Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service
REMARKS BY SENATOR BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE, AT AN "AMERICAN JOBS TOUR" RALLY
GENOA PARK, COLUMBUS, OHIO
1:38 P.M. EDT, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2008
SEN. OBAMA: (In progress) -- all right, I will try to speak up. (Laughter.) I don't like to yell. (Cheers.) I will try to speak up. And if I can't hear you, then -- if you can't hear me, then you can holler some more. How's that? (Cheers.) All right.
Now, there are many causes of this crisis. Can you hear me?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes we can!
SEN. OBAMA: Can you hear me way in the back? (Cheers.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes we can! (Laughs.)
SEN. OBAMA: All right.
Now, here's the only deal, though. I can't have you all hollerin' and then say I can't hear you. (Laughter.) Some of you, you can't hear me 'cause you're talking. (Laughter.) All right. But I'm going to speak up.
There are many causes of this crisis, and it's very important that we respond using all the tools that we have. So I'm encouraged that the Treasury is considering dramatic steps to provide more capital into our financial institutions so they have money to lend to businesses large and small. This is not a time for ideology; this is a time for common sense. This is a time for the politics of pragmatism. The test of an idea can't be whether it's liberal or conservative, the test should be whether it works for the American people and for American business. (Cheers, applause.) That's what we should be focused on in the days and week ahead.
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 this is the United States of America. (Cheers.) This is 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 -- (cheers, applause) -- with resolve and with courage.
We've all seen our share of hard times. The American story has never been about things that came easy; it's been about rising to the moment when things are hard, about rejecting panicked division in favor of purposeful unity, about seeing a mountaintop from the deepest valley. (Cheers.) That's why we remember some of the most famous words ever spoken by an American came from a president who took an office in a time of turmoil. He said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." (Cheers.)
Now is not the time for fear. Now is not the time for panic. Now is the time for resolve and steady leadership.
Columbus, we can meet this moment. We can come together to restore confidence in the American economy. We can renew that fundamental belief that in America, our destiny is not written for us, it is written by us. (Cheers.) That is who we are. That's the country we need to be right now. (Cheers, applause.)
AUDIENCE: (Chanting.) Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!
SEN. OBAMA: America -- America still has the most talented, most productive workers of any country on Earth. You know this, Ohio. We're the home to workers who built the largest middle class in history. We're home to workers who work two, three jobs; take the last bus home at night because they're willing to sacrifice for their children's future. We're home to innovation and technology, colleges and universities -- like Ohio State -- that are the envy of the world. (Cheers, applause.) Some of the biggest, brightest ideas in history have come from our small businesses, from somebody starting a new company in the back of a garage, from our research facilities. So it won't be easy, but there's no reason why we can't make this century another American century.
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 I'm running for president of the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)
AUDIENCE: (Chanting.) Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!
SEN. OBAMA: We -- we can't keep on doing the same on thing.
You know, even as we face the most serious economic crisis of our time, even as you're worried about keeping your jobs or paying your bills or staying in your home, my opponent's campaign announced last week that they plan to -- I'm quoting them now -- "turn the page" on the discussion of our economy -- (boos) -- so they can spend the final weeks of this election attacking me instead. (Boos.) Senator McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote, "if we keep talking about the economic crisis, we are going to lose." (Cheers.) So in the last couple of days, we've seen a barrage of nasty insinuations and attacks. I'm sure we're see a lot more of that over the next 25 days. We know what's coming. We know what they're going to do.
But here's the thing, Ohio. They can try to turn the page on talking about the economy. They can try to deny the record of the last eight years. They can run misleading ads. They can pursue the politics of anything goes. But it's not going to work, not this time. The American people don't intend to be hoodwinked this time. (Cheers, applause.) I think folks are looking for something different. (Cheers, applause.) You know, it's easy to rile up a crowd by stoking anger and division, but that's not what we need right now in the United States. The times are too serious. The challenges are too great.
We need leadership that brings the American people together. (Cheers.) The American people aren't looking for someone who can divide this country, they're looking for somebody to lead it. (Cheers, applause.)
AUDIENCE: Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!
SEN. OBAMA: We are in a serious crisis, and now more than ever it is time to put country ahead of politics. Now more than ever, it's time to bring change to Washington so it works for the people of this country that we love so much.
Now, I know John McCain's worried about his campaign, but that's not what I'm worrying about. I'm thinking about Americans losing their jobs and their homes and their life savings. I'm worried about folks who started off with a 401(k) and now they've got a 101(k). (Laughter.) We can't afford four more years of the same economic theories that -- that says we should give more and more to those with the most -- the billionaires and the millionaires, the CEOs -- (boos) -- and the executives, and that somehow prosperity trickles down on everybody else. We can't afford four more years of stripping away regulations so that no one in Washington is watching -- watching anybody on Wall Street.
We've seen where that leads us and we are not going back. It is time to move forward. It is time to take a new road with a new driver. (Cheers, applause.)
It is time to put the last eight years of failed economic policies behind us, policies that put Wall Street ahead of Main Street and ended up hurting both. We need policies, Columbus, 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 -- (cheers) -- not just the factory owner, but the men and work -- and women who are working on the factory floor. (Cheers.) If we have learned anything from this economic crisis, it's that we're all connected. We're all in this together. We will rise or fall as one nation, as one people, all of us -- black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, young, old, rich, poor, labor, management, north, south, east, west, all of us working together. (Cheers, applause.)
Now, my opponent has a fundamentally different view. Recently, he -- he proposed a plan that would hand over $300 billion to underwrite the kind of greed and irresponsibility on Wall Street that got us into this mess. His intention, he says, is to help homeowners. Well, want homeowners to get help, but the way he set this up, it punishes taxpayers, it rewards banks, and it won't solve our housing crisis.
Now, at first, he said this spending would come from the rescue package that's already passed, but the rescue package included taxpayer protections that prevent exactly the kind of scheme that Senator McCain is putting forward. We're not going to solve the immediate crisis by going back and changing the law we passed last week to push forward a plan that would take months to implement.
So I have a fundamentally different view from Senator McCain. Yes, we need to help innocent homebuyers. That's why I insisted a long time ago that we have a rescue package that gives Treasury the authority to buy and rework mortgages, so that if you're at -- at risk of losing your home but you're willing to keep on making payments, then the banks give up a little bit and you've got to give up a little bit, but you can stay in your house. That makes sense. (Cheers.) We've given Treasury a broad menu of options that should be pursued, but we should not put taxpayer money at -- at unnecessary risk. Taxpayers should not have all the downside without any of the upside. That's a principle I've fought for, it's a principle that I will maintain, it's a principle that I will stand up for as president of the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.) That's the choice in this election.
Now, I repeat, we need to do more to help innocent homebuyers. That's why I've worked on a serious proposals over the past two years to do just that. But we have to do it in a responsible way. That means making sure that we're not overpaying for these mortgages, letting the banks off the hook, rewarding the very lenders whose recklessness helped cause this crisis. It means giving taxpayers a share of the benefits when the housing market recovers. It means cracking down on predatory lenders by treating mortgage fraud like the crime that it is. (Cheers, applause.)
We also have to make sure that if the Treasury moves forward with its plan to put more money into struggling banks, that taxpayers will be able to get their money back, and the CEOs who contributed to this crisis will not get rich at our expense. (Cheers, applause.)
Some of you -- some of you probably heard about this -- these folks at AIG, the insurance company. (Boos.) You know, here we are trying to help 'em keep afloat, next thing you know, turns out they've got a $400,000 junket. Let me tell you something: as president, I will march those folks back into my office, I will say give me back a check for that money -- (cheers, applause) -- and we are going to try to make sure those folks get fired. I don't know what they were thinking, but enough is enough. We need some accountability.
Now, let's be clear, Ohio: the rescue plan that passed Congress last week, that's not the end of what we need to do to strengthen this economy, it's only the beginning. Now what we need is a rescue plan for you. (Cheers.) Now we need a rescue plan for the middle class -- (cheers) -- a plan that provides every family immediate relief to cope with rising food and gas prices, a plan to put more money in your pockets with -- with a tax rebate, a plan to save 1 million jobs by rebuilding our schools and our roads, a plan to help states and cities avoid budget cuts and tax increases. And we should extend expiring unemployment benefits to those Americans who've lost their job and -- and they're out there working hard trying to find a new one, but the market is tough right now and we've got to make sure that they've got a little bit of help. (Cheers.) I've been fighting for such a plan for months now, while my opponent has said nothing. And that is the choice in this election.
If we're going to rebuild this economy from the bottom up, it has to start with our small businesses on Main Street, not just the big banks on Wall Street. Small businesses, Columbus, employ half of the workers in the private sector in this country. They account for the majority of the job growth. But you know what's happening with this credit crunch? That's dried up capital and put the jobs of people who work at small businesses at risk because shops can't finance their inventories. Small firms can't make their payroll. It's harder to get a new idea off the ground or to provide health care for your employees. If we don't act, we'll be looking at scaled-back operations and shuttered shops and laid-off workers.
And that's why we need a small business rescue plan, so that we're extending our hand to the shops and restaurants, the startups and small firms that create all these jobs, that -- that make our economy grow. Main Street needs relief and you need it now. We won't grow government. All we're going to do is work within the Small Business Administration to keep folks afloat, to keep these businesses open, while providing tax cuts to lift the tide. It's what we did after 9/11. We were able to get low-cost loans out to tens of thousands of small businesses. That's one of the many steps we can and should take to help stop job losses and turn this economy around.
This is going to start with a nationwide program to provide affordable, fixed-rate loans to small businesses across the country. We can run this through the SBA's Disaster Loan Program, provides loans to small-business owners, and they will get the help they need to maintain their inventory and meet their payroll. But we'll also make it easier for private lenders to make small-business loans by expanding the SBA's loan guarantee program. And by temporarily eliminating fees for borrowers and lenders, we can unlock the credit that small firms need to move forward, to pay their workers, to grow their businesses.
And just as we make lending more available, we have to relieve the tax burden on small businesses help create jobs. That's why I've proposed eliminating all capital gains taxes on investments in small businesses and startups. (Cheers, applause.) That's why I'm proposing an additional temporary business tax incentive through next year to encourage new investments, because it is time to protect the jobs we have and to create the jobs of tomorrow by unlocking the drive and the ingenuity and the innovation of the American people. That's what I intend to do when I'm president, bottom-up economic growth. (Cheers, applause.) Bottom-up economic growth.
Now, bottom-up economic growth, that also depends on a tax code that doesn't just work for folks at the top. You know, I was down in Georgetown, Ohio -- small town. I was in a diner. Me and Governor Strickland, we decided we needed to go get some pie. (Laughter.) It was in the afternoon, and --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: What kind of pie?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, I'm going to tell you. (Laughter.) I had coconut cream pie. (Laughter.) I had coconut cream pie and Governor Strickland had lemon pie. And it was tasty pie. (Laughter.)
But while we're there, a couple of the employees, they come and they say, could we take a picture? I said sure. They said our owner her, the owner of this diner, he's a die-hard Republican. (Boos.) And so we're going show him this picture just to kind of needle him a little bit.
So the owner comes out. He's got my pie with him. (Laughter.) And I say to him, "How do you do?" He says, "How do you do?" I say, "I hear you're a die-hard Republican." He said, "That's right." I said, "How is business?" (Laughter, cheers, applause.) He said, "Not so good right now." (Laughter.) I said, "Well, let me tell you what, who's been in charge of the White House for the last eight years?" He said, "Republicans." Said, "Who in charge of Congress for six of the last eight years?" "Republicans.
" I said, "If you keep on hitting your head against the wall, don't at some point you decide, you know, this hurts?" (Laughter.) He said, "I see your point." I said, "You might want to just try Democrats for a little bit, just for four years. I mean, we can't do any worse than we're doing right now." (Cheers, applause.)
I bring this up -- I bring this up because sometimes we get stuck in the old arguments and we don't see what's in front of us. So, for example, you're heard a lot about taxes in this campaign. And Senator McCain will say, oh, he's going to raise your taxes. Well, that's what they always say about Democrats, but let's look at the facts. Here's the truth: my opponent and I are both offering tax cuts. The difference is he wants to give $200 billion in tax cuts to the biggest corporations in America. (Boos.) He wants to give the average Fortune 500 CEO a $700,000 tax cut on top of the one they already got from George Bush. (Boos.) Meanwhile, he gives nothing at all to over 100 million Americans. (Boos.)
So, Columbus, I just -- let -- let me be clear: I've got a different set of priorities because what I told that store owner is what I'll tell you. Businesses can't succeed if customers don't have any money to buy. (Cheers.) That's why I want to give a middle-class tax cut to 95 percent of all Americans. (Cheers, applause.)
If you make less than a quarter-million dollars a year, which includes 98 percent of small-business owners, you won't see your taxes increase one single dime. (Cheers.) Let me see a show of hands: how many people are making less than a quarter-million dollars a year? (Cheers.) That looks like most of you. (Laughter.) You don't see an increase in your payroll tax, not your income tax, not your capital gains taxes, nothing. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise our taxes on you.
We know that it's time to create good-paying jobs right here in Ohio because Ohio is hurting: 12,000 jobs have been lost this year alone. You've got 7.4 percent unemployment here in Ohio. Wages are flatlining. But you know what, it doesn't have to be this way. That's why I'm going to stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas. We're going to start rebuilding the middle class by helping companies create jobs right here in Ohio. (Cheers, applause.) I want to be a president who puts you first, Ohio. (Cheers.) You're tired of being ignored and neglected. I believe in the American people and what we can do together. And if we want to turn this economy around and lead the world in the 21st century, then there are some structural changes we've got to make some fundamentals that we have to change. We have to create the high-wage jobs of tomorrow right here in America.
And that's why, if I'm president, I will invest $15 billion a year in renewable sources of energy -- (cheers) -- create the new energy economy. (Applause.) We will create 5 million new green -- green jobs over the next decade -- (cheers) -- jobs that pay well, jobs that can't be outsourced. We'll open up that old factory to make solar panels, open the -- the old mill to -- to make wind turbines. We'll design the batteries for the highly fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow. We don't have to make 'em in Japan or South Korea, we can make 'em right here in Ohio, right here in the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.) We'll create jobs that will help us end our dependence on oil from Middle East dictators. That will weaken our adversaries and strengthen family budgets all across America.
I'll also put 2 million more Americans to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and our schools and our bridges. It's time to build an American infrastructure for the 21st century. We can work with the building trades to expand apprenticeship programs so young workers can develop their skills. (Cheers.) If people ask how we're going to pay for this infrastructure, you tell 'em we're spending $10 billion a month in Iraq when they've got billions of dollars of surplus. We can spend some money to rebuild the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)
AUDIENCE: (Chanting.) Yes we can! Yes we can!
SEN. OBAMA: Yes we can.
AUDIENCE: (Chanting.) Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!
SEN. OBAMA: And if I'm president, we will finally fix our broken health care system. (Cheers, applause.) This issue is personal for me. Some of you heard during the debate, 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 preexisting condition. They didn't want to pay for her treatment. There are probably people in this audience today who have gone through the same thing or -- or seen family members go through the same thing. If I am president, I will make sure those insurance companies cannot do that ever again, not to you, not to anybody. (Cheers, applause.)
My health care plan will make sure insurance companies can't discriminate against those who are sick, can't discriminate against those who need care the most. If you have health insurance, you will continue to be able to keep your health insurance. You -- you can continue to have your choice of plans, choice of doctors. The only thing that will change is I'm going to work with your employer to lower your premiums. (Cheers, applause.) And if you don't have health insurance, you'll be able to buy the same kind of health insurance that members of Congress give themselves. We'll invest in preventive care and new technology to finally lower costs of health care for families and businesses and the entire economy. That's the change we need, Columbus.
And you know what else we need? We need to give every child everywhere the skills and the knowledge they need to compete anywhere in the world. (Cheers, applause.) I will not allow countries to out- teach us today so they can out-compete us tomorrow. (Cheers, applause.) It is time to provide every American with a world-class education -- (cheers) -- and that means investing in early childhood education to close the achievement gap. That means recruiting an army of new teachers, paying our teachers better, giving them more support -- (cheers, applause) -- asking for higher standards, more accountability, but not having them teach to a test. We want our kids learning everything: art, music, history, science. (Cheers, applause.)
And because there are a lot of young people today, I want you to hear me loud and clear. I'm going to make a deal with every young American who's got the drive and the will to go to college, but maybe not the money: if you are willing to serve your country or your community while you're in school or after you graduate -- join the military, join the Peace Corps, work in a veterans home, work in a homeless shelter, serve in an underserved school or an underserved hospital -- if you are willing to invest in your country, then I guarantee you we will invest in you and you will be able to pay for your college education, no ifs, ands or buts. (Cheers, applause.) Together, we're going to move this country forward.
Finally, I'll have to take on the corruption in Washington and on Wall Street to make sure a crisis like this never, ever happens again. I'll put in place the common-sense regulations and the rules of the road I've been calling for since March -- rules that keep our market free and fair and honest; rules restore accountability and responsibility in our corporate boardrooms.
And just as we demand accountability on Wall Street, I'll demand it in Washington. Now, that's why at the beginning of this campaign I said we're not going to take PAC money or lobbyist money. They have not funded my campaign. They will not run my White House. They will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president. (Cheers, applause.)
And 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'm president. I'll do what you do in your own family budgets. You got to tighten your belt. You make sure you're spending money wisely. The government needs to do the same thing. I will go through the entire federal budget, page by page, line by line. We'll eliminate programs that don't work and aren't needed. And we'll end a war in Iraq that's costing so much in blood and treasure. (Cheers, applause.) We'll save billions more by cutting waste, improving management, strengthening oversight.
These are the changes and the reforms we need: a new era of responsibility and accountability on Wall Street and in Washington; common-sense regulations to prevent a crisis from happening like the one just happened; 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 economic growth that gives every American their shot -- a fair shot -- at the American dream. And above all, confidence -- confidence in America, confidence in our economy, confidence in ourselves.
I won't pretend this will be easy or that it will come without a cost. We will all need to sacrifice. We will all need to pull our weight. You know, I will invest in education. We'll make sure government gets behind the schools. But it won't make much of a difference if parents aren't turning off the television set and putting away the video games and making sure that our children are doing their homework. (Cheers, applause.)
The government can invest in an Apollo Project for energy independence. We can put money into the -- the most innovative designs and technologies. But all of us are going to have a part in making this economy more energy efficient. You can do something in your home to -- to weatherize or -- or -- or -- or look at making your car more fuel efficient or -- or making sure that you're teaching your children to turn off the lights. All these things make a difference.
Now more than ever, we're all in this together. This country and the dream it represents are being tested -- we're being tested in a way that we haven't seen in nearly a century. Future generations will judge our generation by how we responded to this test. Will they say that this was a time when America lost its way, when we lost our purpose; when -- when -- when we lost our nerve; when we -- when we -- when we allow petty differences and a broken politics, the nastiness of our politics, to plunge this country into a dark and painful recession? Or will future generations say this was another one of those moments when America overcame, when we battled back from adversity -- (cheers) -- by recognizing that common stake we have in each other's success?
Columbus, this is one of those moments. I -- I realize many of you are cynical. I -- I realize many of you get fed up with politics. I understand you're disappointed, 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, to believe in each other, to believe in the future we can build together.
You know, we can't afford to 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 a doctor, their children can't afford to go to college, when -- when folks are huddled around the kitchen table and can't make the bills match up with the income -- not when there is a generation that is counting on us to give them the same opportunities and the same chances that somebody gave us.
We've done it before. You think about all the people who are here, each and every one of you. You've got a story to tell.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: That's right!
SEN. OBAMA: And if you go back in your family history, somewhere back there, there's somebody who -- who said to themselves, I may not be able to go to college, but I know if I work hard maybe my child can go to college. (Cheers, applause.) There's somebody back there -- a parent or a grandparent or a great-grandparent -- who said to themselves, I may have to work in this hard and dirty job, but -- but if I work hard and save and send my kids to school, then maybe they're going to be able to have their own business. Somewhere in the back of your family history there's probably somebody who said, I may not have freedom in the country where I live, but I know across the ocean there's this country called America -- (cheers) -- and if we're willing to take the risk of going there and meeting up with the unexpected, we will be able to create a better future for our children and our grandchildren. Somewhere in the past there is a grandmother or great-grandmother who said, I can't vote, but -- but maybe my granddaughter, I know she's going to be able to vote if I -- I'm willing to raise a fuss. (Cheers, applause.) Somewhere back in your history there's somebody who probably said, you know, I may never be elected to anything, but maybe my son or daughter, they might run for the United States Senate, maybe they right -- run for the presidency of the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.) That's the story of America: each successive generation working hard on behalf of the future, each generation having hope that we can do better than we've done before.
And that's the challenge of this election. That's the decision you have to make in 25 days. Are we going to look forward, or are we going to look backwards?
SEN. OBAMA: Are we going to look forward with hope, or are we going to look backwards with fear?
SEN. OBAMA: Ohio, if you are willing to organize with me, if you are willing to go vote right now -- we've got -- you could got to the early voting right across the street, right on -- right there. (Cheers, applause.) If every one of you are willing to grab your friends and your neighbors and make the phone calls and do what's required, I guarantee you we will not just win Ohio, we will win this general election. And you and I together, we will change this country and we will change the world. (Cheers, applause.)
God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)