© Greg Nash
Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) on Saturday urged unemployed Americans to stay positive about opportunities to rejoin the work force.
“I believe firmly that there are jobs to be had not just across my state but across America,” Walker said during an address at the first-ever Iowa Agriculture Summit in Des Moines. “If you work hard and play by the rules in America, you should be able to do anything.”
Walker’s remarks came after a new Bureau of Labor Statistics report released Friday revealed promising labor market news. It found that 295,000 new jobs were added last month. Unemployment also fell to 5.5 percent, its lowest point in nearly seven years.
The Wisconsin governor, a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate, often touched on self-reliance in his remarks. He repeatedly highlighted Wisconsin programs meant to discourage government dependency.
"We know there are jobs out there,” Walker said. “I want to make sure people have the skills to get those jobs.”
One such initiative Walker mentioned requires drug testing for public assistance. Another denies food stamps to able, unemployed adults without children until they take job training seminars. Both measures drew applause from Walker’s audience.
The summit offered Walker and other possible GOP presidential candidates the chance to discuss policy issues. Also in attendance were former Govs. Rick Perry (Texas), George Pataki (N.Y.) and Mike Huckabee (Ark.), Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.), Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Texas), former Sen. Rick Santorum (Penn.) and New York business mogul Donald Trump.
A recurring topic among the speakers was immigration. Walker said he was “not a supporter of amnesty” during his address.
“When we talk immigration, the first thing you have to do is secure the borders,” he said. “We need to have a legal immigration system in this country going forward that works. I think it’s a national security issue.”
Walker also touted his economic philosophies. The Wisconsin governor praised freedom from government regulations during his speech.
“We can compete against anyone in the world with open trade,” he said. “I don’t like a lot of government interference. On any issue, I believe in a free and open market.”
January’s landmark deal between Cuba and the U.S. was an additional hot topic at the summit. President Obama decided in January to ease travel and trade restrictions on the island nation.
Perry blasted the agreement Saturday as “a bad deal.” Huckabee, meanwhile, called Cuba’s Castro regime “untrustworthy people” along with Iran. Walker, for his part, gave a more measured response.
“I would have had a hard time pulling back on the embargo as president until they changed their ways,” Walker said of what he would have done in Obama’s place.