“If you aren’t an optimist about the future, you don’t understand America,” Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House, told more than 350 Randall Trucking Spring Symposium attendees May 24.
“It doesn’t matter what anyone else does,” Gingrich said. “It matters what we do. A free people can change anything.”
Speaking in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Gingrich did not allude to talk that he is considering a 2008 run for president, but he shared his views on “litigation, taxation, regulation and education,” as well as health-care costs, oil imports and other hot issues. He also directed attendees to his website, www.newt.org, and his new book, Winning the Future: A 21st-Century Contract With America.
Gingrich’s biggest applause came when he told attendees, primarily fleet executives, that he thinks the IRS should allow all equipment purchases to be written off on taxes the first year, as an incentive to companies to keep buying. “Anything that discourages investment in new equipment and new technology is antiethical,” he said.
Gingrich strongly advocates new engine technology. “A hydrogen engine changes the whole economy. It wipes out all the problems of the Kyoto accords, because its only byproduct is water. It eliminates our dependence on the Middle East. And when it happens, it’ll happen in trucks first.”
To ensure a consistent energy supply, “the United States must invest in more alternate fuels,” rather than being economically dependent on “medieval kingdoms,” Gingrich said. “Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan – these are not stable places.”
Gingrich added that while the long-term price of gasoline and diesel fuel will go up a bit, he doesn’t expect it to go “through the roof” unless a major oil producer such as Saudi Arabia or Venezuela collapses politically. Predictions of an imminent global oil shortage don’t worry him much, he said, as he heard similar predictions in the 1970s.
Much more worrisome, Gingrich said, is the CIA director’s recent testimony on Capitol Hill that someone eventually will try to drive a nuclear bomb across the U.S. border. “If we do not control our borders,” Gingrich said, “we run the risk of losing a city.”
The solution is not endless inspections and awful traffic jams at border crossings, Gingrich said, but some way to guarantee the safety of loads and keep them sealed as they are whisked through an electronic pass system.
Gingrich has co-written several alternate-history novels with William Forstchen, but he talked about the future with the zeal of a science-fiction writer. “The real debate in the United States is not liberal versus conservative, but past versus future,” he said.
The next 25 years, he said, will bring more change than the past century did. “There are more scientists alive today than in all of previous human history combined,” Gingrich said. Moreover, he said, those scientists are in immediate online contact with one another and well funded by venture capitalists around the world.
In such a fast-changing world, he said, no business can afford complacency. “Even Wal-Mart has to wake up every morning and worry. You’ve got to plan for continuous change. We’re headed toward big changes, and we need big ideas.”
Gingrich was introduced by Cathy Randall, chairman of Randall Publishing, who said, “His vision is one that all Americans need to hear and to heed.” Headquartered in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Randall Publishing is the parent company of eTrucker.com, Overdrive, CCJ and Truckers News magazines.