I’m Senator Mike Lee, from Utah.
In the few minutes I have tonight — I’d like to speak especially to those Americans who may feel they have been forgotten by both political parties:
Those individuals and families who work hard, play by the rules, balance their budgets, honor the Golden Rule . . . and don’t understand why their government in Washington can’t do the same.
You are probably as frustrated as I am about an ever-growing government that somehow thinks it is okay to lie to, spy on, and even target its own citizens. Many hard-working Americans are discouraged and wondering what, if anything, can be done.
I believe we need to do what Americans have always done — come together and press for positive change. Protesting against dysfunctional government is a great American tradition, going back to the original Tea Party in Boston, about 240 years ago. Americans have a natural instinct to stand up and speak out when they know something is wrong.
In 1773, Americans had simply had it with a London-based national government that had become too big, too expensive, and far too intrusive.
It is important to note, however, that had the founding generation stopped at just protesting against the kind of government Americans did not want, the Boston Tea Party would have been little more than a footnote in history. At most, it would have been remembered as just one more futile protest against an abusive national government.
Fortunately for all of us, those early patriots moved on from Boston and moved past their protest against the government they didn’t want. They marched forward on a road toward the kind of government they did want.
It took them 14 long years to get from Boston to Philadelphia, where they created, with our Constitution, the kind of government they did want.
In America, the test of any political movement is not what that movement is against, but what it is for. The founders made a point at Boston Harbor, but they made history in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.
Unfortunately, in recent years, we have had no choice but to engage in a number of protests against our current president’s Washington-centered agenda.
As Americans we must always be willing to fight the Boston-type battles — boldly calling out bad policy whenever we see it — but we must do so with an eye toward Philadelphia, maintaining a positive focus on the kind of nation we want to be and become.
Today, Americans know in their hearts that something is wrong. Much of what is wrong relates to the sense that the “American Dream” is falling out of reach for far too many of us. We are facing an inequality crisis — one to which the President has paid lip service, but seems uninterested in truly confronting or correcting.
This inequality crisis presents itself in three principal forms:
immobility among the poor, who are being trapped in poverty by big-government programs;
insecurity in the middle class, where families are struggling just to get by and can’t seem to get ahead;
and cronyist privilege at the top, where political and economic insiders twist the immense power of the federal government to profit at the expense of everyone else.
To be fair, President Obama and his party did not create all of these problems. The Republican Establishment in Washington can be just as out-of-touch as the Democratic Establishment.
However, tonight, as on numerous occasions of late, the President’s lofty rhetoric ignored the fact that his administration continues to leave poor and middle-class families further behind, while he and his allies insist that the real problem is “inequality” itself.
But where does this new inequality come from? From government — every time it takes rights and opportunities away from the American people and gives them instead to politicians, bureaucrats, and special interests.
Inequality — real inequality — is trapping poor children in failing schools to benefit bureaucrats and union bosses. It’s penalizing low-income parents for getting married, or getting better jobs.
It’s guaranteeing insurance companies taxpayer bailouts if Obamacare cuts into their profits.
Inequality is blocking thousands of middle-class jobs in the energy industry as a favor to partisan donors and radical environmental activists.
Inequality is denying viable, unborn children any protection under the law, while exempting unsanitary, late-term abortion clinics from basic safety standards.
It’s denying citizens their right to define marriage in their states as traditionally or as broadly as their diverse values dictate.
It’s the federal government hurting rural communities, especially in the West, by controlling and mismanaging public lands.
It’s changing laws without congressional approval, and spying on American citizens without constitutional authority.
And of course, Obamacare — all by itself — is an inequality Godzilla that has robbed working families of their insurance, their doctors, their wages and their jobs. Many Americans are now seeing why some of us fought so hard to stop this train wreck over the last four years.
Government-driven inequality is the reason why, as hard-working families across the country struggle to make ends meet, six of the ten wealthiest counties in America are now suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Throughout the last five years, President Obama has promised an economy for the middle class; but all he’s delivered is an economy for the middle-men.
And tonight his party cheered as he asked for more of the same, as if the solution to inequality were . . . well . . . more inequality.
Critics might push back and argue that my own party has been part of the problem, too often joining the Democrats to rig our economy to benefit the well-connected at the expense of the disconnected.
I know, because I’m one of those critics.
But I’m speaking to you tonight because I think maybe — just maybe — that’s finally starting to change.
As a nation we are, once again, at a critical turning point.
Now, as in 1773, Americans have had it with our out-of-touch national government. But if all we do is protest, our Boston Tea Party moment will occupy little more than a footnote in our history.
Hopefully our leaders, reformers, and citizens will join the journey from Boston to Philadelphia — from protest to progress. Together we can march forward and take the road that leads to the kind of government we do want.
We have a new generation of leaders in Washington with positive, innovative ideas — thoughtful policy reforms to, as my friend Senator Ted Cruz says — “Make D.C. listen.” Reforms to help poor families work their way into the middle class, to help middle-class families start to get ahead, and to level the playing field and put corporate and political insiders back to work for the rest of us.
Conservative reformers like Senator Marco Rubio, Congressman Paul Ryan, and Congressman Jim Jordan are working on new welfare-reform ideas to help underprivileged families escape poverty.
Senator Rand Paul and I are working with some of the most liberal Democrats in Congress to reform the federal criminal-justice system — to help keep violent predators behind bars while creating opportunities for reformed, non-violent offenders to return to the families and neighborhoods that so desperately need them.
Senator John Cornyn has legislation that would empower states to improve K-12 education across the country. Senator Tim Scott has reforms to improve our job-training programs. And I’ve introduced a bill to modernize higher education, making it more accessible and affordable for lower-income and non-traditional students.
Congressman Tom Graves has a transportation-reform bill to ensure our infrastructure dollars are invested in roads and bridges, and not wasted on bureaucrats and special interests.
Congressman Mike Pompeo introduced a bill to end all federal subsidies for the energy industry. And others are working on proposals to do the same for every industry — so that business profits are won from customers, not through political connections. After all, if we’re going to reform welfare, we really should start with corporate welfare.
One proposal that should directly help you and your family is a bill I have introduced to simplify our tax code and provide relief from the hidden double-tax Washington currently imposes on working parents, especially moms and dads in the middle class.
When it comes to health care, we know the best way to repeal Obamacare is to deliver better solutions.
We can’t just return to the old system. Health-care policy used to give too much power to insurance companies; Obamacare now gives far too much power to government. We know that real reform will put health-care dollars and decisions where they belong, in the hands of patients and families and their doctors and nurses.
So reformers in both the House and the Senate are hard at work developing new, patient-centered reforms to control health-care costs, ensure access to affordable coverage for all Americans, and provide extra help for the poor and the sick.
All of these proposals within this new conservative reform agenda, along with many more to come, mark the road to Philadelphia. These principles and these policies will work — and will put Americans back to work.
Not just by cutting big government, but by fixing broken government. Not just by making government smaller but by promoting bigger citizens, stronger families, and more heroic communities. Our goal should be an America where everyone has a fair chance to pursue happiness — and find it. That’s what it looks like when protest grows into reform.
So if you’re one of those Americans that big government is leaving behind . . . if you work hard, play by the rules, and teach your kids to do the same, I want you to know that your family will not be forgotten anymore.
This new generation of reformers still has a long way to go to win over our Party in Washington, and even further to go to earn your trust.
I am confident that our best days as a nation are ahead of us — not because of government, but because within America’s diverse society of individuals and families, neighborhoods and churches, businesses and communities, freedom doesn’t mean you’re on your own. Freedom means we’re all in this together.
I invite you to join us on the road to a more prosperous America — together we can create the kind of government we do want and the kind of nation our children and grandchildren deserve.
Thank you very much for your time. Good night, and God bless.