|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
October 29, 2004
Vice President's Q & A in Schofield, Wisconsin
Log Cabin Restaurant
October 28, 2004
10:13 A.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I want to thank all of you for being here this morning, thank you for the warm welcome. We're delighted to be back in Wisconsin. We spent some time here early in our careers. I guess, 1966 is when we arrived -- January of '66, I remember driving to arrive in Madison. It was very cold. (Laughter.)
And we settled in down there and spent about three years there. I worked for Governor Warren Knowles. I was just remembering my first campaign that I ever got actively involved in was traveling with him and Gerry Whitburn. Gerry is here someplace this morning, and campaigning through Wisconsin as he ran for reelection in 1966. And subsequent to that, I counted up the other day, I've been involved directly in about 15 campaigns over the years. I was a candidate eight of those, and working for somebody else the other seven times. But who's keeping score, right? (Laughter.)
But I sort of cut my teeth in politics here in Wisconsin, and met and worked with some great people -- Bill Steiger, congressman from the sixth district for a long time; Jim Sensenbrenner is an old friend I've known since those days, and we served together in the House of Representatives. So we've had some fond memories of Wisconsin over the years.
Grace, who is with us this morning, her mother was born in Wisconsin. Liz is here someplace. So we've got many fond memories of Wisconsin. We're pleased to be here today.
What we usually do at these coffees -- is an opportunity for me to make a few remarks, talk about a subject and one of the issues that's involved in this year's campaign, and then throw it open to questions and have an opportunity to respond to your concerns, as well, too. And we're not trying by any means to limit the subject matter. We can talk about anything you want to talk about. But there are a couple of points I'd like to make this morning, and I'll try to be fairly brief so I don't use up all the time, and we save some time for you to have an opportunity to ask questions and make comments, as well, too.
Now, I want to focus especially this morning on the question on the global war on terror, on national security, because I think one of the most important decisions we'll make next Tuesday is to choose a Commander-in-Chief for the next four years. And part of that process, I believe is that we are now at one of those points in American history where something comes along, a new threat emerges and we have to devise a new strategy, build a new institution, new ways of dealing with that threat, or defeating that threat in order to guarantee the safety and security of the country in the years ahead.
Now, we had a similar situation after World War II when suddenly we were faced with the Soviet Union nuclear-armed, occupied half of Europe, began to pursue an aggressive policy of supporting communist insurgencies various places around the world. We responded by creating the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, reconfiguring our own forces, and we put in place a strategy then that held for the next 40 years, supported in Republican and Democratic administrations alike until the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed.
I think we're at one of those points again in our history going back to 9/11 where we now required by virtue of the new threat we're faced with to develop a strategy and a national security policy that will carry us forward to guarantee the safety and security of the country for the foreseeable future, and maybe for a period of 25, 30 or even 40 years. I think it's that big a decision that we'll make on November 2nd in terms of who we want for a Commander-in-Chief who is prepared to aggressively pursue the war on terror. And obviously, I have my candidate. That shouldn't be a surprise to anybody. But I think there are good solid reasons why George Bush is the man for that task as contrasted with his opponent John Kerry.
What 9/11 forced us to recognize was that we were vulnerable to attack by terrorists who found it easy to get into the country; and then equipped with box cutters and boarding passes were able in a matter of a couple of hours on the morning of 9/11 to kill nearly 3,000 Americans -- more people than we lost at Pearl Harbor, worst attack ever on American soil. We were forced to come to grips with the fact that an even bigger threat is out there, and that is the possibility of a group of these terrorists acquiring deadlier weapons than have ever before been used against us, a chemical or a biological agent, or perhaps even a nuclear weapon. And we know from subsequent work we've done, from interrogating members of al Qaeda, from documents we've captured and so forth, that they, in fact, are trying to acquire those deadly capabilities. And if they were ever successful at smuggling something like that into one of our cities and using it in an attack, then they obviously would threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans. And that's the ultimate threat that we've got to defeat if we're going to guarantee our safety and security in the days and year ahead.
To do that, we did several things. The President, first of all, obviously -- we embarked upon a program to strengthen our defenses here at home. We created the Department of Homeland Security; passed the Patriot Act to give law enforcement more authority to be able to prosecute terrorists using tools that were already available to go after drug traffickers and organized crime; passed the Patriot -- Project BioShield, that's specifically aimed at giving the government the authority the develop and stockpile countermeasures that could be used against biological weapons attacks, obviously, improved our transportation arrangements, security in our ports and so forth.
But we also made a decision that given the nature of the threat, again, keep in mind the biggest danger being a group of terrorists with a deadly weapon in the middle of one of our cities, that a good defense wasn't enough, that we could be successful 999 times out of 1,000 and that one time that they got through would be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and that there is no such thing as a perfect defense, and therefore, that we had to go on offense. We had to have another dimension, if you will, or other dimensions to our strategy. And that involves using the full power of the United States to go after the terrorists wherever they plot and plan and organize and train against us, but also to go after -- and this is a major new departure -- to go after those who support terror, sponsors of terror, in particular. States that provide sanctuary and safe harbor, or resources, or financing, or weapons to terrorist organizations. That had not been done before.
The President was determined to use the full might of the United States to confront those states that sponsored terror and to hold them to account and to deem them just as guilty as the terrorists themselves for the acts they committed. That's what we've done.
Afghanistan -- obviously, gone in and took down the Taliban, captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda, closed the training camps where an estimated 20,000 terrorists trained in the late '90s, including some of those who attacked us on 9/11. Now we're in the business of standing up a new government in Afghanistan. That process is going well, in spite of a lot of hand-wringing that we heard early on from John Edwards and others. The fact of the matter is, the Afghans registered 10 million people to vote, and two weeks ago had the first free elections in the history -- the 5,000 year history of that country, a remarkable achievement. (Applause.) They'll have a democratically elected government in place by the end of the year.
In Iraq, a slightly different set of circumstances. In Saddam Hussein, we had a man who had started two wars previously, who had a track record of producing and using weapons of mass destruction. He had produced and used chemical weapons. He produced biological agents. He had a robust program to try to develop nuclear weapons in the past. He had been a prime sponsor of terror, carried on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terror for over 15 years. He provided a home for Abu Nidal, for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, made $25,000 payments to the families of suicide bombers and had a relationship with al Qaeda. Obviously, one of the worst operators, dictators, if you will, of modern times. The world is a whale of a lot better off today with him in jail, which is exactly where he belongs.
We've got at the same time there, to carry through and do the same thing we're doing in Afghanistan, and that is to stand up a democratically elected government in lieu of what was there previously. It's important that we complete the mission and get that done. It's not enough for us just to go in and take down a bad government, or wrap up terrorists and then turn our backs and walk way. What you leave behind is a failed state, and we don't want to do that. So it is very important in Iraq, just as it is in Afghanistan, to get the democratically elected government in place. We've started that process. The Iraqis have been in charge of their ministries since June. They have had their first national assembly meeting. They'll have an election in January to elect a constitutional assembly, which will then produce a constitution, and all that will lead to national elections in Iraq by the end of next year -- and again, vitally important that we complete that process.
The other step that's necessary both in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also it's currently underway, has to do with standing up security forces with respect to both the Afghans and the Iraqis so that they can provide for their own security, so they can take over the responsibility for what our guys are doing over there now. We are making major progress in that regard. We will have by the end of the year 125,000 Iraqis trained and equipped to play a major role in terms of providing for their own security, and we'll keep building that level right on through next year until they can take on responsibilities themselves -- both for governance, as well as for providing for their own security. That's the strategy. That's what needs to be done. We think it's vital to continue that robust effort if we're going to deal effectively with the war on terror.
There's a contrary view, I think, that is best represented by John Kerry. We've had a lot of bold talk from him during the course of the campaign, but he's argued that somehow we can go back to the pre-9/11 mind set. He talked it about in an interview the other day with The New York Times, where he said, in effect, that his objective would get terrorism back to the point where it was once again just a nuisance -- that's the phrase he used. And he compared it to illegal gambling and prostitution. And when he said that, I thought to myself, was terrorism ever just a nuisance? Was there ever a time when we could think about it in those terms? And you ask, well, what about four years ago when they attacked the USS Cole and killed 17 of our sailors off Yemen, nearly sunk the ship? Was it just a nuisance then? Or six years ago, when they simultaneously hit two of our embassies in East Africa and killed hundreds of people, including dozens of Americans? Or maybe 11 years ago, the first time they hit the World Trade Center in New York and tried to bring it down with the truck bomb in the garage underneath? Or maybe 1988, when they blew Pan Am 103 out of the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland -- 270 lives lost? Or maybe in 1983, when a suicide bomber driving a truck loaded with explosives went into the ground floor of a building in Beirut where we had our people quartered and brought down the building and killed 241 Marines? Which one of those incidents can you describe as a nuisance? It strikes me that there is no such thing as an acceptable level of terror that you can manage this thing, too, and tolerate.
Our objective has to be to defeat terror, and that's exactly what George W. Bush will do as Commander-in-Chief. I don't think John Kerry will.
I think if we look at his track record, Senator Kerry's track record over the years, and he's got one -- an extensive track record. It goes back 20 years. He's always come down on the wrong side of major national security issues. When he ran for Congress in the '70s, he ran on the basis that you should not commit U.S. troops without U.N. authorization. In 1984, when he ran for the Senate, he did so on a platform of cutting or eliminating most of our major weapons programs, that Ronald Reagan had put in place to keep the peace and win the Cold War, many of which we're using to this day. In 1991, when Saddam Hussein first invaded Kuwait and stood poised to dominate the Persian Gulf, and when the United Nations had signed off unanimously on using force to kick him out, met all the conceivable global tests you could ever want, John Kerry voted "no." He was against Operation Desert Storm.
In 1993, after the first World Trade Center bombing, when he was on the Senate intel committee, for the year after the bombing, he didn't attend a meeting of the Senate intel committee, and then later offered up an amendment to cut billions of dollars out of our intelligence budget. Even Ted Kennedy wouldn't support it.
The bottom line is he's got a well established record on the far fringes, if you will, of the national security debate in the Congress that goes back more than 20 years, that cannot be obscured by a little tough talk during the course of the campaign. He's also demonstrated conclusively, I think, that he's prepared to say absolutely anything to get elected in this campaign. And he's done it repeatedly.
The most recent example -- well, a couple of recent examples, one, we had the draft. He's been peddling this notion that, boy, if you elect George Bush the draft is going to be reinstated. Hogwash. The only two people I know who've supported a restoration of the draft are Democrats -- Charlie Rangel from New York and Fritz Hollings from South Carolina. We had a vote on the floor of the House the other day. The House leadership said, well, let's put your money where your mouth is. And they brought the draft proposal to the floor of the House, and said, okay, vote, and only two people voted for it -- neither one of them was Charlie Rangel. He wouldn't even vote for his own bill. (Laughter.) But he's out there peddling this as a scare tactic to try to drum it up. Everybody knows who has been associated with it, is the all-volunteer force is the finest fighting force the world has ever known, and we'd be foolish to go back to the draft. We don't need it. We don't want it. And we're far better off with the system that we've got in place today.
He recently, of course, has been challenging, or criticizing, if you will, our forces and the commanders for supposedly overlooking this cache of munitions, of armaments that were in a site out of Baghdad, a claim that some 370 tons of explosives were not secured when our guys went through the area and have subsequently disappeared. He doesn't know if that's true at all. His top national security advisor, Holbrooke -- Ambassador Holbrooke has said he doesn't know the truth of this. Kerry went ahead anyway, without any facts, without knowing the truth of the matter, and issued these charges that he's been trumpeting around the country the last couple of days. Well, the fact of the matter is, he's just dead wrong.
We know now from documents that ABC revealed last night that, in fact, in January -- three months before our guys even arrived on the scene an inventory was done of this site, and that upwards of 125 tons had been removed already. Instead of 141 tons of RDX, there were three tons of RDX on the site. He's just plain wrong on the facts. He's never let himself be burdened by the facts in terms of the charges he's made. But I think it's the kind of -- frankly, I think it's a cheap shot. And I personally believe that it says something about the -- about the character of the man who would make it, who would, in effect, use his position now as a candidate for short-term political reasons to take that kind of shot at the military, and our military leadership and the folks in the field running the operation. But we've seen it again once before. We saw it when he voted to commit the troops to combat, to send U.S. forces in to get rid of Saddam Hussein when he authorized the President to do that in the fall of '02, and then when it came time to vote for funds to provide them with the equipment they needed, the ammunition, the jet fuel, the spare parts, the $87 billion that everybody has heard about, he voted no. Perfectly prepared to turn his back on our men and women in uniform after he'd voted to send them in harm's way because it was in his political interest to do so. At the moment when he did that, he was under a lot of pressure in the Democratic primaries to come across as an antiwar candidate because Howard Dean was running strong in the polls as an antiwar candidate. Kerry decided he needed to reposition himself, so he took the liberty of turning his back on the troops and voting -- because of the pressures from Howard Dean -- against providing them with the resources they needed, which leads to the question, if he couldn't take the heat in the primaries from Howard Dean, why would we expect that he's got the capacity to stand up to the pressures of Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization. I just have serious doubts about his willingness or his ability or his conviction that would lead to the notion that he could somehow successfully prosecute the war on terror as aggressively as I believe it needs to be prosecuted in order to safeguard the nation here at home. I think there's nothing in his record to indicate that he would do that. And on the contrary there's a lot that would indicate that he probably wouldn't.
So I think the decision on November 2nd is abundantly clear with respect to that question of who ought to be Commander-in-Chief for the next four years. And I think George Bush has got a track record now of nearly four years of actually doing it. I think he's done it very successfully, and I think it's important for us, obviously, on November 2nd to exercise our right to choose and that George Bush be Commander-in-Chief for the next four years. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Mr. Vice President, it would be helpful. Perhaps we can go around the table real quickly --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sure. I'll try to give short answers.
Q Good morning, Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Cheney, I'm glad you're here today. Also, Mr. Vice President, I'd like to thank you for attending and speaking at our NRA convention in Pittsburgh this spring. It was received beautifully by the membership. We genuinely appreciate your being there.
The question I would like you to comment on is the last month or more there has been an individual running around the state painting himself as the great friend of hunters and gun owners. You probably heard of him. I think it's Senator John Kerry or somebody like that.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, he's a great goose hunter from Massachusetts. (Laughter.)
Q And at the same time President Bush and yourself have met with sportsmen's groups and hunting groups, including at the President's ranch in Crawford, Texas, talking about hunting and the hunter being the true conservationist in this country. As you look at Senator Kerry's record, of course, in the last 20 years he's voted against every hunting bill. He wants to tax ammunition. He wants to tax firearms, close federal lands to hunting. He had the endorsement of PETA and the Humane Society of the United States, the bad one. (Laughter.) And seemingly is proud of that, at the same pretending to be a hunter. Mr. Vice President, could you comment on the real differences between you and the President in relation to hunting, which I know is a great heritage in Wyoming, where I've also hunted, but -- and in Wisconsin, it's hard to choose between. But if you could comment, I would appreciate that.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sure. No, I appreciate your bringing the issue up. The NRA, for example, has endorsed President Bush and myself for reelection. And they grade members of Congress on a regular basis, like all of these organizations do, to keep track of how they do in terms of those issues that are important -- are of importance to an organization like, in this case, the NRA. And John Kerry, I believe, virtually every year he's been in the Congress has received an F -- a grade of F.
And you saw it the other day. Again, it's this effort that he's making to try re-define himself during the course of this campaign rather to run on his record, because his record, frankly, in this regard is pretty embarrassing. He consistently has opposed, or supported -- if there's another way to put it, supported limitations on gun owners. It has been an article of faith with him. When he showed up at Ohio the other day to go goose hunting, of course, the first thing he had to do was go buy a camouflage coat, which made me wonder, well, how often has he actually been goose hunting before if he doesn't have a camo coat? And then we concluded that that camo coat was part of an October disguise -- (laughter) -- where he's trying to cover up and disguise his voting record, and the position that he's consistently taken over the years.
I think there's no question but what in my mind he is not a firm believer in the Second Amendment, that the Second Amendment is a lot more than just a photo-op and that you'll find the President and I have records that go back for many, many years that are consistent with a strong, principled belief in the Second Amendment and the right of Americans to bear arms, and that we, two, aggressively support those measures that will enhance and encourage the capacity that so many of us enjoy in terms of hunting and fishing and taking advantage of the gifts that we're provided as Americans. We want to protect and preserve that. And frankly, I don't think John Kerry -- I think he's spent too much time windsurfing, instead of hunting and fishing.
CONGRESSMAN GREEN: Which you don't need camouflage for.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, you wear some weird clothes when you're windsurfing, too. (Laughter.)
CONGRESSMAN GREEN: I'm Congressman Mark Green. I have plenty of opportunities to ask questions of the Vice President. Again, if we could just run around the room and at least introduce ourselves so the Vice President is aware of who is here.
Q I'm a dairy farmer from the heart of "Dairy County" in Wisconsin. We have registered Holsteins. We have sent embryos and live cattle around the world. But our vast majority of the income is from milk, and to feed the people of the world, my question, when the milk prices were at a 24-year low last spring in 2003, the milk income loss contract certainly helped us survive and many other small dairy farmers around the United States, and the suppliers that supply the farmers their needs. I guess, my question is we've heard the opponents say that President Bush was going to eliminate the milk income loss contract. I guess, I'd like to hear the truth from you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the fact is the President is the one who signed into it law, part of what was the '02 Farm Bill. It's slated to be phased out next year, at the end of next year. And so it will have to be renewed and extended. But he's made a commitment to work with the Congress to do exactly that. John Kerry's record on the other hand, in terms of his past involvement in these issues is not consistent with the interests of Wisconsin dairy farmers. But I'm convinced the program will be extended. The administration is committed to that, committed to working with the Congress to see to it that we get the job done.
CONGRESSMAN GREEN: If I can just add on to that. I helped write those provisions. I was of the two or three members of Congress that wrote. I would also point out to you that those that are making the charges and spreading these false rumors, those members of Congress all voted against the Ag Bill that included the milk program. So you have in this President someone who signed the bill into law, creating the program, and secondly, announced here in Wausau that he would work with Congress to get it extended. So I hope we can put that latest scare tactic to rest once and for all.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Somebody needs to go let the air out of that cow across the street over there. (Laughter.) I don't want to suggest violence now, but -- (Laughter.)
Q I'd like to ask what you consider the most important domestic issue in the next four years.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, there are several. I guess, I would -- trying to look at one -- I'm going to mention more than one, if I can do that.
But trying to look at one that I think is absolutely crucial because it touches so many other areas is education. And the President's commitment when he arrived in Washington after his service as Governor of Texas to try to do something to improve our public schools, he'd had the experience in Texas of seeing the public school system there move kids through without them actually acquiring the basic skills they needed. So he came up with the concept of No Child Left Behind. It was the first piece of legislation we introduced when we got into office. We got it passed that first summer we were in Washington on a bipartisan basis. And it is now the law of the land. It does several things, establishes standards, tests to those standards, and the principle of accountability so that parents will know how well the school is doing, how well their kids are doing, and be given options if, in fact, their kids are trapped in a failing school of moving them to another public school, or having the capacity, for example, to get tutoring help and so forth, so that their kids do, in fact, receive the kind of quality education that all Americans ought to be entitled to through our public school system.
We want to take that basic concept now and apply it to secondary schools in the second term. And we've been working with K through 8, and we want to take it now to the top four secondary grades and apply that same basic principle again. And I say it's so important because it feeds into other elements of our program -- the post-secondary education; college education; Pell grants that we've significantly increased to help low-income students get the money they need to be able to go to school; lifetime savings accounts, which we're supporting that allow people to set aside money tax-free to pay for higher education; many, many areas where we think it's vital that we promote and support and work to continue to improve our educational system everywhere we can because it affects people's lives, it affects the ability to get a good job and keep a good job, having a highly skilled and trained work force here at home is crucial to being able to protect and preserve the kinds of jobs that are so essential in terms of quality of life for all Americans. When companies want to expand or build a new plant, they'll think about doing it here in the United States because they can get the kind of high quality talent they know they need to have. And because it touches so many social problems, and so we're talking about poverty, or we're talking about drug use, or we're talking about crime, all of it is affect ultimately by how well our public schools work. So if I had to stay on one thing, I'd focus very much on that. John Kerry having voted for No Child Left Behind Act now is against it, highly critical of it.
Health care, I would put right up there very close to the top, as well, too. And again, I think the President has done a superb job there. We've passed the most sweeping reform of the Medicare system since it was set up back in the 1960s. Starting in January of '06, seniors on Medicare -- 40 million strong -- will be eligible to get the prescription drugs through the Medicare program, something they haven't been able to do up until now. In the meantime, now you got access to a Medicare prescription discount card that helps reduce the cost of their prescriptions today. We've got also health savings accounts authorized in that Medicare program. We want to do more. About 60 percent of those without health insurance in the country work for small businesses. There we're talking about getting authorization for association health plans so a number of businesses can come together and pool their resources and get the same kind of discount for health coverage that a large corporation can. We want to make it possible for small businesses to get a tax credit for contributing to their employees health savings accounts, a series of steps that we think will help preserve and enhance access to health care, but also preserve the principle that those basic medical decisions ought to be in the hands of doctors and patients, not bureaucrats in Washington, or the personal injury lawyers. Those are some of the issues I'd focus on.
Q I'm a gastrointestinologist here in Wausau, and continuing on the subject of health care which is near and dear to my heart. My wife is also a physician. She's here today. And last year we moved to Wisconsin after having spent our entire professional lives in Cleveland, Ohio. We were forced to leave that state because of the medical malpractice crisis and being unable to tolerate the economic and physiological stresses there. We were among many physicians who left.
We came to Wisconsin because it is one of only six states in this country not in a medical malpractice crisis. Now, that still leaves us with 44 states in bad repair. So my concern is what can we do to try to promote adequate tort reform or other reforms to make this a good health care environment? And also, the problem is that what good is Medicare or Medicaid if you have no physicians?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, that's a key question. And one of the crisis states is our home state of Wyoming, where the leading provider of malpractice insurance has pulled out of the business. There are no limits or restrictions, reforms haven't passed yet. There's actually an amendment to the constitution pending on the November ballot. Wyoming voters will get a shot at it next Tuesday. But this is true, there's some 21 states, I believe, that the AMA has classified as crisis states, and others that are in trouble. And I've visited a lot of them -- in Ohio, for example, and Pennsylvania, and Florida and a number of other states where we have this problem. The consequences for individuals are very real. I've met with a group of docs the other day down, I guess, it was New Mexico who were in the OB/GYN business. And in Wyoming, we've lost about a fourth of our OB/GYN practitioners over the course of the last couple of years because of the cost of malpractice insurance. In this case with these New Mexico
docs, they were increasingly in a position where they were concerned. Their rates were jumping significantly year by year, and they were worried about potential lawsuits. And their response to that has been to begin to screen patients, so the really high-risk patients were not going to get care because they were the ones who were most likely to generate lawsuits, and that would, in turn, generate increases in malpractice insurance and that would put them out of business. So in order to stay in business, they were having to exclude certain types of patients from treatment. They hated doing that, but they didn't feel they had any other choice. But having made that choice, obviously, you end up then in a situation with a category of folks in the community, probably those who are most in need of that kind of specialized treatment, unable to get it.
In Wyoming, as I say, we've got people now who are having to drive a hundred miles, in some cases, out of state to be able to get a doctor who can, in fact, provide the appropriate care in the OB/GYN field.
There are solutions. California has done a pretty good job. They've adopted a limitation both on the non-economic damages, as well as a limit on the percentage of the total award that can go to the trial attorneys, in terms of their fees. That combination appears to work pretty well. The Rand Corporation just completed a study of the California system, and while rates have gone up there, they haven't gone up nearly as much as elsewhere.
We've gotten reforms through the House, and they've been bottled up in the Senate. We have not yet been able to get them through the Senate. John Kerry has voted against medical liability reform on a number of occasions. And of course, John Edwards is a personal injury lawyer who was a big part of the problem. They don't believe in real reform of the medical liability system. The trial lawyers lobby is very potent in the Senate, and they are a part and parcel to the problem. We need to keep working at it. I think the efforts that are being mounted a number of places around the country -- I know in Florida they've got a major initiative on their ballot next Tuesday, a number of places where we're beginning to address these issues at the state level. But we need to continue to push very hard -- not only in this area, but the whole question of litigation reform.
I talked to a businessman the other day. He's got a great company in northern Minnesota, been in business 20 years, has 900 employees, has grown to 900 employees over that period of time. He could have add 200 more except for the cost that he has to pay now for product liability insurance in order to protect himself against lawsuits and litigation. But that's 200 people who don't have a job today because of the failure to have effective litigation reform where his business is concerned.
CONGRESSMAN GREEN: Mr. Vice President, your staff indicates we're running short on time, and we're going to need to get moving. If someone has a very quick last question.
Q I have a comment I'd like to make. My wife and I own a small business here in Wausau. And I'm also a Vietnam veteran. I would like to commend the President for the tax cuts that he provided for small businesses. It was definitely something that was important to us, and I hope he keeps his eye on that to help continue our plight to survive. And I would also ask as a veteran that he continues to keep an eye on the veterans' benefits and programs so that myself and others aren't left out in the cold both medically and mentally as we go into the future.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, and thanks for your service, as well, too.
On both subjects briefly, part of our agenda for a second term is to make those tax cuts that we've put through permanent. They are targeted very much on small business. You guys are the ones who create seven out of 10 new jobs in our economy. And in my experience, getting around the country, as what we did especially with expensing and changing the top rates and so forth has had a significant impact in encouraging the creation of more jobs and the expansion of small businesses. And that will be top priority for us.
On veterans, just one statistic for you, the increase in terms of our veterans' budget in the four years we've been there is more than the increase during the entire eight years of the Clinton administration -- some 40 some percent increase in funding for veterans. And we think it's important. That's a commitment that we absolutely need to keep, and we will keep.
Q Thank you.
MRS. CHENEY: Mark, could we at least meet the others at the table?
CONGRESSMAN GREEN: Please, that would be great. Yes.
Q From Wausau, I'm a union member, and I'm a gun owner, and I'm a Navy veteran, and I just want to say thanks.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Q And I'm a taxpayer. (Laughter.)
Q I also wanted to say thank you that four years ago when our daughter was born, that we were able to -- that I was able to stay home and now raise our two children. And we are praying for your reelection, and hope because you can keep the country safe.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Well, let me thank all of you for being here this morning, as well as those who were kind enough to sit in and listen in to this. These are useful sessions for us. I get a lot more out give and take with a group, having to talk about some of the issues today because it is an extraordinarily important election. Wisconsin is a great state, and we want to make sure that it's in the Bush-Cheney column on November 2nd. So don't forget us on November 2nd. Make sure you get all your friends to the polls out there.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 10:50 A.M. CDT