US capital from Beijing through incentives.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell recently told Congress the US economy will witness below-trend growth over the next couple of years. This means the world’s largest economy will see an annual GDP growth rate below 2%. DeSantis thinks he can accomplish 3% GDP by reversing President Joe Biden’s “job-crippling and ideological regulations and executive orders on Day One.” The governor’s agenda also proposes to implement a simple tax code and slash bureaucracy and red tape by tapping into the US Constitution’s Article II authority to “restore accountability in the executive branch, move agencies out of DC and cut the bureaucratic state, restrict foreign lobbying and post-employment revolving doors by former government officials, and ban individual stock trading by members of Congress and executive branch officials. ”
For the first time since former President Jimmy Carter promised to kick America’s addiction to foreign oil, President Donald Trump realized the dream of energy independence. DeSantis wants to see this again and “unleash our domestic energy sector, modernize and protect our grid, and advance American energy independence.” While US crude oil production has flatlined this year, failing to break out of the range of 12.2 to 12.4 million barrels per day, the governor said he would tackle the issue by getting rid of “crushing regulations” and “endless permitting requirements.” But the other eyebrow-raising idea presented in his declaration is to reverse the federal government’s crusade to force consumers to acquire electric vehicles.
The War on ESG and DEI
During his time in Florida, DeSantis has been one of the Republican governors to lead a war on sustainable investing, also known as ESG (environment, social, and governance). As president, he claims this will be no different, as he proposes to “strengthen rules governing fiduciary responsibilities, transparency requirements, and scrutiny of firms that manage public pension funds.” Put simply, a DeSantis administration “will not tolerate woke corporations using ESG,” he told the New Hampshire audience.
According to the declaration, a DeSantis White House would not quit with ESG. He would target three other letters: DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion). DeSantis noted that he would instruct the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and other relevant federal agencies to put the kibosh on DEI principles, saying they are “racist, discriminatory, and obscure the fundamental truth that all men are created equal.”
Is it time to go back to the basics? DeSantis thinks students need to return to learning how to read, write, do math, and think critically rather than “learning to hate our country.” In addition, the governor stated that he would support school choice across the country, protect parental rights, and reform accreditation. But the most notable point of this policy area is the transformation of the government-backed student loan program. DeSantis wants to make universities responsible for loans their students accrue and not the taxpayers. Like other loans, he would also permit student loans to be discharged through bankruptcy. This, he says, would “no longer incentivize useless degrees and courses with blanket government loans.”
Stop the Spending?
Federal spending will top $6.5 trillion this fiscal year and is expected to grow over the next decade. The governor believes he can stop this “reckless” federal spending by cracking down on abuse, fraud, and waste. In addition, DeSantis proposes using executive authority to ban federal grants to entities that participate in DEI discrimination. He wants also to mandate work requirements for welfare programs and prevent tax dollars from being allocated to organizations that undermine families’ values and beliefs.
DeSantis Against the Fed
By the time the next president is sworn in, Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s term will be expiring. Be it DeSantis or somebody else, the 47th occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will be tasked to select the next head of the US central bank. DeSantis says he wants to choose a nominee who will focus on maintaining a stable dollar, facilitating price stability, and ensuring the Fed does not metastasize into a social engineer. A vital component of this plank is that he plans to block efforts to institute a central bank digital currency (CBDC) or any other attempts to usher in a social credit system.
Fighting the Big Banks
Is the era of bailouts over for large financial institutions? DeSantis hinted at this possibility by opposing bailouts, supporting regional and community banks, and requiring “clear language” disclosures by banks and shadow banks to enhance transparency and monitor systemic risks. Should there be a financial crisis, the governor suggested stripping all responsible parties of “golden parachutes and prevent[ing] the further accumulation of wealth to those already deemed too big to fail.”
Will This Work?
During the 1992 presidential election, independent candidate Ross Perot attempted to win over the public by concentrating on policy with a side of memorable phrases, delivering a nationwide 30-minute infomercial on America’s finances. While his policy wonk-style campaigning did not win him a single state that year, he did garner nearly 20% of the popular vote. In the television and social media era, can White House hopefuls enjoy electoral success by focusing on dollars and cents instead of soundbites and political clashes?
For months, every 2024 Republican primary poll has shown the same thing: Trump dominates the GOP field by vast margins. According to the latest New York Times/Siena survey, the real estate billionaire mogul has 54% support. By comparison, Ron DeSantis maintains 17%, former Vice President Mike Pence is polling at 3%, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy enjoys just 2%. But will a Trump primary victory result in a general election win? The polls show a tighter race, with the latest Marquette study showing a tie between Trump and President Biden. With the American people being bombarded with so much information, from Trump indictments to Biden scandals, any serious policy discussion might get lost in the noise between now and November 2024.
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