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Bush Holds Campaign Event in Kalamazoo, Michigan

Aired October 27, 2000 - 11:36 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We go right from there to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to listen in to George W. Bush.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's an important time in our country and I appreciate you letting me come to share some thoughts with you about the future.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, George.


BUSH: I love you, man.



Yes, it's good to be here in Michigan.

I'm going to talk a little policy; I'm going to talk a little politics.

First, I'm going to take my coat off.


That don't mean I'm going to talk too long.


First, I want to say something about your governor and my good friend. He's a solid, solid man. I'm glad to have him on my side.


And I know you all got to be proud of your speaker, Chuck Perrico (ph). Thank you, Chuck, for being here.


Chuck was one of the main reasons why we came to this fine institution and came back to this important part of the state. Candace Miller (ph) is the secretary of state. I love traveling your state with her. What a ball of fire she is, and a good person.


As I said, I'm here to talk about leadership and our responsibility to society. Before I do I want to talk a little politics, if you don't mind.

See, for those of you who are paying attention to politics maybe for the first time, lesson number one is to always ask for the vote. I'm here in Kalamazoo asking for the vote. I want your help.


Secondly, I hope to be able to drink some of that Kalamazoo water that Derek Jeter drank when he lived here.


Yes, what a champion you all produced out of this town.

Third, I'm here to ask for the help. I want the young to understand that a political campaign is one that gathers up a lot of folks. It's called grassroots politics. It's a full understanding that one person along can't carry the campaign, that a successful campaign, particularly one that is this close, in a big state like Michigan, is one that must rely upon the hard work of citizenry, people who love their country, people who want to see a better tomorrow.

So I'm here asking for your help. We're less than two weeks away. I'm going to work my heart out, and I hope you join me. I hope you join me.


There you go.


And while you're out there working, make sure you don't ignore what I call open-minded Democrats and independents, because you know what? Like we Republicans, people know there's a better day tomorrow. People understand Washington doesn't have to be a place of gridlock and name-calling and missed opportunity. It doesn't have to be that way.

Some of you who are just coming up are now paying attention to current affairs. I'm telling you, there's a better day tomorrow in Washington. There's a day of respect. There's a day of bringing this nation together. And that's what much of this campaign is all about.


One of the questions you ought to ask is, "What are the hopes and aspirations that you've got, Mr. Governor, for America?" Well, one of them is what I call a responsibility period, a period of personal responsibility, a period when people understand that each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life -- that if you're a mom or dad, your most important job will be to love your children with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind...


... a period of time that will stand in contrast to the last few decades, which has said, "If it feels good, do it. And by the way, if you happen to have a problem, blame somebody else." You know, there's a better day tomorrow for this nation.

Now, I understand and I want you to understand, the government role in changing the culture is limited. In other words, we can't pass a law that says, "Hey, the culture's going to shift." But government can help, and it can help by having responsible leadership at the helm of this country.


A responsible leader. A responsible leader is someone who makes decisions based upon principle, not based upon polls or focus groups. A responsible leader is someone who says clearly, "Here are my principles, here's what I stand on," principles that will not change, no matter what happens in the course of someone's political career.

First, I believe the role of government ought to be limited in people's lives. It ought to be constructive. There's a role, but it ought to be limited.


Secondly, I believe government that is closest to the people is that which makes the best decisions for the people. I believe school boards and parents and teachers ought to be empowered to make the right decisions for schools in the communities in which you live. We strongly believe in local control of schools.


Thirdly, I believe that all public policy ought to work to keep families strong and families together.


One of my regrets is that my wife isn't here today. See, you can judge the nature of a man by the company he keeps. I keep really good company with Laura Bush. She's going to make a fabulous first lady for America.


And fourthly, personal responsibility needs to be the norm in our society, that all of us must work together to say to young and old alike, you're responsible for the decisions you make in life, you're responsible for the actions you take."

Those are the principles on which I stand, and it relates to public policy. I want to share some of the public policy issues with you, if you don't mind. A little hot, so some of you may start falling out. That's OK.


A role of a leader is to set a clear agenda, one that doesn't shift over the course of a campaign, one that remains steady and clear, because, you see, my job is to earn your will, is to earn the will of the people, is to be able to stand up in front of the Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, and say, "I'm coming with a message from the people. Here's what the people have heard. The people have spoken in the course of a democracy."


And as I discuss these issues, I want you to know that there is a philosophical difference between our position and the position of my opponent. There's an honest difference of opinion about the role of government, for example. And I want to discuss that with you right quick, so when you go out and find those open-minded Democrats and discerning independents, you'll have something to tell him, other than the fact that I married really well.


You'll have some issues on your side.

First, I want to talk about the surplus. The surplus and how we spend it is indicative of the priorities a leader must set. And a leader must prioritize.

The temptation in the course of a political campaign is to try to be all things to all people. You go down to Texas and you make a promise. Then you come to Michigan and you make a promise. You make an East Coast promise and a West Coast promise. And sure enough, when you add it all up, if you're not careful, you over spent the people's money. And that's exactly what my opponent has done. The Senate Budget Committee has totalled it all up, and said the man has over spent the surplus by $900 billion.

It's a difference of opinion about how you campaign. It's a difference of opinion about setting priorities, and here's our priorities with that extra money.

Now, by the way, surplus means a little money left over, otherwise it wouldn't be called a surplus. That's after budgets have grown.

You need to know this principle: The surplus does not exist because of the ingenuity and hard work of your federal government. Now, the folks in Washington may think that's the case. Surplus exists because of the ingenuity and hard work of the American people. That's why it exists. (APPLAUSE)

I want to take half of the surplus, all the payroll taxes, and put it aside for Social Security.

A leader is someone, by the way, who's willing to take on the tough issues, and issues when others have shirked their responsibility. Responsible leadership is one that says this is a problem that we'd better fix now.

When I first got going in this campaign, a lot of folks came up and said, "Well, are you going to talk about Social Security?" And I said, "You bet." And they said, "Why? They're going to use it against you. They're going to say, you're going to just take people -- money away from seniors. Don't touch Social Security. It's the third-rail of American politics." I said, "You don't under me. I'm running for a reason. I want to get something done."

It's time to quit fooling around on Social Security and do a couple of things: One, set aside all the payroll taxes. Two, look the seniors in the eye and say, "The promise this nation has made will be a promise we absolutely keep." You can forget all the phone calls that are coming into this state trying to scare people -- after all, it is Halloween time -- but we're going to keep our promise to the seniors of Michigan.


But there's $2.4 trillion after we paid our seniors. $2.4 trillion over the next decade, after seniors have been paid.

It's a fantastic opportunity. It's an opportunity to allow younger workers to take some of your own money and invest it under certain guidelines in the private markets, to get a better rate of return on your own money so there's a Social Security system, one that exists tomorrow.


That's responsible leadership. It's responsible leadership to take on the tough issue. But it's responsible leadership to trust people.

You see, my opponent wants the federal government to run all the federal retirement systems for you. And under that kind of program, he's going to saddle the future generation with $40 trillion of debt. That's not responsible leadership. That's someone who is willing to tackle the issue down the road. He's willing to say, "We're going to tax somebody down the road."

No, this country needs new leadership, particularly on the Social Security issue. And the reason why we're on the right side on this issue is because I'm assuring the seniors, I'm going to keep the promise.

But there are thousands of younger workers who know this country of ours better think differently. Otherwise, there's not going to be a Social Security system the way we have it today for them, and then they retire tomorrow.


There's priorities to set. What a leader does is set priorities and make those priorities clear.

A priority is Medicare. It's a federal responsibility. It's a responsibility our federal government said, "We're going to take care of seniors who can't help themselves. And we're going to help all seniors through what's called Medicare."

And, folks, it's important we get this right, because we're a compassionate nation. We're a nation that says, when somebody cannot help themselves, we will as a government. We're a nation that says anytime anybody has to choose between food and medicine. That's not right. That's not our vision of America. That's not what America's all about as far as we're concerned.


So one of our priorities is to say to Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, let's solve this problem. Let's make sure prescription drugs are a part of the Medicare plan for every senior. Let's help the poorest of seniors be able to afford the medicines of the future. Let's give people options in the Medicare program. Let's trust seniors to be able to make decisions about what's best for them.

Now, I know there's a lot of talk about Medicare, and you've heard the debates about spending this money here and that money there, and this plan here and that plan there. It's got to be kind of confusing to some, and I understand that.

But one thing they can't run and hide from is this fact: In 1992, they crossed our country -- "they" being my opponent and his friend, our president. They crossed our country and they said: "Oh, just give us a chance. We'll do something on Medicare." And you may remember, in 1996, they had to say it again. And here we are now, eight years after the initial promise was made, and they're still saying it.

And the message of this campaign is, "We're tired." The vice president says, "You ain't seen nothing yet." Well, he's right. We haven't seen anything yet.


This campaign is sending a clear message.

It's a clear message. Leadership is going to bring people together to solve this important problem. That's what a leader does, is solve problems.

We're not going to use Medicare as a political issue. It's time to put that kind of thinking aside. Folks, they've had their chance on this issue. They have not led, and we will.


I appreciate being able to see the moms and dads and grandparents of America to tell you another priority: Dick Cheney and I will work together to keep the peace. I want this to be a peaceful world. I want to do everything in our power to keep the peace.

But we'll be realists, and the world is still a dangerous place.

I want the young to understand that there are people in this country -- in this world, who resent our country. They resent our freedoms. They resent our successes. They resent what we stand for. There are people who don't like some of our allies, people who we'll never abandon if I'm the president.

We'll stand strong with our friends in the Middle East, starting with Israel. We'll stand strong with people in the Far East. We'll stand strong with those with whom we have alliances.

But I understand also that in order to keep the peace, we must have a strong hand. And you've heard the talk about the military, how we're the strongest military in the world. And that's true.

But a role of a leader is someone who anticipates problems and solves them before they occur.

Listen, we're having trouble retaining our captains. When you take a poll of enlisted personnel, which the military did, and over half of whom are willing to leave the service, something is wrong.

You talk to people who are in the military, they're worried about being overdeployed. We can't be all things to all people in the world with our military.

One of our priorities will be to rebuild the military, lift the morale of the military in order to keep the peace.


Education is a priority. It's been a priority of mine as governor of the state of Texas. I don't want any child left behind as we go into the 21st century. It must be a priority of our society. An educated child is one much more likely to be able to realize the great American dream, and that's what we want.

But I'm going to tell my good friend, the governor, he's heard me say this before: I don't want to be the federal superintendent of schools. I'm not interested in the federalization of America's school. I don't want the federal government having all kinds of mandates and dictates coming out of some distant bureaucracy.

We believe in local control of schools. We believe in passing power out of Washington, D.C., to empower local people to make the right decisions for children.


But I tell you what else is necessary. The president can have an impact. The president can impact public education by insisting upon high standards, by challenging the soft bigotry of low expectations, a system that asks the question, "How old are you? Oh, you're 8? We'll just put you right here if you're 8 years old. See, all 8-year-olds belong here. And if you're 12, you go here. And if you're 16, we're going to move you there."

And guess what happens sometimes? Children who's parents may not speak English as a first language just get moved through the system. Inner-city kids just get shuffled through. And it's not right in America.

Instead of asking the process-oriented question, "How old are you?" We need to start asking the question, all across society, "What do you know?"

"What do you know?" We need strong accountability measures all around America, devised not by the federal government, but by local folks, so we can we hold people accountable for results...


... so we can assess that every child learns. And when we find failure, we must challenge failure by giving parents more choices and more options and better opportunity for every child in this great land.


A responsible leader is someone who sets priorities and holds people accountable for achieving those priorities. A responsible leader is someone who understands the surplus is not the government's money; the surplus is the people's money.


A responsible leader is someone who hears all voices in our society.

And I want to talk about tax reform, because it's a significant difference of opinion. It not only points up the difference of policy, it points up the difference of philosophy between someone who wants to increase the size and scope of the federal government -- my opponent.

And, by the way, his spending program increases are greater than those of Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis' combined. Now, folks, that's going someplace there. That's pretty significant.

And I'll never forget one of our debates when he actually looked in the camera and said, "I'm against big government." I could barely contain myself. (LAUGHTER)

I knew the man was prone to exaggeration.

It's a difference of opinion. See, I want to fund priorities, but there's still money left over. About a quarter of the surplus is available.

I worry about the fact that the average family in this country pays more in federal, state, and local taxes than they do on housing and clothing and food combined. Now, I want you to think about that. There's a tax burden on the people of this country, and it's a heavy tax burden. And if we don't do something about it, it could be one of the causes that slows down economic growth.

You see, if you overspend at the federal level, it's going to put a drag on our economy. If you overtax the people who work, it'll be a drag on our economy. What I want to do is take about a quarter of that surplus and pass it back to where it belongs: the people who pay the bills, the hardworking people in America.


And I want to make the tax code more fairer. I want people to understand. I want you to know, this is, like Social Security is an issue, that the punditry that sometimes asks me questions, they say, "You know, the people aren't demanding tax relief."

And my answer is, I really -- "To be honest with you, that doesn't bother me." It's the right thing to do that I'm talking about.

I'm standing here and I'm saying the same thing since I got going, because I strongly believe -- I strongly believe -- that we've got to give people their money back so they can make decisions for what's best for their family.

I don't care what the pundits say. What I do care about is what the people are going to say on Election Day, and they're going to support this idea of tax relief.


So here's our plan -- here's our plan: Our plan is to get rid of the death tax. The death tax is unfair.


It's unfair to Michigan farmers, it's unfair to Texas ranchers, it's unfair to small business people. It's just an unfair tax.

The marriage penalty sends the absolute wrong signal in our society, and we're going to something about the marriage penalty.

(APPLAUSE) I want to drop the top rate of our tax code. We're going to shrink the number of rates from 5 to 4, and drop the top tax rate from 39.6 to 33 percent. There's two reasons why -- everybody all right back there -- there's two reasons why.

You've got a heck of view.



There's two reasons why. There ought to be a principle involved that the federal government should take no more than a third of anybody's check. That's a principle.


This nation needs to stand on principle.

And secondly, here's what we believe: We believe that entrepreneurship and the growth of small businesses occurs primarily because people are willing to dream and work hard in America, because this is an entrepreneurial nation.

But also, I believe that one of the reasons we're doing so well, or have been doing well, is because of the Ronald Reagan tax cuts of the '80s. I believe that when you give people money back it serves as economic growth.


Governments do not create wealth. A leader understands the limited role of the federal government. A government does not create wealth. A government creates an environment in which people are willing to take risk, and that's why our nation is so great and so strong.


And it doesn't matter who you are or where you're from. This great country says the American dream is available to every entrepreneur, from all walks of life.


I want you to hear something about the tax code. I want you to hear something about the tax code. Not only does our campaign hear the voices of the entrepreneur in America, we understand the tax code is unfair to people at the bottom end of the economic ladder in America.

Now, hear this fact, and then you'll understand, you'll be just as perplexed about why the agents of the status quo in Washington, D.C., defend the current tax system. If you're a single mother in Kalamazoo, Michigan, making $22,000 a year, and say you're raising two children, first, this campaign recognizes that's the toughest job in America. That's the hardest way to get ahead.


Man, if you're working there, you've got a tough job no matter what your day job is. It's a hard way to get ahead.

But incredibly enough, the tax code, for every additional dollar she earns, the tax code penalizes her. She pays a higher marginal rate on that dollar. She begins to lose her Earned Income Credit. She jumps into the 15 percent bracket. She pays 15.3 percent payroll taxes. She pays more money on the margin than someone making $200,000 a year. That's the tax code.

Let me see if I can describe it this way to you. It's like our nation, we got a road, and we got a road ahead and ride to the middle class. And in the middle of it is a toll both. And one side of it, people are paying, you know, expected marginal rates, just moving along fine. And on the other side, there are people struggling to get ahead, people working their heart out, people being a responsible mom to take care of their children, sometimes because there's an irresponsible dad who says, "See you later. I'm not interested in doing my job as a responsible citizen in America."

And by the way, we need to send that message loud and clear: If you're a dad, show up and love your children. If you're a dad, do your duty as a father.


And so what I want to do is, I not only want to stimulate economic growth by hearing the voice of the entrepreneurs, I want to drop the bottom rate from 15 percent to 10 percent and increase the child credit from $500 to $1,000 per child per year, so we can knock down that toll booth in the road to the middle class.


I want to point up the differences in philosophy and differences in tax relief as simply as I can.

And one way to do it, is to talk about the Peters family who we're fixing to meet. And they're from Stevensville, Michigan. And we're going to see them down the road. John Engler and I are fixing to get on a bus after this, and we're heading down. We're still campaigning, all the way to Election Day.

And I'm going to see these people, the Peters family. And they've agreed to allow me to use their story as an example, to point up the difference between what we believe and what Al Gore believes.

These good folks pay $2,630 in federal income taxes. They have got two children. And under our plan, when we have tax cuts for everybody who pays taxes, with the biggest percentage of them going to people at the bottom end of the economic ladder, they save $1,630.

(APPLAUSE) That's $1,630 more dollars in their pocket. That's $1,630 of their own money, their hard-working money. It's not the government's money; it's their money, that they can spend on the way they see fit.


They can spend it on their families, they can spend it on education, they can save it for the future.


And guess what? And guess what the vice president's targeted tax cuts for the middle class provides this family? Not one dime of tax relief.

And that's the fundamental difference, folks. You see, he wants to spend that couple's money in Washington, and we want the couple to have their own money to spend.

He trusts government; we trust the people. He trusts the federal government; we trust you with your own money to be able to make the right decisions.


And it's the fundamental difference of this campaign, and it's the reason why we're going to win this election because of that. The people want...


AUDIENCE: We want Bush. We want Bush. We want Bush.

BUSH: OK, you're about to get me wound up again.


I want you all to -- I want to talk about one other important part of our society, and then we can go outside and get some air. I hope it's not all my hot air that's creating this.


I do want to remind you of one thing, one final point, on the difference between philosophy on tax relief, and I think it speaks volumes.

The man I'm running against, in Los Angeles, California, said in his speech at the convention he is going to make sure that the right people get tax relief. Now, I want you all to think about that. I want the young to think about that. This is America, we're all in this deal together. We're bound by a fantastic history and tradition, great values that apply to everybody.

The president of the United States should not think about being able to pick who the right people are. Everybody's the right person, Mr. Vice President, everybody in America. We don't need to be trying to figure out who the right people are in Washington, we're one nation, indivisible, under God.


I want to talk about something else important that's happening in Kalamazoo, Michigan. A responsible society is more than just a society of responsible leaders at the federal level. A responsible society is one where people hear the universal call to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself.

The president of this student body talked about responsibility. It means helping somebody in need. It means finding somebody who's hurting and saying, "What can I do to help?"

This great land must understand that our strength lies not in the halls of government, but our strength lies in the hearts and souls of our citizens.

I met with faith-based -- leaders of faith-based programs today, some of whom are up here with me. These are people who have heard a call about helping a neighbor in need, somebody who has said, "What can I do to help?"

You see, one of the best things about running for president is I get to meet people who are acting out of compassion and kindness, not really because of government.

Now, government can help. We should change the tax code to allow nonitemizers to deduct charitable gifts, so that we encourage more giving to more programs that help change people's lives.


Government can help when we have after-school program money, like we do at the federal level. We should say that any school district should be able to open up all of that money to faith-based programs. Programs that not only provide a service, but programs that change people's lives in a positive way.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Texas Governor George W. Bush on the stump in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He will stay in Michigan for another event today about 1:20 Eastern time, a little more than an hour from now.

Before the Texas governor, we had the vice president in Charleston, West Virginia. Later today, he will head to Pennsylvania. Complete coverage throughout the day. Eleven days and counting now to election 2000.



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