The following is a transcript of President Barack Obama’s speech at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Oct. 4.
He began at 3:42 p.m. and said:
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Madison! (Applause.) Go Badgers! (Applause.)
First of all, I’ve got to just point out that some members of the Badgers basketball team are here—they’re getting ready for the season coming up. (Applause.) They’ve invited me to play, so I said after the election. (Laughter.) I will be raining down jumpers on them. (Applause.) Actually I didn’t say that. I said I’m getting kind of old. (Laughter.)
Can everybody please give Katie an unbelievable round of applause for that great introduction? (Applause.) We’ve got one of the finest men I know, as well as a great United States senator, Herb Kohl is here. (Applause.) Your next United States senator, Tammy Baldwin. (Applause.) Your next congressman, Mark Pocan. (Applause.) Your mayor, Paul Soglin. (Applause.)
And we’ve got a whole bunch of other folks here. This is an unbelievable crowd. I’ve been told this is good practice for Halloween on State Street. (Applause.) But there’s something that you’ve got to do before then, Madison—you’ve got to vote. (Applause.) In just 18 days, on October 22nd, Wisconsin gets to start voting early. So you can register and vote at your early vote location. And if you need to find out where it is, go to Vote.BarackObama.com — find out where, when, how to vote.
Now, some of you may have heard, last night we had our first debate. (Applause.) And I just flew in from Denver, and I was telling folks there, when I got on the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney. (Laughter.) But I know it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney—because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. And yet, the fellow on the stage last night—who looked like Mitt Romney -- (laughter) -- said he did not know anything about that. It was all news to him.
The real Mitt Romney said that we don’t need any more teachers in the classroom.
THE PRESIDENT: Don’t boo—vote. (Applause.)
But the fellow on stage last night, he said he loves teachers—can’t get enough of them. (Laughter.) The Mitt Romney we all know invested in companies that were called “pioneers” of outsourcing jobs to other countries. But the guy on stage last night, he said he’d never heard of tax breaks for companies that shift jobs overseas. Never heard of them. (Laughter.) And he said, if that’s true, he must need a new accountant. So now we know for sure that wasn’t the real Mitt Romney, because the real Mitt Romney is doing just fine with the accountant that he already has. (Laughter.)
Whoever it was that was on stage last night doesn’t want to be held accountable for what the real Mitt Romney has been saying for the last year, and that’s because he knows full well that we don’t want what he’s been selling over the last year. (Applause.) Governor Romney may dance around his positions, he may do a tap dance and a two-step, but if you want to be President, then you owe the American people the truth. (Applause.)
So here’s the truth. Governor Romney cannot pay for his $5 trillion tax plan without blowing up the deficit or sticking it to the middle class. We can’t afford to go down that road again. We can’t afford another round of budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy. We can’t afford to gut our investments in education, or clean energy, or research, or technology. We can’t afford to roll back regulations on Wall Street banks or oil companies or insurance companies. (Applause.) We can’t afford to double down on the same top-down economic policies that got us into this mess. That is not a jobs plan. It’s not a plan for our economy. It’s not a plan to strengthen the middle class. It is not change, it is a relapse, and we’re not going to do it. (Applause.) We have been there. We have tried that. We are not going back. We’re moving forward. (Applause.)
Because I’ve got a different view. We have a different view about how to create jobs and prosperity. This country doesn’t succeed when only the rich get richer. We succeed when everybody has a shot—when the middle class is getting bigger, when there are ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Our economy does not grow from the top down; it grows from the middle out. That’s how it grows. (Applause.)
We don’t believe that anybody is entitled to success in this country, but we do believe in opportunity. We do believe in a country where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded, where everybody is getting a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share and everybody is playing by the same rules. That’s the country we believe in. That’s what I’ve been fighting for, for the last four years. That’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: Madison, what we are rallying around is a new economic patriotism that is rooted in the core belief that built this country—the belief that the economy grows when we have a strong and thriving middle class and everybody who works hard has a shot. And there are specific ways that we can do that. I want to export more products, and outsource fewer jobs. (Applause.) My opponent said we should “let Detroit go bankrupt.” We came together—
THE PRESIDENT: Don’t boo—
THE PRESIDENT: -- vote.
We came together to reinvent a dying auto industry that’s now back on top of the world. We’ve created half a million new manufacturing jobs. And so we can keep giving tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas, or we can start rewarding companies that are opening new plants and training new workers right here in Wisconsin, right here in the United States of America. That’s what we need to do. (Applause.)
I want to help big factories and small businesses double their exports, create a million new manufacturing jobs. You can make that happen, but you’re going to have to vote.
I want to control more of our own energy. After 30 years of doing nothing, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, your cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. (Applause.) That’s good for your pocketbook, that’s good for our economy, and it’s also good for our environment. (Applause.) We’ve doubled the amount of renewable energy that we generate from sources like wind and solar. Thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines, long-lasting batteries. Today, the United States of America is less dependent on oil than at any time in nearly two decades. (Applause.)
So now you’ve got a choice between a plan that reverses this progress, as you heard last night, or one that builds on it. The guy who was playing Mitt Romney said he refuses to close a loophole that gives big oil companies $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies every single year. Does anybody think that oil companies need a tax subsidy right now?
THE PRESIDENT: So we’ve got a better plan. We’re going to keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal, and farmers and scientists can harness biofuels to power our cars and our trucks -- (applause) -- and make our buildings and schools more energy efficient, and develop our natural gas that’s right beneath our feet. And if we do all those things, we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020. We can support hundreds of thousands of jobs all across the country. But you’re going to have to vote to make it happen. (Applause.)
I want to make sure that every young person in America has the chance to get the skills, the knowledge they need to compete in this 21st century economy. Education is the only reason I’m standing on this stage. (Applause.) It’s the only reason Michelle was able to do what she did. And so we haven’t forgotten that we needed some student loans to get through school. That’s why over the last four years, we’ve helped millions of students pay less for college, because we finally took on a system that was wasting billions of dollars on banks and lenders. We said, let’s cut out the middleman; let’s give the money directly to students. (Applause.)
Now, the guy playing Mitt Romney last night says he loves education, but the budget that his running mate, Congressman Ryan, put forward—
THE PRESIDENT: Don’t boo—
THE PRESIDENT: -- vote.
Would gut education to pay for more tax breaks for the wealthy. That’s one path. It’s the wrong path. We need to decide that in the United States of America, no child should have her dream deferred because of an overcrowded classroom, because of outdated textbooks. No family should have to set aside an acceptance letter to go to the University of Wisconsin because they don’t have the money. (Applause.) No company should have to look for workers in China because they couldn’t find any with the right skills here in the United States.
So I need you to help me recruit 100,000 new math and science teachers, improve early-childhood education, give 2 million workers the chance to learn skills at the community college that will lead directly to a job. Help us work with colleges and universities like this one to cut the growth of tuition costs so that you guys aren’t overburdened with debt when you graduate. That’s a goal we can meet. We can choose that future for America. (Applause.)
We’re going to have to do something about the deficit, but we’ve got to do it in a smart way. I said I’d cut the deficit by $4 trillion through a mix of spending cuts and higher taxes on the wealthiest of Americans. I’ve already worked with Republicans to cut a trillion dollars in spending. I’m willing to do more.
I want to reform the tax code so it’s simple and it’s fair. But I’m also going to ask the wealthiest among us to pay higher taxes on incomes over $250,000 -- (applause) -- the same rate we had when Bill Clinton was President, created 23 million new jobs, went from deficit to surplus. And, look, the whole economy does well when taxes are kept low for middle-class families and working families, because when you guys have a little extra money in your pocket you spend it—you have to, on basic necessities. And that means business has more customers and they make more profits. They then hire more workers and the economy as a whole begins to grow.
But to do that and reduce the deficit at the same time, we’ve got to ask folks who can afford it to do a little bit more. Now, last night, this may have actually been the real Mitt Romney, because he ruled out raising a dime on taxes on anyone ever, no matter how much money they make; ruled out closing those loopholes that are giving $4 billion of corporate welfare to the oil companies; refused to even acknowledge the loophole that gives tax breaks to corporations that move jobs overseas.
When he was asked what he would do to actually cut spending and reduce the deficit, he said he’d eliminate public television funding.
THE PRESIDENT: So don’t boo, now—
THE PRESIDENT: But I just want to make sure I got this straight. He’ll get rid of regulations on Wall Street, but he’s going to crack down on Sesame Street. (Applause.) Thank goodness somebody is finally cracking down on Big Bird. (Applause.) Who knew that he was responsible for all these deficits? (Laughter.) Elmo has got to watch out. (Laughter.)
The fact is the guy playing Mitt Romney last night, his math doesn’t add up. The only way to pay for $5 trillion in new tax cuts and $2 trillion in new defense spending that the military is not asking for is by either blowing up the deficit or asking you to pay more. And I refuse to do that. I’m not going to ask middle-class families to give up their deduction for owning a home or raising their kids just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut. (Applause.)
I refuse to ask students to pay more for college, or kick children out of Head Start programs, or eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans to pay for a tax cut we can’t afford. (Applause.)
And I will not turn Medicare into a voucher. I explained why yesterday. Governor Romney doubled down on this proposal last night and he is wrong. No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with dignity and the care that they’ve earned. (Applause.) So we can reform Medicare the right way by reducing health care costs, not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more. And we will keep the promise of Social Security; strengthen it. But we won’t turn it over to Wall Street. (Applause.)
Now, Madison, we talked a lot about domestic affairs yesterday. But we’re going to have a chance to talk about what’s happening abroad as well. Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq, and I did. (Applause.) I said we’d wind down the war in Afghanistan in a responsible way, and we are. (Applause.) And because we were able to refocus attention, al Qaeda is on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead. (Applause.)
Now, there’s still a lot of threats out there. We saw that just tragically in the last couple of weeks. And that’s why, so long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we’ll sustain the strongest military the world has ever known. And when our troops take off the uniform, we’ll serve them as well as they’ve served us. (Applause.) Nobody should have to fight for a job, or a roof over their head when they have fought for America’s freedom. We will honor that commitment. (Applause.)
Now, I don’t know who’s going to show up at the next debate, but I do know that the real Mitt Romney said it was “tragic” to end the war in Iraq. He won’t tell us how he’d end the war in Afghanistan. I have, and I will. And I’m going to use the money that we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and to put more people back to work rebuilding roads and bridges, and schools and runways. After a decade of war, it’s time to do some nation-building here at home. That’s why I’m running for a second term. (Applause.)
So this is the choice we now face. This is what the election comes down to. The other side will tell you that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing. If you can’t afford health insurance, hope you don’t get sick. If a company is releasing pollution into the air that your children breathe, well, that’s the price of progress. If you can’t afford to start a business or go to college, borrow money from your parents.
You know, that’s not what this country is about. That’s not how are greatness was built. Here in America, we believe we’re all in this together. We understand it’s not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, as one nation, and as one people. (Applause.) That’s what we believe. (Applause.)
You’re the reason the mother in Green Bay doesn’t have to worry about her son being denied medical coverage because of a preexisting condition. You made that happen. (Applause.)
You’re the reason a middle-class family in Milwaukee got a tax cut, money they can use to buy groceries, and put gas in the car, and pay their bills. You did that.
You’re the reason that a student right here at the University of Wisconsin is getting more help paying her college education, or a veteran can go to this school on the New GI Bill. You made that happen. (Applause.) You made that happen.
You’re the reason a young immigrant who went to school here, grew up here, pledged allegiance to our flag, will no longer be deported from the only country she’s ever called home. (Applause.)
You’re the reason an outstanding soldier won’t be kicked out of the military just because of who he loves. (Applause.) And you’re the reason thousands of families have finally been able to say to loved ones who served us so bravely: “Welcome home.” Welcome home. (Applause.) Welcome home.
And, Madison, that’s why you can’t buy into the cynicism that is so prevalent, the idea that the change we fought for somehow isn’t possible—because when that happens, change doesn’t happen. If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other people fill the void—the well-connected, the lobbyists, the folks who can write $10 million checks to try to buy this election, or the ones who are trying to make it harder to vote. Washington politicians who want to control health care choices that women are perfectly capable of making themselves. (Applause.) You can’t let that happen. You’ve got to move us forward.
I’ve always said change doesn’t happen in one year, or one term, or even one President. It doesn’t happen with one political party. Change happens because everybody gets involved and says it’s going to happen. It certainly can’t happen if you’re someone who wants to lead the nation but writes off half the nation before you even take office. (Applause.)
In 2008, 47 percent of the American people did not vote for me. They voted for John McCain. But on the night of the election, I said to those Americans, I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help. I will be your President, too. (Applause.)
And I don’t know how many folks will vote for me this time, but I want you to know I’ll be with you no matter what. Because I’m not fighting to create Democratic jobs or Republican jobs—I’m fighting to create American jobs. (Applause.) I’m not fighting to improve schools in the red states or blue states—I’m fighting to improve schools in the United States. (Applause.) I’m not fighting on behalf of values that are rich or poor, or business or worker—I’m fighting for those American values of hard work and looking out for one another. And they belong to all of us. And if we rally around those values, if we have a genuine sense of patriotism about how we build an economy where everybody is getting a fair shot, then we’re going to strengthen the middle class, and we’re going to keep moving forward.
And I believe that our politics is not as divided as it seems sometimes. I still believe in the American people. They are what gives me strength every single day. They are what get me up in the morning, and they’re what I’m thinking about when I go to bed at night. (Applause.)
I believe in you. I’m asking you to keep believing in me. I’m asking for your vote. (Applause.) And if you stand with me, and work with me, we will win Madison again. We’ll win Wisconsin again. We will win the election again. We’ll finish what we started in 2008, and remind the world why the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth. (Applause.)
God bless you, Madison! (Applause.) God bless you, Wisconsin! God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)