Joe Biden

Remarks by the Vice President to the National Governors Association

February 28, 2011

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I'm Joe Biden -- I'll Jill Biden's husband -- (laughter) -- which is how I'm getting to be known around here. You're about to -- we decided to bring in the second team now to talk to you all. (Laughter.) Folks, welcome back to the White House. And for those of you who -- this is your first visit as governor, welcome and congratulations on your elections.

You know, over the last two years the new governors -- the older governors will tell you, or at least the ones who've been around for two years, will tell you they probably got tired of hearing from me. I was on the phone with you all so often during the Recovery Act. I know none of you liked the Recovery Act much. (Laughter.)

But I just want to start off by thanking the governors who've been here for the last two years for the way in which you implemented it. I just wanted to give you a little fact. There were over 75,000 individual projects that went on in your states and a total of 250,000 awards, meaning a check had to be cut to 250,000 different entities. And a group of IGs and outside examiners pointed out there's less than 1/100th of 1 percent of fraud in the entire operation. And that's because of you. That's because of all of you. (Applause.) And it's because of the mayors.

The new governors, although there's no Recovery Act, there will a be continued relationship between the federal and state and local government, and we plan on trying to use that as a template as to how to move forward so we save taxpayers money.

The recovery is underway, although I'm sure a lot of you, having to cut your budgets, don't feel it. It's a very difficult time for you all. And I just want you to know that I think we probably can all agree on the major initiatives. We may have a different prioritization, but we all know we have to do something about the long-term debt. We all know that we have to do something about preparing ourselves to compete in the future in terms of education, innovation and infrastructure.

But I want to remind you all that -- I know you all know but sometimes our constituents, you look at some of the polling, they think we've already lost the future to China. They think we've already lost the future to India. They already think we are behind the eight ball.

We are still better positioned than any country in the world -- any country in the world -- to own the 21st century economically. Our GDP is bigger than that of China, Japan and Germany combined. We're in a situation where here in the United States of America the median income is close to $50,000. In China, it's $4,500. We wish them better. But just to put this in perspective, it's important to know where we stand now, the platform from which we now operate, and why if we do the right things we have an overwhelming prospect -- an overwhelming prospect -- of not only recovery here in the United States but leading the world in the 21st century.

The man I'm about to introduce to you shares your view. Americans have never settled for number two -- literally. This is not hyperbole. It's not one of these chauvinistic things. We want other nations to do well. We'll do better if they do well. But we are not -- we not -- prepared, nor are you, to settle for being number two in anything.

And so, folks, that's why we've laid out -- the President has laid out in his State of the Union speech the need for us to innovate. We have the most innovative economy in the world. We have the freest of free-enterprise systems. We know what we're doing. We want to unleash the free-enterprise system.

We also know that we cannot rank tied with five nations for number nine in the world in the percentage of people we graduate from our universities. It's not acceptable. It's simply not acceptable. That's why by 2020, we will, in fact, be once again leading the world as we did in the past. That is a goal, a goal we will meet. As my wife you just heard from, a community college teacher, would say, any nation that out-educates us is going to out-compete us. It's as simple and as basic as that.

And thirdly, we cannot have a 20th century infrastructure for the 21st century -- a 20th century infrastructure, as all of you know, that in fact is already in some areas teetering on needing major, major repairs. And by infrastructure, we not only mean ports, road, airports; we also mean modern infrastructure from broadband to the new changes that are going to have to take place for what reason -- to make American business more competitive, to make American employees more hire-able, if you will. There's no such word, but able to be hired. (Laughter.) But the neighborhood I come from people understand what I say. (Laughter.)

And so, folks, look, I just want to introduce you to the guy who -- as I said, we'll disagree in the details, but I'm sure you share this man's view, there is no -- no, no, no -- acceptable rationale for America being anything other than number one in the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States of America. (Applause.)

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks by the Vice President to the National Governors Association Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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