I am posting this speech for my 84-year old father, who is not on Kos, but very much wants to participate in the progressive online community, if only he knew how to type and use a computer. He has been a staunch liberal all his life. He has also lived in Arizona all his life, and has watched the state veer from Roosevelt to Goldwater, and now to Jan Brewer. This is the speech that he wishes President Obama would give (though, he adds, both Obama and Clinton gave at least some of it in their convention speeches). Well, I am his son, but wow, I think it's impressive for an 84-year old man to be this well informed. God bless that old man; his son loves him.
My fellow Americans,
My opponent, Mitt Romney, likes to define me as a president who did not create the financial crisis in America but rather as “one who has made it worse.” Let me count the ways I haven’t done this but first I must submit a short history lesson.
My predecessor, President George W. Bush, took office essentially by appointment, despite having lost both the popular and the electoral vote, as we now know. He inherited a balanced budget, a $200 billion surplus, unemployment below 6% and no ongoing wars. We had recently stopped a war in Bosnia without loss of a single American life.
President Bush, however, wanted to finish the first Gulf War and to do so used untruths, half-truths and emotional blackmail to force Congress to agree. As he put it, Iraq had nuclear weapons and our next warning might come in the form of a mushroom cloud. Mr. Bush, however, could not simply start a war with Iraq without a pretext, which he soon got.
About eight months after Mr. Bush’s appointment, a CIA agent went to Crawford, Texas, where the President was vacationing, to deliver a briefing bulletin stating that Osama bin Laden was determined to strike within the U.S. This warning was to be considered urgent. President Bush told the CIA agent to go home because he had "covered his ass.” Already, as we know, Bush had received several similar warnings. Yet he gave the bulletin to his counterterrorism advisor, Condoleeza Rice, who placed it in her desk without taking any action.
After the tragedy of 9/11, she was asked about this warning and why she hadn’t acted on it. Her answer was simple: It was “too general.” The bulletin did not give the location of the strike.
Her predecessor, Richard Clarke, who had been appointed by President Bush’s father, had been demoted from his position as counter-terrorism coordinator for the National Security Agency and never ever saw the bulletin. His reaction would probably have been to ask for everything the FBI, the CIA, or any other agency had that might pertain to the subject in any way. At the time, the FBI’s famous “Phoenix Memo” existed which questioned why young Middle Eastern men were taking flying lessons that did not include instructions on taking off or landing, even though international law would have barred them from being hired on an airline.
All in all, there were about 50 such warnings and there had even been two major plots foiled overseas (one in France and another in the Philippines) where Islamic terrorists had planned to fly aircraft into buildings. President Bush, it now turns out, received several briefings on the imminent Al Qaeda threat that he did not release to the 9/11 Commission, which was charged with finding out how and why the attack had occurred.
As I said, this is all academic since the 9/11 attack did take place and thousands died. We’ll never know if they would have been prevented but we can reasonably assume that leaders such as Al Gore and Richard Clarke would have acted on the warnings in a responsible way.
One of President Bush’s first acts in office, meanwhile, was to pass the “Bush Tax Cuts” by a process known as “reconciliation.” In other words, he passed the tax cuts by way of a parliamentary procedure that allowed emergency bills to pass in the U.S. Senate by 51 votes, with no possibility for a filibuster by the opposition. In 2001, his tax cuts passed, unfortunately, with some Democratic support, though not enough to have overcome a filibuster under ordinary Senate rules. Bush’s second massive tax cut—in 2003—also passed under “reconciliation,” with Vice President Cheney breaking a 50 to 50 Senate tie.
Neither tax cut was justified. They mostly profited millionaires. Neither were they paid for. Over the past eleven years, the cuts have cost the Treasury about $3 trillion. They now account for the second biggest part of our $1.6 trillion deficit. The first biggest is the cost of the two wars begun during the Bush administration. The unnecessary war in Iraq by itself has ended up costing between $3 and $5 trillion dollars, according to the Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz, even though President Bush estimate the cost at $60 billion. Not only did President Bush drastically underestimate the Iraq War’s cost, but he also kept that cost off the nation’s accounting books by financing it with emergency spending measures. When I took office I insisted that it be included as part of the deficit since the previous administration had hidden its cost by carrying it off the books.
Returning to the present, I often hear from right-leaning pundits that Congress is rated so low by the people (below 10% approval) because neither side will compromise. When I came into office, however, it was compromise that I hoped would prevail. In 2011, I appointed a bipartisan group of senators to work out a budget compromise and they came up with one which would have cut $2 trillion from the national debt over 10 years but would have also increased taxes on people making a million or more a year. Some of my supporters derided my so-called “catfood commission,” by which they meant that its proposals might threaten social programs and entitlements like Social Security and Medicare.
The commission in its final report recommended an increase in the upper tax rate to about 35% of income, which was still less than what millionaires paid when Mr. Bush took office. The commission’s proposal would have also increased capital gains taxes and the tax on investment income which is currently about 13%. Though I was not happy to see cuts made to important programs, I thought that deficit reduction was important enough that Congress should vote on the commission's proposals. The commission needed 14 votes (of 18 members) to take its proposals forward. It received only 11 votes. Among those voting against it was the current Republican candidate for Vice President, Paul Ryan. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we arrived at our present budgetary predicament.
My opponent, Mr. Romney, likes to present himself as a financial genius who can get us out of the mess he and his fellow Republicans helped bring about. This would be like a doctor who purposely made his patient sick just so he could heal them.
Yet it is difficult to trust a man who won’t even release his complete tax records for eight of the past ten years. Just from his returns from 2010 and 2011, we know he has paid only about 14% on his $14 million investment income, while we, the middle class, paid about the same rate or higher. For wealthy people like Mitt Romney, the effective tax rate (after write-offs and loopholes) has gone from 30% in 1960 to 15% today. The tax rate for middle-class families, meanwhile, has stayed almost exactly the same in that half century.
It is not just Mr. Romney’s tax rate that troubles me, but also the way he has made his money. He made a career as a corporate raider. His company, Bain Capital, was partially financed by rich Central Americans who were tied to the death squads in El Salvador. Without their investment, Romney could not have launched his company. So he went to work to make very bad people rich.
Bain Capital, although producing a few success stories, mostly bought and plundered companies forcing massive layoffs and the exportation of American jobs to China. Romney makes no apologies for destroying American companies, so I will apologize on his behalf.
Well, my fellow Americans, so much for history. I’m repeating these facts because, as a wise man once said, those who don’t know history may be doomed to repeat it. Needless to say, I am not a perfect president, far from it. I should have fought harder for a public option in my Affordable Health Care Act even though Congress probably wouldn’t have passed it. I am also guilty of accepting only a $787 billion stimulus package when experts such as Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman said it should have been double that. Maybe I could have also fought harder to get my 2011 jobs bill passed, which would have put teachers, fireman and policemen back to work while providing money for rebuilding our decaying roads and bridges. The Republicans in Congress said we couldn’t afford it.
In 1953 a great Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, with the help of a Democratic Congress, set out to build our interstate highway system in what was called the most massive construction program since the building of the Pyramids. It was also the most expensive in history, costing almost $123 billion in 1953 currency, which would equal about $450 billion today.
At that time, our debt to earnings ratio was far worse than our present debt to earnings ratio. Unemployment was high then too, but the massive building program got people back to work and had a ripple effect all over the world.
Today our great corporations are holding onto over $2 trillion that could be used for hiring. They claim the demand for their products isn’t there but it’s a simple fact that when you put people to work as President Eisenhower did, then we’ll not only pay taxes but also buy products, creating demand.
Unfortunately, this isn’t happening because those corporations are engaged with their Republican benefactors in a campaign to force me out of office no matter what the cost to the country and regardless of the human misery they bring about. Remember this—those people don’t suffer—you do. The Romneys, the Bushes, the shadowy Koch brothers, the Adelsons: they do not suffer. Neither do the health insurance CEOs making millions denying health care claims and constantly raising rates. They don’t suffer! Nor do corporations making the largest profits in history and often paying no taxes at all. No, they don’t suffer. And they don’t care who does. They seek to eliminate the regulations that I installed to stop them from plundering the public.
To do so they have to make me a one-term president no matter who they hurt in the process. As I said, I’m not perfect but I do care about your families and my family, too. We’re all in the same boat and it may even sink, if we let the people who created these problems get back in power so they can repeat history. As Mr. Romney admits, I did not create these problems. But he and his cronies did, and they have also blocked every positive thing I’ve tried to do that might bring us back to economic health. So I beg you, stay with me. Show these people that you do understand history and you’re not about to repeat it!