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Rosh Hashanah and Hope

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


ROSH HASHANAH AND HOPE

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, it is entirely appropriate that the Senate pause today at the celebration of Rosh Hashanah. This, the people's body-the House of Representatives and the Senate-demonstrate their great respect for a very important Jewish holiday that symbolizes so much that is important not only in terms of their faith, but also underlies a very important value and spirit of this country, and that is the spirit of hope and optimism, portrayed by the dipping of apples into honey, symbolizing that one is going to have a better, more hopeful, and sweeter year. It is a message of hope, and it reminds us of a long tradition that hope is deeply rooted in a spiritual setting. It is entirely appropriate for us as a nation as well to share that sense with our Jewish friends, and also draw lessons from that very special occasion.

So I pay tribute to all of our friends who are celebrating this spiritual holiday today and thank them again for reminding us as a nation and reminding the world of that extraordinary spirit, which is reflected in that tradition and which is symbolized today in Israel in its continued struggle for existence and for religious liberty.

Mr. President, I speak today about this issue of hope, and where it is and where it is not in terms of our own society, and what I think we should be attempting to do about it.

I believe we ought to take a look at what is being represented to the American people, particularly on the issues of the economy. Under our constitutional system, we are in a period where we will be making judgments as to the course we are charting for the future. I believe, on the one hand, that we do have a road toward hope, particularly for working families. I think the last 3 years has been a road of burden and a quaky road for hard-working Americans.

I review the record for the Senate again and for the American people as we are looking forward to these next 6 or 7 weeks and making judgments and decisions about the direction that we should follow. I don't think it is anywhere clearer than in the state of our economy and what has happened to average working Americans in our Nation. There has been an economic squeeze that has resulted in American families working harder, working longer, and falling further and further behind. It doesn't have to be this way.

We have seen at other times when we have had Presidential leadership, where we have had the strong, expanding, and growing economy, with economic growth and price stability, and the reduction of unemployment. We have seen it in most recent times under President Clinton. We saw it in the early 1960s under President Kennedy prior to the time of the Vietnam war buildup in the latter part of the 1960s.

Really, the issues of economic growth, price stability, and economic expansion is directly related to Presidential leadership. What is happening to the middle class today is an extraordinary set of pressures on working Americans that is giving them an extraordinary squeeze in terms of their sense of hope and optimism in terms of the future. I have reviewed, in the course of my discussions yesterday, what is happening in terms of the health care crisis-the fact that premiums in the area of Medicare have increased fivefold, five times the increase that seniors are receiving in their Social Security from their COLA benefits. As a result, the pressure is going onto our seniors. But if we look at this chart, which is a reflection of the last year, we will find that health insurance premiums-this is as of July 2004. We have also seen in the last month that this figure is 11.2 percent for employee-provided coverage. But in this year, private health insurance premiums have gone up 8.5 percent; the cost of tuition this year is up 14.6 percent; housing is up 7.7 percent; and what has happened to wages of workers in real terms is that they are down .9 percent.

Workers are working longer, families are working harder. Nonetheless, when you take the indicators, they need the health insurance. And more often than not, they have children they are trying to educate, and they are finding college tuition going up and the cost of housing is increasing, but their wages are not.

Yet we hear time and again that the economy is getting stronger and the economy is getting better. The President says that time and again. He said it just this last week. If you look at this, he said:

The economy of ours is strong and it's getting stronger.

He said that on September 13 in Muskegon, MI. Since Bush took office, we have seen 250,000 jobs lost in Michigan, and 80,000 jobs lost in Colorado. This idea about the economy getting stronger has been repeated time and again over the course of this last year.

The President said there would be tax cuts for the middle class and then gave the tax cuts to the wealthy. He said those tax cuts were for economic stimulus, but we know if the President had spent the $700 billion on programs such as unemployment insurance, tax cuts for low-wage workers who really need it, instead of giving the $700 billion in tax breaks to the wealthy, 2 million more Americans would be employed today, and economic growth would have been twice as fast.

You cannot believe this administration on the economy, and you cannot trust them to do the right thing for the middle class. Middle-class working families are being squeezed in every direction by the Bush economy. And the ability of American families to live the American dream is increasingly out of reach with each passing year as they find it harder and harder to earn a living, pay a mortgage, pay rent, pay their medical bills, their food and energy bills, and still send their sons and daughters to college.

Yet we keep hearing only happy talk from the administration. As I mentioned, in Muskegon, MI, the President praised the economy: This economy of ours is strong and getting stronger. But still we have seen the loss of jobs. Michigan is one of 44 States that has higher unemployment today than when the recession began.

A week and a half ago at the Republican convention, the President said: We have seen a shaken economy rise to its feet. Our economy is growing again, creating jobs. Nothing will hold us back. But since the President took office, the overall number of jobs in the economy has fallen by 900,000. Since many of the new jobs created are in the public sector, the private sector is down even more, 1.7 million jobs, and manufacturing has been especially hard hit, 2.7 million jobs. President Bush has the worst job record of any administration since the Great Depression.

Vice President Cheney has a novel approach to the economy. He said the lackluster economic indicators do not reflect reality because they do not include the hundreds of thousands who make money selling on e-Bay. That is a source that did not even exist 10 years ago. CHENEY told an audience in Cincinnati last week that 400,000 people make some money trading on e-Bay.

First the Bush administration tried to count hamburger flippers as manufacturing jobs. Now they want to call e-Bay traders an economic indicator. No wonder the Vice President told a crowd of workers in New Hampshire last week: We think we are on the right track and we are headed in the right direction.

Tell that to the more than 8 million Americans who are currently unemployed, and tell that to the 1.6 million long-term unemployed who have been out of work more than 6 months, more than double when the President took office.

We have to look at these employment figures and what has happened over the recent year. This chart shows the job growth of this President, which is the worst since World War II. These are the total job recoveries. This blue line is before 1991. This green line is an indicator of what happened with job growth from 1991 to 1993, and the red line is the current recovery. This is all from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. These are all solid figures. The fact is, we are growing in employment at a slower rate.

Let's just take the total number of jobs in our country in the private sector. In January 2001, there were 111,609,000 jobs. As of August 2004, 1.7 million jobs have been lost from 2001 to 2004, and yet we have this administration saying the economy is strong, the economy has never been better, the economy is getting stronger.

What planet is this President living on?

Let's look at what has happened in terms of the jobs that have been created. Let's look at what the pay was for the jobs that have been replaced.

Mr. President, $51,270 is the average pay for industries that are losing jobs. The new jobs, those in growing industries, pay 41 percent less. So here we have a record that is indefensible in terms of the number of jobs that are out there in the private sector, in particular, and then when we look at what the salaries are for people who are working, we find out they are getting paid less when health care costs are going through the roof, tuition is going through the roof, and rent is going through the roof.

What does this mean in real terms? What is happening to American families? What with all of these statements that are being made by this President and the Vice President out on the campaign trail, let's just look at what has been happening in our country over the last 3 years.

There are 13 million children hungry or on the verge of hunger, 8 million Americans unemployed, and nearly 3 million have lost unemployment benefits since the Republicans ended the program with $20 billion in surplus in the unemployment compensation fund that these workers paid into.

Do you hear me? These workers paid into that fund, and this administration is denying them the ability to draw on it. That is the 3 million who have lost unemployment benefits and, oh, yes, the economy is getting better.

We have 7 million low-wage workers who have been waiting 7 years for an increase in the minimum wage-7 years. I noted last night when I was watching the news that the House of Representatives, under the Republican leadership, just voted itself another pay increase, the seventh pay increase since the last time we increased the minimum wage-seven pay increases.

We cannot even get an up-or-down vote on minimum wage because of the Republican leadership in the Senate of the United States and because of the Republican President. It has only been in the last few years that this has become a partisan issue. President Nixon voted for an increase in the minimum wage. President Bush 1 voted for an increase in the minimum wage. President Reagan voted for an increase in the minimum wage. But not President Bush 2. No, no, we are not going to permit an increase in the minimum wage. We are going to give tax breaks to wealthy individuals but nothing in terms of an increase in the minimum wage.

And 6 million workers have lost overtime protections, and in spite of the fact that a bipartisan coalition in the House of Representatives and the Senate of the United States rejected that policy, they still have gone forward with it. This chart shows the votes on overtime protection. The Senate voted September 10, 2003, to reject the restrictions on overtime advanced by the administration. The House voted on October 2, 2003, 221 to 203. The Senate voted May 4, 2004, 52 to 47. The Senate voted on May 4, 99 to 0. The House voted on September 9, 2004, 223 to 193. The House of Representatives in a bipartisan vote and the Senate in a bipartisan vote said no, and still they are going ahead. And the President says they are the friends of working families?

We heard the administration trying to defend this overtime restriction that it has been long overdue and it will provide greater relief for lower income working families; they will have greater stability in their pay increases, and this is a simplification of the rules. Always look out when you hear that kind of chatter. Always look a little behind the rationale for taking such policy.

Look at this:

The National Restaurant Association requests that the Department of Labor include chefs under the creative professional category as well as the learned professional category. . . .

That was from a National Restaurant Association letter to the Department of Labor. Here we have the National Restaurant Association urging the administration to restrict the coverage of overtime in terms of those who are working in the kitchen.

The Department concludes to the extent a chef has primary duty of work requiring invention, imagination, originality or talent, such chef may be considered an exempt creative professional.

Here is the association asking the administration to restrict overtime, and guess what. It is just what the administration did.

The list goes on. We have other charts that indicate for other industries as well. That is illustrative. We have 4.3 million more Americans living in poverty.

There are 800,000 more children living in poverty today than 2001, 4.3 million more Americans in total living in poverty. They are against any increase in the minimum wage, cutting back on the unemployment compensation that could help these families transition, pay their mortgages, pay their bills. No, we are cutting that out. These are hard-working Americans who paid in. No, they are not going to get that. That is what they have done. But, no, the economy is strong and getting stronger. Yet there are 4.3 million more Americans who are living in poverty, 800,000 of them children.

I have given the example of what was happening for individual jobs, for contracting industries and expanding industries, the disparity in payment in the new jobs. This also affects the household income because we know now that many more women are working and they are participating in the market, too. So is it not fair to say, let us look at what has happened in household income?

Remember the first chart that showed health care going up through the roof, that showed tuition going up through the roof, that showed rent or housing going up through the roof? This is what has happened now. In the year 2000, median household income in the United States was $44,853. The median income in 2004 is $43,318. It is a drop of $1,500 for average working families in America. That is last year, and this year it goes down even further. And everything is fine for working families, for middle-income families?

The same administration, again, is against increases in minimum wage, unemployment, and against overtime. This is what results. They are shipping jobs overseas, and they support a Tax Code that the administration knows has loopholes which they refuse to close down. This is what is happening.

Let me give a couple of other indicators of what is happening to middle-income families. Look what has happened to gasoline. I do not know how it is in South Carolina, but I know how it is in Massachusetts, and that is that many workers have to drive many miles in order to get employment. That has been fairly consistent. We had great pockets of significant unemployment for years. The interstate system and rail have opened up some hope and some opportunities, and here we find out what has happened with gas. Gas has gone up 23 percent in 2004, and the wages again are down. They pay more in terms of gas.

One of the most extraordinary things that absolutely amazes me is what has happened to milk. When I was home in Massachusetts a week ago in a grocery store, milk was $4.11 a gallon. I do not know, maybe it is a little bit less in some other parts of the country, but how in the world, when one is making $5.15 an hour, does a family or a single mom afford a gallon of milk in order to provide for their child? How do they do that with milk prices going up? These are the real economic indicators.

That is why the credibility of this administration, when it says everything is rosy, the economy is fine, is no better than it was when it misrepresented the facts in Iraq. They misrepresented, distorted, deceived the American people as to what was happening in Iraq and brought us into the terrible quagmire we are facing today, and the same is true with regards to the economy. It is incompetency, and that is what has been happening.

Well, we can say, all right, Senator Kennedy, look, there has certainly been some increase for the workers with jobs. Well, let us look at productivity. Let us look at the American workers. Is it the American workers' fault?

This chart is from the Economic Policy Institute, their analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is what is happening from 2001 through 2004 in the areas of productivity and wages. Historically, when we have had an increase in productivity, we have seen wages go up. I can put five more charts up going on back to the postwar period and they would all reflect the fact that with increase in productivity, there are increased wages, but not under the Bush administration. Workers are more productive today than they have ever been, but do my colleagues think that has been reflected in wages? Absolutely not. Why? No overtime, cutting back on the overtime. And because of the minimum wage, failing to get the bump for those who are working at the lower wage. This productivity represents the greatest gap we have had since the Great Depression, and there is a squeeze on the wages of the American economy. But, no, no, this economy is strong and getting stronger.

Well, it is for some in America, and this chart indicates who the economy is getting strong and stronger for. All one has to do is look at this chart from 2001 through 2004 and see where the workers' efforts are going. I just showed what was happening in productivity. Well, look what has happened. Corporate profits, their share has gone up 65 percent. They have effectively swallowed up all of the productivity. Do my colleagues think they have shared it with the American workers? Absolutely not. They have sucked all of that productivity up in these corporate profits. What does the administration say? Look, the economy is getting along fine. It is working well. It is strong and it is getting stronger. As a result of this, it is no mystery about what has been happening in America.

This shows the pay of the average CEO. We now have the highest paid disparity between CEOs and the average worker. The average worker makes $26,000, and the difference is 300 times, and that is what is happening.

I will show what has happened historically when I was talking about the increase in productivity, and then what we have seen is the increase in corporate earnings that has reached the record figures. Look what happened during the average last eight recoveries: Corporate profits went up 14 percent, wages 8.6 percent. That is what has happened really over the period of the last 50 years-the corporate profits went up and wages went up.

Look what has happened in the current recovery. Corporate profits are up 39.6 percent, and workers' wages lost five-tenths of 1 percent. Oh, the economy is fine.

Does it begin to have a ring, I say to my friends? Take any indicator-wages, productivity, what is happening with minimum wage, unemployment compensation, and overtime-take any indicator in terms of where working families are in this economy and they are falling further and further behind.

One of the areas that I feel so strongly about is the issue of the increase in the minimum wage. I have been proud to be a sponsor of the increases since I arrived in the Senate in the early 1960s. We have had some success, in a bipartisan way, trying to get the minimum wage up so people do not have to live in poverty. Without the increase in the minimum wage, it is now at $5.15. Its purchasing power by the year 2005 will put it at one of the lowest levels of purchasing power ever.

Who are these workers with a minimum wage? These are proud men and women, men and women of dignity. They clean out the great buildings of American industry every day. They are assistants to teachers in urban and rural areas all across this country. They work at nursing homes, looking after our parents. Our parents are in these nursing homes. These minimum wage workers are men and women of dignity. They have not gotten any increase over the period of the last 7 years, in spite of the fact we in the Congress have voted ourselves pay increases six times, and more recently in the House seven times. Over $20,000 for the individual Members of the House and Senate, but we cannot get a vote on raising the minimum wage in the Senate.

The issue of minimum wage is a women's issue, because the great majority of those who receive minimum wage are women. The great majority of the women who receive the minimum wage have children, so it is a women's issue and a children's issue. It is basically a family issue.

We hear a lot of rhetoric here about family and family values. The minimum wage is a family issue. Will these women, single women for the most part, be able to see their children? No, they have to get two or three jobs. They are lucky if they see their children at all. It is a family issue.

It is a civil rights issue because so many of those who work at the minimum wage are women of color. Women's issue, children's issue, civil rights issue-but most of all, it is a fairness issue. What the American people understand is fairness. What the American people understand is, if people are ready to work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, they should not have to live in poverty and their children should not have to live in poverty, either.

Oh, no, says President Bush. Oh, no, says President Bush. Oh, no, says the Republican leadership. You can't even have a vote in the Senate. When we offered that minimum wage increase on the State Department reauthorization, what did our Republican friends do? No, no, we are not going to vote; we are scared of that. We pulled the bill. We pulled the bill, so you are denied the opportunity to vote on it.

America, do you hear me? That is this Bush administration and that Republican leadership. They are saying: Oh, the economy is fine. Everything is fine. This is a wonderful economy, growing stronger. What about those 7 million men and women at lower level jobs? What about those who have been on unemployment? What about all those who have given up? We thought we were one country with one history and one destiny. Oh, no.

I have described some of what I think are the basic failings of the current administration. I want to include in the RECORD today the answers to many of these failings that my friend and colleague, Senator Kerry, has proposed. He has done so during the course of the campaign. It is on the Web site. He has outlined in great detail today in Cobo Hall in Detroit. The article is in the Wall Street Journal today, "My Economic Policy." He outlines what he will do to create jobs. He understands middle-class taxes and their health care costs.

I read into the RECORD yesterday what President Bush had to say about health care. I am sure he meant it in a flattering way. He said, out in Michigan: And John Kerry has a program that is going to be costly. What can you expect from a Senator from Massachusetts? Ha-ha-ha. And he got some laugher out in the audience on that part.

I will tell you what I care about in health care, having battled for it for 30 years, and that is every American have the same kind of health care as President Bush has. That is what I care about. That is what John Kerry cares about. You can distort it, misrepresent it, which President Bush did, and then differ with it, which he did as well. That is an easy debate technique that is used around here frequently. Let's recognize it for what it is. Distortion, misrepresentation-does this have a ring to it? You didn't get the facts when he came to Iraq, why in the world should you believe it when they distort and misrepresent John Kerry's health care program?

There is a basic limitation on American people being able to buy into the kind of health care program that every Member of the Senate and House has. I wonder how many of those people, the 3,000 or 4,000 people out there listening to the President, have the same kind of benefit program we have? We pay a 25-percent premium and the taxpayers pay 75 percent. Wouldn't every American like that one?

If we are so concerned about the Federal employees' health insurance, let's give it up and go back, like every other American, except those 11 million or 12 million of us who are able to get in the Federal employees' program. How about it? Not a chance.

So until you do, let's be easy in characterizing John Kerry's program. Here it is: creation of jobs, cut middle-class health care costs, restore America's competitive edge, cut the deficit, restore economic confidence. I will not read through it.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that this article be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

[From the Wall Street Journal, Sept. 15, 2004]

MY ECONOMIC POLICY

(By John Kerry)

As I travel across this country, I meet store owners, stock traders, factory foremen and optimistic entrepreneurs. Their experiences may be different, but they all agree that America can do better under an administration that is better for business. Business leaders like Warren Buffett, Lee Iacocca and Robert Rubin are joining my campaign because they believe that American businesses will do better if we change our CEO.

Since January 2001, the economy has lost 1.6 million private-sector jobs. The typical family has seen its income fall more than $1,500, while health costs are up more than $3,500.

Today, American companies are investing less and exporting less than they were in 2000-the first time investment and exports have been down during any presidential term in over 70 years. At the same time, our trade deficit has grown to more than 5% of the economy for the first time ever, a troublesome and unsustainable development.

The economy still has not turned the corner. Over the last year, real wages are still down and even the jobs created in the past 12 months represent the worst job performance for this period of a recovery in over 50 years. Indeed, the total of 1.7 million jobs created over the last year is weaker than even the worst year of job creation under President Clinton, and below what is needed just to find jobs for new applicants entering the work force.

Forty-three months into his presidency, George Bush's main explanation for this dismal economic record is an assortment of blame and excuses. Yet what President Bush cannot explain is how the last 11 presidents before him-Democrats and Republicans-faced wars, recessions and international crises, and yet only he has presided over lost jobs, declining real exports, and the swing from a $5.6 trillion surplus to trillions of dollars of deficits.

While the private sector will always be America's engine for innovation and job creation, President Bush has failed to take any responsibility for missing opportunities to strengthen the conditions for investment, economic confidence and job creation.

When the economy needed short-run stimulus without increasing the long-run deficit, President Bush got it backwards, passing an initial round of tax cuts that Economy.com found had no effect in lifting us out of recession. He then passed more deficit-increasing tax cuts that Goldman Sachs described as "especially ineffective as a stimulative measure." When small businesses and families needed relief from skyrocketing health-care and energy costs, he chose sweetheart deals for special interests over serious plans to reduce costs and help spur new job creation.

With the right choices on the economy, America can do better. American businesses and workers are the most resilient, productive and innovative in the world. And they deserve policies that are better for our economy. My economic plan will do the following: (1) Create good jobs, (2) cut middle-class taxes and health-care costs, (3) restore America's competitive edge, and (4) cut the deficit and restore economic confidence.

Create good jobs. I strongly believe that America must engage in the global economy, and I voted for trade opening from Nafta to the WTO. But at the same time, I have always believed that we need to fight for a level playing field for America's workers.

I am not trying to stop all outsourcing, but as president, I will end every single incentive that encourages companies to outsource. Today, taxpayers spend $12 billion a year to subsidize the export of jobs. If a company is trying to choose between building a factory in Michigan or Malaysia, our tax code actually encourages it to locate in Asia.

My plan would take the entire $12 billion we save from closing these loopholes each year and use it to cut corporate tax rates by 5%. This will provide a tax cut for 99% of taxpaying corporations. This would be the most sweeping reform and simplification of international taxation in over 40 years. In addition, I have proposed a two-year new jobs tax credit to encourage manufacturers, other businesses affected by outsourcing, and small businesses that created jobs.

American businesses are the most competitive in the world, yet when it comes to enforcing trade agreements the Bush administration refuses to show our competitors that we mean business. They have brought only one WTO case for every three brought by the Clinton administration, while cutting trade enforcement budgets and failing to stand up to China's illegal currency manipulation. That not only costs jobs, it threatens to erode support for open markets and a growing global economy.

Cut middle-class taxes and health costs. Families are being increasingly squeezed by falling incomes and rising costs for everything from health care to college. But spiraling health-care and energy costs squeeze businesses too, encouraging them to lay off workers and shift to part-time and temporary workers.

Under my plan, the tax cuts would be extended and made permanent for 98% of Americans. In addition, I support new tax cuts for college, child care and health care-in total, more than twice as large as the new tax cuts President Bush is proposing.

I have proposed a health plan that would increase coverage while cutting costs. It builds on and strengthens the current system, giving patients their choice of doctors, and providing new incentives instead of imposing new mandates.

My health plan will offer businesses immediate relief on their premiums. By providing employers some relief on catastrophic costs that are driving up premiums for everyone, we will save employers and workers about 10% of total health premiums.

Our hospitals and doctors have the best technology for saving lives, but often still rely on pencil and paper when it comes to tracking medical tests and billing. As a result, we spend over $350 billion a year on red tape, not to mention the cost of performing duplicative or redundant tests. My plan will modernize our information technology, create private electronic medical records, and create incentives for the adoption of the latest disease management.

And I won't be afraid to take on prescription drug or medical malpractice costs. We will make it easier for generic drugs to come to market and allow the safe importation of pharmaceuticals from countries like Canada. Finally, we will require medical malpractice plaintiffs to try nonbinding mediation, oppose unjustified punitive damage awards and penalize lawyers who file frivolous suits with a tough "three strikes and you're out" rule.

This plan will make our businesses more competitive by making our health care more affordable.

Restore America's competitive edge. America has fallen to 10th in the world in broadband technology. Some of our best scientists are being encouraged to work overseas because of the restrictions on federal funding for stem-cell research. President Bush has proposed cutting 21 of the 24 research areas that are so critical to long-term growth. We need to invest in research because when we shortchange research we shortchange our future.

My plan would invest in basic research and end the ban on stem-cell research. It would invest more in energy research, including clean coal, hydrogen and other alternative fuels. It would boost funding at the National Science Foundation and continue increases at the National Institutes of Health and other government research labs. It will provide tax credits to help jumpstart broadband in rural areas and the new higher-speed broadband that has the potential to transform everything from e-government to tele-medicine. I would promote private-sector innovation policies, including the elimination of capital gains for long-term investments in small business start-ups.

To ensure we have the workers to compete in an innovation economy, we need more young people to not only enter but complete college, we need more young women and minorities to enter the fields of math and science, and we need to make it easier for working parents to get the lifelong learning opportunities they need to excel at both their current and their future jobs.

Cut the deficit and restore economic confidence. When President Bush was in New York for the Republican convention, he did not even pay lip service to reducing the deficit. His record makes even Republicans wary. From missions to Mars to a pricey Medicare bill, President Bush has proposed or passed more than $6 trillion in initiatives without paying for any of them. The record is clear: A deficit reduction promise from George W. Bush is not exactly a gilt-edged bond.

Americans can trust my promise to cut the deficit because my record backs up my word. When I first joined the Senate, I broke with my own party to support the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction plan, which President Reagan signed into law. In 1993, I cast a deciding vote to bring the deficit under control. And in 1997, I supported the bipartisan balanced budget agreement.

I will restore fiscal discipline and cut the deficit in half in four years. First, by imposing caps, so that discretionary spending-outside of security and education-does not grow faster than inflation. If Congress cannot control spending, it will automatically be cut across the board. Second, I will reinstitute the "pay as you go" rule, which requires that no one propose or pass a new program without a way to pay for it. Third, I will ask for Congress to grant me a constitutionally acceptable version of line-item veto power and to establish a commission to eliminate corporate welfare like the one John McCain and I have fought for.

I am not waiting for next year to change the tone on fiscal discipline. Every day on the campaign trail, I explain how I pay for all my proposals. By rolling back the recent Bush tax cuts for families making over $200,000 per year, we can pay for health care and education. By cutting subsidies to banks that make student loans and restoring the principle that "polluters pay," we can afford to invest in national service and new energy technologies. My new rules won't just apply to programs I don't like; they will apply to my own priorities as well.

Cleaning up President Bush's fiscal mess will not be easy, but to ensure a strong and sustainable economic future we have to make the tough choices to move America's growing deficits back in the right direction.

On Nov. 2 we will have a national shareholders meeting. On the ballot will be the choice to continue with President Bush's policies or return to the fiscal sanity and pro-growth polices that proved so successful in the 1990s. You will choose.

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I want to review again the circumstances we are facing. We have many Americans in working families working longer and working harder. The fact is, Americans work longer and harder than people in most of the industrialized world. We are one of the few-I don't know another one-where we have seen real income for working families drop, as we have seen over the period of the last 3 years.

This is an indication of a failed and flawed economic policy. No matter how many times you tell the American people that everything is rosy, that is clearly not speaking about Main Street. They may be talking about Wall Street, but they are not talking about Main Street.

When we hear the Vice President saying the lackluster economic indicators don't reflect the reality because they don't include the hundreds of thousands who "make money selling on eBay, that is a source that didn't even exist 10 years ago," and when they try to characterize flipping hamburgers as "industrial jobs," we are not getting the real story. We are not getting the real story on Iraq. We are not getting the real story on health care. We are not getting the real story on education. We are not getting the real story on the economy.

I hope the American people will pay careful attention over the next 6 weeks and try to understand the real story. When they do, I believe John Kerry will have their support.

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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