Obama calls on fired up crowd to move forward, says gov. hopeful Dayton is “the only candidate who can actually deliver change” in Minnesota Saturday.
Plus: President and Pelosi rally base at dinner with North Star Dems.
Air Force One touched down at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport at
2:43 p.m. local, under gray rain clouds. It drizzled as POTUS emerged from
the plane and jogged down the steps, wearing a blue blazer, white and blue
checkered shirt (no tie) and brown slacks.
POTUS wore a big smile, excited perhaps to be in the hometown of the
Fighting Scots of Macalester College, the alma mater of Ben Finkenbinder.
POTUS met former senator and gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton on the
tarmac, as well as Rep. Keith Ellison, Rep. Betty McCollum and local
After working his way through the receiving line, POTUS jogged over to a
crowd of about 150 to shake hands. “How’s it going guys?” he asked. “How
By 4 p.m., the presidential motorcade was en route to the University of
Minnesota, home of the Golden Gophers and alma mater of Bill Burton.
POTUS departed University of Minnesota at 4:24 local and arrived at the Van
Dusen Mansion at 4:32 for a DCCC fundraiser.
The estate was built in 1892 for George Washington Van Dusen, a Minnesota
grain entrepreneur. In the 1990s it was “restored to its original
splendor,” according to promotional materials provided to your pool, and is
on the National Register of Historic Places.
Pool is holding while POTUS meets donors. Pool will cover his remarks
Here is background on the fundraiser, provided by a DCCC official:
For background use only
Tonight’s DCCC Event in Minneapolis with President Obama
Van Dusen Mansion, 1900 Lasalle Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Saturday, October 23, 2010
3:30 p.m. VIP Reception and Presidential Photoline
4:50 p.m. Dinner
Host Couple: $50,000 per couple for Dinner, VIP Reception and
Host: $30,400 per person for Dinner, VIP Reception and
Co Host: $15,200 per person for Dinner and Presidential Photoline
Patron: $5,000 per person for Dinner, preferred seating
Guest: $2,500 per person for Dinner
Attendees for the Dinner: 100 people
Attendees for VIP Photoline : 50 people
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen
Congressman James Oberstar (MN-8th)
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-4th)
Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-5th)
Congressman Tim Walz and his wife, Gwen (MN-1st)
Senator Al Franken, and wife Frannie
Mark Dayton, Democratic Candidate for Governor
Tarryl Clark and husband Doug, Democratic Candidate for Congress (MN-6th)
Shelley Madore, Democratic Candidate for Congress (MN-2nd)
Jim Meffert, Democratic Candidate for Congress (MN-3rd)
Karen Aguilera, the winner of a DCCC online contest for grassroots donors,
is also attending tonight’s event. Karen Aguilera runs a medical clinic and
is from Portland, Oregon.
POTUS and Speaker Pelosi addressed a dinner audience of about 100 in an
elegantly appointed room. People sat on ivory satin-draped chairs around
10-person tables dressed with golden tablecloths and decorated by bouquets
of beautiful white flowers and golden bread baskets.
Pelosi introduced Obama from behind a podium and flanked by three American
flags and two Minnesota flags. The speaker, in a dark pantsuit, said “we
fully intend” to retain control of the House. She quoted Minn. native
Hubert Humphrey and spoke of duck hunting season.
“How many times have you heard this is the most important election of our
time?” Pelosi asked. “Well, every time that’s probably true because the
stakes get higher and higher.”
She added: “When the public knows the choice, we think that we will win —
Pelosi took a shot at conservative outside groups. “Everything was going
great and all of a sudden secret money from God knows where — because they
won’t disclose it — is pouring in.”
In introducing Obama, Pelosi said: “He has set the standard for us. We will
measure our success by the progress that is made for America’s working
families…. He more than meets his own test.”
At 5:10 local, Obama stepped out, in same outfit as before (open collar
shirt, no tie, blue blazer) and addressed the group. He did not use a
teleprompter and did not appear to be using notes at the podium.
The crowd greeted him with applause. “Everybody, please have a seat,” Obama
said. “You’re going to make me blush.”
He thanked local elected officials present, said Pelosi “will go down in
history as one of the finest speakers in the United States of America.” He
gave Chris Van Hollen a nice shout out, too: “Chris is working like a dog.
I want to make sure everybody knows what a good job he’s doing.”
Obama launched into a speech very reminiscent of those he’s delivered at
recent rallies. Please check the forthcoming transcript for his remarks.
A few highlights:
POTUS said the economy was in distress when he came to office. “That crisis
was really the culmination of what some would call the lost decade.”
“We had left too many challenges untended to,” he said.
“The good news is we’ve been able to stabilize the economy,” POTUS said.
“The bad news is we’re nowhere near done. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
He repeated many of the same lines as his rally speeches — amnesia, the
ditch metaphor (with Slurpees this time), Wall Street reform, education
reform, Beyonce and Bono references. Please check transcript for those
remarks, which your pool was told would be released shortly.
Obama finished speaking at 5:30 and the motorcade started rolling at 5:37
en route to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to head home.
After an uneventful drive, POTUS arrived at Minneapolis-St. Paul
International Airport at 5:52 p.m. On tarmac, Obama and Speaker Pelosi (who
apparently rode to airport in presidential motorcade) spent several minutes
at the foot of the plane greeting Richard and Gloria Cauley, the parents of
Specialist George Cauley, fallen soldier in Afghanistan from Minnesota.
Obama appeared to sign something on a clipboard for them, but your pool
could not determine what it was.
Pelosi climbed AF1 steps to ride with POTUS back to Washington.
Wheels up momentarily to Andrews.
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Minnesota! (Applause.) Hello, Gophers! (Applause.) Oh, it is good to be back in Minnesota! (Applause.) And it’s an honor to be standing here next to your next governor, Mark Dayton. (Applause.)
Let me just make mention of the other wonderful public servants who are here: Former Vice President Walter Mondale is in the house. (Applause.) Your terrific pair of senators — Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are here. (Applause.) An outstanding congressional delegation — Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, Jim Oberstar. (Applause.)
All the great candidates who are on the DFL ticket are here today and we’re thrilled to see them. And obviously I am very honored to be here with Mark, because I served with Mark in the United States Senate. (Applause.) And so I know this man. And I know that he’s been fighting for the people of this state his entire career. You know what kind of leader he is. You know what kind of fighter he is. Everybody else in this race might be talking about change — here’s the only candidate who can actually deliver change, who’s actually delivered change before. (Applause.)
The only candidate who’s helped grow this state’s economy. The only candidate who’s put people back to work. The only candidate who’s saved taxpayer dollars by cutting waste and abuse. So you know Mark Dayton. He’s got a track record. He’s the only candidate in this race who will stand up for the middle class, who’s got a plan to balance the budget without sacrificing our children’s education. (Applause.) A candidate who has a plan to create jobs and help small business owners grow and to thrive.
The point is Mark Dayton has spent his life fighting for Minnesota. And now I need all of you to fight for Mark Dayton so we can keep this state moving forward. (Applause.)
It looks like you’re kind of fired up. (Applause.) And I need you fired up — because in just 10 days, you have the chance not just to set the direction of this state but also help to determine the direction of this country — not just for the next two years, but the next five years, the next 10 years, the next 20 years.
And just like you did in 2008, you have the chance to defy the conventional wisdom –- because right now the conventional wisdom is that you can’t overcome the cynicism of politics; that you can’t overcome all the special interest money that Mark was talking about; that you can’t tackle big challenges, that the political system just can’t digest it. The same way that they said in 2008 that you can’t elect a skinny guy with a funny name to the presidency of the United States of America — (applause) — and so in 2008, you said, “Yes, we can” — in 2010 you’ve got to say, “Yes, we can.” (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, we can. (Applause.)
Look, there is no doubt that this is going to be a difficult election. And it’s because we’ve been through an incredibly difficult time for our nation. For most of the last decade, the middle class in America was getting pounded.
I’ll give you a few statistics. Between 2001 and 2009, when Republicans were in charge, the middle class saw their incomes go down by 5 percent — during that period. That’s not according to me; that’s according to the Wall Street Journal. Between that same period, we had the slowest, most sluggish job growth of any time since World War II. So this was a lost decade for middle-class families. Costs of everything from health care to getting a college education were skyrocketing. Jobs were disappearing overseas. Too many parents had to say to their kids, you know we might not be able to afford to send you to college. Too many families had to pass up going to the doctor when they got sick because they couldn’t afford it. Too many Americans having two, three jobs and still not being able to make ends meet.
And then all of this culminated in the worst financial crisis and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. I want everybody to think back to when I was first sworn in. We had lost 4 million jobs in the six months before I took office. We lost 750,000 the month I took the oath; 600,000 the month after that; 600,000 more the month after that. We lost almost 8 million jobs, almost all of them lost before any of our economic policies could be put into place.
And when I arrived in Washington, my hope was that we could put politics aside for a moment to meet this once-in-a-generation challenge. My hope was we could stop the division and the bickering and the partisanship that had dominated Washington and that we could come together to solve problems — because although we are proud Democrats, we are prouder to be Americans, Minnesota. (Applause.) And I believe there are a lot of Republicans out there that felt the same way.
But when we got to Washington, the Republican leaders in Congress -– they had a different idea. Their basic theory was they looked around and said, boy, we really made a big mess, we really screwed up. It’s going to take a long time to get those 8 million jobs back. People are going to be angry and frustrated. It’s better if we refuse to cooperate, we say no to everything, we try to gum up the works in Congress, and we may be able to deflect the blame come the next election. We’ll just pretend like we had nothing to do it, and we’ll point our fingers at the Democrats.
AUDIENCE: Boooo —
THE PRESIDENT: In other words, the other side was betting on amnesia. (Laughter.) They’re betting that you’ll forget who caused this mess in the first place.
But, Minneapolis, it is up to you to show them that you have not forgotten. (Applause.) It’s up to you to remember that this election is a choice -– between the policies that got us into this mess and the policies that are leading us out of this mess. It’s a choice between the past and the future; a choice between hope and fear; a choice between falling backwards and moving forwards. And I don’t know about you, but I want to move forward. (Applause.) I don’t want to go backward.
And if you don’t think this is a choice, if you think somehow there’s a new and improved Republican Party out there, let me be clear: The chair of the Republican campaign committee was asked, well, what are you going to do if you take over Congress. He said, we’ll pursue the “exact same agenda” as we did before Obama took office.
AUDIENCE: Boooo —
THE PRESIDENT: I mean, it’s not as if they went off into the desert, they realized, boy, we really screwed up, and they went and meditated for a while and came up with some new ideas. All they’ve got is the same old stuff that they were peddling over the last decade: Cut taxes mostly for millionaires and billionaires; cut rules for special interests; and then cut middle-class families to fend for themselves. So if you’re out of a job, tough luck, you’re on your own. If you don’t have health care, their philosophy says, tough luck, you are on your own. You’re a young person trying to afford a college education — too bad, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, you’re on your own. This same agenda turned a record surplus into record deficits; allowed Wall Street to run wild and nearly destroyed our economy.
And I make these points not because I want to re-argue the past. I just don’t want to re-live the past. (Applause.) We can’t afford it. We can’t afford it. We tried it their way. It’s not as if we didn’t try it. We tried it for eight years, and it didn’t work. And you know the true sign of madness is if you do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. We’ve tried what they’re doing and it didn’t work. And we wouldn’t get a different result if we went back to it. So we’ve got to move forward, not back. (Applause.)
I know that Al Franken talked to you a little bit about the analogy of a car being driven into the ditch — although I guess Al embellished it a little bit. He said there were alligators down there — (laughter) — I didn’t see the alligators. But it is true the car went into the ditch. (Laughter.) And it is true that me and Al and Amy and Mark and others, we had to climb down into the ditch. And it is hot down there and dirty.
And we’ve been pushing that car, pushing it, pushing it, pushing it. The whole time the Republicans have been standing on the sidelines. (Laughter.) They’ve been looking down, fanning themselves, sipping on a Slurpee. (Laughter.) Kicking dirt down into the ditch. Kicking dirt in our faces. But we kept on pushing. (Applause.)
Finally we got this car up on level ground. And, yes, it’s a little beat up. It needs to go to the body shop. It’s got some dents; it needs a tune-up. But it’s pointing in the right direction. And now we’ve got the Republicans tapping us on the shoulder, saying, we want the keys back.
You can’t have the keys back. You don’t know how to drive. (Applause.) You can ride with us if you want, but you got to sit in the backseat. (Laughter.) We’re going to put middle-class America in the front seat. We’re looking out for them. (Applause.)
I mean, you have noticed, when you want to go forward, what do you do with your car? You put it in “D.” If you want to go backwards, what do you do? You put it in “R.” (Laughter and applause.) I don’t want to go backwards. I’m going forwards, with all of you. (Applause.)
Minnesota, because of the steps we’ve taken, we no longer face the possibility of a second depression. The economy is growing again. We’ve seen nine straight months of private sector job growth. But we’ve still got a long way to go. There are a lot of folks hurting out there, a lot of people hanging by a thread. There’s still families who have members who are desperate for a job. There are still a lot of folks who are still worried about losing their home. That’s what keeps me up at night. That’s what keeps Mark up at night. That’s what keeps us fighting.
Because we’ve got a different idea about what the future should hold for America. (Applause.) And it’s an idea rooted in our belief about how this country was built. We understand government can’t solve every problem. We know government has to be lean and mean. We know that everybody who pays taxes expects efficiency. They don’t want to see their tax dollars wasted.
But in the words of the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln — who, by the way, could not win the nomination of the Republican Party these days — (laughter) — we also believe that a government should do for the people what they cannot do better for themselves. (Applause.) We believe in an America that rewards hard work and responsibility and individual initiative, but also an America that invests in its people and its future. An America that invests in the education of our children, in the skills of our workers. We believe in an America in which we look after one another; where I say I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper. (Applause.) That’s our vision. That’s the America that I believe in and that Mark believes in, and that you believe in. That’s the choice in this election. (Applause.)
If you give the other side the keys, the other side will keep giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas. Mark and I, we want to give tax breaks to companies that are investing right here in Minnesota, right here in the United States — (applause) — in small businesses and American manufacturers. (Applause.) We want to invest in clean energy companies -– because I don’t want solar panels and wind turbines and electric cars built in Europe or built in Asia. I want them built right here in America, with American workers. (Applause.) That’s the choice in this election.
If we give them the keys, here’s their big economic idea. This is their big job plan — is to cut taxes for the top 2 percent. It will cost $700 billion. It will be an average $100,000 check for millionaires and billionaires — 98 percent of folks would not see any of this money from this tax break. And to pay for it we’d have to borrow money from China — oh, and by the way, we’d also have to cut education spending by 20 percent.
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: Now, why on earth do we think that would be good for our future? Do you think that China is cutting education spending by 20 percent?
AUDIENCE: Nooo —
THE PRESIDENT: Is South Korea or India or Germany, are they cutting education by 20 percent?
AUDIENCE: Nooo —
THE PRESIDENT: They’re not playing for second place. They understand that our competitiveness will be determined by how well we educate our workers for tomorrow. And America doesn’t play for second place either. We play for first place. (Applause.)
That’s why Amy, that’s why Al, that’s why we worked together — Keith, Patty — that’s why we came together to make sure that we took tens of billions of dollars that were going to banks in unwarranted subsidies and we sent that money where it should be going — to you. We are financing millions of young people’s college educations more effectively now — (applause) — higher Pell Grants, better student loans; a $10,000 tax credit for every young person going to college. Those are the kinds of choices we’re making. And that’s the choice in this election.
That’s why, when it comes to tax cuts, we gave 95 percent of working families a tax cut. (Applause.) We gave the tax cuts to families that needed them, not folks who didn’t need them, because we know you’re the ones that need relief. That’s the choice in this election. (Applause.)
If we give the other side the keys back and I promise you we’ll have those special interests sitting shotgun. The chair of one of the other party’s committees has already promised that one of the first orders of business is to repeal Wall Street reform. Now, think about this. We just had the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, and one of their orders of business would be to eliminate protections for consumers, eliminate protections for taxpayers, go back to a system that resulted in us having to save the entire economy and take these drastic measures.
Why would we do that? Why would we do that? Why would we go back to the point where credit card companies could jack up y our interest rates without any notice, and could institute hidden fees? Why would we go back to the health care policies that they believe in, where insurance companies could drop your insurance when you get sick? Why would we do — why would we put those folks back in the driver’s seat?
Let me tell you about health care reform. Because of health care reform, everybody here who is under 26 can stay on their parents’ health care even if they don’t have health insurance. (Applause.) Because of that reform, insurance companies can’t drop somebody because they’ve got a preexisting condition. (Applause.) Because of health care reform, millions of small businesses are getting tax credits so they can afford to provide health insurance to their employees.
That is their agenda, to repeal that?
AUDIENCE: Nooo —
THE PRESIDENT: Let me tell you something. We believe in making sure people don’t get ripped off when they sign up for a mortgage. We believe in making sure that credit card companies treat you fairly. We believe taxpayers shouldn’t ever be forced to pay for Wall Street’s mistakes. We believe that insurance companies should cover you when you’ve been paying your premiums. (Applause.) That’s what we believe. That’s the choice in this election. That’s why you’ve got to elect Mark Dayton governor, because he believes it, too. (Applause.)
Whether you care about protecting Social Security, or you care about protecting our environment; whether you care about having an energy policy that can start freeing ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, or you believe in a foreign policy that fosters cooperation among other nations, there is a choice in this election. We know what we’re fighting for.
But right now, the same special interests that we’ve battled on your behalf, they’re fighting back hard. Mark mentioned that they are spending millions of dollars. They want to roll back the clock. And they are pouring millions of dollars through a network of phony front groups, flooding the airwaves with misleading attack ads, smearing fine public servants like Mark.
And thanks to a gigantic loophole, these special interests can spend unlimited amounts without even disclosing where the money is coming from. We don’t know where it’s coming from. We don’t know if it’s from the oil industry. We don’t know if it’s from banks. We don’t know if it’s insurance companies. Could be coming overseas — we don’t know. They won’t tell you. They don’t want you to know. They won’t stand behind what they do.
This isn’t just a threat to Democrats. This is a threat to our democracy.
Minnesota has always had a tradition of clean, fair elections; a tradition of good government — (applause.) And the only way to uphold that tradition, the only way to match their millions of dollars is with millions of voices — millions of voices who are ready to finish what we started in 2008.
And that’s where all of you come in. That’s why all of you have got to get out — all of you have to vote. If you are not registered to vote yet, you can walk right now, you can register anytime between now and Election Day. There is no excuse. Because if everybody who fought for change in 2008 votes in 2010, then Mark will win his election. (Applause.)
A lot of you got involved in 2008 because you believed we were at a defining moment; that it was a time when the decisions we make now would have an impact across the decades — would impact our children and our grandchildren for decades to come. That’s the reason you knocked on doors and you made phone calls and you — some of you cast your vote for the very first time — because you believed that in America citizens who want to make their country better can make a difference. (Applause.)\
And you know what — I told you then — two years ago I told you that change is not easy; power does not give up without a fight. And I understand that some of you since Election Night and Inauguration Day — when it was a lot of fun; Beyoncé was singing, and Bono, and everybody had their Hope posters, and everything looked like it might be easy. And I warned folks then, this won’t be easy. Power concedes nothing without a fight.
And so for the last two years we have been grinding it out. We passed health care reform, but it was a hard fight. We passed Wall Street reform, but it was a hard fight. (Applause.) And now maybe some people are feeling discouraged, thinking, boy, this is harder than I expected. And maybe all that work that I did in 2008, maybe it didn’t make as much of a difference as I had hoped.
But I want everybody here to understand — don’t let anybody tell you that what you did has not made a difference, that the fight isn’t worth it. (Applause.) Because of you — because of you, there’s somebody in Minnesota right now that, instead of going bankrupt, is able to get treatment for their cancer. Because of you, there’s a young person who’s going to be able to go to college. Because of you, some small business has stayed open in the depths of a recession. Because of you, there are 100,000 brave young men and women who we’ve brought home from Iraq. (Applause.) Because of you. Because of you.
So don’t let them tell you that change isn’t possible. It’s just hard, that’s all. And that’s okay. We’ve got to earn it. We’re just in the first quarter. We’ve got a lot more quarters to play. (Applause.)
You know, this country was founded on a tough, difficult idea — 13 colonies deciding to break off from the most powerful empire on Earth, and then drafting a document — a Declaration of Independence that embodied ideas that had never been tried before: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Applause.) That’s not an easy idea. And it had to be fought for, inch by inch, year by year.
Slowly — slaves were freed. Slowly — women got the right to vote. (Applause.) Slowly — workers got the right to organize. (Applause.)
Imagine if our grandparents and our great-grandparents and our great-great-grandparents had said, oh, this is too hard. Folks are saying mean things about us. I’m not sure if we can ever get to the promised land. We wouldn’t be here today. But they understood that we are tested when we stand up in the face of difficulty; when we stand up in the face of uncertainty; when we’re unafraid to push forward. Because we know we’re doing it not just for ourselves, but for future generations. (Applause.)
That’s how we came through war and depression. That’s why we have civil rights and women’s rights and workers’ rights. (Applause.) That’s why we’ve been able to clean up our air and clean up our water. (Applause.) That’s why we’ve been able to end combat operations in one war.
The journey we began together was never about putting me in the White House — it was about building a movement for change that endures. (Applause.) It’s about understanding that in America anything is possible if we’re willing to work for it and fight for it, and most of all, believe in it.
So I need you to keep fighting. I need you to keep working. And I need you to keep believing. (Applause.) And if you knock on some doors again, if you make some phone calls again, if you talk to your neighbors again, if you go to vote again, then I promise you we won’t just win this election, we won’t just have Mark as governor, but you and I together, we are going to restore the American Dream for future generations.
God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. (Applause.) Everybody, please have a seat, have a seat. You’re going to make me blush. (Laughter.)
I am thrilled to see all of you here today. And let me, first of all, say that Minnesota has one of the finest congressional delegations of any in the country. I am grateful to your two wonderful senators who I’ve gotten a chance to know over the last several years — Amy Klobuchar, who I served with — hey, Amy, how are you? (Applause.) And Al Franken, who we were very happy to see arrive in Washington. (Applause.)
The outstanding members of the House — Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, Jim Oberstar, and Tim Walz — all who are here. We’re thrilled to have them. (Applause.)
The great congressional candidates who are with us here today, we are proud of you. And Mark Dayton, who I had a chance to serve with as senator — he was dedicated, he had a heart as big as this room, and he is going to be just an outstanding governor for this state. (Applause.) So we are proud of you.
And what can I say about Nancy Pelosi — (applause) — who will go down in history as one of the finest speakers in the history of the United States of America. (Applause.) She is — Nancy is just so elegant and beautiful, and people just don’t realize she is tough. (Laughter.) She is tough. And she has to be tough, because we are in a very difficult political cycle.
And so I just want to give you a sense of — oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were here — a guy who has his own tough job — Chris Van Hollen, the head of the DCCC, who’s doing great work each and every day. (Applause.) Almost missed Chris. Chris is working like a dog, so I want to make sure everybody knows what wonderful work he’s doing.
Chris will tell you this is a difficult political environment we’re in right now. And it’s because we’ve gone through as tough a couple of years as this country has ever seen — certainly the toughest couple years since the 1930s. And Nancy alluded to it, but just to give people a sense of perspective here — we lost 4 million jobs in the six months before I was sworn in — 4 million jobs in the six months before I was sworn in. We lost 750,000 jobs the month I was sworn in; 600,000 the month after that; 600,000 the month after that. Almost all of the 8 million jobs that would ultimately be lost during this recession were lost before any of the Democrats’ economic policies were able to be put into place. Before the Recovery Act could really take root, before some of the other steps that we took in terms of small business loans, tax cuts, could take seed.
And so we saw a massive hole. And that in and of itself would be sufficient to make this a difficult political environment. But what makes it worse is that crisis was really a culmination of what some have called the lost decade. Between 2001 and 2009, we had the slowest job growth in any time since World War II. Between 2001 and 2009, we actually saw the middle class lose 5 percent of their income — 5 percent of their income. This is at a time when the costs of health care, the costs of a college education were all skyrocketing. People were watching manufacturing ship out to other countries.
And so you had a sense already, before the crisis on Wall Street, that we had not prepared ourselves for the future; that we had left too many challenges untended to; that our politics in Washington had become simply a mechanism for special interests to advance their narrow causes, but that we had lost the capacity to do big things and to finally tackle some of those structural issues that were impeding us from creating the kind of future that we want for our children and our grandchildren.
So we had a big job when we first came in. And our first job was obviously to stop the bleeding — and we did that. An economy that was shrinking is now growing again. An economy that was shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs every month, we’ve now seen nine months of consecutive job growth in the public sector — in the private sector.
That’s in addition to all the jobs that we’ve saved for teachers and firefighters and social workers and police officers here in Minnesota and all across the country.
And so the good news is, is that we’ve been able to stabilize the economy. The bad news is, is that we’re nowhere near done. We’ve got so much more work to do. There are still millions of people out of work who are desperate and just hanging on by a thread. There are hundreds of thousands of folks who are concerned about losing their homes. People are scared; people are nervous.
And that’s why the tactics that were deployed by the other side at the beginning of my presidency are so frustrating to so many of us, those of us who deeply care about the future of this country. Because their basic strategy was, boy, we made such a big mess that rather than take responsibility for it — which most of us would have hoped was going to happen, right? Our thinking was we’re going to come in, and even though the other folks caused it, we’re going to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. We’re not going to play politics; we’re not going to point fingers; we’re going to roll up our sleeves and start getting to work, because although we are proud Democrats, we are prouder to be Americans. That was our hope and expectation.
And instead, the other side made a tactical decision which was, this is such a mess, it’s probably going to take several years to solve. And so we’re better off sitting on the sidelines saying no to everything, obstructing every possible bit of progress that could be made, so that we are well-positioned by the time the next election rolls around to simply point our fingers and say the Democrats are to blame.
In other words, their political strategy was based on amnesia. (Laughter.) Based on the premise that people would not remember that they were the folks who were responsible for the devastation to our economy.
Now, we made a different decision. And because of the members of Congress who are in this room, because of the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, because of the leadership of Harry Reid in the Senate, we didn’t think about the next election, we thought about the next generation. And we also decided, even as we were going to solve the immediate crisis, that it was time once and for all for us to tackle the big issues that were holding us back as a country.
And so we started off with education. We’ve seen a transformation of our education agenda. Not only did we save the jobs of teachers, but we also instituted a reform agenda that now has states all across the country raising standards, training teachers more effectively, going out there each and every day and finding out what are the best practices that can ensure that our kids can learn and compete in the 21st century. And that’s K through 12.
And then we said, that’s not enough. We’ve got to make sure that every young person in America is prepared for college and then can afford to go to college. So we took tens of billions of dollars that were going to the banks in unwarranted subsidies and we shifted those to our student loan programs and our Pell Grant programs. And we’ve got millions of young people all across the country who are now able to afford college because of the steps that these courageous members of Congress were willing to take during the course of this year.
That’s on education. We took on health care. And obviously health care is something that’s been debated a lot. It’s going to be very interesting, now that the other side says their main agenda is repealing health care. What exactly do they want to repeal? Do they want to repeal us saying to 30 million people, you now finally have affordable health care? Are they just going to say, you know what, tough luck, you’re on your own? Are they going to want to repeal provisions that say young people can stay on their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26 years old if they can’t get health insurance on the job? Do they want to repeal us closing the doughnut hole so that senior citizens can afford their prescription drugs when they get sick, and don’t have to choose between groceries and their medicine?
Are they going to want to repeal what essentially was the most robust patient bill of rights in our history — that says to insurance companies, you can’t drop coverage for people when they get sick; you can’t preclude them from getting health insurance when they’ve got a preexisting condition; you can’t impose arbitrary lifetime limits that leave people bankrupt even though they’ve been paying premiums all their lives?
What exactly are you going to repeal? And are you going to repeal all the mechanisms that Nancy alluded to, to lower the costs and improve the quality of care so that the Congressional Budget Office says we will actually save over a trillion dollars in deficits as a consequence of this program?
It’s going to be an interesting exercise if they think that they can follow through on that, because the American people may have heard a lot of arguments on Capitol Hill, but when they see what actually is being delivered I don’t think the Republicans are going to feel so good about this repeal call.
But the reason they’re moving forward on it is because they’re being driven by the special interests who have been paying for their campaigns over the course of the last several months.
The same is true on Wall Street reform. We said that we’ve got to have a financial system that is vibrant and dynamic, but also a financial system that has basic rules of the road, that works for everybody, not just for some. So we made sure that credit card companies can’t jack up your interest rates arbitrarily, without notice. We made certain that mortgage brokers can’t steer you to more expensive interest rate mortgages. We made sure that we got systems in place to guard against the kind of structural breakdowns that resulted in the taxpayer bailouts that all of us find unacceptable.
And now you’ve got folks on the other side who have said one of their first agenda items is to try to repeal Wall Street reform. Think about this. This is in the wake of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, and they want to go back to the status quo, business as usual.
Across the board — energy, education, health care, our financial systems, consumer protections — their basic agenda is, we’re going to do the things exactly as we were doing them before President Obama got into office. And that’s an agenda that America simply can’t afford. It is an agenda that folks simply can’t afford.
We were at a rally right before we came here and I’ve been using this analogy around the country — they drove this economy into a ditch. And Nancy and I, we’ve had to put our boots on — (laughter) — and the rest of the congressional delegation, we had to rappel down into the ditch, and we’re trying to push to get that car out of there. And the Republicans are just standing on the sidelines watching us, fanning themselves, sipping on a Slurpee — (laughter.) They’re kicking dirt back into the ditch. (Laughter.) We’re getting it into our eyes. Didn’t lift a finger to help — all they did was point and say, you’re not pushing hard enough, you’re not doing it the right way.
We finally have gotten this car out of the ditch — and it’s taken a lot of effort. And, yes, the car is banged up; it is dented, it is in need of some body work and a tune-up, but it’s moving in the right direction. We’re about to go forward.
And suddenly we get this tap on our fingers and we look back and it’s the Republicans asking for the keys back. And our basic attitude is, no, you can’t have the keys back. You don’t know how to drive. (Laughter and applause.) You don’t know how to drive.
Now, I want to be clear, they are more than happy to join us for the ride — but they’ve got to sit in the backseat. (Applause.) Because we want America’s families in the front seat. We want them in shotgun — not special interests, not the folks who’ve been calling the shots in the past.
That’s the challenge that we face. Because, look, every Democrat who is here — Al, Nancy, Chris, Tim, Keith, Betty, Jim — every — Amy — what binds us together as Democrats is a shared vision about what America is. We believe in hard work and responsibility and individual initiative. We know government can’t solve every problem. We understand that government needs to be lean and efficient. Nobody here wants to waste taxpayer dollars.
In fact, one of our most important agendas is restoring people’s confidence that in fact government in a serious way can do what it’s supposed to be doing — nothing more, nothing less. But we also believe that part of being an American is, is that we look out for one another, that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper; that we are willing to invest not just in the here and now, but in the future — that we’re investing in our kids’ education, we’re investing in our workers’ skills, that we’re investing in our infrastructure.
And, frankly, that’s not what we’ve been doing for a very long time. And that’s part of the change in mindset that we’ve been undergoing over the last couple of years. We’ve got to be thinking about the next generation.
In the words of Abraham Lincoln, we believe that every individual should be able to do what they do best for themselves, but we also believe that government should be able to do what people can’t do for themselves as well as government can do. And there are some basic things that we include in that.
Right now the Republican agenda, what they call the Promise for America, they want to cut education spending by 20 percent in order to pay for $700 billion worth of tax cuts that would only go to the top 2 percent. We don’t have the $700 billion. We’d have to borrow from China to pay for it, and in part to pay for a tiny amount of that tax cut they would cut education by 20 percent.
Do you think China is cutting education by 20 percent right now? Do you think South Korea, or Germany, or India are cutting education spending by 20 percent? It makes no sense.
We want to restart rebuilding our infrastructure and putting people back to work right now. Yes, we’ve saved 3.5 million jobs. We’ve got a whole bunch more jobs that we could create out there — putting people to work doing the work that needs to be done. Anybody who’s been to Beijing or Singapore, and you walk through their airports and you say, America used to have the best infrastructure. We used to have the best airports; we used to have the best roads, the best bridges. And now we’re investing less than half of what Europe or Asia are investing in their infrastructure.
Where is that going to leave our children and our grandchildren 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 50 years from now? Why aren’t the best railway lines, the best high-speed rails, the best broadband lines here in the United States of America?
We’ve got a race to see who’s going to determine the clean energy future. And one of the things we did in the Recovery Act was invest in solar panels and wind turbines and advanced battery manufacturing here in the United States of America. I want those things made here. But right now we’re getting our clock cleaned because we have not been serious about making those investments. And we haven’t set the guideposts where private capital could come in and start making those investments. And that means losing that race. That’s not acceptable.
And so we’ve got a lot of work to do. And as much progress as we’ve made over the last two years, the only way we’re going to continue on that progress is if each and every one of you are out there talking to your friends and your neighbors, knocking on doors, making phone calls — yes, writing checks to these outstanding members of Congress — because I’ve got to have a partner. I’ve got to have folks working with me who are willing to put aside their short-term political interests when it comes to the interests of the country.
And so let me just leave you with this thought. I know that because this has been a tough couple of years I’ve had people come back — come up to me sometimes and say, gosh, when you were elected in 2008, that was so exciting. Election night was just unbelievable, and then Inauguration Day, you had Beyoncé singing and — (laughter) — Bono. And I was at the inauguration and it was just so inspiring. And I’ve got to admit, Mr. President, sometimes over the last couple of years, with all the negative ads and all the money that’s been pouring in, all the filibustering and obstruction in Congress, sometimes I just start losing altitude, start losing hope. It just seems like change is so hard to bring about.
And I’ve got to remind people, first of all, I warned you it was going to be hard. I never said it was going to be easy. If it was easy it would have already been done. We knew it was going to be hard. But what I also tell people is don’t let anybody tell you that what we’ve been fighting for hasn’t made this country better, hasn’t been worth it.
Because of the work that these members of Congress did, because of the support that you’ve provided them, there are people right here in Minnesota who are able to get coverage for their cancer treatments instead of having to sell their house. Right now, today. Because of what you did, there are small businesses that are open right now that otherwise would have shuttered their doors.
Because of what you did, there are parents here in Minnesota who are able to look their kids in the eye and say, you know what, even though our savings got blasted by the economy downturn and the fall in the stock market, despite all that we can guarantee that you’re going to go to college.
Because of what you did, there are 100,000 young men and women who’ve come home from Iraq, no longer involved in a combat mission. (Applause.) And because of what you did, when those 100,000 come home, they’re getting the treatment they need, they’re getting the benefits that they deserve. They got a post-9/11 G.I. Bill that they can count on so that they can be part of this latest and greatest generation, and help grown and expand and build our middle class.
Those are all the consequences of the work that you did. And so, yes, things don’t happen as quickly as we want; they’re not always as smooth as people would want. This is a big, messy democracy. That’s the nature of America. It’s always been that way. This nation was founded on hard. A revolution of 13 colonies breaking away from the greatest empire on Earth — that was hard. It was hard to free the slaves and ensure that we weren’t living half-free and half-slave. It was hard for all those immigrants, our grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents, to come here and try to carve out a life for themselves. It was hard to overcome war and depression. And it was hard to fight for civil rights and women’s rights and workers’ rights.
But they did it because they understood that in America when citizens join together and decide they’ve got a vision for the future; when they decide our destiny is not written for us, it is written by us — when they made that decision we can’t be stopped. And that’s what this election is about — whether we continue with that trajectory, whether we continue with that tradition.
I’m absolutely confident we can. So I want everybody here to understand that we’re just in the first quarter. We’re just starting. We’ve got a lot more work to do. And the only way we’re going to be able to do it is if each and every one of you had that same spirit of possibility, are undaunted in the face of uncertainty, are unafraid in the face of difficulty. If you will join with us, I promise you we will look back on this period and we will say, yes, we were tested but we met that test for future generations.
Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you.