George W. Bush photo

Remarks in Colmar, Pennsylvania

September 09, 2004

The President. Thank you all for coming. Thank you all very much. Please be seated. Thank you all for coming. Thanks for the welcome. It's good to be back in Pennsylvania—again. It just seems like I was here yesterday. [Laughter] I was—[laughter]— kind of. But I'm glad to be here. I really appreciate you all coming out. Spirits are high. I'm feeling great about life.

I really appreciate being here at Byers Choice. Thank you all for your hospitality. You sure know how to make a President feel welcome. We're here because I want to talk about the economy some and a plan to keep this economy moving forward so people can realize their dreams. And it's such a wonderful place to come because the entrepreneurial spirit here is strong.

This is a company that was formed by Bob and Joyce Byers——

[At this point, there was a disturbance in the audience.]

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

The President. We are here—I appreciate you coming to Byers. It's such an honor to meet Bob and Joyce Byers. They are— they had a dream, and they wanted to build a small company into a large company, and they've done so. They started their company in the 1960s. They found a good idea—they thought of the idea. Government didn't think of the idea. They did. They decided to take risk. They hired people wisely. They invested wisely, and their company is growing. And I appreciate the contribution they've made.

They've got a fantastic customer base, because they——

[The disturbance continued.]

Audience members. Boo-o-o!

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

The President. We are here because the entrepreneurial spirit is strong, because there is an optimism in this room that says it can remain stronger. The Byers have got a significant customer base, which means they understand how to run a business, and my mother is one of their customers. [Laughter]

And so what we're going to talk about today is our economy and how to keep it growing and how to make sure the entrepreneurial spirit is strong so people can realize their dreams. Today I want to discuss with you the plan I have to keep us on the path to growth and opportunity, a plan that I'm convinced that when Americans listen to, they'll put me and Dick Cheney back in office for 4 more years.

So I told Laura I was coming here, and she said, "Give everybody my best." She's great. She's a fantastic mom and a great wife. She is a wonderful First Lady. So when I asked her to marry me, she said, "Fine, just so long as I don't have to give any political speeches." [Laughter] I said, "Okay, you won't have to give a speech." Fortunately, she didn't hold me to that promise. She gave a great speech the other night. People got to see her heart and her compassion.

I appreciate Congressman Jim Greenwood a lot. I must confess to you that when I heard he was retiring, I got a little mad at him, because I've enjoyed working with him. He is a good, decent, honorable man. And I appreciate you.

I appreciate the fact that Arlen Specter is with us today. I hope you put him back into office for 6 more years. There he is. I enjoy working with Arlen. He's a good, independent thinker, and he's a good—fine United States Senator, and we'll work well together during the next 4 years.

I want to thank Pat Toomey for joining us today as well. He's a class act. I appreciate—I told this to Pat on Air Force One, I said, "I appreciate the way he handled himself after a tough primary." He's coming together. He's working for the ticket, and that shows what kind of guy he is. And I'm honored you're here, Pat.

Where is Mayor Joe? Mr. Mayor. Thank you for coming, Mr. Mayor. I'm proud you're here. [Applause] Yes. I always like to stay in touch with the local power. [Laughter] Sure enough, there he is. Thanks for coming, Mayor. I appreciate you being here.

Mike Fitzpatrick is with us today. I appreciate you coming, Mike. Appreciate you being here. Tom Corbett is with us today. Appreciate you coming, Tom. Good luck. I want to thank all the candidates who are here and the grassroots activists. I'm traveling your State and traveling the country to ask people not only for the vote but for their help. And I hope you go register voters, find people to show up to the polls. We have a duty in America to vote and— so thanks for the work you're doing. And when you get them to the polls, headed to the polls, remind them, if they want a safer America, a stronger America, and a better America, to put me and Dick Cheney back in there.

Eunice Sanchez is with us. Where are you, Eunice? There she is. Thanks. And you've got your son and daughter. Thanks for coming. I met Eunice. She works for the Amachi mentoring program in Philadelphia. I don't know if you've heard of Amachi. I have. I have been fortunate enough to be briefed by the people that run that program. Amachi is a mentoring program for children with incarcerated parents. I want you to think about what this good American citizen does. She takes time out of her life to mentor a child to show there's love, the possibility of love. I tell the people of this country that the great strength of our country is the hearts and souls of the American citizens. That's really the true strength of America. And the reason I've asked—and the reason that Eunice has kindly come today is for me to hold her up as an example for others—for others to recognize that they can help change America, one heart and one soul at a time as well, that our society is a compassionate society because people from all walks of life put their arm around somebody who hurts and says, "I love you, and what can I do to help you?" I appreciate you coming, Eunice. God bless you, and thanks for coming.

I'm looking forward to this—I'm looking forward to the campaign. I'm—there's some things I want to do for the next 4 years. [Laughter] And I'm looking forward to telling the people of the country where I stand and where I believe and where I'm going to lead the country. I'm running with a clear and positive plan to build a safer world and a more hopeful America. I'm running with what I call a compassionate conservative philosophy, that Government should help people improve their lives, not try to run their lives.

I believe it's the job of a President to confront problems, not to pass them on to future Presidents and future generations. In the last 4 years, we have confronted economic problems. We have got some short-term challenges that came from an economic downturn and a national emergency. We've got some long-term challenges because our economy is changing. In all these areas, we've acted, and we're moving forward. Today I want to talk to you about some of the plans we have.

Remember the history. When you're out rounding up the vote, remind the people what we have been through. When Dick Cheney and I took office in January—on January 20th of 2001, our economy was heading into a recession, and the stock market had been declining for 5 months prior to our arrival. Our Nation faced some corporate scandals that cost people jobs and savings and shook our confidence. Today, it is absolutely clear that we're not going to tolerate dishonesty in the boardrooms of America.

America was attacked. Our economy lost nearly a million jobs after that attack in just 3 months. We acted with a clear strategy. We unleashed the energy and innovative spirit of America with the largest tax relief in a generation. The tax relief provided small-business owners the resources and incentives they need to expand and grow and hire more workers. The entrepreneurial spirit is strong. The small-business sector of our economy is strong, and the tax relief helped strengthen it.

We encouraged savings and investment by cutting taxes on dividends and capital gains. Tax relief put money in the hands of American workers so they could save for their retirement or for their home or for the education of their children. My philosophy is, Government sets priorities, funds its priorities, and lets the people keep as much money as possible. I think you can spend your money better than the Federal Government can.

We increased the child credit and reduced the marriage penalty. The Tax Code ought to encourage marriage, not discourage marriage. And the results are clear. Our country has now seen 12 straight months of job gains. Over the past year, we've added 1.7 million jobs. That is more than Germany, Japan, Great Britain, Canada, and France combined. Unemployment is down to 5.4 percent. That is nearly a full point below the rate in the summer of 2003, and it is below the average of the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s.

Interest rates and mortgage rates are near historic lows. Our economy is growing at rates as fast as any in the last 20 years. The manufacturing sector is improving. When I took office, manufacturing employment had been declining for almost 3 years. In the last 6 months of the prior administration, more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs were lost. We're turning that around. Since January, America has added 107,000 manufacturing jobs, including 22,000 last month alone. We are making steady progress for American workers.

Because of the tax relief, the middle class is paying less in Federal taxes. The average family of four with an income of $40,000 got nearly a $2,000 tax cut. Real after-tax incomes are up almost 10 percent since December of 2000. People have got more money in their pockets because of the tax relief. Our economy is stronger because people are keeping more of what they earn.

Listen, we also face long-term challenges in this economy. The workers of our parents' generation typically had one job, one skill, one career, often with one company that provided health care and a pension. That's the way it used to be. This world of ours is changing. By the way, most of those workers were men. Today, workers change jobs, even careers, many times during their lives. And in one of the most dramatic shifts our society has seen, two-thirds of all moms also work outside the home. This world of ours has changed. And yet, the institutions of Government haven't changed.

Let me tell you what else has changed. Productivity has grown faster over the last 3 years than any time in more than 40 years, in part because technology is changing the way we do things. You'd rather use a computer than a typewriter. You'd rather use a backhoe than a shovel. [Laughter] That's productivity. But it also means that the same work can be done by fewer workers. And that creates a problem for someone looking for a job. That's why manufacturing still produces roughly the same share of our GDP but with a smaller share of the workforce. So these are some long-term challenges we face.

But it's a time of great opportunity. A time of change creates great opportunity, so long as the Government takes the side of the workers and the families here in America, so long as Government recognizes this: Our fundamental systems, the Tax Code, health coverage, pension plans, and worker training, were created for the world of yesterday—think about that—not for tomorrow. I believe in the next 4 years, we've got to transform these systems to help our citizens, to help prepare our citizens, to help free citizens so they can realize the great dream of our country.

And so you'll hear me talk a lot about changing systems to help people, not increasing Government to stifle dreams. Obviously, in order for people to realize their dreams, there has to be robust economic growth. In order to make sure that the productivity increases don't cause people not to be able to find a job, we got to grow this economy. And that's what I want to talk to you about right quick, a plan to make sure we continue to create jobs here in America.

First of all, in order to have jobs here, America must be the best place in the world to do business. If you want people working here, it's got to be the best place to risk capital, the best place to expand, the best place to realize dreams. One way to make sure it's the best place to do business is to reduce the regulatory burden on small businesses. You fill out a lot of paperwork if you're a small-business owner in America. I can't promise you anybody in Government ever reads it. [Laughter]

We want jobs here in the Philadelphia area. We want to make sure the manufacturing sector is robust. Congress needs to get an energy plan to my desk now. I submitted a plan 2 years ago. It's a plan that encourages conservation, expands renewables, uses clean coal technologies. Listen, we must become less dependent on foreign sources of energy if we want jobs to remain in America.

In order to keep jobs here so people can realize their dreams, we must open up markets for U.S. products. Listen, we've opened up our markets, and it's good for consumers we've opened up our markets. If you have more choices in the marketplace, you're likely to get the product you want at a better price and better quality. And so what I'm saying to countries like China is, "Treat us the way we treat you." I believe American farmers and manufacturers and businessowners can compete with anybody, anywhere, anytime, so long as the rules are fair. What we will do is reject economic isolationism. Economic isolationism will hurt America's workers.

In order to make sure we create jobs here, we've got to do something about these junk lawsuits that threaten employers. I believe strongly in legal reform, because I understand personal injury lawyers should not get richer at the expense of hard-working Americans and American entrepreneurs.

Finally, in order to keep jobs here, we've got to be wise about how we spend your money and keep your taxes low. Running up the taxes on the entrepreneurs in America is bad economic policy.

I told you there's some systems that need to change. One system that needs to change is the Federal Tax Code. It is too cumbersome. I tried to hold it the other day—[laughter]—when I was campaigning in Missouri. I'm in pretty good shape. It was hard to hold it. [Laughter] It's got a million words in it. It takes the American people 6 billion hours a year, every year, to file these forms. It is full of special interest loopholes. For the sake of economic growth and for the sake of fairness, we need to change the Tax Code. We need to make it simple and easy to understand.

A changing world means that the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century are changing, and it's something we've got to recognize. And a changing economy is one that creates new opportunities. But sometimes there's a skills gap. And that's why I believe we ought to expand access to our community college systems, to make sure that the workers have the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century.

As well most new jobs in a changing— this changing world require 2 years of college. Yet only one in four of our students gets there. And so we need early intervention programs in our high schools to solve problems early, before they're too late. We need to have new focus on math and science. As the No Child Left Behind Act begins to fill the education pipeline with good readers, we will require a rigorous exam before graduation from high school. See, what I'm telling you is, by raising performance in high schools and expanding Pell grants for low- and middle-income families, we will help more Americans start their career with a college diploma.

These are changing times, and our economy is changing. And there are communities around where manufacturing, textiles, and other jobs no longer exist. There are poor communities in our country that need help as well. And that's why, the other night at the convention, I announced American opportunity zones. These zones will provide tax relief and other incentives for new businesses to be created and to improve housing and job training and bringing hope. In other words, in changing times, there are ways to help communities that have suffered during changing times, with good tax policy, good regulation policy, and good housing policy.

Listen, in order to make sure jobs stay here, we've got to do something about health care. We need to make sure health care is available and affordable. Do you realize more than half the uninsured are employees of small businesses? Small businesses are having trouble affording health care. One way to help small businesses afford health care is to allow small firms to join together to purchase insurance at the discounts available to big companies.

We will offer tax credits to encourage small businesses and their employees to set up health savings accounts. We'll provide direct help for low-income Americans to purchase health savings accounts. These accounts give workers the security of insurance against major illness, the opportunity to save tax-free for routine health expenses, and the freedom of knowing you can take your account with you whenever you change jobs or careers.

I'm a big believer in community and rural health centers. These are facilities where low-income Americans can get primary care. I believe every poor county in America ought to have one of these facilities in order to take the pressure off emergency rooms around the United States.

In order to make sure health care is available and affordable, we've got to do something about these frivolous lawsuits that are running good doctors out of practice and running up your health care costs. I appreciate working with Jim Greenwood on this issue. He figured it out, and I hope the people of this country figure it out. These frivolous lawsuits are making it awfully hard for a lot of docs to practice medicine. You're losing good docs. Greenwood was telling me about the doctor that saved his dad's life, had to leave practice because his premiums were too high. Many doctors, in order to avoid litigation, practice defensive medicine. In other words, they run up the costs of health care so if they ever get caught—pulled in front of a court of law, they've got a defense. It's costing the taxpayers about $28 billion a year; the defensive practice of medicine costs 28 billion a year. We have a national problem, and it requires a national solution. I've submitted legislation that Greenwood got passed in the House. It's stuck in the Senate because the trial lawyers are powerful in the United States Senate.

Audience members. Boo-o-o!

The President. See, I don't think you can be pro-doctor, pro-patient, and pro-trial-lawyer at the same time. I think you have to choose. My opponent made his choice, and he put him on the ticket. I made my choice. I am for medical liability reform— now.

I'm looking forward to the debate on health care. I'm looking forward to it. In all we do to improve health care in America, we'll make sure that health decisions are made by doctors and patients, not by bureaucrats in Washington, DC.

Our labor laws need to change. We've got a lot of moms who are now in the workplace. And yet, it's really hard for moms to find enough time to do their duty as moms, see, because the rules—the labor laws are stuck in the past. I think we need to have flex-time and comp-time to allow families to be able to have more quality time.

In a changing world, ownership can bring stability to your life. One of the most hopeful statistics of the last year or two has been that the homeownership rate is at an alltime high in America. There's more minority families who are opening up the door where they live and say, "Welcome to my home. Come in to my house." It's a really important part of a future, when more and more people can own their home. We've got a plan to encourage homeownership in this country.

And we've got to make sure that our pension systems work, the Social Security system works. If you're an older American, nothing will change. The Social Security trust will fulfill its promise to you. If you're a baby boomer, we're in pretty good shape when it comes to receiving the promise of Social Security. But we need to worry about our children and grandchildren when it comes to Social Security. I believe younger workers ought to be able to take some of their taxes and set up a personal savings account, to make sure the Social Security promise that's made to them—an account that they can call their own, an account that Government cannot take away, and an account that they can pass on from one generation to the next.

In these proposals, we seek not to provide a Government program but a greater path to opportunity and more freedom for you to decide what's best for your life and, therefore, I believe, more opportunity for every citizen. And we got a choice in this race. I mean, it's a clear choice. See, I believe our opponent's philosophy is very different from ours. If you carefully listen, he wants to expand Government. Listen to the proposals. That's what he wants to do. What we want to do is expand opportunity. He wants to give more power to Washington by raising taxes and spending more money, and he's got a record to match his promises. [Laughter]

Over two decades in Washington, he has voted for higher income taxes, higher taxes on Social Security benefits. That's part of his record. He repeatedly voted for higher taxes on small businesses, higher taxes on gasoline. He voted against tax relief for married couples, for increasing the child credit, and against expanding tax-free retirement savings. We have a difference of opinion when it comes to taxation. If you drive a car, Senator Kerry has voted for higher taxes on you. If you have a job, he's voted for higher taxes on you. If you're married or have children, he's voted for higher taxes on you. The good news is, on the 2d of November, you have a chance to vote.

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

The President. There is a reason for supporting higher taxes, because he wants to dramatically increase Government spending. It's part of his platform. On the campaign trail, he's proposed more than $2 trillion in new Federal spending so far. [Laughter] And we still have 54 more days to go. Now, he says he's going to pay for all that by raising taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of the population. There's just one problem with that. My opponent's tax increases would bring only about $650 billion in revenue over the next 10 years, see? And he wants to spend over 2 trillion. So you do the math. [Laughter] The plan leaves him more than $1.4 trillion short. And guess who would wind up paying the bill?

Now, one of his key economic advisers— one of my opponent's key economic advisers is saying they won't give the details on how they would raise spending and lower the deficit until after the election. [Laughter] Well, if they want to hold back information until the people vote, you can bet it won't be good news for the taxpayers. But America will reject the hidden Kerry tax plan.

Raising taxes will be bad for our economy. Raising taxes will be bad for the small-business sector of America. And I'll tell you why. Ninety percent of small-business owners pay tax at the individual income-tax level. Ninety percent of small-business owners are Subchapter S corporations or sole proprietorship. Byers Choice is a Subchapter S corporation. Now, if you're organized as a Subchapter S or sole proprietorship, when you pay your tax, you fill out the individual income-tax forms. And so when you talk about raising the top two brackets in the individual taxes, you're talking about taxing companies like Byers Choice. I don't see—and by the way, 70 percent of new jobs in America are created by small businesses. Why does it make sense to tax the job creators? It doesn't make sense to tax the job creators.

Bob said this, he said, "That would hurt my company." When he heard the plan to raise taxes to pay for promises, political promises, he said, "That would hurt my company. It would cut off jobs I plan to create." My opponent, by making political promises and by promising to tax small businesses such as Byers Choice, would hurt our economy. I believe in order to continue economic growth, we need an energy plan, good trade policy, good regulatory policy, good legal policy, good health policy, and we need to make the tax relief permanent.

In order to make sure we have sustained economic growth, we will also continue to protect the homeland over the next 4 years. There's a lot of good people working hard on your behalf. And we reorganized the Department—departments to create the Department of Homeland Security so we can better talk to each other, better respond to crisis, better deal with emergency, better share intelligence. And we're getting better in Washington, DC, about doing what is necessary to protect you. And there's a lot of good people working hard to do so, and I appreciate it. As the 9/ 11 Commission said, "America is safer but not yet safe." I agree. And so you just got to know there's some fine people at all levels of government working hard.

But the best way to protect the homeland is to stay on the offensive, is to find the terrorists. You cannot talk sense to these people. You've seen how they behave. You saw the attacks of September the 11th. You saw what happened to those Russian schoolchildren. America must continue to lead the world. We will find them overseas so we do not have to face them here at home.

We're making progress. We're making progress. Three-quarters of Al Qaida's known leadership has been brought to justice. Because we upheld doctrine that said, "If you harbor a terrorist, you're equally as guilty as the terrorists," the Taliban are no longer in power in Afghanistan. Think about the progress in Afghanistan. It wasn't all that long ago that young girls weren't allow to go to school and their moms would be pulled in a public square and whipped if they didn't toe the line of these barbaric people. And today, Afghanistan is an ally in the war on terror. Over 10 million citizens have registered to vote in the upcoming Presidential election. Amazing, isn't it? Freedom is on the march in Afghanistan, and that's good for America.

In Iraq, we removed a sworn enemy of America who had ties to terror and used weapons of mass destruction. Listen, I recognize we didn't find the stockpiles we all thought were there—all of us thought were there. But remember Saddam Hussein had the capability of making weapons. He could have passed that capability on to the enemy. And that's not a risk we could afford to take after September the 11th. Knowing what I know today, I would have made the same decision. America and the world are safer with Saddam in a prison cell.

We're making progress there. I'm impressed by Prime Minister Allawi. He's a strong guy who believes that democracy is the future of Iraq, and he's got hard work to do. It wasn't all that long ago that people were brutalized by Saddam Hussein. But we're making progress. There will be elections in January of next year. It's amazing, when you think about it. They've gone from tyranny to elections in a brief period of time.

Our goal in Iraq is to—like it is in Afghanistan—is to help provide enough stability so the political process can move forward, is to train Iraqis and Afghan citizens so they can do the hard work of defending their country against the few who want to thwart the desires of the many, is to put those countries on the path to stability and democracy as quickly as possible, and then bring our troops home.

I'm oftentimes asked what I tell those who—the loved ones of those who lost their life in combat. I tell them this, I say, "Your son or daughter or wife or husband is serving during historic times." These are times that will help make this world a more peaceful place. It's a time for little children to be able to—when we get it right—for children to grow up in a peaceful world. I tell them that in order to honor their memory, we will complete the mission.

I say this: I believe in the power of liberty to transform lives. That's what I believe. The core of my belief is that liberty has got the incredible capacity to convert enemies to friends, tyrannical societies to free societies. And that makes the world more peaceful, a peace we all want.

You know, I tell people about my meetings with Prime Minister Koizumi, the Prime Minister of Japan, who is the Prime Minister of a country that my dad fought against, your dads and grandfathers fought against. They were the sworn enemy of America some 60 years ago. And today, I sit down at the table with him to discuss peace. He's an ally in peace. And I'm able to do so because my predecessor Harry Truman and other American citizens believed that the enemy could become a friend if democracy took hold in Japan.

Now, there was a lot of skeptics and doubters during those days, and you can understand why. We'd just been fighting these people. But because they believed in the power of liberty to transform lives, they helped Japan develop a self-governing democracy. And today, Japan is an ally when it comes to keeping the peace. The Prime Minister and I talk about North Korea. We talk about Iraq. We talk about humanitarian needs around the world. Someday, an American President will be sitting down with a duly elected leader of Iraq, and they're going to be talking about the peace, and they're going to look back in history and say, "Thank goodness America never forgot the power of liberty to change lives."

I want to thank you all for giving me a chance to come by today. As you can see, I've got a plan to continue growing this economy so people can realize their hopes and dreams; that I know what needs to be done when it comes to securing this homeland and winning the war on terror; that I believe strongly in the values that make us a great nation; and that, with your help, we're going to win Pennsylvania and win a great election in November.

God bless. Thank you all for coming. Thank you all.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:35 p.m. at Byers Choice. In his remarks, he referred to Mike Fitzpatrick, candidate for Pennsylvania's Eighth Congressional District; Tom Corbett, candidate for Pennsylvania State Attorney General; Prime Minister Ayad Allawi of the Iraqi Interim Government; Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan; and the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission).

George W. Bush, Remarks in Colmar, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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