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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 26, 2003
President Calls for Action on Judicial Nominee
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building
10:30 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Bienvenidos. I want to thank mi abogado and my close friend for his leadership and his participation in our government. Everybody has got to have a good lawyer. (Laughter.) Especially in my line of work. (Laughter.) And I've got a great one with Al Gonzales. I'm proud to call him friend.
I also want to thank the members of the Latino Coalition who are here today. I want to thank for your work in -- obviously, on political issues. But really I want to thank you for what you're doing in your own community, showing people that through hard work there's opportunity and hope; that if you're an entrepreneur, thanks for setting such a great example. Truly, one of the greatest things about the nation is that somebody who has got a dream and who works hard can own their own business, realize their own potential. So thanks for setting the example for a lot of our fellow citizens.
I'm honored that Mel Martinez is here with us, and Hector Barreto, serving my administration. Both men are doing a fine job in important positions. I want to thank Ambassador Hans Hertell, from the Dominican Republic for coming. (Applause.) I see your brought an entourage with you. (Laughter.) Rosario Marin, who's the Treasurer, is here. Rosario, great to see you. Josefina Carbonell, who is the Assistant Secretary for Aging, Health and Human Services, is with us.
I want to thank very much the -- Robert Deposada, who is the President of the Latino Coalition. I also want to thank Jane Delgado, as well, for your leadership and for working for what you think is right for the country. (Applause.) El gobernador del estado de Hidalgo is with us today. Gobernador, bienvenidos. Glad you're here. (Applause.)
I see my friend Alfredo Phillips. One of the great honors when I was the governor of Texas was to work closely with our Mexican counterparts. Senor Phillips was a man who came to Austin quite frequently to talk about NADBANK and mutual development programs. I'm honored you're here. I appreciate your delegation coming.
This nation is committed to making sure we've got great relations with Mexico. The cornerstone of good foreign policy starts with making sure the neighborhood is prosperous and peaceful. I look forward to continuing to work with Vicente Fox on advancing a common agenda for the good of both nations.
And so I welcome you all here. You come to America today during times of great challenges. There are some challenges which face us. But there's no hurdle big enough for the American people not to cross. This is -- we've got some mighty challenges -- to make sure the country is more prosperous and more hopeful, and the world more peaceful. But sin duda, we're going to achieve what we need to achieve, porque este pais es un gran pais, with great values and great hope and great strength.
The first challenge we have is to make sure people can find work. We want everybody working who wants to find a job. The challenge was created, really, because of a recession, and an attack on America, and the fact that some of our fellow citizens didn't realize that they needed to tell the truth all the time when it came to the numbers on their balance sheets. All three of those circumstances has created a challenge for the country. And the challenge is how to make sure the entrepreneurial environment is strong and steady, so that people are confident in taking risk; that small businesses are willing to take risks to expand.
And so I put out an economic plan that addresses the challenges that we face. First, I want to remind you we responded to the recession by tax relief. We believe that if a person has more money in their pockets, they're likely to demand a good or a service. And when they do so, in the marketplace, somebody is likely to produce the good or a service. And when that happens, somebody is more likely to find work. That's the premise of the economic policy we laid out in '01. I worked with the Republicans and Democrats to get the tax plan through.
We responded to the attacks on September the 11th, 2001. We had a terrorism insurance bill passed to encourage construction programs to go forward. We dealt with the airline issue. We got the stock market opened up quickly. And, of course, then we liberated Afghanistan as we sought to bring justice to the killers of the thousands of Americans and others.
We dealt with the corporate scandals by passing the law that clearly says that if you lie, cheat or steal, that if you defraud a shareholder or an employee, there is going to be certain consequences.
And so we made progress. But the economy still needs more work as far as we're concerned. And so I've gone to Congress, and I want to share with you quite quickly, quite briefly what I am asking Congress to do.
First of all, I think it's very important for us to focus on small business growth. We're interested in job creation. The first thing -- the first fact that Congress has got to understand is most small -- most jobs are created by small businesses, most new jobs. And so, therefore, any package ought to be focused on small business in America. And this package is. It basically says, we're -- we've asked Congress to cut rates; they did. But they phased in the tax rate cuts over three, five or seven years. Well, if the economy is not doing as well as it should today, and if Congress has one time seen the wisdom of letting people keep more of their own money, then step one is they ought to accelerate the tax relief plan to this year. All tax cuts in the future ought to be accelerated to this year. If they're good enough five years from now, they're good enough today. (Applause.)
Most small businesses are sole proprietorships, or limited partnerships, or sub-chapter S corporations, which means that they pay tax at the individual income tax rate. And so, therefore, when you accelerate rate cuts, you're really accelerating capital to be invested by small businesses. And that's what Congress must understand. The rate reduction package is good for the small business sector of the American economy. (Applause.)
As well, we believe we ought to increase the amount of expensing available to small businesses from the current limitation of $25,000 to $75,000 a year. This will encourage capital expenditure. (Applause.) It will provide incentive for people to expand their businesses. Capital expenditure equals jobs, and the more capital accumulation and capital expenditure we can encourage, the more likely it is somebody is going to find work.
And so this plan focuses on boosting the amount of money consumers have to spend, strengthening demand for products. But it also focuses on capital accumulation, capital formation, particularly at the small business sector of the American economy.
Furthermore, I believe we ought to eliminate the double taxation on dividends, and I will tell you why. If capital equals jobs, the double taxation of dividends means there is less capital in the private markets for investment. It's fair to tax a company's profits. It is unfair to tax that profit again when it's distributed to one of the shareholders. (Applause.) And so our plan encourages capital formation. Our plan addresses the needs of the 10 million seniors who have dividend income; it is beneficial for those seniors not to have to pay a tax on their dividends -- as a matter of fact, it will help them in the later years of their lives.
The dividend plan also is going to have a positive effect on our accounting process. I mean, after all, we went through a period of time when people said, invest in my company even though I may not have any earnings, I've got a good idea, so let's invest -- let's invest in something that may or may not happen.
A society which is focused on dividends says, you know, cash is really what matters. You can't -- you say, invest in my company, I'm going to pay a dividend -- is not based upon some pie-in-the-sky protection; it's based on the reality of cash. The dividend policy, if more companies pay dividends, will have a positive effect when it comes to the balance sheets of America. It will have a reform effect, because you can't project what may be. When you're promising dividends, you've got to project what is. And that's going to be good for investors, and it's going to be good for accountability when it comes to the corporate sector of America.
So this is the plan I'm asking Congress to look at. It's a reasonable plan, it's a stimulative plan, it's a plan that makes sense. And I'm asking for your help. I'd like for you to contact your congressman or your senator and let him know that this plan makes sense for the economic vitality of this country.
We continue to face a hurdle with our schools. If you want America to be a hopeful place, we better make sure the public school system of America works. And so I want to continue -- (applause.) I say we face a problem because not every school is working the way we want it to. I proposed reform which the Senate and the House passed in my first year as the President. The reform said, if you spend money, then it makes sense to demand results. We spend money at the federal level; therefore, we ought to ask, what are the results. We're asking the simple question, if you receive money, can the children read and write and add and subtract. That's what we want to know. It's really important for Latino parents to have that question asked.
It's essential to ask that question if you want to future of this country to be bright. Because, oftentimes, the Latino child just gets passed through the system, without asking the fundamental question of whether or not that child can read and write and add and subtract.
You see, it's oftentimes easy to walk into a classroom full of the so-called "hard to educate" and say, we're moving you through. It's what I call the soft bigotry of low expectations. I told the American people when I was running for office, I will challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations, because I believe every child can learn, regardless of the status of their parents. (Applause.) And we have done that. We have done that. We've increased federal education spending by 50 percent from the time I got here. But more importantly, we're demanding accountability, because we believe in the value of every child, and we don't want one child left behind here in America. (Applause.)
We look forward to working with you on health care matters. We want the Medicare system to function well. We want to make sure that there is a capacity for people to get primary care through community health centers. It's an initiative which I strongly support and I'm pushing Congress to fund to its fullest.
We want to make sure that there is a -- health tax credits to help the working uninsured. And we want to make sure there's medical liability reform to make sure that health care is not only affordable, but available. In other words, we don't want our docs sued to the point where they're leaving the profession, where people can't find good medical care.
There's a lot we can work with you on, and intend to do -- associated health care plans, incredibly important part of making sure small business owners can provide affordable health care to their employees.
I also want to work with -- continue to work with you all in America on making sure that our welfare system is complete. I say complete because the best welfare programs oftentimes are those found in our iglesias, our churches, and synagogues, and mosques. And our government must not fear the power of faith in our society, but must welcome faith-based programs, which exist to heal hearts and provide hope for broken lives.
The great strength of this country lies in the hearts of our fellow citizens. The great power of transformation in neighborhoods can take place because thousands of citizens have heard the universal call to love a neighbor like they would like to be loved themself. And so you'll see us continue to work with our neighborhood helpers and healers at the federal level to encourage faith-based programs to flourish and exist.
I recognize that one person can't solve all of our society's problems, but one person can help save one life. And it's that accumulative effect, what I call the gathering momentum of millions of acts of kindness which take place on a daily basis, which literally can transform this country, one heart and one soul at a time.
I also want to talk to you about how to make sure our judiciary works well -- historically, with me naming good people to serve on the bench -- good, solid, honest, decent Americans who are willing to forego the private practice of law, the comforts of private life and serve on the federal bench. And that's exactly what I've done. I've named some incredibly fine Americans to serve in this important part of our government. And no finer American is Miguel Estrada. (Applause.)
He is a man I have named, nominated for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. When confirmed he'll be the first Hispanic to serve on what they call "the second most important court in America". (Applause.) His story is the American story. His story -- it's what makes this country so profound and so hopeful and so promising. After all, he came to the country from Honduras. He could barely speak English. He came as a teenage boy, had trouble with our native language and, yet, ends up shortly thereafter in Harvard Law School as one of the top students.
It speaks about a man who has a dream and works hard to achieve that dream; understands the value of education; overcame difficulties and became one of the top law students out of Harvard. He has argued 15 cases before the Supreme Court. He has taken his knowledge and capacity and argued before the highest court of our land. He has served in the Justice Department under Presidents from both political parties. He is a incredibly bright mind.
Yet, his nomination is being delayed and stalled by Democratic senators. His nomination has been stalled for two years. They're blocking the vote on this good man for purely political reasons. The senators are applying a double standard to Miguel Estrada by requiring him to answer questions that other judicial nominees, over time, have not been forced to answer. And that is not right, and that is not fair.
By blocking a vote on Miguel Estrada, some Democrats in the Senate are flaunting the intention of the United States Constitution and the tradition of the United States Senate, itself. Alexander Hamilton wrote that, the purpose of the Senate confirmation was to prevent the appointment of unfit characters. No one can possibly call Miguel Estrada "unfit." (Applause.)
The American Bar Association has given him its highest ratings -- highest ratings. And he has the qualifications and the experience and the temperament to make an outstanding judge. The partisans in the Senate are subjecting Miguel Estrada to an unfair double standard. Failing to allow an up or down vote -- a vote which will pass -- on Miguel Estrada's nomination is a travesty, an injustice being carried out by those responsible for helping to uphold justice in this country.
I want to thank you for your work on Miguel's nomination. I will stand by that man's side until he is sworn in as a judge. (Applause.)
And, finally, we have been called to defend America and to keep the peace. We face a significant challenge, and that is to protect the homeland of the American people. Prior to September 11, 2001, we thought oceans would protect the homeland of the American people. We thought that history would continue to repeat itself, that this nation was safe and secure; that if there was a gathering threat overseas, we could deal with it if we felt like dealing with it, but it was not a problem for the home people. Yet, on September the 11th, the world changed; it changed dramatically and sadly for thousands of citizens. It also changed for how this country must view our position in the world. The strategic vision of the country shifted.
We're doing everything we can here at home to secure the homeland. We've got agencies working overtime, people sharing information. Our borders are becoming more efficient. We want people, commerce to move freely, but we don't want terrorists to move freely. So we're doing as good a job as we possibly can to protect you. But the best way to secure the homeland is to find killers before they kill us and bring them to justice. And that's what we're going to do. (Applause.)
So we're on the hunt, on al Qaeda. This is a different kind of war. It's a war which requires a good intelligence-sharing, and it requires cutting off money. It requires specially skilled troops to smoke these people out of their caves and to bring them to justice. And that's what we're doing -- one by one. Sometimes you'll see success and sometimes you won't. You just got to know the mighty United States, along with 89 other countries in our coalition for Enduring Freedom, are doing everything we can to protect you and protect other people who love freedom.
There's also a threat gathering in Iraq. It's been gathering for a long period of time. The danger with Iraq is that he can strike in the neighborhood. And the danger with Iraq is that he has got the willingness and capacity to train al Qaeda-type organizations and provide them with equipment to hurt America.
The world has waited a long time for Mr. Saddam Hussein to disarm. They've waited a long time. He is a master of disguise and delay. He'll say, oh, I'm disarming -- after he said he has no arms. (Laughter.)
We will continue to work with our friends, people who understand the value of freedom. We will insist that the United Nation Resolution 1441 be adhered to in its fullest. After all, we want the United Nations to be a legitimate, effective body. But for the safety of the American people and for peace in the world, Saddam Hussein will be disarmed, one way or the other. And this nation does so for the sake of peace.
The use of our military is the absolute last option. It is the last alternative for the -- for the President. But the risk of doing nothing, the risk of assuming that Saddam Hussein will change, the risk of thinking and hoping for the best for the American people far outweighs the risk of committing troops, if we have to. The choice is Saddam Hussein's to make. It's been his to make all along. He gets to choose between peace and war.
And the other thing that is an inherent part of our view of Iraq is how I started the discussion here. See, we believe everybody matters, everybody counts. It doesn't matter your background, where you're from, everybody has worth. As I said in my State of the Union address, liberty is not America's gift to the world; liberty is God's gift to human -- to the human -- mankind. And that's what we believe. (Applause.)
So in the days ahead, as we deal with this challenge facing our country, you need to know that the value of freedom and liberty will be at the forefront of a policy designed to make the world more peaceful, and a policy designed to protect the American people.
Thank you for your interest. May God bless you all, and may God bless America. (Applause.)
END 11:00 A.M. EST