DeSantis’ new economic plan targets ‘woke’ ESG, China trade policy and student loans

Florida Governor and Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ron DeSantis attends a barbecue hosted by former diplomat Scott Brown, as part of his “No B.S. Backyard BBQ” series, in Rye, New Hampshire, U.S. July 30, 2023. 

Reba Saldanha | Reuters

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday unveiled a lengthy economic agenda aimed to spur growth by upending the U.S. trade relationship with China, reversing Biden administration regulations and confronting corporations deemed to be pushing “woke” ideals.

The Republican presidential candidate’s 10-part plan, dubbed the “Declaration of Economic Independence,” also looks to combat efforts to promote electric vehicles and put universities on the hook for the loan debt accrued by their students.

“The goal of our Declaration of Independence is simple,” DeSantis said as he detailed the plan in Rochester, New Hampshire. “We, the American people, win. They lose.”

The governor made the announcement as recent polls show him slipping against former President Donald Trump in the race for the 2024 Republican nomination. A New York Times/Siena College poll released Monday found Trump leading DeSantis by 37 percentage points among likely Republican voters.

DeSantis’ latest policy rollout in some areas echoes positions he has already articulated from the campaign trail and as Florida’s chief executive. Other prongs align closely with proposals that other candidates, including Trump, have put forward.

Both Trump and DeSantis, for instance, have vowed to decouple the U.S. economy from China and reverse trade deficits with Beijing. DeSantis’ agenda would also seek to address Chinese intellectual property theft and ban China from purchasing “strategic assets” in the U.S., according to a fact sheet from the DeSantis campaign.

The plan seeks to achieve 3% annual growth through a broad series of tax reforms aimed to incentivize domestic investment, while restricting foreign lobbying and banning members of Congress from trading individual stocks.

DeSantis “will not tolerate woke corporations using ESG,” his campaign said, referring to the investing principles that consider environmental, social and governance factors. He has already signed sweeping anti-ESG legislation in his own state.

The DeSantis agenda would also involve reining in the Federal Reserve by ordering it to focus entirely on price stabilization — in other words, ending the Fed’s dual mandate that also tasks it with pursuing full employment.

“The Fed must focus on stable prices; it is not a social engineer and cannot be allowed to be an unaccountable economic central planner,” the campaign said.

The plan would also order the Department of Justice to target diversity initiatives, which his campaign asserts foster discrimination.

DeSantis, whose willingness to fight over polarizing cultural issues helped him rapidly rise to national prominence during the coronavirus pandemic, has long positioned himself as a warrior against all things woke. The politically loaded term, which was popularized on the left over the last decade, is now mostly used by conservatives as a term of derision toward all manner of progressive politics.

DeSantis is set to continue his swing in New Hampshire this week, making retail stops in Concord on Tuesday, before heading back to Iowa on Friday and Saturday as part of a bus tour through the state.

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