George W. Bush photo

Remarks at CraneWorks in Birmingham, Alabama

November 03, 2003

Thanks for the warm welcome. It's great to be back in the great State of Alabama. I'm honored you all came out. Today I'm going to talk about a couple things on my mind. One is our economy. I want to make sure people are working here in Alabama and all across America. I'm going to talk about how to make America a more secure place.

Before I do, I want to thank the CraneWorks boys for hosting us, the brothers, the Upton boys—[laughter]—entrepreneurs, job creators, dreamers, people who have created something out of nothing. I want to thank the employees as well for being such hard-working, good folks here at CraneWorks. I'm honored to be in your place of business. I'm honored here—in a company that is creating jobs, new jobs, to be talking about how best we can continue to create new jobs all across America. This economy of ours is growing. The entrepreneurial spirit is strong. But there's more work to do, and that's what I want to talk to you all today about. Before I do so, I do want to thank David and Steve for hosting us.

I want to thank Rom Reddy as well. Rom is a local entrepreneur. He started Nexcel Synthetics. I'm going to talk a little bit about his business, but I know he's got some employees here as well, hard-working people who have helped take this startup company from nothing to something in a quick period of time. The chief executive officer has got a bright and enthused future about this little company. He's talking about creating more jobs, but he also said, "When you get up there, make sure you recognize the people that work with me in my company, because I wouldn't be having, or we wouldn't be having the success we're having without the good, hard-working people that are working with Rom." So wherever you are, thank you for coming.

I'm traveling in some pretty fancy company today, at least from the airport to here. Your Governor, Bob Riley, is here today, and I want to thank my friend for serving the State of Alabama. I appreciate you being here, Governor.

Two really fine United States Senators are here with us, strong allies, good friends, and that's Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions. I appreciate you all coming. The mighty Alabama congressional delegation is strong and active. Spencer Bachus and Robert Aderholt and Jo Bonner and Mike Rogers and Terry Everett are all with us today. Congresspeople, thanks for coming. Attorney general from the State of Alabama is with us, Bill Pryor. I'm honored that Judge Pryor is here.

Today, when I landed out there, I met a fellow named Jason Nabors. You probably never heard of Jason. He is a soldier in the army of compassion here in Birmingham, Alabama. The reason I like to bring up people who are volunteering in their community is, oftentimes people look at America and say, "Well, that's a mighty country," because we've got a strong military; it's a mighty country because our wallets are heavier than other people around the world. No, we're a mighty country because the people who live here in this country are decent, caring, compassionate people who have heard the call to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself.

Jason Nabors works at a local law firm, and by the way, his law firm encourages the lawyers in that firm to find a way to contribute to the Birmingham community by helping somebody who hurts. He's involved with First Look. It is a nonprofit organization that is created to increase the number of youngsters and young adults in the service to the people of Alabama by encouraging them to follow their hearts, by mentoring a child, by helping somebody who may be addicted, by feeding the hungry and housing the homeless.

I see we've got Scouts with us today. There's nothing better than being a Boy Scout leader and sending good signals and examples to the youth of America. For all of you who take time out of your busy lives to help somebody in need, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are the strength of our country.

When we talk about our economy and the future of our country, it's important to remember what we have been through. See, we've been through a lot here in America. The stock market started to decline about 9 months before Dick Cheney and I showed up in Washington, and then the country was in a recession. That means three quarters of negative growth. That means we were headed backwards. That means people were not finding work. That means we had trouble on the homefront of many homes across the country, because people weren't able to do their job of providing food for their families; they were looking for work.

And then we began to recover somewhat, and the enemy hit us on September the 11th, 2001, and that hurt. It hurt us economically. Frankly, it hurt us psychologically, because most of us grew up in a period where we thought oceans would protect us from harm. We saw a problem overseas, we could deal with it if we felt it was necessary for our security, but we at home were secure. We were protected. It was a big blow to us. It hurt a lot. We responded. We dedicated ourselves to the security of this country. We understood the challenge. America is a tough, resolved nation when we're challenged.

And then we began to recover from that, and our confidence was shaken by the fact that some of our chief executive officers forgot what it meant to be responsible citizens. They didn't tell the truth. They didn't tell the truth to their employees. They didn't tell the truth to their shareholders. They betrayed the trust. We passed laws, by the way, that are sending a clear signal: If you betray the trust, there will be a consequence; we will hold you responsible for not telling the truth. But the fact that some in corporate America betrayed the trust affected our confidence.

And then, as you well know, we marched to war in Afghanistan and Iraq for the security of our country and for the peace of the world, all of which affected our confidence. It affected the economy. I mean, Alabama has been hit hard by—in the manufacturing sector, the textile sector. These are challenges, but we met the challenges with action. We took tough action in order to move this economy forward.

First of all, as I mentioned, we passed new laws that say if you're going to cheat, we will hold you to account. And if you noticed, some of those who behaved irresponsibly are now being held to account. Secondly, we acted on principle. We said the best way to get this economy going and the best way to help people find work is to let people keep more of their own money. We understand how the economy works. If a person has more of his or her own money, they're likely to demand a good or a service, and when somebody demands a good or a service, in this economy, somebody is going to produce the good or a service. And when somebody produces a good or a service, somebody is more likely to find a job.

And so therefore, I went to the Congress, not once but twice, and said, "In order for people to be able to find work here in the country, let's pass meaningful, real tax relief." And I want to thank the two Senators and the Members of Congress who are here today for joining me in passing tax relief so people can find work.

We wanted tax relief to be as broad and as fair as possible, so we reduced taxes on everybody who pays taxes. We thought that was a fair principle. Government shouldn't try to pick or choose winners and losers on who gets tax relief. If you're going to reduce taxes, reduce them on everybody, which is precisely what we did. We felt like the marriage penalty sent the wrong signal. See, we want people to be married. We think marriage is good. We think it's a part of a—[applause]—but the Tax Code penalized marriage. And so we've reduced the marriage penalty.

We understand that it's—when the economy is slow and people are worried about the future, that it takes a lot to raise a child. And so we increased the child credit from $600 per child to $1,000 per child. This summer, I remember going to Pennsylvania where they were cutting the checks, and I said, "The check's in the mail." Fortunately, it turned out to be in the mail. [Laughter] People got money back, money in their pocket. If you had a child, you got $400 per child. That meant you're in a position to demand the additional good or a service, which meant somebody was more likely to find work here.

We also wanted to encourage investment. If you're interested in job creation, then you must be interested in encouraging investment. When people invest in plant equipment, for example, it means somebody is going to have to produce the plant—produce the equipment. And so we encouraged investment by quadrupling the expense deduction for small business investment. I'm going to talk a little bit about that in a second. But we also cut taxes on dividends and capital gains to encourage investment. More investment means more jobs.

We also believe that if you're a small business or a farmer or a rancher, you ought to be able to leave your assets to whomever you choose without the Government getting in the way again, so we're phasing out the Federal death tax. We don't believe the IRS should follow you into your grave. [Laughter]

We passed these measures to help individuals, but the measures we passed also are incredibly important to the small-business sector of America. The small-business sector of our country is vital for job creation. See, most new jobs in America are created by small businesses. Most small businesses pay a tax at the individual income tax level.

See, if you're a Subchapter S, or a limited liability corporation, just like the two small businesses I've spoken of today, then when we cut individual taxes, it's really a cut in taxes for small businesses. It means small-business owners have got more money to invest, and when they invest, it means somebody is more likely to find a job. It is essential for those politicians in Washington to know that individual income tax relief is incredibly important for job creation, not only because it stimulates demand but because it provides a vital boost in the arm for the small-business sector here in America. The Uptons bought nine cranes last year in order to rent them out. And they told me that one of the reasons why is because of the tax relief. It provided an incentive for them to purchase additional equipment.

Now, that means a couple of things: Somebody has got to make the equipment, which means somebody is working; somebody has got to maintain the equipment, go rent the equipment; it means people here at CraneWorks are more likely to keep a job; but in the Uptons' case, or this case, you've actually added 15 jobs this year. Now, that's a lot for a startup company, but it's a really a lot when you think about the 15 jobs here and the 15 jobs there and this small business in another State. It's the compound effect of the hiring decisions of millions of small businesses that paint a good perspective for people to be able to find work. If you're interested in job creation in America, you've got to understand the role small businesses play in the creation of new jobs in this economy. CraneWorks is such an example.

Steve Upton says about investing, "You go out there; you take your risks"—these are his words, not mine—"you put people to work; you get aggressive; and you get business." That's the entrepreneurial spirit. That's what America is all about. That just goes with having a vision for a better tomorrow. That vision was cleared up somewhat by the tax plan we passed, and I appreciate the Congressmen understanding and the Senators understanding the vital role that small business plays.

Now look, CraneWorks isn't going to succeed because of Government policy. It's up to the Uptons to figure out how to build a strategy that works. It's up to the Uptons to figure out a marketing plan. It's up to them to make wise investment decisions. It's up to them to treat their employees with dignity. But all Government is doing is trying to put a little wind at their sails, and it seems to be working.

I appreciate Rom Reddy. He's an entrepreneur. He said the tax relief helped him gain confidence in making investments— as he said, leveraged up the opportunity to make investments, so he bought $6 million in new equipment so he could get in the artificial turf business. And somebody had to make the equipment when he purchased it. Somebody had to sell the equipment. In other words, it's part of economic activity, when people make rational decisions in the marketplace. Tax relief encouraged rational decisions to be made in the marketplace.

Rom's company has gone from zero sales, zero turf sales, to 17 million in a quick period of time. He's added 60 new jobs in one year. Sixty people are now working. The tax relief helped him to have the confidence necessary to move forward. By the way, a lot of his sales are going in Europe and China. See, I'm going to talk a little bit about what it means to open up markets, but I just want you to know that his business is going to be more successful because he's developing a product that he's confident he can sell in other markets, which is good for job creation, and it's good for the 60 he's got working for him and the some he intends to add. Tax relief puts money into the pockets of those who are hiring new people.

We've got a consistent and effective strategy, and we're making progress. Remember, this last week, a surprising announcement—at least, it confounded some of the experts—that our third quarter economic growth was vibrant. And that's good. Inflation is down, and that's good. After-tax incomes are up. People are keeping more of their own money, and that's really important for economic growth.

We've got the best workforce in the world here in America, incredibly high productivity gains, which is vital for competition and job creation in the long run. By reducing taxes, this administration kept a promise. We did the right thing at the right time for the American economy.

And our country is approaching a choice now. Just as our economy is gaining some momentum, some in our Nation's Capital, some in Washington, are saying now is the right time to raise taxes. To be fair, they think any time's a good time to raise taxes. [Laughter] They're consistent. [Laughter] So am I. I strongly disagree. Raising taxes now will wreck economic recovery and will punish hard-working Americans and endanger thousands of jobs.

There's some other things we can do to make sure that the momentum in our economy continues, and I want to talk about them right quick. It's what we call the six-point plan. I've laid it out for Congress to consider. First, in order to make sure our small-business sector is strong and vibrant and make sure they continue to create new jobs, we must allow small businesses to form what we call associated health plans. That will allow small businesses to pool risk so that they can better control the cost of health care.

We also must have medical liability reform. I'm worried about the—what I call frivolous lawsuits that make it hard for docs to practice medicine and run up the cost of medicine. It makes medicine less affordable and less available. And by the way, frivolous lawsuits increase the cost of the Federal budget to Medicaid and Medicare and veterans health benefits. You need your day in court when you run into a bad doc, but we've got to control these frivolous lawsuits because they're making health care too costly. Since it affects the Federal budget, medical liability reform is a national issue that requires a national solution. The Senate needs to pass that bill.

And the Senate needs to get out for the junk lawsuits that make it hard to do business. It's important that we have a judicial system that's fair and balanced. Class action lawsuits oftentimes are not fair and balanced. After all, the money goes to the lawyers and not to the people who got hurt. We need a system that's fair and balanced, and the Senate needs to act on that.

We've got to cut useless government regulations. We need to do it at the Federal level. Riley needs to do it here at the State level. We need to make sure our entrepreneurs are focused on job creation, not filling out needless paperwork.

But I believe if you're good at something, you ought to promote it. We're great farmers. We're really good ranchers. We're great entrepreneurs. We ought to be opening up markets for U.S. products. If you're interested in job creation, companies ought to be encouraged to sell overseas. If you're good at something, let's promote it. I'm concerned, like you are, that trade is not on a level playing field, so this administration is spending a lot of time to make sure that trade is a two-way street, that it's fair, that it's open.

But I want you to know that 220 foreign companies from 30 nations have located right here in Alabama, in factories and offices, which means jobs for Alabama citizens. Trade, if it's done right, can help create new jobs, and that's what this administration is committed to doing.

We also ought to make sure that tax relief is permanent. It's hard for me to explain the rules in Washington. Let me put it to you this way: the Congress giveth and the Congress taketh away—not because of these Members, by the way. But much of the tax relief we passed is scheduled to go away, and that's a problem if you're a small-business owner.

The Upton boys need to have certainty in the Tax Code, so when they plan in the future, they know what the rules are going to be. If you're raising a family, you don't want the child credit to go back down again. If you're married, you don't want the marriage penalty to raise. And yet, because of the quirk in the law, the taxes we passed will steadily increase over time. And we've got to make the tax relief permanent. For the sake of job creation, the Congress must make the tax relief permanent.

And finally, we need a national energy policy. If you're in the manufacturing sector, you rely upon energy. And the thought of energy supplies being disrupted because of shortages makes it hard for people to plan and be aggressive about the future. We had a wake-up call this summer. It became quite evident that some of the electricity grid needs to be modernized so that people can know the lights are going to be on in their houses, so businessowners can plan for the future.

We submitted a plan to Congress about 2 years ago that had some key principles. One, we need to modernize the electricity grid. We need to encourage more investment. Those providing electricity must do so on a—must have reliability standards not on a voluntary basis, on a mandatory basis. We're going to make it mandatory that you make sure you've got backup systems available for the people, so if the electricity goes out here, you can crank it back up there. But the system needs to be modernized. It's antiquated in some parts.

Secondly, we need to use our technologies to encourage conservation. That's very important. Conservation is a vital part of the future of our country. We also use our technologies to find different sources of energy. I think it would be great if we were able to grow our way out of an energy crisis, have the farmers produce product that'll be converted into fuel. That makes sense.

But we've also got to find more energy and use the energy we've got at home. We need clean coal technology. We need to use our technologies to explore in environmentally friendly ways. Let me tell you what I'm telling you, for the sake of national security and for the sake of economic security, we need to be less reliant on foreign sources of energy.

The House passed a bill. The Senate passed a bill. They're now reconciling their differences. They need to get the job done. They need to get an energy bill to my desk. They need to make sure that this country is planning for the future with good, sound energy policy.

We've overcome a lot in this country. The economy took some serious shocks. But you know, the entrepreneurial spirit is strong, and the workforce is vibrant. We handled a lot; we've overcome it. And now we're growing. And the six-point plan I laid out is a plan that says to the Congress, "Let's get together to make sure the economic momentum continues." We want people working. We're saddened by the fact that somebody might be looking for work and can't find a job. There's more jobs to be created here in America. We've laid the foundation for growth. They need to get these other six things done so we can continue the momentum.

I'm optimistic about our future because I'm optimistic when I meet people like Rom and the Upton boys. They love their country. They love the people working with them. The entrepreneurial spirit in their heart is strong. They take risk. They're willing to make calculated risk in order to not only expand their businesses but to make employment possible for people here in the great State of Alabama.

As we overcome the challenges to the economy, we're also answering the challenges to the national security. September the 11th, 2001, moved the country to grief. It also moved us to action. We must never forget the lessons of September the 11th, 2001. We must never forget that tragic day.

I made a pledge that day, and we've kept it. We will bring the guilty to justice. We will secure America. We put together a Homeland Security Department to do the best we possibly can in coordinating Federal efforts and State efforts and local efforts to protect people. We're doing everything we can to get resources to the—those on the frontline of national, State, and local emergency. That would be your firefighters and your police officers and your emergency-management teams. But the best way to secure the homeland is to hunt the enemy down one at a time and bring them to justice, which is what America is going to do.

America cannot retreat from our responsibilities. We can't hope for the best. See, that's what September the 11th taught us, that we must be diligent and active. We can't hope terrorists will change their attitudes. I like to remind people that therapy is not going to work with this bunch. [Laughter] And that's why we've got some really incredibly brave people on the hunt. We will win the war on terror; there's no doubt in my mind. We will not rest; we will not tire until the danger to America and civilization is removed.

We have got a great United States military, and some of the best have fallen in service to our fellow Americans. We mourn every loss. We honor every name. We grieve with every family. And we will always be grateful that liberty has found such brave defenders.

We have put the best on the job of securing America and defending the peace. Five hundred soldiers in the 877th Engineer Battalion, the Alabama National Guard, are deployed. They're fixing roads so life will be better. They're rebuilding orphanages. They're repairing schools. These proud sons and daughters of Alabama were responsible for demolishing the final hideout of the thugs, the sons of Sad-dam Hussein.

We're grateful for them, and I'm grateful to their families for making the sacrifice. You see, freedom's home is America. We're freedom's defender. We understand that the advance of human liberty is in our national interests. We remember the lessons of September the 11th, but we also remember that free nations do not attack their neighbors, free nations do not develop weapons of mass terror to blackmail or hold hostage the world. We also know that America—that freedom is not America's gift to the world; that's what we know; freedom is the Almighty's gift to everybody who lives in this world.

The terrorists and the killers and those who harbor terrorists cannot stand the thought of a free society in their midst. That's why the mission in Iraq is vital. A free Iraq will be a peaceful Iraq, and a free and peaceful Iraq are important for the national security of America. A free and peaceful Iraq will make it more likely that our children and grandchildren will be able to grow up without the horrors of September the 11th. We'll defeat the terrorists there so we don't have to face them on our own streets.

The enemy in Iraq believes America will run. That's why they're willing to kill innocent civilians, relief workers, coalition troops. America will never run. America will do what is necessary to make our country more secure.

We've come through a lot in this country, and yet, there is a lot more to do. By being patient and united and determined, by remembering the values that make us a strong and unique nation, this country will prosper, and our Nation will prevail.

I want to thank you all for coming. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless America.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:35 a.m. in the equipment warehouse. In his remarks, he referred to David and Steve Upton, owners, CraneWorks; Rom L. Reddy, founder, chairman of the board, and chief executive officer, Nexcel Synthetics, LLC; and Uday and Qusay Hussein, sons of former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq, who were killed July 22 by U.S. military forces in Mosul, Iraq.

George W. Bush, Remarks at CraneWorks in Birmingham, Alabama Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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