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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
July 31, 2003
Vice President Remark's on 2003 Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award
Marriott Ballroom, Marriott Wardman Park Hotel
6:04 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate that warm welcome, and I'm especially honored to be this year's award winner of the Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award. It means a great deal. And I've got enormous respect for ALEC and for what the organization stands for. I see many friends from across America out there tonight. And it's good bring you greetings from President George W. Bush. He sends you his very best. (Applause.)
For 30 years, the American Legislative Exchange Council has stood for limited government, for free enterprise, for accountability for public officials at every level. ALEC has a well deserved reputation as a bipartisan group of citizens, from both public and private sectors, joined together by clear principles, and concerned, above all, with achieving results. President Bush and I appreciate the good work you do, and we value your advice, and we appreciate your support.
When the President and I took office two-and-a-half years ago, we were determined to get beyond the old and tired debates, and beyond the partisanship that so often dominates this city. We were determined to solve problems, not just to pass them on to the next generation. And today I believe there is much to show for these last two-and-a-half years. Today, I believe the American people can be confident of a better future, a stronger economy, and greater security against the dangers of a new era, because of the character and the convictions of President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
In the weeks following the terrorist attack on America, people in every part of the country, regardless of party, took great comfort and pride from the conduct of our President. From that day to this, the President has led a steady, focused and relentless campaign against the enemies who struck America and murdered thousands of our citizens. Of those directly involved in organizing the September 11th attacks, many are now in custody or confirmed dead. (Applause.) The al Qaeda has sustained heavy losses. Those still at large are living in fear, and their fears are well-founded, because we're on their trail. In Afghanistan -- (applause) -- in Afghanistan, the Taliban regime brutalized an entire population. They harbored al Qaeda, and that regime is no more. In Iraq, a dictator with a deep and bitter hatred of the United States, who built, possessed and used weapons of mass destruction and cultivated ties to terrorists, is no more. (Applause.)
Our strategy in the war on terror has been based on a clear understanding of the enemy, and a clear assessment of our national interest. Having lost thousands of Americans in a single morning, we are not going to answer further danger by simply issuing diplomatic protests or sharply worded condemnations. (Applause.) We will not wait in false comfort while terrorists plot against innocent Americans. We will not permit outlaw states and terror groups to join forces in a deadly alliance that could threaten the lives of millions of Americans. We will act, and act decisively, before gathering threats can inflict catastrophic harm on the American people.
President Bush is acting with equal boldness on the domestic front. As Governor of Texas, George Bush made education reform a matter of the highest priority. He followed through by uniting members of both political parties behind sweeping reforms, then he promised to do the same as President. Many doubted it could ever be achieved, yet in a short time, President Bush transformed the education debate in Washington. He set forth clear principles, and worked with Congress in a spirit of bipartisanship until the No Child Left Behind Act became law. Because of that milestone reform, the days of excuse-making are over, and we are bringing high standards and accountability to public schools across America.
Three years ago, we also promised to reduce the federal tax burden, to let workers and entrepreneurs keep more of their own money, and to give the economy a needed boost. By the time we took office, the stock market had been declining for months and the economy was slipping into recession. Confidence was further shaken by terrorist attacks, corporate scandals and the uncertainty of war. Under the President's leadership, we established the Corporate Fraud Task Force and passed the most sweeping corporate reforms since FDR was in the White House.
And after the many failed attempts of the 1990s, we now have trade promotion authority to open new markets for America's farmers, ranchers and manufacturers. And to help create jobs and get this economy growing again, we have delivered the largest tax relief since the presidency of Ronald Reagan. (Applause.)
The President believes that the best way to promote growth and create jobs is to let Americans keep more of the money they earn. (Applause.) The more money Americans get to keep after taxes, the more incentive they will have to work, to save, to invest and to produce.
In 2001, the President took swift action and signed into law a tax relief measure that helped make the recession one of the shallowest in modern history. The Jobs and Growth Package that the President signed on May 28th of this year reduced tax rates even further. It increases family budgets through across-the-board tax relief, provided immediate relief on the child tax credit and marriage penalty tax relief. We're already seeing results from those tax reductions. Withholding tables have already been adjusted, so workers are seeing more money in their paychecks. The Treasury Department has begun printing and mailing out more than 25 million child credit checks, providing more than 12 billion dollars to American families.
The Jobs and Growth Package is also designed to spur confidence in the markets and business community so businesses will start investing again and create the jobs that are needed. Here, too, it's having a positive impact on investment by reducing the taxes on dividends and capital gains, and by providing incentives for businesses both large and small to buy new equipment.
Our economy is sound in its fundamentals: Interest rates and inflation are low. Homeownership is near record-high levels. Productivity growth is very strong. Business activity is on the mend. And today, we learned that the economy grew at a rate of 2.4 percent in the second quarter of this year. (Applause.)
We believe the jobs and growth plan has set the stage for even faster growth in the coming year. We are beginning to see more business investment in equipment. More and more companies are declaring a new dividend or increasing the one they already pay to shareholders. As a result, billions of dollars will go back into the economy for growth and job creation. And over time, higher growth will ensure that every American who wants a job can find one.
Besides creating new jobs, pro-growth economic policies will contribute to higher revenues for our government. These new revenues -- along with spending discipline in Washington -- are the surest way to reduce the federal deficit. And although the deficit for 2003 currently stands at better than $400 billion, it remains manageable as a share of our $11-trillion economy. The deficit is not hurting the economy now, especially with interest rates at their lowest level in decades.
Still, we must bring the deficit down. And under the President's leadership, Congress agreed to a budget that funds the war on terror and homeland security, while restraining the growth of discretionary spending to 4 percent -- or about the same increase as the average household budget this year. The President intends to hold Congress to that pledge. With spending discipline and economic growth, we can cut the deficit significantly over the next few years.
Some in Congress want to raise taxes on the American people in order to close the deficit. But raising taxes will not close the deficit; it will hurt the recovery; and it will encourage more wasteful spending by the Congress. Now is exactly the wrong time to be raising taxes. (Applause.)
The President also intends to press ahead on his domestic agenda. After many years of inaction in Washington, we are working to strengthen and to improve Medicare by giving the private sector a major role in providing prescription drug benefits. We now have the best opportunity in many years to improve Medicare by putting patients and doctors in control of health care decisions -- not bureaucrats and trial lawyers. (Applause.)
By encouraging competition and innovation in the Medicare system, we help improve service to seniors who depend on the program right now, and we help ensure that the program will be solvent for the seniors of tomorrow.
We also need legal reform, because the strength of our economy is undermined by frivolous and self-seeking lawsuits. (Applause.) The House has passed class action reform. We ask the Senate to do the same, so that small businesses and manufacturers can spend more time creating jobs, not having to fight off frivolous lawsuits.
We're going to continue pressing Congress, as well, for an energy plan. Hopefully, we may even get one passed tonight or tomorrow. The President has proposed a comprehensive energy strategy that includes greater energy efficiency and conservation, cleaner technology, and the production of more natural gas and other fuels at home. For the sake of our economic security and our national security, we must make America less dependent on foreign oil. (Applause.)
We will continue, as well, to press for free trade agreements, and we have recently completed successful negotiations with Chile and with Singapore. These agreements will bring us the benefits that come with an open market, more jobs for our workers, more markets for our farmers, more growth for our trading partners and allies, and more choices for consumers.
For the good of our citizens and our economy, we also want to continue building an ownership society. We want Americans to own their own homes, own their own health care, and own their own retirement. And in coming years, we'll continue to put into place programs that help Americans achieve all these goals -- from health insurance tax credits that make it affordable for people to purchase their own health insurance -- (applause); to lifetime savings accounts that increase incentives for Americans to save in the long run; to personal Social Security retirement accounts that allow workers to own and build assets for their retirement security. (Applause.)
These are ambitious goals, and I am confident we can accomplish them. I am optimistic because I know the character of this great nation, and of this great President. Long before I took this job, I had the good fortune to work with other Presidents I greatly admire. As a White House staffer in the aftermath of Watergate, I saw Gerald Ford restore confidence in government by the sheer decency and force of his character. (Applause.) As a congressman during the decisive years of the Cold War, I saw the conviction and the moral courage of Ronald Reagan. (Applause.) And as a member of the Cabinet, as Secretary of Defense, under former President Bush, I saw the ideal of public service in its purest form and came to know a leader of true honor and integrity. (Applause.)
Along the way, I believe I learned a few things about the presidency, and the kind of person it takes to do that job well. It takes the very finest qualities of character: conviction, personal integrity, good judgment, compassion, and courage in times of testing for the nation. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly the kind of man we have in the White House today. (Applause.)
I am honored to work with President Bush. And he and I are both honored by your confidence in us, by your commitment to the enduring principles of freedom, and by the important work that ALEC does on behalf of this great country of ours.
Thank you very much.
END 6:17 P.M. EDT