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Remarks of Senator Barack Obama (as prepared for delivery)
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
You can watch the speech live here.
We meet today at a moment of great uncertainty for America. Yesterday, we saw another significant drop in the stock market as the anxiety about this financial crisis grew worse. Overnight, the same thing happened with markets around the world. And this morning, the Federal Reserve took swift action together with other nations to stem what is now a full-blown global financial crisis. I support that action, as I’ve said before that this is a global problem and it needs to be solved through a global effort. I hope this global response continues as leaders of major financial institutions and representatives from nations around the world gather in Washington soon.
We are facing a very serious challenge, and all of us – all of us – have a stake in its solution. Because the credit markets are frozen right now, there’s a ripple effect throughout our economy. Businesses large and small are finding it impossible to get loans, which means they can’t buy new equipment or make payroll. Auto plants that have been around for decades are closing their doors and laying off workers who’ve never known another job in their entire life. And we have already lost three-quarters of a million jobs just this year.
Here in Indianapolis and all across America, you’re seeing your hours get cut or realizing that you can’t pay every bill that’s sitting on the kitchen counter. It’s harder to make the mortgage or fill up your gas tank and some people don’t even know whether they’ll be able to keep the electricity on at the end of the month. The money you’ve been putting away for your retirement or your kids’ college education is disappearing faster than you can count. The dream that so many generations have fought for feels like it’s slowly slipping away.
But I’m here today to tell you that there are better days ahead. I know these are tough times. I know that many of you are anxious about the future. But this isn’t a time for fear or panic. This is a time for resolve and leadership. I know that we can steer ourselves out of this crisis. Because that’s who we are. Because this is the United States of America. This is a nation that has faced down war and depression; great challenges and great threats. And at each and every moment, we have risen to meet these challenges – not as Democrats, not as Republicans, but as Americans. With resolve. With confidence. With that fundamental belief that here in America, our destiny is not written for us, but by us. That’s who we are, and that’s the country we need to be right now.
America still has the most talented, most productive workers of any country on Earth who work two jobs or three jobs and take the last bus home at night because they want something more for their children. We’re still the home to innovation and technology, colleges and universities that are the envy of the world. Some of the biggest ideas in history have come from our small businesses and our research facilities. It won’t be easy, but there’s no reason we can’t steer ourselves out of this crisis and make this century another American century. Of course we can.
But I also know this. It will take a new direction. It will take new leadership in Washington. It will take a real change in the policies and politics of the last eight years.
And that’s why the decision you make in twenty-seven days is so important. That’s why this is no ordinary election – because this is no ordinary moment for America.
In last night’s debate, John McCain and I each had the chance to make the case for change – to talk about what we would do differently from the last eight years when it comes to lifting our middle-class, growing our economy, and restoring our prosperity. But all we heard from Senator McCain was more of the same Bush economics that led us to this point.
Take health care. We were both asked whether we believed that health care should finally be the right of every American. I believe it should. But Senator McCain didn’t say that. And when you look at his radical health care plan, you can see why.
He talks about giving every family a $5,000 credit to buy health care, but he didn’t mention last night that he’ll also tax your benefits for the first time in history. It’s an old Washington bait and switch. He gives you a tax credit with one hand, but raises your taxes with the other. And he didn’t mention that the average health care plan costs $12,000 in the first place.
Senator McCain didn’t tell us about the studies that say his plan would cause 20 million Americans to lose their health insurance, or how the Chamber of Commerce said it would be a disaster for businesses, or how it would de-regulate the insurance industry so that they don’t have to cover things like mammograms, or vaccinations, or maternity care. He thinks we won’t notice these things.
Well, I’ve got news for John McCain: we notice, we know better, and we’re not going to let him get away with it.
This issue is personal for me. My mother died of ovarian cancer at the age of 53, and I’ll never forget how she spent the final months of her life lying in a hospital bed, fighting with her insurance company because they claimed that her cancer was a pre-existing condition and didn’t want to pay for treatment. If I am President, I will make sure those insurance companies can never do that again.
My health care plan will ensure that insurance companies can’t discriminate against those who are sick and need care most. If you have health insurance, the only thing that will change under my plan is the amount you pay in premiums. That will be less. And if you don’t have health insurance, you’ll be able to get the same kind of health insurance that Members of Congress get for themselves. We’ll invest in preventative care and new technology to finally lower the cost of health care for families, businesses, and the entire economy. That’s the change we need, and that’s the choice you face in this election.
Even as so many Americans are worried about their medical bills or keeping their jobs or staying in their homes, Senator McCain’s campaign announced last week that they plan to “turn the page” on the discussion about our economy and spend the final weeks of this election attacking me instead. His campaign actually said, and I quote, “if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”
Well I’ve got news for John McCain. This isn’t about losing a campaign – this is about Americans who are losing their jobs, and their homes, and their life savings. I can take four more weeks of John McCain’s attacks, but America can’t take four more years of John McCain’s George Bush policies. We can’t afford four more years of the economic theory that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. We can’t afford more four years of John McCain’s call for less regulation so that no one in Washington is watching anyone on Wall Street. We’ve seen where that’s led us and we’re not going back.
It is time to turn the page on eight years of economic policies that put Wall Street before Main Street but ended up hurting both. We need policies that grow our economy from the bottom-up, so that every American, everywhere has the chance to get ahead. Not just corporate CEOs, but their secretaries too. Not just the person who owns the factory, but the men and women who work on its floor. Because if we’ve learned anything from this economic crisis, it’s that we’re all connected; we’re all in this together; and we will rise or fall as one nation – as one people.
The rescue plan that passed Congress last week isn’t the end of what we’ll do to strengthen this economy, it’s only the beginning. Now we need to pass a rescue plan for the middle-class that will provide every family immediate relief to cope with rising food and gas prices, save one million jobs by rebuilding our schools and roads, and help states and cities avoid budget cuts and tax increases. And we should extend expiring unemployment benefits to those Americans who’ve lost their jobs and can’t find new ones. I’ve been fighting for this plan for months. My opponent has said nothing. And that is the choice in this election.
You’ve heard a lot about taxes in this campaign. Well here’s the truth – John McCain and I are both offering tax cuts. The difference is, he wants to give the average Fortune 500 CEO a $700,000 tax cut but nothing at all to over 100 million Americans.
I’ll give a middle-class tax cut to 95% of all workers. And if you make less than $250,000 a year, you won’t see your taxes increase one single dime – not your payroll taxes, not your income taxes, not your capital gains taxes – nothing. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.
My opponent wants to give $200 million in tax cuts to the biggest corporations in America. I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.
John McCain wants to give tax breaks to the corporations that ship our jobs overseas. If I am President, I will end those tax breaks and give them to companies that create good jobs in the United States of America. That is the choice in this election.
Senator McCain’s first reaction to this economic crisis was to say that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong.” Well I don’t know about you, but where I come from there’s nothing more fundamental than a job – not just because it provides a paycheck, because it provides a sense of dignity. And if we want to turn this economy around and lead the world in the 21st century, we have to create the high-wage jobs of tomorrow right here in America.
If I am President, I will invest $15 billion a year in renewable sources of energy to create five million new, green jobs over the next decade – jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced; jobs building solar panels and wind turbines and fuel-efficient cars; jobs that will help us end our dependence on oil from Middle East dictators.
I’ll also put two million more Americans to work rebuilding our crumbling roads, schools, and bridges – because it is time to build an American infrastructure for the 21st century.
And we’ll give every child, everywhere the skills and the knowledge they need to compete with any worker, anywhere in the world. I will not allow countries to out-teach us today so they can out-compete us tomorrow. It is time to provide every American with a world-class education. That means investing in early childhood education. That means recruiting an army of new teachers, and paying them better, and giving them more support in exchange for higher standards and more accountability. And it means making a deal with every American who has the drive and the will but not the money to go to college: if you commit to serving your country after you graduate, we will make sure you can afford your tuition. You invest in America, America will invest in you, and together we will move this country forward.
Finally, I will take on the corruption in Washington and on Wall Street to make sure a crisis like this can never, ever happen again. I’ll put in place the common-sense regulations and rules of the road I’ve been calling for since March – rules that will keep our market free, fair, and honest; rules that will restore accountability and responsibility in our corporate boardrooms.
And just as we demand accountability on Wall Street, I will also demand it in Washington. That’s why I’m not going to stand here and simply tell you what I’m going to spend, I’m going to tell you how we’re going to save when I am President.
I’ll do what you do in your own family budgets and make sure we’re spending money wisely. I will go through the entire federal budget, page by page, line by line, and eliminate programs that don’t work and aren’t needed. We’ll start by ending a war in Iraq that’s costing $10 billion a month while the Iraqi government sits on a $79 billion surplus. And we’ll save billions more by cutting waste, improving management, and strengthening oversight.
These are the changes and reforms we need. A new era of responsibility and accountability on Wall Street and in Washington. Common-sense regulations to prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again. Investments in the technology and innovation that will restore prosperity and lead to new jobs and a new economy for the 21st century. Bottom-up growth that gives every American a fair shot at the American dream.
I won’t pretend this will be easy or come without cost. We will all need to sacrifice and we will all need to pull our weight because now more than ever, we are all in this together. What this crisis has taught us is that at the end of the day, there is no real separation between Main Street and Wall Street. There is only the road we’re traveling on as Americans – and we will rise or fall on that journey as one nation; as one people.
This country and the dream it represents are being tested in a way that we haven’t seen in nearly a century. And future generations will judge ours by how we respond to this test. Will they say that this was a time when America lost its way and its purpose? When we allowed our own petty differences and broken politics to plunge this country into a dark and painful recession?
Or will they say that this was another one of those moments when America overcame? When we battled back from adversity by recognizing that common stake that we have in each other’s success?
This is one of those moments. I realize you’re cynical and fed up with politics. I understand that you’re disappointed and even angry with your leaders. You have every right to be. But despite all of this, I ask of you what’s been asked of the American people in times of trial and turmoil throughout our history. I ask you to believe – to believe in yourselves, in each other, and in the future we can build together.
Together, we cannot fail. Not now. Not when we have a crisis to solve and an economy to save. Not when there are so many Americans without jobs and without homes. Not when there are families who can’t afford to see a doctor, or send their child to college, or pay their bills at the end of the month. Not when there is a generation that is counting on us to give them the same opportunities and the same chances that we had for ourselves.
We can do this. Americans have done this before. Some of us had grandparents or parents who said maybe I can't go to college but my child can; maybe I can't have my own business but my child can. I may have to rent, but maybe my children will have a home they can call their own. I may not have a lot of money but maybe my child will run for Senate. I might live in a small village but maybe someday my son can be president of the United States of America.
Now it falls to us. Together, we cannot fail. And I need you to make it happen. If you want the next four years looking like the last eight, then I am not your candidate. But if you want real change – if you want an economy that rewards work, and that works for Main Street and Wall Street; if you want tax relief for the middle class and millions of new jobs; if you want health care you can afford and education that helps your kids compete; then I ask you to knock on some doors, make some calls, talk to your neighbors, and give me your vote on November 4th. And if you do, I promise you – we will win Indiana, we will win this election, and then you and I – together – will change this country and change this world. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless America.