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 Home > Vice President > Speeches

Remakrs by Vice President Dick Cheney
to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
November 14, 2001
Wednesday 12:09 PM

Remarks by Vice President Dick Cheney to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you, Tom. And let me thank all the members of the Chamber for the great work you've done over the years. We especially appreciate the efforts that went into helping pass the president's tax-cut stimulus package last spring and summer. That was enormously beneficial, and given the state of affairs today, it's extremely important that we did that. And I'll come back and talk about that more in a minute. Let me say just a word at the outset about the state of affairs in Afghanistan this morning. Obviously, everybody's been following the developments over there. There's a high degree of interest, especially over the last few days as things have changed so dramatically. I am -- at a time like this, when we see the Taliban in retreat virtually all over the country, when they've lost their control over a major part of Afghanistan, they've lost control of most of the cities; their forces -- many of their forces have been killed, captured or fled to the hills, I guess there are a couple of lessons in that for folks -- the handwringers who, a week or two ago, were saying, "It's not going to work. You're not doing enough. You've been at it now for three or four weeks, and my gosh, the war's not over yet."

We've got some -- I think superb people working on this problem, some of the best I've ever seen, and I've been in the business a while. And I'm thinking in particular about the leadership the president has provided overall and the way he's made a clear-cut series of very sound decisions here; thinking about the enormous talent that Don Rumsfeld brings to the process, as our secretary of Defense. We keep telling Don -- this is the second time he's been secretary -- he's going to have to keep doing it till he gets it right! (Laughter.) Dick Myers, our new chairman of the Joint Chiefs, with a great deal of experience. And, of course, Tommy Franks, our CINC, the head of CENTCOM. He's got the old Norm Schwarzkopf job. I worked with a great one in Norm Schwarzkopf, and we're working with another great one now in Tommy Franks.

So the United States is blessed to have people of that caliber dealing with this problem, and you can't help but when you read the Washington press and see what all the pundits have to offer and some of the talking heads on Washington have to offer, it's nice at a moment like this to be able to remind them that a lot of what they put out over the course of the last few weeks was just dead wrong, that we've got some great people running the operation. And the results are there for all to see.

That does not, by any means, indicate that this operation is over yet. We've got a long way to go. Remember, our objectives in Afghanistan not only were to take down the Taliban, but also to wrap up the al Qaeda network. And clearly, we're obviously interested also in the command and control of that network and Osama bin Laden, who runs it. And we're continuing very, very aggressively to pursue all those objectives this morning. It's also important to remember that we've talked about this not just as a problem related to Afghanistan and al Qaeda and the Taliban, but rather, the problem of terrorism in general targeted against the United States. The al Qaeda network is a global network; they've got cells all over the world. And there's no reason for us to believe at this stage that this operation is about to end. A far more appropriate way to look at it is this is a very good beginning to what's likely to be a long struggle.

There's another point that I think is vitally important to make this morning as well too. And a major new departure, if you will, from the way we've operated in the past is what is increasingly known as the Bush Doctrine, and that's the pronouncement the president made early on that we will hold those who harbor terrorists, those who provide sanctuary to terrorists, responsible for their acts. If you're going to provide sanctuary to the likes of Osama bin Laden, you are then going to accept the responsibility in our eyes for any acts he commits against the people of the United States of America. And you will face the full wrath of the people of the United States of America, and I think -- (applause) -- I think this morning, in the fate that has befallen the Taliban, there's proof positive. If anybody has any questions about whether or not we're determined to carry through on that threat, all they have to do is go visit Afghanistan today and interview members of the Taliban, if they can find any.

The -- let me move on, if I can, at this point, and talk a bit about the economy and some of the issues you're addressing here today. Clearly, from an economic standpoint, we believe the fundamentals of the economy remain sound. We're the nation's strongest economy -- the world's strongest economy, and I think the prospects are very bright long-term. But we clearly are in the midst of a significant economic slowdown as well. A slowdown that began a year ago or more, that's carried on through into 2001, and was quite possibly headed for recessionary levels before September 11th. But since September 11th, with the impact of the terrorist attacks, clearly the situation has gotten significantly worse. The slowdown is steeper. There's a lot of evidence out there to support this -- consumer confidence at its lowest level in seven years, some 415,000 Americans who lost their jobs in the month of October. That's the largest monthly loss in two decades. The third quarter growth of minus-point-four percent. Blue Chip forecast that in the fourth quarter the GDP, Gross Domestic Product, will shrink perhaps by 1.9 percent or even more here at the end of the year. And of course, two quarters back to back equals a recession.

We think it's absolutely essential that we enact another stimulus program as soon as possible. The president has made this a top priority. We've worked with Congress on it. We've worked with the legislative leadership. The president discussed it just yesterday with the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate in the regular weekly breakfast. The House has acted. The Senate is getting ready to act, I believe, considering the measure on the floor today.

We believe that if we're seriously interested in stimulus, though, that absolutely the best way to go is through tax relief. And there are some fundamental differences, if you look at the bill that's passed out of the House and the bill that's been approved by the Senate Finance Committee.

If we're serious about wanting to restore confidence, to encourage risk-taking and investment, and to create jobs, then clearly tax relief is the way to go. It can arrive quickly. Unlike spending programs, we don't have to create any new bureaucracy to write program guidelines and pump out funds for new programs. New lower tax rates for individuals and businesses will show up in paychecks starting January 1. Tax relief is efficient. Spending programs come with strings attached.

Tax relief gives individuals and businesses the ability to make economic decisions for themselves. Tax relief is pro-jobs. It gives businesses the bottom-line incentives to invest in new equipment, to increase productivity and create jobs. Government spending programs are unlikely to boost productivity or wages. And tax relief works. We know it works. President Kennedy cut marginal rates in the '60s, President Reagan in the '80s. Both tax-cutting episodes led to periods of rapid, sustained economic growth and prosperity. If government spending caused economic growth, then Japan would have boomed instead of stagnating in the 1990s. The economic approach the president's recommended does several things. We've called for a stimulus package of upwards of $75 billion focused on immediate tax relief, especially on four particular initiatives. Number one, accelerate all the marginal tax-rate reductions already approved by the Congress. This will put money immediately into the hands of consumers and businesses while improving incentives to work, save and invest. Allowing businesses to partially expense or deduct the cost of capital purchases is the second principle. That will also encourage companies to invest in plant and equipment.

Third is to eliminate the corporate alternative minimum tax. The corporate AMT is a job-killing tax that hits companies at precisely the wrong time during an economic downturn. Repealing it will improve corporate cash flow and increase job-creating investment. And finally, we support the proposition of providing some relief for low- income taxpayers. This will provide a rebate for those low-income taxpayers who filed a return last year but did not receive a rebate check in the earlier cuts this year.

If we look at the Senate spending plan, it's a stimulus plan. It's primarily a spending plan. It is spending-focused and does little, in our opinion, to actually help solve the problem or provide the kind of stimulus that the economy so badly needs.

There have been a number of studies done now comparing the approach that's been laid out in the president's plan, and is pretty well embodied in the House bill, with what's been suggested, for example, by the Senate Finance Committee. The Council of Economic Advisers estimates the president's approach will help businesses create roughly 300,000 more jobs by the end of next year. Economists from the Center for Data Analysis, over at the Heritage Foundation, estimate the president's approach will produce nearly three times as many jobs as the Senate stimulus plan just in the first year.

And if we look at the period from 2002 to 2006, out over the next four years, we believe the president's plan would produce 10 times as many jobs as the Senate plan. That's the work done -- careful analytical study done by the Heritage Foundation. It also indicates the president's plan would generate significantly greater gains in disposable income, in consumption expenditures, and in investment. The key message for Congress today is that it's absolutely essential to get on with the business of moving an economic stimulus plan now. We cannot afford to wait. This is not a matter that can be taken up after Congress goes home for the holidays and comes back and reconvenes in January and eventually begins to seriously consider legislation in February. We need to do it now. It ought to be coupled as well -- (interrupted by applause). It ought to be coupled as well with a good energy program. We've got a good energy program for the House. Haven't seen anything yet in the Senate.

And we also need to get trade promotion authority approved once again for the president. There's no reason in the world why that shouldn't be an integral part of recovering our economy and expanding our economic hopes and aspirations.

Now, these are difficult issues and there are legitimate differences between individuals and groups and parties on how best to proceed. But we think that the evidence is overwhelming that a stimulus package needs to have as its central component significant tax relief; that that is, in fact, the way to get the job done. We look forward to working with members of both parties in the Congress to get that package put together, get it to conference and get it resolved as quickly as possible.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MR. DONAHUE: Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President. As you can see, there's a large group of supporters here. We agreed on the way in that you might just take a few questions. Of course the staff is all jumping up and down, but we'll get a few of them --

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: An unscripted moment scares the hell out of 'em! (Laughter.)

MR. DONAHUE: Yes, unscripted moment. Right.

Bill, why don't we start right here.

Q Bill (McCormick ?). Mr. Vice President, Senator Daschle was here this morning and it sounded like the people up there were getting pretty political. And I didn't have the feeling that he had quite the sense of urgency that you have. Can you give us some assurances you can get this thing through quickly?

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: I think we can. It's my understanding that, as of this morning -- things may have changed during the course of the day -- that they were going to be debating this on the floor of the Senate this afternoon.

I do think there's a sense of urgency -- I think there are about 400-and-some-thousand Americans who lost their jobs last month -- and the importance of restoring confidence to the American people in terms of the economy and that government can, in fact, work.

One of the things that has been, I think, most heartwarming about the period since September 11th has been the fact that a lot of the usual partisan bickering has been set aside here in Washington and, frankly, we'd much rather operate that way than the other way.

And so I -- I guess at this stage, I think the president and I would say that we hope Senator Daschle is as committed to a stimulus package as we think needs to be done. And we need to get those bills up and get them debated, get them to conference and get them down to the president's desk. And there really is no excuse for not moving as aggressively as possible and as quickly as possible. Q Mr. Vice President, I very much appreciate you mentioning energy. You've provided great leadership on the energy issue over the last year. And under the Chamber's leadership, we now have a coalition of more than 1,000 organizations, including labor unions and agriculture groups and others, that are pushing very, very hard for an energy bill. And obviously, the papers this morning talked about it, an overwhelming majority of the American people being for an energy bill. We just -- very much again want to appreciate and thank you for it and hope we can get it to the finish line here.

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, we'll continue to work at it. You know, we're dependent upon a somewhat fragile, uncertain part of the world for a big part of our oil imports. And for us not to do everything we can to shore up our domestic production here at home and diversify our sources of supply would foolish in the extreme. We are strategically vulnerable if we don't get on with the business of trying to improve our domestic production and reduce our reliance on foreign sources. We'll always be somewhat reliant on foreign sources, but there's no reason why we should see that percentage of total consumption continue to climb, as it will, if we don't act.

MR. DONAHUE: Last question, right here.

Q Yes, Mr. Vice President, the president's proposed military tribunals to deal with terrorists, assuming, I guess, that some of them would be found alive, what's the difference between the military tribunals that he's addressing and The Hague? Is this going to be a different process in terms of dealing with them, as opposed to what we do today in the Netherlands?

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, this is a process that we set in motion; the president signed the order yesterday. And basically, what it says is it sets up a procedure whereby he will make the decision in each case in terms of whether or not a particular suspect, individual who's come into our custody is transferred, if you will, from the traditional sort of criminal procedural branch of our government through the courts over to the special military tribunals.

And the individuals that will be considered for that are, first of all, not American citizens -- they have to be non-citizens -- secondly, believed to have engaged in or be participating in terrorist attacks designed to kill Americans, or have provided sanctuary to those who are conducting terrorist operations against Americans.

And when that's the case, when we find somebody such as that -- members, say, of the al Qaeda network, or others who may in fact come under our -- come into our jurisdiction -- then the president will be free to make that decision and move them over to that side.

Now some people say, "Well, gee, that's a dramatic departure from traditional jurisprudence in the United States." It is, but there's precedents for it. This is the way we dealt with the people who assassinated Abraham Lincoln and tried to assassinate part of the Cabinet back in 1865. They were tried by military tribunals. In 1942 we had German saboteurs land on the coast up in Long Island and down in Florida -- eight of them, I believe, altogether -- came into the United States to conduct sabotage against us during the course of the war. President Roosevelt signed an order, established a tribunal, had these individuals tried. They were given a fair trial, prosecuted under this military tribunal, and executed in relatively rapid order. And that procedure was upheld by the Supreme Court when it was challenged later on. So there's ample precedent for it.

The basic proposition here is that somebody who comes into the United States of America illegally, who conducts a terrorist operation killing thousands of innocent Americans, men, women, and children, is not a lawful combatant. They don't deserve to be treated as a prisoner of war. They don't deserve the same guarantees and safeguards that would be used for an American citizen going through the normal judicial process. This -- they will have a fair trial, but it'll be under the procedures of a military tribunal and rules and regulations to be established in connection with that. We think it's the appropriate way to go. We think it's -- guarantees that we'll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)