Mandarin Oriental Hotel
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) It's great to be here with you all. I look around this room, and Madam Speaker, this is the Democratic Party. This is the reason why you're the Speaker and Harry is the Leader and I'm the Vice President.
And so I want to thank you for real. And Nancy, I called you earlier, but I just want to tell you I think -- and I want to say it publicly, you don't have to say it; I know you don't have to -- I think you are doing an incredible, incredible -- (applause) -- I mean it. You know I mean it.
Folks, I don't think any Speaker has had as much laid on her plate at the front end of a Congress -- maybe there's been a time in history, but I don't -- I can't think of -- for real, for real. It's not hyperbole, literally. This President has had more laid on his plate than any President in modern history from the day he stepped into office. But that just flows not downhill; it flows up the hill. It's the same deal. And, Nancy, you are remarkable. You are remarkable.
And tell you what, you don't want to fool with a guy from Searchlight -- (laughter) -- because I'll tell you what, Harry Reid -- I mean, having been a senator for a long time; that is in one sense harder and easier, but in a sense, harder institutionally. Nancy has to get her leadership together and get things moving, which is not an easy thing to do, and take some real difficult positions for the good of the country.
But Harry operates, as Bob can tell you, under a different set of constraints under the way the Constitution is written. And God love him. I was kidding on the way out, I said, "Harry, the car is not worth it." You all know what I mean by that? The Leader of the Senate gets an automobile and a driver. (Laughter.) The car is not worth the job, but thank God Harry thinks it is -- (laughter) -- because he's doing a great, great job.
Look, thank you all for being here. (Applause.) And let me -- and thank you for all your work and your support. And thank you for commitment to -- the commitment you've made to the President. Many of you in this room, not only obviously, you're the backbone of the House and Senate campaign operations, but you're also -- as I look around this room, many of you played incredibly vital roles in our general election campaign. And some of you played significant roles in the President's early bid for the nomination.
And the 111th Congress, we think, is the vehicle through which we're all going to be able to celebrate the things we all have fought for; the reason why we wanted Obama to be President of the United States of America, Pelosi to be the Speaker, and Harry to be the Leader. I mean, it's all about not them; it's all about why we're involved in politics in the first place. These are big, big, big deal issues.
My colleagues kid me, Carl Levin says, "Joe has an awful lot of expressions," when he introduced me out in -- I was out in Michigan a little while ago. And he said, "Joe has a way of saying when he thinks something is important." This is a big deal. This is a big, big deal, what we have underway now.
And you believed in the change that we said we could bring to America. I think some of you probably wondered whether or not we really meant it. And I mean it sincerely. Because what we're doing is not on the margins. We're not playing in the margins here. This is serious change. The House, Senate, the administration, the Democratic Party of Washington is trying to initiate here.
I think it's fair to say that -- as I repeat it again, no administration, no Congress in a long, long, long time has moved as fast to deal with so many monumental challenges facing our country as this Congress has moved on.
We've only been in the job about six months now, and as the President said, even our critics agree, we've been pretty busy. We've been pretty busy.
Here's a quick recap: the Ledbetter Free Pay Act to deal with wage discrimination in the workplace, after arguing over that for years; children's health insurance, 11 million kids; executive orders setting higher standards for government; shutting down Guantanamo Bay -- none of this is easy stuff -- a plan to redeploy our troops in Iraq, which is underway, on schedule, and will occur; and of course a series of decisive steps to deal with the economy.
You know, we moved into a circumstance that turned out economically to be even worse than even Democrat and Republican leaders thought would be the case in November or December during that interregnum period. We inherited -- we inherited -- it's our responsibility, I'm not trying to move away from responsibility -- but we inherited a very, very dire situation. We moved to stabilize our financial system, to begin to get credit flowing again. We moved to breathe life back into the housing market, to get our auto industry -- with all the criticism -- but back on track, and to coordinate a worldwide response, which, I might add, had never been done before, coordinating worldwide response.
Everybody talks about it, like, well, we did it -- you know, the great thing about the President is, he does things so well when he does them, I kid him, it's like an ice skater. Don't you ever watch figure skaters in the Olympics and say, God, that's looks -- that's okay, that looks easy? The really good ones make it look easy.
Well, the irony is, the idea that we got the world to agree on a general and basic approach to dealing with the worldwide economy was like taking for -- "Well, yes, of course that was done." Go back to a month before or two months before the meeting occurred. There's nothing obvious about any of this except the incredible leadership of our three leaders: the President, Nancy, and Harry.
Within a matter of weeks -- as I mentioned, we worked hard with the House and the Senate to pass into law the biggest Recovery and Reinvestment Act in American history. It's a plan I believe, when all is said and done, we will in fact have created or saved 3.5 million jobs. It's a plan that included cutting taxes for 95 percent of the people that get a paycheck. To anybody in this room, myself included, it's not a big deal. But guess what? Somewhere between 60 to 80 bucks less a month is being taken out of their paycheck. To real people, that makes a difference, particularly in a very, very, very difficult economy.
We extended unemployment benefits, increased them; health coverage for people who lost their jobs. Now, it's like, okay, so what are you doing for me tomorrow? (Laughter.) I mean, look at what they did -- seriously. It's not hyperbole to suggest how successful this Congress has been at the front end of this administration. Every one of those things we fought for before -- before we controlled the Congress, and every one of them ran into a stone wall.
We've undertaken the biggest investment in the nation's interstate highway system since Eisenhower built the system in the '50s. We've done more -- we've doubled our investment in rebuilding our schools. We've kept teachers in classrooms, cops on the street. When they say "You didn't save any jobs," go to New York. Fourteen thousand-plus school teachers got their pink slips; because of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, they're going to be in the classroom in September. Our kids aren't going to fall another half year behind because you had to increase class size by X percentage.
And that's the case all across America. The cops that are on the streets in the cities you live in, they're there, many of them, because of this Recovery Act: jobs saved that are consequential. (Applause.)
Look, we're taking the first serious critical steps towards energy efficiency, investing in wind and solar energy, technologies for the future; simple things like weatherization, which is the single most immediate gain we could make of real consequence.
Look, we know how tough the challenge is. But we are beginning to see some, and you're beginning to see some glimmers of hope. We've saved or created 150,000 jobs in the first 100 days, and as we accelerate our plans in the recovery, put more people -- put more pace on the ball here, I'm telling you we will save or create in the second 100 days another 600,000 jobs.
Look, folks, we're not going to stop this all-out assault on the problem until we brought the economy back to health. But just as important, the underlying rationale for what we're doing here is also to begin to build a platform for a new economy. I don't have to tell any of you sophisticated business people in this room. You can't lead the 21st century built on a bubble of the -- of a dot com bubble or a housing bubble. This President and our allies in Congress have been criticized for doing too much, being too ambitious. The President is being told that just getting this economic crisis under control, just getting the GDP to move into positive territory should be the goal, and that should be it.
But let me ask you something: Does anybody think we can lead the 21st century without a fundamental change in health care, a fundamental change in energy policy, a fundamental change in our education system where we no longer rank 13th or 17th, depending how your categorize it, in college graduates? Does anybody think that's possible? And does anybody think we can wait four years or six years or eight years to tackle any of those problems? If we want to lead in this century, like we did in the 20th century, we can't ask the question, are we doing too much? The question has to be, are we doing enough? What are the minimum things we have to deal with? And unfortunately, it's a long list.
This is a change that we're going to have to bring to this country. There's a lot of reasons why. The economists will tell you what's at stake; the budget experts will tell you what's at stake; the political pundits will tell you what's at stake. But let me tell you what I believe is so important. We have a lot of people out there in the country who are hurting very badly. Millions of people out of work; millions more who are worried about losing their jobs; millions of people who lost their life savings, their homes, their hopes, their dreams. And this is fundamentally about giving them back their dreams, giving them back something they can believe in again.
It's about giving people who raise families and go to work, go to church, volunteer in their neighborhoods, a share in the prosperity of this nation.
Prosperity grew, productivity grew 20 percent from the turn of the century to '07. Middle-class people actually saw their share of that productivity decrease 3 percent. That's breaking a fundamental bargain. The middle class was built on the notion: You help us increase productivity, you get a share of the increase in that productivity.
It's about doing everything in our power to make sure it's possible for parents all across this nation to do something they haven't been able to do in a while -- and I'm not exaggerating when I say this -- our goal is to allow parents to be able to look their kids in the eye and say, "Honey, everything is going to be okay," and have some reason to believe they can deliver on that assertion.
People kid me sometimes when I say the longest walk in America is a father or mother walking up a short flight of stairs to their kid's bedroom to say, "Honey, I'm sorry, I lost my job." Or, "Honey, we're not going to be able to stay in this house, you're not going to be able to be in that ball club next year. Everything is going to be okay."
My father made that walk, like maybe your fathers did, back when I was a kid in the '50s -- and said, "When I get a job in Wilmington I'll come back up and we'll get you all, we'll move from Scranton." Too damn many people have had to make that walk. And they're still making that walk.
So this is more than about GDP. This is more than about whether or not we have the sound -- this is about people's lives. I think that's kind of what makes us Democrats. I mean that sincerely. I don't mean to say Republicans don't care; they care. But I think where it starts from us -- it starts in the guts, goes to the heart, and comes out of the head. And for the first time in a long while, I think we've got them all in sync. They're all in sync.
Look, folks, this administration has a great deal to do. We have a lot of people to help. And we can't do it without you making sure we continue to have a robust representation in the United States Congress and in the United States Senate. It can't be done. Imagine where we'd be in any of the things I suggested so far had we not regained control through your help of the House and the Senate, with the numbers we have. Imagine what prospects we'd have for any of the things that I mentioned without a Congress that shares our vision for a better, healthy, and more prosperous America.
Look, it sounds like hyperbole, but cut through it all, that's what our President is fighting for. That's what this is about. That's what the Congress is fighting for. That's what I'm fighting for. And with your help and together, that's what we're going to be able to accomplish.
So, folks, real simple -- simple, simple notion I want -- idea I want you to understand: We genuinely, genuinely appreciate you allowing us to be in a position to do the only thing that keeps all of us who are elected in this room -- in this business in the first place, to actually have a chance to change the circumstance of ordinary Americans; to give them more security and give our nation greater certitude and security.
So thanks for your support. May God bless you all and may God protect our troops. I love you. Thanks an awful lot. (Applause.) I got a meeting with the President at 1:00 p.m., so I'm not going to get a chance to say hello. But thank you all very, very much. Nancy, thanks. (Applause.)