Barack Obama photo

Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Columbus, Ohio

September 17, 2012

The President. Hello, Columbus! Thank you. Well, thank you. It is great to be back in Columbus. This is——

Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

The President. Thank you. Thank you so much. Well, see, this is why I like to come to Columbus, because everybody is so nice here in Ohio.

It is wonderful to be here. Can everybody please give Jeff a big round of applause for that great introduction?

Now, all of you are good friends, but I've got some people I definitely got to call out. First of all, your outstanding mayor, Michael Coleman, is in the house. Your former Governor, Ted Strickland, is in the house. Your next Congresswoman, Joyce Beatty, is here. And all of you are here.

Now, I know some of you may have just wandered up because you thought you were going to take a nice stroll through the park—say, what's going on there? Seems like there's a big crowd. But it turns out there's an election going on right now. It's true. [Laughter]

And over the past couple of weeks, you've had a chance to see both sides make their case. They were down in Tampa. We were in Charlotte.

Audience member. In Charlotte!

The President. You saw——

Audience members. Yes!

The President. Okay. Now, in just 15 days, Ohio, starting on October 2, you will have one big choice to make, I think the clearest choice of any time in a generation. And this is not just a choice between two candidates or two parties, this is a choice between two different visions for how we move the country forward.

What we're fighting for—our vision is to restore the basic bargain that built this country, that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known. And that bargain can be stated very simply. It says, if you work hard, you can make it. If you meet your responsibilities, then you can get ahead; that everyone in this country—no matter what you look like or where you come from, what your last name is—everybody gets a fair shot and everybody does their fair share and everybody plays by the same rules from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington, DC.

Now, I ran for President because I saw this basic bargain eroding. Here in Ohio, too many jobs were being shipped overseas; too many families struggling to keep up with rising costs, but paychecks that weren't going up; people having to take on more debt just to pay tuition for their kid's college or put gas in the car. And then, eventually, this entire house of cards collapsed, 4 years ago this month, in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and millions of Americans lost their jobs, homes, savings. And we've been fighting ever since to recover from the policies that got us into this hole.

Now, the other side seems to forget how all this got started. They have a convenient case of amnesia. And so, at their convention, they were happy to talk about all the things they think are wrong with America, but they didn't have much to say about how they'd make it right.

They want your vote, but they don't want you to know their plan because the plan they're offering is the same old, same old, that we've been hearing from them for 30 years. They want tax cuts, tax cuts; we roll back some regulations and then give you more tax cuts. Tax cuts when times are bad, tax cuts when times are good. Tax cuts during peacetime and then some tax cuts during wartime. You want to make a restaurant reservation or book a flight? You don't need the new iPhone, you just use a tax cut. [Laughter]

Now, listen, I've cut taxes, just like I promised, for folks who need it: for middle class families, for small businesses. The average family has seen their Federal income tax—their Federal taxes go down by $3,600. So if any of you are talking to your Republican friends or relatives, and they say, well, he's a big tax guy, you tell them, no, your taxes are lower than they were when I came into office.

Small businesses, we've cut taxes 18 times. But I do not believe that another round of tax cuts for millionaires are going to bring good jobs back to Ohio. I don't think giving me a tax break or giving Mr. Romney a tax break will help pay down our deficit. I don't believe that firing teachers or kicking students off of financial aid is somehow going to grow our economy.

That's not going to help us compete against all the scientists and engineers coming out of China. And after all we've been through, does anybody really think that somehow rolling back regulations on Wall Street—that we put in place to make sure we don't have another taxpayer-funded bailout—that somehow that's going to be good for the small-businesswoman here in Columbus or help the construction worker get back on the job?

Ohio, we have tried what they're selling. We tried it. We've been there. It didn't work. We don't like it. We're not going back. [Applause] We're not going back. We're not going back.

Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

The President. See, we don't believe that the answer to our challenges is just to tell folks you're on your own. We think we're all in this together.

You look at this crowd, people of every walk of life, that's what America is. And we don't believe this economy grows from the top down; we think it grows from the middle out, from the bottom up. Think about it, when I cut taxes on middle class families, why did I do that? Because when you guys have a little more money in your pocket, what happens?

Audience members. We spend it!

The President. You spend it because you need to, because you've got expenses. So then you decide, you buy a new computer for your kid going off to college or you finally trade in that old, beat-up car you got, and so businesses then, they have more profits. They've got more customers. That means they're hiring more workers. That means those folks then have more money to spend. The whole economy does better.

If you give a tax break to a billionaire, you can only buy so many yachts. [Laughter] Right? I mean, at a certain point, you stop. So it doesn't do the same thing for the economy.

So not only is it the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do for us to grow, to make sure that middle class families are strong and people who are poor and willing to work hard to get into the middle class, that they've got a chance. That's our vision. That's why we're not going backward. That's why we're going forward. That's why I'm running for a second term as President of the United States.

Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

The President. Hold on a second, I want you to know, though, because some of you may not have been paying attention at the convention because you were still thinking about Michelle and how good she was. Or maybe you were still talking about President Clinton and how he broke it down.

But I want everybody to be clear: The path I'm offering isn't quick or easy. It's going to take more than a few years to deal with all the challenges that we face. But let me tell you something, when I hear the other side talking about how the Nation is in decline, I tell them, you must not be getting out much—[Laughter]—because this is America and we've still got the best workers in the world and the best entrepreneurs in the world and the best scientists and researchers in the world and the best colleges and universities in the world. And there is not a country on Earth that wouldn't trade places with us right now.

So I'm confident our problems can be solved, our challenges will be met. The path I offer is harder, but it leads to a better place because it allows everybody to prosper. Anybody who is willing to work hard can get ahead.

I'm asking you to choose that future. And I'm asking you to rally around a specific set of goals: to create new manufacturing jobs and to strengthen our energy sector and improve education and bring down our deficit and turn the page on a decade of war. That's what I intend to accomplish in the next 4 years. That's why I'm running for a second term. I need those 4 years to get all that done.

So let me just break down this plan very clearly. Part one, we're going to export more products, and we're going to outsource fewer jobs. After a decade where manufacturing had been declining, this country has now created over the last 2 1/2 years over half a million new manufacturing jobs, a whole lot of them right here in Ohio.

When there were some who said, just let Detroit go bankrupt, when there were folks who were willing to walk away from all the jobs that are supported here in Ohio by the auto industry, I bet on American workers. And 3 years later, the American auto industry has brought back nearly 250,000 new jobs. It's come roaring back.

So you've got a choice. We can do what Mr. Romney suggests and keep giving tax breaks——

Audience members. Boo!

The President. Don't boo, vote. [Applause] Don't boo, vote.

We can keep giving tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas, or we can start rewarding companies that are opening new plants and training new workers and creating new jobs right here in the United States of America.

And when it comes to trade, I understand my opponent has been running around Ohio claiming he's going to take the fight to China. [Laughter] Now, this is a guy whose experience has been owning companies that were called "pioneers" of outsourcing jobs to countries like China—made money investing in companies shipping jobs to China. Ohio, you can't stand up to China if all you've done is send them our jobs. [Laughter]

You can talk a good game 7 weeks before an election, but you can't just talk the talk, you've got to walk the walk. I wake up every single day thinking about America's workers and making sure they've got a fair shot in this economy. When other countries don't play by the rules, we walk the walk. We've brought more trade cases against China in one term than the previous administration did in two.

When Governor Romney was complaining that because we stopped an unfair surge in Chinese tires here into the United States, he said, well no, that's protectionist. We did it anyway. And we got over 1,000 American jobs back, right here in the United States.

Earlier this year, I set up a new Task Force to go after every unfair trade practices that harm our workers, and it's already delivering. Two months ago, we moved to hold China accountable for unfair trade practices that harm American automakers. Today my administration is launching a new action against China, this one against illegal subsidies that encourage companies to ship auto parts manufacturing jobs overseas, which directly hurts men and women on the assembly lines in Ohio and Michigan and throughout the Midwest.

Your Senator, by the way, Sherrod Brown, has fought as hard as anybody on this. So where folks are breaking the rules, we go after them. We're not going to let it stand. It's not right. It's against the rules. We're not going to let it stand. American workers build better products than anybody. "Made in America" means something. And when the playing field is level, we always win.

So that's a choice you've got in this election, though—because my opponent, not only does he want to keep tax incentives that would send jobs overseas, he wants to expand them. Now——

Audience member. I love you!

The President. I love you back, but I'm not finished.

Now, if you choose the path I'm offering, then we can help big factories and small businesses double their exports. We can sell more goods around the world made right here. We can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next 4 years. We've shown we can do it.

But that's not all it's going to take to rebuild our economy. We've got to make sure our workers are trained to fill those good jobs. And that's why the second part of my plan is to give every American the chance to earn the skills they need to compete. Education was the gateway of opportunity for me. It was what gave Michelle a chance. It's what gave so many of you a chance. It's the path to a middle class life.

And when I say, by the way, a higher education, it doesn't mean 4 years. It may be you go to a community college for 2, or a training program. But the point is, it's not enough right now just to get that 4 years in high school because the economy is more complicated now and the skills that are needed are more advanced.

Now, the good news is, we've already done work on this. So millions of students are already paying less for college because of what we did. We took on a system that was wasting billions of taxpayer dollars using banks and lenders as middlemen for the student loan program, and we said, why do we need the middlemen? Let's cut them out. Let's give the money directly to students. And as a consequence, we've been able to help young people all across this country.

But once again, we've got a choice in this election, because Governor Romney wants to roll back what we did. Then he's got a budget that would gut education to pay for more tax breaks for the wealthy. That's one path, but I'm offering a different path.

I believe that in the United States of America, no child should ever have her dreams deferred because of an overcrowded classroom or outdated textbooks. No family should have to set aside a college acceptance letter because they don't have the money. No company should have to look for workers in China because they couldn't find workers with the right skills here at home.

So, Ohio, what I'm offering, and I need your help. I need you to help me recruit 100,000 new math and science teachers and improve early childhood education and give 2 million workers the chance to learn the skills they need at community colleges and help us work with colleges and universities to keep tuition down so that our young people have a chance at a future without taking on tens of thousands of dollars' worth of debt. We can meet that goal, but I need your help.

Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

The President. Third thing, we've got to control our own energy. After 30 years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so by the middle of the next decade, your cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. And by the way, Detroit is making those cars, and Toledo is making those cars. All across the Midwest, we're seeing American cars now. We're going to meet those standards. We're going to beat those standards.

We've doubled the amount of renewable energy we're generating from sources like wind and solar. That's creating thousands of jobs building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries right here in Ohio. America is less dependent on foreign oil than any time in the last two decades.

So we've already made progress, but we can make more. And the question is, are we going to go back to a plan that reverses the progress, or do we build on our progress? See, I want you guys to know, I'm not going to let oil companies write this country's energy plan. I'm not going to let them keep collecting $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayers.

The path we're offering is to keep investing in wind and solar, clean coal technology, and make sure farmers and scientists are harnessing new biofuels to power our cars and our trucks. Let's put construction workers back to work rehabbing and retrofitting buildings and factories so they waste less energy. Let's develop a hundred-year supply of natural gas that's beneath our feet. And if we do all this, we can cut our oil import in half by 2020 and support 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone. That's the path forward.

Fourth thing, let's reduce our deficit without sticking it to the middle class. See, we really do have to reduce our deficit. But the way I do it, we're cutting our deficit by $4 trillion, making sure everybody does it the right way. I've worked with Republicans in Congress; we've cut a trillion dollars' worth in spending. Not every program works. There is some waste in Government—we can take and make sure that we're bringing down our deficit.

I want to reform our Tax Code so that it's simple and it's fair, but I also want to make sure we're asking the wealthiest households to pay a slightly higher tax on incomes over $250,000, the same rate that we had when Bill Clinton was President, when our economy was creating nearly 23 million new jobs, when we had the biggest surplus in history, and we had a whole bunch of millionaires to boot.

And why is it that we created a lot millionaires? Because when middle class families are doing well, what happens? Everybody does well. Everybody does well. When you give ladders of opportunity for poor folks to get into the middle class, what happens? Everybody does well. They've got more money to spend; they buy products; we hire more workers. Everybody does better.

Now, I've got to say, my opponent does have his own plan, but it's missing one thing: arithmetic. [Laughter] It doesn't add up. I mean, think about it. He says that the most important thing we have is to reduce our deficit. And I really want—I hope some Republicans are watching right now and some Independents, because I just want everybody to break down the math. You say you want to reduce the deficit. So what's your first plan? You're going to spend $5 trillion in tax cuts—$5 trillion.

Sometimes, people lose sight of how much this means. So $5 trillion over 10 years, that's $500 billion a year, right? I think my math is right. Now, $500 billion, that's how much we spend on the Defense Department, our entire military. So he's going to give a tax cut, mostly going to wealthy folks like me and Mr. Romney, a $250,000 tax break for people making $3 million a year or more, and it's going to cost us $5 trillion on top of the Bush tax cuts.

Now, they must have skipped math class when they were—[Laughter]—every time they're asked to explain this plan, they won't explain it because they can't. They cannot explain how they'd pay for a $5 trillion tax cut without slashing education funding, slashing investments in research, slashing investments in helping our seniors and people who are vulnerable, and in raising taxes on middle class families. But it doesn't stop there. They then want to add another $2 trillion in military spending, and they say they won't add to the deficit, but keep in mind, this is stuff the Joint Chiefs of Staff say is not required to keep us safe. So that's $7 trillion altogether, on top of the Bush tax cuts. Trillions of dollars, and they're going to ask you to pay for it to give me a tax break.

I'm telling you, you cannot make it work. You can't cross the t's and dot the i's on this plan. And Columbus is a town where you've got to dot the i. You can't get away with that.

So when independent folks have tried to explain it, they've gone through it, and they've kind of gotten their calculators out, they've tallied these ups. And one independent report shows that Governor Romney's tax plan would provide an additional $250,000 tax cut for multimillionaires, but to pay for it, 95 percent of taxpayers would actually foot the bill. You pay more.

I mean, imagine a sellout crowd for a Buckeye football game at the "Horseshoe." Under my opponent's tax plan, 106 fans at the game would get an average tax cut of $250,000, and about 100,000 fans would have to pay for it. And by the way, the ones who would get the tax break are the guys in the box seats. [Laughter]

I am not going to ask middle class families with kids to pay over $2,000 more so that millionaires and billionaires get to pay less. I'm not going to ask 360,000 Ohio students to pay more for college or kick children off of Head Start or eliminate health insurance for the poor or the elderly or the disabled to pay for a tax cut for folks who don't need it.

And by the way, I'm not going to turn Medicare into a voucher. If you worked hard all your life, you should not spend your golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. You should retire with the dignity that you have earned. So we'll reform Medicare, but we'll do it the right way, reducing the cost of health care, not by asking seniors to foot the bill. Same thing with Social Security. Well, we'll take responsible steps to strengthen Social Security, but we're not going to turn it over to Wall Street.

Now, one last thing: Rebuilding our economy is essential, but obviously, our prosperity at home is linked to our policies abroad. Current events remind us of that. Obviously, we are heartbroken seeing what happened last week. Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq, and we did. I said we'd wind down the war in Afghanistan, and we are. And as a new tower rises above the New York skyline, Al Qaida is on the path to defeat, and bin Laden is dead.

But for all the challenges, the events of the past week underscore we've still got threats in the world, so we've got to remain vigilant. We're going to do everything we need to do to make sure our diplomats are safe. We're going to keep providing our troops with the equipment and the strategy that they need. But what we're also going to do is make sure that as long as I'm Commander in Chief, we've got the strongest military the world has ever known. And when our troops take off their uniforms, we're going to serve them as well as they've served us because nobody who fights for this country should have to fight for a job when they come home.

Now, my opponent, he's got a different point of view. He said it was "tragic" to end the war in Iraq. And he won't tell us how he'd end the war in Afghanistan. He wants to spend more money on programs that our Joint Chiefs don't even want. Well, you know what, I want to spend that money we're no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and to put people back to work here in Ohio, rebuilding roads and bridges and schools and runways. After a decade of war, it's time to do some nation-building here at home. That's why I'm running for a second term.

Now, this is the choice that we now face. This is what the election comes down to. The other side, they've told us, over and over again, how bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations—that's the only way to go; their way is the only way. They say that since Government can't do everything, it should do almost nothing. If you can't afford health insurance, hope you don't get sick. If some company releases pollution that your kids are breathing, they say it's just the price of progress. If you can't afford to go to college, borrow money from your parents.

But you know, that's not who we are. That's not what this country is about. We insist on personal responsibility, and we insist on individual initiative. We can't help somebody who doesn't want to help themselves. Nobody here is entitled to success. Everybody has got to earn it. We honor folks who start a business and the strivers and the dreamers, the risk takers who help make our free enterprise system work. And we believe the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world has ever known.

But we also believe that in this country, as citizens, we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations. As citizens, we understand it's not about what can be done for us, but what can be done by us, together, as one Nation and as one people.

And that's what this election was about 4 years ago. It wasn't about me, it was about you. You're the reason there's a cancer survivor in Medina that can afford a health care plan that covers preexisting conditions. You're the reason there's a factory worker in Toledo who lost his job, but now is back on the line building some of the world's best cars.

You're the reason a young man right here in Columbus, whose mother worked three jobs to raise him, can now afford to go to college—got to the Ohio State University. That's because of you.

You're the reason some young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag is not suddenly going to be snatched up and deported to a country that they don't even know.

You're the reason why some outstanding soldier won't be kicked out of the military just because of who they love. You're the reason why thousands of families across the country are seeing folks who served us so bravely, give them a hug and be able to say to them, "Welcome home." That happened because of you.

So that's why these next 7 weeks are so important. You can't buy into the cynicism the other side is selling. You can't believe what they say about how change isn't possible. If you give up on the idea your voice makes a difference, you know what happens? The other side will start filling it, filling the void with lobbyists and special interests and the folks who are writing the $10 million checks trying to buy this election, the folks who are trying to make it tougher for you to vote, the Washington politicians who want to tell you who you can marry or tell women what they need to do in terms of their own health care choices.

So I want to tell you, I've got a lot of fight in me right now. I am fired up, and I'm ready to go. But I need you. Only you can keep this country moving forward. If you're not registered, you better register before October 9. You can start showing up and voting on October 2. That's 15 days away. I see some young people here. Young people, you got to use early vote because you might not wake up in time on election day. [Laughter] I can't have you missing class.

If you don't know how to vote, go to That's g-o-t-t-a vote. Find out how and where. Vote early. And if you vote early, then you can get the rest of the time getting other folks to vote.

Ohio, we've come too far to turn back now. We've got more good jobs to create. We've got more clean energy to generate. We've got more young people to send to college. We've got more good schools to build. We've got more teachers to hire. We've got more troops to bring home. We've got more veterans to care for. We've got more doors of opportunity we've got to open up for everybody who's willing to work for it.

That's why I'm running for a second term. And if you're willing to stand with me and knock on some doors with me and make some phone calls with me and grab your friends and neighbors and take them to the polls for me, we will win Franklin County again. We will win this election. We will finish what we started and remind the world just why the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.

God bless you. God bless America.

Note: The President spoke at 4:10 p.m. at the Amphitheatre in Schiller Park. In his remarks, he referred to Jeff Gase, member, International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW); and Republican Presidential nominee W. Mitt Romney.

Barack Obama, Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Columbus, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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