Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Madison, Wisconsin
The President. Hello, Wisconsin! Are you fired up?
Audience members. Yes!
The President. Are you ready to go?
Audience members. Yes!
The President. I cannot imagine not being fired up after listening to Bruce Springsteen. I can't thank him enough for everything that he's done for this campaign. He is an American treasure. He gets embarrassed when you talk about him that way. But he tells the story of what our country is and what it should be and what it can be. And I get to fly around with him on the last day that I will ever campaign, so that's not a bad way to end things.
This is an incredible crowd, and it's good to be back. The weather is cooperating. It sort of feels like Chicago: nice and brisk.
There are a couple other people I want to thank before we get started. Your next Senator from the great State of Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin, is here. She'll follow in the footsteps of two other outstanding Wisconsin Senators, Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold, who are here. Your next Congressman, Mark Pocan, is here. And let's give it up for the mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, Paul Soglin.
Now, for the past week, even in the midst of all this campaigning and electioneering and way too many TV commercials, all of us, including Bruce, have been focused on one of the worst storms of our lifetimes. And I had a chance to visit New Jersey, and every day I've been talking to mayors and Governors and local officials and families. And we mourn those lives that have been lost.
And whenever I talk to folks in the region, I tell them the same thing that I say whenever a tragedy besets the American family. And that is, the American people come together and make a commitment, that we will walk with these folks whose lives have been upended every step on the hard road ahead and the hard road to recovery. We'll carry on. No matter how bad the storm is, we will be there together. No matter how bad the storm is, we recover together. We're all in this together. We rise or fall as one Nation and as one people.
And you know, Madison, that spirit has guided this country along its improbable journey for more than two centuries. It's carried us through the trials and tribulations 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 nearly 5 1/2 million new jobs. The American auto industry is back on top. Home values are on the rise. We're less dependent on foreign oil than any time in 20 years, and we've doubled the production of clean energy across America.
Because of the service and sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform, the war in Iraq is over. The war in Afghanistan is coming to a close. Al Qaida is on the path to defeat. Usama bin Laden is dead. We've made progress these last 4 years.
We've made progress these last 4 years. But the reason we're all gathered here, in addition to listening to Bruce—[Laughter]—is because we know we've got more work to do. We've got more work to do. As long as there's a single American who wants a job, but can't find one, our work is not yet done. As long as there are families working harder and harder, but still falling behind, we've got more work to do. As long as there is a child anywhere in Madison, in Wisconsin, in America who's languishing in poverty and barred from opportunity, our work is not yet done. The fight goes on.
Our fight goes on because this Nation cannot succeed without a growing, thriving middle class and sturdy, strong ladders for everybody who's willing to work to get into the middle class. Our fight goes on because we know America has always done best, we've always prospered, when everybody gets a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share, everybody is playing by the same rules. That's what we believe. That's why you elected me in 2008, and that is 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. Now, Wisconsin, tomorrow you have a choice to make. And it's not just a choice between two candidates or two parties. It is a choice between two different visions for America. It's a choice between returning to the top-down policies that crashed our economy or a future that's built on providing opportunity to everybody and growing a strong middle class.
Understand, Wisconsin, as Americans, we honor the strivers, the dreamers, the small-businesspeople, the risk takers, the entrepreneurs who've been the driving force behind our free enterprise system. And that free market is the greatest engine of prosperity and growth the world has ever known. But we also believe that in this country, like no other, our market works, our system works, only when everybody has got a shot, when everybody is participating, when everybody has a chance to get a decent education, when every worker has the chance to get the skills they need, when we support research into medical breakthroughs and new technologies.
We believe that America is stronger—not weaker, stronger—when everybody can count on affordable health insurance. We believe our country is better when people can count on Medicare and Social Security in their golden years. We think the market functions more effectively when there are rules in place to make sure our kids are protected from toxic dumping, to make sure consumers aren't being taken advantage of by unscrupulous credit card companies or mortgage lenders.
We believe that there's a place for rules and regulations that make sure our people are safe. And we also believe there are some things politicians should stay out of. For example, we think that folks in Washington, especially men, should not try to control health care choices that women are perfectly capable of making themselves.
Now, Madison, here's the thing. For 8 years, we had a President who shared these beliefs. His name was Bill Clinton. And when he first came into office, his economic plan asked the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more so we could reduce our deficit and still invest in the skills and ideas of our people. And at the time, the Republican Congress—and a certain Senate candidate by the name of Mitt Romney—said Bill Clinton's plan would hurt the economy, would kill jobs, would hurt the job creators. Does this sound familiar? [Laughter]
Turns out his math back then was just as bad as it is now. [Laughter] Because by the end of President Clinton's second term, America had created 23 million new jobs. Incomes were up; poverty was down. Our deficit had turned into a surplus.
So, Wisconsin, our ideas have been tested. We've tried them. They worked. The other side's ideas have also been tested. They didn't work so well. After Bill Clinton left office, during most of the last decade, we tried giving big tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. We tried giving insurance companies and oil companies and Wall Street free rein to do whatever they pleased. And what did we get? Falling incomes, record deficits, the slowest job growth in half a century, an economic crisis that we've been cleaning up after ever since.
So this should not be that complicated. We tried our ideas. They worked. The economy grew, we created jobs, deficits went down. We tried their ideas. They didn't work. The economy didn't grow, not as many jobs, and the deficit went up.
But here's the thing. Governor Romney is a very talented salesman. And in this campaign, he's tried as hard as he can to repackage the same old bad ideas and make them out to be new ideas, and try to convince you that he's all about change. He's trying to convince you that these bad old ideas are change.
Listen, we know what change looks like, Madison. And what he's selling ain't it. Giving more power back to the biggest banks, that's not change.
Audience members. No!
The President. Another $5 trillion tax cut that favors the wealthy is not change.
Audience members. No!
The President. Refusing to answer questions about your policies until after the election, that's definitely not change. That's the oldest game in the book. [Laughter] Ruling out compromise by pledging to rubberstamp the Tea Party's agenda in Congress, that's not change.
Audience members. No!
The President. Changing the facts when they're inconvenient to your campaign, not change.
Audience members. No!
The President. Which raises something else about this Presidential campaign: It's not just about policies, it's also about trust. It's also about trust.
Wisconsin, you know me by now. You may not agree with every decision I've made. You know, Michelle doesn't either. [Laughter] You may be frustrated at the pace of change. I promise you, so am I sometimes. But you know that I say what I mean and I mean what I say.
I said I'd end the war in Iraq, and I ended it. I said I'd pass health care reform; I passed it. I said I'd repeal "don't ask, don't tell"; we repealed it. I said we'd crack down on reckless practices on Wall Street, and we did.
So you know where I stand. You know what I believe. You know I tell the truth. And you know that I'll fight for you and your families every single day as hard as I know how. You know that about me.
So when I say, Wisconsin, that I know what real change looks like, you've got cause to believe me because you've seen me fight for it and you've seen me deliver it. You've seen the scars on me to prove it. You've seen the gray hair on my head—[Laughter]—to show you what it means to fight for change. And you've been there with me. And after all we've been through together, we can't give up now.
Audience members. No!
The President. Because we've got more change to do. We've got more change to make.
Think about the next 4 years. Change is a country where every American has a shot at a great education. And government can't do it alone: Parents have to parent, students have to study. But don't tell me that hiring more outstanding teachers won't help this economy grow. Of course, it will.
Don't tell me that students who can't afford to go to college should just borrow money from their parents. That wasn't an option for me, Madison. I'll bet it wasn't an option for a lot of the students who are here today. And so that's why I want to cut the growth in tuition in half by the next 10 years. I want to recruit 100,000 new math and science teachers so we don't fall behind the rest of the world, train 2 million Americans at our community colleges with the skills that businesses are looking for right now. That's what change is. That's what we're fighting for in this election.
Change comes when we live up to this country's legacy of innovation. I could not be prouder that I bet on American workers and the American auto industry. But what makes me really proud is 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, which will save you money, help our national security, help our environment.
And that kind of innovation, that kind of ingenuity, isn't restricted to the auto industry. We've got thousands of workers building long-lasting batteries and wind turbines all across the country. And I don't want to subsidize oil company profits, I want to support the energy jobs of tomorrow, the new technologies that will cut our oil imports in half, take some of the carbon out of the atmosphere. I don't want a Tax Code that rewards companies for creating jobs overseas. I want to reward companies that are investing right here in Wisconsin, in the next generation of manufacturing in America. That's my plan for jobs and growth. And that's what we're fighting for in this election.
Change is turning the page on a decade of war so we can do some nation-building here at home. As long as I'm Commander in Chief, we will always pursue our enemies with the strongest military the world has ever known. But it's time to use the savings from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to pay down our debt and rebuild America, putting some hardhats back to work repairing roads and bridges, making our schools state of the art all across this country, hiring our veterans, because if you fought for our freedom, you shouldn't have to fight for a job or a roof over your head or the services you've earned when you come home.
And that's what will keep us strong. That's my commitment to you. And that's what's at stake in this election.
And yes, change is a future where we reduce our deficit, but we do it in a balanced, responsible way. I've signed a trillion dollars' worth of spending cuts, gotten rid of programs that aren't working. I intend to do more. But if we're serious about the deficit, we can't just cut our way to prosperity. We've also got to ask the wealthiest Americans to go back to the tax rates they paid when Bill Clinton was in office. And by the way, we can afford it. I haven't talked to Bruce, but I know he can afford it. I can afford it. Mr. Romney, he can afford it. [Laughter]
Because our budget reflects our values; it's a reflection of our priorities. And as long as I'm President, I'm not going to kick some poor kids off of Head Start to give me a tax cut. I'm not going to turn Medicare into a voucher just to pay for another millionaire's tax cut.
So, Wisconsin, we know what change is. We know what the future requires. But we also know it's not going to be easy. Back in 2008, we talked about it. I know everybody sometimes romanticizes the last campaign and the posters and all the good feeling. But I said back then, when I talk about change, I'm not just talking about changing Presidents or political parties. I'm talking about changing how our politics works.
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 will say and do anything just to keep things the way they are, to protect the status quo. And the status quo in Washington is fierce. And over the last 4 years, that status quo has fought us every step of the way. They spent millions trying to stop us from reforming the health care system, spent millions trying to prevent us from reforming Wall Street. They engineered a strategy of gridlock in Congress, refusing to compromise on ideas that both Democrats and Republicans had agreed to in the past.
And what they're counting on now is that you're going to be so worn down, so fed up, so tired of all the squabbling, so tired of all the dysfunction, that you're just going to give up and walk away, and leave them——
Audience members. No!
The President. —leave them right where they are—pulling the strings, pulling the levers—and you locked out of the decisions that impact your lives. In other words, their bet is on cynicism. But, Wisconsin, my bet is on you. My bet is on you.
And understand, I'm not making a partisan point here. When the other party has been willing to work with me to cut middle class taxes for families and small businesses, or some courageous Republican Senators crossing the aisle to support the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," I'm thrilled. Because we're not Democrats or Republicans first, we're Americans first.
As long as I'm President, I'll 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 like Tammy Baldwin, whether they're Democrats or Republicans or Independents, who feel the same way, who put you first, not the next election first.
But you know what, sometimes, you got to fight. Sometimes, you've got to stand on principle. If the price of peace in Washington is cutting deals to cut students off of financial aid or get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood or let insurance companies discriminate against people with preexisting conditions or eliminate health care for millions of folks who are on Medicaid who are poor or elderly or disabled, I won't pay that price. That's not a deal I'll take. That's not bipartisanship. That's not bipartisanship. That's not change; that's surrender. That's surrender to the same status quo that's been squeezing middle class families for way too long.
That's not why I ran for President, to leave things the way they are. I'm not ready to give up on that fight. I'm not ready to give up on that fight, Wisconsin. And I hope you aren't either.
Audience members. No!
The President. Now, the folks at the very top in this country, they don't need another champion in Washington. They'll always have a seat at the table. They'll always have access. They'll always have influence. That's the nature of things.
The people who need a champion are the Americans whose letters I read late at night after a long day in the office, the men and women I meet on the campaign trail every day. The laid-off worker who's going back to community college to retrain at the age of 55 for a new career, she needs a champion. The restaurant owner who's got great food, but needs a loan to expand after the bank turned him down, he needs a champion. The cooks and the waiters and the cleaning staff at a Madison hotel, trying to save enough to buy a first home or send their kid to college, they need a champion.
The autoworker who never thought he'd see the line again and now is back on the job, filled with pride and dignity, because it's not just building a great car, it's not just about a paycheck, it's about taking pride in what you do, he needs a champion. A teacher in an overcrowded classroom with old, outdated, textbooks, digging into her own pocket to buy school supplies, frustrated sometimes, not getting the support she needs, but knowing every single day she might make a difference in that one child's life, and that makes it all worth it, she needs a champion. All those kids in inner cities and small farm towns, in the valleys of Ohio, the rolling Virginia hills, or in the streets of Madison, kids dreaming of becoming scientists or doctors or engineers or entrepreneurs, diplomats, maybe even a President, they need a champion. They don't have lobbyists. The future never has as many lobbyists as the status quo. But it is the dreams of those children that will be our saving grace. That's what will propel us forward. That's what will make America continue to be this shining light on a hill.
And that's why I need you, Wisconsin. To make sure the voices of those children are heard. To make sure your voices are heard. We have 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, create new jobs, bring our troops home, care for our veterans, broaden opportunity, grow our middle class, restore our democracy, and make sure that no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter how you started out, no matter what your last name is, you can make it here in America if you try.
And, Wisconsin, that's why I need your vote. And if you're willing to work with me again and knock on some doors with me, make some phone calls for me, turn out for me, we'll win Wisconsin. We'll win this election. We'll finish what we started. We'll renew the bonds that bind us together. We'll reaffirm the spirit that makes the United States of America the greatest nation on Earth.
God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
Note: The President spoke at 10:55 a.m. outside the State Capitol on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. In his remarks, he referred to Wisconsin State Assemblyman Mark Pocan; and Republican Presidential nominee W. Mitt Romney.
Barack Obama, Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Madison, Wisconsin Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/303598