Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel
1:07 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. (Applause.) It is good to see everybody here, back in Atlanta. (Applause.)
A couple of people I want to acknowledge -- first of all, your outstanding Mayor, Mr. Kasim Reed, is in the house. (Applause.) Former governor, Roy Barnes, is in the house. (Applause.) I want to thank all the members of the host committee who made this such an extraordinary event. And then I've got to give a special shout-out to one of my favorite people. He's a little bit of a troublemaker -- (laughter) -- he's a little bit erasable. (Laughter.) But he is a man of God and he's a man of the people, and he has been a great friend to me for a very long time -- so give it up for Reverend Joseph Lowery. (Applause.) Love that man.
So, Atlanta, I am here not just because I need your help -- although I do. But I'm here because your country needs your help.
Back in 2008, we came together because we believed in a basic bargain that built this country -- the basic idea that in America, your life is not determined by the circumstances of your birth; the idea that here in America, if you are willing to work hard, then you can find a job that pays a living wage, that you can care for your family, that you can have a home, that you can send your kids to college and allow them to have experiences and opportunities you didn’t even dream of, that you can retire with dignity and respect -- that basic American idea that if you take responsibility for your own life, that you can go as far as your dreams can take you. And it doesn’t matter what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is -- (applause) -- who you love, that basic American idea that you can make it if you try.
And for almost a decade we had seen that dream that built the largest middle class in history, and the most successful economy in history -- we had seen that dream slipping away. We had watched surpluses turned into deficits. We had seen two wars fought on a credit card. We had seen a few people at the top do really, really well while more and more folks were struggling to get by, dealing with higher costs of health care, higher costs of education, but weren’t seeing higher salaries or higher incomes. And this was all before the worst financial crisis in our lifetimes struck, and the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes hit.
And so, over the last three and a half years, that journey that we began has been tough sometimes. We've had a steep mountain to climb. But slowly and surely, the American people have proved once again that they are tougher than tough times. There were folks who said, let's let Detroit go bankrupt. We said, let's invest in American workers and American businesses -- (applause) -- and now the American auto industry is back on top.
All across the country, folks who lost their jobs, they went back to school, retrained for the industries of the future. All across the country, small businesses hung on no matter how tough it was, kept folks on payroll even if the owner sometimes couldn't take a salary, because they understood that families were depending on them. And over time, what we've seen is steady progress and steady movement. More than 4 million jobs created over the last 27 months; more than 800,000 created just in the last few months alone.
But of course, we understand we had a big hole that was created by that crisis, and it's going to take more than just a few months or a few years to dig our way out of that hole, because this is a challenge that's existed for over a decade now. And we recognize there's still too many of our friends who don't have work, and too many of our family members whose homes are underwater, too many folks struggling. We've got more work to do. We understand we've got so much more work to do.
And the question is not whether we need to put more folks back to work, or whether we need to see the economy growing faster, or whether we need to bring down our debt; the question is how do we do it. The question is how do we do it. (Applause.)
And in this election, all of you have the opportunity to choose between two fundamentally different visions of how you grow America -- two fundamentally different visions about who we are as a people and what makes this nation great. On one side you’ve got Mr. Romney and his allies in Congress --
AUDIENCE: Booo --
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Romney is a patriotic American. He's got a beautiful family. He's been very successful in his life. (Laughter.) No, he has. But his basic vision is one in which if wealthy investors like him and folks at the very top are freed up from any kind of regulations, if they are maximizing their profits even if it means polluting more, or offshoring jobs, or avoiding taxes, or busting unions -- whatever the strategies -- if they're doing well then everybody else is automatically doing well. That's their view.
And that's basically their economic plan. I'm not making this up. It's on Mr. Romney's website. Members of Congress have put forward this plan. They voted for this plan. Their basic idea is we're going to eliminate regulations on everything; we are going to provide a $5 trillion tax cut on top of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans; and we're just going to let the market take care of the rest. And the presumption is that everybody here, everybody around the country, will share in this newfound prosperity.
Now, I don't doubt that they will execute this plan if they get elected. Here is the problem: We tried it. (Applause.) We tried it very recently, and it didn’t work. That kind of top-down economics has never worked. That's not how this country was built. It's good for a few, but it doesn’t create that broad-based middle class, and folks having ladders to get into the middle class, that made this country great.
And so we've got an alternative vision -- because I believe we're all in it together. I've got a vision that says the way we're going to grow our economy and put people back to work is to make sure every child in America has the best education possible. (Applause.) I've got a vision that says the way we grow our economy is by making sure that we're bringing manufacturing back to the United States. (Applause.) I've got a vision that says the way we build our economy is to rebuild America -- our roads, our bridges, our runways, our ports, our airports -- putting people back to work. (Applause.)
I've got a vision that says we'll grow our economy if we control our own energy sources so we're not dependent on what happens in the Middle East. (Applause.) And that's why we've got to double down on clean energy -- wind power and solar power. (Applause.) And I've got a vision that says we grow best when our tax code makes sure that the wealthiest Americans are paying a little bit more in order to bring down our debt. (Applause.)
It's the basic idea that everybody gets a fair share, and everybody does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules. That's my vision for America. And just like their vision has been tested, my vision has been tested as well. When you look at the history of this country, the way we emerged as an economic superpower was doing it together.
My grandfather’s generation was educated on the GI Bill. We did that -- together. We made a common investment in the common good. The Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Interstate Highway System -- we did those things together, because we understood everybody would be more successful if we were making those common investments that gave each of us the capacity to do well.
Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican President, said it pretty well. He said we should do for ourselves what we do best for ourselves, but we should also do together those things that we do better together. (Applause.) And so we made investments in science and technology, inventing the products that led to the Internet and GPS and Google, and amazing medical breakthroughs. We did that because together, through our government, we made these investments in basic research. (Applause.)
We did all these things throughout our history not because they were good for one particular person, not because they were good for one particular group, but because they were good for all of us. Because we understood we rise and fall as one people, as one nation. (Applause.)
That’s my vision for America. That’s what I’ve been fighting for, for the last three and a half years. That’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States of America. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: So let me break this down just a little bit more specifically, just because I want everybody to understand. Let’s look for a moment at Mr. Romney’s -- the specifics of his plan. I already indicated to you he wants to roll back regulations for polluters and for insurance companies and for the big banks, and he wants to get rid of the Wall Street reform that we did to make sure that we don’t have any more taxpayer bailouts. All right, so that’s one big part of his plan. Then he’s got this plan to cut taxes by another $5 trillion. All right? So what this would mean would be the average millionaire would see their taxes go down by 25 percent.
Now, you may be wondering, how is it that he can talk about cutting taxes by $5 trillion and, at the same time, say he's going to reduce our deficit -- because they always talk about the deficit and how terrible it is and we've got to get control of the deficit and the debt, and we can't pass this on to the next generation. All right, so you're going to cut $5 trillion, giving folks like me or Mr. Romney a tax break. How do the numbers work? (Laughter.)
Well, what Mr. Romney says, first of all, is we'll cut a trillion dollars out of that portion of the federal budget that finances everything from education to Head Start, to health care to environmental protection, to consumer protection -- all the things we think of -- food safety -- you name it, a trillion dollars gets cut out of that -- which means that a lot of people suddenly will not have the protections they were counting on. A lot of folks around the country won't be getting services that we think are part of what makes America great.
All right? But that's only $1 trillion, so that doesn't get you everywhere you need to go. So then the next step would be to have tens of millions of people no longer have health insurance.
THE PRESIDENT: He'd roll back the Affordable Care Act and he'd block-grant Medicaid in such a way where vulnerable people all across the country, folks who may be disabled, seniors who are relying on those services -- that would be eliminated.
But that doesn't pay for $5 trillion. That's not enough. So then what they'd have to do is eliminate a whole bunch of deductions that middle-class families count on to keep their taxes low. And so what this adds up to is essentially you -- your family, your friends, middle-class people all across the country -- would end up seeing higher taxes to pay for tax cuts for Mr. Romney and me.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: It ain't right.
THE PRESIDENT: It ain't right. (Laughter and applause.)
Now, that's not a recipe for economic growth. That's not going to make us stronger. That's not going to make our young people more educated. It's not going to make us more competitive in this global economy.
So what I've said is, no, here is what we need to do. We need to invest more in education. I want to hire more teachers, especially in math and science. (Applause.) I want 2 million more people to have access to community colleges to get the skills and the training they need to get jobs from local businesses right now. (Applause.) I want to make college more affordable so young people don't have as much debt when they graduate. (Applause.) That's my vision for how we're going to move forward.
I want to stop giving subsidies to oil companies that have never been more successful, never made more profits. I want to take that money and give subsidies to clean energy, to the energy of the future that's never been more promising -- fuel-efficient cars and solar power and wind power, biodiesel -- putting folks back to work creating homegrown energy, so we're less dependent on foreign oil. (Applause.)
I want to invest in science and technology all across the country, because that's always been what's maintained our cutting edge.
And then, as you know I promised in 2008, I would end the war in Iraq -- we ended it. (Applause.) We're phasing down the war in Afghanistan. And I want to take half of those savings, pay down the deficit, and take the other half and let's start doing some nation-building right here at home -- (applause) -- putting folks back to work rebuilding our infrastructure all across the country. (Applause.)
I want to change our tax code, because I'm tired of seeing us give tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas. I want to give tax breaks to companies that are investing right here in Georgia, right here in Atlanta, right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
There was an article the other day in The Washington Post about how Mr. Romney's former firm -- this is what gave him all this amazing success -- was a "pioneer" in offshoring jobs to China and India. And when they were asked about it, some of his advisors explained, no, there's a difference between offshoring and outsourcing. (Laughter.) I'm not kidding, that's what they said. Those workers who lost their jobs, they didn't understand the difference. (Applause.)
But the point is, we don’t need somebody who’s a pioneer in offshoring or outsourcing. We need a President in the White House who’s going to, every single day, be fighting to bring jobs back to the United States, do some insourcing, put folks back to work here. (Applause.)
And on this tax code, as I said, I do not think that a $250,000 tax break for me or Mr. Romney -- he’d get a little more, he’s got more -- (laughter) -- more than I do -- I don’t think that’s more important than us hiring outstanding teachers. (Applause.) I don’t think that’s more important than us sending broadband lines into rural areas of Georgia and all across the country so that folks have access to the Internet. I don’t think that’s going to help our economy grow more than us investing in cures for Alzheimer’s or cancer. (Applause.)
I want to bring down the deficit in a responsible, balanced way. I’ve already put forward a plan -- $4 trillion in deficit reduction, spending cuts for things that we don’t need, strengthen Medicare and our health care system so that we get a better bang for our buck -- (applause) -- and asking the wealthiest to pay a little bit more. And you know what, when you talk to folks around the country, successful Americans, they want to do a little more. If it’s done right, they want to contribute to making America stronger.
Now, that vision -- the good news is, is when you ask people, item by item, between these two visions, the American people have a sense of what makes sense. They prefer our vision. But this is still going to be a close election because the economy is still tough and folks are still frustrated. And what that means is that you’re going to have more money spent in this election than ever before by the other side on negative ads. And their message will be simple. They’ll say, the economy is bad and it’s Obama’s fault. (Laughter.) They suffer a little bit of amnesia so they don’t remember -- (applause) -- all the stuff that happened before I was sworn into office, but that’s going to be their message.
And because times are tough, and because they’re spending these ungodly sums, it’s going to be close. But here’s the thing that all of you taught me from 2008. When the American people decide that something is important, when ordinary citizens come together and they talk to their neighbors, they talk to their friends, they talk to their coworkers, they start getting organized, they knock on doors, they make phone calls -- amazing things happen. Change happens.
No matter how much money is spent on the other side, when people are engaged and involved, and they understand that our core values and who we are and what we’re giving to the next generation is at stake, the American people fight for what’s right. (Applause.)
And the American people understand that we’re not going to make progress by going backwards. We need to go forwards. (Applause.) They understand we don’t need to refight this battle over health care. It’s the right thing to do that we’ve got 3 million young people who are on their parent’s health insurance plans that didn’t have it before. (Applause.) It’s the right thing to do to give seniors discounts on their prescription drugs. It’s the right thing to do to give 30 million Americans health insurance that didn’t have it before. (Applause.)
They want to go forward. They understand it’s the right thing to do to make sure that we don’t have to bail out Wall Street again and we’ve got some basic regulations to protect our consumers from unscrupulous lenders or mortgage brokers. They understand that. They don’t want to go backwards.
They don’t want to go back to the days when women had a tough time getting access to birth control or Planned Parenthoods getting defunded. They want women to have control over their own health care choices. They don’t want to go backwards.
They don’t want to go backwards. (Applause.)
They don’t want to go back to the days when you might not be able to fight for the country you love just because of who you love. They don’t want "don't ask, don't tell" reinstated. (Applause.) They don’t want to go backwards to a day when young people, who as children were brought to the United States, and were raised with our kids and went to school with our kids -- are our kids -- are Americans through and through in everything except the papers -- that somehow they should be sent away instead of contributing to the United States of America. (Applause.) They don’t want to go back to that. (Applause.)
So I have faith in the American people. I know when we started this journey back in 2008, I didn’t have all this gray hair. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: You're looking good!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: You look good! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: But from traveling all across the country, my faith, my conviction in the strength and resilience and the goodness and decency of the American people, it is restored every single day. I have so much confidence that even when we occasionally take the wrong turn, eventually the road straightens out. We follow that right path. I truly believe this is a blessed country. (Applause.)
And so we’ll see some cynicism and negativism and foolishness during the course of this campaign. (Laughter.) This campaign will have its ups and it will have its downs. But I remind you of what I said in 2008: I’m not a perfect man, and I’ll never be a perfect President. But I told you I’d always tell you what I thought, I’d always tell you what I believed, and most importantly, I told you I’d wake up every single day and fight as hard as I knew how for you. (Applause.) That I’d fight as hard as I knew how for all those folks who are doing the right thing out there, all those people who kept the faith with this country. And you know what, I’ve kept that promise. I have kept that promise. (Applause.)
I believe in you. I hope you still believe in me. (Applause.) I hope you’re ready to stand. I hope you’re ready to fight. I hope you’re ready to go out there and knock on some doors, and make some phone calls, talk to your friends and talk to your neighbors and get them to the polls. And if you do, we will finish what we started in 2008. (Applause.) And we will rebuild this economy and rebuild our middle class. And we will remind the world just why it is that we are the greatest nation on Earth.
God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
1:35 P.M. EDT