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Jeb Bush talks like a contender

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Modern Money

For a man who claims he doesn’t want to be president, Jeb Bush certainly thinks he has the cure for everything that ails the United States. In a candid appearance at the SIFMA Annual Meeting on Tuesday, the former Florida governor shared his ideas on a whole litany of issues, including Wall Street reform, immigration, education, the Affordable Care Act and the dysfunction in Washington.

On Wall Street Reform

Bush said it is time to stop pointing fingers over who caused the financial crisis and start adopting policies aimed at growth. “If we are going to lift the cloud of pessimism in America, we need to shift away from finding culprits and start using all the tools available to promote growth. Banks fuel growth.”

Bush believes the good story of the banking recovery is running into a regulatory buzz saw that is hampering high-wage job growth. Referring to the Dodd-Frank Act, Bush lamented the length of time it has taken for regulatory measures to be implemented. “It shouldn’t take five years to put new rules in place.”

Bush then made a few suggestions regarding to how the regulatory burden banks currently face could be streamlined:

  • Simplify the rules and make them clearer – Congress shouldn’t outsource rules to regulators.
  • Make rules consistent and coordinated across markets.
  • Focus on outcomes. “Better outcomes are what we want, so the focus should be on that.”

On Immigration

Clearly, Bush has taken flak from some in his own party for his position on immigration reform. But Tuesday’s appearance seemed to indicate he is not going to back down as he continued to champion a path to citizenship for immigrants. “It should be harder to come here and stay illegally than it is to come and stay legally.” Bush said modernizing immigration laws also plays a role in powering America’s economy. “Growth matters a lot. And without immigration reform we won’t be able to hit on all cyclinders.”

On Education

Bush has long been a champion of education reform. His policies call for more accountability and push for more power to be given to administrators at the local level. “High expectations matter,” Bush said. Bush said the teaching profession should not tolerate a system whereby better teachers are often paid less than poor teachers simply because they have been on the job for a shorter amount of time.

On the Affordable Care Act

Bush was pointed in his criticism of the Affordable Care Act, saying the law has hindered job growth as employers have been uneasy about the health-care costs associated with hiring new employees. Bush also predicts trouble in the individual insurance market.

“The idea that young people are going to pay more for something they don’t want violates everything I know about young people and everything I know about economics,” Bush said.

On the Dysfunction in Washington

Bush fears the U.S. government is failing its citizens. “The American people need to demand that public leadership become the norm again,” he said.

Bush stipulated there is plenty of blame to go around for the current gridlock in Washington, but he laid most of the blame at the feet of President Barack Obama. Bush said Obama’s election was a transcendent moment in history, but Obama squandered it by playing politics instead of  seizing the moment for the greater good. “Presidents have to lead,” Bush explained.

Bush’s own party was not immune from his criticism. He acknowledged the “tactical” mistakes some Republicans made before and during the government shutdown. However, Bush is not too concerned about the apparent cracks in the GOP between the Tea Party and more centrist Republicans. In fact, Bush said he expects the Democratic party to show the same kinds of fissures in upcoming elections as the more liberal wing of the party shows its displeasure at what Obama has failed to achieve.

Will he run?

Bush is often slippery when asked if he will run for president in 2016. A candidate Bush would have a sizable war chest and would perhaps enter the Electoral College math game with Florida and Texas in his back pocket. His appearance Tuesday showed he has a firm grasp on some of the nuanced issues facing the U.S. In fact, his appearance showed it wouldn’t take much to transform his ideas for America into a stump speech for the campaign trail.