Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin
The President. Hello, Wisconsin! It is good to be back in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I want to thank all of you for giving such a warm welcome to a Bears fan. And I especially want to thank one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history for being here today, Charles Woodson. And I want to thank Charles, because I understand he made an announcement about a gift to the Red Cross to help support everybody over on the East Coast, and that's the kind of guy he is, so we're grateful to him. Thank you, Charles.
Let's also give it up for your next United States Senator, Tammy Baldwin. She's going to be following leaders like Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold in being fierce fighters for the people of Wisconsin. So—[applause].
Now, for the past few days, all of us have been focused on one of the worst storms in our lifetimes. And we're awed and we're humbled by nature's destructive power. We mourn the loss of so many people. Our hearts go out to those who have lost their loved ones. We pledge to help those whose lives have been turned upside down. And I was out in New Jersey yesterday and saw the devastation, and you really get a sense of how difficult this is going to be for a lot, a lot of people.
But we've also been inspired these past few days, because when disaster strikes, we see America at its best. All the petty differences that consume us in normal times all seem to melt away. There are no Democrats or Republicans during a storm, there are just fellow Americans: leaders of different parties working to fix what's broken, neighbors helping neighbors cope with tragedy, communities rallying to rebuild. A spirit that says, in the end, we're all in this together: that we rise or fall as one Nation, as one people.
That spirit has guided this country along its improbable journey for more than two centuries. It's carried us through the trials of the last 4 years. In 2008, we were in the middle of two wars and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Today, our businesses have created over 5 million new jobs. The American auto industry is back on top. American manufacturing is growing at the fastest pace in 15 years. We're less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in 20 years. Home values are on the rise. Thanks to the service and sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform, the war in Iraq is over. The war in Afghanistan is winding down. Al Qaida has been decimated. Usama bin Laden is dead.
So we've made real progress these past 4 years. But, Wisconsin, we know our work's not done yet. As long as there's a single American who wants a job, but can't find one, our work isn't done. As long as there are families who are working harder, but falling behind, our work isn't done. As long as there's a child languishing in poverty, barred from opportunity, anywhere in this country, our work is not yet done.
Our fight goes on because we know this Nation cannot succeed without a growing, thriving middle class and strong, sturdy ladders into the middle class. Our fight goes on because America has always done its best when everybody gets a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share and everybody is playing by the same rules. That's what we believe. That's why you elected me in 2008. And that's why I'm running for a second term as President, because we've got more work to do.
Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
The President. Now, we knew from the beginning that our work would take more than one year or even one term because let's face it, the middle class was getting hammered long before the financial crisis hit. Technology made us more productive, but it also made a lot of good jobs obsolete. Global trade brought us cheaper products, but it also allowed companies to hire in low-wage countries. American workers saw their paychecks squeezed—even as corporate profits rose and CEO salaries exploded—and the guaranteed security of pensions and health care slowly started disappearing.
And these fundamental changes in the economy—the rise of technology and global competition—they're real. We can't wish these challenges away. But here's what I know, Wisconsin: We can meet them, because we're Americans. We've got the world's best workers and the best entrepreneurs. We've got the best scientists and the best researchers, the best colleges and universities, and we've got the most innovative spirit. We have everything we need to thrive in this new economy, in this new century, and there's not a country on Earth that wouldn't trade places with the United States of America.
But we have a choice to make. In 5 days, we will choose our next President. And it's more than just a choice between two candidates or two parties. You'll be making a choice between two fundamentally different visions of America: one where we return to the top-down policies that crashed our economy——
Audience members. Boo!
The President. Don't boo, Wisconsin, vote.
Or a future that's built on a strong and growing middle class. And, Wisconsin, we know what the choice needs to be. We're here today because we believe that if this country invests in the skills and ideas of its people, then good jobs and businesses will follow.
We believe that America's free market has been the engine of America's progress, driven by risk takers and innovators and dreamers. But we also understand that in this country, people succeed when they've got a chance to get a good education and learn new skills and, by the way, so do the businesses that hire those people or the companies that those folks start.
We believe that when we support research into medical breakthroughs or new technology, then entire new industries will start here and stay here and hire here.
We don't believe government should poke its nose into everything we do. But do we believe this country is stronger when there are rules to protect our kids from toxic dumping and mercury pollution; when there are rules to protect consumers and ordinary families from credit card companies that are engaging in deceptive practices, mortgage lenders that are unscrupulous.
We grow faster when our Tax Code rewards hard work and companies that create jobs here in America. And we believe that quality, affordable health care and a dignified retirement aren't just achievable goals, they're a measure of our values as a nation. That's what we believe.
For 8 years, we had a President who shared these beliefs. His name was Bill Clinton. When he was first elected, he asked the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more, so we could reduce the deficit and still make investments in things like education and training, science and research. And guess what? Plenty of folks who were running for Congress at the time said it would hurt the economy, that it would kill jobs. And if that argument sounds familiar, one of those candidates back then happens to be running for President right now. [Laughter] And it turns out their math was just as bad back then as it is today. Because by the end of Bill Clinton's second term, America had created 23 million new jobs, and incomes were up, and poverty was down. And our deficit became the biggest surplus in our history.
So, Wisconsin, we know the ideas that work. We also know the ideas that don't work. Because in the 8 years after Bill Clinton left office, his policies were reversed. The wealthiest Americans got tax cuts they didn't need and that we couldn't afford. Companies enjoyed tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas. Insurance companies and oil companies and Wall Street were given free license to do what they pleased. Folks at the top got to play by a different set of rules than the rest of us.
And the results of this top-down economics was falling incomes, record deficits, the slowest job growth in half a century, and an economic crisis that we've been cleaning up for the last 4 years.
Now, in the closing weeks of this campaign, Governor Romney has been using all his talents as a salesman to dress up these very same policies that failed our country so badly, the very same policies we've been cleaning up after for the past 4 years. And he is offering them up as change. [Laughter] He's saying he's the candidate of change.
Well, let me tell you, Wisconsin, we know what change looks like. And what the Governor is offering sure ain't change. Giving more power back to the biggest banks isn't change. Leaving millions without health insurance isn't change. Another $5 trillion tax cut that favors the wealthy isn't change. Turning Medicare into a voucher is change, but we don't want that change. [Laughter] Refusing to answer questions about the details of your policies isn't change. Ruling out compromise by pledging to rubberstamp the Tea Party's agenda as President, that's definitely not change. In fact, that's exactly the attitude in Washington that needs to go.
Now, here's the thing, Wisconsin. After 4 years as President, you know me by now. You may not agree with every decision I've made. You may be frustrated at the pace of change. But you know what I believe. You know where I stand. You know I'm willing to make tough decisions, even when they're not politically convenient. And you know I'll fight for you and your families every single day as hard as I know how. You know that.
I know what change looks like, because I've fought for it. You have too. And after all we've been through together, we sure as heck can't give up now.
Audience members. No!
The President. Change is a country where Americans of every age have the skills and education that good jobs now require. And government can't do this alone, but don't tell me that hiring more teachers won't help this economy grow or help young people compete. Don't tell me that students who can't afford college should just borrow money from their parents. That wasn't an option for me, and I'll bet it wasn't an option for a whole lot of you.
We shouldn't be ending college tax credits to pay for millionaires' tax cuts, we should be making college more affordable for everyone who's willing to work for it. We should recruit 100,000 math and science teachers so that high-tech, high-wage jobs aren't created in China, they're created right here in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
We should work with community colleges to train another 2 million Americans with skills that businesses are looking for right now. That's my plan for the future. That's what change is. That's the America we're fighting for in this election.
Change comes when we live up to our legacy of innovation and make America home to the next generation of manufacturing, scientific discovery, technological breakthroughs. I'm proud I bet on American workers and American ingenuity and the American auto industry. And today, we're not just building cars again, we're building better cars, cars that by the middle of the next decade will go twice as far on a gallon of gas.
Today, there are thousands of workers building long-lasting batteries and wind turbines and solar panels all across the country, jobs that weren't there 4 years ago. And sure, not all technologies we bet on will pan out. Some of the businesses we encourage will fail, but I promise you this: There is a future for manufacturing here in America. There is a future for clean energy here in America. And I refuse to cede that future to other countries.
I don't want Tax Codes rewarding companies for creating jobs overseas, I want to reward companies that create jobs here in America. I don't want a Tax Code that subsidizes oil company profits, I want to support the energy jobs of tomorrow and the new technologies that will cut our oil imports in half. That's my plan for jobs and growth. That's the future of America that I see.
Change is finally turning the page on a decade of war to do some nation-building here at home. So long as I'm Commander in Chief, we will pursue our enemies with the strongest military the world's ever known. But it's time to use the savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to start paying down our debts here and rebuilding America. Right now we can put people back to work fixing up roads and bridges. Right now we can expand broadband into rural neighborhoods and make sure our schools are state of the art.
Let's put Americans back to work doing the work that needs to be done. And let's especially focus on our veterans, because no one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job or a roof over their heads or the care that they need when they come home. That's my plan to keep us strong. That's my commitment to you. And that's what's at stake in this election.
Change is a future where we reduce our deficit in a way that's balanced and responsible. I've signed a trillion dollars' worth of spending cuts. I intend to do more. And I'll work with both parties to streamline agencies and get rid of programs that don't work.
But if we're serious about the deficit, we've also got to ask the wealthiest Americans to go back to the tax rates they paid when Bill Clinton was in office. Because as long as I'm President, I will never turn Medicare into a voucher just to pay for another millionaire's tax cut. I will never allow this Nation to be plunged into another battle over health care reform just so insurance companies can jump back into the driver's seat. And I will never allow politicians in Washington to control health care choices that women should be making for themselves.
So, Wisconsin, we know what change is. We know what the future requires. We don't need a big government agenda or a small government agenda, we need a middle class agenda that rewards hard work and responsibility.
We don't need a partisan agenda, we need a commonsense agenda that says when we educate a poor child, we'll all be better off; that says when we fund the research of a young scientist, her new discovery will benefit every American.
We need a vision that says we don't just look out for ourselves; we look out for one another other, we look out for future generations, and we meet those obligations by working together. That's the change we believe in. That's what this election is all about.
Now, let's be clear: Achieving this agenda won't be easy. It's never been easy. We always knew that. Back in 2008, when we talked about change, I told you I wasn't just talking about changing Presidents. I wasn't just talking about changing parties. I was talking about changing our politics. I ran because the voices of the American people—your voices—had been shut out of our democracy for way too long: by lobbyists and special interests and politicians who believe that compromise is somehow a dirty word; by folks who would say anything to win office and do anything to stay there.
The protectors of the status quo are a powerful force in Washington. And over the last 4 years, every time we've tried to make a change, they've fought back with everything they've got. They spent millions to stop us from reforming health care and Wall Street and student loans. And their strategy from the start was to engineer pure gridlock in Congress, refusing to compromise on ideas that both Democrats and Republicans had supported in the past.
And what they're counting on now, Wisconsin, is that the American people will be so worn down by all the squabbling, so tired of all the dysfunction, that you'll actually reward obstruction and put people back in charge who advocate the very policies that got us into this mess.
Audience members. No!
The President. In other words, their bet is on cynicism. But, Wisconsin, my bet is on you. My bet is on the decency and good sense of the America people, because despite all the resistance, despite all the setbacks, we've won some great fights. And I've never lost sight of the vision we share: that you would have a voice; that there would be somebody at the table fighting every single day for middle class Americans who work hard. Sometimes, Republicans in Congress have worked with me to meet our goals: to cut taxes for small businesses and families like yours, to open new markets for American goods or finally repeal "don't ask, don't tell."
And sometimes, we've had big fights—fights that were worth having—like when we forced the banks to stop overcharging for student loans and made college more affordable for millions. Like when we forced Wall Street to abide by the toughest rules since the 1930s. Like when we stopped insurance companies from discriminating against Americans with preexisting conditions like cancer or diabetes so that nobody in America goes bankrupt just because they get sick.
I didn't fight those fights for any partisan advantage. I've shown my willingness to work with anybody of any party to move this country forward. And if you want to break the gridlock in Congress, you'll vote for leaders—whether they are Democrats, Republicans, or Independents—who feel the same way.
But if the price of peace in Washington is cutting deals that will kick students off of financial aid or get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood or eliminate health care for millions on Medicaid who are poor or elderly or disabled just to give a millionaire a tax cut, I'm not having it. That's not a deal worth having. That's not bipartisanship. That's not change. That's surrender to the same status quo that has hurt middle class families for way too long. And I'm not ready to give up on that fight.
I hope you aren't either, Wisconsin.
Audience members. No!
The President. I hope you aren't either. See, the folks at the very top in this country don't need another champion in Washington. They'll always have a seat at the table. They'll always have access and influence.
The people who need a champion are the Americans whose letters I read late at night, the men and women I meet on the campaign trail every day. The laid off furniture worker who is retraining at age 55 for a career in biotechnology, she needs a champion.
The small restaurant owner who needs a loan to expand after the bank turned him down, he needs a champion. The cooks and the waiters and the cleaning staff working overtime at a Vegas hotel, trying to save enough to buy a first home or send their kid to college, they need a champion.
The autoworker who's back on the job, filled with pride and dignity because he's building a great car, he needs a champion. The young teacher doing her best in an overcrowded classroom with outdated textbooks, she needs a champion.
All those kids in inner cities and small farm towns, in the valleys of Ohio or rolling Virginia hills or right here in Green Bay, kids dreaming of becoming scientists or doctors, engineers or entrepreneurs, diplomats or even a President, they need a champion in Washington. They need a champion. They need a champion because the future will never have as many lobbyists as the past, but it's the dreams of those children that will be our saving grace.
And that's why I need you, Wisconsin: to make sure their voices are heard, to make sure your voices are heard. We've come too far to turn back now. We've come too far to let our hearts grow faint. Now is the time to keep pushing forward: to educate all our kids and train all our workers, to create new jobs and rebuild our infrastructure, to discover new sources of energy, to broaden opportunity, to grow our middle class, to restore our democracy, and to make sure that no matter who you are or where you come from or how you started out, you can work to achieve your American Dream.
In the midst of the Great Depression, FDR reminded the country that "failure is not an American habit; and in the strength of great hope we must shoulder our common load." That's the strength we need today. That's the hope I'm asking you to share. That's the future in our sights. That's why I'm asking for your vote.
And if you're willing to work with me again and knock on some doors with me and make some phone calls for me and turn out for me, we'll win Brown County again. We'll win Wisconsin again. We'll win this election. And together, we'll renew those bonds and reaffirm that spirit that makes the United States of America the greatest nation on Earth.
Thank you, Wisconsin. Get out there and vote! Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.
Note: The President spoke at 10:43 a.m. at Austin Straubel International Airport. In his remarks, he referred to former Sen. Russell L. Feingold; Charles C. Woodson, defensive back, National Football League's Green Bay Packers; and Republican Presidential nominee W. Mitt Romney.
Barack Obama, Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/302616