Governor Dean Lays Out Vision for Economic Growth and Job Creation
Des Moines, IA, July 30, 2003
Thank you very much. I am so proud to be in Des Moines with Plumbers and Steamfitters talking about the economy, about the concerns of working families and specifically about the issue I know is front and center for Iowans and Iowa's union members: jobs.
A little over a month ago, I announced my candidacy for President and spoke of the journey I have taken this past year. I began with a campaign aiming to put health care and early investment in kids back on the national agenda.
But I soon came to realize something larger was on the minds of Americans. Meeting and talking to thousands of people in living rooms, union halls and diners across this country, I've heard anger and dismay about the direction our leaders have taken. And a yearning for a crusade to take back our country and our party.
So this campaign has become a powerful movement to take our country back. With over two hundred thousand Americans already signed up, we're building the greatest grassroots campaign of the modern era on mouse pads, shoe leather and hope.
I am running for President because it is time to rebuild the American community, reclaim our democratic heritage and restore our country to its rightful place as a moral leader among the nations of the world.
And I am running for President because it's time that we stood up to this President, to the Republican Party, to their radical conservative agenda, and forced them out of office.
Today, our nation is in crisis. At home, this crisis manifests itself in this President's destruction of the idea of community. This President pushes forward an agenda that divides us and economic polices that beleaguer the middle class and raise their property taxes so income taxes may be cut for those who ran Enron.
The very ideal of American Community is under the biggest assault in our history by the radical agenda of those in power and a flood of special interest money.
But in order to change America, we are first going to have to change the Democratic Party, and make it stand for its principles once again. Too many Democrats in Washington have become so afraid of losing that they have remained silent, or only half heartedly fought the very agenda that is destroying the democratic dream of America.
When America has been threatened with a radical conservative agenda in the past, it has been the working people and unions that rose up to resist and to take the country back from the special interests. It is time to do that again.
The special interests will be raising $300 million to keep this President in office. They have enlisted an army of lobbyists.
My campaign is building an army of individuals dedicated to restoring America. We need to enlist two or three million people, contributing $10-20-100 dollars each. Can we do it? We are well on our way. But no one knows how to organize like organized labor and we need your help! If we win, working people win and America wins.
We became a great country because we built a strong middle class. All Americans, not just union members, owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women of America's labor movement. They grew the roots of our prosperity, and built a nation with blood, sweat and toil.
They struggled together to pass on to their children and grandchildren an America that was better than the one they inherited. The men and women of the labor movement joined together because they knew that they could accomplish more in unity than they could be going it alone. And if we are going to change America for the better, we must find in ourselves again that same sense of community and common cause.
It was this sense of community that was the foundation of the middle class and America's shared prosperity. When companies did better, wages rose, and benefits kept pace. A strong labor union movement made sure that the factory worker and the sales clerk saw their real incomes rise.
At the same time, we created institutions that shared risks. Companies were offered incentives to provide health and pension benefits to their workers. Social Security and Medicare were founded to make sure that no Americans would end their lives in poverty or lack medical care. We built a strong public education system, and offered training and advancement through loans, grants, and the GI Bill.
But then came the election of George W. Bush -- the most conservative President this nation has seen since the time of the Robber Barons of the Nineteenth Century. He came to office promising a "compassionate" administration.
Instead he's brought a government in which truth is the victim of expediency. Credibility is sacrificed for temporary advantage. And Trust is an afterthought.
He promised to "recover the momentum of our economy..." What has he done? Nothing!
He pledged to "reward the effort and enterprise of working Americans." What has he done? Nothing!
He said he would "reclaim America's schools". What has he done? Created a unfunded burden on states and communities. What's the result? Nothing!
He said he would confront economic problems now, "instead of passing them on to future generations." What has he done? Worse than nothing!
In 30 short months, President Bush has broken every promise to America. He has created a crisis for American workers and brought financial disaster to more and more American families.
They are the victims of an unfair, misguided economic policy.
Listen to the Bush economic record.
Since this Administration took office, over 3.1 million jobs have been lost the worst job creation record in over 60 years.
Unemployment has reached 6.4% the highest in 9 years.
Over 9.3 million Americans looking for work; over 2 million Americans are suffering long-term unemployment.
For the first time in seven years, workers' wages are growing slower than inflation.
Month after month, employers have laid off more workers than they have hired, and month after month, the manufacturing power of American industry declines.
Never has a President talked so much about jobs while doing so much to destroy them.
As they say in Texas, the President is all hat and no cattle.
This is also the most anti-union administration in history.
Under cover of national security, he stripped 170,000 workers of collective bargaining rights.
While he's pulling back on his original plan to privatize 850,000 government jobs, his objective remains the same.
He bailed out the airlines with $15 billion without one penny for 100,000 laid off workers.
He invoked Taft-Hartley against the longshore workers when they were locked out not striking, but locked out.
He reversed ergonomic standards.
He increased funds to investigate unions but slashed funding for enforcement of health and safety laws, child labor protection and violations of the minimum wage.
And when you talk to workers trying to join unions, and to union organizers, as I have, you find that the Bush appointees to the Labor Relations Board are making it almost impossible to join a union today.
I will reverse every one of these policies, and I will defend, support and expand the rights of American unions to organize as an essential prerequisite to the prosperity of our nation.
All this past week, the President and his Cabinet members have been traveling the country touting the benefits of their economic program. Just today, Secretary Snow is in Minnesota on what the White House is calling their "Jobs and Growth Tour."
I'll tell you with the record they have on jobs and growth this must be one mighty short tour.
We cannot allow ourselves to simply pursue a defensive agenda. We have to do more than protect what's already been won. We need to reform our labor laws to let workers join unions if they freely choose to sign a union card. We need card check legislation, so that unions can organize companies that have abused labor laws.
We need a fresh start, a new beginning with a new administration and a new economic plan -- a program that opens up opportunity, creates more good jobs and saves the ones we have.
Let me say a few things about my approach to the economy.
First, I have a well-deserved reputation as a fiscal conservative. Vermont is the only state that does not require a balanced budget but I balanced the budget every year of my 11 years as Governor. I'm a thrifty person, and I hate to waste and inefficiency. So I'm not afraid to say "no" to spending plans that don't make sense.
I cut some taxes both income taxes and sales taxes -- but when we had good fiscal years, I set up a rainy day fund, and put money away against the hard times sure to come. The banks and investment houses liked Vermont's fiscal situation so much that they raised our credit rating and reduced the cost of our borrowing.
I'm fond of saying that you really can't trust Republicans with your money. That may seem like a funny notion, but the truth is that Republicans don't seem to understand the simple notion that a government like a family must eventually live within its means. Since the days of President Reagan and the first President Bush, Republican administrations have run up more than $3 trillion in deficits. It took President Clinton without the support of a single Republican in Congress to adopt an economic program that brought the budget into balance and set the stage for the unprecedented expansion of the 90s.
But balancing the budget is not the be-all and end-all of an economic program. The central economic goal of a President must be to speak to the core concerns of America's workers and their families -- adequate health care, an excellent education, the assurance that every American who wants one has a decent job at a living wage, and the confidence that they will be secure in their retirement and be able to maintain a reasonable quality of life in their senior years.
This President has failed to address these core concerns. With an economic agenda that consists of little more than irresponsible tax cuts, he offers little comfort to our country's working families.
The average working American would much rather have guaranteed health care than a $400 tax rebate. Working Americans worry about the security of their current jobs. They are worried about the financial future of their children. They are concerned about the security of their retirement either that Social Security will not be there for them or that their savings will be wiped out through another collapse of the stock market.
And the answer this President offers to each of these concerns is to cut taxes. Well, let's be clear. The tax cuts this President is offering are not about giving a family an extra $400. And I don't even believe that they're really about giving far larger amounts to millionaires or corporations though they do that as well.
These tax cuts are the centerpiece of a radical agenda to destroy Social Security, Medicare, our public schools and our public services through privatization and starvation.
The actions of this President and this administration are threatening the soundness of our Social Security system and of our private pension systems as well. By creating the largest deficits in history and adding irresponsibly to the federal debt, he has given Americans worried about their retirement even more cause for concern.
As President, I will be committed to preserving the integrity and long-term stability of the Social Security Trust Fund. I will oppose privatizing the Social Security System. And I will pursue a responsible economic agenda, and under my plan we will never have to consider raising the retirement age.
The long-term future of Social Security and financial security for all of us in our retirement years depends on ensuring a healthy rate of economic growth over the next several decades. Even a modest increase in long-term growth rates will ease the burden on the Social Security Trust Fund. If we do need to bring more money into Social Security, then I'm prepared to look at reasonable options for expanding the ceiling on payroll taxes.
The best guarantee for our Social Security, therefore, is an economic plan with three basic principles:
First, we must create economic growth and jobs new jobs, more jobs, and better jobs for Americans;
Second, we must return to fiscal sanity, for the sake of future generations, yes but also for the sake of our very national security. We cannot be a world-class country if we are the world's largest debtor;
Finally, we must reform our tax system. When I am President, I will work to repeal the top heavy Bush tax cuts, and replace them with a system that is fairer, and simpler, and places less of a burden on working Americans who live off their paychecks.
Today, I want to spend a few minutes talking with you about the first of my priorities economic growth and job creation. About how we do go about creating jobs and economic growth.
First, we need to put more money in the pockets of people who will spend it not only wealthy investors whose needs are well taken care of. We can do this by taking several simple steps.
We should begin by raising the minimum wage. At a time when nine million Americans are out of work, let's at least help those who are still working. When I was Governor, I raised the minimum wage. It's now $6.75 an hour, compared to the federal minimum of $5.15. We're the richest nation in the world. We can do better!
We should expand unemployment insurance to cover more low-wage and part-time workers. Less than 1 in 5 of them are covered today and I know we can do better!
We need to provide help to the states and communities who are laying off firefighters and police officers, closing schools early, reducing highway assistance and even releasing prisoners from jail. And we should double the Community Development Block Grant Program.
Just this week, we've seen new data that shows that as states and local governments are raising taxes and cutting spending, they're slowing the economy by as much a half a percentage point. By increasing assistance to them, we're pumping money directly into the economy and more importantly creating more jobs!
We must increase our investments for growth. Too many of our schools are obsolete and decrepit. Your own Senator Harkin has been a real leader in pushing creative federal investments in new and better schools. That not only helps education it creates jobs. And tax cuts, as the President has proved, do not create jobs.
We need a national program to expand access to broadband in our inner cities and in rural America in order to allow those parts of America who have been left out of the new economy to participate in it.
We must bridge the digital divide between young and old, white and black, and rich and poor. Expanding the broadband network provides new employment opportunities and stimulates demand for information technology creating more jobs in our vital high-tech industries.
No economic plan can ignore the issue of health care. My plan will reduce the cost of health insurance to employers, take a contentious issue off the bargaining table, and permit more money to be used to compensate employees and create new jobs!
We must re-examine our trade policies. In an era of globalization, multi-national corporations chase the lowest wages and the most permissive regulations. Fair trade is good for America and the world, but the playing field needs to be level. We can't allow some countries to subsidize exports, manipulate their currencies, or erect barriers to imports from the United States.
We need to remember that the purpose of trade must be to improve the standard of living for us as well as our partners. Trade can only build strong and stable societies in developing countries if it is conducted under clear rules that are continually improved. Solid labor standards in our trade agreements are essential if we are to help create a strong middle class in the developing countries and creating strong middle classes in developing countries should be an essential goal of our trade policy. Middle class economies create the basis for strong democracies and for strong demand for U.S. goods and services.
Those who deny that problems exist in our trading system are not helping the cause of trade. When I am President, I will insist that every new trade agreement include strict and enforceable labor and environmental provisions.
I am running for President because we can do better. We need to do better. The American people deserve a better deal.
Our country is built on the notion that we are all in this together. We are a community. We share in our prosperity and we take care of each other when times get tough. We must not lose that precious gift. We cannot allow a widening gap between the richest and the poorest among us.
I am tired of seeing a nation divided whether by race, or gender, or sexual orientation or economic status. We need a government that works with the people and for the people that unites us in a common vision for the common good.
I know we can do better. You have the power to make it happen. You have the power in your hands to take back our country and bring about a better deal for all Americans.
I need your help. I ask for your help. Let's work together to build a better nation, where work is honored and rewarded; where people are united in a common cause and dreams are matched to opportunities.
Let's take back America and take our country forward!