Editor’s Note: Barack Obama is president of the United States.
President Obama: Recent storms show how Americans put aside differences, work together
He says Americans together fought back from recession, war; prosperity now on rise
He says middle class thrives if everyone gets fair shot, does fair share, plays by same rules
He says he will be the champion for aspirations of all Americans, and asks them to vote Tuesday
For the past few days, all of us have been properly focused on one of the worst storms of our lifetimes. We mourn those who were lost. And we pledge to stand with those whose lives have been turned upside down for as long as it takes them to recover and rebuild.
Because when hardship hits, America is at its best. The petty differences that consume us in normal times quickly melt away. There are no Democrats or Republicans during a storm – only fellow Americans. That’s how we get through the most trying times: together.
Four years ago, we were mired in two wars and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Together, we’ve battled our way back. The war in Iraq is over, Osama bin Laden is dead, and our heroes are coming home. Our businesses have created nearly 5 and a half million new jobs in the last two and half years. Home values and 401(k)s are rising. We are less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in the last 20 years. And the American auto industry is back.
We’re not there yet. But we’ve made real progress. And on Tuesday, America will get to choose between two fundamentally different visions of what makes America strong.
I believe America’s prosperity was built on the strength of our middle class. We don’t succeed when a few at the top do well while everyone else struggles to get by – we’re better off when everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.
When Bill Clinton was president, he believed that if America invested in the skills and ideas of its people, good jobs and businesses would follow. His economic plan asked the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more so we could reduce our deficit and still invest in job training and education, research and technology, better health care and a dignified retirement. And what happened? By the end of his second term, our economy created 23 million new jobs. Incomes rose. Poverty fell. Deficits became the biggest surplus in history.
The path Governor Romney offers is the one we tried for eight years after President Clinton left office – a philosophy that says those at the very top get to play by a very different set of rules than everyone else. Bigger tax cuts for the wealthy that we can’t afford. Encouraging companies to ship jobs and profits overseas. Fewer rules for big banks and insurance companies. They’re the policies that caused this mess in the first place.
In the closing weeks of this campaign, Governor Romney has started calling himself an agent of change. And I’ll give him one thing – offering another $5 trillion tax cut weighted towards the wealthy, $2 trillion in defense spending our military didn’t ask for, and more power for big banks and insurance companies is change, all right. But it’s not the change we need.
We know what real change looks like. And we can’t give up on it now.
Change is an America where people of every age have the skills and education that good jobs require. We took on banks that had been overcharging for student loans for decades, and made college more affordable for millions. Now we’ll recruit 100,000 math and science teachers so that high-tech, high-wage jobs don’t end up in China, and train 2 million workers at community colleges for the skills local businesses need right now.
Change is an America that’s home to the next generation of manufacturing and innovation. I’m not the candidate who said we should “let Detroit go bankrupt,” I’m the president who bet on American workers and American ingenuity. Now I want a tax code that stops rewarding companies that ship jobs overseas, and starts rewarding companies that create jobs here; one that stops subsidizing oil company profits, and keeps supporting clean energy jobs and technology that will cut our oil imports in half.
Change is an America that turns the page on a decade of war to do some nation-building here at home. So long as I’m commander-in-chief, we’ll pursue our enemies with the strongest military in the world. But it’s time to use the savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to pay down our debt and rebuild America – our roads and bridges and schools.
Change is an America where we reduce our deficit by cutting spending where we can, and asking the wealthiest Americans to go back to the income tax rates they paid when Bill Clinton was president. I’ve worked with Republicans to cut a trillion dollars of spending, and I’ll do more. I’ll work with anyone of any party to move this country forward. But I won’t agree to eliminate health insurance for millions of poor, elderly, or disabled on Medicaid, or turn Medicare into a voucher just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut.
The folks at the very top don’t need another champion in Washington. The people who need a champion in Washington are the Americans whose letters I read at night; the men and women I meet on the trail every day. The cooks and cleaning staff working overtime at a Las Vegas hotel. The furniture worker retraining for a career in biotechnology at age 55. The teacher who’s forced to spend less time with each student in her crowded classroom. Her kids, who dream of becoming something great. Every small business owner trying to expand and do right by his or her employees – all of these Americans need a champion in Washington.
When these Americans do well, America does well. That’s the change we need right now. It’s time to finish what we’ve started – to educate our kids, train our workers, create new jobs, new energy, and new opportunity – to make sure that no matter who you are, where you come from, or how you started out, this is the country where you can make it if you try.
The America we believe in is within our reach. The future we hope for is within our sights. That’s why I’m asking for your vote this Tuesday.
Editor’s note: This article was updated after the publication of the monthly job statistics Friday.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Barack Obama.