THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release April 10, 2012
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON THE ECONOMY
Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, Florida
3:05 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Florida! (Applause.) Thank you! (Applause.) How is everybody doing today? (Applause.) Well, it is great to be back in Florida. (Applause.) It is great to be back in Boca. (Applause.) Great to be here at the home of the Fighting Owls. (Applause.)
I want to, first of all, thank Ayden not only for leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance, but also giving me great details about the burrowing owls. (Laughter.) He explained it all to me. And then he told me he wants my job. (Laughter.) And I explained to him that the Constitution requires you are 35 years old. (Laughter.) So I will keep the seat warm for him — (applause) — for a few more years.
I want to thank Rebecca for that extraordinary performance. (Applause.) In addition to having an unbelievable singing voice, she wants to be a teacher — she is an English major — and we need great teachers out there, so we’re very proud of her. (Applause.)
I want to thank your president, M.J. Saunders — (applause) — the Mayor of Boca Raton, Susan Whelchel, for hosting us here today. (Applause.) We’ve also got our outstanding Senator and former astronaut, which is very cool — Bill Nelson in the house. (Applause.) A wonderful Congressman, Ted Deutch is here. (Applause.) And my great friend, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is here. (Applause.) And you are here, which is very exciting. (Applause.) I am glad you guys came out. Now —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. (Applause.)
Now, look, guys, I know this is a busy time of year. Some of you are less than a month away from graduation. (Applause.) Some seniors in the house. (Applause.) Pretty soon, you’ll be closing the books at Wimberly for the last time. Maybe you’ll be making that one last trip to the beach or Coyote Jack’s. (Applause.) You’ll be picking up that diploma that you worked so hard for. Your parents will be there — they’ll be beaming, full of pride. And then comes what folks call the real world.
Now, I actually think college is part of the real world. But obviously there’s a transition that will take place as you leave college. And some of you may go on to post-graduate degrees, but some of you are going to be out there looking for work. College is the single-most important investment you can make in your future. (Applause.) So I’m proud that you’ve made it and you’ve seen it through.
But I also know that the future can be uncertain. Now, we’ve gone through the three toughest years in our lifetimes, economically — worst financial crisis, worst economic crisis. Our economy is now recovering but it’s not yet where it needs to be. Too many of your friends and too many of your neighbors are still hurting out there. They’re still looking for work. Too many of your families are still searching for that sense of security that started slipping away long before this recession hit.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Amen! (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Got the “Amen” corner here. (Laughter.)
So at a time like this, we’ve got to ask ourselves a central, fundamental question as a nation: What do we have to do to make sure that America is a place where, if you work hard, if you’re responsible, that that hard work and that responsibility pays off? (Applause.) And the reason it’s important to ask this question right now is because there are alternative theories.
There’s a debate going on in this country right now: Could we succeed as a nation where a shrinking number of people are doing really, really well, but a growing number are struggling to get by?
THE PRESIDENT: Or are we better off when everybody gets a fair shot — (applause) — and everybody does a fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules? (Applause.)
That’s what the debate in America is about right now. This is not just another run-of-the-mill gabfest in Washington. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class and everybody who’s aspiring to get into the middle class. And we’ve got two very different visions of our future. And the choice between them could not be clearer.
Now keep in mind, I start from the belief that government cannot and should not try to solve every single problem that we’ve got. Government is not the answer to everything. My first job in Chicago, when I wasn’t much older than most of you, was working with a group of Catholic churches on the South Side of Chicago in low-income neighborhoods to try to figure out how could we improve the schools, and how could we strengthen neighborhoods and strengthen families. And I saw that the work that some of these churches did did more good for people in their communities than any government program could. (Applause.)
In those same communities, I saw that no education policy, no matter how well crafted it is, no matter how well funded it is, can take the place of a parent’s love and attention. And I also believe that since government is funded by you that it has an obligation to be efficient and effective. (Applause.) And that’s why we’ve eliminated dozens of programs that weren’t working, announced hundreds of regulatory reforms to save businesses and taxpayers billions of dollars. We’ve put annual domestic spending on a path to become the smallest share of our economy since Eisenhower was in the White House, which is before I was born much less you being born. (Laughter.)
I believe the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history. (Applause.) But here’s the thing. I also agree with our first Republican President — a guy from my home state, a guy with a beard, named Abraham Lincoln. (Applause.) And what Lincoln said was that through our government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves. (Applause.) That’s the definition of a smart government.
And that’s the reason why we have a strong military, to keep us safe — because I suppose each of us could just grab whatever is around the house and try to defend our country, but we do better when we do it together. And we’ve got the best military in the history of the world, with the greatest men and women in uniform. We pay for that. (Applause.)
That’s why we have public schools to educate our children. (Applause.) If we didn’t have public schools, there would still be some families who would do very well. They could afford private schools or some would home-school. But there would be a lot of kids who would fall through the cracks. So we do that together.
It’s one of the reasons that we’ve laid down railroads and highways. We can’t build a highway for ourselves. We got to get our neighbors and our friends to say let’s go build a road. That’s why we supported the research and the technology that saved lives and created entire industries. The Internet, GPS — all those things were created by us together, not by ourselves.
It’s the reason why we contribute to programs like Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security and unemployment insurance. (Applause.) Because we understand that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, we know that eventually we’re going to get older. We know that at any point, one of us might face hard times, or bad luck, or a crippling illness, or a layoff. And the idea that together we build this safety net, this base of support, that allows all of us to take risks and to try new things, and maybe try — get a new job — because we know that there’s this base that we can draw on.
So these investments — in things like education and research and health care — they haven’t been made as some grand scheme to redistribute wealth from one group to another. This is not some socialist dream. They have been made by Democrats and Republicans for generations, because they benefit all of us and they lead to strong and durable economic growth. That’s why we’ve made these investments. (Applause.)
If you’re here at FAU because you got financial aid — (applause) — or a student loan, a scholarship — which, by the way, was how I was able to help finance my college education. That’s how Michelle got her college education. That doesn’t just benefit you. It benefits whatever company might end up hiring you and profiting from your skills. If one of you goes on to become the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, or one of you discovers the next medical breakthrough, think about all the people whose lives will be changed for the better. We made an investment in you; we’ll get a return on the investment. (Applause.)
When we guarantee basic security for the elderly or the sick or those who are actively looking for work, that doesn’t make us weak. What makes us weak is when fewer Americans can afford to buy the products that businesses are selling, when fewer people are willing to take risks and start their new business, because if it doesn’t work out they worry about feeding their families. What drags our entire economy down is when the benefits of economic growth and productivity go only to the few, which is what’s been happening for over a decade now, and gap between those at the very, very top and everybody else keeps growing wider and wider and wider and wider.
In this country, prosperity has never trickled down from the wealthy few. Prosperity has always come from the bottom up, from a strong and growing middle class. (Applause.) That’s how a generation who went to college on the GI Bill — including my grandfather — helped build the most prosperous economy that the world has ever known. That’s why a CEO like Henry Ford made a point to pay his workers enough money so that they could buy the cars that they were building. (Applause.) Because he understood, look, there’s no point in me having all this and then nobody can buy my cars. I’ve got to pay my workers enough so that they buy the cars, and that in turn creates more business and more prosperity for everybody.
This is not about a few people doing well. We want people to do well. That’s great. But it’s about giving everybody the chance to do well. (Applause.) That’s the essence of America. That’s what the American Dream is about. That’s why immigrants have come to our shores, because the idea was, you know what, it doesn’t matter what your name is, what you look like — you can be named Obama — (laughter) — you can still make it if you try. (Applause.)
And yet, we keep on having the same argument with folks who don’t seem to understand how it is that America got built. And let me just say, the folks that we have political arguments with, they’re Americans who love their country. Democrats, Republicans, independents, everybody — we all love this country. But there is a fundamental difference in how we think we move this country forward.
These folks, they keep telling us that if we just weaken regulations that keep our air or our water clean or protect our consumers, if we would just convert these investments that we’re making through our government in education and research and health care — if we just turned those into tax cuts, especially for the wealthy, then somehow the economy is going to grow stronger. That’s the theory.
And here’s the news: We tried this for eight years before I took office. We tried it. (Applause.) It’s not like we didn’t try it. (Laughter.) At the beginning of the last decade, the wealthiest Americans got two huge tax cuts — 2001, 2003. Meanwhile, insurance companies, financial institutions — they were all allowed to write their own rules, or find their way around rules. We were told the same thing we’re being told now — this is going to lead to faster job growth. This is going to lead to greater prosperity for everybody.
Guess what — it didn’t. (Laughter.) Yes, the rich got much richer. Corporations made big profits. But we also had the slowest job growth in half a century. The typical American family actually saw their incomes fall by about 6 percent even though the economy was growing, because more and more of that growth was just going to a few, and the average middle-class American wasn’t seeing it in their paychecks. Health care premiums skyrocketed. Financial institutions started making bets with other people’s money that were reckless. And then our entire financial system almost collapsed. You remember that?
THE PRESIDENT: It wasn’t that long ago. I know you guys are young, but it was pretty recent. (Laughter.)
Now, some of you may be science majors in here. (Applause.) I like that. We need more scientists, need more engineers. Now, I was not a science major myself, but I enjoyed science when I was young. And if I recall correctly, if an experiment fails badly — (laughter) — you learn from that, right? Sometimes you can learn from failure. That’s part of the data that teaches you stuff, that expands our knowledge. But you don’t then just keep on doing the same thing over and over again.
THE PRESIDENT: You go back to the drawing board. You try something different. But that’s not what’s been happening with these folks in Washington.
THE PRESIDENT: A lot of the folks who were peddling these same trickle-down theories — including members of Congress and some people who are running for a certain office right now, who shall not be named — (laughter and applause) — they’re doubling down on these old broken-down theories. Instead of moderating their views even slightly, instead of saying, you know what, what we did really didn’t work and we almost had a second Great Depression, and maybe we should try something different, they have doubled down.
They proposed a budget that showers the wealthiest Americans with even more tax cuts, and then pays for these tax cuts by gutting investments in education and medical research and clean energy, in health care.
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: Now, these are the facts. If the cuts they’re proposing are spread out evenly across the budget, then 10 million college students — including some of you — would see your financial aid cut by an average of more than $1,000 each.
THE PRESIDENT: Now, thousands of medical research grants for things like Alzheimer’s and cancer and AIDS would be eliminated. Tens of thousands of researchers and students and teachers could lose their jobs. Our investments in clean energy that are making us less dependent on imported oil would be cut by nearly a fifth.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: That’s wrong!
THE PRESIDENT: By the time you retire, instead of being enrolled in Medicare like today’s seniors are, you’d get a voucher to pay for your health care plan. But here’s the problem. If health care costs rise faster than the amount of the voucher, like they have been for decades, the rest of it comes out of your pockets. If the voucher isn’t enough to buy a plan with the specific doctors and care that you need, you’re out of luck. And by the middle of the next century — by the middle of this century — excuse me — by about 2050, at a time when most of you will have families of your own, funding for most of the investments I’ve talked about today would have been almost completely eliminated altogether.
Now, this is not an exaggeration. This is math. And when I said this about a week ago, the Republicans objected. They said, we didn’t specify all these cuts. Well, right, you didn’t because you knew that people wouldn’t accept them. So you just gave a big number and so what we’ve done is we’ve just done the math. This is what it would it mean.
They say, well, we didn’t specifically propose to cut student loans. Okay, if you don’t cut student loans, then that means you’ve got to cut basic research even more. The money has got to come from somewhere. You can’t give over $4 trillion worth of additional tax cuts, including to folks like me who don’t need them and weren’t asking for them, and it just comes from some magic tree somewhere. (Laughter.)
So if you hear them saying, well, the President is making this stuff up — no, we’re doing the math. If they want to dispute anything that I’ve said right now, they should show us specifically where they would make those cuts. (Applause.) They should show us. They should show us. Because, by the way, they’re not proposing to cut defense, they’re actually proposing to increase defense spending, so it’s not coming out of there. So show me.
Look, America has always been a place where anybody who’s willing to work and play by the rules can make it. A place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, it grows from the bottom; it grows outward from the heart of a vibrant middle class. (Applause.)
And I believe that we cannot stop investing in the things that help create that middle class; that create real, long-lasting, broad-based growth in this country. And we certainly shouldn’t be doing it just so the richest Americans can get another tax cut. (Applause.) We should be strengthening those investments. We should be making college more affordable. (Applause.) We should be expanding our investment in clean energy. (Applause.)
Now, here’s the other thing that the Republicans will tell you. They’ll say, well, we’ve got to make all these drastic cuts because our deficit is too high. Our deficit is too high. And their argument might actually have a shred of credibility to it if you didn’t find out that they wanted to spend $4.6 trillion on lower tax rates. I don’t know how many of you are math majors, business majors — you can’t pay down a deficit by taking in $4.6 trillion of less money, especially when you’re denying that you’re going to be making all these cuts. It doesn’t add up. It doesn’t make sense.
And keep in mind, more than a trillion dollars of the tax cuts they propose would be going to people who make more than $250,000 a year. That is an average of at least $150,000 — again, we’re just taking the numbers with the details they’ve given us and you spread it out — that averages to at least $150,000 for every millionaire, billionaire in the country. Each millionaire and billionaire, on average, would get $150,000. Some folks would get a lot more.
So we did some math of our own. We added up all the investments $150,000 could pay for. All right? So let’s say a tax break that I might get that I really don’t need — I’ve got — treated pretty well in this life. (Laughter.) So right now, I’m going to be okay. Malia, Sasha, they’re going to be able to go to college. (Applause.) Michelle is doing fine. (Applause.) So understand what this means.
Here’s what $150,000 means — $150,000, this is what each millionaire and billionaire would get, on average. This could pay for a tax credit that would make a year of college more affordable for students like you. (Applause.) Plus a year’s worth of financial aid for students like you. (Applause.) Plus a year’s worth of prescription drug savings for one of your grandparents. (Applause.) Plus a new computer lab for this school. (Applause.) Plus a year of medical care for a veteran in your family who went to war and risked their lives fighting for this country. (Applause.) Plus a medical research grant for a chronic disease. (Applause.) Plus a year’s salary for a firefighter or police officer — $150,000 could pay for all of these things combined. Think about that.
So let me ask you what’s the better way to make our economy stronger? Do we give another $50,000 [sic] in tax breaks to every millionaire and billionaire in the country?
THE PRESIDENT: Or should we make investments in education and research and health care and our veterans? (Applause.)
And I just want to emphasize again — look, I want folks to get rich in this country. I think it’s wonderful when people are successful. That’s part of the American Dream. It is great that you make a product, you create a service, you do it better than anybody else — that’s what our system is all about. But understand, the share of our national income going to the top 1 percent has climbed to levels we haven’t seen since the 1920s. The folks who are benefitting from this are paying taxes at one of the lowest rates in 50 years.
You might have heard of this, but Warren Buffett is paying a lower tax rate than his secretary. Now, that’s wrong. That’s not fair. And so we’ve got to choose which direction we want this country to go in. Do we want to keep giving those tax breaks to folks like me who don’t need them, or give them to Warren Buffet — he definitely doesn’t need them — (laughter) — or Bill Gates — he’s already said, I don’t need them. Or do we want to keep investing in those things that keep our economy growing and keep us secure? That’s the choice. (Applause.)
And, Florida, I’ve told you where I stand. So now it’s time for members of Congress to tell you where they stand. In the next few weeks, we’re going to vote on something called the Buffett Rule — very simple: If you make more than $1 million a year — now, I’m not saying you have a million dollars — right? I’m not saying you saved up all your money and you made smart investments and now you’ve got your nest egg and you’re preparing for retirement. I’m saying, you’re bringing in a million bucks or more a year. Then, what the rule says is you should pay the same percentage of your income in taxes as middle-class families do. (Applause.) You shouldn’t get special tax breaks. You shouldn’t be able to get special loopholes. (Applause.)
And if we do that, then it makes it affordable for us to be able to say for those people who make under $250,000 a year — like 98 percent of American families do — then your taxes don’t go up. (Applause.) And we can still make those investments in things like student loans and college and science and infrastructure and all the things that make this country great.
And this is where you come in. This is why I came to see you. I mean, it’s nice to see you. The weather is nice; you guys have been a wonderful audience. (Applause.) I learned about the burrowing owl. (Applause.) So there were all kinds of reasons for me to want to come down here. But one of the reasons I came was I want you to call your members of Congress. I want you to write them an email. I want you to tweet them. (Laughter.) Tell them don’t give tax breaks to folks like me who don’t need them. Tell them to start investing in the things that will help the economy grow. Tell them if we want to bring down our deficit sensibly, then we’ve got to do it in a balanced way that’s fair for everybody. Remind them who they work for. Tell them to do the right thing. (Applause.)
As I look out across this gymnasium, everybody here — from all different backgrounds, from all different parts of the country — each of us is here because somebody, somewhere, felt responsibility for other people. Our parents, obviously, our grandparents, great grandparents, the sacrifices they made — some of them took enormous risks coming to this country with nothing because they wanted to give a better life to their kids and their grandkids. (Applause.) A lot of them did without so that you could benefit. But they weren’t just thinking about their families. They were thinking about their communities. They were thinking about their country.
That’s what responsibility means. It means that as you have greater and greater opportunity, then the scope of you being able to help more people and think about the future expands. And so you’re not just thinking about yourself; you’re thinking about your kids, your spouse, your family, your grandkids, your neighborhood, your state, your nation. You’re thinking about the future.
And now it’s our turn to be responsible. Now it’s our turn to preserve the American Dream for future generations. Now it’s our turn to rebuild, to make the investments that will assure our future, to make sure that we’ve got the most competitive workforce on Earth, to make sure that we’ve got clean energy that can help clean the planet and help fuel our economy. (Applause.)
It’s our turn. It’s our turn to rebuild our roads and our bridges and our airports and our ports. It’s our turn to make sure that everybody here, every child born in whatever neighborhood in this country it is, that if they’re willing to dream big dreams and put some blood, sweat and tears behind it, they can make it. (Applause.)
I know we can do that. I know we can do it because of you. You’re here because you believe in your future. (Applause.) You’re working hard. Some of you are balancing a job or a family on the side.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: You have faith in America. You know it’s not going to be easy, but you don’t give up. That’s the spirit we need right now, because here in America we don’t give up. (Applause.) Here in America, we look out for one another. Here in America, we help each other get ahead. Here in America, we have a sense of common purpose. Here in America, we can meet any challenge. Here in America, we can seize any moment. We can make this century another great American century. (Applause.)
Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
END 3:39 P.M. EDT
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT CAMPAIGN EVENT
Westin Diplomat Hotel
5:50 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Florida! (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. (Applause.)
It is good to be back in the Sunshine State. (Applause.) Well, there are some folks here I want to acknowledge. Everybody, have a seat. Relax. I’ve got a few things to say. (Laughter.) First of all, your own Debbie Wasserman Schultz is in the house. (Applause.) Outstanding members of Congress — Ted Deutch is here. (Applause.) Federica Wilson is here. (Applause.) Our Florida finance chair, Kirk Wagar is here. (Applause.) Broward County finance chair, Andrew Weinstein is here. (Applause.)
The outstanding John Legend is in the house. (Applause.) John wanted me to sing a duet. I said no. (Laughter.) Not tonight. But maybe if you practice a little bit — (laughter.) And I want to thank Gerri Ann for that wonderful introduction. Give her a big round of applause as well. (Applause.)
Now, I am here not just because the weather is really good. (Laughter.) I’m not here just because there are a lot of great friends in the audience. And I’m not even here just because I need your help. I’m here because your country needs your help. (Applause.) A lot of you got involved in this campaign back in 2008. Some of you worked your hearts out. It wasn’t, by the way, because you thought it was going to be easy. When you support a guy named Barack Hussein Obama for President — (laughter) — you’re not looking at the odds makers. You don’t need a poll to know that’s not a sure thing. (Laughter.)
You didn’t join the campaign just because of me. This wasn’t just about a candidate; this was about a vision that we shared for America — a vision that all of you shared. It wasn’t a vision where people are left to fend for themselves, and the most powerful can play by their own rules. It was a vision of America where everybody works hard, everybody is responsible, and everybody has a chance to get ahead — not just those at the very top. The notion that no matter where you come from, what you look like, what your last name is — black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled or not — it doesn’t matter, you’ve got a shot at the American Dream. (Applause.)
That’s the vision we shared. That’s the change that we believed in. And we knew it wasn’t going to come easy. We knew it wouldn’t come quickly. But we had confidence and faith in the American people and our capacity to bring about an America that was moving closer to our ideals. And you know what, in just a little over three years, because of what you did in 2008, we’ve started to see what change looks like.
Change is the first bill I signed into law that says women deserve an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work. (Applause.) Our daughters should have the same opportunities as our sons. (Applause.) You made that happen.
Change is the decisions that we made to help prevent a second Great Depression — to rescue the American auto industry from collapse, even when some politicians were out there saying we should let Detroit go bankrupt. We had a million jobs on the line if we had let that happen. And I wasn’t going to let that happen. And today, GM is back on top as the world’s number one automaker — (applause) — making record profits, hiring back workers. More than 200,000 new jobs over the last two and a half years in the American auto industry. It is coming back. That happened because of you. (Applause.)
Change is the decision we made to stop waiting for Congress to do something about our oil addiction. We doubled fuel-efficiency standards on cars and trucks. And by the middle of the next decade, we’re going to be driving American-made cars that get almost 55 miles to a gallon, saves the typical family $8,000 at the pump. (Applause.) That happened because of you.
We decided let’s stop handing out $60 billion in taxpayer giveaways to banks that were managing the student loan program, let’s give the money directly to students. (Applause.) And because of you, millions of young people have gotten help affording college and being able to compete in this 21st century economy. That happened because of your work back in 2008 and beyond.
Yes, change is health care reform that we passed after a century of trying — (applause) — reform that says in the United States of America, the greatest country on Earth, nobody should go broke because they get sick. (Applause.) And because of that law, right now 2.5 million young people have health insurance that didn’t have it before because they can stay on their parent’s plans. (Applause.)
Right now, millions of seniors are paying less for their prescription drugs. Right now, every American has the assurance that they can’t be denied coverage or dropped by their insurance company when they need care the most. And they can get preventive care, regardless of who they are, regardless of where you come from. That’s what change is. That happened because of you.
Change is the fact that for the first time in our history you don’t have to hide who you love to serve the country you love because we ended “don’t ask, don’t tell.” (Applause.) It’s over.
And change is keeping another promise I made in 2008 — for the first time in nine years there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. We’ve refocused our efforts on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. (Applause.) And because of our brave men and women, al Qaeda is back on its heels and Osama bin Laden is no more. That’s what change is. (Applause.)
Now, we’ve —
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: It’s actually four and a half. (Laughter.)
And we’ve begun to transition in Afghanistan to put Afghans in the lead, bring our troops home. (Applause.)
Record investments in clean energy. Record investments in education. Restoring science to its rightful place. Well, none of this has been easy. And everybody here knows we’ve got a lot more work to do. There are still so many Americans out there that are still looking for work or trying to find a job that pays a little more, too many families who are barely able to pay the bills, homes underwater. We’re still recovering from the worst economic crisis in generations.
But even on the economic front, over these last two years, we’ve seen businesses add more than 4 million new jobs, manufacturers creating jobs for the first time since the 1990s. The economy is getting stronger. The recovery is accelerating. And the last thing we can afford to do right now is to go back to the same, worn-out, tired, uninspired, don’t-work policies that got us into this mess in the first place. (Applause.)
But, of course, that’s exactly what the other side wants to do. They make no bones about it. They don’t make — they don’t hide the ball. They want to go back to the days when Wall Street could play by its own rules. They’ve said, we want to roll back all the reforms that were put in place to protect consumers and make sure that we don’t end up seeing taxpayer bailouts again. They want to go back to the days when insurance companies could deny you coverage or jack up premiums without reason. They want to spend trillions of dollars more on tax breaks for the very wealthiest of Americans, even if it means adding to the deficit, even if it means gutting things like education or clean energy or Medicare.
Their philosophy is simple: If we just let those who have done best keep on doing what they do, and everybody else is struggling to get by, somehow that’s going to grow the economy.
They’re wrong. (Applause.) In the United States of America we are greater together than we are on our own. We are better off when we keep that basic American promise: If you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, put a little away for retirement.
And that’s the choice in this election. This is not just your run-of-the-mill political debate. We have not seen a contrast like this in a long time. This is the defining issue of our time, this make-or-break moment for our middle class and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. And are we going to stand with those folks who have been the backbone of economic growth in this country throughout our history?
We could go back to an economy built on outsourcing and bad debt and phony financial profits. Or we can fight for an economy that’s built to last — an economy built on American manufacturing, and American energy, and skills for American workers — (applause) — and the values of everyday Americans of hard work and fair play and shared responsibility. (Applause.)
And I know what side I am in that debate. I know what side I’m on in that debate. I think we’ve got to make sure that the next generation of manufacturing takes root not in Asia, not in Europe — takes root right here in the United States of America; right here in Florida, in Detroit, in Pittsburgh, in Cleveland. (Applause.) I don’t want this nation just to be known for what we buy and consume. I want us to be a nation known for what we produce and invent and sell all around the world. It’s time to stop rewarding businesses that are shipping jobs overseas. Let’s reward companies that are investing right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
Let’s make our schools the envy of the world. (Applause.) And that starts, by the way, with the men and women at the front of the classroom. You know, a good teacher can actually increase the lifetime earnings of a classroom by $250,000. A great teacher can inspire and plant that seed of possibility in a child, no matter how poor they are. (Applause.)
And that’s why I don’t like hearing folks just bashing teachers. (Applause.) I don’t want them — I don’t believe in just defending the status quo. I want schools to have the resources they need to keep good teachers on the job. Reward the best ones. Give schools the flexibility to teach with creativity and passion. Stop teaching to the test. Give us a chance to train teachers that aren’t doing a great job, get rid of those who are [sic] — we can create accountability in the system, and high standards, but we’ve got to make sure that we’re thinking about our kids first.
And when kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge ends up being the cost of college. Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt right now, which means, by the way, Congress needs to stop the student interest — the interest rates on student loans from doubling, which is scheduled to happen in July.
And colleges and universities have to do their part. They’ve got to keep tuition from going up. And state legislatures need to keep their part by supporting higher education. (Applause.) This is not a luxury higher education; it is an economic imperative that every American should be able to afford.
An economy built to last is one where we support scientists and researchers that are trying to make the next breakthrough happen right here in the United States in biotech and nanotechnology and clean energy.
We’ve subsidized oil companies for a hundred years. It’s time to end the hundred years of taxpayer giveaways for an industry that is plenty profitable, doing just fine, have more than enough incentive to keep on producing. Let’s give it to clean energy industries that have never been more promising — solar and wind and biodiesel. (Applause.)
Let’s rebuild America. I think about what was built in my grandparents’ generation — Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge, the Interstate Highway System. We’ve got to give our businesses the best access to the best roads and the best airports and the fastest railroads, faster Internet access. It’s time for us to take some of that money that we spent on war, use half of it to pay down our debt, use the rest of it to do some nation-building here at home. (Applause.) We can put folks back to work right now rebuilding America. (Applause.)
(Lights flicker on and off.) Is there a little light show going on here? (Laughter.) It’s nice. (Laughter.) Sort of a — it’s a disco rally. (Laughter.) Somebody going to pull the roller skates out now? (Laughter.) What’s going on here?
And finally, we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got a tax system that reflects everybody doing their fair share. I just spoke about this earlier today. We have to reduce our deficit. It’s a long-term challenge. And we’ve got to do it in a balanced way. We’ve made some very tough spending cuts. We’re going to have to make some smart choices in terms of health reform. That’s what’s driving a lot of increased government spending.
We’ve also got to make sure that revenues are there to pay for the things that are absolutely necessary for us to grow our economy, to maintain a basic safety net for our seniors and folks who are vulnerable.
Now, the other side, they’ve got a different idea. They want to decimate basic government investments that historically have helped this economy grow, and use it to finance tax cuts for the very wealthiest. And I’ve got a different idea. I say, let’s follow what we call the Buffett Rule. If you make more than a million dollars a year — I’m not saying you’ve got a million dollar nest egg that you accumulated over the course of years saving for your retirement. I’m saying if you make a million dollars a year, then you shouldn’t pay a lower tax rate than your secretary. (Applause.) That’s common sense. That’s not — they may call in class envy or — that’s just being fair. And by doing that, that also allows us then to say to folks who are making $250,000 a year or less — like 98 percent of American families — that their taxes don’t go up. (Applause.)
This is not class warfare. This is not about envy. We want Americans to be wealthy. We want them to be successful. But this is just basic math. Because if somebody like me, who is doing just fine, gets tax breaks I don’t need and that the country can’t afford, then one of two things is going to happen: Either it gets added to our deficit — now, the other side say they care about the deficit; well, these tax cuts add to the deficit — or, alternatively, you’ve got to take it away from somebody else — a student who’s trying to pay for their college, or a senior trying to get by with Social Security and Medicare, or a veteran who needs some care after he or she has served this country with distinction, or a family that’s just trying to get by. That’s not right. That’s not who we are.
You know, when I hear politicians during an election year talk about values — well, what kind of values does that reflect? Hard work — that’s a value. Responsibility — that’s a value. Honesty, looking out for one another — I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper — that’s a value. (Applause.) Our budget should reflect those values. Our politics should reflect those values.
Everybody here — look at this room, people from every conceivable background, every part of the country — everybody here, you’re here because somebody, somewhere felt some responsibility not just for themselves, but for others. It started with your parents, grandparents — some may have come to this country with nothing but wanted more opportunity for their kids. (Applause.) They worked on behalf of their family. They worked on behalf of their neighborhoods, their community. They worked on behalf of their country. They understood that the American story is not about just what you can do on your own. We’re rugged individualists. We expect everybody to carry their own weight. But we also understand that what makes us great is what we can do together.
We won’t win the race for new jobs and businesses, we won’t restore middle-class security with the same old you’re-on-your-own economics. It doesn’t work. It never worked. We tried it before the Great Depression, back in the ‘20s — didn’t work. We tried it in the last decade. We were promised how this was going to unleash all this unbelievable economic growth. And what ended up happening? Sluggish job growth, wages and incomes flat-lined for middle-class families struggling to get by, and then culminated in the worst financial crisis we’ve seen since the 1930s. We tried it. Their theories don’t work.
And most people understand this. They understand there’s a different way to think about the economy and this journey we’re on together. It says we’ve got a stake in each other’s success. If we attract an outstanding teacher to the profession by paying them properly, by giving them the training they need, the professional development, and that teacher goes on to educate the next Steve Jobs, well, you know what — we all benefit. If we provide faster Internet to rural America and then suddenly some storeowner has access to a global market and they’re selling goods and services and growing that business and hiring — that’s good for all of us. If we build a bridge that cuts on commuting times and suddenly that shipping company is saving time and money, workers and customers — the country does better.
And this is not historically a Democratic or Republican idea. It was Republican Teddy Roosevelt who called for a progressive income tax. Dwight Eisenhower, Republican, built the Interstate Highway System. It was, with the help of Republicans in Congress, FDR who gave millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, a chance to get ahead through the GI Bill. Abraham Lincoln, first Republican President, helped to bind this country together through the Transcontinental Railroad, started the land-grant colleges, National Academy of Sciences. This is not just a Democratic idea.
And here’s the good news: That spirit of common purpose, it still exists all across this country. Maybe not in Washington. (Laughter and applause.) But out in America, it’s there. It’s there when you talk to folks on Main Street, in town halls. It’s there when you talk to our unbelievable members of our armed forces. It’s there when you go to places of worship.
Our politics may be divided, but most Americans understand that we’re greater together than we are apart, and that no matter where we come from, who we are, we rise or fall as one nation. (Applause.) That’s what’s at stake in this election.
I know this has been a tough few years for America. We’ve seen a lot of stuff in these last three years, and I know that the change we fought for in 2008, as much as we’ve gotten done, we’ve got so much more to do. And there are times when change just doesn’t come fast enough. I don’t watch some of these cable news shows and all this sniping, but I imagine if you’re sitting back, or, lord knows if you live in a swing state and you’re watching these negative ads and — at a certain point, you must just step back and sort of say, maybe this change we believed in, maybe it’s just not possible. It’s tempting to be cynical and say you know what, this just is too hard.
So I’m here to remind you, I didn’t say it was going to be easy. I told you real change — big change — takes time. These problems didn’t build up overnight and they’re not going to be solved overnight. It will take more than a single term, more than a single President. (Applause.) What it takes is ordinary citizens. It takes folks like you who are committed to this larger project of making sure that America is constantly moving closer and closer to its highest ideals.
Back in 2008, I used to tell you, I’m not a perfect man, I will never be a perfect President. But I made a promise to everybody. I said, I will always tell you what I think, I’ll tell you where I stand. And I told you I would wake up every single day fighting for you as hard as I know how. (Applause.) And I have kept that promise. I’ve kept that promise. (Applause.)
And so if you’re willing to stick with me on this thing, if you’re willing to keep pushing through the obstacles, and knocking on doors, and making phone calls, and fighting for what is right, if you’re willing to work even harder than we did in 2008, we will finish what we started. (Applause.) And we will remind the world just why it is that America is the greatest nation on Earth.
God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
END 6:17 P.M. EDT
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT A CAMPAIGN EVENT
Golden Beach, Florida
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. (Applause.) Well, first of all, let me thank Jeremy, who has been a friend for a long time. He supported me at a time when nobody could pronounce my name, and had great faith, probably because I think we’re both basketball fans, and he was impressed with my knowledge, although his seats at games are generally better than mine. (Laughter.)
And I want to thank Jeremy’s family for taking the time to be here, and his lovely mom and sisters. And Kirk Wagar, who has just been working so hard on my behalf not just this time out but the previous time out. We appreciate you.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is not only a outstanding member of Congress and a great mom but is also doing wonderful work on behalf of the DNC — we appreciate her. Thank you, Florida, for sending her into the national spotlight.
And Mayor Anthony Foxx — he is going to be our host in Charlotte, when we have our convention, and so we’re glad that he’s here as well. (Applause.
And of course I appreciate all of you. Some of you have been great friends in other venues, and we appreciate everything that you do.
I’m going to be very brief at the top because I want to spend most of my time answering questions and getting comments and thoughts from you. We’ve gone through three of the toughest years in our lifetimes — an economy that almost tipped into a Great Depression; an auto industry that almost went belly-up; a banking system that froze; millions of people losing their jobs; a housing market that collapsed — a world economic crisis that began just a little bit before I was sworn into office, and we’ve been fighting to bring America back ever since.
The good news is we’re making enormous progress on a whole range of fronts. The auto industry is back on its feet, selling cars. GM is making regular profits and is the number-one automaker again in the world, and they’re making better cars. We’ve made progress in doubling fuel-efficiency standards on cars that help our environment and are reducing — is reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Actually, each year that I’ve been in office we’ve been importing less oil, even as the economy has become more productive and is growing.
Four million jobs over the last two years. The best manufacturing job growth since the 1990s — 600,000 jobs just in the last three months alone.
So we’re making progress, but I think all of us understand that we’ve still got a lot more work to do, partly because we haven’t fully recovered from the depths of this crisis — there are still too many people out there who are looking for work, there are still too many homes that are underwater. Florida — the economy here is still suffering from the headwinds of the housing market and its collapse. But partly because when we ran for office — when I ran for office in 2008, the goal wasn’t just to get back to where we were in 2007. Because even then, even before the economic crisis had hit — the financial crisis had hit, we had seen a decade in which job growth was sluggish, and incomes and wages for ordinary people didn’t just flat-line, they actually went down when you factored in inflation.
That sense of middle-class security — the sense that if you worked hard you could get ahead, support a family, send your kids to college, retire with dignity and respect — that sense of security had been slipping away for too many people. And the goal in 2008 was to make those changes, to get rid of those obstacles, to reform systems that had had problems for decades so that middle-class Americans and people who aspire to get in the middle class would once again have a chance. An economy that was characterized by everybody having a fair shot and everybody doing their fair share and everybody playing by the same set of rules — that’s what we’ve been fighting for.
And that’s why in addition to just dealing with the immediate crisis, in addition to dealing with two wars, ending one, transitioning in another, in addition to going after bin Laden and making sure that we degraded the al Qaeda network, in addition to restoring America’s respect in the world, in addition to all the things we’ve done in foreign policy, in crisis management, what we’ve tried to do is also make sure that we’re dealing with those long-term barriers to economic growth and prosperity, broad-based prosperity.
So that means having an energy policy that emphasizes clean energy and solar and wind power and all those things that are going to allow us to stay at the cutting edge in the 21st century. It means reforming our education system — K-12, community colleges and four-year colleges and universities — so that we’ve got the best workforce in the world in this more competitive environment that we’re in.
It means dealing with health care — not only to make sure that 30 million people get health care that didn’t have it before, so nobody is bankrupt when they get sick in this country, but also to start rationalizing the system so that it is more efficient, provides better care, lowers costs, is a good deal for everybody.
And it means making sure that we’ve got a budget, a tax system, that is fair so that you don’t have Warren Buffett paying a lower tax rate than his secretary; so that we can lower the deficits and make investments that we need in the future generations — in rebuilding our infrastructure and investing in basic science and research, college loans for students — but doing so in a way that’s paid for. And part of paying for it is, folks like me and many of you, making sure that we are doing our fair bit.
Now, the other side has a just fundamentally different
view of these issues, and that’s before we start talking about things like the courts and access to justice and women’s rights and voting rights and a whole range of social concerns where, again, there is a — immigration — where there is a big contrast between what the other side is peddling and what I think is needed to make this country strong.
So you’re probably going to have as big a contrast in this election as we’ve seen in a very long time. And that means that we may have to work even harder than we did in 2008.
The good news is I think the American people are on our side. I think the American people understand that this country is stronger when we come together, and we’re looking out for one another, and we’re thinking about the future, and not just the next election.
But they expect to see us fight for them. And that’s what I intend to keep doing, with your help, for the next four and a half years.
So thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 7:39 P.M.