Remarks of Senator Barack Obama (Charlotte, NC)
The news of the day isn't good.
The era of greed and irresponsibility on Wall Street and in Washington has led us to a perilous moment. They said they wanted to let the market run free but instead they let it run wild. And now we are facing a financial crisis as profound as any we have faced since the Great Depression
But here's the truth:
Regardless of how we got here, we're here today. And the circumstances we face require decisive action because your jobs, your savings, and your economic security are now at risk.
We must work quickly in a bipartisan fashion to resolve this crisis to avert an even broader economic catastrophe. But Washington also has to recognize that economic recovery requires that we act, not just to address the crisis on Wall Street, but also the crisis on Main Street and around kitchen tables across America.
As of now, the Bush Administration has only offered a concept with a staggering price tag, not a plan. Even if the U.S. Treasury recovers some or most of its investment over time, this initial outlay of up to $700 billion is sobering. And in return for their support, the American people must be assured that the deal reflects the basic principles of transparency, fairness, and reform.
First, there must be no blank check when American taxpayers are on the hook for this much money.
Second, taxpayers shouldn't be spending a dime to reward CEOs on Wall Street.
Third, taxpayers should be protected and should be able to recoup this investment.
Fourth, this plan has to help homeowners stay in their homes.
Fifth, this is a global crisis, and the United States must insist that other nations join us in helping secure the financial markets.
Sixth, we need to start putting in place the rules of the road I've been calling for for years to prevent this from ever happening again.
And finally, this plan can't just be a plan for Wall Street, it has to be a plan for Main Street. We have to come together, as Democrats and Republicans, to pass a stimulus plan that will put money in the pockets of working families, save jobs, and prevent painful budget cuts and tax hikes in our states.
So I know these are difficult days. But here's what I also know. I know we can steer ourselves out of this crisis. That's who we are. That's what we've always done as Americans. Our nation has faced difficult times before. And at each of those moments, we've risen to meet the challenge because we've never forgotten that fundamental truth - that here in America, our destiny is not written for us; it's written by us.
But another thing I know is this - we can't steer ourselves out of this crisis by heading in the same, disastrous direction. And that's what this election is all about.
Because while I certainly don't fault Senator McCain for all of the problems we're facing right now, I do fault the economic philosophy he's followed during his 26 years in Washington. It's a philosophy that says it's ok to turn a blind eye to practices that reward financial manipulation instead of sound business decisions. It's a philosophy that says even common-sense regulations are unnecessary and unwise. It's a philosophy that lets Washington lobbyists shred consumer protections and distort our economy so it works for the special interests instead of working people and our country.
We're now seeing the disastrous consequences of this philosophy all around us - on Wall Street as well as Main Street. And yet Senator McCain, who candidly admitted not long ago that he doesn't know as much about economics as he should, wants to keep going down the same, disastrous path.
He calls himself "fundamentally a deregulator," when reckless deregulation and lack of oversight is a big part of the problem.
And here's the really scary part. Now this "Great Deregulator" wants to turn his attention to health care.
He wrote in the current issue of a magazine - the current issue - that we need to open up health care to - quote - "more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking."
That's right, John McCain says he wants to do for health care what Washington has done for banking.
Think about what that means.
Over the years, states have come up with common sense rules to make sure that insurance companies aren't just looking out for their own profits, but for your health. And we cannot toss those rules out the window.
As anyone who has health care knows, the one thing we don't need to do is give insurance companies an even freer hand over what they charge, who they cover, and what they'll cover.
The radical idea that government has no role to play in protecting ordinary Americans has wreaked havoc on our economy. And we cannot let this dangerous philosophy spread to health care.
What we've seen over the last few days is nothing less than the final verdict on this failed philosophy. And I am running for President of the United States because the dreams of the American people must not be endangered any more.
The times are too serious. The stakes are too high. At this moment, in this election, we need real change - change that's more than just a slogan, change that actually makes a difference in people's lives. And that's the kind of change I'll bring to Washington when I'm President of the United States of America.
That's the change the American people need.
Change means a tax code that doesn't reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it. I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America. I will eliminate capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-ups - that's how we'll grow our economy and create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.
I will cut taxes - cut taxes - for 95% of all working families. My opponent doesn't want you to know this, but under my plan, tax rates will actually be less than they were under Ronald Reagan. If you make less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increase one single dime. In fact, I offer three times the tax relief for middle-class families as Senator McCain does - because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.
I will finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And I will stop insurance companies from discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.
I will also create the jobs of the future by transforming our energy economy. We'll tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I'll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy - wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can't ever be outsourced
And now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. But in exchange, I will ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American - if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.
This is the change we need - the kind of bottom up growth and innovation that will advance the American economy by advancing the dreams of all Americans.
Times are hard. I will not pretend that the change we need will come without cost - though I have presented how we can achieve these changes in a fiscally responsible way. I know that we'll have to overcome our doubts and divisions and the determined opposition of powerful special interests before we can truly reform a broken economy and advance opportunity.
But I am running for President because we simply cannot afford four more years of an economic philosophy that works for Wall Street instead of Main Street, and ends up devastating both.
I don't want to wake up in four years to find that more Americans fell out of the middle-class, and more families lost their savings. I don't want to see that our country failed to invest in our ability to compete, our children's future was mortgaged on another mountain of debt, and our financial markets failed to find a firmer footing.
At this defining moment, we have the chance to finally stand up and say: enough is enough!
We can do this because Americans have done this before. Time and again, we've battled back from adversity by recognizing that common stake that we have in each other's success. That's why our economy hasn't just been the world's greatest wealth generator - it's bound America together, it's created jobs, and it's made the dream of opportunity a reality for generation after generation of Americans.
Now it falls to us. And I need you to make it happen. If you want the next four years looking just like the last eight, then I am not your candidate. But if you want real change - if you want an economy that rewards work, and that works for Main Street and Wall Street; if you want tax relief for the middle class and millions of new jobs; if you want health care you can afford and education that helps your kids compete; then I ask you to knock on some doors, make some calls, talk to your neighbors, and give me your vote on November 4th. And if you do, I promise you - we will win North Carolina, we will win this election, and we will change America together.