John F. Kerry photo

Remarks in Carson, California

August 12, 2004

Over the last few weeks, John Edwards and I have made our way across this country we love, from sea to shining sea, because we believe in America and we believe we can do better.

And at every stop we've made, from great cities to the great Southwest, from the flag-draped front porches of Main Street America to the small family farms that dot the Midwest, we've met Americans who believe that too.

While millions are struggling to find work, and millions more are struggling to pay the bills, these folks hold on to an optimism that is both courageous and classically American. They know we can do better. They know our best days lie ahead. And they still believe in an America where a willingness to work hard is rewarded with the opportunity to earn a decent living and the chance to get ahead.

John Edwards and I think it's time we built an economy that honors those values. And we think it's time the American people had a government that lives by them.

We believe a stronger America at home is built on a strong middle-class.

That's why today, after days of listening and learning about the hopes and concerns of hardworking people from every corner of America, and after more bad economic news for middle-class families, I'd like to talk about our real economic plan to build a stronger America.

It's a plan that makes us stronger by creating good-paying jobs here instead of shipping jobs overseas. A plan that makes us stronger by giving middle-class families tax breaks, not bigger bills. A plan that makes us stronger by revitalizing American manufacturing, helping our businesses become more competitive, and investing in the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow. And it's a plan that is our answer to the everyday Americans who have shared their dreams with us every moment of this journey. Theirs are the concerns we share. Theirs are the hopes we hold. And theirs are the stories that are the heart of our campaign to build a stronger America.

The road to this America takes us in a new and better direction. It's based on telling the American people the truth – not selling them shop-worn slogans. But, in the last week, we've been told over and over again that America has turned the corner.

When we've had four years of disappearing manufacturing jobs that have put millions out of work, the Americans I've met don't think we've turned the corner.

When we've had four years of falling wages, rising health care costs, and a shrinking middle-class, the Americans I've met don't think we've turned the corner.

When we've had four years of people working harder and harder and still not getting ahead, the Americans I've met don't think we've turned the corner.

Too many of the Americans I've met over the last few weeks not only don't think we've turned the corner – they feel like they've been backed into a corner by the policies of the last four years – rising unemployment...exploding deficits...falling wages....American jobs shipped overseas.

The sad fact is: Too many of our fellow citizens don't have to read about how disappointing last month's job numbers were, because they're living the disappointment. They don't need to be told about the rising costs of health care, because they're the ones who can't afford to take their child to the doctor. And they don't need to open the paper to find out that the new jobs being created pay $9,000 less than the ones we've lost, because they're the ones who open their paychecks and wonder how they'll pay the bills.

The response of this Administration – of those in charge -- is to tell us that this is the best economy we've ever had. And we're told anyone who thinks otherwise is a pessimist. Well, here is our answer: There is nothing more pessimistic than saying America can't do better.

There's a very simple reason we've gone four years without a plan to fix our economy: no one in the White House thought anything was broken. And they still don't. They're just fine with the same old failed policies of the past. That's why, like Herbert Hoover, they say prosperity is still just around the corner. And that's why we're still waiting to hear a plan for the next four years.

We can do better and we will. We're the optimists. For us, this is a country of the future. We're the can do people. And let's not forget what we did in the 1990s. We balanced the budget. We paid down the debt. We created 23 million new jobs. We lifted millions out of poverty and we lifted the standard of living for the middle class. We just need to believe in ourselves – and have the right leadership and the right policies -- and we can do it again.

We can make choices that widen the circle of opportunity for all Americans, not just the select few. We can build an economy with a growing middle-class where everyone has the chance to succeed. And we can finally create jobs and bring tax relief to all of our families.

Over the last four years, again and again, we were promised that tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals would create millions of new jobs. Instead, we've lost jobs, and these unaffordable tax cuts have led America into deficits as far as the eye can see. This Administration is the first since Herbert Hoover's to actually lose jobs on its watch – 1.8 million jobs. Just last month, there were only 32,000 jobs created in the entire country – a pace far behind what is needed to keep up with the 2 million college graduates who will enter the workforce this spring.

And now, to add insult to injury, just yesterday the other side talked about a national sales tax. At least that's what they call it. I call it one of the largest tax increases on the middle class in American history. This is from an Administration that has offered almost no new ideas for our economy – and the few they have proposed have only hurt middle class families. This one is no different. It's a twenty to thirty percent national sales tax -- on top of the state and local sales taxes that Americans already pay. This tax will hurt small business, it will hurt jobs, and it will hit the pocketbooks of those who need tax relief the most.

Middle-class families can't afford four more years of a tax plan that drives up unemployment, drives up the deficit, and drives up their tax burden and the costs of health care, child care, and college tuition. When tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans are your first, second, and only priority, you don't have anything left to take care of health care premiums that have risen over $2,600. You don't have anything left to take care of skyrocketing property taxes in states struggling to pay for these deficits. And you don't have anything left to take care of the cost of child care and college tuition that has risen over $1,200.

When tax cuts for the wealthiest are your only priority, you don't have anything left for middle-class Americans – and it's middle-class Americans who end up paying the largest share.

I will be a president who stands with the middle class and stands for fairness

We believe it's time America had tax cuts that work for all Americans. We believe it's time we had tax cuts that help create good-paying jobs – right here in America. And, after four years of shifting the tax burden from those with the most to those most struggling to make ends meet, we believe it's time that America's tax code reflected America's moral code. And when I'm President, it will.

I have a comprehensive economic plan for a stronger America that will allow us to create jobs and keep more good jobs here in America. It offers a long-term strategy to win our economic future, and it gives our workers the skills and the training they need to compete and succeed in a new economy. And, most importantly, it includes tax cuts that will create jobs and provide relief for middle-class families struggling to make ends meet – tax cuts that are paid for without increasing the deficit one single dime.

First, we start with a Jobs First Tax Cut strategy that will replace deficit-expanding tax cuts for the few with job-creating tax cuts for every American.

Let me tell you precisely what this Jobs First Tax Cut strategy includes. It starts by closing tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping our jobs overseas. Instead of supporting an economic policy that thinks sending jobs overseas is good for America, we will provide tax incentives for companies that create and keep jobs where they belong – in the good ol' U.S.A.

We value an America that exports products, not jobs – and we believe American workers should never have to subsidize the loss of their own job.

To the taxpaying businesses of America out there, our Jobs First Tax Cut strategy takes the savings from closing these loopholes to cut taxes for 99% of you. To the small businesses and manufacturers who decide to add more employees to the payroll, we will provide a New Jobs Tax Credit for every person you hire.

We will completely eliminate capital gains taxes for those who make long-term investments in the small businesses and entrepreneurs who have always been America's engine for innovation and job creation. And to those small business owners who want to hire more employees but cannot afford to insure them, we will give you up to a 50% tax cut on your health care contributions when you cover your workers.

My plan focuses on the rising cost of health care for families and small businesses, because I know that no working parent ever feels they are turning the corner unless they have a job that not only provides a decent wage, but the heath care that every family needs and deserves.

We need a president who understands that the health of our economy is tied to the health of our citizens.

Finally, my tax plan will make our tax code fair. You know, our tax code has gone from 14 pages to 17,000 pages. It's time to crack down on tax shelters, taking Enron's page out of the tax code so we can add another page for working families.

Second, our middle-class tax cuts will raise middle-class incomes.

We're tired of people just getting by; we want people to get ahead. So to help you pay for health care, we'll offer a tax break and health care reform to lower your premiums up to $1,000. To help you cover the rising costs of child care, we'll offer a tax credit up to $1,000 to cover those costs so your kids have a safe place to go while you work. And to give your child the chance to go to college, we'll offer a tax break on up to $4,000 in tuition.

To pay for all this, we make sure that 98 percent of all Americans keep their tax cuts, while rolling back only the tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals who make over $200,000 a year so that we can invest in health care, education, and job-creation. They will go back to paying the same taxes they paid when Bill Clinton was president – a time when the rich got richer, and so did everyone else.

And to help folks in states where these unaffordable tax cuts for the wealthy have driven up deficits and killed jobs, we will offer $25 billion in relief to lower tuition costs, keep property taxes down, and make sure we can afford to defend our homeland.

Third, we believe it's time for Washington to lives within a budget just like you do. We will make sure that these tax cuts don't add one dime to the deficit so that we can protect Social Security and so that our children aren't paying for them for the rest of their lives. Four years ago, this Administration was handed a record surplus. Today, we have record deficits. Passing or proposing $6 trillion in spending over the last four years without paying for a dime of it has jeopardized job creation and the foundation of economic strength in America.

Our plan will cut the deficit in half in four years by ending tax giveaways that are nothing more than corporate welfare – and we will make government go back to a simple rule: pay as you go. And we will cut the waste from our government – cutting 100,000 contractors we don't need, cutting the top-level bureaucracy that has grown over the last four years, cutting government agencies that have outlived their purposes.

Finally, our economic plan is not just about economic relief today, it's also about making the long-term investments in our nation's future. If we want America to thrive in the long run, we must invest more in our people and their ideas, in science and technology, so that we can create high-tech, high-wage jobs in industries that are already improving the quality of our lives. We will offer tax credits to help us seize the possibilities of the Broadband Revolution and make Internet access available to all of America's families. We will offer tax credits to buy and produce the fuel-efficient cars of the future, so that we can finally build an Energy Independent America. And we will give our workers the education and the job training that the jobs of tomorrow require today.

Our economic plan for America is based on the values we hold as Americans: that we should reward work, make sure Americans have a chance to work, and give them a chance to get ahead when they do.

We value jobs that pay you more not less than you earned before. We value jobs where, when you put in a week's work, you can actually pay your bills, provide for your children, and lift up the quality of your life. We value an America where the middle class is not being squeezed, but doing better.

These aren't Democratic values. These aren't Republican values. They're American values. We believe in them. They're who we are. And if we honor them, if we believe in ourselves, we can build an America that's stronger at home and respected in the world.

You know, the last time a campaign took a cross-country trip across America was when Harry Truman ran for President in 1948. Their whistle-stop tour steamed through many of the small towns ours has, and when it reached the coasts of California, the man from Missouri who had spent a lifetime given ‘em hell told the crowd, "I wish I were 18 instead of 64. I would like to see the next 50 years because I think the greatest age in the history of the world is in front of us, and that age depends entirely on the proper leadership in the United States of America."

My friends, we can do more than turn corners. We can take a new path that will lead America to a better place and greater times.

We can do more than turn corners. We can turn our economy around, and build one that works for every American.

John Edwards and I are ready to lead, and we have a plan to get us there – a plan to build a better America. Like Franklin Roosevelt, my test is not whether an idea is Democrat or Republican, but whether it will work. My tax plan to create jobs for the middle class will work. And it's going to put our economy back on track.

We can do this. We can reach for the next dream. We can look to the next horizon. For America, the hope is there. The sun is rising. Our best days are still to come. Thank you and God bless you.

John F. Kerry, Remarks in Carson, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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