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Remarks of Senator Barack Obama (as prepared for delivery)
Tampa Bay, Florida
Monday, October 20th, 2008
Hello, Tampa! And congratulations to your Rays! It’s great to be back in the Sunshine state. And in just 15 days, you and I can begin to bring some badly-needed sunshine to Washington DC. That’s the good news. But we’re going to have to work, and struggle, and fight for every single one of those 15 days to bring our country the change we need.
I am hopeful about the outcome. We were thrilled yesterday when a great American statesman, General Colin Powell, joined our cause. But we cannot let up. And we won't.
Because one thing we know is that change never comes without a fight. In the final days of campaigns, the say-anything, do-anything politics too often takes over. We’ve seen it before. And we’re seeing it again today. The ugly phone calls. The misleading mail and TV ads. The careless, outrageous comments. All aimed at keeping us from working together, all aimed at stopping change.
It’s getting so bad that even Senator McCain’s running mate denounced his tactics last night. As you know, you really have to work hard to violate Governor Palin’s standards on negative campaigning.
But we’re not going to be distracted. We’re not going to be diverted. Not this time. Not this year. Our challenges are too great for a politics that’s so small.
Now, more than ever, this campaign has to be about the problems facing the American people – because this is a moment of great uncertainty for America. The economic crisis we face is the worst since the Great Depression. Businesses large and small are finding it impossible to get loans, which means they can’t buy new equipment, or hire new workers, or even make payroll for the workers they have.
115,000 workers lost their jobs in Florida this year, more than any other state in this country. Wages are lower than they’ve been in a decade, at a time when the cost of health care and college have never been higher. It’s getting harder and harder to make the mortgage, or fill up your gas tank, or even keep the electricity on at the end of the month. At this rate, the question isn’t just “are you better off than you were four years ago?”, it’s “are you better off than you were four weeks ago?”
So I know these are difficult times. I know folks are worried. But I believe that we can steer ourselves out of this crisis because I believe in this country. Because I believe in you. I believe in the American people.
We are the United States of America. We are a nation that’s 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.
But Florida, I 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 what this election is all about.
Now, my opponent has made his choice. Senator McCain’s campaign actually said a couple of weeks ago that they were going to launch a series of attacks on my character because, they said, “if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” And that’s a promise John McCain has kept. He’s been on the attack. That’s what you do when you are out of ideas, out of touch, and running out of time. Well, I can take a few more weeks of John McCain’s attacks, but the American people can’t take four more years of the same failed policies and the same failed politics. That’s why I’m running for President of the United States.
We have tried it John McCain’s way. We have tried it George Bush’s way. It hasn’t worked. It’s time for something new. 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 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 was a necessary first step to easing this credit crisis, but if we’re going to rebuild this economy from the bottom up, we need an immediate rescue plan for the middle-class – and that’s what I’ll offer as President of the United States.
Last week, I laid out a plan that will jumpstart job creation, provide relief to families, and rebuild our financial system. It’s a plan that will also help struggling homeowners stay in their homes – something that’s particularly important here in Florida, where foreclosures are up 30% over the last year. All across this state, there are families who’ve done everything right, but who are now facing foreclosure or seeing their home values decline because of bad decisions on Wall Street and in Washington.
The other week, Senator McCain came out with a proposal that he said would help ease the burden on homeowners by buying up bad mortgages at face value, even though they’re not worth that much anymore. But here’s the thing, Florida. His plan would amount to a $300 billion bailout for Wall Street banks. And guess what? It would all be paid for by you, the American taxpayer. That might sound like a good idea to the former bank lobbyists running my opponent’s campaign. But that’s not the change America needs.
Look, we must act quickly to end this housing crisis. That’s why last March, I was calling for us to help innocent home buyers. And that’s why I fought to make sure the recent rescue package gives Treasury the responsibility and authority to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. But we should not put your tax dollars at unnecessary risk. We should not let banks and lenders off the hook when it was their greed and irresponsibility that got us into this mess. We should not be bailing out Wall Street – we should be restoring opportunity on Main Street. And that’s what I’ll do when I’m President of the United States.
If the American people are going to put up $700 billion to rescue our financial institutions, we should make sure those institutions are doing their part for the American people. That’s why I’ve called for a three-month moratorium on foreclosures. If you are a bank or lender that is getting money from the rescue plan, and your customers are making a good-faith effort to make their mortgage payments and re-negotiate their mortgages, you will not be able to foreclose on their home for three months. Now, we’ve also put in place long-term measures to restore our credit markets and help families refinance their mortgages, but until those measures start working, we need to help homeowners stay in their homes, and that’s what this foreclosure freeze will do.
And while we’re at it, there’s another step we can take to help innocent homeowners that won’t cost taxpayers a dime. Right now, if you own only one home, you’re not allowed to write down your mortgage in bankruptcy court. But if you own more than one home – if you own, say, six or seven homes like my opponent – you are allowed to write down your mortgage. That might help Senator McCain sleep easier at night. But it isn’t right, and it will change when I’m President of the United States.
But understand, if we’re serious about restoring opportunity for our middle class, it’s not enough to help people refinance their mortgages. It’s not enough to protect your homes from foreclosure. We have to help the hardworking families who are living in those homes with shrinking paychecks and rising costs.
That starts with tax relief. There’s been a lot of talk about taxes in this campaign. And the truth is, my opponent and I are both proposing tax cuts. The difference is, he wants to give a $700,000 tax cut to Fortune 500 CEOs. I want to put a $1,000 tax cut in the pockets of 95% of American workers. That’s right – 95%. My opponent doesn’t want you to know this, but under my plan, tax rates will actually be less than they were under Ronald Reagan.
It’s true that I want to roll back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans and go back to the rate they paid under Bill Clinton. John McCain calls that socialism. What he forgets is that just a few years ago, he himself said those Bush tax cuts were irresponsible. He said he couldn’t “in good conscience” support a tax cut where the benefits went to the wealthy at the expense of “middle class Americans who most need tax relief.” Well, he was right then, and I am right now.
And let me be crystal clear: If you make less than a quarter of a million dollars a year – which includes 98% of small business owners – you won’t see your taxes increase one single dime. Not your payroll taxes, not your income taxes, not your capital gains taxes – nothing. That is my commitment to you.
To create more American jobs, I’ve proposed a tax credit for each new employee that companies hire here in the United States over the next two years. And I’ll stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas and invest in companies that create good jobs right here in Florida.
I’ll help small businesses get back on their feet by eliminating capital gains taxes and giving them emergency loans to keep their doors open and hire workers. And I will create a Jobs and Growth fund to help states and local governments save one million jobs and pay for health care and education without having to raise your taxes.
These are the steps that we must take – right now – to start getting our economy back on track. But we also need a new set of priorities to grow our economy and create jobs over the long-term.
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 if people ask how we’re going to pay for this, you tell them that if we can spend $10 billion a month in Iraq, we can spend some money to rebuild America.
If I am President, I will finally fix the problems in our health care system that we’ve been talking about for too long. 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 make sure 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 that we will lower premiums. 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. And 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 if I’m President, 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. My opponent’s top economic advisor actually said that they have no plan to invest in college affordability because we can’t have a giveaway to every special interest. Well I don’t think the young people of America are a special interest – they are the future of this country. That’s why I’ll make this deal with you: if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford your tuition. No ifs, ands or buts. You invest in America, America will invest in you, and together, we will move this country forward.
Florida, it’s time for a change. I know it, you know it, and the American people know it. The other week, I was in Ohio, and I went to this small town called Georgetown. Now, I was hungry and I needed a snack. So I asked where I could find the best pie in town. And folks pointed to this diner. So I went there, and as I’m waiting for a pie, some of the employees said, “Senator, can you please take a picture with us because the owner is a die-hard Republican and we want to poke him a little.”
And just then, the owner comes out. And I said, “Sir, I understand you’re a die-hard Republican.” He said yes. And I said, “Well, how’s business?” He said, “Not so good because my customers can’t afford to eat out right now.” So I said, “Well, who do you think has been running the economy for the last eight years?” And he said, “The Republicans.” Well, I said, “If you keep hitting your head against a wall and it starts to hurt, at some point don’t you stop hitting it against the wall?”
Maybe you should try the Democrats for a change.
Now, make no mistake: the change we need won’t come easy or without cost. We will all need to tighten our belts, 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.
At a defining moment like this, we don’t have the luxury of relying on the same political games and the same political tactics that are used every election to divide us from one another and make us afraid of one another. With the challenges and crises we face right now, we cannot afford to divide this country by class or region; by who we are or what policies we support.
There are no real or fake parts of this country. We are not separated by the pro-America and anti-America parts of this nation – we all love this country, no matter where we live or where we come from. There are patriots who supported this war in Iraq and patriots who opposed it; patriots who believe in Democratic policies and those who believe in Republican policies. The men and women from Florida and all across America who serve on our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America – they have served the United States of America.
We have always been at our best when we’ve had leadership that called us to look past our differences and come together as one nation, as one people; leadership that rallied this entire country to a common purpose – to a higher purpose. And I am running for President of the United States of America because that is the country we need to be right now.
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 the same divisions and fear tactics and our own petty differences 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. In Florida, starting today, you can vote early right here, and right now. To find out how, just go to voteforchange.com. And if you stand with me, I promise you – we will win Florida, 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.