Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao spoke at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” event on Friday, telling the audience how those traditional values of faith and freedom inspired her family to move “across the world to America” when she was just eight years old.
Chao lauded the Trump administration for lowering taxes and reducing the burden of regulation to create more opportunities for a new generation of Americans.
“Faith, freedom, and opportunity are not abstract concepts for those who have experienced life without them,” said Chao.
She said that faith was the wellspring for the “optimism, hope, and confidence” that fortified her family for the challenges of moving to a new country, where they had no friends, and learning a new language.
“It was a local church that welcomed us, gave us comfort and advice on how to maneuver through everyday life,” she said, warmly recalling how other members of the congregation helped her family discover everything from barbecues and picnics to the local public library.
“Faith and family allowed my parents to build a business and put six daughters through college,” Chao said. “My sisters and I grew up so grateful for the opportunities that this country gave our family, and we are dedicated to contributing to this country in return.”
“This administration is keeping the faith with the American people by working hard to increase opportunities for all,” she declared. “Among the most notable achievements so far was the president’s success in working with Congress to pass meaningful tax reform.”
“If you want to empower the people, rather than the government, let the people keep more of the money that they earn,” she explained. “American families will see $3.2 trillion in gross tax cuts, and saw the child tax credit double. This action by President Trump and this Congress yielded immediate positive results for the economy and for middle-class Americans.”
“This administration is also diligently addressing the problem of unnecessary and overly burdensome regulations that do real economic harm,” she continued, citing the “two-for-one” mandate that requires two old regulations to be cut for each new one added.
Chao reported that her own Department of Transportation is “well on its way to achieving a six-to-one ratio.”
“Under the previous administration, the Department of Transportation increased the regulatory cost on job creators by an average of nearly $3 billion a year. Last year, under President Trump, the department reduced regulatory costs by $312 million alone, just in our department. The Department of Transportation is on track to reduce regulatory costs by an addition $500 million or more in 2018. In fact, it looks like we’re going to surpass a billion dollars in net cost savings this year,” she said.
Chao proudly announced the Mercatus Institute and American Action Forum has named the Department of Transportation the top department of the Trump administration for decreasing regulatory burdens. She said the Trump administration’s zeal for cutting red tape is a major reason the U.S. economy roared back to life after “a sluggish eight years” under President Barack Obama.
“Consumer confidence has hit a 17-year high. Three million new jobs have been created in the last year alone, and in May 2018 the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent – the lowest in almost 50 years,” she observed.
“This includes 304,000 new manufacturing jobs and 337,000 new construction jobs. Gallup reports that a record 67 percent of Americans believe that now is a great time to find a quality job. In fact, today there are more job openings than there are unemployed Americans, something that has never before occurred, as long as these statistics have been measured,” she pointed out.
Chao stressed her top priority was to achieve regulatory reform without compromising public safety.
“My other top priorities are to make progress in addressing our country’s infrastructure needs and preparing for the future by promoting safety without hampering innovation,” she said. “Our country is on the cusp of a transportation revolution. New technologies will one day transform the way we travel and connect with one another.”
Chao predicted autonomous vehicles, from self-driving cars to drone aircraft, will improve safety by reducing human error while increasing access to transportation for the elderly and disabled.
“There are legitimate concerns about this new technology as well,” she acknowledged. “A majority of Americans tell pollsters that they’re unwilling or hesistant to drive in self-driving cars. They worry about safety and privacy. So I have challenged Silicon Valley and others innovating in this arena. They have an obligation to help educate the American public of the benefits of this emerging technology, but also address these legitimate concerns about safety, security, and privacy.”
“As a former Secretary of Labor, I’m also concerned about the impact these new technologies will have on jobs,” Chao added. “I’m confident in the long term, new technologies create jobs, but the transition period can be difficult for dislocated workers. This needs to be addressed as these technologies are increasingly deployed.”
Instead of a top-down “Washington-centered” approach, she recommended eliminating unnecessary regulatory obstacles to innovation and challenging tech companies to devise better solutions than bureaucrats could mandate.
“Our approach is going to be tech-neutral and flexible, not top-down, not command-and-control,” she vowed. “Stakeholders and the private sector marketplace, not bureaucrats, will decide.”
As an example of this approach, Chao said that ten communities have been selected to participate in a pilot program for the use of drone aircraft over towns and cities, while the Department of Transportation has provided voluntary guidelines for the development of autonomous vehicles.
“America’s transportation infrastructure is vital to advancing our economy and our quality of life, and it always has been,” Chao said. “I want you to have confidence that this administration will continue to promote the safe, efficient, and effective use of our transportation infrastructure, and that you can rely upon this administration to do the right thing.”