John F. Kerry photo

Remarks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

September 14, 2004

Over the last few years, I've thought a lot about why America is heading in the wrong direction. Lost jobs, health care costs through the roof, the surplus gone, our alliances shredded, and our influence challenged. And then the other day, we were driving along the road in our campaign bus, and I saw a sign with a lone "W" leaning up against a post. At first, I was a little confused. But then, it all made sense.

As the President likes George W. Bush. And the W stands for wrong. Wrong choices, wrong direction, and wrong leadership for America. And this election all comes down to one decision: Do we want four more years of wrong choices, or do we want to move America in a new direction?

The choice in this election couldn't be more clear. Do we want four more years of lost jobs and falling wages ... four more years of rising health care costs ... four more years of raiding Social Security to give tax cuts to the wealthy ... four more years of schools being shortchanged, leaving millions of children behind ... four more years of shipping jobs overseas and replacing them with jobs that pay you less ... four more years of a go-it-alone foreign policy. If you do, then you should vote for George W. Bush.

But if you want health care for all Americans ... if you want schools that work ... if you want jobs that pay more ... if you want Social Security that's there for the future .... then we need to move America in a new direction with John Edwards and me. And that's the choice in this election.

Of all George Bush's wrong choices, the most catastrophic choice is the mess he's made in Iraq. It's not that I would have done one thing differently in Iraq, I would have done almost everything differently. It was wrong to rush to war without a plan to win the peace. It was wrong not to build a strong international coalition of our allies. And it was wrong to put our young men and women into harm's way without a clear mission and the support to get it done.

It was wrong for America to go it alone. And now every American is paying the price. Almost all the casualties are the sons and daughters of America. And nearly 90 percent of the cost is coming out of your pocket. The price-tag so far: $200 billion and rising every day. That's $200 billion we're not investing in health care and education. That's $200 billion we're not investing to make sure no child is left behind. That's $200 billion we're not investing in new and better jobs. That's $200 billion we're not investing in homeland security, to protect our airports, our subways, our bridges and tunnels. That's W. Wrong choices, wrong direction, and wrong leadership for America.

When it comes to our economy, George W. Bush has made the wrong choices again and again. Over the last three years, we've lost 2.7 million manufacturing jobs here in America. In fact, George Bush is the first president in 72 years -- since the Great Depression -- to actually lose jobs.

At that convention last week, the Bush administration said that outsourcing jobs is good for America. That's what they've done for four years and they want to do it for another four. That's W. Wrong choices, wrong direction, wrong leadership for America.

We're going to set a new direction for America – we're going to close the tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping jobs overseas, and we're going to reward companies that create and keep good paying jobs here in America.

And let me tell you, when it comes to our nation's senior citizens, George W. Bush has made all the wrong choices. The result is that the members of our greatest generation are still making the greatest sacrifices.

On everything from prescription drugs to retirement security to Medicare and Social Security, George W. Bush has made the wrong choices and seniors are paying the price. He's driving them right out of the middle class. So seniors are getting squeezed like never before – but for big drug companies, these truly are the golden years.

Just look at George Bush's Medicare drug plan. That plan gives drug companies a $139 billion payoff – instead of making drugs more affordable. That's wrong. It's wrong for him to force seniors into HMO's and to let drug companies set higher prices – instead of trying to get a better deal for our seniors. And it's wrong for him to stop seniors from getting the drugs they need – instead of letting them buy safe, FDA-approved drugs from Canada.

That's W. Wrong choices, wrong direction, wrong leadership for America.

Once again, this Administration has not been honest with the American people. Today, we found out that they are hiding the truth about your Social Security and Medicare prescription drug benefit. Each year, the Bush Administration has reported to you on how much of your Social Security benefit is eaten up by your Medicare costs. This year, they left that crucial bit of information out.

Why? Because they don't want you to know the truth: the Bush Administration has let costs get so high, that you're using more and more of your Social Security to pay for Medicare. Prescription drug costs are way up. Medicare costs are way up. And George Bush hasn't done a thing to stop it. But this shouldn't come as a surprise to any of us.

The same Medicare officials who tried to hide the real cost of the failed prescription drug plan are now hiding the skyrocketing costs to you for your health care. That's W. Wrong choices, wrong direction, wrong leadership for America.

And with health care costs pushing seniors to the brink, George W. Bush has done nothing to help. Recently, at that convention in New York, the President said he finally had a plan to get costs under control. Now we know what he had in mind. The very next day the Bush administration announced that Medicare premiums will go up 17 percent next year alone – the biggest increase in Medicare premiums in the history of the program. And on George Bush's watch, Medicare premiums have gone up 56 percent.

To make matters worse, many seniors are finding that their Social Security checks aren't even getting them through the month. Health care costs are so high, they're cutting right into the cost of living adjustment you get from Social Security. But George W. Bush doesn't just want to eat away at your Social Security paycheck – he wants to privatize the whole program and cut your benefits. When it comes to our seniors, George Bush has a simple four-word answer: slash Social Security first.

That's W and that's wrong – wrong choices, wrong direction, wrong leadership for America.

John Edwards and I will set a new direction. We'll strengthen Social Security to give you the financial security you've earned. When it comes to health care and Medicare, we're going to put you first. Medicare doesn't belong to the special interests, it belongs to you. You paid for it.

And John Edwards and I have a plan for a real prescription drug benefit for seniors and to cut the cost of prescription drugs for all Americans. We'll make health care more affordable by cutting the waste and greed out of our health care system, by saving the average family up to $1,000 a year on their premiums, and by letting seniors buy safe and affordable drugs from Canada. We believe that health care is not a privilege for the wealthy, the connected, and the elected – it's a right for all Americans.

So this election comes down to a fundamental choice: if you believe that this country is heading in the right direction, you should support George Bush. But if you believe a vote for W is a vote for wrong choices and the wrong direction, then join with us. If you believe we need good jobs, health care for all, energy independence, and a new direction in Iraq, then I ask you to stand with us.

We have 49 days until the election. The clock is ticking. This is the most important election of our lifetime. Everything is one the line: our jobs, our health care, the character of our country. But you can make the difference. Together, we can make better choices for this country. We can lift this country up. We can bring this country back together.

We can do this. We're the can do people. Our best days are still ahead of us. There are those who want to divide America into red states and blue states. Not me. I want to unite us as one America – red, white and blue. With your help, we will take this country in a new direction.

Thank you.

John F. Kerry, Remarks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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