Albert Gore, Jr. photo

Remarks in Kissimmee, Florida

November 01, 2000

I'm here in Florida with a message of hope for our country.

First of all, with your help, we're going to win this state -- and we're going to win the White House six days from now.

But this campaign is about something more. It's about the steps we can take to strengthen our families -- and build stronger ties between the generations.

I see an America where it's not so hard to be a strong family — where parents have more time to spend with their children, and more help protecting them from the cultural pollution that too often clouds family life in our country.

I see a future where you don't have to struggle to put money aside for your kids' college tuition, or your children's medical check-ups.

I see a day when all our families can count on a secure retirement — when Social Security is strong, and you can watch your own private retirement savings grow week by week, and know that you'll be able to live out your older years in peace and plenty.

Join with me — now and six days from now — and God willing, over the next four years, and we will open new horizons of hope for our families.

That's the future we can have. But it won't just happen of its own accord. The future is something we have to make and shape for ourselves, together.

This election really is a fork in the road for our country.

Thanks to the hard work of the American people, the drive and creativity of our businesses and entrepreneurs, and the right economic policies -- we have record prosperity, and the biggest budget surpluses in our history.

Now we have to decide how we use it. And there's a very big choice next Tuesday.

We can build on our prosperity, and make sure it enriches not just the few, but all our families.

Or we can squander this moment — by lavishing huge tax cuts on the wealthiest of the wealthy, threatening all our economic gains.

We can have a smaller, smarter government — by balancing the budget, paying down and then paying off our national debt, and shrinking government spending to the smallest share of the economy in 50 years.

Or we can just go back to the big deficits, big debt, and repeat recessions of the 80's and early 90's.

When it comes to our prosperity, let me tell you: you've worked too hard, and come too far, for us to turn back now.

When it comes to America's retirement savings program, Social Security, we face a choice that's just as big.

I believe we have to strengthen Social Security, while giving unprecedented new opportunities for families to save more, invest more, and get higher returns.

And I don't think it's right to play games with Social Security, or pit young against old in a scramble to fulfill competing campaign promises.

So often, too many people think of Social Security as a budget program — or a program that's just for seniors.

Actually, Social Security is much more than that. It embodies our values. It links each American generation to the next, with commitments of love and caring. It's how we care for our mothers and fathers. It's how we give younger workers a bedrock of retirement savings they can build on, no matter what. It truly is a compact -- one that makes all our families stronger, and under-girds the financial security of each generation in every family.

So let's talk about Social Security in family terms, for Social Security is the way in which our national family meets its responsibility to our parents and grandparents. To me, it all comes down to this: we need to make sure that Social Security reflects our values and strengthens families. And that means protecting benefits for seniors, preparing Social Security for the retirement of the unusually large baby boom generation 15 years from now, and providing new opportunities for younger workers to save and invest more for their retirement.

We have to begin with a basic commitment to today's seniors — the people who have worked hard and paid into Social Security all their lives.

Today's seniors raised us and cared for us; they're the generation that survived the Depression, and won the Second World War. So when it comes to Social Security, we ought to make them a simple promise: they'll get the benefits they earned — and no one should be able to cut those benefits or take them away.

To meet that commitment, we have to protect Social Security by putting it in a lock-box, so it can't be raided or drained away to pay for other programs.

My opponent talks about a commitment to today's retirees. But let's be clear on this: soothing words don't pay the rent, much less buy prescription medicine. And even the sharpest campaign sound bite won't bring into focus the fuzzy conclusions that flow from fuzzy math.

He's promising to take a trillion dollars out of Social Security, and he's promising it to younger workers for investments in private accounts. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

The problem is, that's the same money he's promising to seniors to pay their current benefits. The Wall Street Journal looked at his plan, and concluded that he couldn't possibly keep both promises.

Which promise is he going to break?

Who gets left out or left behind?

The American Academy of Actuaries looked at his plan, and concluded it would lead to catastrophic results. He said he rejects their premise. Which premise? Addition or subtraction?

Eight Nobel Prize winning economists looked at his plan and said the numbers "do not add up." When he was asked to clarify how he could possibly make his plan add up, Governor Bush refused, and said that he would provide additional details after the election.

That's fine; we're going to win Florida, so it won't matter.

Instead of a system where everyone's in it together, the Bush plan would turn Social Security into a grab-bag where everyone is out for himself. You might call it social insecurity. And that's wrong for our values.

It's also wrong for our economy. Even though he's promised it to two different groups of people, we still don't know where the trillion dollars comes from in the first place. The money's nowhere to be found in his budget.

One of the authors of Governor Bush's proposal wrote that Social Security would start borrowing heavily to make the program solvent under their approach. The borrowing would actually come to $ 3 trillion.

In other words, under the other side's plan, according to one of its authors, Social Security would go bankrupt fairly soon, and then go into massive deficits — while many of today's seniors are still counting on it.

Under our plan, Social Security will remain financially sound for more than 50 years.

The choice is yours — and it's on the ballot on Tuesday.

Join with me, and we won't make new promises just to break them — we'll keep our promises to the seniors who gave us everything we have today.

Seniors aren't the only people who are counting on a secure retirement. And you'll forgive me if I have a special place in my heart for middle-aged workers — people who have been working for two or three decades, and have every intention of working some more. In fact, I'm hoping to be very busy for the next several years myself.

Today's middle-aged workers are the heart of our workforce, and the heart of family life in America. They're the ones who are often forced to choose between the needs of their children, and the needs of their aging parents. They're the ones who bear the burdens, pay the taxes, and live the American dream.

And they shouldn't have to worry whether Social Security will be there for them when they retire.

Under our plan, we make the responsible choices — by balancing the budget, paying down the debt, and using the interest savings to strengthen Social Security.

For 45-year-olds today, Social Security would be secure — without any cuts or changes — until their 100th birthdays. And some of us are hoping we'll need it that long.

Under Governor Bush's plan, it's a different story for middle-aged families. By draining trillions away from the trust fund, his plan could make Social Security bankrupt just as today's 45-year-olds are starting to receive their first checks.

Benefits for middle-aged workers would have to be cut deeply — at least 25 percent in the beginning, and even more after that. Is that any kind of burden to put on some of our hardest-working families?

Middle-aged workers wouldn't have too many options under the Governor's privatization plan. Even if the stock market does well, almost none of them would have enough time to make up in private savings what they would lose in Social Security benefits.

We have to keep Social Security strong — not just for today's seniors, but for those who are working hard right now, and deserve a secure retirement for tomorrow.

Finally, I believe we need a special commitment to retirement savings for younger workers.

We should all be glad that the stock market has done so well these past eight years — and we should give more young families the chance and the choice to take part in it.

Now is the time to make historic changes in our retirement system -- to give younger Americans unprecedented new choice and opportunity for private savings.

Here's how our plan works: you can save tax-free. Government would match your savings. And that money is yours to invest on your own. A young middle-class family that saves just twenty dollars a week would have more than $ 200,000 by the time they retire.

Now here's the difference — I think you should be able to invest and get higher returns in addition to the guaranteed foundation of Social Security, not instead of Social Security.

Governor Bush may think that younger workers want to just scrap Social Security altogether — and maybe that's why he's promising them the money we need for today's seniors.

I think today's young people see themselves as part of the family of America. I think they care about their parents and their grandparents. I don't think they want to see seniors' benefits cut — for the wrong kind of private savings plan.

There's a better way. Because my proposal for private savings accounts comes in the form of a tax cut, it doesn't rely on Social Security for funding. It doesn't rob Peter to pay Paul. And it's targeted to middle-class families — those who have the hardest time saving for the future.

For example, a couple making $ 50,000 a year would get a private account of only $ 1,000 a year under my opponent's plan. But by setting aside just ten dollars a week each, that same couple could have an account that's twice as large under my plan — and they'd get a $ 280 tax cut to boot.

Governor Bush's plan asks that young couple to shortchange their parents. According to one independent study, what that couple loses in guaranteed benefits would not be offset by their private accounts. And the Bush plan gives bigger accounts to the wealthiest workers. A worker making $ 75,000 a year gets a private account that's three times larger than a worker making $ 25,000 a year.

I'm for a middle-class savings plan, for the same reason I'm for middle-class tax cuts, and not a massive tax cut for the wealthiest of the wealthy. I think we should give more of the benefits to those who need them the most.

And if we can offer higher savings and better returns while keeping Social Security as safe and secure as ever, why would we try to accomplish that same goal by threatening Social Security?

If we can give younger workers more investment options without taking away the options of middle-aged workers, why would we gamble with a trillion dollars out of the Social Security trust fund?

If we can help young couples build a brighter future without jeopardizing the foundation of our whole retirement system, why would we create a brand new giant deficit in Social Security -- the first of its kind?

Social Security isn't a budget plan. It's an expression of our most deeply-held values. The young should help care for the old. The old should have the choice to be independent, and not be a burden on the next generation. And every hard-working young American should be able to open the door to their dreams.

That's why I'm just not going to go along with a plan that would open up a brand new kind of deficit — on top of the big deficit that would be created by the Governor's massive tax cut for the wealthiest -- and threaten Social Security for all generations.

You might say that on Tuesday, Social Security itself is on the ballot.

Governor Bush often says you should support him because he'd get along with people in Washington. And that's all well and good.

But the real question is — who does he want to get along with?

The special interests who don't need Social Security, and are happy to see it drained away?

The HMO's? The insurance industry? The oil companies and the drug companies?

Sometimes, a President has to stand up and say no — so that our families can have a better life.

I'm not running for President to go along and get along at any price.

The Presidency is really not just a popularity contest. If you want someone who smiles and looks the other way while special interests have their way, then I'm not your guy.

But if you want someone who knows how to fight for your interests and has the experience to win those battles on your behalf, then I ask for your support.

In fact, I can say no to the special interests with a smile.

I'm running to be the best President for you that I can be.

I'm running to fight for the families who want to save more and lift themselves higher.

I'm running to fight for the families who have worked hard, done what's right, and deserve a secure retirement.

I'm running for President to fight for you. And that's something worth fighting for.

Thank you — God bless you — and let's win in Florida!

Albert Gore, Jr., Remarks in Kissimmee, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project