Thank you very much. Thank you, Madam President. Thank you, Pam Pearson. Sounds good, doesn't it, Madam President? Out of my own past I feel compelled to say someone ought to thank the band for being here to play with us today. Thank you for dressing up. Thank you, Senator Wellstone. Poor Senator Wellstone has no energy, no conviction. [Laughter] He's a walking fireplug for Minnesota. There are many public officials here. I don't want to introduce them all, but I would be remiss if I did not thank Congressman Martin Sabo, Congressman Bruce Vento, and the distinguished retiring Congressman from Minnesota, someone who knows the difference between talk and action on the deficit, the economy, and a lot of other things, Congressman Tim Penny. Thank you all for being here.
Most of what needs to be said about this race has already been said here today. But I want you to focus on what you could do between now and tomorrow to talk to other people—there's a high rate of undecided in all these surveys—to make sure that Ann Wynia wins. And I have given a great deal of thought to this. This really is a contest between whether we will continue going into a future that is full of opportunity and challenge or go back to the easy answers of the past. It really is, as the First Lady said, a contest between the doers and the talkers, or the builders and the blamers.
You know, for all of our problems—and we do have profound problems, 30 years of accumulated social problems, 20 years of basically stagnant wages and working people being at greater and greater risk of losing their health care or not getting a raise or having to change jobs— for all of these problems, we had 12 years of their side's approach. They had 12 whole years of trickle-down economics. We've had 21 months, and this country is in better shape than it was 21 months ago. Jobs are up. The deficit is down. The Federal Government is smaller, but it's providing more opportunity for working families, for education, for family leave and in so many other ways. The country is getting stronger. I want America to be strong. What makes a country strong? Strong families, strong education systems, safe streets, good jobs, a strong foreign policy that promotes peace and prosperity for Americans in the world. On all these counts, this country is in better shape than it was 21 months ago.
Just last week we got the news that we had now over 5 million new jobs coming into this economy. The Minnesota unemployment rate has dropped about 1 1/2 percent. We're at a 4year low in unemployment in the United States as a whole. For the first time in 15 years, American auto companies are number one in the world in all of their sales. For the first time in 9 years, we've been voted again, finally, after 9 years, the most productive economy in the world. Why would we want to give the Congress to people who want to take us back to what almost wrecked us in the 1980's? Say no to them; say yes to our people.
There is always a little lag time between things that you do being done and things that you do being felt by voters. I understand that. And there are real frustrations and anxieties that the American people feel about their future that go way beyond normal politics. But what is the argument of our opponents, of Ann Wynia's opponent, of the Republican majority leader? They had a very clever strategy from the beginning; they have pursued it with a vengeance. Their strategy was, "The electorate is frustrated about the mess in Washington; let's keep them frustrated." Their strategy was, "Let's stop whatever we can. We can kill health care reform, lobby reform, campaign finance reform, important environmental legislation. And when we can't stop something, let's at least deny that it happened or deny that it did any good." So they say, "If anything good happened in the last 21 months, it was either in spite of or irrelevant to the work the rest of us did in Washington."
Well, you know folks, where I come from, we say, if you're walking down a road and you find a turtle on a fencepost, chances are it didn't get there by accident. Now, you think about that. [Laughter] Here is what—when we were voting last year and Tim Penny was working his heart out last year on a plan to reduce the Federal deficit after the debt had exploded, had quadrupled in the 1980's, threatening the future of our children, taking up all the money that needed to be invested in the private sector to create jobs, keeping interest rates high even in a recession, and the future of the country was on the line, the two people who are on the other side of town speaking today, here's what they said. The minority leader, Mr. Dole from Kansas, said, this is not real deficit reduction. And Ann Wynia's opponent said that this economic plan has ominous implications for the American economy and the American jobs. That's what they said.
Now they want to hold us accountable for all the messes that we inherited from them. At least we can hold them accountable for the decisions they've taken in the last 21 months. They were wrong. They were wrong on the deficit; they were wrong on the economy; they were wrong on the future of this country. Surely, even in this age of 30-second ads and negative sound bites and lobbing verbal bombs across the wall, surely someone, somewhere today will ask them, "Weren't you wrong about the deficit? Weren't you wrong about the economy? Why should we give you our future? You were wrong; all you did was try to stop progress for the last 21 months, and you were wrong." Somebody ought to say that to them and say, let's keep going forward.
They say the American people are so cynical, it is irrelevant what I do anymore, because everything the Government does makes no difference to you and can't make your life better. Well, I don't know about you, but I think it makes a difference that 845,000 families in Minnesota are now protected by the family leave law so they can be good workers and good parents when their children are sick or born. And I think it made a difference that 155,000 families in Minnesota had their income tax rates cut because they worked for modest wages. And we don't think people who work full-time and raise children should be in poverty, we think they should be rewarded for what they do.
I think it's making a difference that we're going to immunize all the kids in this country under the age of 2, so we'll have more little kids that look like these do in the future, without regard to their race, their income, or where they live. I think that matters. I think it matters that we're making 20 million Americans, including over 400,000 people right here in Minnesota, eligible for lower cost, more affordable college loans, so that every person in the country who wants to go to college can go.
Now someone ought to say today, if you have a clear choice between someone who supports those policies and someone who opposes those policies, shouldn't we vote for the person who is for building the ability of the people of Minnesota to compete and win, to make the most of their God-given abilities? I think the answer is yes.
Make no mistake about it, my fellow Americans, what they say is, "There is gridlock in Washington, you're frustrated with Washington; give us control." Well, if they had had control, there would have been no family leave law, no student loan reform, no immunization of all the kids under 2, no expansion of Head Start, no deficit reduction, no economic expansion. That is what they would have done if they had been in control. Look at how they voted: no Brady bill, no crime bill. That is how they voted.
So I say, think, folks. Look at the record. Hold them as accountable as they seek to hold us. I would gladly take a simple even standard: Hold me accountable, hold them accountable for what we said and what we did. If that happens, Ann Wynia is going to the United States Senate tomorrow.
You know, one of their greatest Presidents was Theodore Roosevelt. He was a great fellow. I would have been sorely tempted to vote for him if I'd been around. [Laughter] And one of the things I liked about Roosevelt was Teddy Roosevelt said the credit belonged to the person who is in the arena who is trying. These folks say, "Punish the people who have tried and reward the people who sit on the sidelines and whine and bellyache and complain and point the finger and run for cover every time it's time to take responsibility for the future." Vote for the party of Teddy Roosevelt; that's now us and Ann Wynia. That's right.
Their greatest President was Abraham Lincoln. He is all of our President. Do you hear his words in their campaigns? Remember what Abraham Lincoln said? "With malice toward none." Can you imagine him saying that today? "With charity for all,... let us press on in the work we are in," driven by "the better angels of our nature," because this is a "Government of, by, and for the people." They do not use those words. They seek to use malice and cynicism, our least charitable impulses, the lowest common denominator. That is not the Minnesota way.
I got really tickled—it would be laughable if it didn't work from time to time, that now Ann Wynia's opponent, who voted no on all those things I just said, is trying to convince the senior citizens of this State at the last minute that she is their enemy. [Laughter] Ann Wynia is a friend of children, a friend of working families, a friend of the elderly.
Her opponent wants to go to Washington to implement what they said they would do, cut taxes, increase spending, and balance the budget. Does that sound familiar? [Laughter] Folks, let me tell you something, and this is the last thing I want to say. I wasn't going to bring this up, but I heard that he was attacking her for being the enemy of senior citizens. If you promise to increase defense, bring back Star Wars, give the wealthy a tax cut, and balance the budget, there are only two possibilities. One is you're serious, and the other is you're kidding. [Laughter] And when I finish, don't take my word for it; go ask Mr. Penny, he's the budget expert, and he's not running. But we fool with these budgets. If they are serious in doing what they say, here are their options. You've got to cut everything else in the Government 20 percent across the board, including Social Security and Medicare. That is the enemy of seniors. That's $2,000 a person, Social Security.
If you say, "Oh, no, we won't cut Social Security," because they'll always say—they'll probably say that here today: "We didn't say we'd cut Social Security." They didn't say they wouldn't. [Laughter] Then you have to cut everything else 30 percent across the board. That devastates the student loan program. That devastates the Head Start program. That devastates the crime bill and putting police on our streets, ask the mayors. In other words, they are the enemy of the solemn contract we had with the elderly people of this country. Unless, of course, they're kidding. [Laughter]
Now, the last time they had power they were kidding. [Laughter] So what did they do? They talked so tough; they say, "We are strong; we are tough." But they acted so weak. And so what happened? They exploded the deficit. They sent our jobs overseas. They put our economy in the drink.
Let us say: Sorry, we've been there; we tried that; we didn't like it. We like the unemployment rate going down, the deficit going down, jobs going up, more investment in education, a better future for our kids. We like Ann Wynia. We like hope, not fear. We like the future, not the past. Lift her up. Let's go on. Let's win on Tuesday. We can do it.
Thank you, and God bless you all.