for Long-Term Growth & Prosperity
Alys Stephens Center
University of Alabama at Birmingham
July 15, 2002
10:20 A.M. CDT
Thank you all very much. Thank you for coming. So I come up here with Thornton
and he says, I think driving a bulldozer is a little easier than introducing
you. (Laughter.) I said, well, you must be a pretty good bulldozer driver then,
Thornton, because you did a great job of introducing me. Thank you very much.
I appreciate your being here. (Applause.)
Thornton is the President of Stanley Construction Company. He's one of several
business leaders from Alabama I met with today to talk about what we can do
together to help this economy recover.
I want to first tell you how proud I am to be back in Alabama. It's a great
state. It's produced some wonderful Americans, starting with my National Security
Advisor, born and raised, Condoleezza Rice, right here in Birmingham. (Applause.)
And I'd be in trouble with the Secretary of State -- at least his wife -- if
I didn't remind you all that Alma Powell was raised, born and raised right here
in Birmingham, Alabama, too. (Applause.)
It's an honor to travel today with members of the congressional delegation,
two fine United States Senators: Senator Shelby and Senator Sessions. Thank
you all for coming. (Applause.) We've attracted quite a few members of the House
delegation here. I'm not suggesting that they're here to be close to the President
just in case they can get aboard Air Force One when we're heading back. (Laughter.)
But if you guys do get on, you'll find it to be a comfortable plane. (Laughter.)
But I'm proud that Sonny Callahan and Terry Everett and Bob Riley and Bob Aderholt
and Spencer Bachus are with us, too. Thank you all for coming. (Applause.)
These are fine members, and they're good people to work with, and they put their
country first. And I appreciate that a lot. (Applause.)
I know the Lieutenant Governor is here, and the Attorney General is here, and
the Mayor is here -- Mayor of Birmingham. I want to thank you three for coming,
as well. I appreciate your hospitality. (Applause.)
I personally want to thank the good folks here at UAB, University of Alabama-Birmingham,
for allowing us to use, first of all, this fantastic facility. I had the honor
of speaking with the President earlier today. I am proud of the accomplishments
of this fine university. It is a university that is on the leading edge of important
medical research. It's a university that has fostered and kindled the growth
of small businesses here in Birmingham. President Marc was rightly proud of
the place, and I know you are, as well. And I want to thank you for your hospitality
from the bottom of my heart. (Applause.)
And, finally, one of the things I like to do when I come to a community is meet
and herald those soldiers in the armies of compassion which exist all across
our country. And today when I got off of Air Force One, there was a man named
Roman Gary there. Roman, are you here? Where are you, Roman? There he is.
Roman Gary -- the reason I bring up Roman is he is a -- he's a man who understands
that our children need love; in order for our society to be a vibrant and whole
place, there are some who need to be having an adult in their life, somebody
who -- there's a child somewhere in Birmingham and all across the country and
needs somebody to put their arm around them and to say: I love you; you're a
part of America.
And so Roman understands that. It didn't require a government law, it didn't
require a giant act of Congress or a Presidential edict. It required somebody
like Roman loving a neighbor like he would like to be loved himself. And, therefore,
he has poured his heart and soul into Big Brothers and Big Sisters here in Birmingham,
Alabama. And I thank you. (Applause.)
Our society can and will change, one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time.
And while each of us can't do everything, each of us can do something to advance
a decent a whole society. And so Roman, on behalf of the thousands of your fellow
Americans who heard the call to help the communities in which you live, people
who have assumed responsibility for their lives here in America, I want to thank
you, and thank all of you all for doing the same thing. (Applause.)
A secure America is an America that is a compassionate America. A secure America
is also an America that is willing to hunt down international killers one by
one and bring them to justice. (Applause.) And that's what we're going to do.
It doesn't matter how long it takes, this country will defend our freedoms.
This country will defend civilization itself. This country will not let the
acts of a few cold-blooded killers stand. (Applause.)
As well, in order for us to have the security we all want, America must get
rid of the hangover that we now have as a result of the binge, the economic
binge we just went through. We were in a land of -- there was endless profit,
there was no tomorrow when it came to, you know, the stock markets and corporate
profits. And now we're suffering a hangover for that binge.
But I want you to know the economy, our economy is fundamentally strong. This
economy is -- has got foundations for growth so the people who want to find
work can find work; so that the entrepreneurs in America can flourish.
Listen to the facts. Inflation is low. An important part of an economic recovery
is to make sure that inflation is under control. It is. We've got sound monetary
policy. Interest rates are reasonable. If people want to borrow money, you don't
have to pay a lot of interest. Productivity is increasing. We lead the world
in productivity gains as a result of the entrepreneurial spirit and the fine
workers we have in America. That's an important indication of how sound our
The first quarter growth of 2002 was a little over 6 percent. That's a pretty
good sign that the foundations for growth are there. Orders for durable goods
for the past six months are up. The manufacturing sector was done, but slowly
but surely it is recovering from a slow-down that began for all of our economy
in early of March 2000.
Last month, retail sales were up by 1 percent. Consumers are buying. In other
words, in spite of the fact that we've been in a slump for a while, and in spite
of the fact that the terrorists attacked us and affected our economic outlook,
American business and workers are resilient and resolved. And this economy is
coming back. That's the fact.
But I understand this, that the American economy is constructed on confidence:
confidence to invest and build, confidence for our small business owners to
take risk, confidence that the job base will expand, confidence to produce and
hire. And so I want to talk to you today about ways in which I intend to continue
to work in Washington to build confidence, to build on the foundations, the
strong foundations for economic vitality that exists, to build on the good statistics
we're beginning to see. Of course, I like to remind people that Washington is
full of all kinds of numbers-crunchers. They talk about this number here, and
that number there. My attitude is, so long as somebody who wants to work can't
find work, we've got a problem we need to deal with.
And so I want to talk about long-term economic growth and what we can do about
it. I want to make sure it is clear to those in Congress that I will resist
runaway congressional spending which could serve as a drag on economic vitality.
And finally, I expect and you expect and our country expects the highest ethical
standards in corporate America. (Applause.) First, we're promoting long-term
growth, the kind of growth that understands that the main job creators in America
are small business entrepreneurs. (Applause.) And if you're interested in recovery
-- if you're interested in recovery of the job base, it is important for us
to remember who creates most of the jobs: and those are the small business owners
in America. And that's why I fought so hard for a tax cut for the American people.
I believe when you cut taxes, it spurs economic growth, particularly in the
small business sector. (Applause.)
Most entrepreneurs are not incorporated. Most small businesses are what they
call sole proprietors or limited partnerships. And so they pay tax like an individual
pays tax. And so when we reduce the taxes on the individuals, we reduce the
taxes on small business growth. It was important to do that. I remember the
outcry, of course, because if you want more money in Washington, you don't want
to let the people keep their own money. So they started quoting these textbooks
that said, when times are slow, raise taxes; when times are slow, don't let
the people keep their money.
The textbook I read says that if we let you have your own money, you'll decide
to spend it on a good and service. And if you decide to spend it on the good
and service, somebody will produce the good and service. And when somebody produces
the good and service, it means somebody is going to find work.
In the tax relief plan, we reduced the marriage penalty. (Applause.) We reduced
the alternative minimum tax which affects many small business owners. And we
did something else that's important -- it's important for all small business
owners -- and that is we eliminated the death tax. (Applause.) I say we eliminated
the death tax. By a quirk of the Senate rules, the death tax, however, isn't
eliminated after 10 years. That's a hard one to explain. (Applause.) We eliminated
it, but didn't eliminate it.
So for the good of long-term planning, for the good of the entrepreneurial spirit,
for the good of allowing people to pass their business, farm, or ranch to whoever
they want to pass it to, we need to make the tax cuts that we put in place permanent.
I want to expand trade. I believe that will help create jobs. Confident people
are willing to expand trade. Non-confident people, you know, people who aren't
confident about America and our ability to compete, want to build barriers around
the country. And I'm confident. Listen, I know our farmers -- Alabama farmers,
Texas farmers, farmers all across the country are the best in the world. And
if you're the best at something, we ought to be opening up markets for them
so they can sell their products around the world. (Applause.)
We're good at a lot things in America, and we ought to be selling our products
all around the world. It's time for Congress to quit talking and start acting,
and giving me trade promotion authority so we can open up more markets and more
people can find work right here in America. (Applause.)
There's an issue that the Congress needs to get to my desk quickly that will
show good judgment and way to help our economy recover, and that is to pass
a terrorism insurance bill. It basically says that the government will help
cover certain losses for insurance companies for a terrorist act. It is important
that we pass this so that major construction projects which cannot get insurance
can go forward. And when those construction projects go forward all across the
country, it means somebody is going to be able to find work.
It's important for us to be realistic about how to provide help so that there
is insurance coverage for projects. We can do so that creates jobs -- not jobs
for trial lawyers. We must not have legislation -- (applause.) This legislation
must keep in mind the workers of America, and not open up our government and/or
employers to unnecessary and frivolous and junk lawsuits. (Applause.)
And I appreciate -- I appreciate the reform-minded folks here in the state of
Alabama who understand that junk and frivolous lawsuits affect small business
owners like Thornton. It makes it hard for him to expand his business, to hire
people. Listen, you ought to have your day in court, no question about it. But
we've got to make sure that these junk and frivolous lawsuits stop running up
the cost of doing business and make it harder for people to employ people here
in America. (Applause.)
And finally -- and finally, good economic policy starts with good education
policy. And I want to share with you right quickly what has happened in Washington
in terms of public education and why I think it's going to make a tremendous
difference in the lives of citizens all across Alabama and all across the country.
An educated work force is necessary if we intend to compete.
A lady representing Honda told us today that -- I think she said there's going
to be additional 2,000 jobs here in Alabama. This is in the face of what appears
to be pretty rough economic times for some. But 2,000 new jobs is fantastic.
It also means that you make sure you've got to have 2,000 educated workers.
And it starts with public schools. It starts with making sure every child in
America learns the basics -- learns to read and write and add and subtract.
Which means you start with setting the highest of high standards.
I can't tell you how important that is, to set high standards and to have high
standards. Because if you don't, if you have low standards it means certain
kids aren't going to learn. If you lower the bar, guess what's going to happen?
You'll have low results. People who adhere to low standards in public education
essentially admit there are certain kids who can't learn. I don't accept it.
As a matter of fact, I know what happens in systems that say there are certain
children who can't learn. It basically means, if we want to be honest about
it, inner-city African American kids are just shuffled through the school system
as if they don't matter. Children whose parents don't speak English as a first
language, they're deemed to be hard to educate, so it's just easy to move them
For the good of our country, for the good of the job base, for the good of the
American Dream, we must end that kind of education policy in America. (Applause.)
And that means high standards for every child. That means a mind-set that says
every child can learn, and we expect every child to learn. It means that when
you receive federal money -- and by the way, we have filled the coffers last
time around with federal money for Title I programs. There's a lot of money
available for the states now as a result of the funding last time.
It says though, in return, we expect you to show us whether or not the children
are learning to read and write and ad and subtract. We expect there to be strong
accountability. In return for taxpayer's money, we the taxpayers want to know
whether or not high standards are being met. We expect the children to be able
to read and write and add and subtract, we want the children to be able to read
and write and add and subtract, and we expect you to deliver on the promise
that children should be able to read and write and add and subtract. (Applause.)
I've heard the argument. Listen, I was the governor of a great state that fought
hard for accountability. I heard every argument in the book against accountability:
you know, it's racist to test. It's racist not to test. It's racist not to test.
(Applause.) If you expect all children to learn, we want to know, and the testing
ought to be viewed as a way to determine what works and what doesn't work. It
ought to be viewed as a way to say, if there is a problem, let's address it
now, early, before it's too late. We want to know. You can't solve a problem
unless you're able to diagnose the problem.
And the accountability is the diagnostic tool available for not the bureaucrats
in Washington, D.C., the local folks, because we believe in local control of
schools. (Applause.) I firmly believe that the education plan that we passed
is going to make a significant difference in making sure we achieve the national
goal of not one child, no child should be left behind in America. (Applause.)
In order to make sure we have economic growth and vitality, in order to make
sure we build on the foundation that is laid for economic growth, I will enforce
fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C. I think it is so important that we make
sure that we fund our priorities -- fighting the war and the homeland defense,
educating our children -- and that Congress hold the line on additional spending.
Because if there is perceived deficits, the markets react, and if there's perceived
deficit, sure enough what's going to happen is people are going to start calling
for tax increases. And you don't want to run a person's taxes up in the middle
of an economic recovery.
Secondly, my philosophy is, is that I'd rather you spend your money. We want
to fund our priorities, but when it all comes down to it, after the priorities
are funded, you're better at spending your money than I am. It's your choice
to spend your money on your families. (Applause.)
Congress must control its appetites for additional spending. There is -- I submitted
what they call a supplemental. It's an urgent request for funding the war and
homeland security. I submitted that over four months ago, and yet, I haven't
ever seen anything from Congress yet. The Senate needs to act, and the House
needs to act to get this to my bill -- to my desk, so we can fund programs.
And part of the problem is, is that the Senate wants to add billions more than
we requested to the supplemental. They view it as a funding opportunity, as
opposed to a -- as a focused approach on funding the war against terror and
making sure our homeland -- the agencies are funded.
Now, they're going to say, well, you know, we're going to maybe play this down
to the very last minute. No. Now is not the time for games when it comes to
the appropriations process. (Applause.)
There is no budget in the Senate. The House passed a budget; there's no budget
in the Senate. Which means, I guess, that I'm going to have to remind the spenders
in Washington that I have submitted a budget. And I hope they watch it very
carefully as they determine the size of the appropriation bills. The defense
of the country is a priority. Homeland defense is a priority. Other parts of
the budget have grown, but we expect them to be realistic about how they spend.
After all, the budget plan I proposed says if Congress is realistic and reasonable
and funds priorities, that we can balance the budget in the year 2005.
Now, that requires discipline, and I intend to help Congress understand discipline
is needed in Washington, D.C. One of the best ways to make sure that our economy
grows is for there to be a joint effort in being fiscally responsible with your
money. And that's exactly what's going to happen in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
Another way to make sure that we foster growth and restore confidence is to
hold people accountable for misdeeds in the public sector. It is important for
corporate America to hear this call -- you are -- in order to be a responsible
American, you must behave responsibly. We expect there to be full disclosure
of assets and liabilities. We expect there to be fair accounting practices.
We expect you to treat your investors and employees with the respect they deserve.
And if not, we intend to do something about it at the federal level. We intend
to hold people accountable.
That's why I set up what they call a Corporate Fraud Task Force in the Justice
Department. We also have proposed doubling the jail time for corporate fraud.
A proposed provision is to make sure that corporate executives cannot transfer
company funds to their personal accounts while their company is under investigation.
(Applause.) I am for increasing the budget of the regulatory authorities, to
make sure that there is enough manpower and technology available to run down
the facts and to hold people accountable. We're making sure that executives
who commit improper acts will forfeit phony profits. And we're saying that if
you have defrauded investors, you can never serve as a CEO or on the board of
directors of a company again. (Applause.)
I support the creation of a strong, independent board that will provide effective
oversight of the accounting profession. In other words, I'm willing to work
with Congress to make sure that we've got the necessary law in place that will
hold people accountable without stifling the entrepreneurial spirit of America,
without stifling innovation in America. (Applause.)
The House has passed a bill, the Senate is going to pass a bill tonight, I understand.
The two need to get together as quickly as possible, and get me a bill that
I can sign before the August recess. (Applause.) But the truth of the matter
is, we can't pass a law that says you'll love your neighbor like yourself. And
we can't pass a law that says you will be honest. We can pass laws that say,
if you're not honest, we'll get you. (Applause.) Corporate America must make
the decision each as an individual that you're going to uphold high standards,
that you have a responsibility to our society, that you've got the responsibility
to your shareholder and your employee to treat both with the respect they deserve.
Now, the good news for our country is that by far, the vast majority -- by far
-- of people who have taken on the responsibility to run a corporation are good,
honorable people. A few have damaged the reputation of the many, and that's
why we've got the Corporate Fraud Task Force. But I call upon all of us in America
to understand the awesome responsibilities we have in this country -- the responsibilities
if you run a company, to be forthright and open, and the responsibilities if
you live in America to help work in the community in which you live to make
it a better place.
You know, I like to remind our fellow citizens that out of the evil done to
America is going to come some incredible good. I believe that. Oh, some are
saying, maybe he's too optimistic. That's what I believe about America. I believe
our soul is strong, our Constitution is firm. I believe this country's great
strength is the fact that we're such a decent and honorable group of people,
that out of the evil done to America will come peace.
If we're strong and steady and resolved, we can achieve peace. Out of the evil
done to America will come an economic vitality that will be vibrant, because
we're an entrepreneurial people, risk takers and dreamers and doers. And out
of the evil done to America will come a better America, because in our prosperity
and wealth, we've got to remember there are pockets of despair and hopelessness
There are some in our society who wonder whether or not America is really --
the American Dream is meant for them. There are some young Americans who have
no hope. And I refuse to concede that, however. I believe that out of the evil
done to America can come some incredible good, particularly as our fellow Americans
respond to the call to love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself.
I'm a strong proponent of the faith-based initiative, because I understand that
government can hand out money, but it cannot put hope in people's hearts or
a sense of purpose in people's lives. (Applause.)
No, I believe the enemy hit us, but they didn't know who they were hitting.
They must have thought we'd file a lawsuit or two. (Laughter.) But they didn't
realize that when it comes to the defense of our freedoms, we're strong. And
when it comes to the love of our fellow human beings, we're compassionate.
I want to tell you I'm honored that you came out today. My vision for the country
is one that's positive and hopeful. I believe there is a better day right around
the corner for all Americans. And I believe that because I know that I'm the
President of the greatest country on the face of the earth.
Thanks for coming today. May God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you