|ON THE STUMP|
July 20, 2000
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm proud to have cut my teeth in politics at the state level. I think it makes me a better candidate for President of the United States. I think the fact that I have come from outside of Washington, DC, gives me a positive perspective about the role of the federal government and the state government, and that's an incredibly important perspective to have. You know, sometimes they measure wisdom in Washington for the amount of hours you spend in Washington. That's not how I view it, and that's now how America views it, either. I think... I think wisdom from government is wisdom gained from experience of being in a position where you've got to work with people from both political parties, a position of having to make tough decisions and standing by those decisions regardless of which way the political winds may be blowing.
Wisdom is gained by assembling a team of people to work for the common good. Wisdom is gained by realizing the proper relationship between the federal government and state governments. Now, there's a lot of practical lessons that can be learned from state governments that need to be applied in Washington, DC, and there's also this profound fact: The states are the laboratories of change. States are where we find some of the most constructive reforms. The federal government must free states and must understand that in our states is where a child is more likely to be... receive a solid education is the reforms at the state level; that we'll be able to realize the mutual ambition of seeing that every child gets educated and no child-- no child-- gets left behind. See, I view education... (Applause) education is a local responsibility, as far as I'm concerned. A President should not try to be the federal superintendent of schools and I won't be. (Applause)
The details of policy should be left to local officials who answer directly to parents and local citizens. The theory is simple, and you know this as well as anybody else: Those who know your name are most likely to know your needs. And if you're an elected official, the government closest to the people is that which works best, because the people are more likely to have your phone number. I will fundamentally work to change the relationship between the states and the federal government. Washington must be humble enough to stay out of the day-to-day operations of local public schools. It must be... (Applause) it must be wise enough to give states and school districts more authority and freedom. And it must be strong enough to require a proven performance in return. (Applause) In other words, in return for federal help there must be strong accountability measures, and when we find success, there'll be bonuses for schools and teachers who are achieving that which we want. I think in order to get anything done-- whether it be to strengthen the military to keep e peace, or Social Security and Medicare reform, or education reform-- there needs to be a new spirit and a new attitude in Washington, DC, an attitude that many of you have found in your states that worked well-- an attitude of cooperation.
You know, politics, I'm sure you've heard, has not been my career. It's not how I spent my whole adult life. But I understand this: That occasional opponents are not mortal enemies. I also understand that it's important to pass a little goodwill along. It goes a long way when it comes to providing the leadership necessary for a state, or for that matter, a country. A strong leader is guided by convictions of heart, not by counsel of his pollster. A strong leader sets his mind to solving problems, not settling scores. You see, a President can set a tone. He can treat members of both parties with respect, which I will do. He can reach across the partisan aisle and work for what's good for the country, which I will do. My pledge is you may not agree with everything I intend to do as the President, but I will do everything I can to restore civility on the national level, a respect for honest differences.
I want you to know my... folks who work at the same level of government I do. I don't seek this office to become just a placeholder. I seek this office to seize the moment, to do what's right for America. And I seize this moment to lift the spirit of this country, to set our sights. I want the American dream to touch every willing heart. As we go into the 21st century, I don't want anybody left behind. I'm incredibly optimistic about this country's future. I believe with the right leadership and the right perspective, this great nation can achieve anything we set our mind to. I'm looking for the chance to be that leader. I'm looking for that chance to lift the country's spirits. Thank you for having me. God bless you all. And God bless America.
JIM LEHRER: Now, Vice President Gore. He had a town meeting last night in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
PERSON IN AUDIENCE: My employer, as well as several other employers in the area, have experienced premium increases of upwards of 20%, and health care costs continue rising. What do you propose as a solution to that problem?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I want to move step by step toward universal health insurance for all of our people. I don't think we can get there in one fell swoop. I think we should go step by step. And I've proposed a number of initial steps, making sure that we cover every child within the -- within the next four years and then the families of those children when they're up to two and a half times the poverty rate. I want to encourage small business employers to give their employees health insurance with a big 25% tax credit on top of the deduction they have now -- long-term care benefits and mental health care parity so that the discrimination is ended against those who suffer from a mental illness. And, of course, we have to fix Medicare. And one of the changes that I want to make to the Medicare program, extending it and preserving it, of course, is to give a prescription drug benefit for our seniors. The price of medicine has gone up more rapidly than the rest of health care. And health care generally has gone up more rapidly than everything else.
LIZ MATHIS: Almost everyone is married in this room, and would benefit from a bill that the Senate just passed 61-38, and that bill calls for cutting taxes for married couples. Now, this would reduce government revenues certainly by billions of dollars, $248 billion, over ten years. There is a record surplus in the budget. The administration has credited themselves with making that budget surplus work. Now, will you support a tax cut for married couples?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I support eliminating the marriage penalty. But what this bill does goes way beyond that and cuts taxes on people who are not affected by the current provisions of the law, and affects people who are not married at all, and is very, very expensive in terms of the amount of money that would have to be made up in other ways that would end up raising taxes in the future on people who can least afford to shoulder that burden. But I am very strongly in favor of eliminating the so-called marriage penalty on working families because that is absolutely in keeping with our values in this country. But this bill goes too far.
YOUNG MAN IN AUDIENCE: Do you think that estate taxes on a person's life savings amounts to double taxation, and is the estate tax constitutional?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I think it is constitutional, and I think it... I don't think it's double taxation. But I do think it is onerous in its current form, and I do favor a very large reform of the estate tax, making essentially most of the country exempt from paying any estate tax. Already, the vast majority are exempt from it, but with the natural inflation in land prices, not recently, but over the course of the last few decades, the limits are way too low now. And I'd like to quintuple the limits, and that would get most people out of it entirely. But the cost to our country of completely eliminating it would be really horrendous. And in the second ten years after that was done, the cost would be $750 billion, and you know who it would go to? No more than 3,000 families each year. Now, when you hear people say that the gap between the rich and poor is increasing, well, we've started to close it a little bit.
You make that change and then you're going to see the concentration of wealth even more in the hands of a very, very few. And I don't think that's good for our democracy. I don't think it's good for our country. And my proposal will eliminate virtually every farmer, virtually every small business person from any estate tax whatsoever without going to the multi-billionaires and saying, "we're going to give all this wealth to 3,000 families a year at the expense of everyone else." $750 billion? That would have to be made up by higher taxes on everybody else, which I don't think is fair.
YOUNG WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: Do you have any ideas or proposals that could increase political involvement among youth?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: One of the things I think is urgently needed to restore the confidence that every young person ought to be able to place in our political system is we need campaign finance reform. And I've pledged, and I'll pledge again here this evening, that the first bill that I send to the Congress as President will be the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. I'll fight for it. And then I'll go farther than that and have a democracy endowment to get the special interest money completely out of politics. I think we ought to make it easier to vote with same-day registration. I think that we need to restore a feeling of absolute integrity in all of our democratic processes and institutions.
SPOKESMAN: Do you have anything you'd like to say just in closing?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I'd just like to say this: I want to fight for you. I want to be elected President to fight for the working families of this country, for your future, for your communities. I have never been reluctant to take on powerful special interests, whether it's the drug companies or the insurance companies, or the big oil companies, or whatever. And I ask for your support, for your confidence, for your enthusiasm. Let yourselves believe that we can do the right thing and be the better for it. I'd like to have your support and votes. And thank you, Iowa, for getting me to where I am right now. Thank you very much.
SPOKESMAN: Thank you.