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McCain Delivers Remarks at the National Small Business Summit

CQ Transcriptswire
Tuesday, June 10, 2008 12:50 PM

SPEAKER: SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Thank you. Thank you very much for that very warm welcome.

And thank you, Meg, for your kind remarks. And most of all, thank you for the enormous contribution that you have made to America and small and large businesses alike.

I know that many of you in this room know that eBay 10 or 12 years ago had, I think, five employees. And now 1.3 million people around the world make a living off eBay. A remarkable story, under the leadership of a great American entrepreneur, Meg Whitman. And I know she addressed you earlier, so you know a lot about her.

I appreciate your hospitality. I appreciate the great work of the National Federation of Independent Business, the spokesperson for small businesses and entrepreneurs all over America.

And I'm honored. I'm honored to be in the company of so many men and women who represent the best of American enterprise.

You know, I've never run a small, struggling enterprise, unless you count my presidential campaign last year.

(LAUGHTER)

But I do know that, more than anything else, small businesses are what make the American economy run. You're the ones who take the risks, often with little start-up money and nothing to fall back on. You're the ones who do most of the innovating in this country and most of the hiring, too.

For women, for immigrants, for people of every background, small businesses are the path to success and to the American dream. And I congratulate you for it.

And congratulate yourselves, please.

(APPLAUSE)

PROTESTER: (OFF-MIKE) war is bad for small business!

MCCAIN: You know, one of the...

PROTESTER: (OFF-MIKE) dollars a second! Imagine the investments in small business!

MCCAIN: You know, one of the things that Americans are tired of...

PROTESTER: (OFF-MIKE)

MCCAIN: One of the things they're tired of is people yelling at each other in America. Have you noticed that?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

They want us to respect each other's opinions. They want to share our views, and our hopes, and our dreams, and our aspirations, and our fears right now. I don't have to tell you that right now. Americans want a dialogue. They want a dialogue. And that's what I've had the great honor of working with NFIB and with you for so many years.

My friends, in this very tough time for our economy and for workers and families across our country, job creation among small businesses is crucial. The African-American and the Hispanic-American small business communities are one of the fastest-growing segments of our economy. And that's the credit -- credit to the entrepreneurs of America, and America's prosperity depends on your success.

Job creation is just one reason why the government should never take the hard work, sacrifices, and earnings of small businesses for granted, never. As president, my goal will be to get our economy running at full strength again. And that starts by supporting small businesses across this nation, the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

Now that I know who I'll be...

PROTESTER: (OFF-MIKE)

MCCAIN: You know, in the words of...

PROTESTER: (OFF-MIKE)

MCCAIN: You remember -- you know, one of my political memories was when Ronald Reagan said, "There you go again. There you go again."

(LAUGHTER)

Now that we know who I'll be facing in the general election...

(LAUGHTER)

... you can't make it up...

(LAUGHTER)

... in the general election, the real debate over economic policy can begin. And, as you know, it's begun in earnest.

As you may have heard, Senator Obama and I might -- and I hope -- will be meeting soon in a series of town hall discussions, just the two of us, direct conversation with voters.

No need to turn it into a big, media-run production, with process questions from reporters, a spin room, and all the rest of it. Just to keep things friendly, I also suggested that my opponent and I travel to these town hall meetings together in the same plane. I promise not to try to fly it.

(LAUGHTER)

So we need the town hall meeting. You just saw the example. Let's stop yelling at each other. Let's stop having sound bites and process questions...

(APPLAUSE)

... and those things. The American people want a respectful and civilized discussion, and who knows better? Who knows better how to ask those questions and express their hopes and dreams and aspirations but citizens of this country, particularly those in small business?

Our disagreements in these town hall meetings, as I said, will be civil and friendly, but their differences will be clear for all to see. On tax policy, health care reform, trade, government spending, a long list of other issues, we offer very different choices to the American people. And those choices will have very different consequences for American workers and small business owners.

No matter which of us wins in November, there will be change in Washington. The question is: What kind of change?

Will we go back to the policies of the '60s and '70s that failed? Or will we go forward?

Will we enact the largest single tax increase since the Second World War, as my opponent proposes, or will we keep taxes low -- low -- for families and employers? That's a question that will be asked.

This election offers Americans a very distinct choice...

PROTESTER: (OFF-MIKE)

MCCAIN: I'm running out of funny lines.

(LAUGHTER)

My friends, this election offers Americans a very distinct choice about what kind of change we'll have. We'll have change, but a very distinct choice about what kind of change that will be. This is especially true for the small business community.

Let me speak to you about the change I'll seek.

As president, I intend to act quickly and decisively to promote growth and opportunity. I intend to keep the current low income and investment tax rate. I intend to keep them, not repeal them.

(APPLAUSE)

I'll pursue tax reform that supports the wage earners and job creators who make this economy run and help them to succeed in a global economy.

Serious reform is needed to help American companies compete in international markets. I've proposed a reduction in the corporate tax rate from the second highest in the world to one on par with our trading partners, to keep businesses and jobs in this country, in this country. If you give...

(APPLAUSE)

If you give American corporations the highest tax rates or the second highest tax rates in the world, they're going to go some place where they're lower. We need to lower that tax rate.

We need to imitate our friends, the Irish, as a matter of fact. It might not be a bad beginning.

One of the most crucial economic issues in this campaign is the ability of American workers to benefit from exports to other nations and how government policy can help them to do so. And here, too, I welcome the debate with the Democratic nominee.

I want to break down foreign trade barriers, break them down, so that America's small businesses can compete abroad, not build them up. When new trading partners can sell in our market and American companies can sell in theirs, the gains are great and lasting.

The strength of the American economy offers a better life to every society we trade with. And the good comes back to us in many, many ways: in better jobs, higher wages, and lower prices.

Free trade can also give once-troubled and impoverished nations a stake in the world economy and in their relations with the United States of America.

At the same time, we must -- we must -- help displaced workers at every turn on a tough road so that they're not just spectators on the opportunities of others. And I've made that commitment. I've made that commitment with reforms to expand and improve federal aid to American workers in need.

We must do it. We need to help millions of workers who have lost a job that won't come back and find a new one that won't go away. And you're the ones who will do that.

Unfortunately, Senator Obama has a habit of talking down the value of our exports and trade agreements. He even proposed -- he even proposed a unilateral -- a unilateral -- renegotiation of NAFTA, our agreement with Canada and Mexico that accounts for 33 percent of American exports.

We have a sharp disagreement here that I look very much forward to debating.

If I'm elected president, this country will honor its international agreements, including NAFTA, and we will expect the same of others. And in a time of uncertainty for American workers, we won't undo the gains of years in trade agreements now awaiting final approval, including that one with Colombia.

As we expand markets for Americans products, we must do more tax reform here at home. I will reform taxes in America, my friends, and I will propose and sign into law a reform to permit the first-year expensing of new equipment and technology. You must have that now.

(APPLAUSE)

We're also going to keep the low rate on capital gains so that businesses like yours can expand and create jobs, instead of just sending more of your earnings to the government.

(APPLAUSE)

I don't want to send any more of your earnings to the government, my friends.

And so parents can spend and save more for their own children, I'll propose to double the size of the child tax exemption, double it. I will also propose, as well, a middle-class tax cut, a phase-out of the alternative minimum tax to save more than 25 million middle-class Americans...

(APPLAUSE)

... save more than 25 middle-class families as much as $2,000 in a single year.

Another one of my disagreements with Senator Obama concerns the estate tax -- better known to you as the "death tax" -- he proposes to increase to a top rate of 55 percent.

The estate tax is one of the most unfair tax laws on the books. And the first step to reform is to keep it predictable and keep it low.

(APPLAUSE)

After a lifetime building up a business and paying taxes on every dollar that business earns, that asset shouldn't be subjected to a confiscatory tax. You know that better than I do.

It's not enough, however, to make little fixes here and there in the tax code, especially if you're a small business owner filing under the individual tax. What we need is a simpler, fairer, and flatter tax code.

As president, I will propose an alternative tax system. When this reform is enacted, all who wish to file under the current system could still do so. And everyone else could choose a vastly less complicated system with two tax rates and a generous standard deduction.

Americans do not resent paying their fair share of taxes. What they do resent -- and especially if they're trying to run a business -- is being subjected to thousands of pages of needless and often irrational rules and demands from the IRS.

(APPLAUSE)

Sadly, we know from experience that no serious reform of the current tax code will come out of Congress, so now it's time to turn the decision over to the American people. We're going to create a new and simpler tax system, give the American people a choice.

Senator Obama's plans would add to the difficulties of small business in other ways, too. Currently, there are 21.6 million sole proprietorships filing under the individual income tax. When Senator Obama talks about raising income tax rates on those making over $250,000, that includes these businesses, as well.

He also proposes increases in dividend and capital gains taxes. Under Senator Obama's tax plan, Americans of every background would see their taxes rise: seniors, parents, small business owners, and just about everyone who has even a modest investment in the market.

He proposes to eliminate or drastically increase the Social Security's earnings cap, the Social Security earnings cap small business people in this room are very familiar with. And that would dramatically increases the taxes on you and employers.

He proposes to eliminate the secret ballot for union votes and to raise the minimum wage and then index it, which is a sure way to add to your costs and to slow the creation of new jobs.

You work hard in small businesses to grow and create new jobs and opportunities for others, and the federal government shouldn't make your work any harder.

(APPLAUSE)

Let me talk to you for a minute about health care. As for health care policy, I believe the best way to help small businesses and employers afford health care is not to increase government control of health care, but to bring the rising costs of care under control and give people the option of having personal, portable health insurance. We have...

(APPLAUSE)

We have the highest quality health care in the world, the United States of America. It's the affordability and portability, not the quality, and certainly the federal government cannot run the health care system in America, in my view, with efficiency.

(APPLAUSE)

As it is, the traditional tax subsidy that supports private insurance is concentrated on a subset of American workers and a portion of our businesses. My health care reform would end that unfair bias in the law, while helping to make health insurance more affordable for every single American.

We're going to offer every individual and family in America a large tax credit, refundable tax credit, to buy their health care so that their health insurance is theirs to keep even when they move or change jobs.

My plan would allow those who want to stick with employer- provided health insurance to do so. But I want to give individuals greater choice, rather than give small business no choice at all.

(APPLAUSE)

For too long, government has been the voice of big business, not small business. And to make matters worse, even when very large businesses violate their trust, they seem to be held to a different standard, getting away with conduct that would leave any small business owner broke.

We need rules that assure fairness and punish wrongdoing in the market and hold every business person in America to the same fair standards. In times of...

(APPLAUSE)

In times of hardship and distress, we should be more vigilant than ever in holding corporate abuses to account, as in the case of the housing market. Americans are right to be offended when the extravagant salaries and severance deals of CEOs -- in some cases, the very same CEOs who helped bring on these market troubles -- bear no relation to the success of the company or the wishes of the stockholders.

Something is seriously wrong when the American people are left to bear the consequences of reckless corporate conduct, while the offenders themselves are packed off with another $40 million or $50 million for the road.

If I'm elected president, I intend to see that wrongdoing of this kind is called to account by federal prosecutors. And under my reforms, all aspects of a CEO's pay, including any severance arrangements, must be approved by the shareholders, should be approved by the shareholders.

In so many ways, we need to make a clean break from the worst excesses of both political parties. And for Republicans, it starts with reclaiming our good name as the party of spending restraint. We've got to reclaim that good name as Republicans.

(APPLAUSE)

Somewhere along the way, too many Republicans in Congress became indistinguishable from the big-spending Democrats that they used to oppose. The only power of government that could stop them was the power of the veto, and it was rarely used.

If that authority is entrusted to me, I will use the veto as needed. I will veto every single beer -- bill with earmarks.

(LAUGHTER)

And every single bill that we have come across my desk, I will make them famous. I will veto them. You will know their names.

I will seek a constitutionally valid line-item veto to end pork- barrel spending once and for all. (APPLAUSE)

Every bill. And I will lead broad reforms that remove the many corporate tax loopholes that are costly, unfair to smaller business competitors, and inconsistent with a free-market economy.

The recent $300 billion farm bill was a case in point. Family farmers are America's original small business owners, and many are struggling to survive. But, nowadays, small farmers have been forgotten, and instead the Congress sends a steady supply of subsidies to agribusinesses.

It would be hard to find any single bill that better sums up why so many Americans in both parties are so disappointed in their conduct of their government and at times so disgusted by it.

Even as American families struggle to buy food because of rising prices, Congress refuses to place real limits on farm subsidies or end tariffs on imports that drive grocery bills higher.

When both parties carry on like this, there's only one proper response: a presidential veto of every bill that has these pork- barrel projects on them. That's exactly what I will do as president with any bill that serves only the special interests and corporate welfare.

You have my commitment to it. I have fought for years. And I am proud never to have sought or obtained an earmark for my state of Arizona, and my state of Arizona is proud of me for it, and I'm grateful for that.

(APPLAUSE)

On my watch, there will be no more subsidies for special pleaders, no more corporate welfare, no more throwing around billions of dollars of the people's money on pet projects, while the people themselves are struggling to afford their homes, groceries and gas.

We're going to get our priorities straight in Washington, a clean break -- a clean break from years of squandered wealth and wasted chances.

To control spending, I'll also order a thorough review of the budgets of every single federal program, department and agency, and I will post the results of these reviews on the Internet for every single American to see.

(APPLAUSE)

While that review is underway, we will institute a one-year pause in discretionary spending increases with the necessary exemption of military spending and veterans benefits.

"Discretionary spending" is a term people throw around a lot in Washington, while actual discretion is seldom, if ever, exercised.

(LAUGHTER)

Instead, every program comes with a built-in assumption that it should go on forever and its budget increase forever. My administration will change that way of thinking.

We will ensure that federal spending serves the common interest, that failed programs are not rewarded, but reinvented or ended, and that discretionary spending is going where it belongs: to essential priorities like job training, the security of our citizens, and the care of our veterans.

These are among the many serious issues at stake in this election. All of these challenges and more will face the next president of the United States, and I will not leave them for some unluckier generation of leaders to deal with.

For too long, for too long, government has been more interested in protecting its budgets and its interests rather than the interests of small businesses and the family budget that depend on your growth. And partisanship in Washington is less focused on your future than it is on the next election.

My goal, my goal, however, is not to denigrate government, to make it better, not to deride it, but to restore its good name. Government should be on your side, not in your way.

It will be hard work, but it's a cause worthy of our best efforts. And if we do it well, in the right spirit, it will be because we have again put our country's interests before the interests of parties, bureaucracies, and self-interest. And then we will finally reclaim the confidence of the people we are so honored to serve.

Thank you, and God bless.

(APPLAUSE)

END

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