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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
September 14, 2004
Vice President's Remarks and Q&A at a Town Hall Meeting in Ottumwa, Iowa
Ottumwa Industrial Airport Hangar
10:41 A.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Morning. (Applause.) Morning everybody. (Applause.) Good morning. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Sit down, please.
Well, I've got to go back and report to my wife, Lynne, on how Liz did this morning, substituting. (Laughter.) I thought she did pretty well. (Applause.)
Of course, all the things you get to do in your life, when all is said and done, the most important thing always comes back to family. And Lynne and I are enormously proud of our two daughters. And needless to say, I made a very wise choice -- I guess, it was 40 years ago last Sunday when we got married -- our 40th wedding anniversary. (Applause.)
I tell people lots of times that our marriage came about because Dwight Eisenhower got elected President of the United States, that in 1952, I was a youngster living in Lincoln, Nebraska with my folks. Dad worked for the Soil Conservation Service. Eisenhower got elected, he reorganized the Agriculture Department, Dad got shipped to Casper, Wyoming, and that's where I met Lynne, and we grew up together, went to high school together, and as I say, celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary here a couple of Sundays ago. But I explained to a group the other night that if it hadn't been for Eisenhower's election victory, 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.)
But we're here this morning because this is an extraordinarily important year. We've done a series of these town hall meetings various places around the country. It's an opportunity for me to share a few thoughts with you, and then to have an opportunity to hear from you and to respond to some of your questions and comments and concerns, as well, too.
And I say this is an important year because I think -- I've been involved in politics off and on for quite a while now. So I've been involved in a number of campaigns. And I realize my name is on the ballot this year. So you might say, well, sure, he thinks it's an important election. But I think it's one of those periods in our history when we -- really sort of a turning point, if you will, a time when we're faced with new challenges, new problems that we've got to overcome, and when we have to create new policies, new strategies, new institutions to be able to deal with those challenges. And periods like this come along every once in a while -- maybe every 50, 60, 70 years in our history. I think we had one right at the end of World War II, after we'd won that tremendous victory against the Germans and the Japanese, and then all of a sudden we were faced with the prospect of the Cold War, and the Soviet Union, and the threat that that represented to the United States. And we created the Department of Defense. We created the Central Intelligence Agency. We set up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. We completely rebuilt the United States military, and embarked upon a course of action that was supported by Republican and Democratic administrations alike for the next 40 years, until we succeeded in winning the Cold War. I think that we are at a similar period in our history today -- especially when I think about the situation with respect to the national security threat we now face, the problems with the war on terror, the nature of the challenge that America has to deal with these days internationally.
Before I talk about that, though, I want to say a few words about a couple of domestic issues that I think are equally important. And just as the events of 9/11 had a big impact on us from the standpoint of our national security, they clearly also had a big impact on us from the standpoint of our economy, and our circumstances here at home. Going forward now, as we build a stronger, safer, healthier America, an important component of that, obviously, has to always be that we are also doing whatever is necessary to make certain that we've adequately provided for the defense of the country, to safeguard the homeland, and to protect ourselves against future attacks.
One of the big issues, of course, from the standpoint of the economy -- as we came in, we were faced with a recession, but then it was made significantly worse by the events of 9/11. That terrorist attack that morning that cost us 3,000 Americans, the worst attack on American soil, in our history, obviously did serious damage to the economy, as well, too. We lost over a million jobs in the weeks after the attack of 9/11.
We think we've come back quite a ways now. We've made significant progress, in terms of restoring the overall health of the economy. We've got the employment rate -- national employment rate now back down to 5.4 percent. We've added 1.7 million jobs over the course of the last year here in Iowa. We're down to about 4.4 percent on unemployment -- not perfect yet. We've still got a ways to go. We know there are a lot of places where work is needed to make certain that every American who wants to work can find a job. We've still got some soft spots in the economy.
But on balance, we think things are headed in the right direction, that, in fact, the President's decision with respect to economic policy has been successful. And at the heart of that decision was really a fundamental philosophical belief that the best way for us to have a strong, healthy economy in this country is to let the hard working American wage earner, and businessman, and farmer keep more of what they earn instead of send it to Washington in the form of taxes. (Applause.)
Now, that fundamental decision was obviously implemented the three times that we've cut taxes since 2001. We had a great partner in that effort as we went through those exercises because the man on Capitol Hill who was absolutely vital to everything we did was none other than Iowa's Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the finance committee. (Applause.) And might I also while I'm on your congressional delegation mention my old friend Jim Leach. Jim and I have known each other for 30 years -- he's been a superb member of Congress for everybody here in Iowa, as well, too. (Applause.)
But cutting taxes is part of it. Going forward in terms of the future, it's very important that we keep the tax changes that we put in place -- that we make those permanent. The changes we made to double the child tax credit, to increase -- to reduce the marriage penalty, to cut rates, to make it possible for small businesses to expense more of their investment so they can afford to expand their businesses; the repeal of the death tax absolutely essential so that people can pass on their farm, or their ranch, or their small business to the next generation without getting taxed on it yet again after you've already paid tax on it once during your lifetime -- a series of those changes that are vital that we need to continue into the future.
But we also need to work in a lot of other areas, in education, in trade. We need to make certain that our regulatory system isn't overly burdensome for the private sector so that we don't bury ourselves in bureaucracy and red tape. All of those are priority items that the President will address going forward.
We also need to focus very much on health care because health care -- both from the standpoint of the availability of health care for our folks here at home, the cost of it, as well as its impact on our ability to build a strong, healthy, viable economy because in the final analysis if you look at the problem, for example, with respect to the uninsured in America, about 60 percent of the uninsured population in the country are, in fact, employees of small businesses. And making it possible for businesses to be able to afford to pay for benefits for their employees is a vital part of what we need to do to guarantee that we can have the strong healthy economies here in the United States that are essential for us.
One of the most important things the President did this year -- again, together with the Congress; Chuck played a major role in this -- was our Medicare reform legislation. For the first time, we're going to have prescription drug benefits available through the Medicare system to our seniors. That program will kick in, in early 2006. We're already started down that road with respect to the Medicare drug discount card that's now available. Several million Americans, senior citizens, have enrolled in that, as well, too. And that program is vital going forward.
Our opponents voted against it -- did not want to support fundamental reform of the Medicare system. The Medicare system provides essential benefits for all of our senior Americans. The system badly needed updating and reform because it didn't provide prescription drugs. And of course, anybody who is concerned about health care these days understands that prescription drugs are a far more important part of somebody's total health capabilities and care than they were back in the 1960s when they passed the Medicare program -- absolutely essential that we make those kinds of changes.
Senator Kerry has got a proposal in the health care area that he's put out recently. There was a study released just today by a nonpartisan think tank in Washington that estimates that his package will cost about $1.5 trillion. That basically breaks the bank. There isn't any way you can have a program that large and pick up that much of the cost without ultimately generating, probably the need for a broad scale increase in taxes pretty much across the board. And so it's important as we go forward this year -- we'll have this debate over health care, it's very important -- but we've got a clear distinction out there between the President who had done something very significant in this area, who, for example, among other things is recommending that we have health associations so small businesses can pool their assets and be able to get the big kind of discounts for their employees that large corporations do, that we talk about refundable tax credit for small business owners to be able to contribute to health savings accounts for their employees -- a series of proposals that are already in law, or on the books that will be vital to reduce our overall health care costs and make it more available to the American people.
But we don't want to go down the road that's being recommended by our opponents because basically what it does is re-nationalize our health care system in this country, put us in a position where you'll insert the government to a greater extent than ever before between the doctor and the patient. It harks back to the Clinton-style plan that was rejected overwhelmingly by the American people back some 15 years ago. We don't need to go down that road with respect to improving our health care system. And one of the decisions we'll make this year is to make certain we reject that alternative and head down the road the President has laid out for all of us. (Applause.)
One of the areas where there are fundamental difference is this whole area of medical liability reform. The fact is that a lot of our health costs are driven by the way the medical liability system currently functions. One estimate is that we spend $108 billion a year as a nation on the medical liability system that currently doesn't work very well. It doesn't work very well because it has driven up the cost of malpractice insurance all across the country.
A lot of states around the country -- my home state of Wyoming, for example, we are literally driving doctors out of business, having to close down their practices because they can't afford the insurance policy to protect themselves against medical liability lawsuits during the course of their practice. OB/GYNs -- about one out of every 10 or 11 of them had had to shut down their operations nationwide. My hometown of Casper, Wyoming, there was a news report the other day that indicated that over the last two or three years, the cost of an insurance policy for a general practitioner has gone from $40,000 a year to $100,000 a year. A new doc coming out of medical school needs to have about $80,000 cash up front just to open the doors and start his practice. That's unacceptable.
We can fix it. There are ways to fix it. We need to place reasonable limits on non-economic damages. Everybody understands there are cases where people do, in fact, deserve compensation, and ought to be able to go to the courts and get compensation. But what happens today, of course, is that a big chunk of the compensation doesn't go to the people who were harmed, it goes as administrative overhead, as legal fees as much as 40 percent to 50 percent of the total cost. And what it does ultimately is it adds to the cost of our total health care system, raises the cost for everybody else, raises the cost for what small businesses have to pay to provide benefits for their employees, et cetera. We can fix that. We've gotten legislation through the House of Representatives to do exactly that. It has been blocked in the Senate. Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards are opposed to medical liability. That's another fundamental difference, if you will, between the two tickets.
But all things considered, I think there's no question about the course we want to pursue domestically in the months and years ahead. I think we will have a full airing and debate. The President will spend a lot of time this week if you'll note in his remarks out there, talking especially about the health care system. And I commend his comments to you. You'll want to follow that very closely.
Let me shift over, if I can, and spend a few minutes on the national security side, and some of those issues as we contemplate the choice we're going to make on November 2nd.
On 9/11 when the terrorists struck New York, the World Trade Center, and, of course, the Pentagon -- and the plane that went down in Pennsylvania that was headed for Washington -- we were force as a result of those events to take a fresh look at the threats that America faces and to think about how we wanted to defend the country and what is necessary by way of securing our future. And what we saw that day was that the old strategies that we had used in the past during the Cold War didn't have much relevance when it came time to talking about terror, that we saw what 19 individuals could do, coming into the United States, getting their training here, armed with knives and boarding passes. And of course, they were able to wreak havoc in New York City and at the Pentagon.
The other lessons we derived from that process as we went forward, we discovered that the terrorists were trying very hard to acquire deadlier capabilities than anything they had used to date. We know from having interrogated people that were captured, we know from training materials we found, manuals and so forth that they are trying very hard to acquire chemical or biological weapons, or even a nuclear weapon if they can. And the ultimate threat we face today as a nation is the possibility that at some point one of those terrorist cells, small group of terrorists ends up in the middle of one our cities with that kind of deadly capability, and then the lives of Americans put at risk wouldn't be just a few thousand, but, indeed, might be even hundreds of thousands. That's the ultimate threat we face today as a nation.
To deal with it, the President decided on 9/11 that we needed a new strategy. The old idea, for example, that during the Cold War that we could deter the Soviets from launching an attack against the United States was based on holding at risk their territory, so they knew if they were foolish enough to start something, that they would pay a terrible price. With respect to the al Qaeda organization, or to a terrorist who is committed to jihad, who is out to kill infidels and is prepared to sacrifice their life in the process, the whole notion of deterrence is meaningless. There isn't anything they value highly enough that you can put at risk that would lead them to decide they wanted to change their policy.
So as we acted on 9/11, the President moved very aggressively to improve our defenses here at home -- which we've done, the Department of Homeland Security; the Patriot Act, that allows our law enforcement to have the tools they need to be able to prosecute and put away terrorists -- those kinds of measures have been an important part of the effort; the reorganization of the intelligence community, and so forth. But we also needed -- no matter how hard we worked here at home defensively, we also needed to be able to go on offense. A good defense isn't enough. If you're successful 99 percent of the time against that kind of threat, it's inadequate to the task if there's still that 1 percent chance that they can get through and get to you. So we learned a long time ago a good defense is not enough. You also have to go on offense. And that's exactly what we've done. (Applause.)
The decision the President made in that regard obviously has been a vital one. We launched our efforts in Afghanistan. And there, of course, we took down the Taliban. We closed the training camps where the terrorists had trained to kill Americans, and some 20,000 terrorists went through those training camps in the late 1990s. We captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda. We have since then stood up and interim government in Afghanistan under President Karzai. We have watched them -- they did this by themselves, wrote a brand new constitution. They've scheduled for next month. In October, they'll have elections before we do. The amazing thing is in the last few weeks they have registered to vote 10 million Afghan citizens -- first time in history. (Applause.) And over 40 percent of those are women. (Applause.)
What that means is that here by the end of the year, there will be in place in Afghanistan a democratically elected government committed to friendship for the United States, a government that will grow stronger day by day. They've got a lot of difficult tasks ahead of them -- without question, and we'll continue to be heavily involved there for some period of time. But we're also spending a lot of time and effort training a new Afghan national army, putting in place Afghan forces that can take care of their own security and ultimately be able to deal with any threats that might arise inside Afghanistan. That's a dramatic change in about three years from a nation that just three years ago was, in fact, a base of operations for the worst terrorist attack ever on the United States, where we lost 3,000 of our people. Very, very significant achievement -- it would not have come about it hadn't been for the decision the President made that we were going to use U.S. military force to aggressively go after the terrorists wherever they might be found. And the other -- (technical difficulties) -- against his own people, the Kurds and who had previously provided sanctuary and safe harbor for terrorists. He allowed Abu Nidal to operate out of Baghdad for years; the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He provided $25,000 payments to the families of suicide bombers who had used terror tactics to kill Israelis. And there was a relationship with al Qaeda. So the world is far safer today, the region is more secure, and America is safer because today Saddam Hussein is in jail. (Applause.)
Now, we're also moving aggressively in Iraq to establish there a viable, democratically elected government. We've got an interim government in place, headed up by Prime Minister Allawi -- a good man who has taken over the government at this point. And there are Iraqi officials in charge of every ministry of the Iraqi government today. We're also spending a lot of time and effort there, as well, too -- training Iraqis to be able to take on the responsibilities for security in their own country, building and Iraqi army, a police force, border control elements and so forth. And that process is going forward.
The task, though, is very difficult. I don't want to underestimate, or leave anybody with a false impression that these are easy assignments. This is a hard thing to do -- both in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Iraq, they have a national advisory council now in place. There will be elections there in January. That group elected in January will write a constitution and by a year from December, they should have in place, in Iraq, a democratically elected national government operating under a constitution that they've devised and they've written. (Applause.)
But the heart of the effort, the importance of what we're attempting here -- it's important for people to think about it as a long-term strategy. It's not enough just to go kill terrorists. We've got to do that wherever we can find them, obviously. We've got to go destroy the al Qaeda organization. But we also have to change circumstances on the ground in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and in that part of the world that has been the breeding ground, if you will, for terror. We've got to remember, as well, that this is not just a U.S. problem. We're not the only ones who have been hit. Just think about what has happened since 9/11, all the cities in the world that have been on the receiving end of terror-type attacks -- in Madrid, in Casablanca, in Mombassa, and Jakarta, and Bali, and Riyadh, Istanbul. And of course, most recently, we saw what happened in Russia here, the week before last, where first they took down two airliners, killed some 90 people that way; and then, of course, went into Beslan and took a school, killed over 350 people, including a majority of school kids. Using terrorism is the only way to describe it -- an effort to commit terribly violent acts against innocent human beings in order to change the policy, or achieve some kind of political objective.
This is a global conflict. It requires a long-term commitment from the United States for us to make certain that we get the job done here. There are fundamental differences, I believe, between the way the President has addressed these issues -- and he's been at it now -- he's got a track record there, three years since 9/11 for anybody who wants to know what George Bush believes and what he thinks, and how important we believe it is to continue a very aggressive policy going forward in order to defeat the terrorists so they don't get more shots at the United States and the way John Kerry would deal with these issues -- I believe.
For example, if we look at the situation in Iraq, it's very hard to tell what John Kerry really believes with respect to Iraq. (Laughter.) He's had a number of positions on the matter. He initially -- of course, if you go back and look at his track record over the years, and I don't mean by any means to disparage his military service. He served in Vietnam. I think as we honor all the veterans, we also need to honor John Kerry's service in Vietnam. That's altogether fitting and proper that we do so. I've never criticized that. Nobody has ever suggested he's unpatriotic, no matter what the opposition might say.
But what we have said is he's also accountable for a 20-year record in the United States Senate, that, in fact, if you went to look and get some kind of idea, or make some kind of assessment of how he would approach the problems we're faced with now, with respect to the war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq and the global conflict here. Go back and look and see how has he voted on national security issues for the 20-year period of time that he served in the United States Senate.
If you do that, you'll find several things. You'll find, first of all, that he worked hard to either eliminate or reduce most of the major weapons programs in the military during the Reagan years -- all those programs that President Reagan supported, that I supported, that I think many Americans supported, John Kerry opposed, more often than not.
If you look at the first Gulf War, Desert Storm, when I was Secretary of Defense, he was a member of the United States Senate, he voted against Desert Storm. He did not support that effort. A series of judgments, or decisions like that over the years that leave a very clear pattern with respect -- for example, his service on the intelligence committee. He served on the intelligence committee for six years. Among other things, he moved at one point to try to cut over $6 billion from the intelligence committee budget -- and this was right after the first attack on the World Trade Center -- in 1993. It was such an extreme position that even Ted Kennedy wouldn't support him. (Laughter.)
So I think the evidence is overwhelming. And then if we move forward now to the current set of circumstances with respect to Iraq, we have -- you'll find a series of very strong statements that he made, starting back in 1998 during the Clinton administration on the importance of dealing with Saddam Hussein on regime change, which he supported; on taking action to force Saddam Hussein to come into compliance with the U.N. Security Council resolutions, et cetera. When the President asked for authorization from the Congress to use military force in Iraq, John Kerry voted yes. But then later on, he changed his position. And when it was time to vote for the $87 billion that we needed to support the troops once they were committed to combat, once they were in the field, he voted no. There were only four senators in the United States Senate who voted to commit the troops, and then voted against providing them the resources they needed once they were there -- only four. One of those was John Kerry, the other was John Edwards.
Now, given that kind of track record, I think it raises serious questions about exactly what he does believe in terms of how to prosecute the current conflict, how to deal with the challenges that we face now, and that we'll face in the future. And, obviously, I think that the record is pretty clear that George Bush is exactly what we need in a President on this issue -- not John Kerry. (Applause.)
The fact is a senator can be wrong for 20 years, and it doesn't really matter. There are no real consequences if one senator who is only one out of a hundred votes in the United States Senate fails to get it right on these kinds of issues. But a President -- a President -- always has the deciding vote. Presidents make decisions that have enormous consequences for all of us -- obviously, for our men and women in the military, but obviously for all Americans, in terms of how we deal with basic, fundamental issues of national security -- how we're going to protect the country, how we're going to guarantee the safety and security of our kids and grandkids. And the decision we're going to make this year is we're going to pick a Commander-in-Chief who is going to pursue his responsibilities from the Oval Office for the next four years. And since we're at one of those break points, if you will, in history, where we're setting up new institutions and new strategies that are likely to be in place for 20, or 30, or 40 years down the road, the consequences of the decision that we make on November 2nd, are very, very significant. We don't want to forget that. And I'd ask all of you to keep that in mind. (Applause.)
Final point, and then I'll stop and have a chance to respond to some of your questions, as well, too -- there are two places I look when I express my gratitude for what we've been able to accomplish so far. Obviously, right at the top of my list is our President, George W. Bush, who I think has done a superb job since he was sworn in a little over three years ago. (Applause.)
But none of what we've achieved would have been possible without the superb performance of our men and women in uniform in the armed forces of the United States. (Applause.)
So let me close this morning by thanking them, and their families for all that they've done for us. They're the ones who make the sacrifices and put literally everything on the line in order to protect us and keep us safe here at home to make certain that we deal with these problems overseas, not here in the streets of our own cities. And their families, obviously, also bear a very special burden. And finally, let me say thanks to all our of veterans in the audience here today -- whenever they served. We greatly appreciate what you did for us. (Applause.)
Now, the way this usually works, we've got people in the audience with these very attractive yellow jerseys on -- (laughter) -- with the numbers on them. And they've got microphones with them. And if you want to ask a question, or make a comment just get the attention of one of them. They'll come over with a microphone. And then I'll call on you as I can. Yes, sir, back here.
Q Mr. Vice President, you've talked about health issues and a lot of other issues. But one that I see that hasn't been addressed is our judicial. We see judges taking the laws and just getting away with them, and they're making laws instead of enforcing them. How is that going to be addressed?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, one of the big problems we've got in the judicial area is we've moved aggressively to fill vacancies on the federal bench. But we've run into a problem because the Senate Democrats have begun to filibuster on certain judicial nominations. So we've got perfectly able and talented people with good strong legal backgrounds that meet all the requirements in terms of their capacity to serve on the federal bench. But the Democrats have zeroed in on a few of those, especially in the circuit courts, and filibustered that, which means, in effect, we have to have 60 votes in order to break the filibuster to get those people confirmed. We think that's wrong. We think it's a violation of the way the Senate is supposed to work. Filibusters have not previously been used on judicial appointments. We had a case just the other day, for example, a friend of mine, a man named Bill Myers, from Idaho, a Westerner, strong background, worked on the Hill at one point, has got all the credentials, and he's got the votes to get confirmed. He's got 54 or 55 votes that will support him. But he's been filibustered. He is the nominee the President sent up to serve on the Ninth Circuit, which is the circuit that covers the western part of the country, California and the West Coast. That, by the way, is the circuit that decided that we shouldn't be allowed to say "under God" when we pledge allegiance to the flag. Now, I think the American people ought to be able to say "under God" when we pledge allegiance to the flag. (Applause.) And it sounds to me like the Ninth Circuit could use some new judges. (Laughter and applause.)
The best, most immediate solution to the problem is to make certain we get great senators like Chuck Grassley reelected to the United States Senate -- (applause) -- and to expand our numbers in several of the other races around the country this year. And we're working on that. But it is -- it's a real problem, because as I say, it's the first time we've sort of crossed over that line now to a conscious strategy by one party to try to apply the filibuster rules to judicial appointments. And it's a big issue.
Somebody over here, number two.
Q Good morning, Mr. Vice President, my question to do you deals with Russia and the events that recently transpired there. Previously, Russia hasn't been always as supportive as I think they should have been in our efforts in fighting terrorism around the world. Do you see, with the events that have occurred, Russia taking a more aggressive stance, and standing more strongly with us as we continue to fight terrorists around the globe?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think they will. I think there has been -- in some circles, in Europe, for example, I think a lot of our European friends have been somewhat ambivalent about this whole proposition with respect to how we deal with these terrorist attacks. I think some have hoped that if they kept their heads down and stayed out of the line of fire, they wouldn't get hit. I think what happened in Russia now demonstrates pretty conclusively that everybody is a target, that Russia, of course, did not support us in Iraq. They did not get involved in sending troops there. They've gotten hit anyway. And I think people are back sort of reassessing now, in terms of what the motives may be of the people who are launching these attacks or using these kinds of tactics against our people.
President Putin and President Bush have a good relationship. President Bush called Putin almost immediately -- as soon as we got word of this attack. He was the first major world leader to call him and express condolences. You may have seen a picture in the last day or two when the President and Laura went to the Russian embassy in Washington, and signed the condolence book, which is a mark of respect and a way to pay our respects to the Russians. I think that there will be a higher degree of cooperation among all countries going forward. There's already a lot.
In the intelligence area, for example, there's a great deal of coordination, of cooperation from government to government -- oftentimes with the intelligence services of governments you might not necessarily think allies of the United States. Everybody -- to the extent that people are coming to realize that this is a global threat and not just a target -- not just targeted on the United States, I think we'll see a wider basis of support for the measures that are needed in order to defend ourselves, and to deal with this threat. So I'm fairly optimistic going forward that we will see that.
Got somebody back here. Back here, number four.
Q Mr. Vice President, welcome to Ottumwa.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Q With all the jobs that are being exported, what are we doing to try to conserve -- bringing those jobs back into the United States, and keeping jobs here?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the most important thing I think we can do here in the United States is to make the U.S. to best place in the world to do business. If we're going to have people invest here, build businesses here, create jobs here, then they'll sit down and they'll make a hard-nosed economic decision about whether or not this is a good place to do business.
The fact is we are the world's leading trading nation. We're also, I believe, in general terms, the most attractive place in the world to invest. And in terms of the overall flow of trade and commerce back and forth across international borders, we do very well with respect to our ability, for example, to produce here and export overseas. One out of every three acres that's in production in the United States is for export. We've got several million Americans who are employed by the U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-owned firms. That is in a question of the trade back and forth, the United States does extraordinarily well. But there isn't any one silver bullet that will lead people to make that choice that they definitely want to invest here. I think you have to do several things.
As I mentioned at the outset, you've got to have a tax system that encourages savings and investment and risk-taking, and the entrepreneurial spirit on the part of small businesses. Seven out of 10 new jobs in America are created by small businesses -- not by the big corporations. This has got to be a friendly environment for them to operate in. We've got to have a first class education system so that businesses operating here can find people with the talents and the skills they need, and so that our young people can have the opportunity to rise and succeed in the world by being part of an effective company. You've got to have a first rate health care system. You've got to end lawsuit abuse so we don't spend so darn much money running a business, or an enterprise of some kind hiring lawyers instead of hiring workers. Our legal system is not all that efficient. (Applause.)
If you look at the proposals the President has put together, we tried -- we've got initiatives in all of these areas. And I'm convinced that with the right kind of policies in place, there isn't any question Americans can out-compete anybody, anyplace in the world as long as there's a fair, level playing field there. And we've done it consistently over the years. I say we are the world's leading trading nation -- both in terms of exports and imports. And we'll continue to do that as long as we make the right decisions, put in place the right policies, and recognize that we're all in this together.
Yes, over here.
Q Mr. Vice President, I would like to know what we can do as a community to help our military overseas, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the remarkable thing is to get a chance to spend some time with our folks who are serving, or have served, or are just back from over there. It's the most remarkable group of people you're ever going to want to see. I was down -- well, a few weeks ago, I stopped at Camp Pendleton and spent part of the day with our Marines out in California, a lot of them getting ready to go back for a second tour in Iraq. And the other night, I had a tremendous experience. I went down -- I was invited to go down to Fort Benning, Georgia, with the Third Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment. These are Rangers -- we've got three battalions of Rangers. They do phenomenal work. They were the first ones to jump into Afghanistan when we launched our operations there. And they have been deployed so much over the last couple of years because of our operations overseas that they hadn't had a chance to have their annual ball, where they get together with their wives and families and so forth and have this very special occasion. And they were able to do it, and they invited me to come have dinner with them and speak to them, which I did.
The most important thing I think of all is to say thank you. Every chance you get them, let them know we know what they're doing for us. Second, I would say is to support them absolutely. Let them know there's always going to be a lot of hand-wringing and controversy any time we get into a conflict. That seems to be our habit. And as a democracy, we debate everything. We'll argue about what the weather is going to be tomorrow. But that should never extend to the men and women in uniform who have taken on these assignments and these responsibilities. Look out for their families. If you know somebody who is deployed overseas, stop by and see if there's anything they need, can you help them out. The wife and kid -- do the wife and kids here at home need help getting something done around the house, whatever it might be, just offer support and assistance, and let them know how much you appreciate them.
A lot of communities around the country have gotten together and write letters, correspond with the folks overseas. I know when we did Desert Storm years ago when I was Secretary of Defense, one of the biggest problems I had was that we didn't have enough logistics capability to haul all the cake and the cookies and the goodies that everybody at home wanted to send to the troops overseas.
I can remember going out to visit with a Marine unit in the desert up along the Iraq border, just before we launched into Kuwait. And about 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon, the guy turned to me, the commander who was taking me around, and he said, you notice the camels out there?
And there were camels coming in out of the desert into -- to the edge of the camp. And I said, yes, what are they doing?
He said, well, it's mail call.
I said, what do you mean it's mail call?
He said, well, the camels have learned that the mail truck shows up every afternoon about 4:00 p.m., and it's always chock-a-block full of goodies. And we've got so many goodies the guys started feeding the camels, so the camels come in every day at 4:00 p.m. (Laughter.)
But just the measure of the affection and the respect that we show them, and as I say, the most important thing we can do of all is to thank them for what they're doing for all of us. (Applause.)
Q Mr. Vice President. I'm in the United States Army. I just spent six month in Iraq, and I was injured there in June. And I have been home for about three months now. And I just wanted to say I left supporting you guys, and after being there, I support you guys even more -- after seeing what those people had to go through and how they lived. And I ran missions handing out food and water to people there. And having those people -- and be there with them for six months is -- it was amazing. And I truly understand what we're doing over there. And I thank you for doing what you did.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much for doing what you did. (Applause.)
I can't think of a better note to end on than that one. Let me thank all of you for being here this morning. I ask you again to keep in mind what is at stake here on November 2nd, how enormously important it is -- because we are talking about the kind of nation we want to hang on to our -- hand on to our kids and grandkids. There is a great deal at stake in the choice we're all going to make. And we also need to remember how enormously fortunate we are to get to participate in that process. The thing that always bugs me a little bit, and maybe I'm getting old and crotchety now, and so I'm not as temperate as I used to be, but it's people who take for granted what we have and our right to participate in the process of deciding who our President is going to be, and then hold them accountable for their performance and get that opportunity every election to go out there and be part of the process. And I look back at the last election, how close it was, 537 votes in Florida. That decided the outcome of who was going to President of the United States and how we were going to be governed for the next four years. You can't tell me that individual effort doesn't matter. Every volunteer hour, every dollar contributed, all of the doorbells rung, and the phone calls made, all of that is absolutely a crucial part of the process. And the last thing in the world we want to do is, by any means, to take it for granted and not recognize that we are enormously fortunate to be living in the United States, and to have the right to do something that very few citizens in history have ever been able to do, except here in the United States, and increasingly around the world. But that's a very special -- it's a very special privilege, and we should not treat it lightly.
Thank you very much for being here. (Applause.)
END 11:29 A.M. CDT
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