Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
Economic Roundtable with Democratic Governors
Friday, June 20th, 2008
As Prepared for Delivery
I want to thank you all for coming to Chicago today. For the last week or so, we’ve been traveling around the country to talk about what we can do to help families who are struggling in this economy, as well as the long-term agenda I’ll pursue as President to restore America’s prosperity and our competitive edge.
For all the decisions that are made about these issues in Washington, you’re the ones who see the effects on the families who live in your states every day. You’ve seen what happens when the federal government bails out investment banks on Wall Street, but doesn’t do enough to help the thousands of Americans who are losing their homes to this foreclosure crisis every day. You’ve seen what happens when tax breaks for big corporations and multimillionaires leave states without the resources to provide health care and good schools. That’s part of the reason why 29 states are facing $48 billion in budget shortfalls. You’ve seen what happens when $10 billion a month in Iraq takes away money that could be used to fix roads and bridges; to secure levees and dams. You know that while Washington’s fiscal irresponsibility has left our children with a lifetime of debt, you can’t spend money you don’t have because you actually have to balance your budgets.
After eight years of a President who has shown little concern for working families and little understanding of what it takes to grow our economy, you’ve had to innovate and take matters into your own hands. And you’ve done a wonderful job. Whether it’s the quick steps taken by Governors O’Malley and Strickland to prevent foreclosures and help homeowners refinance, or the energy-saving measures implemented by Governors Granholm and Baldacci, you’ve all proved that our states are still the laboratories of our democracy.
But with the state of our economy in such turmoil and millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet, you deserve and need a partner in the White House – a President who understands that our prosperity doesn’t come from Wall Street or Washington, but from the hard work and ingenuity and productivity of our people. We should be investing in their skills and their education and their well-being. And that’s exactly what I’ll do as President.
I’ve laid out my comprehensive economic agenda over the last few weeks, but I just want to highlight a few parts that particularly impact states before we open this up for discussion.
To start with, I think most of you would agree that we need to pass a second round of fiscal stimulus – and that’s relief that can’t wait until the next President takes office. I’ve called for an immediate $50 billion stimulus that would send out a second round of rebate checks to help families who can barely fill up their gas tanks or buy their groceries. It also includes a $10 billion Foreclosure Prevention Fund that would help homeowners refinance their mortgages and $10 billion to make sure that states that have been hit hardest by the housing crisis don’t have to slash critical public services like health care or education. We would also expand and extend unemployment insurance for those Americans who’ve lost their jobs.
To create new jobs, one step I will take as President is to invest $60 billion in a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank. You all understand firsthand how badly our roads and bridges are in need of repair. You know that it’s a safety and an economic issue, and you understand how many jobs this creates. And that’s why Senator McCain’s plan to pay for a gas tax holiday with transportation and infrastructure funding is an especially bad idea. It would mean less money for these important projects. It would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. And it would only save consumers –at most – pennies a day at the pump for just three months. I believe a second rebate check would make much more of a difference, and I know that we should be investing more in job-creating infrastructure projects, not less.
One other part of my economic plan that I want to mention today is how we can help Americans deal with the cost crisis that so many are facing each and every day. They’re working two jobs and three jobs to pay skyrocketing medical bills and tuition bills and gas bills and grocery bills with wages that have stayed the same. And it’s time we did something about it.
That starts with relieving the biggest burden to families, state budgets, and business – the crushing cost of health care. My plan would not only guarantee that every uninsured American could get the same kind of health care that Members of Congress give themselves, it would bring down premiums by $2500 for the typical family, and bring down costs for the entire country by making our health care system more efficient through better technology and more emphasis on prevention. We’d also help families dealing with the high cost of a college education by providing a $4,000 a year tax credit in exchange for national or community service. And I will reform our tax code so that instead of handing out billions more in tax breaks to multimillionaires like John McCain wants to do, we give a middle-class tax cut of $1,000 to 95% of all families, and eliminate income taxes altogether for seniors making under $50,000. That’s how we can start to build an economy that doesn’t just reward wealth, but the work and workers who create it. And that’s the kind of partner you’ll have in the White House when I’m President. Now I’d like to open this up for discussion and get a chance to hear from all of you.