Bill Richardson photo

Speech on Education and Jobs in America

December 12, 2007

Thank you so much for having me here today.

I'm not here to talk about another candidate's age, or their ambition. I'm here to talk about jobs for the American people. As I listen to the other candidates -- both Democrats and Republicans -- I wonder ... why aren't more of them talking about jobs?

Among the people I have met on this campaign, I see fathers and mothers who have worked hard all their lives ... but don't know if they'll be able to provide for their sons and daughters.

Everywhere I go, I see people working for America. But America doesn't seem to be working for them.

I can sense the insecurity out there. And it's not just about keeping our homeland safe.

It's about keeping safe our trust that the American government is on the side of the middle class.

It's about keeping safe our belief that every American deserves a quality education ... and affirming that our country needs educated citizens if we are to stay strong.

It's about keeping safe our faith that if we work hard, we can build a better tomorrow for our children and for our nation.

The fact is that the President has not kept the faith. And the Congress has failed to lead.

They're all locked in dysfunction and neither side wants to blink. So they keep sitting there, with their eyes wide open, watching the problems of America parade by.

You know, every candidate in this race is asking for the biggest job promotion of their life. Now, if you've ever asked for a promotion – you know that the first question is going to be. "What have you done lately?"

So let's look at what the Senate has done in the last twelve months since my colleagues took over the leadership of Congress.

Did they get us out of Iraq? No.

Did they scrap No Child Left Behind and reform education? No.

Do million of poor children have the health insurance they need? No.

Did they stop an Attorney General who wouldn't say that waterboarding is torture? No.

Have they done enough to stop this country from slipping into recession? No.

Are millions of Americans worried about keeping their jobs and their homes and their quality of life? Yes.

I know that we can do better. And I have done better.

In the last twelve months I helped shut down North Korea's nuclear reactor. We brought back the remains of 6 American soldiers from that country that had been missing since the Korean War, including Corporal Clem Boody from Independence, Iowa, whose funeral I attended last week. I extended health coverage to every child 12 and under in my state. I raised teacher salaries. I cracked down on unscrupulous lenders. I passed a landmark clean energy bill to create jobs and clean air.

It's not just the last 12 months that I have been working hard for the people of America. When I took office as Governor, New Mexico's economy had stalled. Morale was low. We had no thriving industry, no plan for growth and a tax policy that discouraged investment and job creation.

So I passed a tax credit for companies to create jobs that pay above the prevailing wage. We passed a permanent rural jobs tax credit. We enacted a three-year tax holiday for high-tech startups. We invested state money in local companies that showed great promise for success and job creation.

Rather than use tax cuts to reward the wealthy ... I use them to reward putting people to work.

I focused on growth industries like clean energy, wind and solar, aviation and high tech. We ended up creating over 80,000 jobs. We have the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years. And we're seventh in the nation for income growth.

And I understand that education reform goes hand in hand with job creation. I invested heavily in New Mexico's schools ... billions of dollars into public education, including a statewide pre-K program. We shifted hundreds of millions of dollars from administration to classrooms. And we reduced the cost of a college education.

Not only that ... we've given teachers a raise every year I've been in office. We were 46th in teacher pay ... now we're 29th and moving up. And when I'm President, teachers across this country will have a minimum average starting salary of $40,000 a year.

Other candidates are talking about reforming No Child Left Behind. Well, I have a two word plan for this failed law: Scrap It. It's time to stop punishing struggling schools and start helping them again.

I'm going to hire 100,000 new math science teachers.

And we have to be innovative ... with ideas like math and science academies across the country, and programs like YouthBuild that reengage high school dropouts in their education.

America has always been the world's greatest source of ingenuity and innovation. More than Cokes and Hershey bars, cars and computers, the world knows us as the preeminent supplier of progress and hope.

And make no mistake: the world is looking to us for leadership.

But it is clear that we cannot lead the people of the world forward, if we are letting our own people fall behind.

Now is the time for bold action on jobs, but I'm not hearing anyone even talk about them.

In the Democratic debate in Nevada, in the entire two hours, do you know how many times the word "jobs" was mentioned?

Only five times.

And the debate before that in Philadelphia? Three times.

My friends, we are the Democratic Party.

If we stand for anything, we stand for jobs. We stand for the rights of working Americans. And we stand for fairness and opportunity.

And we can never forget that.

It's why I'm proud to offer the most detailed jobs plan of any candidate for President. And I'm proud to be the only Democrat in this race with a record of creating jobs and turning an economy around.

I know that we can do the same thing across the country. I know because in Iowa I see people who haven't given up on the American Dream. Despite the failures in Washington, I see people more committed than ever to giving their kids a better life than they've had.

I know that we can do better because I am hopeful about America. In the past hundred years, we have overcome a Great Depression. We landed a man on the moon. We have beaten back fascism and Communism and totalitarianism around the globe.

Restoring the strength of our economy is going to require fiscal responsibility. As a Governor, I have to balance my state's budget. I have balanced five budgets, and I have done it while cutting taxes and investing in our people and our infrastructure.

Balancing the budget is investing in the future. It means that we are paying for what we get today, so our children don't have to. And that's why I support a Constitutional Amendment to balance the budget. And a line-item veto. We've allowed Republicans to spend recklessly for too long. Our children should have the right to be free from the extraordinary debts run up by their parents.

The Government must honor the private sector and American entrepreneurship -- while working with investors and partnering with those taking risks to revitalize the economy. This is how it has always been. The Government started the internet, and the private sector improved and expanded it into one of the cornerstones of our economy.

In a 21st Century economy, Government must act as a catalyst and a partner to help unleash the innovation and the job creation potential of the private sector.

I will restore and increase funding for federal research and development programs.

I will create a federal Angel Investor Tax Credit to encourage investment in high-tech startups. And I will make permanent and double the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit. We must provide incentives for investment in cutting edge research and manufacturing.

While we build for the future and repair the damage of the past, we must also invest in our people now.

We need to move aggressively to create high-quality jobs and expand economic opportunity. The American Dream has always been big -- big enough for all of us. But for too many these days, the dream is shrinking and shutting them out. That is unacceptable. Every American deserves the opportunity to succeed.

We need to get back to big dreams and bold ideas.

In addition to creating new quality jobs, we need to preserve the ones we already have. We should restore America's focus on protecting our labor force.

We must move beyond the debate over "Free Trade" versus "Protectionism." Instead we have to roll up our sleeves and pursue better trade agreements; agreements that enhance rather than erode U.S. jobs. Agreements that are socially just, environmentally responsible and politically sustainable.

To protect our workers and keep America secure, I will do what the Congress and the President have not done ... pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Washington has also failed to help families with the rising cost of living. Expenses for health care, child care, and a college education are rising faster than wages. Our next President must focus on making these more affordable.

Our national strength is our people, and we must do whatever it takes to protect that resource.

Look at the record. I brought unemployment to historic lows in New Mexico. None of my Democratic opponents has turned around an economy. And if you look at the Republican Governors on the other side, they haven't done it either.

I'm looking forward to putting my record up against Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney. We need to put a candidate up against the Republicans who knows how to create jobs. And more importantly, the next President better know how to.

And I can tell you from experience: bickering doesn't create jobs. Speeches don't create jobs. Republicans don't create jobs.

It's time for a President focused again on working Americans.

I'm sick of the Republicans painting Democrats as fiscally irresponsible.

We created the New Deal. They created the raw deal.

We created the Great Society, they created the Great Depression.

We created the boom of the 1990's. In the past seven years, the Republicans brought us the worst record of job creation since Herbert Hoover.

It's time for a new vision.

This vision is not a Republican dream. It's not a Democratic dream. It's not a black dream. It's not a brown dream. It's not a white dream. It's not a poor dream. It's not a rich dream.

It's an American Dream.

So my message for all those who are negative – those who are angry is this:

Let's make it a reality. We can do it.

To those who say our students can't do any better: I say they can.

To those who say we can't create good-paying jobs here in America anymore -- I say we can. And we will.

This is a time for bold leadership.

And that's why I am going to win this thing.

Because I have been tested.

Because I've actually delivered many of the changes that others merely talk about. Or don't even talk about.

I am going to win because I've got the most optimistic vision for this country's future. On education and jobs, I am offering bold leadership with results.

I am going to win because we are going to do it together.



We CAN do it together. I would be honored to have you caucus for me. Thank you very much.

Bill Richardson, Speech on Education and Jobs in America Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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