The Democratic Radio Address to the Nation, with Illinois State Senator Barack Obama
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SEN. OBAMA: Good morning. This is state Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from Illinois. For the past few weeks, President Bush and members of his administration have traveled the nation to celebrate recent, improved economic statistics. Well, I've been traveling, too. All over this large and diverse state, in cities and suburbs, Downstate and upstate, I've heard from people who say it's way too early to claim victory when it comes to our economy.
After three dismal years of job loss, we all welcome encouraging statistics. But for most Americans, the health of our economy is measured in a different and more personal way: If I lose my job, where will I find one that pays as well and offers real benefits? Can I afford health care coverage on my own, or the cost of sending my children to college? Will I ever be able to save, and retire with dignity and security?
These are the questions I hear hardworking people asking. For them, the basic rewards of a middle class life -- rewards that we once took for granted -- have become an elusive dream.
It's hard to claim victory when you listen to Doug and Annette Dennison. They lost their jobs at the Maytag plant in Galesburg, Illinois, which is shutting down and moving to Mexico. They have worked at the plant most of their adult lives. In his forties, with 2 young boys, Doug says he doesn't remember having to do without when he was growing up. He believed he could raise his family the same way. But now he feels at a loss about what to do next.
Ken and Lori Griffin, of Alton, Illinois, near St. Louis, will soon lose their jobs because Hawk Motors is also moving overseas. Ken and Lori had big dreams for their five children. Now they are facing the reality that any job they find will pay half the salary without the security of knowing that they've got the health care coverage their family needs.
But it's not just those who have lost their jobs who are struggling. It's also those who have jobs, and have suffered through years where their wages haven't increased, their benefits have diminished and their health care costs have soared. Middle class families are getting squeezed. The new jobs being created in Illinois pay an average of $15,000 less than the jobs that we've lost -- and fewer offer real benefits. Health insurance premiums and the cost of a college education have skyrocketed since the beginning of the Bush Administration.
In the past three years, corporate profits have increased more than sixty percent. Workers are being paid just 3 percent more. And more companies continue to wring additional savings from employee health and pension programs, forcing a greater burden on their workers. Now, it wouldn't be fair or accurate to blame all of this on the Bush Administration. It is fair, however, to say that they haven't done much to help.
The tax cuts they've offered have barely made a dent in reducing the burden on middle class families, while driving our nation trillions of dollars deeper into debt. They continue to support tax breaks for corporations who export jobs overseas, and have refused to enforce provisions within existing trade agreements against countries who engage in unfair trade practices. They've offered no real plan to deal with the growing health care crisis facing more and more American workers and businesses.
When this administration had the chance to help, by freeing Medicare to negotiate with the big drug companies for lower prescription costs or by allowing Americans to import lower cost drugs from Canada, they sided with the special interests over the interests of the American people. And, while college costs are exploding and more and more young people are being priced out of the educational opportunities that they need and they deserve, this administration has opposed efforts to expand tuition assistance.
America needs a strong, vibrant middle class. And until middle class families get their heads above water, we can't declare victory. The president attacks those who make this point as "pessimists." He apparently believes that this is the best we can do. We believe that we can do better. By pursuing policies that will promote American jobs, affordable health care and access to college, we can strengthen America's middle class. This means a tax policy that rewards companies who create jobs right here in America, rather than continuing to give billions of dollars in tax breaks to those who send American jobs overseas.
We believe in robust trade. But let's write trade agreements that are fair to American workers, and then vigorously enforce them. And for those like Doug, Annette, Ken and Lori, let's offer real assistance to workers and their hard hit communities so they get the help and training they need rather than the bureaucratic runaround so many get today.
We can help the middle class by taking the steps this administration has not. We can reduce the growth in health care costs, including prescription drugs, and make coverage easier to get and afford. And we can take a load off of middle class families by making college more affordable for their children.
The president may feel it's time for celebration. But my travels tell me that we have a lot of work to do to restore economic security for every American.
I'm state Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from Illinois. Thank you for listening.