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Gore Delivers Social Security Speech in Kissimmee, Florida

Aired November 1, 2000 - 11:06 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: As we have mentioned throughout the morning, Vice President Al Gore has a campaign event today in Kissimmee, Florida. Any minute he is expected to speak. Right now, if we take a live picture, we can see that his wife, Tipper Gore, is introducing him, and actually -- what do you know, there's the vice president.

Let's go ahead and listen in.


VICE PRES. AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And it's great to be in Kissimmee!


Or, as you call it at nighttime, the night of the last night of the Democratic convention: Kiss Me, Florida.


I'm here in Florida with a message of hope for our country. First of all, with your help, we're going to win the state of Florida. And we're going to win the White House six days from now.


Are you with me?


GORE: But I came here to talk about a really important issue in this campaign, because this campaign is about something more. It's about the steps that we can take to strengthen our families and build stronger ties across the generations. I see in America where it's not so hard to be a strong family, where parents have more time to spend with their children and more help protecting them from the cultural pollution that too often clouds family life in our country.

I see a future where you don't have to struggle so hard to put money aside for your kids college tuition or your children's medical checkups.

(APPLAUSE) I see a day when all of our families can count on a secure retirement, when Social Security is strong and you can watch your own retirement savings grow week-by-week, and know that you'll be able to live out your older years in peace and plenty.

So, join with me now and six days from now. And God willing over the next four years, and we will open new horizons of hope for all of our families.


That's the future we can have. But it will not just happen of its own accord. The future is something that we have to make and shape for ourselves. This election really is a fork in the road. Thanks to the hard work of the American people, thanks to the drive and creativity of our businesses and entrepreneurs, and thanks to the right economic policies, we now have record prosperity and the biggest budget surpluses in our history -- 22 million new jobs and the strongest economy in our history.


Now, we have to decide how we use that big surplus, and that presents a very big choice that will be made by all of the American people next Tuesday. We can build on our prosperity and make sure it enriches not just the few but all our families, or we can squander this moment by lavishing huge tax cuts on the wealthiest of the wealthy, threatening all of our economic gains.

We can have a smaller, smarter government by balancing the budget, paying down and then paying off our national debt.


And we can shrink government spending to the smallest share of the economy in 50 years, or we can just go back to the big deficits, big debt and repeat recessions of the '80s and early '90s.

I think you're almost ready to make this choice.


Well, when it comes to our prosperity, let me tell you, you have worked too hard and come too far for us to turn back now. And when it comes to America's retirement saving programs, Social Security, we face a choice that is just as big. I believe we have to strengthen Social Security, while giving unprecedented, new opportunities for families to save more, invest more and get higher returns.


We can do both of those things responsibly.


And I do not believe it's right to play games with Social Security, or pit young against old in a scramble to fulfill extravagant and competing campaign promises.

So often, too many people think of Social Security as a budget program or a program that's only for seniors, when actually, Social Security is so much more than that. It embodies our values as a people. It links each American generation to the next with commitments of love and caring. Social Security is how we care for our mothers and fathers. It's how we give younger workers a bedrock of retirement savings that they can build on, no matter what. It is a compact. It is a sacred trust.


And it truly is a compact that makes all our families stronger and undergirds the financial security of each generation in every family. So let's talk about Social Security in family terms, for Social Security is the way in which our national family meets its responsibilities to the young and to the old, to parents and grandparents.

To me, it all comes down to this: We need to make sure that Social Security reflects our values and strengthens families, and that means protecting benefits for seniors, preparing Social Security for the impending retirement of the unusually large baby-boom generation 15 years from now, and providing new opportunities for younger workers to save and invest more for their retirement.

We have to begin with a basic commitment to today's seniors, the people who have worked hard and paid into Social Security all their lives.


You deserve a responsible choice on Social Security, a careful choice. Today's seniors raised us and cared for us. They're the generation that survived the depression and won the second world war. There is a World War II Purple Heart veteran right in the middle of the front row. Stand up, sir.


Stand up. Thank you for saving our freedom.


Thanks to the other veterans who are here. Thank you.


So when it comes to Social Security, we ought to make this generation a simple promise: They will get the benefits they earned and no one should be able to cut those benefits or take them away.

We're going to make sure of that.

(APPLAUSE) Now, to meet that commitment and keep that promise, we have to protect Social Security by putting it in a budgetary lockbox so that it cannot be raided or drained away to pay for other programs. I will veto anything that takes money out of Social Security for anything other than Social Security.


Now, my opponent talks about a commitment to today's retirees, but, let's be clear on this. Soothing words don't pay the rent, much less buy prescription medicine and even...


... even the sharpest campaign sound bite cannot bring into focus fuzzy conclusions that flow from "fuzzy math."


He is promising...


I'm going to tell it like it is: Governor Bush is promising to take a trillion dollars out of Social Security and he's promising it to younger workers for investments in private accounts. And to many, that sounds pretty good, but the problem is, that's the same money that he's promising to seniors to pay their current benefits.

The Wall Street Journal looked at his plan and concluded that he couldn't possibly keep both promises. So which promise is he going to break?

Who gets left out or left behind?

The American Academy of Actuaries looked at his plan and concluded that it would lead to catastrophic results in these financial matters. He said that he -- I heard him last night -- he said he rejects their premise. Well, which premise? Addition or subtraction?


Eight Nobel Prize-winning economists looked at his plan and said the numbers just do not add up. When he was asked to clarify how he could possibly make his numbers add up, Governor Bush refused and said that he would provide additional details after the election.

That's fine, we're going to win Florida and it won't matter. With your help, we are going to win Florida.


AUDIENCE: We want Gore. We want Gore. We want Gore.

GORE: Gracias, thank you. Save some of that energy for six days from now and get out all the vote.


Now, instead of a system where everyone is in it together, the Bush plan would turn Social Security into a grab bag where everyone is out for himself. You might call it social insecurity. And that's wrong for our values. It's also wrong for our economy. Even though he has promised it to two different groups of people, we still don't know where the trillion dollars comes from in the first place. The money is nowhere to be found in his budget.

One of the authors of Governor Bush's proposal wrote that Social Security would start borrowing heavily to make the program solvent under their approach. The borrowing would actually come to $3 trillion. In other words, under the other side's plan, according to one of its authors, Social Security would go bankrupt fairly soon and then go into massive deficits, competing for investment capital that is needed elsewhere in the economy, all while many of today's seniors are still counting on Social Security and a strong economy, both of which would be jeopardized under his plan.

Under our plan, Social Security will remain financially sound for more than 50 years into the future. The choice is yours and it's on the ballot on Tuesday.


Join with me and we won't make new promises just to break them.

We'll keep our promises to the seniors who gave us everything that we have today, and we will make sure that those promises are absolutely kept.


Seniors are not the only people who are counting a secure retirement, and you'll forgive me if I have a special place in my heart for middle-aged workers...


... people who've been working for two or three decades and have every intention of working some more. In fact, I'm hoping to be very busy myself for the next several years.


Today's middle-aged workers are the heart of our work force and the heart of family life in America. They're the ones who are often forced to choose between the needs of their children and the needs of their aging parents. They're the ones who bear the burdens to pay the taxes and live the American dream, and they should not have to worry whether Social Security will be there for them when they retire. Under our plan, we, therefore, make the responsible choices by balancing the budget, paying down the debt and using the interest savings to strengthen Social Security. For 45-year-olds today, Social Security would be secure without any cuts or changes until their 100th birthdays. Some of us are hoping we'll need it that long.


Under Governor Bush's plan, it is a very different story for middle-aged families. By draining trillions away from the trust fund, his plan could make Social Security bankrupt just as today's 45- year- olds are starting to look forward to their first checks.

Now, benefits for middle-aged workers under his plan would have to be cut deeply, at least 25 percent in the beginnings, and even more after that. And I don't think that's the kind of burden that should be put on some of our hardest working families.

Middle-aged workers wouldn't have too many options under the governor's privatization plan, because even if the stock market does well, almost none of them would have enough time to make up in private savings what they would lose in Social Security benefits.

I believe we have to keep Social Security strong, not just for today's seniors, but for those who are working hard right now and deserve a secure retirement tomorrow.


Finally, I believe we need a special commitment to retirement savings for younger workers. We should all be glad that the stock market has done so well these past eight years, and we should give more young families the chance and the choice to take part in it. Now is the time to make historic changes in our retirement system to give younger Americans unprecedented new choice and opportunity for private savings.

Here's how our plan works. You can save tax-free.

Government would match your savings, and then that money is yours to invest on your own. A young middle class family, saving just $20 a week, would end up with more than $200,000 by the time of retirement. Now...


... here is the difference: I think that you should be able to invest and get higher returns in addition to the guaranteed foundation of Social Security, not at the expense of Social Security.


Don't take that money out of Social Security and pit generation against generation.

Governor Bush may think that younger workers want to just scrap Social Security altogether, and maybe that's why he's promising them the money that we need for today's seniors. I think today's young people see themselves as part of the family of America. I think they care about their parents and their grandparents. I don't think they want to see seniors' benefits cut for the wrong kind of private savings plan.

And there's a better way. Because my proposal for private savings accounts comes in the form of a tax cut, it doesn't rely on Social Security for funding. It doesn't rob Peter to pay Paul. And it's targeted to middle class families, those who have the hardest time saving for the future...


... those who have the hardest time making ends meet, those who need the help, those who need the tax cut, who need the incentive for saving.

Let me give you an example. A couple making $50,000 a year would get a private account of only $1,000 a year under my opponent's plan, but by setting aside just $10 a week, that same couple could have an account that's twice as large under my plan, and they'd get a tax cut of $280 there to boot.

Now Governor Bush's plan asks that young couples be willing to shortchange their parents. And in the example that I use that young couple would get the $1,000, but it would be taken away from the money that had been promised to their parents. According to one independent study, what that couple loses in guaranteed benefits would not be offset by their private accounts. And the Bush plan gives bigger accounts to the wealthiest workers. The more money you make, the more he would give you. A worker making $75,000 a year gets a private account under his plan that's three times larger than a worker making $25,000 a year.

I'm for a middle class savings plan for the same reason I'm for middle class tax cuts, and not a massive tax cut for the wealthiest of the wealthy.

I think we should give more of the benefits to those who need them the most, to those who are making car payments and house payments and making ends meet.


And if we can offer higher savings and better returns while keeping Social Security as safe and secure as ever, why would we try to accomplish that same goal by threatening Social Security? If we can give younger workers more investment options without taking away the options of middle-aged workers, why would we gamble with $1 trillion out of the Social Security trust fund? If we can help young couples build a brighter future without jeopardizing the foundation of our whole retirement system, why would we create a brand new giant deficit in Social Security, the first of its kind?

Look, Social Security isn't a budget plan; it's an expression of our most deeply held values. The young should help take care of the old. The old should have the choice to be independent and not a burden on the next generation.


And every hard-working young American should be able to open the door to their dreams. That's why I am just not going to go along with a plan that would open up a brand new kind of deficit on top of the big deficit that would be created by the governor's massive tax cut for the wealthiest, and then threaten Social Security for all generations.

You know, you might say that on Tuesday, six days from now, Social Security itself is on the ballot. You will vote and you will choose, and I ask you to save Social Security when you vote on Tuesday. It is very much on the ballot.


Now Governor Bush often says you should support him because he'd get along with people in Washington, and that's all well and good. We need less partisanship in Washington. But the real question is: Who is it that he wants to get along with?

The special interests? The special interests who don't need Social Security and are perfectly happy to see it drained away. The HMOs? The insurance industry? The oil companies? The drug companies? Sometimes a president has to stand up and say, no, so that our families can have a better life.


You have to fight for the people who need it. I'm not running for president to go along and get along at any price. The presidency is really not just a popularity contest. If you want someone who smiles and looks the other way while special interests have their way, then I'm not your guy. But if you want someone who knows how to fight for your interests and has the experience to win those battles on your behalf, then I ask for your support.


And I can say no to the special interests with a smile.


I'm running to be the best president for you that I can be. I'm running to fight for the families who want to save more and lift themselves higher. I'm running to fight for the families who've worked hard, done what's right and deserve a secure retirement. I'm running for president to fight for you and that's something worth fighting for. I need your help on Tuesday.


Let's win this election. Let's win Florida and then let's win the future of the United States of America.


God bless you and thank you.

KAGAN: We've been listening to Vice President Al Gore, as he addresses a rally in Kissimmee, Florida. The vice president stressing themes of a strong economy, prosperity and the future of Social Security.

Also ahead, we will be hearing from Ralph Nader at 2:20 p.m. Eastern, and George W. Bush at 2:40 p.m. Eastern.

One more note about Al Gore being in Florida, 25 Electoral votes up for grab, the largest state in terms of swing states still not being claimed in the presidential election less than six days away.



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