Obama Delivers Remarks at a Chester, Pa. Rally

CQ Transcript Wire
Tuesday, October 28, 2008; 12:22 PM


[*] (JOINED IN PROGRESS) OBAMA: A little bit of rain never hurt anybody. Although I've got to say that I saw Ed Rendell backstage and his teeth were chattering. This is an unbelievable crowd for this kind of weather. Thank you so much. (APPLAUSE)

And I just want all of you to know that if we see this kind of dedication on election day, there is no way that we're not going to bring change to America. By the way, I notice that a couple of you have these signs saying stop global warming. This is probably not the weather to hold up those signs.

I mean, I'm not into global warming, either, but, you know, it's a little chilly today. Listen, I want to thank Governor Rendell and all the elected officials who have been so supportive in this campaign. And I want to start off with just two words, one week, one week.

After decades of broken politics in Washington, after eight years of failed policies from George Bush, after 21 months of a campaign that's taken us from the rocky coasts of Maine to the sunshine of California, we are one week away from bringing about change in America.


In one week you can turn the page on policies that have put greed and irresponsibility before hard work and sacrifice. In one week you can choose policies that invest in our middle class to create new jobs and grow our economy from the bottom up so that everybody has the chance to succeed, from the CEO to the secretary, from the factory owner to the men and women who work on the factory floor.

In one week you, all of you, can put an end to the politics that would divide the nation just to win an election, that tries to pit region against region and city against town and Republican against Democrat. We can put an end to the kind of politics that's put fear ahead of hope. In one week at this defining moment in history you can give this country the change that we need. That's what you can do.


You know, we began this journey on a day that was actually a little worse than today. It was seven degrees outside, 22 months ago on the steps of the old state capital in Springfield, Illinois. And back then we didn't have much money, and we didn't have many endorsements. We weren't given much of a chance in the polls or by the pundits. We knew how steep this climb was going to be.

But I also knew this. I knew that the size of our challenges had outgrown the smallness of our politics. I believed that Democrats and Republicans and Americans of every political stripe - they were hungry. They were desperate for new ideas and new leadership and a new kind of politics, one that favors common sense over ideology, one that focuses on those values and ideals that we hold in common as Americans. And most of all, I believed in you, your ability to make change happen. I knew that the American people...

(APPLAUSE) ... I knew that the American people were a decent people and a generous people who are willing to work hard and sacrifice on behalf of future generations. And I was convinced that if all of us came together, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight, disabled, not disabled - it doesn't matter. If we came together, then our voices would be more powerful than the most entrenched lobbyists or the most vicious political attacks or the full force of the Washington status quo. I knew we could bring back change together.

And 21 months later my faith in the American people has been vindicated. That's how we've come so far so close, because of you. That's how we're going to change this country, because of you. And that's why in this last week we cannot afford to slow down or to sit back or to let up, whether it's rain or sleet or snow. We are going to go out, and we are going to vote because it's too much at stake.

There is too much at stake right now for us to back off. We are going to keep on going until we finish the job.

You know, just yesterday we learned that despite the current crisis in the economy, you know, despite the fact that we're in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the great Depression and that 760,000 workers have lost their jobs so far this year, despite the fact that businesses and families can't get credit and home values are falling and pensions are disappearing and wages are lower now than they've been in a decade - despite all this, Wall Street bank executives are set to walk away with billions in bonuses at the end of this year.

Now, they might call that a bonus on Wall Street, but here in Pennsylvania, we call that an outrage. And they shouldn't be able to get away with it. We can't afford four more years of the same tired, old theory that says we should give more and more to billionaires and millionaires and hope that prosperity trickles down on everybody else. That's the failed theory that got us into this mess. It hasn't worked. It's time for a change, and that's why I'm running for president of the United States of America.


Now, in the closing days of this campaign, my opponent's trying to distance himself from President Bush, despite the fact that he's faithfully supported him 90 percent of the time. He supported four out of the five of the Bush budgets that have taken us from surplus under the Clinton years to the largest deficit in history. John McCain's ridden shotgun as George Bush has driven our economy towards a cliff. And now he wants to take the wheel and step on the gas.

And when it comes to the issue of taxes, saying that John McCain is running for a third Bush term isn't being fair to George Bush. He's proposing $300 billion in new tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations. That's not something even George Bush proposed. Not even George Bush proposed another $700,000 in tax cuts to the average Fortune 500 CEO. Not even George Bush proposed a plan that would leave 100 million middle-class families out of tax relief. That's not change. Change is a middle-class tax cut for 95 percent of workers and their families. Change is eliminating income taxes for seniors making under $50,000 a year and giving homeowners and working parents a break.

Change is eliminating the capital gains tax for the small businesses that are the engines of job creation in this country. That's what I want to do. That's why I'm running for president of the United States. That's why I want your vote.


The fact is there is only one candidate with a plan that could eventually raise taxes on middle-class families. And it isn't me. It's John McCain, who would make you pay taxes on your health care benefits for the first time in history.

Now, it's true that I want to roll back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans, go back to the rate they paid under Bill Clinton. But make no mistake, if you make less than $250,000 a year - how many make less than $250,000? Raise your hands.

Actually, it's juts about everybody here. But you want to keep your hands in your pocket. It's too cold. If you make less than $250,000 a year, and that includes, by the way, 98 percent of small businesses and 99.9 percent of plumbers, you will not see your taxes increase one single dime, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains tax, not your income tax, no tax. Because the last thing you need is higher taxes when we're in a recession like this. And you won't get one under an Obama administration.


Let me tell you, in the end the choice isn't between tax cuts or no tax cuts. Both John McCain and I want to give tax cuts. The question is who we're going to give it to. Whether you believe we should just reward wealth or whether we should also reward work and the workers who create wealth. It's about whether you believe in an America where opportunity and success is open to all people and not just some people, everybody who's willing to work for it. And that's the kind of America that I want to build when I'm president of the United States of America.


Pennsylvania, we have tried it John McCain's way. We've tried it George Bush's way. It hasn't worked. And deep down, John McCain knows it hasn't worked, which is why his campaign said that if we talk about the economy then we lose.

Well, let me tell you. This campaign is not about John McCain losing. It's about Americans losing their homes and losing their jobs and losing their health care and losing their pensions. And we are going to make sure that we reverse that because I can take another seven days of attacks from John McCain, but the American people can't take the kinds of economic policies that have created this mess for another four years. That's why I'm running for president of the United States.


OBAMA: You know, they are trying to throw everything at the book. They are trying to throw everything at me in these last seven days. But you know what? It's not going to work, not this time, not now. Because the fact that all of you are here today shows how badly you want change, shows how committed you are.


Now, let me tell you this. I know these are difficult times. I know these are difficult times. But I want to remind everybody we faced difficult times before. We faced bad weather before. We've faced clouds in the sky before. You know, but one of the things about the American people is that it's precisely when things are hard that we rise up.

It's precisely during those times where it looks like we're giving up hope that we stand together. It's about rejecting fear and division for unity of purpose. That's how we overcame war and great depression. That's how we won the great struggles for civil rights and women's rights and workers' rights. And that's how we're going to emerge from this crisis, stronger and more prosperous than we were before.

Remember we've got the most talented workers on Earth. We're the home of innovation and technology and some of the finest colleges and universities that are the envy of the world. Some of the biggest ideas in history have come from our small businesses and our research facilities. So there's no reason that we can't make this century another American century. We just need a new direction. We just need a new politics.

Now, I don't think that government can solve all of our problems. And I know you don't, either. But I do believe that government should be able to do what we cannot do for ourselves, to provide for our national defense, to keep us from harm, to provide a decent education for every child, not just some children, to invest in new roads and new bridges and drive the innovation and the growth that we need for all Americans to succeed.

We should make sure that businesses, even as we're encouraging the free market, that they're living up to their responsibilities to their workers and to their communities and that they're not laying people off without somehow thinking about how they're going to take care of these workers, how pensions are protected and people are living up to the promises that they've made to workers who worked in a plant for 20 or 30 or 40 years and suddenly these companies are going into bankruptcy and CEO's are getting million dollar pensions and folks are losing -- million dollar bonuses and folks are losing their pensions. There's something wrong about that.

You know, we should ensure that everybody has a chance to success, not just people with money and people with power and people with influence, but every single person. You know, that's how we've always grown the American economy, not from the top down, but from the bottom up. And that's the kind of change that we need to bring to America right now.


So let me just lay out for you - because I want everybody to get inside. I don't want people to be so cold you end up not being able to vote. Let me describe for you the new direction that we need to take and what a new politics means.

If we're going to get through this crisis, we need to get beyond the old ideological debates and divides between left and right. We don't need bigger government or smaller government, we need more competent government. We need a government that upholds our values.

We don't have to choose between allowing the financial system to collapse and spending billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out a Wall Street bank. As president, I'm going to make sure that this financial rescue plan helps stop foreclosures and protects your money instead of protecting CEO's and enriching CEO's.

And I'm going to put in place common sense regulations that I've been calling for throughout this campaign so that Wall Street can never cause a crisis like this again. That's the change that we need.


When it comes to jobs, the choice is not between putting up a wall around America and allowing every job to disappear overseas. The truth is we're going to have to compete in this global economy. We won't be able to bring back every single job that has left. But we can stop doing what John McCain wants to keep doing and giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas. We need to give tax breaks to companies that are investing right here in the United States of America.


I want to give a tax credit to every American company that is creating a new job here in America, eliminate capital gains taxes for small businesses so they're creating more jobs. And I want to invest, create 2 million jobs rebuilding the infrastructure of America, our roads, our bridges, laying broadband lines in rural communities. And we need to invest, finally, in a new energy economy, $15 billion a year so that we can open up factories rebuilding solar panels and creating wind turbines and creating the fuel-efficient cars of the future, not in South Korea, not in Japan, but right here in Pennsylvania, right here in the United States of America. That's the change we need.

When it comes to health care, we don't have to choose between a government-run health care system and the unaffordable one that we have now. If you've got health care, then we're not going to change anything, except for we're going to lower your premiums. If you don't have health care, you're going to be able to buy the same kind of health care that members of Congress give themselves.


And we are going to make sure that insurance companies can no longer discriminate against those who are sick and need care the most by calling it a preexisting condition. We're going to make sure that everybody gets the coverage that they need. That's the change we need in America.


When it comes to giving every child a world-class education so they can compete in the global economy for the 21st century, the choice isn't between more money and more reform. We need both. I am going to invest in early childhood education to make sure that every child gets a good start. And we are going to pay our teachers higher salaries and give them more support in exchange for higher standards.

And let me make a commitment to all the young people that are here today. If you are willing to invest in community service or national service, if you're willing to serve in our military or serve in the Peace Corps, work in a veterans' home or work in a homeless shelter, whatever service you choose, then we will guarantee that every single one of you can go to college. And you are going to have your tuition covered, no if's, and's or but's.


Now, let me tell you something. We're also going to have to change our foreign policy. Some of these changes that we're talking about are going to cost money. And when people ask you, well, how are we going to pay for some of this, you just remind them that we are spending $10 billion a month in Iraq. And if we can spend $10 billion a month in Iraq, we can spend some money right here in Pennsylvania putting Americans back to work.


But we're going to also have to do more than that. You know, I won't stand here and pretend that what changes I'm talking about are going to be easy, especially now. The cost of the economic crisis, the cost of the war in Iraq means that Washington is going to have to tighten its belt just like you have had to tighten your belts in your family.

It means that we're going to have to put off spending on some things that we need, and we're going to have to eliminate things that we don't need. And that's why as president I'm going to go through this federal budget line by line. We are going to stop wasting money in Washington. We've got too much to do to waste money on programs that don't work.

OBAMA: But as I said from the day this journey began, the change we need isn't just about new programs and new policies. It's about a new politics, a politics that calls on our better angels instead of encouraging our worst instincts, one that reminds us of our obligations that we have, not just to ourselves, but to each other. Part of the reason that this economic crisis happened is because we've been living through an era of profound irresponsibility.

On Wall Street easy money and an ethic of greed blinded executives to the dangers they were creating for the entire financial system. On Main Street lenders tricked people into buying homes they couldn't afford. And some people went ahead and bought homes that they couldn't afford.

In Washington politicians spent money they didn't have and allowed lobbyists to set the agenda. They scored political points instead of solving problems. And that's why these last eight years - what we've lost can't just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. We've also lost the idea that in this American story each of us has a role to play. Each of us has responsibilities to work hard and look after ourselves and our families. And each of us has responsibilities to look after each other. That's what's been lost, a sense of higher purpose, a sense of common purpose.

Yes, government has to lead the way on education. But I can't be a parent to your child. You've got to turn off the TV set and make sure your child does their homework.


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