My fellow governors and I want to begin today by remembering our colleague Mel Carnahan, who was laid to rest last Friday. He was a fine man and a good servant of the people here in Missouri. These are such terrible days for his wife Jean and the Carnahan family, and they are in our prayers.
With me today are some of the most distinguished governors in America: Governor Bob Taft of Ohio… Governor Bill Graves of Kansas… Governor Kenny Guinn of Nevada… and Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas - the other man from Hope who will help us win his state on election day.
We started this Barnstorm for Reform in Austin yesterday, with 28 of my fellow Republican governors. And today they are carrying our message of reform across America - and on to victory on November 7.
I didn’t want to send spokespeople to carry this message. I wanted to send examples. These men and women are part of a great movement of reform that is changing our country and changing our politics.
From Albany to Austin, from Madison to Phoenix, Republican governors are solving problems people once thought were hopeless. We have transformed education… moved millions of citizens from welfare to work… cut taxes - over and over… protected the environment… provided better health care… fought back against crime.
I’ve always said government should do a few things, and do them well. And that is exactly what we’ve done. In the process, conservatism has become the creed of hope… the creed of compassion… the creed of reform.
Instead of focusing on getting even and getting reelected, we have focused on getting results and getting things done.
We have crossed the old lines of division. We are working with Democrats to do the people’s business. We have found progress at the vital center of American politics. And we have governed for the sake of everyone.
And we’ve done all this by going beyond the arguments of the past - taking a hopeful new approach to government. Government can and should make life better for every citizen. But it helps best when it gives people the tools and confidence to make their own decisions, to chart their own course. Government should expand opportunity, and trust people with responsibility. Government should help us live our lives, not run our lives. Government should offer a helping hand, not a heavy hand. That is how problems are solved and reforms are achieved. That is executive leadership. And that is the kind of leader I will be as President of the United States.
I will be an activist president, with conservative principles. And I will focus the nation, the Congress and the presidency on big goals: We are going to see to it that every school teaches, and every child learns. No more just shuffling children along, year after year, indifferent to their performance, unconcerned with their hopes. I have a reform plan to ensure that schools have high standards, and parents have real choices, and no child is left behind.
We will spend more on education and reading - and will expect more in return. After eight years of excuses… eight years of stagnant scores… eight years of an education recession… we will finally put the federal government on the side of education reform.
We will reform the tax code - to make it fairer and simpler. Here’s my plan: If you pay income taxes, you get a tax cut. If you are a low or moderate income worker, you get the biggest percentage tax cut.
Just because the federal government has a surplus doesn’t mean every American family has a surplus. And my tax relief plan helps families at the most important moments of their lives - when they are getting married, having children, saving for education, buying a home, planning for retirement.
This is not a targeted tax cut for the few, but tax relief for all Americans who pay income taxes.
We are going to save Social Security and Medicare. Every promise made to seniors will be a promise kept. Medicare must be modernized to include prescription drugs. Social Security must be strengthened to give younger workers new options and new wealth. And both of these programs must be set on firm financial ground.
I know what the political class says about Social Security. They call it the “third rail” of American politics - the one that shocks you when you touch it. They’ve been saying that forever, as the problems of Social Security got worse. But if you don’t touch it, you can’t fix it. And on this issue I intend to lead.
During this campaign Americans have seen my priorities. They have seen the issues near my heart. Better schools. Fairer taxes. Security for our seniors.
These reforms are coming to Washington. In truth, we should have had them long ago. But something stood in the way: The Clinton/Gore administration has blocked reform at every turn. It came in with ringing promises, and is now leaving with a sigh.
For seven and a half years, the Vice President has been the second biggest obstacle to reform in America. And now he wants to be the biggest - the obstacle-in-chief.
Look at our schools. Minority test scores are dismal, and in some cases, declining. And the last time our kids were tested in math and science, they came in 19th out of 21 industrialized nations.
My opponent has talked about education reform. And talked and talked. Yes, he’s willing to spend money, but he doesn’t demand results. Maybe he doesn’t even expect them. He thinks that once he’s spent, he’s succeeded. Once the program is in place, the problem is solved. But it doesn’t work that way.
Without testing - every child, every year - to measure results, reform is an illusion. Without real accountability, standards are just scraps of paper. And the plan my opponent offers has neither.
This is the Gore approach: No innovation. No imagination. No flexibility. No accountability.
I want to solve our education problems. He wants to subsidize them.
I will work for children and their parents. He will work for the entrenched interests that fund his campaign.
On education, I will challenge the status quo. He is the status quo.
Look at the tax code. Eight years ago, he promised a middle class tax cut. After the election, his administration raised taxes.
And now my opponent talks about targeted tax relief. But 50 million American taxpayers - half the total - are nowhere near the target. They get nothing.
There was an interesting moment in the third debate last Tuesday night. A woman asked if she would get a tax cut from my opponent’s plan. In the next 94 seconds, the Vice President said “if you,” eight times. If you do this, you get a tax cut. If you do that, you get a tax cut.
You might call it an “iffy tax scheme.” You get some things you want, but only if you do everything the government wants. That is the kind of meddling, overbearing government you’re going to get if you vote for Al Gore.
That’s not tax reform - that’s just more tax forms.
My opponent says only the “right people” should get tax cuts. That’s what he said at his convention, the “right people.” But there are no right Americans or wrong Americans. All people in America are the right people. Tax relief should be aimed at one big target, so you can’t miss: Everyone in America who pays income taxes.
Look at the issues of Social Security and Medicare. Listen to the Vice President. He opposes any real reform. For eight years, his administration has undermined every bipartisan effort. You get the feeling he’d rather use the issue than solve the problem.
Mr. Gore doesn’t even want an honest discussion - and that is proven by his TV ads. Scare tactics, distortions and exaggerations - that’s all my opponent has left.
But it’s not going to work. Not this time. Not this year. The Vice President is attacking my plan because he doesn’t have much confidence in his own. And that lack of confidence is justified.
Vice President Gore doesn’t reform Social Security, he doesn’t fix the problem - he takes the easy way, the political way, the Washington way - he passes the buck and the bill to the next generation. My plan strengthens Social Security, by increasing the rate of return younger workers get on the payroll taxes they pay into the system.
My plan allows the money in the Social Security system to grow; under Vice President Gore’s plan, the only thing that grows is debt. My plan creates real assets for the next generation; Vice President Gore creates IOUs. Vice President Gore plans to issue government IOUs to fill the Social Security trust fund - a massive transfer of debt from one government pocket to another.
The problem is that IOUs don’t pay benefits, and IOUs come due - IOUs that add up to $40 trillion dollars. Long after Al Gore has left public office - the Gore debt will come due - and $40 Trillion is a lot of money, even for someone who has been in Washington most of his life.
Massive debt will require a massive tax increase or a major benefit cut on the next generation… by one estimate, paying the Gore debt will require a payroll tax increase of 34 percent, starting in 2015. A family making $40,000 would find themselves paying another $1,700 in taxes.
I intend to pay off our debts, not increase them. We must use this time of prosperity to do the right thing, not only for ourselves but also for our children.
It is not leadership to increase the burdens of the future for the benefits of the moment. It is not leadership to raise taxes on people who cannot protest - a future generation whose votes you will never seek and whose judgments you will never face.
The days of delay and dividing are over. If I am elected, this generation and the next president will save Social Security.
Reforming education, reforming our tax code, reforming Social Security and Medicare - all these are major challenges for our country. Reformers need partners, and I have some. I trust these governors - and I thank them for trusting in me.
We are offering our country something new, something better. When I go to Washington, I won’t be looking for arguments, I’ll be looking for answers. I won’t be trying to score points, I’ll be trying to make progress. I think our government can be a little more practical, and a lot less partisan. With that spirit, and with clear principles to guide us, there is no limit to what we can accomplish together. This is where I want to lead America - and I hope all of you will join me.