Hall Of Fame
Join Date: Apr 2003
GENERAL (RETIRED) WESLEY K. CLARK
OCTOBER 22, 2003
[b]A New American Patriotism[/b]
Today, America faces serious challenges. Our nation has endured the deadliest attack in its history. We feel our security threatened here at home for the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis. In fact all across America we see huge problems and yet our President says everything is just fine.
Well I don't have to tell you that everything isn't fine.
In President Bush's America, 44 million of Americans have no health insurance. And that's not fine.
In President Bush's America, nearly 3 million private sector jobs have been lost in three years, more than at anytime since Herbert Hoover was President. And that's not fine.
In President Bush's America, 35 million people are in poverty - more than at any time in our history. And that's not fine.
In President Bush's America, 12 million children live below the poverty line, and in the greatest and richest country in the world, that is definitely not fine.
So we have big challenges. Some of the biggest we've ever faced. Meeting these challenges is going to take new leadership, new ideas, and a new spirit of patriotism. I'm running for President because I believe I can offer the first two: new leadership, armed with new ideas.
But the third thing-what I call a New American Patriotism-is something that comes not only from our leaders but from our citizens, from Americans like you, who work the long hours, make the tough choices, and make the sacrifices to give your children, and all our children, a better future.
As I travel across this country, I see a new spirit of patriotism in the American people. I see it in the Americans who speak their minds, demand more of their leaders, and serve their country.
This New American Patriotism recognizes that democracy demands discussion, disagreement, and dissent. There is a nothing more American-nothing more patriotic-than speaking out in defense of freedom, questioning authority, and holding your leaders accountable.
This patriotism is born of a love of country. To me, loving your country means more than wanting it to be strong. It means being respected around the world.
It means wanting every American to have an honest chance here at home-a fair shot at a great education, a rewarding job, an opportunity to provide for your family and give something back to your community.
One of the things that I loved about the Army is that everyone, from every background, had a chance to advance. Let me tell you, that sense of equality, the sense that it's not who you know but what you know that counts does a lot for morale-and a lot for performance.
The same ideal applies to our country. There are great inequalities in America-vast wealth and deep poverty. But that doesn't have to divide us-as long as everyone has an opportunity, a chance to succeed.
My love for country is what led me to join the Army. I love our troops and honor our veterans. They're doing everything we asked them to do. But I'm very concerned about the direction our country is headed at home and abroad. And I'll talk more about that - particularly the situation in Iraq and the war on terror - in the days to come.
Today, however, I want to speak about strengthening our economy-and, even more, about strengthening the values that we bring to the challenge. I've been talking in recent weeks about the jobs crisis, which is my first priority; but the jobs situation is also part of a broader crisis in Washington, which is the total collapse of fiscal responsibility and accountability that we expect from our leaders.
I want talk to you about how America got into this fix-and about the principles that will help lead us out of it.
[b]America's Economic Engines[/b]
First, let me make one thing clear. Despite everything that's wrong today, I am as optimistic as I've ever been about our future-because I believe in the ability of the hard-working men and women of this country, the union members and entrepreneurs, the farmers and the factory workers to restore our nation's economy, to fire up its engines, and to create jobs and wealth and hope again.
There is no nation in the world with our productive power. No competitor that can match us in our creativity.
For more than a century, we've been the world's greatest industrial power. A little more than a decade ago, we led the world into the Information Age. And I am confident: the next revolution will be waged on our terms.
So I disagree with any who say our best days are behind us. I disagree with the pessimists who say that we're on a long slide we can't get off of, a long slide that ends in insolvency. That's just not true-so long as we muster the will to change leaders, change paths, and work together to turn our nation around. In short, I am bullish on America, but I am bullish on America only if we make the right decisions for our economy.
[b]Finding the Path to Prosperity[/b]
Almost thirty years ago, I was teaching economics at West Point and then worked for a year in the federal government. I wanted to see for myself how fiscal decisions get made at the highest levels. Probably sounds like pretty dry stuff.
But I believed then, as I do even more strongly today, that the budget is more than numbers on a balance sheet-it's a declaration of priorities. Policies are really just tools to advance your values.
What does a President really care about? Where's he willing to commit America's resources? It's right there in the budget because what you're willing to spend money on defines who you are.
Unfortunately, back then, the numbers didn't look so good. It was the start of a long period of slow productivity growth and rising inequality. Since the 1970s, the economy has grown vigorously. But most of the benefit has gone to the wealthiest, not to working families. From 1973 to 1993, our economy ballooned 71 percent. But the typical family's income only rose five percent.
But then, under the Democrats and President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, we made the tough choices to put our country back on track.
For the first time in a generation, we got our fiscal house in order-turning record deficits into record surpluses, paying down the national debt, and doing it in a way that allowed us to increase our investments in other priorities, from education to worker training, and from R&D to medical research.
At the same time, Democrats put policies in place to help harness the increasingly rapid explosion in global communications, financial markets, and trade.
Over that period, the economy created more than 23 million new jobs-about 140,000 of them right here in New Hampshire. Maybe some of you hold one of those jobs. Across America, typical families were earning $7,700 more in 2000 than they had eight years before.
And for the first time in a long time, the rising tide of our economy lifted all boats: every income group - especially the hardest pressed- saw their incomes increase. Poverty fell to its lowest level in a quarter century.
[b]Losing Our Way[/b]
It was a golden moment: the longest economic expansion in history, and for a time it seemed like it could go on forever. It appeared that incomes would keep on rising, poverty would keep on falling, the number of jobs would keep on growing, and the surplus would keep on expanding.
Fiscal responsibility paid big rewards. Lesson learned-right?
Wrong. Some people took the wrong lesson from what went right.
One of them ran for President in 2000.
George W. Bush told America we really could have it all: massive tax cuts for the wealthiest people; lots of spending on education; Social Security, saved for another generation; and big budget surpluses as far as the eye could see.
[b]FDR ran on the New Deal. Harry Truman promised a Fair Deal.
George W. Bush ran on the Free Lunch. [/b]
The Free Lunch, it turns out, was a bunch of baloney.
That's what Mr. Bush campaigned on-the free lunch. He told Americans we could have everything he promised, and his administration would still run a surplus. In 1999, when Mr. Bush started running for President, he said, and I quote, "We can show Washington how to handle a budget surplus."
Unfortunately, that's one promise he kept. Just like he said he would, President Bush has frittered away the greatest budget surplus in American history.
But there were other promises Mr. Bush didn't keep. When he took office, it became clear he didn't have any plans for paying down the national debt; he didn't have any plans for saving Social Security; and he didn't have any plans to pay for his education program.
All he had was his massive tax cut. Three of them, actually. One after the other, each benefiting most those who didn't need it - the wealthiest Americans.
The typical family received $50 a month from the Bush tax cuts. The wealthiest Americans only got $5,000 a month. And ask any of them - they didn't need it. The cost was greatest to those who needed it most: our children and our seniors. And it was borrowed money - that our children will have to repay.
The White House said the tax cuts would restore our economy - and not to worry about the cost. [b]But that was the first of many shifting positions.
First the White House said there would be no deficit.
Then they said there would be a small deficit-"small and short-term."
They said there would be a big deficit, but they could make it disappear.
And finally - now get this - they actually began saying that deficits don't matter.[/b]
What does it say about our values when in 2004 we can borrow $50 billion for tax cuts for the most privileged - those who don't need it - but we can't afford basic funding for emergency responders?
What does it say about our values when we can borrow to provide $100,000 tax cuts for the typical millionaire -- but we can't afford to pay for airport security ... or to stand by the veterans who've always stood by our country ... or our children's education under the Leave No Child Behind Act ... or to fund AmeriCorps. What does it say when the President asks men and women to give up their jobs to fight in Iraq.
It doesn't say anything good!
It's a tale of two numbers: in early 2001, the ten-year budget surplus was projected to be more than $5 trillion. But after tax cuts, a recession, and the cost of the war on Iraq, the ten-year projection is now for a deficit of $5 trillion-a swing of about $10 trillion. Not million, not billion. But $10 trillion.
Now, the White House tells us that they couldn't have predicted there'd be a terrorist strike on our soil, and couldn't have predicted that we'd have two wars. And of course that's true. But one of the wars was their choice - and unnecessary!
And what Mr. Bush did, by pushing his tax cuts, was to leave America unprepared for the challenges that came-and the challenges still to come. Like the cost of the retirement of the Baby Boomers-of paying for their Social Security and Medicare. We've seen that coming for a long time.
Mr. Bush turned his back on a winning strategy.
He slashed taxes for the rich, instead of reducing the national debt that we, and especially our children, all end up paying for. He tried to privatize Social Security, not to save it. He protects special interests instead of protecting the environment. He doesn't understand what America stands for.
Last month, I visited an American Airlines maintenance facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The company's three major unions recently agreed to $1.8 billion in concessions to help keep the airline afloat. Some of the employees volunteered to take up to a 17 percent pay cut to just hold their jobs -- even at the cost of personal bankruptcy.
At the same time the unions were making these sacrifices, the airline was giving management huge retention bonuses. Well, when word got out, that was bad for business. But it's also bad for America - for our sense of justice and fair play, and self-respect.
The America I believe in doesn't abandon its workers. It doesn't abandon its obligations to its oldest citizens, people who have worked hard all their lives.
The America I believe in doesn't saddle our children, and their children, with a crushing burden of debt.
A group of business executives recently warned that long-term deficits could mean that for the first time in American history, a generation of children will be worse off than their parents. That's the opposite of the American dream I grew up believing in.
[b]What I Believe[/b]
So they've shown us their principles and priorities. So now I want to tell you about mine. Over the coming weeks in this campaign, I'm going to set out more specifics of my plans to restore our economy. But today I want to give you some sense of the bottom-line principles beneath all my proposals.
First, I believe in economic opportunity for all Americans.
I believe there are few things more important to a person's dignity, to a family's security, and to our nation's prosperity than the chance to engage in honest labor and to earn a decent living doing it. That is why we need to do whatever is necessary to create jobs and restart America's economic engines.
Last month I detailed my proposals to do just that: by reducing the tax cuts Mr. Bush gave to the richest Americans, we can invest the savings in, number one, funding jobs that improve our homeland security; number two, giving fiscal relief to states so that they don't have to increase tuition and property taxes; and number three, creating a new job creation tax credit that will reduce the cost for a business to hire a new employee.
The government cannot create millions of jobs. But if the government establishes the right conditions and incentives, I have no doubt that America's businesses, large and small, can.
If our country is going to compete we have to do more to develop our human potential. We should help every citizen to "be all he or she can be."
We must promote continuing education to help everyone harness the benefits of change. And each American needs access to the health care, child care, and retirement security they need in order to live productive lives.
That's what it will take to achieve economic opportunity for all.
Let me go on.
Second, I believe in economic growth that benefits all Americans.
I believe we should pursue pro-growth policies that value what actually drives growth-not consumption by the wealthy, but meeting the needs of ordinary Americans driven by the hard work, energy, and innovation of highly skilled Americans, in a climate that rewards investment and entrepreneurship, and promotes the R&D, the innovation and risk-taking, that is the engine of economic growth.
To encourage growth, savings, and capital formation, we need a tax system that is simpler, fairer, more progressive, and more pro-growth. I am currently studying options to reform the tax code, and will put forth my ideas in the coming weeks.
And we need markets to work better. Investors need more accurate information; they need to know that companies are doing what they say they're doing.
If we want markets that inspire trust among small, everyday investors, as well as markets that foster innovation and competition, it's going to take principled leadership by business.
The choice between government and markets is a false one. We need sound governmental policy that sets the right rules of the game-common sense rules that don't impede the markets, but make them work more fairly and openly and efficiently, so that our economy will never be weakened again by the collapse of integrity we have seen in the Enron era.
But we have to be realistic, restoring integrity and trust will take -- and can only happen -- with the sustained efforts of a President who is truly committed to reform.
Today America is asking companies and financial markets to be open about their activities, when the Bush administration itself refuses to come clean on everything from the budget to weapons of mass destruction.
And growth is not only about markets here at home. For the first time in American history, as the markets in China and India mature and the European Union consolidates its economies, the United States will be facing integrated markets that are larger than its own.
Globalization presents an enormous opportunity. But we cannot harness that potential if our workers don't get the education and training they need -- and if we don't have a President who shows the leadership to insure that other nations play by the rules.
Third, I strongly believe that we need to take responsibility for our future.
We have to get our fiscal house in order.
Today, I'm releasing a plan to save more than $2 trillion over the next decade to cut the deficit in each and every year. And to invest in our most important priorities - from health care to education ... from citizen service to the environment.
My "Saving for America's Future" plan starts by bringing the basic value of responsibility back to Washington. We just can't have new spending proposals without saying how we're going to pay for it. It's not that complicated of an idea -- but somehow people have forgotten it.
When in you're in a hole, stop digging. This country is in a pretty deep hole. And I have a plan to get us out.
My plan saves money in four major areas:
First, we need to fix the failed Bush tax plan. It's not working, it's not creating jobs, and it's not turning our economy around.
We need tax reform that asks the wealthiest Americans - those making more than $200,000 -- to give up the windfall they received under the Bush tax cuts. These tax cuts are weighing down our economy and mortgaging our children's futures.
Second, we need to take a hard look at spending in Washington to see where cuts are possible and find places where we can streamline government and improve efficiency. On defense, I will support every dime we need to keep America strong. But I will never tolerate billions of dollars of waste or inefficiency just because it has a military label on it. We should have the same standards with our domestic spending.
Third, we must get rid of corporate welfare and tax loopholes. These loopholes aren't just a waste of taxpayer's money, they're also bad for business. They encourage businesses to seek handouts instead of looking for better productivity.
Just look at the President's energy bill. It's a bill written by -- and for - special interests, like America's largest energy companies. It's a bill that's more pork than policy. It's a bill that represents the worst political impulse.
Finally, we need to fix the way we do business in Iraq. Bush has taken us to an elective war and has already asked for more than $150 billion to pay for it. Even worse, Mr. Bush has failed to enlist other nations to share the financial burden. And he's spent this money by giving contracts out to his friends, without using a basic competitive bidding process.
As president, I will work overtime to line up international support in Iraq and demand that American taxpayers get the best possible value for the money we spend. It's not just smart policy or good politics. It's the right thing to do.
Achieving these savings won't be easy - and they're not enough to solve all our problems. But they're a necessary first step to putting our country back on the right path.
Because deficits do matter-they erode our ability to meet our priorities today, from homeland security to health care; and, worst of all, they saddle our children and our grandchildren with this administration's irresponsibility.
The choice they pose between immediate needs, like growth, and long-term needs, like solvency, is a false one-what we do to restore fiscal discipline for the long haul will also do a lot right now to generate investor confidence and create jobs. It's not a trade-off if we do it right.
Fiscal responsibility will get our economy moving forward again. It's the smart decision for all our people.
Taking responsibility for the future also means protecting our environment. America should never sacrifice its great natural wonders for the sake of special interests.
The irony is, what the administration is doing is actually undermining America's long-term economic strength-when, as we saw in the 1990s, by promoting clean energy technologies and alternative energy sources you can have economic growth while protecting the environment.
But to do all this, we must pull together - Democrats, Independents, people who've never voted, even some of my Republican friends. I believe that to restore our economic strength, we must all work together under the banner of New American Patriotism - putting our country first above private interests - putting our country first above personal gain - putting our country first for the sake of our children and grandchildren.
The next President will have to chart the course toward a better America. And we can't navigate without a compass, whether it's war and peace or the economy. That's what I want to do as president: to point this country back in the right direction.
But the real work, as always, will be done by the people of this country. By people like you. That's what the New American Patriotism is about. That's the spirit I will summon in this campaign-and in the White House, if I'm privileged enough to earn your vote.
The New American Patriotism is not just about matters of war and peace; it's about jobs and growth and hope right here at home. It's about taking responsibility for our shared future. It's about reclaiming what's been lost, but also about building a better future for all our children.
That's the campaign I'm waging-and I urge you to enlist. Join us. Join us in restoring the American Dream for all Americans.