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Special Event

Al Gore Delivers Remarks in Muskegon, Michigan

Aired October 30, 2000 - 10:05 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Live this morning now, same city, Muskegon, Michigan, western edge along the lake there. Al Gore now at the podium.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... great friend, helping out.

(APPLAUSE)

One week from tomorrow, our country faces a big choice about the future, one of the biggest choices that we have faced in decades. One week from tomorrow, Americans will choose a new direction for our country, a new path for our people. There's a lot at stake in this election. We are truly at a fork in the road. We have to decide.

When I look to the future, I am filled with hope for our country. We've got a lot of good things going for Americans right now. There's never been a time of greater prosperity or greater opportunity for our future.

But the future is not something that just happens by itself. It is something we have to make for ourselves together. We choose the kind of future that we have. And one day every four years, the people have an opportunity to make that choice, to speak more loudly and clearly with more power than all of the special interests put together.

GORE: Eight days from today, you have to decide between two very different visions for the future -- eight days from today.

We were working hard all day yesterday, and I remember the old Beatles song, "Eight Days a Week."

(LAUGHTER)

There's eight days a week right now before the election. Make no mistake about it, on November the 7th, a week from tomorrow, prosperity itself will be on the ballot and the choice will be in your hands. Your one vote may well make the difference. Your one vote is more powerful on Tuesday, a week from tomorrow, than the voice of any powerful interests, more decisive than any campaign that can be waged. This election, as I say, represents a fork in the road when it comes to our economy. We can build on our prosperity and make sure it enriches all of our families and not just a few, or we can squander this moment and lose the best chance in a generation to secure the next American century.

There's a fork in the road when it comes to fiscal discipline. We can follow the lessons of the past, lessons we learned the hard way, to build a new future that is very bright for our country. We can have a smaller, smarter government that balances the budget every year, pays down and then pays off our debt, and gives tax cuts to the middle class, the families that need help the most in order to make their dreams come true. Or we can just repeat the past, like a broken record, letting the wealthiest Americans gorge themselves on tax cuts they don't really need and draining away the surplus that you worked so hard to build up.

I want you to know, I am not going to let us be dragged back to sky-high deficits that would drive interest rates through the roof and drive our economy into the ditch.

(APPLAUSE)

We're going to go forward, instead of backward, to a brighter future.

GORE: These are fundamental choices, and they're not just about numbers and budgets. They're about the character of our society. They're about who we decide we are as a people.

All Americans created this prosperity, and as president, I'll make sure it enriches all Americans. You deserve a president who champions all of the people and doesn't just cave in to the few.

And, yes, there is a fork in the road when it comes to who the candidates are fighting for. I'll stand up to the big insurance companies to pass a real patients' bill of rights that takes the medical decisions away from the HMOs and gives them back to the doctors and the nurses and the health care professionals.

(APPLAUSE)

I'll stand up to the pharmaceutical companies to pass a real prescription drug benefit for all seniors under Medicare. They need the help so they don't have to choose between medicine and food. I want to empower families and give you more choices and more opportunity for the future.

My opponent gives in to the powerful interests, and I believe his plans would leave millions of families worse off than they are today.

I'll move ahead with bold new ideas to clean up our environment, secure retirement savings for young and old, and make public education our number one national priority, so we lift up all children in all families. (APPLAUSE)

My opponent's idea of environmental protection is putting the big polluters in charge of our environmental laws and protecting the big polluters.

GORE: He wants to play games with your Social Security, and drain money away from our public schools.

Well, America has worked too hard and come too far to have our progress threatened and our prosperity put at risk. You deserve better than rubber checks to pay for runaway spending, and a rubber stamp for the powerful interests. We have to decide to make the difficult choices ourselves, the responsible choices to secure our future. We have to chose the hard right over the easy wrong in order to make America all America can become.

(APPLAUSE)

With your help, we will do precisely that. And that is especially true when it comes to the bedrock of our prosperity: balanced budgets and fiscal discipline.

I want you to know that I'm opposed to big government, and instead, I'm for a smaller, smarter government that serves people better, but offers real that serves people better, but offers real change and gives more choices to our families.

That's why I am proposing the next generation of fiscal discipline and government downsizing, balancing the budget every year and shrinking government to the smallest share of the economy in 50 years. I'll devote the single largest share of the surplus to debt reduction, to keep interest rates low and get government out of capital markets, so we don't crowd out businesses like we did in the '80s and early '90s.

These young kids who are here, when they graduate from college, we will be debt-free in America.

(APPLAUSE)

Debt-free so that they can move to the future with hope and optimism and build it for themselves.

And as president, I will not add to the number of people doing work for the federal government, not even by one position.

Let me be clear, continuing our strong economy is my overriding commitment. Everything else depends on it.

GORE: So I make this pledge: We will balance the budget and pay down the debt every year. And I will set aside $1 out of every $6 of the surplus unspent to ensure we can keep that commitment. Governor Bush has not made this pledge. He wants to change the very best things about the economic course that we are now on. He squanders the lion's share of the surplus, all that money painstakingly built up by hard-working American people, in tax cuts aimed mostly at the wealthiest of the wealthy. As a result, he puts off paying down the national debt. His plan endangers the strength of our economy, and the resources are not there to invest in other urgent needs for our families.

Consider the difference: For every dollar that I will invest in health care, he would spend $3 on tax cuts for people who earn an average of $1 million per year. Those are very different priorities, and they have a very different impact on our country.

For every dollar I will invest in education, he would spend $5 on tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent. In fact, he would give more in tax cuts just to the wealthiest 90,000 multi-millionaires than all of the new investments he proposed to make in all 90,000 public schools across United States of America.

Does anyone here think those are the right priorities for our country?

AUDIENCE: No.

GORE: That's just the beginning. He adds about half a trillion dollars in new spending. Then he proposes to privatize a major portion of Social Security, which would cost another trillion dollars. And incidentally, the task of just managing and administering that unwieldy privatization plan would, according to an independent study, add by itself between 50,000 and 100,000 new government employees.

GORE: The result of his overall plan would be a $1.1 trillion deficit, unraveling all of our progress in reining in government, and threatening our economic gains.

I have a different view. We should never again be saddled with huge deficits and runaway government that block the way to economic progress. I want to unlock the potential of the American people and build the economy even stronger, so that we can have even more jobs, and higher incomes, and so that nobody is left behind.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, I'll be straightforward about this; you need to know that I am proposing a much smaller overall tax cut than is Governor Bush -- $500 billion as opposed to $1.6 trillion. But because my proposed tax cut is smaller, the resources will be there both to pay down the debt and to invest in urgent priorities, like education and a clean environment.

Because my tax cut is smaller, I can target tax relief to the middle class and make sure you get it. You were the one who have the hardest time paying taxes, making car payments, making house payments, making ends meet, doing right by your kids, so you're the one who deserve tax cuts.

(APPLAUSE)

We shouldn't squander your surplus on tax cuts to the wealthiest of the wealthy.

(APPLAUSE)

People are working overtime, working longer hours, sometimes working two and three jobs. I see the heads nodding out here. That's what has helped to build up this prosperity. But you need a better chance to balance work and family. You need more time with your loved ones, with your children. You need this prosperity to work for you and for your families.

That's why I want to cut taxes to help pay for child care and long-term care. And that's why I want to make most college tuition tax deductible for middle class families...

(APPLAUSE)

... so that all families can afford to send their kids on to college.

(APPLAUSE)

GORE: Now, here is the heart of the matter: Both sides in this election have proposed targeted tax cuts.

Here's the difference: My plan targets its benefits to the middle class. Governor Bush's plan targets its benefits to the wealthiest of the wealthy.

They're the ones financing his campaign, for the most part. They're the ones who are most fond of the old theory that has been tried before that says, "If you give the resources mostly to those at the very top, eventually that'll work to the benefit of everyone else."

Well, we've been there and done that, and we're still paying the bill. And we're not going back to do that again. We're going to fight for the middle class families and the working men and women.

(APPLAUSE)

And we know that works.

I think the budget surplus is your money. It belongs to all of you, and so all Americans ought to share in the benefits.

We have to seize this moment to bring real change and give more choices to families. I'm fighting, for example, for a real patients' bill of rights, so that doctors and families make the medical decisions, not insurance companies and HMOs. I'm fighting for a prescription drug benefit for all seniors under Medicare, one that lets you keep the insurance you already have if that's what you want, but one that lets you choose your own doctor and your own local pharmacy, and nobody can take it away from you.

The drug industry plan that my opponent supports lets the HMOs and pharmaceutical companies veto your choice of a doctor and then veto your doctor's recommendation for what is best to treat you, improve your health and save your life.

GORE: That is morally wrong, in my opinion. We need to change that. We need to give the power back to you and give the choices back to the doctors.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm fighting to bring major change in public education, with more public school choice, more accountability and local control, and smaller class size to promote discipline, respect and learning, so every single family can choose a world-class public education for their children.

(APPLAUSE)

You know that's the key to the future, and teachers are the locksmiths who put those keys in the hands of the children. It's time to treat teachers like the professionals that they are and give them more one-on-one time with the students who need extra help, who might learn a different way.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm fighting for historic reforms in our retirement system so you can save and invest more, not at the expense of Social Security, but on top of Social Security, so we don't have to choose between giving younger workers higher returns and keeping our commitments to today's seniors. With fiscal responsibility and sound management foregoing the irresponsible idea of squandering the surplus in tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 percent, we can do both of these things and do them well.

And I'm fighting for a bold new commitment to our environment. I say to you today, we don't have to accept a future where pollution is considered the price of our prosperity.

(APPLAUSE)

We can have prosperity and this beautiful lake.

(APPLAUSE)

We can have more jobs and these beautiful beaches.

(APPLAUSE)

Prosperity actually depends on productive people, and productive people need a clean and healthy environment. Just look at what's happened at Lake Michigan. A handful of years ago, this lake was filled with toxic pollution. Fish like the yellow perch, a staple of those Friday night fish fries, had become a lot more expensive. Today the lake is cleaner than it has been in years and the fish are coming back, powering a $4 billion a year fishing industry and keeping the Great Lakes one of the greatest destinations for families.

Incidentally, I want to come back with my family to Muskegon to one of your summer celebrations as president.

(APPLAUSE)

Will you be there?

AUDIENCE: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

GORE: I've heard about them. I pledge to do more to make the lakes as great as they truly can be, to cut the mercury.

Jon Bon Jovi, will you come back with us to that summer celebration, with your family?

(APPLAUSE)

I want to cut the mercury from power plants that can make fish dangerous to eat.

GORE: I want to prevent freshwater diversion, clean up toxic hot-spots, take on invasive species, work with local communities to ensure that pollution never again closes our beautiful beaches on this lake, so that the families can always enjoy them.

(APPLAUSE)

And incidentally, later this week in a policy speech specifically on the environment, I'll talk about the big solution to one of the causes of the record-low levels in the lakes: global warming.

Together, let's work for a future where none of our children have to worry whether the water they drink or air they breathe is safe and pure.

Now, these changes that I have talked about here are the kinds of changes that put more control into the hands of ordinary Americans and help families achieve what they want for the future.

Now, Governor Bush has a different approach. On education, my opponent's voucher plan could drain more taxpayer money from our public schools into private schools than all the new money he proposes to invest in public education all across the country. And the vouchers are so small, only one child in 20 is even eligible to get half a chance to leave a failing school.

I think that private school vouchers represent a mistake. We should build up public schools. We shouldn't abandon them.

(APPLAUSE)

We need to bring major improvements to our public schools.

(APPLAUSE)

And by the way, here in Michigan, if you vote against that ill- considered voucher plan that's on the ballot here, and then after you defeat the plan, if Governor Bush's proposal was enacted in Washington, D.C., you would then be forced by the federal government to divert your state tax dollars into private school vouchers, even though Michigan voted against private school vouchers.

He also wants to take that trillion dollars out of Social Security for a campaign promise to younger workers, even though he has no way to pay for it, and even though he's promised the same trillion dollars to seniors to pay today's benefits.

GORE: Talk about fuzzy math.

(LAUGHTER)

Those numbers don't add up no matter what kind of math you're using.

(APPLAUSE)

And he said he'll allow oil drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of our greatest national treasures. I'll veto that. I won't allow that to happen.

(APPLAUSE)

It would take years and years of development, which would cause decades of environmental damage -- all just to reap a few months of increased oil supply.

GORE: I think we must oppose any plan that would drill for oil in the wrong places and degrade our irreplaceable natural heritage.

(APPLAUSE)

I don't believe we can build and sustain prosperity by spoiling our environment any more than we can balance the budget by giving massive tax cuts primarily to those at the top.

It's the same basic philosophy, and it does not work, and it is not good for our families. We know what's good for our families.

And we know that if we make the right big choice in this election, we are going to have a bright future indeed for our families. We care about these kids. We're going to help parents, and strengthen families, and clean up the environment, and have incentives for saving, and keep the prosperity going, and create more jobs, and lift incomes, expand access to health care...

(APPLAUSE)

... balance the budget.

I really don't believe that it makes any sense at all to turn our prosperity over to the powerful interests and squander this historic chance to make prosperity work for everybody.

So my friends, we do stand at a critical moment, a time of choosing. People will look back on this election and they'll see that you made the right decision at a time when we stood eight days out at a fork in the road. We have to take the right course, the responsible course for our future, so that we can tell these children as they grow up that we did the right thing. We picked the hard right over the easy wrong.

I believe with all my heart that if we do things right, there is absolutely no limit to what we can achieve. We can create millions of good, new jobs and open new horizons of hope for our families. We can have a smaller and smarter government that helps our families fulfill your greatest ambitions.

(APPLAUSE)

We can build on this incredible foundation and keep government on the side of hard-working middle class families. Now, as I've said before, I make no claim to be the most exciting politician, but I will work hard for you every day. And I will fight for your best interests, no matter what powerful interest might stand in the way.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm ready to fight to see that our prosperity grows larger and our families grow stronger. I'm ready to fight for you. I'm ready to fight for your family. That's something worth fighting for.

With your help now, and eight days from now, we're going to make the right big choice for America's future. And let the last week begin right here in Muskegon, right here in Michigan.

(APPLAUSE)

We're going to win this fight for the future. God bless you. Let's win this election a week from tomorrow.

HEMMER: Vice President Al Gore on the stump in Michigan, 18 critical electoral votes up for grabs next Tuesday when Americans go to the polls. A pretty nice setting there, too, with the backdrop on Lake Michigan. The vice president again will head throughout Michigan today and into Wisconsin a bit later as well.

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