2008-09-17 - Barack Obama
The events of this week have shown that the stakes in this election couldn't be clearer.
We are in the midst of the most serious financial crisis in generations. Three of America's five largest investment banks have failed or been sold off in distress. Our housing market is in shambles, and Monday brought the worst losses on Wall Street since the day after September 11th. Monday brought the worst losses on Wall Street since the day after September 11th, and today we learned that the Fed had to take unprecedented action to prevent the failure of one of the largest insurance companies in the world from causing an even larger crisis.
While we do not know all the details of the arrangement with AIG, the Federal Reserve must ensure that the plan protects the families that count on insurance. It should bolster our economy's ability to create good-paying jobs and help working Americans pay their bills and save their money. It must not bail out the shareholders or management of AIG.
Everywhere you look, the economic news is troubling. But for so many Americans, it isn't really news at all.
600,000 workers have lost their jobs since January. Home values are falling. Your paycheck doesn't go as far as it used to. It's never been harder to save or retire; to buy gas or groceries; and if you put it on a credit card, they've probably raised your rates. In so many cities and towns across America, it feels as if the dream that so many generations have fought for is slowly slipping away.
I have every confidence that we can steer ourselves out of this crisis. That's who we are. That's what we've always done as Americans.
But the one thing I do know is this - we can't steer ourselves out of this crisis by heading in the same, disastrous direction. And that's what this election is about.
It's been an interesting week for John McCain. It's been really interesting to watch him respond to this economic news. His first reaction to this crisis on Monday was to stand up and repeat the line he's said over and over and over again throughout this campaign - quote - "the fundamentals of our economy are strong."
Now, his campaign must've realized that probably wasn't a smart thing to say on the day of a financial meltdown, so they sent him back out a few hours later to clean up his remarks.
But it sounds like he got a little carried away, because yesterday, John McCain actually said that if he's President, he'll take on the - quote - "ol' boys network" in Washington. I am not making this up. This is someone who's been in Congress for twenty-six years - who put seven of the most powerful Washington lobbyists in charge of his campaign - and now he tells us that he's the one who will take on the ol' boy network. The ol' boy network? In the McCain campaign, that's called a staff meeting.
John McCain went on to say how angry he is at the greedy corporate interests on Wall Street. He's so angry he wants to punish them with $200 billion in tax cuts. And if they're not careful, he'll give them even more tax cuts for shipping our jobs overseas.
I mean, where is he getting these lines? The lobbyists running his campaign? Maybe it's Phil Gramm - the man who was the architect of the de-regulation in Washington that helped cause the mess on Wall Street, who also happens to be the architect of John McCain's economic plan and one of his chief advisors. You remember Phil Gramm - he's the guy who said that we're just going through a "mental recession;" who called the United States of America a "nation of whiners."
And then yesterday, John McCain's big solution to the crisis we're facing is - get ready for it - a commission. That's Washington-speak for "we'll get back to you later." Folks, we don't need a commission to figure out what happened. We know what happened. Too many in Washington and on Wall Street weren't minding the store. CEOs got greedy. Lobbyists got their way. Politicians sat on their hands until it was too late. We don't need a commission to tell us how we got into this mess, we need a President who will lead us out of this mess - and that's the kind of President I intend to be.
So while he isn't offering real solutions, he can't talk enough about how greedy Wall Street is, and how he's going to take on that ol' boy network in Washington. At this rate, by the end of the week John McCain will be telling us how he and Phil Gramm and the seven lobbyists are planning to storm the Treasury Department with torches and pitchforks. Come on.
Now, I certainly don't fault Senator McCain for all of the problems we're facing right now, but I do fault the economic philosophy he's followed for twenty-six years. It's a philosophy that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down. It's a philosophy that says even common-sense regulations are unnecessary and unwise. It's a philosophy that lets Washington lobbyists shred consumer protections and distort our economy so it works for the special interests instead of working people.
Well let's be clear: what we've seen the last few days is nothing less than the final verdict on this philosophy - a philosophy that has completely failed. And I am running for President of the United States because the dreams of the American people must not be endangered any more. It's time to put an end to a broken system in Washington that is breaking the American economy. It's time for change that makes a real difference in your lives.
We have a different way of measuring the fundamentals of our economy. We know that the fundamentals that we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great -that America is a place where you can make it if you try; that everyone should have the chance to live their dreams.
I know I wouldn't be standing here today without that promise. And I know that's the promise we must keep once more.
When I talk to those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton's Army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.
In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree; who once turned to food stamps but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country.
And when I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep the promise of America alive as President of the United States.
Unlike Senator McCain, it didn't take a crisis on Wall Street for me to understand that folks are hurting out on Main Street.
It was two years ago that I introduced legislation to stop mortgage transactions that promoted fraud, risk or abuse. It was one year ago that I called on our Treasury Secretary and our FED Chairman to bring every stakeholder together and find a solution to the subprime mortgage meltdown before it got worse. In March, when John McCain was saying "I'm always for less regulation," I called for a new, 21st century regulatory framework to restore accountability, transparency, and trust in our financial markets.
I believe that our free market has been the engine of America's great progress. It's a market that has created a prosperity that is the envy of the world, and rewarded the innovators and risk-takers who have made America a beacon of science, and technology, and discovery. But the American economy has worked in large part because we have guided the market's invisible hand with a higher principle - that America prospers when all Americans can prosper. That's why we've put in place rules of the road to make competition fair, and open, and honest. Our capital markets cannot succeed without the public's trust. It's time to get serious about regulatory oversight, and that's what I will do as President.
To jumpstart job creation, I've also proposed a $50 billion Emergency Economic Plan that would save 1 million jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure, repairing our schools, and helping our states and localities avoid damaging budget cuts.
To help people stay in their homes, I will change our bankruptcy laws, and I'll offer a tax credit to struggling families that will take 10% off your mortgage interest rate. I'll institute a Home Score system that will help every consumer figure out whether they'll be able to make their mortgage payments before they buy their house. And I will crack down on predatory lenders with tough new penalties that will treat mortgage fraud like the crime that it is.
But the most important thing I will do as President is restore opportunity for all Americans. To get our economy growing, we need to recapture that fundamental American promise. That if you work hard, you can pay the bills. That if you get sick, you won't go bankrupt. That your kids can get a good education, and that we can leave a legacy of greater opportunity to future generations.
That's the change the American people need.
Change means a tax code that doesn't reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it. I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America. I will eliminate capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-ups - that's how we'll grow our economy and create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.
I will cut taxes - cut taxes - for 95% of all working families. 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. If you make less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increase one single dime. In fact, I offer three times the tax relief for middle-class families as Senator McCain does - because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.
I will finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And I will stop insurance companies from discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most
I will create the jobs of the future by transforming our energy economy. We'll tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I'll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy - wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can't ever be outsourced.
And now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. But in exchange, I will ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American - if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.
This is the change we need - the kind of bottom up growth and innovation that will advance the American economy by advancing the dreams of all Americans.
Times are hard. I will not pretend that the change we need will come without cost - though I have presented ways we can achieve these changes in a fiscally responsible way. I know that we'll have to overcome our doubts and divisions and the determined opposition of powerful special interests before we can truly reform a broken economy and advance opportunity.
But I am running for President because we simply cannot afford four more years of an economic philosophy that works for Wall Street instead of Main Street, and ends up devastating both.
I don't want to wake up in four years to find that more Americans fell out of the middle-class, and more families lost their savings. I don't want to see that our country failed to invest in our ability to compete, our children's future was mortgaged on another mountain of debt, and our financial markets failed to find a firmer footing.
This time - this election - is our chance to stand up and say: enough is enough!
We can do this because Americans have done this before. Time and again, we've battled back from adversity by recognizing that common stake that we have in each other's success. That's why our economy hasn't just been the world's greatest wealth generator - it's bound America together, it's created jobs, and it's made the dream of opportunity a reality for generation after generation of Americans.
Now it falls to us. And I need you to make it happen. If you want the next four years looking just 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 so that our kids can compete; then I ask you to knock on some doors, and make some calls, and talk to your neighbors, and give me your vote on November 4th. And if you do, I promise you - we will win Nevada, we will win this election, and we will change America together.