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Thank you, General. Thank you all very, very much. Thank you so much. I will have a word more to say about the introducer in just a minute. But thank you all so much for that warm welcome back. Well, I want to thank a lot of people, everybody in this audience. But I think of Alec Courtelis, our campaign's national finance cochairman; Zach Zachariah, who has done a great job as our chairman here in this wonderful State. I don't think it's out of order to salute my Florida chairman, Jeb Bush. [Laughter] And of course, our Florida State chairman, Van Poole, a friend of long, long standing. Mike Bilirakis is not with us, the Congressman; but he and I and Evelyn, his wife, I think she is here, we were at the strawberry festival. I've eaten my second high-calorie dessert in 3 hours. But that was a wonderful occasion. And Senator Hawkins, Paula Hawkins, former Senator, is with us; and of course, Al Austin, who has been at my side in his most unselfish, productive way over and over again. Al, I'm very grateful to you, sir.
Now a quick word about the introducer, Tampa's favorite son, America's hero. Last year, when General Scowcroft -- General Scowcroft, sorry; Brent will be thrilled -- [laughter] -- when General Schwarzkopf commanded the largest allied fighting force since World War II, he earned a lasting place of greatness in the history of our time. There is no question of that place in greatness. It is going to be there. The revisionists can look and figure and debate, but it was a clear, wonderful victory led by an outstanding soldier.
This general led a group of fighting men and women. He has told me, Colin Powell has told me about the merits of these young fighters. They included, incidentally, almost 8,000 Florida reservists and 1,500 Florida guardsmen and thousands more sailors and airmen from the bases around Florida; and of course, the mighty force of Tampa's own central command.
And I am so proud of General Schwarzkopf and all the men and women that he commanded. And they all said, all of us who looked at them say: With your sacrifice, with your courage, with your selfless service, you told the world that the United States of America will never tuck tail and let aggression stand. And you showed that we will do what is right and just, and in so doing we will prevail.
When you and those troops laid it all on the line, the people of this State never wavered. And for this, I want to express to all the people, heck with party, heck with political ideology, all of the people in this State, my profound thanks for this steadfast and loyal support in troubled times. Thank you, Florida, and thank you to the people of Florida. And thank you, most of all, General Schwarzkopf.
Now to the politics at hand. We had a good day yesterday. You may have trouble reading that, but we had a very good day yesterday. [Laughter] Somebody asked me, what does it take to win? And I say to them, I can't remember, what did it take to win the Super Bowl? Or maybe Steinbrenner, my friend George, will tell us what it takes for the Yanks to win: one run. But I went to the strawberry festival this morning and ate a piece of shortcake over there. Able to enjoy it right away. And once I completed it, it didn't have to be approved by Congress, so I just went ahead and ate it. [Laughter] That leads me to what I want to talk to you about today.
We've got a lot to do in these next few months because really we've got a lot to do in the next few years. And I am convinced that together, and I am so grateful for your support, that we can finish what we've started and move this country forward. And to do that, I need your support. Help me win the Presidency for 4 more years. And I ask for your support for the simplest of reasons: I think we believe in the same things, in the same values, the same important things. We know that taxes are too high because our Government is too big and it spends too much.
And we believe in a strong defense. And you listen to the proposals in Washington today. They all have these big, spendthrift political programs. And how are they going to take it? They're going to take it right out of the muscle of the defense of this country, and I am not going to permit that as President of the United States.
We believe in faith and family, responsibility and respect. We believe in community and, of course, country. And we believe there's a place for getting these values back. I happen to believe there's a place for voluntary prayer in our children's classrooms, and I'd like to see it back.
I'm firmly convinced of this, that we put America first when we put America's families first. So often today, politicians can do the easy thing, the popular thing. But it's the tough decisions that tell you something about character and principle. For I believe in things that don't change from one election to the next, things that guide each and every one of us each day of the year. And I believe in things that have led us to a new era in America's history, the important, fundamentally important things. I mentioned family but certainly world peace, certainly jobs.
The cold war is over. And if you want to count your blessings, there's one: The cold war is over, and America won, and the Soviet Union collapsed. The Soviet Union collapsed, and the imperial communism, the communism with outreach, is finished. It's dead all around the world. So, make no mistake about it.
As a result of this tremendous victory in Desert Storm, our credibility as a country has never ever been higher around the world. And it was our leadership that changed the world. And now what I want to do is see us come together, men and women of this great city, all across our country, come together and use that same spirit, that same leadership to change America.
We are changing it by setting right what is simply on the wrong track in our country. Take our courts, for example. When the rights of the criminal are more important than the rights of the victim, that's wrong. And I'm proud of our tough stand on crime, and I'm proud of our judicial appointments, judges who interpret and do not legislate from the Federal bench. And when fathers stop coaching Little League because they're afraid of liability lawsuits, that too is wrong. And so, we've proposed reforms to our court system to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits. I don't want to get into any trouble with the bar association around here, but I once quoted to someone that line, ``An apple a day keeps the doctor away.'' And he said, ``Yeah, well, what works for lawyers?'' [Laughter]
Legal reform will help our legal process work. But, you know the real answer for solving problems is to be more concerned with helping each other than suing each other. That seems to me a fundamental American principle.
Well look, we can't stop there. More than our court system needs reform, like our health care system. This is one of great concern to the people of Florida, not because it doesn't offer the world's best quality health care; it does. I think we'd all agree we are blessed by the best quality health care in the world. We must reform the system because too many people do not have access to insurance. And all Americans deserve quality health care and the sense of well-being that it brings. And too many people worry that they'll lose their insurance if they change jobs or, worse still, if they lose their job. And anybody who's had even minor surgery knows that health care costs are going right through the roof.
Well, you know the problem, but what's the solution? I can tell you what it's not first. It is not to go down the road of nationalized or socialized expensive programs that we hear from the Democratic side. All that means -- you look at those other programs over there -- all that means is long lines and impersonal service. Well, look, you can go down to the department of motor vehicles for that, you don't have to go change the medical system. [Laughter]
So, our approach: Make insurance available to all; keep the quality high, the bureaucracy low; and preserve choice for the patient. The last thing we want and need in this country is for the Government telling you who your doctor is going to be. Health care reform means improving the system, and that is what I'm attempting to do with this new comprehensive health care program that we have now.
There's another system where reform means changing the system, and I'm talking about the welfare system. Let's face it, too often that system perpetuates dependency instead of personal responsibility and the dignity of a job. Too often kids are born into yet another generation of despair; no hope, no dignity, simply another generation of welfare recipients. And we've got to change that. I've asked the Departments and Agencies to make it easier for the State and local governments to promote policies that protect and strengthen families. And we do that through what we call a much more flexible waiver system.
We need to help make families whole, help bring dignity back into their lives, and go after the deadbeat fathers who run out on their kids. That's what we need to be doing in reforming and strengthening the welfare system in this country.
We all know when it gets down to -- certainly it's true now, Al and I were talking about it at lunch, and you can read it in these primary elections across the country -- we all know that the number one issue on the minds of all Americans is the economy and jobs: people worried about providing for their families, meeting the everyday challenges of paying their bills, providing a home, teaching their kids, and setting aside for retirement. People are worried. Those that have a job, white-collar job perhaps, wonder whether they'll have it tomorrow.
The American people want this economy to work. They want it to create, preserve jobs. So in my State of the Union Address, I put forward a two-part plan. And the first part will get business stimulated right now. It would bring confidence back now, upgrading plant and equipment again, hiring workers again. And it uses incentives like the investment tax allowance, rapid depreciation. It calls for Congress to wake up and understand how the real world works and create jobs by cutting the tax on capital gains.
To get housing back on its feet, I unveiled several commonsense proposals to get people buying and building homes. And these proposals will create, in Florida alone, an estimated 26,500 additional housing starts and 51,000 new construction jobs. Perhaps the most easily understood proposal along those lines is a ,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers. And with our plan, young people almost able to buy that first home could do it with that extra ,000 in their pockets. This is good. This is stimulative. This will work. This will restore confidence.
I hate to be critical at a wonderfully nonpartisan lunch like this. But a word about the Democrats' plan: It's a rip-off. I've studied it. I've considered it carefully. It's a rip-off. Listen to the deal: 25 cents a day in temporary tax relief for 2 years for individuals, paid for, typically, by a large permanent tax increase. And over in the Senate, the bill the Democrats are working on is not much better than the one in the House. Its centerpiece is a huge tax increase. And the last thing our economy needs now is a 0 billion tax hike.
And we drew a line in the sand in the Persian Gulf and kept our word. And I'll draw another line in the sand right now. If the Democrats send me a monstrosity like the bill that passed through the House, I will send it right back, vetoing it the day that I get it. We are not going to let that happen to the taxpayer in this country.
And they ought to pass this plan, and pass it soon, to make our country more competitive. And here's the deadline: March 20th, the first day of spring. What a glorious day for some action out of the United States Congress. Just pass the plan, and get this economy moving again. That's my charge to them, and if they don't do it, then we'll have to see what happens after the 20th. But I'll tell you, I think the American people want to say, ``Set politics aside for a minute; pass the President's plan.'' And then they and I can go to general quarters and fight each other all the way to the fall, playing politics. Right now, the American people need action that will stimulate this economy.
There's a broader gauge, the second part of the plan, roadmap to make America competitive in this fast-changing world of ours. Our plan revolutionizes the American education system, none too soon. We've got a brilliant program called America 2000. Doesn't fine-tune, it just revolutionizes the education system in this country. Broad support from the Democratic Governors, Republican Governors alike. I was reading that the average eighth-grader spends 4 times as much time watching TV as doing homework. And that is wrong. And we can help change that by making our education system demand responsibility and demand results.
Our plan will also get the billions of dollars' worth of Government R D, research and development, more quickly into the hands of our private sector businesses and workers. That's the second part of this longer term plan: Get spectacular technological advances off the shelf and into the marketplace. We're turning to the Federal labs now and working partnerships with business to get that genius, that inventive genius in those labs, applied to U.S. commercial technology. Get those advances off the shelf and into the marketplace. And that's going to produce a real return on your tax dollars investment, helping to create new products, helping to create new jobs.
The plan provides tax relief to strengthen the family. We raise the tax deduction for children by 0. And make no mistake about it, I want all of this plan passed now. I want it passed as soon as possible.
Behind all of this is a very important decision for America. To succeed economically at home, we have to lead economically abroad. Some don't want us to lead. Some don't think we can compete. They want us to shut out the rest of the world. Well, those people could not be more wrong. Look over you shoulders to the thirties, to the days of protection and isolation and America first, in that sense. Look what happened to this country. Markets shrunk, and we ended up in the worst depression the world has seen, certainly in modern times.
They couldn't be more wrong. More than 200,000 workers in Florida owe their jobs to manufactured exports. Last year alone, more than billion in exports went out through the Tampa customs district. The way to create jobs here isn't to cut and run. We're not going to do that, ever. The way to create jobs is by opening markets, opening markets for exports everywhere in the world. And I'm going to fight hard in every foreign market to do that, and I'm going to resist -- I don't care about the politics -- I am going to resist the siren's call for protection. It is not good for America. We are the leaders of the world, not in retreat.
And I'm going to fight hard, lastly, in every primary, not for my sake but for America's. I believe fundamentally we're an optimistic people. We saw it after Desert Storm. We saw the country come together, and we were lifted up. And now we're subjected to some tough economic times, and there's some icing on that cake with a lot of gloom and doom over and over again coming out of the political process itself. I believe the American people want to hear about how we're going to address our country's challenges. They want to hear solutions, not just a lot of name-calling and running this country down.
And I might say parenthetically, again without any regard to the primaries, I think we've got to come together as a country to resist the politics of ugliness and hate, racial bigotry and discrimination. We've got to stand against that wherever we are.
So the bottom line is, I need your help. I need your help to keep our party strong, keep it united so we can win this fall. And yes, there are many challenges before us, and I guarantee you we're going to meet them. We are the United States of America. We're going to come out of these rough economic times. We are going to continue to lead the world. And I, as President, am going to continue to see that our national security is second to none around the world.
We're going to meet these challenges, meet them all across the State of Florida from the Panhandle down to the Florida Keys. And yes, there's an important election next week, and then there's another one in November. And I say this, I hope without arrogance: I am confident I am going to win this nomination. And I am confident I am going to win this election because I believe that the values I've touched on here today are the fundamental values of the American people. And I will do my level-best. I will continue to try my hardest in tough times, and I will continue to lead the greatest, freest Nation on the face of the Earth. But I need your support on Tuesday, and I'll need it again in November.
Thank you all, and may God bless our great country.
Note: The President spoke at 1:30 p.m. at the Omni Westshore Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Zach Zachariah, Bush-Quayle financial cochairman for Florida; Jeb Bush, Bush-Quayle chairman for Florida; Van Poole, Florida Republican Party chairman; and Al Austin, chairman of the luncheon.