Former Governor Touches on Budget Deficit, Health Care and China
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, in what was billed as her first public-speaking engagement outside North America, blamed the world financial crisis on government excesses and called for a new round of deregulation and tax cuts for U.S. businesses.
“We got into this mess because of government interference in the first place,” the former Republican U.S. vice presidential candidate said Wednesday at a conference sponsored by investment firm CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets. “We’re not interested in government fixes, we’re interested in freedom,” she added.
On the foreign-policy front, she told the room full of bankers and executives of the importance of the global fight against terrorism and of finding ways to engage China as a global power. She said China “rightfully makes a lot of people nervous.”
Her speech marks an effort to reach out to an international audience and define her political identity since resigning from office earlier this year. Ms. Palin is among a handful of high-profile Republicans seeking a path back to power for a party that lost control of both houses of Congress and White House in last year’s U.S. elections.
Ms. Palin’s address, which drew strong applause at the end, was officially closed to the media. The Wall Street Journal reviewed a recording of the speech.
In the wide-ranging address, Ms. Palin touched on the rising U.S. budget deficit, the debate over a proposed health-care overhaul, the war in Afghanistan and China’s role in world affairs.
She described her political philosophy as a “common-sense conservatism,” and said the free-market policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher should be guides for how to get out of the current economic situation. “Liberalism holds that there is no human problem that government can’t fix if only the right people are put in charge,” she said.
Ms. Palin didn’t refer to President Barack Obama by name, but said his promise for change during the election hasn’t taken hold. She called his campaign promises “nebulous, utopian sounding…Now 10 months later, though, a lot of Americans are asking: more government? Is that the change we want?”
In an echo of last year’s presidential campaign, she criticized government policies that result in what she called a redistribution of wealth. “There is no justice in taking from one person and giving to another,” she said. “History shows it simply does not work.”
Ms. Palin blamed the U.S. Federal Reserve’s low interest-rate policy of previous years for setting the stage for last year’s global financial crisis. She opposed appointing the Fed as the chief overseer of systemic risk in the U.S. financial system. “The words ‘fox’ and ‘henhouse’ come to mind. The Fed’s decisions have created the bubble,” she said.
She called for tax cuts as well as the elimination of the capital-gains and estate tax. Then, she said, the world will “watch the U.S. economy roar back to life.”
On health care, Ms. Palin defended her previous criticisms that the health-care overhaul proposed by Democrats would lead to health-care rationing and what she called “death panels.” “It’s just common sense that government attempts to solve problems like health care problem will just create new problems.” She called for “market friendly” health care reform that gives tax breaks to individuals to buy health insurance.
She acknowledged the economic rise of both China and India but called for a vision of Asia in which no one country would dominate.
“We all hope to see a China that is stable and peaceful and prosperous,” she said. But she added that the U.S. must work with Asian allies in case “China goes in a different direction.”
She said greater political openness in China could help soothe tensions. “Many believed that with China liberalizing its economy, greater political freedom would follow, but that hasn’t happened,” she said. “The more open [China] is, the less we’ll be concerned about its military buildup and its intentions.”
On U.S.-China trade relations, Ms. Palin called for more openness and warned against protectionism. “We need China to improve its rule of law, and protect our intellectual property,” she said. “On our part, we should be more open to Chinese investment where our national security interests are not threatened.”
She talked about the recent protests of ethnic minority Muslim Uighurs, Chinese labor conditions, and Tibet. Ms. Palin mentioned Charter 08, a document signed by prominent academics and dissidents calling for greater democracy and openness in China.
In other areas, she criticized Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for speaking skeptically about the need for more troops in Afghanistan. “Afghanistan is where the 9/11 attacks were planned and if we are not successful there, al Qaeda will find a safe haven there again,” she said.
Ms. Palin warmed up the crowd with her impressions of Hong Kong, one of the densest urban areas in the world. “The wildlife-to-human ratio is different from Alaska, but I could get used to it,” she said.
She also spoke about how Alaska once shared a land bridge with Asia. And she noted that her husband’s Eskimo ancestors crossed that bridge. “To consider that connection that allowed sharing of peoples and bloodlines and wildlife and flora and fauna, that connection to me is quite fascinating,” she said.
Melvin Goodé, a 49-year-old New York-based property consultant who attended the speech, said he voted for Mr. Obama in last year’s election but was curious to hear what Ms. Palin had to say. He shrugged his shoulders when asked his thoughts on the speech but said that she generally did all right, given that she “wasn’t supposed to know anything about the continent.” “Now, let’s see what the critics say,” he said.
Jonathan Cheng and Alex Frangos
The Wall Street Journal