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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
October 25, 2006
Vice President's Remarks to the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber
11:59 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Ellen, for the introduction. And thank all of you for that warm welcome back to Cincinnati.
It is great to be in Ohio, especially this time of year. And in this competitive season, of course, all of America is watching what happens in Ohio. But we're not talking politics -- we're thinking about the Ohio State Buckeyes, number one in the nation. (Applause.)
Let me thank the officers and members of the Chamber of Commerce, and the guests from throughout the Ohio River Valley. It's good to be with all of you, and I bring greetings from the President of the United States, George W. Bush.
I'm told that you also expected to hear from another administration official this month, Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Condi's a wonderful person. She's known far and wide as one of the great personalities in American public life. I know she's sorry she couldn't make it. But I'm very pleased to be here, and I can only assume that I, too, was invited because of my charm and my charisma. (Laughter.)
I've come to Cincinnati often over the years, especially during my service on the board of Proctor and Gamble -- great company. I'm always happy to return, and I have to say that I've never seen the city looking better than it does today. A visitor in the 1880s described Cincinnati as a place of "solid business enterprises and scrupulous honesty." That's still the case in the 21st century. You've built a dynamic, enterprising, forward-looking community. This whole region -- Southwest Ohio, Southeastern Indiana, and Northern Kentucky -- looks to the future with tremendous confidence, and rightly so.
Today I want to speak about the future of our country, and the priorities that the President and I believe will enhance the prosperity and the security of the American people. The purpose of public office is to meet responsibilities, and the President and I feel very strongly that we're there to get things done, to solve problems, instead of passing them on to future generations, and to stand accountable for the work that we do.
We have a responsibility to keep the economy moving forward -- and to recognize the basic role of government in a free society. Nobody can sit in an office in Washington, D.C. and simply decide to create prosperity. What we can do, and must do, is create an environment that gives consumers the confidence to spend, savers the confidence to save, and entrepreneurs the confidence to invest, to expand their businesses and to hire new employees. And one of the surest ways to create that climate is to leave as many resources as possible in the hands of the people themselves.
For that reason, at the start of this administration in 2001, President Bush asked Congress to pass significant, broad-based tax relief. The House and Senate responded with historic pro-growth legislation. We reduced taxes for every American who pays income taxes. We doubled the child tax credit, reduced the marriage penalty, phased out the death tax and created new incentives for small businesses to invest.
Another crucial decision we made was to reduce tax on dividends and capital gains. These cuts were designed to lower the cost of capital and to encourage businesses to expand and hire new workers. They were passed in 2003. I should point out that when the matter came up in the United States Senate, the vote was 50 senators in favor, 50 senators opposed. Fortunately, the Constitution provides a way out of such a predicament. I was there to break the tie. (Laughter and applause.) Now, I don't want you to think I deserve any special credit. It's not like I had options that day when I went to the Hill. (Laughter.) The President made it pretty clear what I was supposed to do. But I have noticed that every time I vote, our side wins. (Laughter and applause.)
We expected the tax reductions on capital gains and dividends to cause a surge in economic activity -- and that is exactly what happened. Business investment has grown at a healthy rate over the last three years. And over three trillion dollars in new wealth has been added to the stock market. This spring President Bush signed a bill renewing the tax cuts for dividends and capital gains so that we can continue to expect a strong flow of capital investment -- the very kind of investment that generates even more new jobs down the road.
As it is right now, the jobs picture is the best in our history; more Americans are working today than ever before. Since the recovery began in August of '03, the United States has added over 6.6 million new jobs -- more than Japan and the 25 nations of the European Union combined. Growth has been strong in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, as well, with 240,000 jobs created in these three states since July of '03. The national unemployment rate is 4.6 percent -- lower than the average of the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s. Productivity over the last five years has grown at the fastest rate in decades -- and higher productivity leads to higher wages for American workers.
The economic expansion is also translating into higher than projected federal revenues, as we believed would happen. You might recall that back in 2004, President Bush set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009. The pledge was greeted with skepticism, to put it mildly. About the kindest comment I heard in the media was that the President was being "extremely optimistic." At least one news account suggested that experts thought cutting the deficit in half by 2009, in just five years' time, might be mathematically impossible. Yet here we are in October of 2006, and we've already cut the deficit in half -- three years ahead of schedule.
All told, federal tax receipts have gone up by more than $520 billion in just the last two fiscal years. This is the largest two-year increase in history. By now it's time for even the skeptics to admit that a lower federal tax burden is a powerful driver of investment, of growth, and of new jobs for American workers. And that increased economic activity generates more revenue for the federal government. President Bush's tax relief plan was right for America -- and it is working.
The growth in revenues doesn't take away our responsibility to hold the line on spending -- and on that score we have more to do. The President is willing to make hard choices himself -- and so we hope the Congress will give the President the line-item veto authority to stop wasteful spending. Let me add that when the goal is spending discipline, it doesn't hurt to have a smart, tough-minded budget director. And that's exactly what we have in Rob Portman of Cincinnati. (Applause.)
A low-tax policy remains at the center of our agenda and to keep the economy growing. Under current law, many of the tax cuts are still set to expire in future years. If we do nothing, American families would face a massive tax increase. The child credit would fall from a thousand dollars to $500, the death tax would return, small businesses expensing would shrink from $100,000 to $25,000. The tax rate on capital gains would go up as high as 20 percent, and the maximum rate on dividends would approach 40 percent. And the economy would sustain a major hit. As the President has said, this nation needs more than a temporary expansion, so we need more than temporary tax relief. And we are asking Congress to make the Bush tax cuts permanent.
As the budget picture brightens, some have noted the longer-term challenge of mandatory spending requirements. It's a fair point to make. The retirement of the Baby Boom generation will put unprecedented strains on the federal government. By the year 2030, spending for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid alone will amount to almost 60 percent of the entire federal budget. That will present future Congresses with impossible choices -- staggering tax increases, immense deficits, or deep cuts in every category of federal spending. The rising cost of entitlements is a problem that is not going to go away -- and with every year that Congress fails to act, the situation only gets worse. We need to set aside partisan politics, to work together, and to get this problem solved.
Ladies and gentlemen, when I speak of the responsibilities we have in the federal government, and the principle of accountability for our decisions and actions, I think above all of the overriding obligation to protect and defend the American people in a time of war. National security is the one area where the duties are the greatest, the work is the hardest, and the margin for error is the smallest.
Last month we marked the fifth anniversary of September 11th 2001. Thinking about 9/11 still moves all of us -- because the attack was directed at all of us. We were meant to take it personally, and we still do take it personally.
The enemy, also, took note of the anniversary. For the terrorists, it was a day for rejoicing -- for celebrating once again the suffering and death of 3,000 innocent men, women, and children. This year Osama bin Laden's second-in-command used the anniversary to issue more words of hatred for this country, and more threats of murder. And once again, all of us were reminded of the kind of enemies we face, the beliefs they hold, and the ambitions they want to achieve.
Our country has never before had to confront adversaries like these. They have no standing armies or navies. They wear no uniform and recognize neither the conventions of war, nor any rules of morality. Their method of fighting, which they have practiced and proclaimed, is to organize in secret, to slip in among civilian populations, and to take as many innocent lives as possible. The terrorists are willing to die in that effort -- indeed, while civilized societies uphold justice, mercy, and the value of life, these terrorists hold to an ideology that feeds on the pain of others and glorifies in murder and suicide.
Though they plot and plan and operate by stealth, the terrorists make no secret of the beliefs they hold. They seek to impose a dictatorship of fear, under which every man, woman, and child would live in total obedience to a narrow and hateful ideology. This ideology rejects tolerance, denies freedom of conscience, and demands that women be pushed to the margins of society. As was clear when the Taliban held power in Afghanistan, beliefs of this kind can be imposed only through force and intimidation, so those who refuse to bow to the tyrants will be brutalized or killed.
The terrorists also have a set of objectives. They want to seize control of a country in the Middle East, so they have a base from which to launch attacks and to wage war against anyone who refuses to meet their demands. They believe that by controlling one country, they will be able to target and overthrow other governments in the region, and eventually to establish a totalitarian empire that encompasses a region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way around to Indonesia. They have declared, as well, their ultimate aims: to obtain chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons, to destroy Israel, to intimidate all Western countries, and to cause mass death in the United States.
The terrorists regard the entire world as their battlefield. That is why al Qaeda has operatives in Iraq right now. They want to breed chaos, bring down a newly elected government, and gain a foothold for terror and the oil wealth to finance it. Americans are fighting there, and in Afghanistan, because our security depends on it. Having liberated those countries from tyranny, we will not now permit new dictatorships to seize power and give terrorists a base of operations.
There is still hard work ahead, and we have no illusions about the cruelty of our enemies. As the President has said, the terrorists will continue to have the coward's power to plant roadside bombs and to recruit suicide bombers. And you will continue to see the grim results on the evening news. This proves that the war is difficult, but it does not mean that we are losing. There's been more violence in Baghdad recently, and much of this is because Coalition and Iraqi forces have been conducting more focused operations -- going into the most violent areas to disrupt al Qaeda, capture enemy fighters, go after the bomb makers, and break up the death squads.
Another reason for the increase in attacks is that the terrorists want to influence public opinion right here in the United States. It's odd to think of ideologues out of the dark ages having a modern media strategy, but the fact is they do. They take videos of their attacks and put them up on the Internet or get them broadcast on television. They send messages and images by email, and tell their followers to spread the word. One recent propaganda message said the goal was to "carry out a media war that is parallel to the military war." This is reminiscent of a message Osama bin Laden sent after 9/11 -- vowing to wage, and again I quote, "a media campaign, to create a wedge between the American people and their government."
Bin Laden himself calls the fight in Iraq the "third world war." There, and elsewhere, the terrorists know they cannot hope to beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have. But they are absolutely convinced they can break the will of the American people. They base that view, in part, on the history of the 1980s and the 1990s, when they concluded that if they killed enough Americans, they could change American policy. In Beirut in 1983, terrorists killed 241 Marines with a suicide truck bomber. Thereafter, U.S. forces withdrew from Beirut. In Mogadishu in 1993, terrorists killed 19 American soldiers. Thereafter, U.S. forces withdrew from Somalia. The attacks continued: the bombing at the World Trade Center in 1993; the attack on the Saudi National Guard Training Center in Riyadh in 1995; the attack on Khobar Towers in 1996; the simultaneous attack on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; and the attack on the USS Cole in 2000. So they kept at it because they believed they could strike America without paying a price, and eventually, of course, struck us here in the homeland on 9/11. And bin Laden continues to predict that the people of the United States simply do not have the stomach to stay in the fight against terror.
For the sake of our own generation and the ones that follow, we have a clear responsibility to press on in this fight. Our goal in Iraq is victory -- with a nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. In terms of how to carry out the mission, General Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, put it best: From a military standpoint, he said, every day is reassessment day. We will be flexible. We'll do all we can to adapt to conditions on the ground. We'll make every change that is necessary to do the job, to finish the job, and to bring our troops home with the honor they've earned. When it comes to our own troop levels, President Bush will make that call, and he'll do it based on the commanders and what they believe is necessary for victory. He'll make the decision that best serves the national interest, without regard to poll numbers, armchair generals, or artificial time lines set by politicians in Washington, D.C.
America is helping Iraq and Afghanistan on the journey of democracy because we are a nation that keeps its word. And we believe that the spread of democracy and hope are, in the long run, the best way to defeat the ideologies of violence, resentment, and terror. By standing with our friends, we are making a better day possible in the broader Middle East, and helping to build a safer, more peaceful world for our children and our grandchildren. The United States of America is a good country. It's a generous country, a decent, idealistic, and compassionate country. We are doing honorable work in a messy and a dangerous world. We are defended by heroes. And the brave Americans on duty in this war can be proud of their service for the rest of their lives.
If we have learned anything from modern experience, it is that we have to stay on the offensive until the danger to civilization is removed. This requires moving forward on many fronts at the same time -- from using financial tools, to diplomatic pressure, to a sustained, multilateral effort to fight the proliferation of sophisticated weapons.
We also place the highest priority on intelligence, in order to figure out the intentions of an enemy that very likely has combatants right here inside the United States. We live in a free and open society, and the terrorists want to use those advantages against us. And so we have an urgent duty to learn who they are, what they are doing, and to stop them before they can strike again.
The best source of information, obviously, is the terrorists themselves. When we pick up somebody on the battlefield, or track them down in a safe house, we want to find out what they know. So the President directed the CIA to set up a detainee program to question the terrorists. This program has saved American lives. We've obtained extremely valuable information, for example, from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled the detainee program could not go forward without explicit legislation. Fortunately for the country, Congress passed that legislation, and the President signed it into law just last week.
We've also gained critical information from the terrorist surveillance program, which the President authorized in the days immediate after 9/11. On occasion you will hear this called a domestic surveillance program or eavesdropping. That is more than a misnomer; it is a flat-out falsehood. We are talking about international communications, one end of which we have reason to believe is related to al Qaeda or to terrorist networks. And it's hard to think of any category of information that could be more important to the safety of the United States. And the activities that are conducted under this operation have helped to detect and to prevent terrorist attacks against the American people.
If you'll recall, the 9/11 Commission focused criticism on the nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists at home and terrorists overseas. The term that was used is "connecting the dots" -- and the fact is that one small piece of data might very well make it possible to save thousands of lives. If this program had been in place before 9/11, we might have been able to prevent it because we had two terrorists living in San Diego, contacting terrorist-related numbers overseas. The very important question today is whether, on five years' reflection, we have yet learned all the lessons of 9/11.
In the decade prior to those attacks, our country spent more than two trillion dollars on national security. Yet we lost nearly 3,000 Americans that morning at the hands of 19 men with box cutters and airline tickets. These enemies have intelligence and counterintelligence operations of their own. They take their orders from overseas. They are using the most sophisticated communications technology they can get their hands on. Since 9/11 they have successfully carried out attacks in Casablanca, Jakarta, Mombassa, Bali, Riyadh, Baghdad, Istanbul, Madrid, London, Sharm al-Sheikh, Bombay, and elsewhere. Here in the U.S., we have not had another 9/11. No one can guarantee that we won't be hit again. We know they're still trying.
To have come this far without another attack is no accident. A lot of things can go wrong in a war. Yet candor also permits us to recognize that many things have gone right. We've been protected by sensible policy decisions by the President, by decisive action at home and abroad, and by round-the-clock efforts on the part of people in the armed forces, law enforcement, intelligence, and homeland security. And, ladies and gentlemen, I want you to know that we're not going to let down our guard. The President is serious about the threat and serious about his duty to protect the country. He will not relent in the effort to track the enemies of the United States with every legitimate tool at his command.
As many of you know, I had the honor of serving as Secretary of Defense at the time the Cold War ended. I worked for and with a number of Cold War presidents, and I'm a great admirer of the man who lived in the White House when the struggle began -- Harry S. Truman. I was interested to learn from Truman's biography that the Cold War was an expression he never much cared for and seldom used. He called it "the war of nerves." And if you think about it that's a description of the kind of challenge America is now facing. The war on terror is a test of our strength, a test of our capabilities and, above all, a test of our character. And I have never had more confidence in the nerve and the will of the American people. We love our country, only more when she is threatened. We know that the hopes of the civilized world depend on us. Our cause is right; it is just; and this great nation will prevail.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 12:23 P.M. EDT