Prescription for a Stronger Economy: Marriage

by Larry Kudlow

I spoke at the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation dinner last week.  Nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas wrote this column about my remarks:

At a dinner sponsored by the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation last Thursday (I am an unpaid national advisory board member), there was a debate about wealth redistribution. A team of Canadian students who think government should “spread the wealth around” faced off against a team of American students who think government has no business doing any such thing.

The theme continued when former Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican, debated Chrystia Freeland, a member of the Canadian Parliament. While all of this was informative, civil, interesting and at times entertaining, the final speaker, CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow, may have uttered the most profound thought of the evening.

While Mr. Kudlow takes the traditional conservative position when it comes to economics, he said what would help individuals as well as the nation the most is for people to “get married.” He said it loudly, and the super-sophisticated New Yorkers in the room fell momentarily silent. When the shock wore off, many heads began to nod. 

Mr. Kudlow’s point was that marriage gives people a reason to work, a home one hopes is stable, and children for whom two parents feel responsible.

Sociologists have reached the same conclusion over many years. In her book “One Marriage Under God: The Campaign To Promote Marriage in America,” sociologist Melanie Heath writes, “Married people” — for whatever reason — “are happier, healthier, and better off financially.”

The point I took from the speakers at the Coolidge dinner was that the real power to influence a life does not lie in or emanate from Washington, D.C., whichever party is in power. Instead, it comes from the millions of personal decisions each person makes for his or her own life.

How many politicians today would dare to admonish people who are living together to get married? Yet for not just economic reasons, doesn’t it seem the wisest course for most to take when one considers the benefits? Cohabiters may look at their divorced parents as an excuse not to marry, but that is an excuse, not a sufficient reason. One might better consider successful marriages, instead of failed ones, and emulate what made the good ones work.

At the Coolidge dinner, the organization’s chairman, Amity Shlaes, passed out buttons that said “Coolidge in ‘16.” Although the 30th president died in 1933, his ideas and philosophy of life are being given new life by events like these. If his ideas worked — and Coolidge’s did because they were born from a Puritan ethic that founded and sustained America well into the 20th century, making the 1920s roar economically — why not reconsider those ideas, updating them as necessary and applying them to solve today’s problems, rather than skipping from one failed policy to another?

Back to marriage. The Coolidges had an unusual relationship, but it worked for them. Grace was vivacious and outgoing; her husband quite the opposite. And yet there was genuine love.

Few men have ever uttered more noble words about their wives than what Coolidge said of his: “She has borne with my infirmities, and I have rejoiced in her graces.”

Mr. Kudlow seemed to be suggesting — and I would agree with him — that you don’t get that kind of affirmation outside of a committed marital relationship, which also makes for stronger families, economies and nations.

– Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist. His latest book is What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America (Zondervan, 2014).

On Mike Pence

by Larry Kudlow

The New York Times front page profile on my friend, Rep. Mike Pence, ’Star of the Right Loses His Base at the Border,’ is really all about the anti-immigration, far-right group led by Tom Tancredo of Colorado to oppose any broad-based immigration reform whatsoever’”and to label any proposals for temporary workers, or even Pence’s 17 year citizenship path, as ‘amnesty.’

This word ‘amnesty’ is being used to attack absolutely any conceivable immigration compromise. I could go on forever on this subject. I have written several columns on it. But at the end of the day, the Tancredo crowd, which includes Pat Buchanan, just wants border security to keep out immigrants.

They also want to deport all illegal or undocumented immigrants. ‘Border security’ and ‘deportation’ are their watchwords. They manage to completely ignore the economics of the problem, whereby Mexicans seeking higher paying jobs in the U.S. rather than the faltering Mexican economy can produce are coming here to work. After all, living conditions in the U.S. are a lot better for all but the richest people than they are in Mexico.

If we ever deported the 10-15 million undocumented workers, then the U.S. economy would be severely damaged. New studies show the Mexicans actually help the U.S. economy and wages actually rise overall, (though there are small losses in border town wages). Even unskilled American workers benefit from lower priced goods and services generated by these new Mexican worker-immigrants.

Pat Buchanan attacks me as ‘worshipping at the church of GDP.’ But in a CNBC Kudlow and Company interview, I reminded him that I also worship at the church of Catholic Mass, as do the vast majority of the Mexican immigrants. These faith-based folks would create a new blue-collar middle class that is sorely needed in this country if we let them.

They would also finance Social Security over the next fifty years. Though it should be noted that academic research shows that 2/3rds of them pay Social Security with phony ID cards and will never receive the benefit as matters now stand. And, of course, they pay the sales tax on whatever purchases they make in stores.

The problem will never be solved unless we legally permit roughly 400,000 per year to fill the demand for U.S. jobs that are currently available. This resembles the Bracero Program and it must be part of any solution. It’s just plain common sense that at any given productivity rate, a larger labor force generates more GDP growth to the benefit of the U.S. economy. During the high tide of immigration, over the past twenty years, the U.S. has enjoyed unrivaled prosperity at low unemployment. So, again, I ask, if immigration is so bad, then why are things so good?

Yes, there should be tough border security. Yes, there should be foolproof ID cards, with biometrics, for Social Security and employment purposes. Former Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, the co-author of the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli immigration reform bill, has said the failure of that bill was a function of the lack of an ID card system.

But the intransigence of the Tancredo-Buchanan crowd is a remarkable political event which is all out of kilter with poll after poll that shows a substantial majority of respondents favor broad based immigration reform.

If these guys win, the Republican Party loses, and the nation loses. Unlike the big countries of Western Europe and Japan, the U.S. benefits from immigration that keeps our population rising. (In fact, harking back to the Catholic Mass, roughly 45 million unborn children have been killed since the abortion wave was launched by Roe v. Wade in the early 1970’s. We have an opportunity to replace this extraordinary loss of human life with hard headed but compassionate and economically sound immigration reform).

Incidentally, I wrote the article for Human Events when that newspaper awarded Congressman Pence its ‘2005 Man of the Year’ award. I know Mike. The man is a wonderful, Reagan-thinking conservative. His life is governed by religious values, a belief in a strong national defense, and a pro-growth approach to low taxes and less government spending.

This Tancredo-Buchanan backstabbing does this rising GOP star a great disservice. If allowed to go unanswered, it would represent another devastating blow to the Republican Party.

While the Pence-Hutchinson immigration reform idea is not perfect, it does represent a useful discussion point for future action. As diplomatically and kindly as possible, with all the greatest respect for differing points of view, let me just say that the Tancredo-Buchanan attack on Mike Pence is nuttier than a fruitcake.

Thanks and Gratitude

by Larry Kudlow

The following is an excerpt from the final episode of The Kudlow Report, which aired last Friday. It’s a thank-you note to a great network, wonderful colleagues, and the best audience a person could ask for. I truly am blessed:

Let me just take a moment and say a few words of thanks and gratitude and humility. To all the viewers and well wishers who have e-mailed and tweeted so beautifully and wonderfully, I am humbled . . .

It’s been my honor to host this show for the past nine years; before that with my great pal Jim Cramer for three years. And let me say how wonderful Jimmy was when he came on last night.

Now you know my credo: Free-market capitalism is the best path to prosperity. And let me add to that from our Founding Fathers: Our Creator endowed us with the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In other words, freedom. Freedom to work, invest, and take risks, and the freedom to get rewards and incentives that motivate us all. It is freedom that makes this the greatest country in the world. And it is freedom that so frequently keeps me on the optimistic side of life.

Down through the years we’ve always tried to represent all points of view on this show. Left, right, and center. And in what I hope was a civil and respectful way, I have tried to listen and learn and debate both my liberal and my conservative friends. Civil discourse on the issues of the day is what we always tried to do — and salted with some financial-market advice, which I sometimes got right and sometimes got wrong.

I’m also proud to have recruited some of the best minds to be our expert guests. Many of them had never been seen on television before. Now they are going on to their own bright careers, and it makes me proud.

And finally, I want to thank this network — not only for the privilege of hosting this show, but for giving me a second chance in life that resulted in a new career. This from a guy who nearly 20 years ago was completely shipwrecked on a sea of hopeless alcohol and drug abuse. I went away for a long time. And with the help of many people I learned to replace addiction with faith. And it is that faith that guides me every day.

Again, let me thank all the viewers who have stayed with me down through the years, and all who have wished me well. I am truly grateful. And I will be beginning a new chapter as a senior contributor here at CNBC. It is the place where I call home.

And to all of you out there, as always, thank you, and God bless you. . . . I am a blessed person.

Fort Lee Mayor Says Christie’s Story Lacks Credibility

by Larry Kudlow

Fort Lee, N.J., mayor Mark Sokolich told me on last night’s Kudlow Report that New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s statement regarding the politically motivated closure incident at the George Washington Bridge lacks credibility. Here’s the video of my conversation with Sokolich, as well as a report on the interview by CNBC’s Ross LeClair.

Fort Lee Mayor: Holes in Christie’s Story

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he was unaware of the decision to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge in September that gridlocked traffic in a town run by a Democratic mayor.

The governor, who is contemplating a run for the Republican presidential nomination, made the statement after the release Wednesday of communications that provide more evidence that his office planned the closures, apparently because Fort Lee’s mayor did not endorse Christie’s re-election bid.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich told CNBC’s Larry Kudlow that Christie’s statement issued after the release of the emails lacks credibility.

“There’s definitely, I think, some holes in that statement,” Sokolich said. “The governor had convened a meeting with his top staff not too long ago, and promptly after the meeting proclaimed that no one on his staff knew about it.”

Sokolich added that he was personally making phone calls after the traffic jam in an attempt to get answers from the Port Authority as to when and why the closures were planned.

“I think we’re documented 20 calls during that four-day period, I can assure you it was a lot more than that,” Sokolich said. “You may rest assured that the excuse that ‘Yeah I missed your call, sorry about that’ isn’t plausible.”

Despite his anger, Sokolich does not want the governor to apologize to him. He says the apology is better directed at the people who were impacted by the traffic jam.

“If calls are going to be made, call the families that waited two to three times longer for an ambulance to arrive while their loved one was clutching their chest because of chest pains,” Sokolich said. “Call the thousands of parents that couldn’t get their kids to school on time on the first day of school and the three or four days thereafter.”

In his statement Wednesday, Christie said: “What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge.”

Ultimately, Sokolich says his job is to protect the people of Fort Lee, not to speculate about Christie.

“I’m not rooting for him to have known about it,” he said. “My job is to worry about Fort Lee.”

An Interview with Scott Walker

by Larry Kudlow

Following is the video and transcript of my Tuesday night interview with Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. In addition to discussing Walker’s new book, Unintimidated, and his heroic stand against the unions in Wisconsin, we talk Obamacare, Obama’s polls, and prospects for the 2016 presidential race:

LARRY KUDLOW: We’re honored to be joined now by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. He’s out with a new book, Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge. I wanna talk about everything and– and including your heroic stand against the unions in Wisconsin. But let me just start. The polls are crashing and Obama is caught in essentially his third falsehood on this subject. What’s your take on this?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Well, I think that’s part of the problem of you have someone who didn’t have executive experience and they let p– the political shop in the White House run everything. Political shops, as you know– you and I know in White House, is Republican/Democrat alike have major impact on policy but they’re not the sole force of policy here.

And I think that’s part of the problem is, they made a promise that nobody could actually deliver on– not just in terms of a website but on the overall policy of ObamaCare, which is an abysmal failure. And you and I’ve talked about it on this show. It’s not only a fail for ObamaCare, it is continuing to be– a wet blanket on the recovery and the nation’s economy.

LARRY KUDLOW: Right. It’s anti-growth. But it just– it just– it sort of blows my mind, okay? This guy’s a lawyer. I– I’ve never had any personal criticism to him. I don’t deal in that currency. But my point is, he’s a well-trained lawyer who taught law. He’s making these assertions which are blatantly false, we fi– does he not think in the age of information and– and Facebook and tweeters and electronic– this is gonna come out?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Oh, it’s shocking. I mean, to me, the fact–

LARRY KUDLOW: And I think people– and — I think people are just as angry at his falsehoods–


LARRY KUDLOW: –as they are at the breakdown of ObamaCare. I really do.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Oh, and I think it– it only gets worse as day b– by day goes by and more and more of these promises, we find out, you know, were not only not right– it’d be one thing if they were wrong and you were told they’re wrong– and you actually believe that people believed that. But the more we find out that– that that were– business– or as you said, firm after firm actually telling the White House and the Administration this wasn’t gonna work, it– it’s either one of those things where they’re not listening to the facts or they’re not being informed. In either case, it’s rather troubling.

LARRY KUDLOW: Troubling. No CEO experience whatsoever. So, you believe, A) ObamaCare will be and should be the defining issue in the midterm elections–

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: I think there’s no doubt about it. You can’t– I say in the end, political issues are– are most significant when you’re telling people something they know to fundamentally be true, I think regardless of how people originally thought about ObamaCare, overwhelmingly the public realizes this is an abysmal failure, not just the rollout but the policy itself. And I think the longer– that this goes on, the more Democrats are gonna run for the hills.

LARRY KUDLOW: As a– as a governor running for reelection, your third reelection–


LARRY KUDLOW: –wh– how do you put ObamaCare into the conversation? How do you work it in?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Well, in our case, it’s interesting. Our– the only Democrat in the race that got in last month is already trying to make an issue, trying to talk about how they would’ve taken the expansion, they would’ve taken– the state-run exchanges. I think that might have sounded nice a couple months ago, but as time goes on, I think for those of us who raised question marks about ObamaCare it becomes pretty clear that we didn’t wanna put our state taxpayers at risk, that we didn’t wanna be a part of a program that was this abysmal.

Having said that, I also think for Republicans, not only in state office but for federal office as well, we do have to be careful that we don’t look like we’re relishing this. As much as many of us pointed to these problems early on, raised the– you know, the red flag of concern, I think we need to emphasize with many of our fellow citizens who are gonna suffer because of these failures and try and find solutions, not just be the ones pushing it over the cliff.

LARRY KUDLOW: So, okay. You have argued strongly regarding 2016 and the presidential race, which you are looking at, that it oughta be an outsider from Washington and it oughta be a governor with executive experience.


LARRY KUDLOW: Tell me more.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Well, I asked a simple question. Who would my ideal candidate be? And to me it’s– either a former or current governor. In fact, I’d put that– both a governor on the ticket both for president and vice president. It’s a little unconventional, but so was Bill Clinton and Al Gore back in 1992 and that kinda pushed the whole youth, next generation movement. And that was key to the ‘92 election.

I think in this case, when you’re gonna– probably clearly Republicans are gonna run against an institutional r– Washington insider– that being Hillary Clinton, who’s not just been a secretary of state and a U.S. senator, first lady, she’s been around Washington for a long time.

LARRY KUDLOW: She also campaigned for a single-payer government-run healthcare–

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Well, the ObamaCare–

LARRY KUDLOW: –plan. Let’s not forget that.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: –is really the second coming of Hillary care. Remember that back from ‘93 and on.

LARRY KUDLOW: But you’re ruling out some talented people, including your colleague, Paul Ryan, from Wisconsin.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Well, I don’t– yeah, I don’t say it’s an absolute. It’s– to me, that’s the ideal candidate. I think Paul Ryan is one of the few exceptions in Congress who really steps up and has that– that reform agenda that we most often see from governors that we don’t see enough of in Washington.

But I really feel overall, there’s gotta be an anti-Washington sentiment out there amongst both Republican and Democrats. And the more you can capitalize on that by sending people that are gonna come in from outside of Washington, D.C. with the experience of proven reforming– those are the people we’re gonna turn to.

LARRY KUDLOW: I– if you win this November, you’re gonna run for president, are you not?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: No, I c– I’m focused on being governor. I honestly — and– and I don’t know what the future holds. For me, there’s a lotta challenges in my state that still need my attention, still need me focus. And after– three elections coming this November in four years, I gotta spend a lotta time focused on the needs of my people.

LARRY KUDLOW: But say– let’s look at some– like, Chris Christie–


LARRY KUDLOW: –just gave a talk– Wall Street Journal CEO Conference–


LARRY KUDLOW: –the new head of the Republican Governors’ Association. Christie says, you know, quite bluntly, “The GOP has got to reach out– women, blacks, Hispanics.” He did. He was very successful–


LARRY KUDLOW: –in a blue state, New Jersey. Is that a model that you subscribe to?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Yeah. I– I think you look, there’s 750,000 more registered Democrats in New Jersey than were Republicans. I think that’s a great story for all the media that trying to downplay that. There may be an exception here or there, but overall, Chris Christie is a solid conservative reformer.

LARRY KUDLOW: Do your biggest– do you think he’s your biggest– opponent?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: I– I think in the end, I think there are– there are 29 other Republican governors who could do just an exceptional job being the top executive in this country, ’cause as I write in the book, time and time again, the reason to be optimistic if you’re a Republican, if you’re a right of center voter in this country even after last year’s presidential election, is because in the states there are now 30 Republican governors, almost as Repub– almost as many Republican majorities. And we’re doin’ the real reforms. We’re optimistic. We’re speaking in terms of the relevant. We’re– we’re showin’ the courage–

LARRY KUDLOW: I’m gonna come back to those reforms. We’re gonna have a second segment. I wanna ask you about difference between Ronald Reagan, Mitt Romney and yourself. I wanna talk about those reforms. And also, the miracle you did in– Wisconsin, taking on the unions and beating them at their own game.

Governor Scott Walker took on the public unions. It was an epic battle in order– I think– to save the taxpayers. And guess what? His recall victory was even bigger than his original win for governor. So, next up, we’re gonna take a look at the economic results and talk some more national politics with Governor Scott Walker. I’m Kudlow. Please, stay with us.

LARRY KUDLOW: We’re back now with– Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker. Governor, I wanna talk about your ec– epic battles with unions. But– a quick take on what Obama’s saying, a quick take. He has this sort of nasty thing that he does–


LARRY KUDLOW: –against the Republicans. But do you think the GOP was wrong for the shutdown?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Well, I think it was good to put attention on ObamaCare, and I’m glad we’re back on that. But I had said back in August, I thought the federal government was too big, too expansive, too involved in our lives and we needed to narrow its focus. But for what’s left and what’s for necessary, it needs to work. We– we should show that we can make it work and that we’ve got a viable alternative to it.

LARRY KUDLOW: You would repeal ObamaCare all-together.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Hands-down–

LARRY KUDLOW: All right.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: –easily. And I– and– but I’d be willing to take a postponement to get things rolling. You know, we don’t have the Senate, we don’t have the presidency. I would take a postponement just to get things on to the next election.

LARRY KUDLOW: And, of course, you were very tenacious and determined in your battle against the public unions. You just asked them to pony up more money for health and– pension benefits. And–

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Still less than what the average employee –

LARRY KUDLOW: –and you–

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: –of my state.

LARRY KUDLOW: –roll back some of the collective bargaining to help the taxpayer. What’s the net– net effect on the Wisconsin economy of these reforms?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Well, you think about four years ago when I ran, the unemployment rate– was 9.2%. Today it’s 6.7%. Four years ago, we ranked in the bottom ten in terms of the best and worst states according to Chief ExecutiveMagazine. Today– we’re up to number 17.

Four years ago, most importantly, a survey by our statewide chamber of our employers showed that just 4% thought we were headin’ the right direction. Today, it’s more than 94%. So, my governor– my previous governor’s– last term, a Democrat, we lost 133,000 jobs. We’re gaining jobs. The economy’s better–

LARRY KUDLOW: –payin’– bein’ tough pays off. Bein’ tough–

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: –it does.

LARRY KUDLOW: –pays off.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Well, we were able to take a $3.6 billion budget deficit and turn it into just about a $760 million surplus that meant lower taxes, more investments in our schools and higher education, more worker training, because we made tough but — decisions.

LARRY KUDLOW: But in the book– and I’m gonna quote directly– you blast the unions as corrupt and a protection racket. Now, you took ‘em of hook, if I’m not not mistaken. People now no longer have compulsory dues.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: That’s right.

LARRY KUDLOW: Are the union roles shrinking? Are people leaving the unions?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: They’ve plummeted, just like they did in– in– in Indiana when Mitch Daniels did something similar for just state employees. I did it for all employees. And it really is about being pro-worker and pro-taxpayer, because now they get to choose.

If they– they wanna be in a union, that’s great. If they don’t, for a teacher in Milwaukee who otherwise would be stuck paying $1,400, she gets to choose to spend that on her kid’s college education or whatever else she wants. That’s a lot better than it was before.

LARRY KUDLOW: All right, in the book again– I read a lotta the book– it’s just broadcaster reads–

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Well, hopefully, a lotta people will read it. It’s a good– good thing for Christmas.

LARRY KUDLOW: It’s a very good read. You’re very tough on Mitt Romney. And you pose some contrast with Reagan and I wanna quickly say that. You say, “Reagan did not dismiss 47% of the country–


LARRY KUDLOW: –”as a bunch of moochers.” You say Reagan would never have said, “I’m not concerned about the very poor.” And you say that Ronald Reagan would never have uttered the words “self-deportation.” As a Reagan alumnus, a deputy in the budget bureau, I agree with you on all counts. Tell me why you singled that out. You knocked Mitt down pretty good, but you’re holding up Reagan.


LARRY KUDLOW: In your political philosophy and vision, tell me why you wanted to make–

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Well, first of all, I wanna say, g– Mitt Romney’s a great man, woulda been a great president. But I think he had poor advice in this campaign, that it all had to be about Barack Obama. Why I said that– and I think the misnomer of that campaign was they looked at that closing argument in the last debate that– where Reagan said, “Are you better off today than you were four years ago,” and mistakenly thought that was his entire argument.

What President Reagan said– and I went back and researched his inaugural address or– or excuse me, his– his– nomination address back in Detroit in 1980, and found some really aspirational words saying, “If you’re living in poverty, we wanna lift you out of that poverty. If you’re in despair, we wanna help you, lift you up and give you real hope.” But it’s not hope through the mighty hand of the governor. It’s by empowering people through the dignity that only comes from work to control their own life and their own destiny. We should be the ones who talk about not providing a safety net, but lifting people out of poverty.

LARRY KUDLOW: Opportunity.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Most people–

LARRY KUDLOW: Social mobility.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: –don’t wanna live in poverty.

LARRY KUDLOW: It’s more of a Jack Kemp message–

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Absolutely.

LARRY KUDLOW: –uplifting message.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: They don’t– they don’t wanna be dependent on the government. They wanna be living the American Dream.

LARRY KUDLOW: So, Mitt was too pessimistic. I mean, he’s a fi– a great man, fine man, smart man. Too pessimistic. In some sense, Obama was the optimist in that campaign. And Mitt–

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: He was falsely–

LARRY KUDLOW: –was in the– was in the–

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: –optimistic, ’cause he–

LARRY KUDLOW: –that’s right.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: –never planned to carry out–

LARRY KUDLOW: That’s right.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: –’cause his optimism was based on the mighty hand of the government. Our optimism should be based on the people, not on the government.

LARRY KUDLOW: All right. Last question. In Washington– and I’m still putting you in– in Washington– after you’re gonna win your November election, which I predict. What would you do? First thing, what would you do? You– you see the mess down there. You see the problems with the budget, with taxes, with ObamaCare. First order of business–


LARRY KUDLOW: –for a President-elect–

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: –any person–

LARRY KUDLOW: –Scott Walker?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: –any person who’s in that position who’s in their right mind should appeal– repeal ObamaCare and replace it with a market-driven solution, should cut the marginal tax rate and rein in federal agencies like the EPA and the National Labor Relations Board.

LARRY KUDLOW: What do you do about– your friend Paul Ryan wants to reform entitlements–


LARRY KUDLOW: –and also, Ryan has a very interesting riff which I really like. He says the GOP should spend a little more time worrying publicly about how to help poor and poverty-stricken people.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: He’s– he’s absolutely right.

LARRY KUDLOW: This, too, is a Jack Kemp message. Kemp was a mentor of mine. This, too, is a Reagan message. Would you go down that route?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: He’s absolutely right. I– I write a chapter about it at the tail end. If you haven’t gotten to the end yet, you should read it, because that– that’s exactly what we talk about. That– that middle-of-the-road center voters don’t just want us to move back and forth on issues. They wanna see that we’re compassionate about all people. It’s part of the message that– not just in the presidential election but in state and local elections–

LARRY KUDLOW: Solutions.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Conservatives need to show that we are, indeed, compassionate. I know that was a phrase that– that President Bush used, but to show that we are, indeed, compassionate. But the compassion doesn’t always come through more government programs. Compassion’s by empowering people to control their own lives and their own destinies.

LARRY KUDLOW: To climb the ladder of opportunity. Government Scott Walker, terrific stuff. Appreciate it.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Good to be with you, Larry.

LARRY KUDLOW: Book, Unintimidated. It is available now everywhere as I said. I’ve read chunks of it. You oughta read it. It’s a great read. Now, we’re goin’ back to ObamaCare– sorry, I have to do it. It sure looks like the president has been caught in another misleading statement. And don’t forget his very ugly new poll numbers. It’s all comin’ back with you– what the implications of the Obama crash and burn. I’m Larry Kudlow. Please stay with us.

Ryan: Obamacare’s Foundation ‘Not Workable’

by Elizabeth Schulze

House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan says Obamacare’s glitches are here to stay. In an exclusive interview set to air on tonight’s Kudlow Report, Ryan said the problems with the Affordable Care Act extend far beyond website malfunctions.

“It’s more than the website,” Ryan said. “It’s because this law itself is built from an architecture, a foundation, that’s just not workable.”

Ryan said he sat through several House Committee Oversight meetings in which the administration failed to answer fundamental questions on the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. “The point is, they said, ‘Everything is fine, the law is going to be okay. We are ready to roll it out. We won’t have any problems.’” But House Republicans knew better, Ryan said.

“People should know that we tried to prevent this from happening in the first place by fighting a law we did not intend,” Ryan said, referring to the Republican-led House’s 46 attempts to repeal the law. “Then we tried giving people relief from the law by delaying it until 2013. That was rejected and now we are living with this law.”

Frustrated with the Senate’s rejection of attempts to defund and delay the law, Ryan shifted to the GOP’s most plausible tactic to end the Affordable Care Act: winning elections.

“We owe the American people an alternative,” Ryan said. “We want to win elections by saying this is not working for you and there are better ways in keeping with the country’s principles that puts you in charge of your heath-care future.”

Ryan dismissed criticism that the Republican party is in a “civil war” following failed attempts to delay Obamacare as part of the government shutdown and debt-ceiling negotiations. “We’ve had disagreements with each other on tactics,” he said. “These aren’t principles. I don’t know a Republican that doesn’t support comprehensive reforms to replace Obamacare with patient-centered health care.”

The Wisconsin congressman said the GOP will have a chance to showcase its common principles in budget negotiations set to begin Wednesday. He rejected hopes for a “grand bargain” deal, which he said would include pro-growth tax reform, a balanced budget, and entitlement reform.

“I don’t think we’ll get a grand bargain, and we’re not talking about getting a grand bargain,” he said. “Because then, one party will require that the other compromise their core principles, and we won’t get anything done.”

The GOP’s key bargaining chip, Ryan said, is the sequestration, the automatic spending cuts Democrats are seeking to repeal. “If we can’t get anything better than the sequester, then we’ll keep the sequester,” Ryan said. “That’s our base case to begin with.”

Ryan insisted that increased tax revenue was out of the question, calling Keynesian stimulus programs “sugar-high economics.” He said, “We’re not in this business to raise taxes. We’ll take the spending cuts we have and work with those.”

Instead, he said he was willing to negotiate on the “smarter” cuts to replace sequestration. “If we get a down payment on this debt and deficit in exchange for short-term relief, we’ll take it,” he said. “But it has to be on net a positive, meaning we will take the spending cuts right now.”

Ryan said substituting entitlement reform in place of broad spending cuts under sequestration would enable long-term growth in the U.S. economy. “If smart entitlement reforms could replace this crude across-the-board sequester, it would do a couple things,” Ryan said. “It would show the world that America is getting ahead of its problems. We’re not just going to be victims of circumstances. We’re not just going to fall into a debt crisis like Europe, but we’re going to get out of it.”

Entitlement should be at the top of the budget agenda, Ryan said.

“The question is not if we deal with entitlements,” Ryan said. “The question is if we are going to do it before the debt crisis or after the debt crisis. We would like to do it before so that we can shape events in this country instead of having events shape us.”

The congressman said that, ultimately, his job is to find common ground in budget negotiations among Republicans and Democrats. “I would argue that in this very difficult time that we are in, wouldn’t it be nice to show that this American divided government can at least govern?”

Watch the interview here:

– Elizabeth Schulze is a CNBC producer.

Republicans Must Get Wise to Obama’s Hard-Line Fiscal Strategy

by Larry Kudlow

Judging from the speech Obama gave following the deal to end the government shutdown, Republicans better get wise to the president’s next fiscal gambit when the three-month stop-gap budget and debt measures come due. As was the case with his hard-line defense of Obamacare, the president likely will be inflexible on ending sequestration budget caps, pushing for massive tax hikes, and permitting only the most inconsequential entitlement reforms.

Obama is interested in busting the GOP in 2014. He’s not interested in true budget restraint or other economic-growth measures.  

Read my full column here

Republicans Must Get Wise to Obama’s Hard-Line Fiscal Strategy

by Larry Kudlow

Judging from the speech Obama gave following the deal to end the government shutdown, Republicans better get wise to the president’s next fiscal gambit when the three-month stop-gap budget and debt measures come due. As was the case with his hard-line defense of Obamacare, the president likely will be inflexible on ending sequestration budget caps, pushing for massive tax hikes, and permitting only the most inconsequential entitlement reforms.

Obama is interested in busting the GOP in 2014. He’s not interested in true budget restraint or other economic-growth measures.  

Read my full column here

Senator McConnell: White House Meeting ‘Unproductive’

by Larry Kudlow

I interviewed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday night’s Kudlow Report. When I asked him about that day’s shutdown meeting at the White House, McConnell described it as “unproductive.” Here’s a report on the interview by CNBC desk producer Elizabeth Schulze, and the video, too:

Washington is still far from resolving its differences over the fight to reopen the U.S. government.

That’s according to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in an interview on CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report” following a meeting at the White House Wednesday night.

“It was cordial but unproductive,” McConnell said. “The President continues to maintain privately the position that he has had publicly, which is he doesn’t want to negotiate about the continuing resolution to operate the government or over raising the debt ceiling.”

After a two-hour meeting with President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. McConnell offered no timeline for Congress to pass legislation to end the government shutdown.

“Obama can’t get his way exactly the way he likes it,” McConnell said. “The American people expect us to come together and figure out how to solve this problem and sooner or later, we’re going to do that.”

“The shutdown will end,” he added. “Nobody is in favor of a government shutdown, but these are important principles that we are fighting for, for the American people. We obviously want to continue the operation of the government, but we want to keep it within constraints with the Budget Control Act.”

McConnell insisted on maintaining spending levels under the Budget Control Act, the 2011 law which created sequestration. Tax increases to reopen the government, he said, are off the table.

“We don’t want to walk away from the spending reductions we have already promised the American people for the next two years,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of the Bush tax cuts are now permanent law. We don’t want to walk away from the permanent tax relief that we achieved New Year’s Eve. “

McConnell shifted the debate to the debt ceiling, saying “America is not going to default on its debts.”

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said that the government’s flexibility to continue to fund itself without additional debt will end around Oct. 17. 

“Our view is it’s time to talk to eliminate the government shutdown, to find out what conditions need to be attached to raise the debt ceiling so the full faith and credit of the United States continues to be honored,” McConnell said. “But we also need to do something about this enormous debt that has been accumulated during the Obama years.”

In response to President Obama’s insistence on a “clean” budget proposal in an interview on CNBC earlier Wednesday, McConnell said the President’s position is “unacceptable.”

“The President’s position so far is that he wants it clean no matter what,” McConnell said. “I think that’s an unacceptable position for Senate and House Republicans. It should be an unacceptable position for the American people.”

McConnell said the President fails to recognize that the American people elected a divided government under the assumption that both parties would negotiate.

“There will have to be a compromise no matter what the President says today because his party doesn’t control the entire government,” he said. “The American people have frequently elected a divided government. When they do that, they don’t expect us to do nothing, to not talk to each other.”

Senate Democrats, McConnell said, are reinforcing the stalemate in their refusal to negotiate with House Republicans.

“The House has sent over a number of different proposals, including the last one to go to conference and have a discussion about this,” he said. “Senate Democrats voted that down, too. Who’s being unreasonable here?”

Commencement Speech, University of Rochester Simon School of Business

by NRO Staff

On June 9, 2013, Larry Kudlow was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of Rochester and delivered the 2013 commencement speech for the University of Rochester Simon School of Business. Below is the full text of that speech.

Thank you . . . Thank you everyone.

It is an honor to be with you all, to be here with your distinguished leaders, with the Class of 2013 and, for me, returning to my alma mater is an emotional moment.

It has been quite a while, too long, frankly, since I have been back.  But I’m honored to be here, with all of you, our graduates, and to have this opportunity to give back to a university that has meant a lot to me. Today, I would like to speak to you about two men, two leaders, who had an important impact on my life and on the life of this nation: Bill Simon, our country’s 43rd Treasury Secretary, and Ronald Reagan, our 40th President of the United States.  And I am going to speak to you, briefly, about them within the context of two ideas, which are freedom and liberty. It is often said that commencement speakers are all liberals.  Not true. I am offering you a conservative prospective and I hope you will listen and reflect on my remarks.

Let me begin with this point.  This is the William E. Simon School of Business.  I knew Bill Simon.  I knew him very well.  I enjoyed a lifelong connection with him before he passed away in 2000, and it leads me to say how proud you should be to have your degree with his name at the bottom.  Bill Simon was a great Treasury Secretary within an administration full of, forgive me, too many dopes and economic illiterates.  If they had listened to Bill, we would not have had to endure all the bloody, damn hell of stagflation within the early and middle 1970s, when I first started out in the workforce.  That is how good Bill Simon was.

After he stepped down as Secretary of the Treasury, Bill wrote two best sellers: A Time for Truth and A Time for Action, and those ideas of freedom and liberty that he championed became synonymous with his legacy. Now, my first memory of Bill began with a phone call at 6:00 a.m. in 1977, when I was staying in a hotel in Denver.

It was Bill and I heard a voice bark into the phone, “Is this Larry Kudlow?”  I said, “Yeah.”  I mean I’m sorry but it was 6 a.m. in the morning. Well, he was calling from New York, and he said to me, “I just read something you wrote.  A friend of mine passed it on. You’re a voice in the wilderness, and I want you to get back here so we can have lunch.  I have work for you to do.”  Now, mind you, I already had a job at the time. But, again, it was Bill Simon.  So, we had lunch, and I got to know him.  We played a lot of tennis and paddle tennis together, but here is the key: I got to spend hours with Bill as one of his principal speechwriters when he was out of office.

I actually did it as a hobby, because I loved it, and because I came to have such enormous respect for the man and his ideas.  I wrote most of Bill’s speeches between 1976 and 1980, including his address to Republican National Convention in Detroit in 1980.  During that speech, he set forth the credo of the GOP and of the United States and the free world with Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. He spoke about the power and ability of free people, free ideas and free markets to produce the kind of growth, prosperity and upward mobility that everyone hopes and dreams is possible in America. 

These are big picture themes, and let me add one other point. You have a Karl Brunner Award.  And I love that.  I had not known that you did. I mention this, because Brunner was also a mentor of mine, not here in Rochester, but later on, on Wall Street where I met him.  It was during that same period when I was writing speeches for Bill that Karl Brunner taught me how to do proper economic analysis.  I will always be grateful for his friendship and knowledge, and that is another reason why it is such a thrill to come back to Rochester and to speak to you.  

With that said, I am going to advance a proposition today and, while you may not agree with everything you are going to hear, I hope you will consider this: I believe the most important aspiration a great nation must have is economic growth and prosperity, and jobs and opportunity for all.  That is what we must achieve.  There is nothing more important.  Moreover, we have had too little growth in recent years.  I’ll be back to that in a moment or two. 

Economic growth comes from the application of free market economics.  I am not opposed to all of the functions of the Federal and state governments, never.  I believe in a safety net to help those who are truly in need.  But let me tell you this: the torque, the growth, the entrepreneurship, the risk taking, the innovation, and the greatness of America comes from people working and competing in the private economy. They come from people experimenting every day with new ideas, and often risking every penny that they own.

It is in this great country of ours, more than any other country on the planet, where you have the ability and the right to fail, and fail a second time, fail a third time, and then on the fourth or fifth try you will invent something, innovate something, or manage something that will create jobs and wealth not just for thousands, not just for tens of thousands, but for millions of people around the world.  The kinds of innovations that we never dreamed would be possible. And, I can think of no one who personified this reality better than Steve Jobs, who passed away in October 2011. Steve Jobs failed and then he succeeded. Then he failed again and he succeeded again.

This was the brilliance of Steve Jobs. He had extraordinary intelligence, perfectionism, and an understanding of marketing. He had all of these. But he also had the genius to persuade us about things that we needed before we even knew that we needed them, and he did that before he had even produced them. Starting with the personal computer, then all of those little smart phones that are still going strong, and, of course, the iPad.  Can America be the only country to produce these? No, of course not. There are certainly other countries. But we just seem to have a history of innovation and ingenuity. They are in America’s DNA.  And, we have a better lineup.

With that said, let me share with you Kudlow’s four pillars of wisdom, given to me by the two great men I worked for, William Simon and Ronald Reagan. They are: limited government, low marginal tax rates, light regulation and sound money. Together, they offer us the prescription for economic growth and prosperity. Moreover, you will all go out in whatever parts of the country where you will be working, and you will have the opportunity to exercise the freedom I am articulating today and, therefore, to help produce economic growth.

Think about those principles as they relate to our country today. There are 12 million people as we meet who should be employed based upon our historic trend line, but they are not. Also, regrettably, we are faced with over 20 million people who are either unemployed, underemployed, or discouraged and have left the workforce and given up. So many of these people have gone on to various forms of welfare, food stamps and Social Security Disability Insurance. I am not opposed to these programs. But these people need more than public assistance because, for the last dozen years, not just the last four, but for the last dozen, we have wandered off the reservation of economic freedom and economic growth. We have turned our backs on those core principles of limiting government, taxation and regulation that I mentioned before. This need not be. It should not be. It can be corrected. I hate to see this continuing.  It breaks my heart to see the United States of America working and producing beneath our potential.

The simple truth is, we know how to create jobs, opportunity and prosperity.  During the past 100 years, we have had three fabulous periods of economic growth and prosperity, which helped to boost this country into the leadership of the world.

The first was in the 1920s, the Roaring Twenties, when we created powerful growth by exercising limited government, lower taxation and more private sector entrepreneurship. Yes, all this happened under a Republican administration. But, 40 years later, in the 1960s we enjoyed tremendous growth once again. This time it was a Democrat named John F. Kennedy who rolled back 90% marginal tax rates, and rolled over his own liberal advisors by deciding the best policy would be to open up the American economy by taxing less and regulating less. People forget this. They forget that the post-war period before Kennedy was not the great economic miracle as is sometimes written. We had three recessions in the 1950s. Kennedy, the Democrat, argued that it was time to get America moving again, and he slashed tax rates and regulations. All this, again please take note, from Kennedy, a Democrat.

Continuing into the 1970s, as I said, despite the brilliant, liberty-loving Bill Simon, Republicans botched all that President Kennedy had tried to do. However, by the time we reached the 1980s, and were laboring under the burdens of stagflation, low growth and high inflation, and the country was ready for Ronald Reagan championing lower tax rates and less regulation. Success led to more success, as Reagan was later followed by Bill Clinton, so first a Republican and then a Democrat spending less, taxing less and regulating less. America showed the world that it is better to work than to receive government benefits. We embraced free trade policies under both a Republican and under a Democrat. We lifted up the global economy and, what’s more, we whipped Soviet Communism, a feat no one dreamed could ever happen. These are magnificent historic achievements and they were produced by free market economics.

Now, I worked in the Reagan Administration as I mentioned before. That is where I met my lovely wife, Judy, sitting here today. We have been married 26 years.  For both of us, Ronald Reagan was a great influence.  And I know and will tell you that what President Reagan achieved in the 1980s was a great blessing that almost no one expected.

You were not there, but if you had lived during the mid and late-1970s, and early 1980s, you would remember the pessimism of that period. It looked to many people like the Soviets were going to defeat the United States. Well, that never happened. The story had a happy ending, previewed by Reagan himself who, when asked to describe his foreign policy said, “We win, they lose.” Between Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and other free market leaders, it was the Soviets that folded and the United States that out-produced them. We won thanks to market-oriented, incentive-minded economics. Please remember that. Recognize that it was most definitely not a coincidence, but rather, one of the greatest turning points in history. We out-produced them.

Reagan told Gorbachev, “I am going to build a missile shield, because while I would like to trust you, I must verify your promises to me.” Gorbachev hated our Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), but Reagan walked away from the Reykjavik summit in 1986, rather than surrender it and weaken our defenses.  Instead, his legacy was to build the greatest economy in the world, with growth averaging 4.2% — more than double today’s — and with over 16 million new jobs, and the United States literally out-produced the Soviet Union. Margaret Thatcher said Ronald Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot. This was one of the most remarkable victories in American history. Free market economics was the most powerful weapon in the American arsenal.

Now, permit me to make one more point, one more important point to you. It is that individual freedom is not just about making money, but, and just as importantly; there is nothing immoral about making money. There is nothing wrong; on the contrary, it is a huge positive to be a successful venture capitalist entrepreneur. As an example, one of the greatest developments in free market history is happening in our country right now. One of my fellow awardees today is helping to finance it at JP Morgan Chase. I am speaking about the whole revolution in fracturing through horizontal drilling that is going to make the United States energy independent, and provide us with abundant cheap natural gas and cheaper energy. This transformation will bring jobs and prosperity. It will enable our industries to out-compete any other country and reclaim world leadership. When we do, we will no longer have to worry about what some in the Middle East, whom we don’t particularly care for, say about us.

Think of it!  This is the Steve Jobs story in energy. Almost nobody saw it coming until it came. But entrepreneurs did.  Entrepreneurs saw it, understood it, financed it and put it together.  They are the unsung heroes. So, no, I am not opposed to success and wealth and making money, and I do not want you to be opposed to success and wealth and making money.

The great universities that are your peers were founded and funded by private money, not government money. I have nothing against government money, but our universities, museums, libraries, theaters and art that flourish more abundantly here than in any other country were built by private entrepreneurs. They are the people whom we must rely upon, and that will mean embracing free market economics, which includes the moral notion that it is not just ok, but it is right and good to reward success.

The very font and founder of capitalism in the 18th century was Adam Smith. His classic tome, The Wealth of Nations, was written in 1776. However, he wrote an even better book in 1766 called the Theory of Moral Sentiment, in which he argued that free markets are moral. They are colorblind. They are gender blind.  And they do not discriminate. They must operate within the law and, Adam Smith, good churchman that he was, argued that we all have a moral responsibility to heed our consciences and to make the marketplace work.

In that same amazing year, 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and all are endowed by our Creator with the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That was Jefferson and the Founders. In the next century, when Abraham Lincoln was struggling to hold the Union together, he would recite that passage from the Declaration time and again.  Ladies and gentlemen, these great leaders were speaking about free market economics, and the moral right to exercise it and use it for good to help people find opportunity and to create better lives. We must never forget that. That is my message to you.

Some of you may agree with me and some of you may not.  For years on my show, on the Kudlow Report on CNBC, I have repeated the phrase that “free market capitalism is the best path to prosperity.” This is not a Republican phrase. It is not a Democratic phrase. It is an American phrase.  It is a philosophical, moral and economic phrase, and I hope as you make your way in the world, you will consider the phrase and the moral and economic antecedents behind it.

Now, let me close with one piece of advice that I would ask you to consider. My thoughts go all the way back to when I was a young man, about your age, and keep in mind that I graduated from the University of Rochester in 1969. Judy and I did the math on the flight up and it was 44 years ago, 44 years ago.  So, it has been 44 years since I got my degree, and now I am more than twice as old as most of you here in this audience. But that is ok, because it has been a great journey.

So then, my advice to you, gleaned from all of those years is simple, very simple. When you graduate and get your jobs, work like you have never worked before. And, after you have worked like you have never worked before, I urge you, Class of 2013, to work even harder.  That is the challenge that faces us. Work like you have never worked before. Work each day the way that God wants you to work, work with all your talent, skills, and training. The discipline of work and the morality of work and the goodness of work will make you free, and you, in turn, will make America stronger, more prosperous and more free.

I started my career in 1973 at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. We were living in one of the worst recessions in the history of the U.S – double-digit inflation and plummeting growth. As for me, I was not truly qualified. In fact, I have never been truly qualified for any of the jobs I’ve held throughout my career. That is God’s honest truth, including the job that I hold now. But I learned, and I learned because I worked.  And I would not take “no” for an answer. And, I would not blame the economy on this or on that. I want you to have that attitude. That is why I want you to work like you have never worked before, whatever the work is that you are going to do. And, then I want you to be optimistic. I want you to cease worrying, and I want you to see the positive potential and possibilities in all that you do. Please cease worrying. Just work and see the positive. Be an optimist. Optimism is even more American than cherry pie. So, be an optimist, work like you’ve never worked before, and then work even harder as you make your way in life.

And I want you to start today, in whatever you are doing, and I ask you not to let up, because our country needs you. Right now, this country needs you more than it has needed smart young, motivated graduates in decades. We need you. I need you. The nation needs you. The people without jobs need you. The businesses that have failed need you. The governments that are spending too much and borrowing too much need you. You have an awesome responsibility.

America is still the greatest country in the world. I believe that profoundly. This is the greatest country in history. In fact, in the history of history. This is a country that has created so many opportunities for success. It is staggering. And, yes, we have taken a few bumps in the last dozen years. So what! We will recover from this, just as we have in the past. For your part, go to work. Go to work. No excuses. Go to work and work hard. Be optimistic. Fulfill your potential. Fulfill your potential and use your God-given talents.

That is the advice I will leave you, and please take it from somebody who has had his ups and downs through the years, many ups and downs. Take advantage of the opportunity of liberty and freedom in the greatest country in the world, which William Simon wrote about so eloquently in his books, and spoke to me about when I was a young man and first met him.  How deliciously ironic it is that I can return to this great business school, named after this great man, and who represented those great moral imperatives. So, I say to you, good luck, I say to you, God bless, and I say to you, thank you Class of 2013.