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Jim Webb 2016 Website - March 15, 2015

Jim Webb 2016 Exploratory Committee Website


I’d like to take a few minutes of your time to ask you to consider the most important question facing America today: Is it possible for us to return to a leadership environment where people from both political parties and from all philosophical points of view would feel compelled to work together for the common good, and to sort out their disagreements in a way that moves our country forward rather than tearing the fabric of this nation apart?

As one who spent four years in the Reagan Administration and then served in the Senate as a Democrat, I believe it is possible. It is also necessary. We desperately need to fix our country, and to reinforce the values that have sustained us for more than two centuries, many of which have fallen by the wayside in the nasty debates of the last several years. I hope you will consider joining me in that effort.

Over the past few months thousands of concerned Americans from across the political spectrum have urged me to run for President. A constant theme runs through these requests. Americans want positive, visionary leadership that they can trust. They’re worried about the state of our economy, the fairness of our complicated multicultural society, the manner in which we are addressing foreign policy and national security challenges, and the divisive, paralyzed nature of our government itself. In short, they’re worried about the future. They want solutions, not rhetoric.

I share every one of these concerns.

On The Issues

Forget the polls, the noise and the nasty TV ads. The challenge before us is far greater than the task of winning an election. It is how to govern, with foresight, fairness and administrative skill, once an election is over. We need to put our American house in order, to provide educational and working opportunities that meet the needs of the future, to rebuild our infrastructure and to reinforce our position as the economic engine and the greatest democracy on earth. We need to redefine and strengthen our national security obligations, while at the same time reducing ill-considered foreign ventures that have drained trillions from our economy and in some cases brought instability instead of deterrence.

Economic Fairness

Our working people have struggled following the collapse of the economy in the final months of the Bush administration, while those at the very top have continued to separate themselves from the rest of our society. As our economy has recovered from the Great Recession, the stock market has nearly tripled, from 6443 in March of 2009 to more than 17,000 as of today. At the same time, study after study shows that real income levels among working people have suffered a steady decline since January of 2009. And not only for our workers – according to the Wall Street Journal, loans to small business owners, who traditionally have been the backbone of the American success story, have decreased by 18 percent since 2008, while overall business loans have increased by 9 percent.

The growth of our economy has been increasingly reflected in capital gains rather than in the salaries of our working people. In many cases, the corporate headquarters and financial sectors are here, while the workers themselves are overseas. Many of our younger workers here in the United States are subject to complicated hiring arrangements that in many cases don’t even pay health care or retirement. Corporate success is measured by the increase in the value of the stocks, and corporate leaders are paid accordingly. When I graduated from the Naval Academy the average corporate CEO made 20 times the average worker’s pay. Now it’s closer to 350.

This is not a global phenomenon. In Germany – which has the highest balance of trade in the world – the average CEO makes about 11 times what an average worker makes. Many of our brightest economic analysts, high among them Ralph Gomory, point out that this disparity came about not because of globalization, but because executive compensation became linked with the value of a company’s stock rather than the company’s actual earnings. Investors would hardly complain. And our workers – the most productive work force in the world – have been the ones left behind.

If you make enough money to buy stocks, you’re probably doing OK these days. If you’re working in a successful company that provides stock options or bonuses in stocks, you’re probably doing pretty well. But it you’re spending all your income paying rent and putting food on the table and clothes on the backs of your kids, you’re probably living on the outer edge of the American Dream.

I would agree that we cannot tax ourselves into prosperity. But we do need to reconfigure the tax code so that our taxes fall in a fair way. It is possible to simplify the tax code, including reducing the corporate tax rate in exchange for eliminating numerous loopholes, and to examine shifting our tax policies away from income and more toward consumption. We did not even have a federal income tax in this country until 1913. The loopholes and exceptions that have evolved have made a mockery out of true economic fairness. I would never support raising taxes on ordinary earned income, whether it goes to a school teacher or a nurse or a doctor or a film star. But we need to find a better way.

Foreign Policy

First and foremost, if a President wishes to conduct offensive military operations, he – or she – should be able to explain clearly the threat to our national security, the specific objectives of the operations, and the end result he or she wishes to obtain.

Second, we will honor our treaty commitments. But we are not obligated to join a treaty partner if they elect to use force outside the direct boundaries of our commitment, as in Libya. Neither the United Nations nor NATO has the power to bring the United States into an elective war without the consent of our Congress.

Third, we will maintain superiority in our strategic systems. This includes not only nuclear weapons but also such areas as technology, space, and cyber warfare.

Fourth, we will preserve and exercise the right of self-defense as guaranteed under international law and the UN Charter.

Fifth, we have important allies around the world, especially in Asia and the Middle East, whom we will continue to support in many ways. This will not cease. In fact, as we clarify our other commitments, these relationships will be strengthened.

Sixth, with respect to the war against terrorism, we will act vigorously against terrorist organizations if they are international in nature and are a direct threat to our national security. This includes the right to conduct military operations in foreign countries if that country is unwilling or unable to address the threat. We maintain this right through international law, and through Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

However, there is an important caveat to how our country should fight international terrorism. The violation of this principle has caused us a lot of trouble in the recent past. I can do no better than to quote from an article I wrote on September 12th, 2001, the day after the 9 / 11 attacks. “DO NOT OCCUPY TERRITORY. The terrorist armies make no claim to be members of any nation-state. Similarly, it would be militarily and politically dangerous for our military to operate from permanent or semi-permanent bases, or to declare that we are defending specific pieces of terrain in the regions where the terrorist armies live and train. We already have terrain to defend – the United States and our outposts overseas – and we cannot afford to expand this territory in a manner that would simply give the enemy more targets.”

And finally, a warning spurred by the actions of this Administration in places such as Libya. There is no such thing as the right of any President to unilaterally decide to use force in combat operations based on such vague concepts as “humanitarian intervention.” If a treaty does not obligate us, if American forces are not under attack or under threat of imminent attack, if no Americans are at risk, the President should come to the congress before he or she sends troops into Harm’s Way.

National Infrastructure

The technology revolution has pushed a lot of lower-skilled people into unemployment. And yet everywhere around us we see roads that need to be widened or repaired, bridges that are beginning to crumble and others that need to be built, traffic jams from clogged highways, schools that need to be built, expanded or repaired, inner city neighborhoods with cracked sidewalks, broken windows and people on the street. Franklin Roosevelt mobilized a nation whose unemployment rate had reached 25 percent. The Civilian Conservation Corps planted trees and cleared land. We built roads, put people to work, cleaned things up. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s vision brought us the Interstate Highway system – and the jobs it took to build it. There are people who need jobs and there is work to be done. And along the way, I believe it is possible to meld such a program with another one, featuring adult education for those who did lose their way when they were seventeen and now know how important it is, as a worker and as a parent, to get that diploma, earn some money, and be a role model for your kids.

Criminal Justice System

This is not a political issue; it is a leadership issue. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Since I doubt we have the most evil people in the world, many now agree that we’re doing something wrong. Millions of our citizens are either in prison or under the supervision of the criminal justice system. During my time in the Senate we worked exhaustively to examine every component of this process, from point of apprehension to length of sentencing to the elements of life in prison, including prison administration, and to the challenge of re-entering society and hopefully living productive lives.

When one applies for a job, the stigma of having been in prison is like a tattoo on your forehead. In many cases, prison life itself creates scars and impediments that can only be remediated through structured re-entry programs. Millions of Americans are now in this situation, many of them non-violent offenders who went to prison due to drug use. To those who wonder whether we can or should put such programs into place, my answer is this: Do you want these former offenders back on the street coming after your money or your life, or do you want them in a job, making money and having a life?

Good Governance

Finally, let’s find a way to return to good governance. It will take time, but it is possible to rebalance the relationship between the executive and legislative branches, and to carefully manage the federal government, which is surely the most complex bureaucracy in the world. A lot of people running for President, and a lot of people covering those who are running for President, seem to skip past the realities of governing into the circus of the political debate. The federal bureaucracy is huge and Byzantine. I have seen many people come to public service from highly successful careers in the business world, only to be devoured and humiliated by the demands of moving policy through the bureaucracy and then the Congress.


The administration of our government needs to be fixed. With the right leadership and the right sense of priorities, it can be.

With enough financial support to conduct a first-class campaign, I have no doubt that we can put these issues squarely before the American people and gain their support. Serious campaigning will begin very soon. The first primaries are less than a year away. Your early support will be crucial as I evaluate whether we might overcome what many commentators see as nearly impossible odds.

True leadership makes a difference. Results can be obtained, even in a paralyzed political environment, and in fact I believe we can un-paralyze the environment and re-establish a transparent, functioning governmental system in our country. I can assure you that we will be focusing not on petty politics or how to match a position with a poll, but on the future of our country and on solutions that will rebuild and unite us. In politics nobody owns me and I don’t owe anybody anything, except for the promise that I will work for the well-being of all Americans, and especially those who otherwise would have no voice in the corridors of power. All I ask is that you consider the record I am putting before you, and give me the opportunity to earn your trust.

Jim Webb Signature

Source: Webb 2016 Exploratory Committee


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