For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
May 3, 2004
Remarks by the Vice President to Employees of the Wal-Mart Distribution Center
5801 Southwest Regional Airport Boulevard
12:40 P.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you very much. And thank you for that warm welcome to Bentonville, in the great state of Arkansas, and for allowing us to come spend a little time with all of you this morning.
Lynne talking about growing up in Casper, Wyoming -- things worked out well in part because of an election campaign in 1952. Of course this is a campaign year. And now I'm on the ballot with the President. But in 1952, I was a youngster living in Lincoln, Nebraska with my folks. And we had an election victory; Dwight Eisenhower got elected. He reorganized the Agriculture Department, and my dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming, where I met Lynne.
And we grew up together, went to high school together. In August, we'll mark our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.) And I was explaining to some folks the other night that if it hadn't been for that election victory by Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, I would never have moved to Wyoming, and Lynne would have married somebody else. (Laughter.) And she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.) And I'm sure it's true.
But I want to bring to all of you greetings from our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)
This is one of our nation's great companies, and one of the most familiar names in all of America. The story of Wal-Mart exemplifies some of the very best qualities in our country -- hard work, the spirit of enterprise, fair dealing, and integrity.
Sam Walton opened his first store more than four decades ago with the goal of providing friendly service and affordable shopping for his community. Through Sam's vision, his energy, and his decency, Wal-Mart grew into one of America's largest and most generous companies. And for his contribution to America, Sam was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the highest honor a civilian can receive.
Today you can visit Wal-Mart in any of the 50 states -- or in South America, or Europe, or Asia. Most of those stores are a little bigger than Sam's first shop, but the friendly atmosphere and the commitment to customers hasn't changed. A fair number of those customers like Wal-Mart so much that they go on to work with the company, and you now have more than a million associates. In fact, the only employer of a bigger size is the one I work for. (Laughter.)
Without a doubt, Wal-Mart has been a tremendous economic success, and anyone who has ever visited one knows why. Associates here lead the industry in teamwork and productivity, in part because they see the opportunity to rise in the company. About two-thirds of your managers started out as associates, so they know what it takes to make the whole enterprise work well. And you've got strong leadership at the top of the company. The result is a tremendous operation, an economic powerhouse, and a real credit to the United States of America, and I want to congratulate each and every one of you for what you do for us. (Applause.)
Your success is part of a larger economic story in America today. Our economy has been through some tough times these past three years. We've faced recession, then a terrorist attack, and the uncertainty of war. Yet, through all of these challenges, our economy has grown because of the steady effort of our citizens, and because of the sound policies and the leadership of President George W. Bush.
The President and I know that the best way to expand the economy and to create jobs is to leave more money in the hands of the people who earn it. (Applause.) So when we came to office, we proposed and delivered significant tax relief, and fulfilled a major economic goal -- to reduce the federal tax burden on every single American who pays income taxes.
Since George Bush became President, more than 860,000 taxpayers in Arkansas have seen their income tax bills reduced; more than 280,000 married couples in Arkansas have benefited from marriage penalty relief; and over 235,000 families in Arkansas have benefited from the doubling of the child tax credit. Over 200,000 small business owners in Arkansas have seen their federal tax burden go down, allowing them to invest in new equipment, expand facilities and hire additional workers. Across America, the average savings from the President's across-the-board tax cuts topped $1,500. Some critics say that wasn't much. But it sure feels like a lot when you have to send it to Washington -- and we did the right thing by giving it back. (Applause.)
You've seen the results of tax relief here in Bentonville, and we are seeing the results throughout the country. In the first quarter of this year, the economy grew at 4.2 percent. Over the past three quarters, the economy has grown at a rate of 5.5 percent -- the fastest pace since Ronald Reagan's first term in the White House. In March, the economy added over 300,000 new jobs, and we've created more than 750,000 new jobs since August. The home ownership rate is the highest ever. Interest rates and inflation are low. Manufacturing activity is increasing. Productivity is high. Business investment is rising. America's economy is moving in the right direction -- don't let anyone tell you otherwise. (Applause.)
For all this progress, there's still more work to be done. The goal of our administration is a strong, vigorous, growing economy in every part of Arkansas, and every part of the country. We want to see more opportunities for citizens, more new jobs, and more businesses in our communities. And so we're going to keep moving forward with a clear, comprehensive, pro-growth agenda.
We start with a clear understanding of the role of government. We know that America's $10 trillion-dollar economy is sustained by the free enterprise system, and by the hard work of the nation's entrepreneurs and workers. Government spends a lot of money, but it doesn't build factories, or meet company payrolls, or do the work that makes the economy go. The federal government's job is not to manage or control the economy, but to remove obstacles standing in the way of faster growth. The key to more jobs is not more government, but free enterprise, and low taxes, and spending discipline in Washington, D.C.
We need fewer mandates, and fewer unnecessary regulations from Washington. American businesses should be able to spend their time building the business and creating jobs, not filling out a lot of useless government paperwork. (Applause.)
Our economy needs litigation reform. Junk lawsuits are cluttering the courts, weakening our economy, hurting employers and workers. America's entrepreneurs should be able to hire productive workers, instead of hiring lawyers.
We should help business owners confront the rising costs of health care. Here in Arkansas and across the country, we need to make sure that frivolous lawsuits don't run good doctors out of business and drive up the cost of care. No one has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit -- so Congress needs to pass medical liability reform, and do it soon. (Applause.)
A healthy, growing economy depends, as well, on affordable, reliable supplies of energy. We need to pass sound energy legislation to promote efficient technology, conservation, and new production. It's time that the United States become less dependent on energy supplies from foreign countries. (Applause.)
We also need to knock down trade barriers, and open up new markets around the world for American farmers and ranchers and entrepreneurs and manufacturers. Wal-Mart can compete anywhere in the world -- and by opening more markets, we create more jobs right here at home.
In order to generate more jobs and to maintain economic growth, we also need to create certainty in the tax code. Families and entrepreneurs need to be able to plan better for the future. But under current law, many of the tax cuts we've passed are set to expire a few years down the road. We need to remove that uncertainty. For the sake of jobs, and for the sake of American families, Congress needs to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)
This November, the American people will have a clear choice on the economy. President Bush has stood firmly by his conviction that lower taxes are critical to growth and jobs. The President's opponent takes a somewhat different view.
When we created the lower 10 percent tax rate for working families, the Junior Senator from Massachusetts voted against it. When we reduced the tax rate on dividends to help seniors and investors, Senator Kerry voted against it. When we passed a higher expense deduction to give businesses incentives to invest, Senator Kerry voted against it. When we proposed repealing the death tax, Senator Kerry voted to keep it alive, and now he wants to reinstate it.
In this campaign Senator Kerry has already proposed an enormous amount of new federal spending -- about $1.9 trillion at last count. There's a big gap between those spending promises and his promise to lower the deficit. And it takes little imagination to figure out just how he would fill that tax gap: a major new tax increase on the people of America -- investors, entrepreneurs, and workers of this country.
In fact, higher taxes form the basis of Senator Kerry's economic plan. He has pledged that, if elected President, he will repeal many of the Bush tax cuts during his first hundred days in office. That should come as no surprise. Senator Kerry voted in favor of the largest tax increase in American history. In fact, over his two decades in Washington, Senator Kerry has voted at least 350 times for higher taxes. That's an average of one vote for higher taxes every three weeks. At least the folks in Massachusetts knew he was on the job. (Laughter.)
You wouldn't know any of this, though, from Senator Kerry's statements during this campaign. After voting three times to increase the gas tax, and once proposing to increase it by 50 cents a gallon, he now says he doesn't support it. The Senator voices his strong support for the child tax credit and claimed he fought hard to get rid of the marriage penalty. Yet in his career, Senator Kerry has voted at least 18 times against expanding the child tax credit, and at least 20 times against cutting the marriage penalty. All in all, this is a record of a senator who will speak out against higher taxes when it suits the political moment but is actually one of the most reliable pro-tax votes in the United States Senate.
Senator Kerry is now trying to re-create himself as an entrepreneurial Democrat. I'm not quite sure what that is. Senator Kerry never gets around to explaining how he would create jobs. He has opposed or voted to block medical liability reform at least 10 times. He's been consistent as an opponent of tort reform and opposed sound energy plans. And his commitment to free trade is somewhat questionable. Senator Kerry is against these job-creating measures and consistently in favor of higher taxes. So we can only conclude that he expects that billions of dollars in tax increases will somehow create new jobs.
Economics, common sense, and the experience of the real world, tell us otherwise. Senator Kerry's tax hikes would choke entrepreneurs and cut the recent job growth in our economy. The American people know that Senator Kerry's massive tax increase is the wrong policy at the wrong time for our country.
American workers and businesses welcomed President Bush's tax relief, and you have put that money to good use by spending, and saving, and creating new jobs. As in other matters, Senator Kerry's long record in Washington helps to clarify the very real choice the American people will have in 2004. On economic policy, that choice is between a senator who would raise taxes, and a President who has cut them -- not once, but three times. It's the difference between a senator who makes endless promises of new federal spending, and a President who insists on federal discipline in Washington, D.C.
The President and I welcome this debate on the economy, and on all the issues that face the nation in this election. From economic growth to national security to education, we believe there's a record of achievement to show for our first term in office. I am confident that six months from now, with a clear choice before them, the American people will choose the confident, steady, principled leadership of President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
Once again, Lynne and I want to thank you for your warm welcome in Bentonville, and your hospitality here at Wal-Mart. The managers and associates at this great company are helping to drive our economy forward. You're making a vital contribution to the most prosperous economy in the world. It's an honor to stand with the workers of this outstanding company. Once again, congratulations on your accomplishments, and good luck in the years to come.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
END 12:55 P.M. CDT