Barack Obama photo

Remarks in Espanola, New Mexico

September 18, 2008

I just want to begin by saying a few words about the turmoil in our financial markets. We are in the midst of the most serious financial crisis in generations. Three of America's five largest investment banks have failed or been sold off in distress. Our housing market is in shambles, Monday brought the worst losses on Wall Street since the day after September 11th, and the Fed has had to take unprecedented action to prevent the failure of one of the largest insurance companies in the world from causing an even larger crisis. Just this morning, we learned that the Fed had to act with central banks around the world to maintain the functioning of our financial system.

Everywhere you look, the economic news is troubling. But for so many Americans, it isn't really news at all.

600,000 workers have lost their jobs since January. Home values are falling. Your paycheck doesn't go as far as it used to. It's never been harder to save or retire; to buy gas or groceries; and if you put it on a credit card, they've probably raised your rates. In so many cities and towns across America, it feels as if the dream that so many generations have fought for is slowly slipping away.

So I know these are difficult days. And I know there are a lot of families that are feeling anxiety right now - about their jobs, about their homes, about their retirement savings. But here's what I also know. This isn't a time for fear or panic - this is a time for resolve and for leadership. I know we can steer ourselves out of this crisis. That's who we are. That's what we've always done as Americans. Our nation has faced difficult times before. And at each of those moments, we've risen to meet the challenge because we've never forgotten that fundamental truth - that here in America, our destiny is not written for us, but by us.

But another thing I know is this - we can't steer ourselves out of this crisis by heading in the same, disastrous direction. We can't change direction with a new driver who wants to follow the same old map. And that's what this election is all about.

My opponent's first reaction to this crisis on Monday was to stand up and repeat the line he's said over and over again throughout this campaign - quote - "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." The comment was out so out of touch that even George Bush's White House couldn't agree with it.

But the truth is, John McCain's attitude was nothing new. It reflects the same economic philosophy that he has had for twenty-six years in Washington. The same philosophy he shares with George Bush.. It's the philosophy that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down. It's the philosophy that says even common-sense regulations are unnecessary and unwise. It's a philosophy that lets Washington lobbyists shred consumer protections and distort our economy so it works for the special interests instead of working people.

That's the philosophy John McCain believes in, and has always believed in. He's spent decades in Washington supporting financial institutions instead of their customers. Phil Gramm, one of the architects of the de-regulation in Washington that led directly to this mess on Wall Street, is also the architect of John McCain's economic plan - the man John McCain wants to put in charge of the Treasury Department if he's President. You remember Phil Gramm - he's the guy who said that we're going through a 'mental recession'; and the same man who called the United States of America a "nation of whiners."

That's who John McCain listens to. He has consistently opposed the sorts of common sense regulations that might have lessened the current crisis. When I was warning about the danger ahead on Wall Street months ago because of the lack of oversight, Senator McCain was telling the Wall Street Journal--and I quote--"I'm always for less regulation."

Except now, with the magnitude of the crisis apparent even to the Bush White House, John McCain wants to reverse course. Now, all of a sudden, he's unleashed an angry tirade against all the insiders and lobbyists who've supported him for twenty-six years - the same folks who run his campaign.

On Monday, he said the economy was fundamentally sound, and he was fundamentally wrong.

On Tuesday, he said the government should stand by and allow one of the nation's largest insurers to collapse, putting the well-being of millions of Americans at risk. But by Wednesday, he changed his mind.

He said he would take on the ol' boy network, but he seemed to forget that he took seven of the biggest lobbyists in Washington from that network and put them in charge of your campaign.

John McCain can't decide whether he's Barry Goldwater or Dennis Kucinich. Well, I have a message for Senator McCain:

You can't just run away from your long-held views or your life-long record. You can't erase twenty-six years of support for the very policies and people who helped bring on this disaster with one week of rants.

What we need is honest talk and real solutions. Senator McCain's first answer to this economic crisis was - get ready for it - a commission. That's Washington-speak for "we'll get back to you later." Folks, we don't need a commission to spend a few years and a lot of taxpayer money to tell us what's going on in our economy. We don't need a commission to tell us gas prices are high or that you can't pay your bills. We don't need a commission to tell us you're losing your jobs. We don't need a commission to study this crisis, we need a President who will solve it - and that's the kind of President I intend to be.

Now that this disaster has hit, John McCain is calling for the firing of the Security and Exchange Commissioner. Well here's what I say: In 47 days, you can fire the whole Trickle-Down, On-Your-Own, Look-the-Other-Way crowd in Washington who have led us down this disastrous path.

Let's be clear: what we've seen the last few days is nothing less than the final verdict on an economic philosophy that has completely failed. And I am running for President of the United States because the dreams of the American people must not be endangered any more. It's time to put an end to a broken system in Washington that is breaking the American economy. It's time for change that makes a real difference in your lives.

It was two years ago that I introduced legislation to stop mortgage transactions that promoted fraud, risk or abuse. It was one year ago that I called on our Treasury Secretary and our FED Chairman to bring every stakeholder together and find a solution to the subprime mortgage meltdown before it got worse. In March, when John McCain was saying "I'm always for less regulation," I called for a new, 21st century regulatory framework to restore accountability, transparency, and trust in our financial markets.

The events of the past few days have made clear that we need to do more right now. We do not have time for commissions and we can't afford to lurch back and forth between positions when dealing with an economic crisis, like my opponent has. That is why I am calling on the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to use their emergency authorities to maintain the flow of credit, to support the availability of mortgages, and to ensure that our financial system is well-capitalized. Tomorrow I will be convening a meeting with my top economic advisors to discuss a plan based on the ideas I've been talking about with former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker and other advisors of mine. Then I'll call for the passage of a Homeowner and Financial Support Act that would establish a more stable and permanent solution than the daily improvisations that have characterized policy-making over the last year. Specifically, it would accomplish three primary goals.

First, it will provide capital to the financial system. Second, it will provide liquidity to enable our financial markets to function. And third, it will do what I've been calling for since I supported legislation on it early last spring, which is to get serious about helping struggling families to re-structure their mortgages on more affordable terms so they can stay in their homes. We've made a good start but we need to do much, much more. We cannot forget that there are many homeowners who are in crisis through no fault of their own, and a solution that does not have them at its core is no solution at all.

To jumpstart job creation, I've also proposed a $50 billion Emergency Economic Plan that would save 1 million jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure, repairing our schools, and helping our states and localities avoid damaging budget cuts.

To help people stay in their homes, I will change our bankruptcy laws, and I'll offer a tax credit to struggling families that will take 10% off your mortgage interest rate. I'll institute a Home Score system that will help every consumer figure out whether they'll be able to make their mortgage payments before they buy their house. And I will crack down on predatory lenders - lenders who all too often target Hispanic communities - with tough new penalties that will treat mortgage fraud like the crime that it is.

But the most important thing I will do as President is restore opportunity for all Americans. To get our economy growing, we need to recapture that fundamental American promise. That if you work hard, you can pay the bills. That if you get sick, you won't go bankrupt. That your kids can get a good education, and that we can leave a legacy of greater opportunity to future generations.

That's the change the American people need.

Change means a tax code that doesn't reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it. I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America. I will eliminate capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-ups - that's how we'll grow our economy and create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes - cut taxes - for 95% of all working families. My opponent doesn't want you to know this, but under my plan, tax rates will actually be less than they were under Ronald Reagan. If you make less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increase one single dime. In fact, I offer three times the tax relief for middle-class families as Senator McCain does - because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.

I will finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. I know this is a critical issue in the Hispanic community, where one in three people don't have health insurance. Under my plan, if you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And I will stop insurance companies from discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most

I will create the jobs of the future by transforming our energy economy. We'll tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I'll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy - wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can't ever be outsourced

And now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. I refuse to accept that overcrowded, underfunded schools are the best we can do for our kids. I refuse to accept four in ten Hispanic students dropping out of high school - I know we can do better than that. So I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. But in exchange, I will ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American - if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

This is the change we need - the kind of bottom up growth and innovation that will advance the American economy by advancing the dreams of all Americans.

Times are hard. I will not pretend that the change will need will come without cost - though I have presented ways we can achieve these changes in a fiscally responsible way. I know that we'll have to overcome our doubts and divisions and the determined opposition of powerful special interests before we can truly reform a broken economy and advance opportunity.

But I am running for President because we simply cannot afford four more years of an economic philosophy that works for Wall Street instead of Main Street, and ends up devastating both.

I don't want to wake up in four years to find that more Americans fell out of the middle-class, and more families lost their savings. I don't want to see that our country failed to invest in our ability to compete, our children's future was mortgaged on another mountain of debt, and our financial markets failed to find a firmer footing.

This time - this election - is our chance to stand up and say: enough is enough!

We can do this because Americans have done this before. Time and again, we've battled back from adversity by recognizing that common stake that we have in each other's success. That's why our economy hasn't just been the world's greatest wealth generator - it's bound America together, it's created jobs, and it's made the dream of opportunity a reality for generation after generation of Americans.

Now it falls to us. And I need you to make it happen. If you want the next four years looking just like the last eight, then I am not your candidate. But if you want real change - if you want an economy that rewards work, and that works for Main Street and Wall Street; if you want tax relief for the middle class and millions of new jobs; if you want health care you can afford and education so that our kids can compete; then I ask you to knock on some doors, and make some calls, and talk to your neighbors.

The Hispanic community will play a critical role in this election. Some of the closest contests this November will be in states like Florida, Colorado, Nevada, and here in New Mexico - states with large Hispanic populations.

And if you have any doubt about whether you can make a difference, just remember how, back in 2004, 40,000 registered Hispanic voters in New Mexico didn't turn out on Election Day. Senator Kerry lost this state by fewer than 6,000 votes. 6,000 votes. And today, in 2008, an estimated 170,000 Hispanics in New Mexico aren't registered to vote.

So I'm not taking a single Hispanic vote for granted in this campaign. We're meeting with Hispanic leaders, and reaching out to Hispanic organizations, and holding Hispanic voter registration drives across America.

And if you help me organize and get people to the polls to cast their votes on November 4th, then I promise you - we will win New Mexico, we will win this election, and we will change America together.

Barack Obama, Remarks in Espanola, New Mexico Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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