Speeches and Floor Statements
Paul Ryan on release of Index of Economic Freedom
WASHINGTON - Today, First District Congressman Paul Ryan delivered remarks recognizing the release of the Heritage Foundation's 21st edition of the Index of Economic Freedom. The Index analyzes the economies of 186 nations and grades them on various factors, including trade, spending, regulations, corruptions, and many others. A transcript of Ryan's remarks follows.
Thank you so much, Jim. You know, I've been reading this thing since I was in my mid-twenties. This is truly an impressive body of work, and, as it was mentioned, countries around the world pay attention to this. I hope ours does, too. I want to first of all congratulate Ambassador Terry Miller and Anthony Kim for their hard work on this, again. And I also want to mention the fact that our country received an uptick in our rating this year, and one of the reasons why we see this uptick is because, since we took over the House in 2011, we started cutting spending. We started capping the kind that Congress is in control of on an annual basis: discretionary spending.
And so, I think it’s noteworthy that, because of the Republican Congress that took over in 2011, we brought some temper to the out-of-control spending that was happening here in Washington, and, as a result, it made us more free. That’s a good step in the right direction, with many, many steps to follow.
Now, after reading this report, my big takeaway is this: In the free world there is always going to be a new frontier. It’s exciting. And the new frontier for us is the global economy. And in the global economy, we have incredible opportunities in front of us if we seize these opportunities. Trade is the opportunity that I want to mention. Trade liberalization and trade freedom is something that is clearly articulated here in the index, and we have an opportunity in front of us right now with negotiations of two trade agreements: with Asia and with Europe.
These two agreements, if successfully completed, taken together, represent a billion new customers for America and America’s products, and two-thirds of the global GDP. Now, here’s the deal with trade. When we get trade agreements, we usually put ourselves in a better trading posture to do well as a country. Take, for example, the fact that if you add up all of the countries we have trade agreements with, we have a manufacturing trade surplus with them. You add [up] all of the countries that we don’t have trade agreements with, we have a big manufacturing trade deficit. So, it is in our interest as a country to get trade agreements.
The other thing is: If you’re standing still on trade, you are falling behind, because other countries are going around the world getting bilateral agreements for themselves and freezing America out in the process. So, it’s very important that we stay on our toes, that we engage, that we lower barriers to free trade, that we lower barriers to free enterprise.
Now, as we do this, I think we’re going to confront some other issues as well. And one of the other issues that needs confronting, right here in this Congress, in this country—as Heritage has done such a good job of playing out—is cronyism. We can attack cronyism here at home and abroad also through trade. Whether it’s investors, state-owned investment, state-owned enterprise, or our own kind of cronyism that we see manifest itself through our own economic policy. I think the creed that the thinkers here at Heritage have articulated—“opportunity for all, favoritism for none”—that ought to be a creed that directs us and guides us going forward in the conduct of our economic policy. Because one of the dangers we face here and abroad is cronyism, and cronyism in this manifestation means big government and big business kind of grafting on to each other, uniting in a common cause to rig the rules, to write the rules for themselves, to erect barriers to entry against would-be competitors who are going to compete with them. Guess who loses? Consumers lose. Freedom loses. Opportunity loses. Entrepreneurship loses.
And so, what we need to do, if we want to improve our economic outlook, improve our freedom, is knock down those trade barriers, get more access for our products to be able to sell abroad and make sure that we do it in a way that honors our principles of freedom; of equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome; of getting the ability for Americans of every way, shape, and form, every size of business, to be able to compete. We do not want to prevent would-be competitors from getting in an industry and competing. We want to open it up, because by opening up competition, domestically and internationally, we give the ability for everybody to make and improve their lot in life.
You know Abraham Lincoln, 177 years ago today, argued that the ambitious and talented would grow bored if all they had to do was preserve a country that other people had founded. Of course he was the best counter example to that. His life work was securing this country.
The way I see it, the American Idea is what is at stake. The American Idea, as we know it, as we were taught it, as sons and daughters of immigrants, is that the condition of your birth, it doesn’t determine the outcome of your life. Whoever you are, wherever you come from, however you started, the only thing that limits you from reaching your potential is your own effort and God-given talent. We want to make sure that we are still that country. We want to make sure that your success is determined by your merit, by your hard work, not based upon who you know or your political connections and that kind of economic policy. If we don’t write the rules of global economy, that will be what dominates.
That’s the last point I’ll make. If we don’t get engaged globally, if we don’t get engaged in writing these kinds of trade agreements that respect the rule of law, that lower barriers, that protect human rights and human dignity and entrepreneurialism, transparency, accountability, contracts, then other countries that don’t rate very high on the Index of Economic Freedom, they will write the rules of the global economy. With TPP, it’s really clear. Do you want China writing the rules of the global economy, writing the rules of global economy in Asia? Or do you want a free-enterprise-loving nation like America writing the rules of the global economy?
So, all of these issues come home to roost, and the good news is we’ve got a very easy guide that tells us what works and what doesn’t. We know what gets people out of poverty. We know what produces upward mobility. We know what gives us better environment, what gives us better democracy, what gives us better, higher living standards. So, now we just have to go and practice what we read and practice, what we preach. And I want to thank the scholars here at Heritage for doing this, for identifying this, and for giving us a measurement, a barometer, and a sense of accountability. Thank you very much.