Albert Gore, Jr. photo

Remarks in Muskegon, Michigan

October 30, 2000

One week from tomorrow, our country faces a big choice about the future — one of the biggest we have faced in decades.

One week from tomorrow, Americans will choose a new direction for our country — a new path for our people.

There's a lot at stake in this election. We truly are at a fork in the road.

When I look to the future, I'm filled with hope for our country.

There's never been a time of greater prosperity, greater opportunity for our future.

But the future isn't something that just happens — it's something we have to make for ourselves, together.

Eight days from today, you have to decide between two very different visions for the future.

Make no mistake about it: on November 7th, prosperity itself will be on the ballot.

And the choice will be in your hands. Your one vote may well make the difference. Your one vote is more powerful than any powerful interest; more decisive than any campaign that can be waged.

This election represents a fork in the road when it comes to our economy.

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

Or we can squander this moment -- and lose the best chance in a generation to secure the next American century.

There's a fork in the road when it comes to fiscal discipline.

We can follow the lessons of the past — lessons we learned the hard way — to build a new future for our country. We can have a smaller, smarter government that balances the budget every year, pays down and then pays off our debt, and gives tax cuts to the middle-class — the families who need help the most in order to make their dreams come true.

Or we can just repeat the past like a broken record — letting the wealthiest Americans gorge themselves on tax cuts they don't need, and draining away the surplus you worked so hard to build.

And I'm not going to let us be dragged back to sky-high deficits that would drive interest rates through the roof, and drive the economy back into a ditch.

These are fundamental choices — not just about numbers and budgets, but about the character of our society.

All Americans created this prosperity. And as President, I'll make sure it enriches all Americans.

You deserve a President who champions all the people — and doesn't cave in to the few.

And yes, there's a fork in the road when it comes to who the candidates are fighting for.

I'll stand up to the big insurance companies — to pass a Patients' Bill of Rights that takes the medical decisions away from the HMO's, and gives them back to the doctors, the nurses, and the health care professionals.

I'll stand up to the pharmaceutical companies, to pass a prescription drug benefit for all seniors under Medicare.

I want to empower families, and give you more choices and more opportunity for the future.

My opponent gives in to the powerful interests — and I believe his plans would leave millions of families worse off than they are today.

I'll move ahead with bold new ideas to clean up our environment, secure retirement savings for young and old, and make public education our number-one national priority.

My opponent's idea of environmental protection is protecting the big polluters, and putting them in charge of our environmental laws. He wants to play games with your Social Security, and drain money away from our public schools.

America has worked too hard, and come too far, to threaten our progress, and put all our prosperity at risk. You deserve better than rubber checks to pay for runaway spending, and a rubber-stamp for the powerful interests.

We have to make the difficult choices — the responsible choices — to secure the future. We have to choose the hard right over the easy wrong — to make America all it can become.

That's especially true when it comes to the bedrock of our prosperity — balanced budgets and fiscal discipline.

I'm opposed to big government. I'm for a smaller, smarter government — one that serves people better, but offers real change and gives more choices to our families.

That's why I'm proposing the next generation of fiscal discipline and government downsizing — balancing the budget every year, and shrinking government to the smallest share of the economy in 50 years.

I'll devote the single largest share of the surplus to debt reduction — to keep interest rates low, and get government out of capital markets so we don't crowd out businesses like we did in the 80's and early 90's.

And as President, I will not add to the number of people doing work for the federal government — not by even one position.

Let me be clear: continuing our strong economy is my overriding commitment. Everything else depends on it. So I make this pledge: we will balance the budget and pay down the debt every year. And I will set aside one out of every six dollars of the surplus, unspent — to make sure we can keep that commitment.

Governor Bush has not made this pledge. He wants to change the very best things about the economic course we're on. He squanders the lion's share of the surplus — all that money painstakingly built up by the hard-working American people — in tax cuts aimed mostly at the wealthiest of the wealthy.

As a result, he puts off paying down the national debt. His plan endangers the strength of our economy. And the resources aren't there to invest in other urgent needs for our families.

Consider the difference. For every dollar I will invest in health care, he would spend three dollars on tax cuts for people who earn an average of $ 1 million per year.

For every dollar I will invest in education, he would spend five dollars on tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent. In fact, he would give more in tax cuts to the wealthiest 90,000 multi-millionaires than all the new investments he has proposed to make in all 90,000 public schools combined.

Does anyone think those are the right priorities?

That's just the beginning. He adds about a half a trillion dollars in new spending. Then he privatizes a major portion of Social Security, which would cost another trillion dollars — and the task of just managing and administering this unwieldy privatization plan would by itself add between 50,000 and 100, 000 new government employees, according to an independent study.

The result of his overall plan is a $ 1.1 trillion deficit — unraveling all our progress in reining in government, and threatening our economic gains.

I have a different view. We should never again be saddled with huge deficits and runaway government that block the way to economic progress.

And I'll be straightforward about this: I'm proposing a much smaller overall tax cut than Governor Bush.

Because my tax cut is smaller, the resources are there both to pay down the debt and to invest in urgent priorities like education, and a clean environment.

Because my tax cut is smaller, I can target tax relief to the middle-class, and make sure they get it. I'm talking about the people who are working overtime to make ends meet and save for the future. Let's cut taxes to help them pay for child care and long-term care. And let's make most college tuition tax-deductible.

Here's the heart of the matter: both sides in this election have proposed targeted tax cuts. The difference is, my plan targets its benefits to the middle class; the Bush plan targets its benefits primarily to the wealthy.

I think the budget surplus is your money. It belongs to all of you. And all Americans ought to share in the benefits.

We have to seize this moment to bring real change and give more choices to families.

I'm fighting for a Patients' Bill of Rights, so doctors and families make the medical decisions, not insurance companies.

I'm fighting for a prescription drug benefit for all seniors under Medicare — one that lets you keep the insurance you already have, if that's what you want. One that lets you choose your own doctor and your own local pharmacy — not the drug industry plan my opponent supports, that lets HMO's and pharmaceutical companies veto all your choices and decisions.

I'm fighting to bring major change in public education — with more public school choice, more accountability and local control, and smaller class sizes to promote discipline, respect, and learning — so every family can choose a world-class public education for their children.

I'm fighting for historic reforms in our retirement system, so you can save and invest more on top of Social Security — so we don't have to choose between giving younger workers higher returns, and keeping our commitments to today's seniors.

And I'm fighting for a bold new commitment to our environment. I say to you today: we don't have to accept a future where pollution is the price of prosperity. In fact, the opposite is true. Prosperity depends on productive people — and productive people need a clean and healthy environment.

Just look at what's happened to Lake Michigan. A handful of years ago, this lake was filled with toxic pollution. Fish like the yellow perch -- a staple of those Friday night fish fries — had become a lot more expensive.

Today, the lake is cleaner than it has been in years, and the fish are coming back — powering a four-billion-dollar fishing industry, and keeping the Great Lakes one of the greatest destinations for families.

I pledge to do more to make the Lakes as great as they truly can be: to cut the mercury from power plants that makes fish dangerous to eat; to prevent fresh-water diversion; to clean up toxic hot-spots; to take on invasive species; and to work with local communities to ensure that pollution never closes our beautiful beaches again. Later this week, in a policy speech on the environment, I'll talk about the big solution to one of the suspected causes of record low levels in the lakes — global warming. Together, let's work for a future where none of our children have to worry whether the water they drink or the air they breathe is safe and pure.

These are the kinds of changes that put more control in the hands of ordinary Americans, and help families achieve what they want for the future.

Now, Governor Bush has a different approach. On education, my opponent's voucher plan could drain more taxpayer money from our public schools into private schools than all the new money he would invest in public education all across the country. And the vouchers are so small, only one child in twenty is even eligible to get half a chance to leave a failing school.

And by the way, if you vote against the ill-considered voucher plan that is on the ballot here in Michigan, and Governor Bush's proposal is enacted in Washington, DC, then you would be forced by the federal government to divert your state tax dollars into private school vouchers — even though you voted against it.

He also wants to take that trillion dollars out of Social Security for a campaign promise to younger workers — even though he has no way to pay for it, and even though he's promised that same trillion dollars to seniors to pay today's benefits. Talk about fuzzy math.

And he's said he'll allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- one of our greatest environmental treasures. It would take years and years of development — which would cause decades of environmental damage — to reap just a few months of increased oil supply.

We must oppose any plan that would drill for oil in the wrong places, and degrade our irreplaceable natural heritage.

I don't believe we can build and sustain prosperity by despoiling our environment — any more than we can balance the budget by giving massive tax cuts primarily to those at the top.

And I don't believe we should just turn our prosperity over to the powerful interests — and squander this chance to make prosperity work for everybody.

We stand at a critical moment — a time of choosing.

We stand at a fork in the road. And we have to take the right course — the responsible course — for our future.

I believe with all my heart that if we do things right, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

We can create millions of good new jobs, and open new horizons of hope for our families.

We can have a smaller and smarter government that helps our families fulfill their biggest ambitions.

We can build on this incredible foundation, and keep government on the side of hard-working middle-class families.

As I've said before, I make no claim to be the most exciting politician.

But I will work hard for you every single day — and I will fight for your best interests, no mater who stands in the way. I'm ready to fight to see our prosperity grow larger, and our families grow stronger.

And I think that's something worth fighting for.

With your help — now and eight days from now — we will win this fight, and create the America of our ideals.

Thank you — God bless you — and God bless America.

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