Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Rally in Cleveland, Ohio
The President. Hello, Cleveland! Thank you! Are you fired up? It is good to be back in Cleveland, good to be back in Ohio. And it's great to be with a crowd that looks like it's fired up and ready to go.
A few people I want to just thank because they are doing outstanding work each and every day: the Cleveland mayor, Frank Johnson--Frank Jackson. Thank you so much. Thank you, Frank. My dear friend Attorney General Rich Cordray; State Treasurer Kevin Boyce; some of the finest Members of Congress that we have, Senator Sherrod Brown is in the house; Congressman Dennis Kucinich; Congresswoman Betty Sutton; one of my favorite Members of Congress who couldn't be here because he just had a baby yesterday. Not--his wife had a baby. [Laughter] He is an outstanding young man, and we expect to send him back to Congress, John Boccieri. New baby girl is named Emma, by the way.
I want to thank President Ronald Berkman here at Cleveland State University. I want to thank Common for his wonderful performance. I want to thank--Congresswoman Betty Sutton is in the house, I believe. Is she here? Where is Betty? Hey, Betty. [Laughter] And most of all, folks who are going to be leading Ohio for many years to come--Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher, who's going to be going to Washington, and one of the finest Governors in this country, Ted Strickland, and First Lady Frances Strickland.
We are here for Ted, and we're here for Lee and all the members of the congressional delegation.
Audience member. Marcia Fudge!
The President. Marcia Fudge--Marcia Fudge, of course. But I didn't--for some reason, Marcia wasn't on the list. Is Marcia here? Where is Marcia? We love Marcia--it's just she wasn't here, that's all. I love Marcia. That's my girl. [Laughter] We were acknowledging those folks who were in the crowd, but we love Marcia. And Marcia is going to do a great job.
Look, Joe Biden and I have been traveling all across the country, and there are a lot of places where we're doing a lot of great work, but there are very few places where we are doing as much good work as we were doing right here in Ohio. And, Cleveland, in just 2 days--in just 2 days--you've got the chance----
Audience members. Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!
The President. I can't hear you. Did you say, yes, we can?
Audience members. Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!
The President. In 2 days, you have the chance to set the direction of this country and this State for many years to come. Just like you did in 2008, you can defy the conventional wisdom. The kind of conventional wisdom, the stale wisdom that says you can't overcome cynicism in our politics; that says, no, you can't overcome all the special interests and the special interest money; that says, no, you can't tackle the biggest challenges in this country.
In 2 days, you've got the chance to once again say, yes, we can.
Now, Cleveland, there is no doubt that this is a difficult election. And that's because we've gone through an incredibly difficult time as a nation. And nobody knows that more than the folks in Cleveland and the folks in Ohio.
For most of the last decade, middle class families have been struggling. This didn't just start a year ago; it didn't just start 2 years ago. Between 2001 and 2009, the average middle class family saw their incomes across the country go down by 5 percent, when the other side was in charge. Between 2001 and 2009, job growth was slower than any time since World War II. Meanwhile, the costs of everything, from health care to sending a child to college, kept on going up and up and up. Too many families couldn't send their kids to college. Too many families couldn't visit a doctor when somebody got sick. Americans, too many of them were working two, three jobs and still couldn't make ends meet. And a whole lot of folks couldn't find a job at all.
And these problems were then compounded by the worst economic crisis, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. I mean, think about it, we had a recession that was so bad we lost 4 million jobs before Joe and I were even sworn into office. Then we had another 750,000 jobs lost the month we took office, 600,000 the month after that, 600,000 the month after that. We lost almost 8 million jobs before our economic policies could even be put into place.
Now, when Joe and I got to Washington, our hope was that both parties would put politics aside to meet this once-in-a-generation challenge. Because although we are proud to be Democrats, Cleveland, we are prouder to be Americans. And we had confidence, and continue to have confidence, that there are Republicans out there who feel the same way.
But the Republican leaders in Washington, they had a different calculation. Their basic theory was, you know what, the economy is so bad, we made such a mess of things, that rather than cooperate, we'll be better off just saying no to everything. We'll be better off not even trying to fix the economy. And people will get angry and they will get frustrated and maybe 2 years from now they will have forgotten that we were the ones who caused the mess in the first place.
In other words, their basic political strategy has been to count on you having amnesia. They're betting all of you forgot how we got here. Well, Cleveland, it's up to you to let them know we have not forgotten. It's up to you to remember that this election is a choice between the policies that got us into this mess and the policies that are leading us out of this mess.
If they win this election, the chair of a Republican campaign committee promised to pursue the exact same agenda as they did before I came into office. Now, think about that. We know what that agenda is. It does have the virtue of simplicity. You can describe it very quickly. You basically cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, you cut rules for special interests, and then you cut middle class families loose to fend for themselves. You don't have a job? Tough luck, you're on your own. You don't have health care? Too bad, you're on your own. You're a young person who can't afford to go to college? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps; you're on your own.
This is an idea, this notion of theirs, that turned a record surplus into record deficits. You hear them talking down about how they are going to cut debt and deficits? These are the folks who ran up the deficit. These are the folks that allowed Wall Street to run wild. These are the folks that nearly destroyed our economy.
Now, I bring this up not to reargue the past. I bring it up because I don't want to relive the past. We've been there before, we've tried what they're selling, and we are not going back. We are not going back.
Cleveland, imagine the Republicans were driving the economy like a car, and they drove it into the ditch. And this is a very deep, steep ditch. And Joe and I and Ted, we had to put on our boots; we had to rappel down. [Laughter] And it's muddy down there and dusty and hot. Somehow the Republicans, they fled the scene. And now they're up on the street, and they're looking down, and we call them down to help and they say, no, that's all right. [Laughter] They're sipping Slurpees. [Laughter] They're fanning themselves. They're saying, you're not pushing hard enough. Sometimes they're kicking dirt down into the ditch--[laughter]--making it a little harder for us.
But that's okay. We kept on pushing. We kept on pushing. We kept on pushing. And finally--finally--we got that car back on level ground. It's moving--it's pointing in the right direction. It's a little banged up. It needs to go to the body shop. It needs a tuneup. But it's pointing in the right direction.
And just as we're about to go, suddenly we get a tap on our shoulders. And we look back, who is it? It's the Republicans. And they're saying, we want the keys back.
Audience members. No!
The President. Cleveland, we can't give them the keys back. They don't know how to drive. You can't give them the keys back. They can ride with us, but we don't want to go back in the ditch.
Have you noticed when you want to go forward, what do you do with your car?
Audience members. "D"!
The President. You put it in "D." When you want to go backwards, what do you do?
Audience members. "R"!
The President. You put it in "R." That's not a coincidence. I don't know about you, but I want to move forward.
Look, because of the steps we've taken, we no longer face the possibility of a second depression. The economy is growing again. The private sector has created jobs 9 months in a row. And you heard Ted describe his track record here in the State of Ohio, massively expanding access to education, seeing job growth month after month, building infrastructure to put people back to work. That is Ted's record. That's Lee's record.
So at the Federal level and the State level, we have been working hard. But look, we understand we've got a long way to go. We've got a lot of work to do. I know there are a lot of people out there who are still hurting. I know there are families some of them still hanging by a thread. It keeps me up at night. It keeps Joe up at night. It keeps Ted up at night. That's what we're fighting to fix.
But you know what, the way to fix it is not to go back to what got us here. It's to move forward with the policies that are getting us out. See, Ted and Lee and Joe and I, we've got a different idea about what the next few years should look like. And it's an idea rooted in our belief about how this country was built. We didn't come from wealth. We didn't come from fame. But our families understood, in America if you work hard, if you're responsible, if you do the right thing, you've got a chance.
And our families taught us that government doesn't have all the answers to our problems. Government should be lean and efficient. We can't waste taxpayer dollars, especially at a time as tough as this. But in the words of the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, we also believe that government should do for the people what they cannot do better for themselves.
We believe in an America that rewards hard work and responsibility and individual initiative; that believes in the free market. But we also believe in a country where we look after one another, where I am my brother's keeper, where I am my sister's keeper. That's the America I know. That's the America Joe knows. That's the America Ted knows. That's the America you know, an America that invests in its future and in its people, an America that's built to compete in the 21st century.
We know the jobs and businesses of tomorrow will end up in countries that educate their workers best, that build the best infrastructure, that have the strongest commitment to research and technology. I want that nation to be the United States of America. I want that taking place right here in Ohio, right here in Cleveland. That's how we're going to rebuild.
There is absolutely no reason that China should have faster railroads, that Singapore should have newer airports. We're the nation that built the transcontinental railroad. We're the nation that built the Interstate Highway System. Right now we are seeing thousands of people working to rebuild our roads and our railways and our runways, right here in Ohio and all across the country, trying to start to rebuild an infrastructure for the 21st century, putting people to work doing the work that America needs done.
We see an America where we invest in homegrown innovation and ingenuity, where we export more than we import, where we make it easier to start a business or patent an invention. We don't want to keep giving tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas. I want companies getting tax breaks that are investing in Cleveland and in Dayton and in Toledo and in Ohio and in the United States of America, in small businesses and American manufacturing--which is coming back--and in clean energy companies. I don't want solar panels and wind turbines built in Asia or Europe. I want them made right here in the U.S. of A. with American workers. That's the choice in this election.
We see an America where every citizen has the skills, the training to compete with any worker in the world. We can't allow other countries to outpace us when it comes to education. We used to be number one in the rate of college graduation rates. We used to be at the top in math and science. Now we're 9th in the proportion of college graduates, 21st and 25th in math and science. That's unacceptable.
And so we made historic investments in education, just like Ted has done here in Ohio. We set a goal that by 2020 we're going to be number one again in the proportion of college graduates.
Now, remember I said it is a choice this election. The other side, their main economic idea--this is their main idea--is to provide $700 billion worth of tax cuts to the top 2 percent of earners----
Audience members. No!
The President. ----the 2 percent of wealthiest Americans, an average of $100,000 for millionaires and billionaires. Now, look, I want people to succeed. I think it's wonderful if folks get rich. I want everybody to have a chance to get rich. You do too. This guy is raising his hand. I think that's great. That's part of the American Dream. But the way they want to pay for these tax cuts is to cut education by 20 percent and to borrow the rest from other countries.
Let me tell you, do you think China is cutting education spending by 20 percent?
Audience members. No!
The President. Is Germany cutting education by 20 percent?
Audience members. No!
The President. They're not because they're not playing for second place. They're playing for first place. And you know what, the United States of America, we don't play for second place. We don't play for 9th place or 21st place or 25th place. We play for number one. And that's what we've got to do in education.
And that's why we committed tens of billions of dollars that had been going in unwarranted subsidies to big banks, and we steered that money to where it needed to be going, to students right here at Cleveland State and all across the country, increasing access to Pell grants, increasing college scholarships.
That's why we want to make permanent our new college tax credit, a tax credit worth $10,000 in tuition relief for each young person who is going to college. That's the choice in this election. That's what America is about. That's what we believe in.
We see an America where corporations are thriving and profitable but where they're also living up to their responsibilities to treat consumers fairly, to play by the same rules as everybody else. That's why we made sure insurance companies couldn't jack up your premiums for no reason or deny you coverage just because you're sick. That's why we made sure credit companies can't hit you with hidden fees or penalties. That's why we made sure taxpayers are never again on the hook for the irresponsibility of Wall Street banks.
And you know, we see an America where we don't pass on a mountain of debt to the next generation. We've got to go after this trillion-dollar deficit that I inherited when I took office, but we're going to do it in a responsible way. Not by cutting education by 20 percent. Not by burdening our children or our seniors or our veterans or middle class families. We won't do it by borrowing another $700 billion to give tax cuts to folks who don't need them. We'll do it by asking for shared sacrifice of all Americans. That's the choice in this election. That's the America that we believe in.
So look, we've got a lot of work to do over the next few years. Ted has got a lot of work to do here in Ohio. Lee has got a lot of work to do in Washington. And we're going to need to work together, Democrats and Republicans and Independents, to get it all done. But you know what, so far we're not seeing that from the other party. I guess they're feeling cocky, maybe. The Republican leader of the House says, "This is not a time for compromise." That's a quote. The Republican leader of the Senate said his main goal for the next 2 years, his top priority, is to win the next election and to beat me.
Think about this. His priority is not to get the economy moving. It's not to create jobs. It's not to reduce the deficit. His top priority is to win the next election. We haven't even finished this election.
But you know, that's the mentality that we're fighting against, Cleveland. That's the kind of politics that we've got to change. It's a politics that always puts scoring points ahead of solving problems. And that's where all of you come in, each and every one of you here. The only way to fight that kind of politics, the only way to match the millions of dollars of negative ads that have been pouring down, using these phony front groups--millions of dollars of ads--the only way to fight that is millions of voices who are ready to finish what we started in 2008.
We've got to get Cleveland out to vote. We've got to get everybody in Ohio out to vote. And in Ohio you can vote early. There is early voting just a few blocks from here, so you can go right after this rally if you haven't voted. Because if everyone who fought for change in 2008 shows up to vote in 2010, we will win this election. I am confident of that.
A lot of you got involved in 2008 because you believed we were at a defining moment in our history. That's what Joe believed. That's what I believed. You believed that we were in a time where the decisions we make won't just affect us, they'll affect our children, they'll affect our grandchildren for decades to come. That's the reason so many of you knocked on doors, made phone calls, and some cast your vote for the very first time.
And it turns out, as I said at the time, change isn't easy. Power concedes nothing without a fight. And so throughout the past 20 months we have been pushing and working, and I've had a great partner in Joe Biden, couldn't have a better Vice President. And I've had a great partner in Ted Strickland, couldn't have a better Governor than Ted. And we've made progress. But I know that sometimes as we're grinding out this change and there's all the negative ads and the pundits on TV and there's still a lot of unemployment out here and sometimes people feel discouraged.
And I know that some of the excitement of election night and Inauguration Day starts to fade. You know, Beyonce was singing, and Bono was up there. And I know people start to--oh, that was fun. Now it's just--seems like work all the time. And then you guys see me on TV and, boy, he's getting really gray. Did you see that? [Laughter] He's starting to look old. [Laughter]
But look--[applause]--look, Cleveland, I want you to remember this. Don't let anybody tell you this fight isn't worth it. Don't let anybody tell you you're not making a difference. Because of you, there's a woman somewhere in Ohio who no longer has to choose between losing her home and treating her cancer. Because of you, somewhere in Ohio there's a parent who can look their child in the eye and say, "Yes, you are going to college; we can afford it." Because of you, somewhere in Ohio there's a small-business owner who kept their doors open in the depths of recession. Because of you, there are nearly 100,000 brave men and women who are no longer at war in Iraq--because of you.
So don't let them tell you that change isn't possible. Because here's what I know: It's always been hard to bring about change in America. Think about it. This country was founded on hard. I mean, we started off as Thirteen Colonies having to battle the most powerful empire on Earth. And a lot of people said, well, you can't do that. And then they decided we're going to try a new form of government of and by and for the people. And they said, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
That idea had not been tried before. There was no certainty of success. But they knew it was worth trying. And over decades, they had to work to make that idea real--had to abolish slavery, had to win women the right to vote, had to win workers the right to organize.
All that change was hard. Imagine if our parents, our grandparents, our great-grandparents, if they had said, ah, you know what, this is just too hard; I'm getting discouraged. What if they had just given up? What if people had been calling them names and worse and they had said, we can't do this?
They said, yes, we can.
Audience members. Yes, we can!
The President. They understood that the only thing that prevents us here in America from achieving our dreams, the only thing that might prevent us, is if we don't try. The only reason we are here is because past generations have been unafraid to push forward, even in the face of difficulty, even in the face of uncertainty. That's how we came through war. That's how we came through depression. That's why we have civil rights and workers' rights and women's rights, and that's the spirit we need today.
Cleveland, the journey we began together was never about just putting a President in the White House. It was about building a movement for change that endures. It was about realizing that in the United States of America, if we are willing to fight for it, if we're willing to work for it, if we believe in it, anything is possible.
So, Cleveland, I need you to keep on fighting. I need you to keep on believing. I need you to knock on some doors. I need you to talk to your neighbors. I need you to talk to your friends. I need you to go early vote. I need you to get your friends to vote. Because if you are willing to step up to the plate, Ted will win this election; Lee will win this election. We will restore our economy. We will rebuild our middle class. And we will reclaim the American Dream for future generations.
God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
NOTE: The President spoke at 2:15 p.m. in the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University. In his remarks, he referred to Rep. Marcia L. Fudge; House Republican Leader John A. Boehner; Senate Minority Leader A. Mitchell McConnell; and musicians Lonnie R. "Common" Lynn, Jr., Beyonce G. Knowles, and Paul D. "Bono" Hewson.
Barack Obama, Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Rally in Cleveland, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/289561