The Promise of America (Enron Economics)

Houston, Texas, November 18, 2003

November 18, 2003
Contact: Press Office, 802-651-3200

The following are the remarks of Democratic presidential candidate Governor Howard Dean, M.D., as prepared for delivery today in Houston, Texas:

Throughout our history, the American people have faced crucial moments of decision.  At these moments, it fell upon the people to decide what kind of country America would be.

These decisions weren't just determined by words -- they were backed up by actions.

Through the American Revolution, the abolitionist movement, the labor movement, the civil rights and women's rights movements, America has changed when the people have changed it.

I started this campaign for the presidency with the simple notion that America can be better. I had virtually no staff and no money, but I wanted to talk about health care. I wanted to talk about early childhood development.  And I wanted to talk about fiscal responsibility and the importance of balancing the budget.

I offered people a campaign in which they could participate, and they have done so -- beyond anything we imagined. This campaign no longer is mine; it belongs to the people who are building it. 

They are revitalizing the political process.  Through self-organized Dean Corps events, volunteers are donating to food banks and clothing drives, volunteering at shelters, and cleaning up public spaces.  They're connecting with one another and with their communities.

And they have given us a great gift in this campaign:  By participating with small donations that have grown into a powerful force, they have freed us from being beholden to any of the special interests. Through their participation they are doing something Washington hasn't done -- enacting real campaign finance reform.

No one thought it was possible. But this is how change begins in America -- it rises from the ground up.

In this campaign, we have begun to see what generations before us realized -- restoration starts with participation, and action is power.

But in the course of this campaign, we have also learned far more of the problems and challenges our nation faces.

I have traveled across this country, and met with Americans from all walks of life.

I have spoken with mothers working two jobs to make ends meet, forced to choose between earning the money to provide for their children and spending the time to raise them.

I have spoken with families who can't understand why, when the president passed a 3 trillion dollar tax cut, their property taxes are higher than ever and their kids go to school in crowded classrooms with fewer school days.

I have spoken with American families who were going deeper in debt to stay above water, taking out one more mortgage and hoping for the best.

I have spoken with people who worked for one company their entire lives, only to lose their pension because of the recklessness of their corporate bosses.

And I have spoken to parents with sons and daughters in the military as our leaders were deciding the fate of their children with hardly any debate on the wisdom and necessity of the invasion of Iraq.

And many parents of our troops are wondering what kind of country their children will come home to, or if they will come home at all.

Over and over, I heard the same questions: 

If our country is so rich, why am I barely getting by?  If our country is so strong, why are we being made to feel so afraid?  If our country is so powerful, why do I feel so powerless?

These questions are larger than any one issue or program or policy prescription. 

What I have seen and heard across America is that people feel disconnected from their government and our business leaders -- and from one another.  They are afraid America is becoming more and more hated across the world.  And they worry that they may always be struggling just to make ends meet.

This is where our country is.  And this is what has shaped our campaign into what it is today.

We stand here today for all those who feel that Washington has forgotten them.

We stand here today for all those who believe that when our government serves only the big corporations, it betrays everything our country represents.

We stand here today for all those who believe America should not only be feared by the world, but admired.

We stand here today ready to challenge the old political order which has shut the people out of the process.  We stand here ready to declare with our voices and our votes:  "America is better than this."

Not far from here stands Enron Tower.  It symbolizes all that is wrong with our country today. 

At Enron, those at the top enriched themselves by deceiving everyone else and robbing ordinary people of the future they'd earned.  And the Bush Administration is following their lead.  They have created an economic program that enriches their friends and supporters at the expense of ordinary working Americans.  A program deserving of the name -- Enron Economics."

We were promised fiscal responsibility. We've gotten a 9 trillion dollar increase in the nation's debt over ten years.  We were told that tax cuts would reduce the deficit, but the government's chief auditor -- a Republican -- says that's flat false."

Enron Economics benefits those who make the most -- their share of the tax burden declined from 28 percent in the 1990s to nearly 20 percent today.  Meanwhile, everyone else suffers -- cities and states across America are raising property taxes health insurance premiums and college tuition.  Schools are closing and teachers and police officers are being laid off.  Funding for Medicaid and housing is being cut '" and our infrastructure continues to crumble.

We know what happened to Enron.  Moral bankruptcy led to fiscal bankruptcy.  And the ethos of Enron is where our politics and policies have led us in America.

But every one of us here today knows that Enron Tower marks the end of an era, because right here, less than one mile away, the new era is being born. 

And it begins with you.

Next year we will defeat George Bush.  But this is not just about electing a president -- it is about changing America.  And next year will only prepare us for the work we will do the year after and ten years after and fifty years after that.

We are the wealthiest and most powerful society in the history of the world.  We face big challenges.  And we need big ideas to match them.  When the people take back their government from the powerful few who control it, we will be able to make real change for the future of our country.

The government today is no longer working for all the people.  We need a new social contract for the 21st century -- based on shared responsibility and on our country's deepest values.  And it should also reflect the world we live in.

Today, there are 43 million Americans who don't have health insurance.  But we can make health insurance affordable for everyone.

Today, prescription drugs are more important in treating our illnesses than they ever have been before.  We can make medicine affordable for everyone.

Today, college is becoming more expensive just as a college diploma is becoming more of a necessity.  But we can make sure that every student who pledges to finish high school will be guaranteed $10,000 a year in grants and loans to help pay for college. 

Today, more families rely on the income of women than at any time in our history, both single-parent families and two-income families.  But women are still not paid as much as men.  We've got to eliminate the wage gap in this country -- it's the economic issue of the next century.

Today, more families have two working parents, and childcare is becoming almost as expensive as college.  But we can make sure that childcare is affordable and accessible for all Americans who need it.

Today, our tax burden has been shifted to hard work, while wealth is taxed less and less and many wasteful companies are being subsidized -- companies that leave a mess of pollution for us to clean up, or are sending jobs overseas.  But we can have a fair and simple tax code -- a moral tax code -- in which hard work is rewarded first and foremost, wealth pays more of its fair share, and corporations who contribute waste to our country will be penalized for doing so.

Today, economic power is being concentrated into fewer and fewer hands.  But we can check the power of mega-businesses that make decisions which affect millions of us.

Today, there are new technologies which can be the foundation of our economy for the next century.  We can invest aggressively in them, just as our nation did when it invested in railroads, in rural electrification, and in public roads and highways.

Today, our energy supply relies heavily on oil from countries that set the price that we pay for a gallon of gasoline and use our money to fund terrorism.  But we can create an energy policy that is ours again, relying on sources that will never run out -- solar power, wind power, and ethanol and biomass.  We will reduce our dependence on foreign oil 20% by the year 2020, as the energy policy of the next century begins to bear fruit.  And it will create new jobs for decades to come.

We also need a fundamental shift in our dealings with other nations.

Our role in the world must change.  We are living in a new world community. The problems we face are different than they were four decades ago or even four years ago.

On September 11th, we learned that there are terrorist organizations who wish for America nothing but despair and violence.

We had an opportunity to fight this new enemy in a way that matched the new world we live in.

But we are in danger of losing the war on terror, because we are fighting it with the strategies of the past.

We must face the world we live in, because our enemies already have.

In today's age of global communication, billions of people can turn on a television and see in graphic detail what is going on half a world away.  Even in impoverished nations, people are now exposed to the prosperities of the new global economy and can see they are being left out.

Our enemies have exploited this.  Groups like al Qaeda are using our own prosperity against us, convincing millions worldwide that our success comes at their expense.

And this is the mistake our government is making -- we are responding with our military alone.  We will never win the war on terror with a purely military strategy.

Al Qaeda knows that their most powerful weapon against us is not terrorism -- it is persuasion.  We are waging a military campaign, but for years, they have been waging a political campaign.

And our military campaign is only serving to strengthen their political argument.

They are preaching fear and hatred against all that we stand for, and we are not responding.

The foreign policy of the future must be based on the truth that al Qaeda already knows:  the real battleground of the 21st century is in the hearts and minds of the millions who may be persuaded to turn against us.

In Iraq today, we're stuck in an occupation in which we are failing to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.  Because of the Bush administration's failure to internationalize the occupation, much of the Iraqi population is turning against us and our soldiers are being targeted.  We need the world's help to solve this problem.  We can't secure Iraq alone, and we can't rebuild it alone.  But Iraq must be secured and rebuilt, and the Iraqi people must be shown that we have their interests in mind, and not only our own -- otherwise we risk a long guerilla war and a new wave of terrorists.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made." Today Roosevelt might say that those who hunger and have no work are the stuff of which terrorists are made.

We need a global effort to provide education, to foster democracy and to promote capitalism and economic opportunity in areas of instability.  We need to champion the rights of women across the world.  Above all, we must demonstrate that our vision has the interests of the world at heart, and not merely our own.

We cannot do this alone.  We will need the help of all people who value liberty and human life -- we must enlist established institutions like the UN and NATO.  But our future depends upon uniting our friends and allies with the goal of winning the hearts and minds of people the world over, so that terrorists will have no base of recruitment and no safe haven in any corner of the world.

I believe in the words Harry Truman spoke:  "We must build a new world, a far better world -- one in which the eternal dignity of man is respected."

And we begin by building a better world at home. 

I believe that George Bush's philosophy in life is, if you're rich you deserve it, and if you're poor you deserve it.  But those aren't the values that our country was founded upon.  America is better than this, and Americans are better than this.  We'll move forward in this country when we have leaders that appeal to the best in us instead of the worst. 

I am determined to find a way to reach out to Americans of every background, every race, every gender and sexual orientation, and bring them -- as Dr. King said -- to the same table of brotherhood.

The biggest lie spoken by politicians on platforms like this is, "Elect me, and I'll solve all your problems."  But the truth is, the power to change this country lies in your hands, not mine.

Abraham Lincoln said that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth.  But this President has forgotten ordinary people.

You have the power to take back the Democratic Party.

You have the power to take our country back.

And we have the power to take the White House back in 2004.

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