Speeches from the 2012 Democratic National Convention
Chris Van Hollen
Remarks to the 2012 Democratic National Convention
Charlotte, North Carolina
September 5, 2012
A week ago today, Paul Ryan accepted his party's nomination for vice president. He's chairman of the House Budget Committee. I lead the Democrats on the committee. We have sharp differences over policy, but we get along well.
I'll admit, I was glad Paul was picked. I hoped it would result in a serious debate about the choice before us. Then I heard his acceptance speech—it kept the fact-checkers up all night. The Republicans had this gigantic clock in the arena showing the size of the national debt. Paul told America, "If you elect Republicans, we can fix that." But, if Paul Ryan was being honest, he would have pointed to that debt clock and said: "We built that."
Here are the facts. When President Clinton left office, America had projected surpluses of trillions of dollars over the next decade. Then came two wars, two huge tax cuts tilted to the wealthy and a new entitlement. Republicans didn't pay for any of it. Paul Ryan voted for all of it. On top of that, they left behind an economy in free-fall.
So when President Obama took office, the Republicans handed him the bill: projected deficits of trillions of dollars. Congressman Ryan, America is literally in your debt. So President Obama got to work. He established a bipartisan commission to get smart folks from both parties together to develop a plan to reduce the deficit and grow jobs. Guess what? It worked. They produced a balanced, bipartisan plan that would cut $4 trillion from the deficit. Lots of Republicans supported it, including Senator Coburn from Oklahoma. And Paul Ryan. He was on the commission. He voted against the plan.
And last week, Paul Ryan criticized the president for not acting on the bipartisan plan that he himself opposed. Then, he said that President Obama doesn't have a plan to reduce the deficit. But the president does have a plan. Here it is. He submitted it to Congress. It's on the Internet. President Obama's plan uses the bipartisan commission's balanced approach. It reduces the deficit by more than $4 trillion—cutting spending and asking those at the very top to pay the same rates they did under President Clinton, when we created nearly 23 million jobs and balanced the budget. So when Paul Ryan told America that President Obama didn't have a plan, that was false.
The truth is, he and Mitt Romney just don't like the president's plan. They both pledged that they would never ask millionaires to pay one more dime to reduce the deficit. Mitt Romney even said he would reject a budget with ten dollars in spending cuts for every one dollar in new revenue. Now, a third-grader can do the math. If you refuse to ask the wealthiest to pitch in, then you hit everyone else much harder. And that's exactly what the Romney-Ryan plan does. They call their plan bold, brave and courageous.
I ask you: Is it bold to give millionaires another tax break while forcing seniors to pay more for Medicare? Is it brave to reward companies that ship jobs overseas while cutting education at home? Is it courageous to raise taxes on middle-class families while giving tax cuts to people with Swiss bank accounts?
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's obsession with tax breaks for the wealthy is part of a rigid ideology. Give people like Mitt Romney a break, and hope something will trickle down and lift others up. But this theory crashed in the real world. We all lived through the recession when jobs went down and the deficit went up. So when they say they'll turn around the economy, beware. They mean a U-turn back to this failed theory that lifted the yachts while other boats ran aground.
And don't buy the lie that asking the wealthy to contribute more is about punishing success. It's about asking them to share responsibility for reducing the deficit. It's about growing the economy—not from the top down, but from the middle out and bottom up, making success possible for all Americans.
This election is a choice. That choice will determine whether America is a place where people climb the ladder of opportunity and pull it up behind them or whether America is a place where people who reach the top help the next person up. Which America do you believe in? You know the facts. You know the choice. You know what we have to do: Re-elect Barack Obama.
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