Excerpts from President Barack Obama’s Labor Day speech in Milwaukee, Wis.
Look, the bottom line is this: These guys, they just don’t want to give up on that economic philosophy that they have been peddling for most of the last decade. You know that philosophy — you cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires; you cut all the rules and regulations for special interests; and then you just cut working folks loose — you cut them loose to fend for themselves.
Well, you know what, that philosophy didn’t work out so well for middle-class families all across America. It didn’t work out so well for our country. All it did was rack up record deficits and result in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. I mean, think about it, we have tried what they’re peddling. We did it for 10 years. We ended up with the worst economy since the 1930s and record deficits to boot. It’s not like we haven’t tried what they’re trying to sell us.
Now, I’m bringing this up not because I’m trying to re-litigate the past; I’m bringing it up because I don’t want to re-live the past.
It’d be one thing, Milwaukee, if Republicans in Washington had some new ideas, if they had said, you know what, we really screwed up, and we’ve learned from our mistakes; we’re going to do things differently this time. That’s not what they’re doing.
When the leader of their campaign committee was asked on national television what Republicans would do if they took over Congress, you know what he said? He said, ‘We’ll do exactly the same thing we did the last time.’ That’s what he said. It’s on tape.
So basically, here’s what this election comes down to. They’re betting that between now and November, you’re going to come down with amnesia. They figure you’re going to forget what their agenda did to this country. They think you’ll just believe that they’ve changed.
These are the folks whose policies helped devastate our middle class. They drove our economy into a ditch. And we got in there and put on our boots and we pushed and we shoved. And we were sweating and these guys were standing and were pointing at us saying, how come you’re not pushing harder, how come you’re not pushing faster? And then when we finally got the car up — and it’s got a few dings and a few dents, it’s got some mud on it, we’re going to have to do some work on it — they point to everybody and say, look what these guys did to your car. After we got it out of the ditch! And then they got the nerve to ask for the keys back! I don’t want to give them the keys back. They don’t know how to drive.
Milwaukee, we are not going backwards. That’s the choice we face this fall. Do we want to go back? Or do we want to go forward? I say we want to move forward. America always moves forward. We keep moving forward every day.
Let me say this, Milwaukee. I know these are difficult times. I know folks are worried. I know there’s still a lot of hurt out here. I hear it when I travel around the country. I see it in the letters that I read every night from folks who are looking for a job or lost their home. It breaks my heart, because those are the folks that I got into politics for. You’re the reason I’m here.
And when times are tough, I know it can be easy to give in to cynicism. I know it can be easy to give in to fear and doubt. And you know, it’s easy sometimes for folks to stir up stuff and turn people on each other, and it’s easy to settle for something less, to set our sights a little bit lower.
But I just want everybody here to remember, that’s not who we are. That’s not the country I know. We do not give up. We do not quit. We face down war. We face down depression. We face down great challenges and great threats. We have lit the way for the rest of the world.
Whenever times have seemed at their worst, Americans have been at their best. That’s when we roll up our sleeves. That’s when we remember we rise or fall together – as one nation and as one people. That’s the spirit that started the labor movement, the idea that alone, we may be weak. Divided, we may fall. But we are united, we are strong. That’s why they call them unions. That’s why we call this the United States of America.