MIAMI - In a new policy plan unveiled Monday, Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis took aim at China with a "Declaration of Economic Independence" that also targets taxes, regulations and "elites" he blames for the nation's decline.
Speaking in a New Hampshire warehouse, the Florida governor promised to diversify and expand the economy by fighting for the middle class.
"Revitalizing economic freedom and opportunity will require building an economy where the concerns of average citizens are elevated over those deemed too big to fail," he said at Prep Partners Group, which coordinates warehousing, distribution and other logistics for other companies.
"We are a nation with an economy, not the other way around," DeSantis said. "We are citizens of a republic. We are not cogs in a global economic empire."
DeSantis said his top priority would be wresting economic control from China by ending the nation's preferential trade status, banning imports of goods made from stolen intellectual property and preventing companies from sharing critical technologies with China. Current polices, he said, have created an "abusive relationship" between the two countries.
"The elites sold us a bill of goods when it came to China. They were wrong, and we need to get it right," he said.
The 10-point economic plan is the third major policy proposal put forth by DeSantis, who remains a distant second to former President Donald Trump in most polls and is fighting for momentum in the midst of a campaign reset. He recently shed more than one-third of his staff as federal filings showed his campaign was burning through cash at an unsustainable rate.
But on Monday, his focus was on reckless federal government spending. His plan describes him as a "new sheriff in town" who will veto wasteful spending and mandate work requirements for welfare programs. He also claimed he could achieve 3% annual economic growth by keeping taxes low, eliminating bureaucracy and incentivizing investment.
On the education front, DeSantis said he will stop incentivizing "useless degrees" by making universities responsible for the loans their students accrue.
"It's wrong to say that a truck driver should have to pay off the debt of somebody who got a degree in gender studies," he said.
After the speech, in what was billed as a news conference, DeSantis sidestepped a question about Trump's mounting legal fees. That's even as the DeSantis campaign has been attacking Trump for devoting much of his political fundraising to his legal entanglements.
"We're here to talk about restoring this economy. We're here to talk about uplifting the middle class," DeSantis said. "To me, if you ask voters, are they more interested in hearing about that or the process stories about politics? I think that they want to hear about the country's future so that's what we're going to talk about."
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