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John Kerry
The Economy and Middle-Class Families
October 2, 2004 • Orlando, FL

Good morning. In the debate on Thursday night, I laid out my plan to win the war in Iraq and bring our troops home. I also stated clearly that as president, I will focus on the real enemy of 9-11 – Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network. And I will hunt down, capture and kill the terrorists before they get us.

For the next month, I will speak to the America people every single day about the war in Iraq and the war on terror, because, as president, my number one priority will be to protect the American people. There is nothing more important.

George Bush made a colossal error of judgment in Iraq. He promised us that the war in Iraq was his last resort. Instead, it was his first option. He promised he’d plan carefully, but instead he rushed to war without a plan to win the peace. He promised us that we’d have our allies on our side. Instead, America’s shouldering nearly 90 percent of the coalition casualties and nearly 90 percent of the cost. Today, more than a thousand brave Americans have died in Iraq. And George Bush says that if he had to do it all over again he wouldn’t change a thing.

The real test of leadership is how you respond if things go wrong. Do you face the facts and fix the problems? Or do you stick with your story and ignore reality?

Time and time again, George Bush has proven that he’s stubborn, out of touch, and unwilling to change course. He can’t see the problems, so he can’t solve them. He confuses staying in place with leadership.

But it’s not just Iraq. Over the past four years, he has made serious misjudgments here at home. Choices that have hurt middle class families like yours.

If you asked President Bush, he’d tell you everything’s just fine here at home. That this is the best economy of our lifetime. That this is the best that we can do. Maybe that’s true for his friends – for Enron, for Halliburton, for the big oil industry. But that’s not true for folks like you that I’ve met all across America.

The other day, after a rally in Ohio, a woman asked someone from our campaign to deliver a message to me. She said, “Senator Kerry, we’ve got your back.”

Today, I’ve got a message for that woman and every other middle-class American struggling to build a better life for their family: “I’ve got yours too.”

I’ve got your back because I know what you’re going through. For the last four years, George Bush has turned his back on you and your families with almost every choice he’s made. He’s given more to those with the most at the expense of middle-class working families who are struggling to get ahead. For them, four more years of Bush choices is four more years they just can’t afford.

Middle-class families deserve a new choice. And one month from today, they’ll have one.

One month from today, the American Dream is on the ballot.

Not too long ago, this dream was within reach of all those willing to work for it. You could find a good job that paid a decent wage. Families were able to save and build a nest egg. When both parents worked, that meant there was more money to buy a house, care for your child, and pay for college. And you were able to give your children more opportunity than you had.

But today, for too many families, the dream is harder to reach because of decisions made by this administration. Jobs are shipped overseas, and the ones that replace them don’t pay enough to make ends meet. Two incomes barely cover the basics. Health care up 50 percent. College tuition up 35 percent. Gas up 30 percent. Personal bankruptcies are at an all-time high. And the typical family is making $1,500 less each year, while the cost of basic family needs continue to soar.

But these aren’t just statistics – these are the stories of families I’ve met all across America. The single mother who lies awake worrying that her child’s medicine might cost more than she makes in a month. Moms and dads that save and save and still come up short when they get a bill for tuition or child care that’s higher than they thought. The factory worker whose job was sent overseas and now has to take two jobs just to earn what he used to make.

Every town I visit, I meet another mother who worries about what kind of America her child will grow up in – will she be able to afford health care? Will she be able to afford college? Will she at least be able to give her the same chances she had? They tell me how hard it is just to get by – never mind getting ahead.

For the last two years, I’ve traveled all over this country and listened to the stories of Americans struggling to make ends meet. I’ve also shared their frustration at this administration’s constant state of denial which neglects their needs.

Jobs are shipped overseas, and the Bush White House says outsourcing is good for us.

George Bush is the first President to lose jobs in 72 years -- the first president since 1932, back to Herbert Hoover to lose jobs on his watch. And they say it’s time to celebrate.

Wages are falling, medical bills are rising, and families can’t send their kids to college – and they tell us hey, don’t worry, this is the best economy of our lifetime!

When it comes to the struggles middle class families are facing, the truth is George Bush just doesn’t get it. This is the man who promised his tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans – those who earn more than $200,000 a year -- would create 6 million new jobs. Today, we’ve lost a million -- seven million jobs short of his prediction. And what does he want to do now -- even with four years of lost jobs under his belt? He wants to make permanent those same unaffordable tax cuts that don’t work for middle class families. This is a man who can’t see a problem and can’t fix a problem.

In fact, the only people George Bush’s policies are working for are the people he chooses to help. They’re working for drug companies. They’re working for oil companies. They’re working for HMOs. And they’re certainly working for Halliburton.

George Bush came into office four years ago with a very clear philosophy about how he would run this country. Time and time again, he has made the same choice: to use the power of the presidency to give more and more to those with the most – more to the wealthiest individuals, more to the most well-connected. The result? George Bush doesn’t have a record to run on, he has a record to run away from.

When he could have saved American jobs, George Bush chose a proposal to cut taxes for corporations that shipped them overseas and raise taxes on businesses that created jobs here at home.

That was his choice. And this is his record: 2.7 million lost manufacturing jobs. That’s wrong, and you’re paying the price.

When he could have put real tax relief into the pockets of middle-class families who needed it most, George Bush chose massive tax giveaways to those making over $200,000 a year – at a cost of $860 billion. And he calls that “tax relief.”

That was his choice. And this is his record: a bigger share of the tax bill for middle-class families at a time when they’re making $1,500 less a year. That’s wrong, and you’re paying the price.

When he could have cut the cost of health care and insured more Americans, George Bush chose to propose billions for HMOs and cuts in Medicaid instead.

That was his choice. And this is his record: 5 million more uninsured Americans, and a record $3,500 increase in family premiums. That’s wrong, and you’re paying the price.

When he could have cut the cost of prescription drugs, the Bush administration chose to push through a Medicare bill that gives $139 billion in profits to the big drug companies.

That was his choice. And this is his record: a 56% increase in Medicare premiums for seniors. That’s wrong, and you’re paying the price.

When he could save families hundreds of dollars at the gas pump while reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil, George Bush chooses secret meetings with energy executives and he’s failed to give the country a serious energy policy.

That was his choice. And this is his record: Oil at a record price of $50 a barrel and an America more dependent on foreign energy than ever. That’s wrong, and you’re paying the price.

When he could have helped more young Americans attend college, George Bush chose to protect a $1 billion guaranteed giveaway to the banks who deal with student loans.

That’s his choice. And this is his record: 35% tuition increases on his watch, and 220,000 young Americans who can’t afford college. That’s wrong, and you’re paying the price.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, I’ve saved the most outrageous one for last.

In the days following 9/11, when our economy was in trouble, our business were hurting, and our people were looking for jobs, so many of us in Congress – Republicans and Democrats alike – called for bold tax cuts that would create jobs, relieve small businesses, invest in our workers, and get our economy moving again.

George Bush could have joined us. But instead, almost three years ago today, his first priority was to push for his proposal -- a $25 billion giveaway to a handful of corporations – including a $254 million refund check made out to, you guessed it, Enron.

Over the last four years, George Bush has decided that budget constraints have left him no choice but to propose kicking 500,000 children out of their after school programs, 365,000 children out of their childcare, 500,000 veterans out of the health care system, and 100,000 police officers off the streets.

Mr. President, you owe the country an explanations as to why you thought these families -- veterans and police officers– were not as important as giving Enron $254 million.

It was during October of the 2000 election that George Bush looked around at a big dinner in New York and said “Some people call you the elites; I call you my base.” He meant it as a joke. Four years of Bush choices and Bush policies later, no one’s laughing.

That’s what he stands for, that’s who he’s stands for, and if you give him the chance, that’s what he’ll do for four more years.

But if you believe we need a new choice for middle-class families…if you want an America with a growing middle-class where everyone has the chance to work and the opportunity to get ahead, then join us. That’s what I stand for, that’s who I’ve fought for, and if you give me the chance, that’s where I’ll lead this nation as your President.

John Edwards and I have a plan that offers a new choice for middle-class families. It’s a four point plan that offers a new choice on jobs, health care, taxes, and energy independence. George Bush has a four word plan: more of the same.

Our plan starts by offering a new choice on jobs. We can continue to reward the corporations who are shipping our jobs overseas with big tax breaks, or we can fight for the middle-class by creating good jobs here at home.

We choose to create jobs at home.

First, we will close the tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping jobs overseas. Instead, we will use that revenue to reward companies that create and keep good jobs here in the United States of America. And we’ll finally put in place the commission that John McCain and I have proposed that he says could cut $60 billion a year in corporate waste.

Second, we will help American business grow by cutting the corporate tax rate by five percent, giving 99 percent of businesses a tax break.

Third, we will help small businesses hire more workers by providing a New Jobs Tax Credit for every small business and manufacturer who decide to add more employees to the payroll.

Fourth, we will have a trade policy that stands up for American workers and opens markets at the same time. Unlike this Administration, I will enforce our trade deals, because I know that if you give the American worker a fair playing field to compete on, there's nobody in the world the American worker can't compete against.

Finally, we will create the high-tech, high-wage jobs of the future by investing more in our people and their ideas. As president, I push the boundaries of science, and never let ideology get in the way of life-saving research or cutting-edge technology, like stem cell research. We will offer tax credits to help us seize the possibilities of the Broadband Revolution and make Internet access available to all of America’s families. And we will give our workers the education and the job training that the jobs of tomorrow require today.

This can be our future.

But first we must choose. Our plan offers a new choice on taxes. We can continue to give massive tax giveaways to the wealthiest few in our country, or we can fight for the families who are working hard every day offering middle-class tax cuts that make work pay.

We choose middle-class tax cuts that bring down the biggest costs facing parents -- so they can get ahead and spend more time with their children.

First, we will help parents cover the rising costs of child care by offering a tax credit of $1,000.

Second, we will give more young Americans the chance to go to college by offering a tax break on up to $4,000 in tuition for four years of college.

Third, we will help Americans meet demands at home and at work by expanding family and medical leave

Fourth, we will offer after school opportunities to another 2 million children, so your kids have a safe place to go while you work.

And finally, we will stop the credit card companies from taking advantage of responsible families with unfair deals.

To pay for this, and to make sure that 98 percent of all Americans will still get a tax cut, we will close corporate loopholes, cut government waste, and roll back only the Bush tax cuts for individuals who make more than $200,000 a year. Those Americans will go back to paying the same taxes you paid when Bill Clinton was president. And the rest of America will get a tax cut. With lower health care costs, better education, and a return to fiscal discipline – we’ll all be stronger.

This can be our future.

But first we must choose. Our plan offers a new choice on health care. We can continue to reward HMOs, drug companies, and insurance companies with windfall profits, or we can fight for the middle-class with my plan to make health care affordable and available for all Americans.

We choose health care that works for all Americans – that lowers the cost to businesses, lowers the premiums for families, and makes health care affordable and accessible to everyone.

First, we will take the waste and the greed out of the system to bring down the cost of health care for families and make our businesses more competitive.

Second, we’ll make sure you get to pick your own doctor, and doctors and patients – not insurance company bureaucrats – will make medical decisions. Something that John Edwards has fought to get through Congress and this president has blocked.

Third, we will save families up to $1,000 a year on their premiums by picking up the tab for the most expensive health care cases.

Fourth, we’ll cover 95% of all Americans by allowing families and small businesses to buy into the same health care plan that members of Congress give themselves and providing tax breaks to make health care more affordable.

Fifth, we will allow Americans to buy more affordable prescription drugs from Canada. And finally, our plan will cover every single child in the United States of America.

This can be our future.

But first we must choose. Our plan offers a new choice on energy. We can continue to reward the oil companies and shipping billions of dollars overseas, or we can fight for the middle-class with my plan to finally make America energy independent of Mideast oil.

We choose an Energy Independent America.

First, we will invest in technology and in the cars and SUVs you only have to fill up once a month, not every week.

Second, we’ll give automakers tax credits up to $5000 for the fuel-efficient cars of the future so they can afford to produce these vehicles, and we’ll give consumers tax credits so they can afford to buy them.

And finally, we will also make sure that alternative energy sources will account for 20% of our fuel and 20% of our electricity by 2020

I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation, not the Saudi Royal Family.

And that’s why we’re going to invest in technology and the vehicles of the future, so that no young American will ever be held hostage to our dependence on oil from the Middle East. This can be our future. But first we must choose.

We already know what four more years of a Bush administration will look like. Every choice they’ve made has been to give more to those with the most, while telling everyone else you’re on your own. That’s their view and that’s their plan for the next four years.

But it isn’t ours. And it doesn’t have to be our future. In thirty days, we have the chance to change all this. You can have a President whose got your back so we can bring back jobs, bring back opportunity, and bring back the promise that has kept hope in the hearts of the American people for generations. This is our new choice for the great middle-class and all those struggling to join it. And this can be our future.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless America.


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