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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 7, 2004
President's Remarks at Ask President Bush Event in Sedalia, Missouri
Missouri State Fairgrounds
12:06 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thanks for coming. (Applause.) Thank you all. Please be seated. It's such an honor to be here. Thanks for coming. I don't know if you know it, but we're on a bus tour. I'm out asking for the vote. (Applause.) I believe -- I like coming directly to the people, and say, I want your vote, and here's the reason why I think you ought to vote for me. And that's what we're going to do today. (Applause.)
I thought we'd do it a little differently. I've got some things I want to share with you about what I'd like to accomplish during the next four years. And so we've asked some citizens to come and share some of their stories with you. I think that will help you understand why we have made decisions we have made and why we'll continue making certain types of decisions.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: You betcha. (Applause.) And then I'd like to answer some questions. Some of you may have a question or two on your mind, and I'd like to answer them for you.
Before I begin, I wish Laura were here. She is a wonderful lady. (Applause.) If I don't get too long winded, I'm going to have dinner with her tonight. (Laughter.) She was a -- she was raised in Midland, Texas. That's where I was raised. And she was a public school librarian when I married her. (Applause.) And she said, fine, I'll marry you, just so long as I don't have to give any speeches. (Laughter.) Fortunately she didn't -- I said, fine, you don't ever have to give any speeches.
And so, fortunately, she didn't hold me to that promise that she wouldn't have to give any. She gave a magnificent speech in New York City the other night. (Applause.) I wasn't surprised, I wasn't surprised, because she's such a gentle soul, she's got a great heart, she's a wonderful mom, a terrific wife. I'm going to give you some reasons to put me back in there, but I think probably the most important one of all so is that Laura is your First Lady for four more years. (Applause.)
The other thing -- then I'm running with a good man. We've got a great ticket. Dick Cheney has done a heck of a job as the Vice President. (Applause.) I like to tease him, by saying, well, you know, I admit it, he's not the prettiest face in the race. (Laughter.) But I didn't pick him because of his looks. I picked him because of his judgment, his experience, and the fact that he can get the job done. (Applause.) He's a great Vice President. And I'm proud to be running with him. (Applause.) Proud to be running with him.
I want to thank my uncle, Bucky Bush, who is with us. He's a Missouri native, or citizen, right here, from St. Louis. (Applause.) I want to thank Charlie Kruse -- where is Charlie? Oh, Charlie, God bless you, sir. Our prayers are with you. (Applause.) He's a good man. I've known Charlie for quite a while. He said -- when I was campaigning in 2000, he said, whatever you do, do not forget the Missouri farmer. (Applause.) He said, you keep that river open for our products. (Applause.) And we did. And I hadn't forgotten the Missouri farmer. The farm economy is strong. And we intend to keep it that way. I'm going to talk a little bit about that as we go on.
I appreciate the Mayor being here, Mayor Wasson. Thanks for coming. Where are you, Mayor? I appreciate you. (Applause.) Glad you're here. (Applause.) Thanks for your hospitality. Tell your fire and policemen -- firefighters and policemen how thankful we are for their service to your community. (Applause.)
And thank all the people who are involved with politics, the grassroots activists. Those are the people who put up the signs and make the phone calls and register people to vote. I'm here to ask you to -- (applause.) At this stage of the campaign, I'm going around to your state today and around our country asking people to participate in the political process. In a free society, I believe people have a duty to vote. And that's what we're doing.
We're asking people to vote, you know. And we're -- in order to vote, you've got to register to vote. And I'd like you to register your friends and neighbors and explain they have a duty. And when you're out registering them, don't overlook independents and discerning Democrats. You heard Zell Miller the other night. He said loud and clear, if you want a better America, a safer America, and a stronger America, vote for George Bush and Dick Cheney. (Applause.) We welcome everybody in this campaign.
Today, I met Bill Dugan. Where are you, Bill? There he is. Thanks for coming. Bill's a soldier in the army of compassion, that's what he is. He's a fellow who has worked for Habitat for Humanity. He volunteered time out of his life to help people with a home, and that's an important part of our society, when you think about it. The strength of America is the hearts and souls of our citizens. Government is limited in its capacity. We can pass laws and will, we can enforce justice and we will, but government can't make people love one another. Love comes from something higher than government. (Applause.) And when people like Bill are moved to help somebody, it makes society a better place.
One of the most important initiatives of the previous four years, and it will be an important initiative for the next four years, is the faith-based and community-based initiative, which will rally the armies of compassion. (Applause.)
People say, well, what exactly do you mean by that? What do you mean by that? I'll tell you what I mean by that. I mean this, that when it comes, for example, to helping the -- to heal the addicted, that we've got to recognize that sometimes government programs work, but sometimes, in order to help a fellow get off drugs, you've got to -- or alcohol, you've got to have a change of heart, and therefore, a faith-based program is the kind of program that could be effective at helping somebody change the heart, and therefore, change the habit. (Applause.) We ought to welcome programs which work. We ought not to discriminate against faith-based programs. We ought to welcome faith-based programs to help Americans realize the full promise of our country.
I want to thank Bill for being here. I want to thank you for the example you set. Thank you for loving a neighbor, just like you'd like to be loved yourself. (Applause.)
I tell people I'm for a more hopeful America, and that means our job base has got to grow. We've overcome a lot, when it comes to our economy. When you're out there gathering up the vote, remind people about what this country has been through. We've been through a recession, we've been through corporate scandals. It's now clear, by the way, because of the law we passed, that we'll not tolerate dishonesty in the boardrooms of America. (Applause.) We've been through a terrorist attack, and that hurt us. We're overcoming these obstacles because of the hard work of the American people. We've got great workers, because the small business sector is strong. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in America. We've overcoming it because we've got great farmers and ranchers.
And we're overcoming it because of tax relief. (Applause.) The tax relief we passed is working. (Applause.) Do you realize the national unemployment rate is 5.4 percent? That's lower than the averages of the -- average, national average of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. (Applause.) The question is, how do we make sure jobs stay at home and the economy continues to grow? I'll give you some ways to make sure it continues to grow.
First, this has got to be the best place in the world to do business, which means we've got to do something about these junk lawsuits that are threatening these small employers. (Applause.) In order to make sure jobs stay in America, we have to have a national energy plan. Listen, I submitted one to the United States Congress. They need to get it to my desk. It's a plan that encourages conservation. That makes sense, doesn't it? We want to encourage people to conserve more. It's a plan that encourages the use of renewable sources of energy. I'm talking about corn and soy beans, is what I'm talking about. (Applause.) See, we need to spend research dollars so that someday, somebody is going to walk in and say, here's the crop report, Mr. President, and it looks like corn is up. And the President will say, gosh, that means we're less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.)
We need to use clean-coal technology. We need to explore in our own lands in sensitive ways. What I'm telling you is, to keep jobs in America, we must be less dependent on energy from overseas. (Applause.)
To keep jobs here -- to keep jobs here, we've got to open up markets to U.S. products. Listen, we open up our markets to goods from other countries, and that's good for the consumer. That's how the market works. If you've got more things to choose from, you're more likely to get a product you want at a better price and higher quality. That's how the economy works. (Applause.)
So what this administration is saying to places like China and elsewhere, you treat us the way we treat you. And that's why the price of soybeans is doing pretty good because we're selling soybeans all around the world. My job for the next four years is to open up markets. We can compete with anybody, anyplace, anytime if the rules are fair. (Applause.)
In order to make sure that we've got jobs here at home, we need a health care system that functions well. That means health care has got to be available and affordable. Let's talk about health care right quick. First, we started by strengthen -- my administration started on health care by strengthening Medicare. I told the people when I was running, give me a chance, and I'll go to Washington and try to make sure Medicare worked well. You might remember those old Medicare debates. They called it, "Mediscare" for -- because people were scared to talk about it. I went up there for a reason. See, the Medicare system had done great work for our seniors, but it was beginning to get antiquated. Medicine was changing, Medicare wasn't.
And the system was designed that so that any new procedures has to be approved by bureaucracies. We would pay, for example, for heart surgery, which would cost maybe $100,000, but we wouldn't pay for the prescription drugs that would prevent the heart surgery from having to occur in the first place. That didn't make much sense to the seniors. It certainly didn't make much sense to the taxpayers, since the cost of prescription drugs is a heck of a lot less than the surgery.
And therefore, I worked with Congress. I said, why don't we make the system work better. Right now, seniors can get prescription drug coverage, and if you're a low-income senior, you get your drugs paid for up to $600 a year. Next year, seniors, when they enroll in Medicare, are going to get preventative screening for the first time ever, which makes a lot of sense, doesn't it, for seniors to get -- (applause.) And in 2006, prescription drugs will be available in Medicare.
There's more to do in health care. My philosophy is, is that the health care decisions need to be based between doctors and patients, should not be made by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. (Applause.) So a lot of what I'm talking about is to strengthen the ability for people to make decisions. Small business owners are having trouble with their health care, because the cost is going up. We're going to talk to a small business owner who just told me that a while ago.
The way to help small businesses deal with rising health care costs is to allow them to pool together, pool the risk together, so that they can be able to buy insurance at the discounts that big companies are able to do. Those are called association health plans. We need to expand health savings accounts, which will allow workers and/or small businesses to put money aside on a tax-free basis, to earn money tax-free, to use your money tax-free for health care needs. There's all kinds of ways to make sure that health care is vibrant and alive and well without nationalizing health care. (Applause.)
We've got a doc here today with us, and we're going to talk about medical liability reform, which is going to make sure that we -- when we get it, it's going to help you on your costs, and the availability for medicine.
I want to talk a little bit about pensions. I told the people the other night, we have a changing world, and yet the institutions, fundamental institutions of our government haven't changed with them. In other words, the pension plans were designed for the 19 -- in the 1930s. They haven't changed. The health care systems haven't changed. The tax code hasn't changed much since -- you know, we need to change these systems. Job training programs haven't changed much to reflect the world in which we live in.
The next four years, we've going to change these aspects of government to help people realize their dreams. It's another one of my philosophies; government ought to help people, not dictate to people. (Applause.) And government ought to trust people.
One way to trust them is to make sure the Social Security system works well. If you're an older citizen, you just don't have to worry about Social Security. It's not going to change. You're in good shape. There's ample money in the trust fund to take care of you. If you're a baby boomer like me, it's going to be okay. But we need to worry about our children and our grandchildren. That's who we need to worry about when it comes to Social Security. (Applause.)
And I believe we ought to allow younger workers to take some of their taxes and set them aside in a personal savings account that they can call their own to help make sure Social Security is available for a younger generation. (Applause.)
I think you have to think differently. Let me talk about education right quick. We have -- I went to Washington with the idea of -- of expanding the role of the local folks when it comes to schools, but at the same time saying, in return for extra money, why don't you show us whether or not your children can read. It doesn't seem like too tough a request to me. It seemed like a reasonable request. (Applause.)
And the reason why I thought that was necessary is because you know what I know: Too many of our kids were just moving through school, grade after grade, year after year, without learning the basics. And that's not right. That's setting the bar too low. I believe the role of all of us is to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations. I believe every child can learn to read, and I expect every child to read, and so should you. (Applause.)
And that's the philosophy behind the No Child Left Behind Act. It says, let us measure early so we can correct problems early. See, you can't solve a problem until you diagnose the problem. And so we're now diagnosing problems in education and we're raising the standards. And the achievement gap in America is getting better. You know how we know? We measure. We can show you that more and more children are learning to read and write and add and subtract because we take time to measure. We use the measurement system to support our teachers and principals. We use the measurement system to determine whether or not the curriculum being used at the local level is working. We use our measurement system to heap praise on those who are doing a fantastic job in the public schools, and there are thousands across our country who are. And we use the measurement system to correct early before it's too late. (Applause.)
There's more to do. There's more to do. We need early intervention -- or intervention programs in high schools. We need to make sure that children have got the basics. We need to emphasize math and science in our high schools. Do you realize that most new jobs now require two years of college, yet one in four students in America gets there? That's why we need to expand access to our community college systems. We need to increase Pell grants, Pell grants to help low- and middle-income families. (Applause.) We want more and more of our children starting their careers with a college diploma.
There's more work to be done in education, and I'm looking forward to continuing to lead the country in that direction. Let me talk to some of the folks with us. Perhaps they'll help me make our points that I'm trying to make today. One of the things I love about our society is people own things, an ownership society. (Applause.) You know, we want more people owning their own home. Do you realize the home ownership rate is at an all-time high during my administration? (Applause.) I think it's an incredibly hopeful statistic. I like to put it this way. More and more people are opening up the door in the places in which they live and say, welcome to my home; welcome to my piece of property. (Applause.)
Ownership is a part of a hopeful America. When you hear me say "a more hopeful America," it means I'm going to encourage ownership in our society. And one of the things we also -- I like about America and I think one of the things that's really interesting about our country is more and more people own their own small business. (Applause.) Do you realize 70 percent of new jobs are created by small business owners? Seventy percent of jobs. Therefore, all policy, or good policy, is aimed at helping the small business sector of America remain strong and vibrant. If 70 percent of all new jobs are created by small businesses, and we want to continue to expand our job base, policy ought to focus on small business owners. Today, we've got one with us. (Applause.)
Wayne Lamb is with us. (Applause.) Sounds like some of them know you.
MR. LAMB: I guess so.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. The name of your company?
MR. LAM: Sedalia Steel Supply.
THE PRESIDENT: Sedalia Steel Supply. And what do you do?
MR. LAM: We're a steel service center, and we service the Midwest -- we service all the mid-part of Missouri with -- we find steel from large mills, break it into smaller quantities, take it to schools, manufacturing companies, maintenance fabricators. We process it. Just pass the savings on that way.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, good. And let me ask you, when did you start -- did you start the business?
MR. LAMB: Started it in 1976, so we're almost 28 years old.
THE PRESIDENT: This wasn't one of those deals that started in your garage, was it?
MR. LAMB: No, it started just about like that. I had a degree --
THE PRESIDENT: Kitchen table.
MR. LAMB: Yeah, there you go. I had a degree in accounting. In fact, it was in economics, and didn't know a piece of steel from a two-by-four.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
MR. LAMB: That's how it started.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm glad you learned. (Applause.) How many employees do you have now?
MR. LAMB: We presently have 40 employees.
THE PRESIDENT: Forty, good.
MR. LAMB: We have grown -- for 27 years, we have grown every year. We've had an increase in sales for 27 years, and we've increased our employees in that kind of direction.
THE PRESIDENT: That's great. So did you add employees this year?
MR. LAM: We've added three new employers this year.
THE PRESIDENT: Here's what's happening in America: small businesses are adding employees all across the country. He's put on three. I suspect some of you ought there who has got a small business might have added some. This economy -- when you hear me say it's strong and getting stronger, it's because the small business sector is alive and well and it's vibrant.
Let me tell you something interesting about Wayne's business. He is called a Subchapter S corporation. That is an accounting term, or legal term -- legal term.
MR. LAM: Yes, it's a legal term.
THE PRESIDENT: Legal term. You and I aren't lawyers.
MR. LAM: No, sir. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: A Subchapter S corporation, like a sole proprietorship, pays taxes at the individual income tax level. So when we reduced all rates, individual income tax rates, we're helping Subchapter S corporations like Wayne's. (Applause.) Now, did it help you? The tax relief help at all? I'm sure -- that's called, leading the witness. (Laughter.) Yes, it helped, Mr. President. (Laughter.)
MR. LAMB: Yes, it helped. (Laughter and applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Let me tell you something. Listen to that rhetoric of this campaign. I'm running against a fellow who promised about $2 trillion -- well, I think maybe a little more than $2 trillion, thus far -- of new spending. So they said, how are you going to pay for it? He said, oh, we're just going to tax the rich; we're going to raise the top two brackets. That's called, taxing the rich. And guess who he taxes? He taxes Wayne. By running up the top two brackets, he's taxing nearly a million, about 900,000, Subchapter S corporations and sole proprietorships. Just as our economy is gaining strength, my opponent wants to run the taxes up on nearly a million small businesses, which is going to make it hard for this guy to add employees. If you're taking money out of his treasury, if he's sending money to Washington, not reinvesting in his company, it's less likely he's going to add people. Raising taxes is the wrong thing to do right now in America. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four-more years! Four-more years! Four-more years!
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, got a little work to do. Hold on here. We've got work to do. Sorry, thanks. Thanks for the "four-more years." We can do that at the end. (Laughter.)
One of the things we did in the tax relief act was to encourage investment by small businesses. We allowed for a bonus appreciation and extra expensing. Those, again, are accounting terms, which basically say to a fellow like Wayne, if you invest, there's going to be incentive for you to do so.
Are you investing?
MR. LAMB: Yes. In the last three years, we have taken advantage of that $200,000 cap that we can take off immediately off the large pieces of equipment. And by doing that, we've actually been able to buy the next piece quicker. Plus, that has also improved our productivity so well, and also, it made our job safer for our employees.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, what did you buy, for example?
MR. LAMB: Well, three years ago, we bought a Behringer saw handling -- it saws materials. It's a complete handling system. It was almost $300,000. And what we used to do in a week on our other saw, which we thought was the cat's meow, what it would do then, this saw will do in less than a day.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, so he buys a saw. The tax relief says, why don't you go think about buying new equipment. He makes the decision to go buy new equipment. Somebody has to make the new equipment. See, when -- what we've done is we've increased demand through good tax policy. So Wayne says, I need a piece of new equipment. He files an order, and the guy who takes the order says, okay, I'm going to make it for you. It may mean that he has to add an employee to make that equipment for Wayne. That's how the economy works.
When you hear the word, investment, it means somebody is buying something, which means somebody has to make it. And so the tax code encouraged decision-makers all across the country to increase demand for goods and services. That's what you're hearing in this discussion. That's what this is all about. And as a result, the economy is growing. And the fundamental question, are we going to keep the tax relief in place? I think we should. I think we ought to encourage small business growth. (Applause.)
You done? You did good, Wayne. Thank you. (Applause.) He hired Steve Platt. Steve, thanks for coming.
MR. PLATT: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Steve's brother is coming back from Iraq in two days. (Applause.) I told him when I saw him, after he gave him the hug, tell him we're all proud of him.
MR. PLATT: I will. I definitely will. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Steve's with us because he's working here for Wayne. And it's an interesting story. He had a job, and then you decided to --
MR. PLATT: I went back to college.
THE PRESIDENT: Went back to college. And where did you go first?
MR. PLATT: I went to State Fair -- got my associate's degree at State Fair Community College. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: You're the guy who's working. You were working for --
MR. PLATT: Duke Manufacturing.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, and decided to go back to college. Why did you make that decision?
MR. PLATT: Well, my children -- I'm on them about wanting to send them to college and the understanding of the importance of going back to school, and I didn't feel like -- if I didn't finish something I started, I couldn't very well express that that I wanted them to do it.
THE PRESIDENT: He made a tough choice, when you think about it. And there's a lot of people in this society of ours and this changing world who are faced with the same choice, you know. Do I -- do I make a decision to go back to a community college -- and he eventually went to a four-year college -- and upgrade my skills? And that's hard in a changing world. I know it's hard in a changing world. I think the role of government is to help. It's to help people, encourage people, to go back and get an associate's degree, in Steve's case, or -- and he went on to a four-year, right?
MR. PLATT: Four year at MidAmerican Nazarene University in Olathe.
THE PRESIDENT: There you go. (Applause.) See, what he's done is he's upgraded his skills, which makes him a more productive worker. So when you hear -- you hear the talk about productivity, it means people have got additional skills, and our job base is changing.
You know, I went down to -- I've been to North Carolina a lot, and went down there. The textile industry has been hurting down there. They've lost some jobs in the textile industry. But the health care industry is booming. So you've got one kind of job replacing another. And the fundamental role of government, I think, is to make college -- community colleges accessible to programs which will train people for the jobs which exist.
And so what Steve has done, is he went back, got a little help from some loans --
MR. PLATT: Yes, definitely.
THE PRESIDENT: The government is loaning money. It should. Government provides Pell grants, it will. But as well -- like, you told me you're making a little more money in the new job?
MR. PLATT: Yes, I've earned more money, the benefits are better, the company pays 100 percent of --
THE PRESIDENT: See, he upgraded his skills, he's making $10,000 more a year than he did before, by going back to college -- (applause) -- by going to the community college in his neighborhood. Community colleges work well. They work well because they take people who have got one skill set and help them with a new skill set. And people make more money when you become more productive in our society.
Tax relief helped him too. See, one of the things about the tax relief is that it helps people like Steve.
MR. PLATT: In 2003, we earned $1,800. In 2004, it will be $2,200.
THE PRESIDENT: See, he saved $1,800. And in '04 he saved $2,200. Now, I know that doesn't sound like a lot to the budgeters in Washington, D.C. But here's a fellow whose wife is working, and he's gone back to school, and I expect that $4,000 came in handy over the last two years. Didn't it?
MR. PLATT: Yes, definitely. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: And the issue is -- and the issue in this campaign is, and the issue confronting Congress now, is do we make this tax relief permanent, or does it go away? I'm for making it permanent, so people like him can keep their money. (Applause.)
See, I believe government -- as a matter of fact, I know government -- if government is wise about how we spend your money, we can set priorities and meet those priorities. But I think once we meet those priorities, people like Steve can spend his money a lot better than the federal government can spend his money. That's part of my philosophy. (Applause.)
We've got another person who saved money on her taxes: Ellyn Wilson, Thanks for coming, Ellyn. Tell us what you do, Ellyn. Interesting job she's got. Interesting jobs she's got.
MS. WILSON: Mr. President, I work three jobs. I'm a single mom, which is a full-time job, anyway.
THE PRESIDENT: Is that your daughter?
MS. WILSON: Yes, this is Hannah.
THE PRESIDENT: Listen to your mom. I'm still listening to mine. (Applause.) Most of the time. (Laughter.)
MS. WILSON: And this is my son, Caleb Wilson. He's eight.
THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic. What do you do, Mom?
MS. WILSON: I am a music teacher. This is my 14th year starting. That's my full-time position.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for teaching. (Applause.)
MS. WILSON: And I made a change this year, and I'm presently at Pettis County R-12 Dresden School District, one of the best schools in the state of Missouri.
THE PRESIDENT: That's good. She's a marketer. (Laughter.)
MS. WILSON: And my part-time job is out of my home. I'm a Mary Kay consultant, and I'm working my way up to a star recruiter, and working my way up in the business.
THE PRESIDENT: Running her own business. She's a soul proprietor. Got her own business -- kind of the American way, isn't it? Started her business out of her own home. Keep going.
MS. WILSON: And I love to serve the Lord at what I do, and I'm church pianist at First Baptist Church, Sedalia, Missouri. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: There you go. She saved $1,000 on tax relief. A single mom -- by the way, being a single