Jeb Bush on the issues: Excerpts from his N.H. town hall

Last modified: 6/17/2015 12:41:01 AM
In his first New Hampshire town hall since declaring his intent to run for president, Jeb Bush fielded questions for about an hour on a wide-reaching range of issues — taxes, foreign policy, health care and more. Portions of several of his statements, edited for length, appear below.



On post-secondary education:

“There’s nothing wrong about having someone earn a high school degree to make them either college ready or career ready, because the skills required are both the same. Making it more relevant for young people so that they can understand before they start, they get into their second or third year of college, where they have student loans and then they decide what they want to do — we need to start that a little bit earlier so that there’s a little more purpose to higher education. No matter what the degree is, a four-year degree ought to happen in four years, not six years. And that means that universities have to be much more relevant to their customers, to their students. Students shouldn’t just be getting in line to be told that they can’t take a class on Friday anymore... We measure a four-year degree in six years. And 60 percent of full-time equivalent students in this country graduate with a four-year degree in six years. Challenging this across the board. And this is a place where the federal government has a role because of the student loan program. Four year degrees should happen in four years. And it ought to be a lot easier for students to get the information to be able to make a decision, an informed decision, about the kind of degrees they want. My honest belief is it’s not in the long term future that we will have a renewable economy. Because someone’s in a garage somewhere right now reinventing some wheel. I mean, that’s America. America is not static. America is, in spite of our static government, we’re the most dynamic country in the world.”



On campaign finance reform:

“In a perfect world, candidates would be able to raise whatever amount of money they wanted to raise directly to them, totally transparent with a 48-hour turnaround time. So if you got a bunch of dough from somebody, people could make up their minds whether that was appropriate or not. But the Supreme Court has ruled that restricting contributions directly to campaigns is okay, but unrestricting campaign donations for other forms of political organizations is not. We have unlimited monies for super PACs, and then restrictions for campaigns. It doesn’t make sense to me, I’m not a lawyer. I don’t understand why one would be treated differently than the other. I think I’ve been told that this requires some form of a constitutional amendment, and the chances of a constitutional amendment happening anytime soon is remote. So, look, I think the best thing to do as it relates to political contributions is total transparency. The best you can do.”



On the Affordable Care Act:

“The complications of our health care system didn’t start with Obamacare, they’ve just gotten much worse. So fixing this has to be a high priority. And my suggestion would be: Move back to fewer mandated benefits, eliminate mandates for employees, eliminate mandates for employers, create high-deductible portable insurance. If New Hampshire has high insurance rates — which, based on my anecdotal story, it sounds like they’re extraordinarily high here — then allow New Hampshirites, Granite State folks, whatever you want to call yourselves... Make sure that you all have a choice to go to Vermont, or Massachusetts, or Florida, or Texas. Create a robust market where people have choices if there’s more than one offer. Customize the experience. Give rewards for people who make healthy lifestyle decisions.”



On climate change and Pope Francis encyclical:

“Pope Francis is an extraordinary leader. He speaks with such clarity. He speaks so differently. And he’s drawing people back into the faith. All of which, as a converted Catholic now of 25 years, I think is really cool... I hope I’m not, like, going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or from my pope. And I’d like to see what he says as it relates to climate change and how that connects to these broader, deeper issues before I pass judgment. But I think religion ought to be about making us better as people, less about things that end up getting into the political realm... There are parts of Florida, Miami, that, with a couple of inches — three or four or five inches of rising sea level — could create huge problems. It’s not just flooding, it’s also water systems. It’s a lot of, the whole ecosystem could be challenged. So my attitude is, I don’t think the science is complete. The whole idea that people have already made up their minds about this, they use this argument, it’s all over and anybody that disagrees is a caveman or something. I don’t think that. But I do think we need to create long-term policies of adaptation. Because the climate is changing, whether men are doing it or not — in the case of the sea level rising in Miami — is kind of irrelevant. So that’s where I think the focus ought to be, is to depoliticize this issue and create policies of adaptation. In my case, in the case of Florida, it could mean building water systems that are you know more durable as it relates to eliminate saltwater intrusion, not allowing for people to continue to develop in areas that are going to be below the flood plane. There are things we can do in our state, which we do, that is the proper place to do it. What I don’t think we should do is create a national policy that hollows out our industrial core, that makes it harder for economic growth to take place, that makes it harder for the great middle of our country that is the defining nature of our country to continue to see declining income. We have to find a way to do both.”



On religious freedom policies:

“It’s deeply troubling to me that we’re moving at warp speed away from one of the first freedoms in our country, which is not just the right to have a view based on your faith but the right to act on your views. It’s very troubling when a candidate running for presidency says that people with religious views are just going to have to get over it — if they come in conflict with emerging societal norms. I think we’re a big enough country, a tolerant enough country, to allow for both to exist. I don’t believe we should discriminate against people but I also don’t think we should push aside the big and caring hearts of people, when they act on their faith, to be able to make a difference in the lives of people. And that’s where we’re moving, and it is important I think for people in public life to push back against that. That was the effort in Indiana. It got ugly because the world is ugly today, and it’s really hard to have a deeper conversation in the public square these days. But I think we can protect religious freedom and not create a society that is, you know, intolerant. You can have a belief that it’s OK that people disagree with you, for example, on marriage and other things. But you shouldn’t then suppress people’s views, and you should give them the chance to do it... The answer to this is, if someone walks into a flower shop and says, ‘I’d like to buy flowers.’ You shouldnt be able to discriminate against them because they are gay. But if you’re asking someone to participate in a religious ceremony or a marriage, they should have the right of conscience to be able to say, ‘I love you, but I can’t do it because it goes against my religious teachings.’ Does that make sense? There’s a big difference.”

(Casey McDermott can be reached at 369-3306 or cmcdermott@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @caseymcdermott.)




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