Thank you all. Please be seated. And Zach, Dr. Zachariah, thank you, sir, for that wonderful introduction, for all you do, and I am very, very grateful to you. I want to thank Father Murphy for his thoughtful invocation; the national finance chairman, you met Bobby Holt; but the national finance cochairman, my old friend Alec Courtelis; and another good longtime friend, Jack Laughery; to our campaign manager in Florida, no nepotism involved, I just chose the best, Jeb Bush. And may I salute one who gives us so much support, gives me so much support in Washington, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Where is she? Right here. And State senator Lincoln Diaz-Balart who we just met over here. Thank you, sir. And Van Poole, our State chairman, where's Van? He's right down here somewhere at the end. I salute him. And, of course, our Dade County chairman, our masterful master of ceremonies, Armando Codina. Thank you, Armando.
It is a pleasure to be here tonight. And we have much to do these next few months because we've much to do in these next few years. Together we can finish what we've started, and we can move this country forward. And to do that, I need your support. Help me win the Presidency for 4 more years. I ask your support for the simplest reason: We believe in the same things, jobs, family, peace, the fundamentally important things. And Zach, thank you for your very kind words about my grasp of and leadership in the field of foreign affairs.
We know that taxes are too high in this country because the Government is too big and it spends too much. And we believe in a strong defense. We believe in family and faith, responsibility and respect, community and country. And we know that we put America first when we put America's families first. The National League of Cities' mayors came to me, and they said the major problem in the cities is the dissolution, the diminution of the American family. And we've got to do something about that.
So often today's politicians do the easy thing, the popular thing. But it's the tough decisions that tell you something important about character and principle. For I believe in things that don't change from one election to the next, things that guide each one of us every single day of the year.
During my Presidency I've been blessed to take part in a new era in America's history. And let's face it, my friends, the cold war is over, and America won. And we are the leader of the entire world. And the Soviet Union collapsed, and imperial communism is dead.
Last week marked a special birthday, the battle of Grito de Baire in Cuba's war of independence. We support independence. We want freedom and prosperity for the Cuban people and an end to Castro's totalitarian regime. But look around the world. Castro has become an outcast even among the dictators. And his beaches are not borders, they're the confines of freedom. For years, the Cuban community -- and I salute Jorge Mas and so many others here tonight -- the Cuban community has energized Miami. And someday freedom-loving people will change that island for the better, just like America has changed the world. It's going to happen. You can bet on it. It is inevitable.
And now tonight, I want to talk about how Republican leadership is changing America. We're changing it by setting right what is simply on the wrong track in our country.
Take our courts, for example. There's something wrong when the rights of the criminal are more important than the rights of the victim. And I am proud of our tough stand on crime, although if Congress passed my crime bill, we could be doing a lot better. We could be a lot tougher. And I'm proud of our judicial appointments, judges who interpret and do not legislate from the Federal bench.
And there are other things that are wrong. When kids can't say a voluntary prayer in school or when fathers stop coaching Little League because they're afraid of liability suits, that too is wrong, and the same when people stop volunteering to help each other because they fear ambulance-chasers. This isn't the America we want. This isn't the way it's supposed to be, all these lawsuits out there. These days a sharp lawyer would tell the Good Samaritan, ``Keep on walking.'' I want to change that, so I've proposed reforms to our system to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits.
Now, I don't want to get in trouble with the Bar Association, but I once quoted to someone that line, ``An apple a day keeps the doctor away.'' And he said, ``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. We're going to try to correct that from this legal reform bill I have before the Congress.
Can't stop there though, not until we reform our health care system. Not because it doesn't offer the world's highest quality of health care; it does. I think everybody would agree on that. But we've got to reform it because too many people simply don't have access to health insurance. 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 through the roof.
What's the solution? Not to go down the road of socialized medicine. All that means is long lines and impersonal service. And as I said at lunch, we can get that, long lines, impersonal service, at the department of motor vehicles. [Laughter] My idea, and we've got a good plan to do this, is to make insurance available to all, rich and poor alike, availability, keep the quality high, the bureaucracy low, and preserve choice. The last thing we want is the Government assigning you a doctor.
And I want you to know I'd written this before I knew there were going to be 200 doctors here tonight. [Laughter] But since I have your attention, I have an ache in my shoulder and a small headache, and I'd like to know what to do about it. [Laughter]
Health care reform means improving the system. And there's another area where reform means changing the system. And I'm talking about welfare. Let's face it: Too often welfare encourages dependency instead of personal responsibility and the dignity of a job. And so we've asked all the Departments and Agencies to make it easier through the waiver process for State and local government to reform policies and help broken families. We need to help make families whole, help bring dignity back into their lives. And yes, that means going after the deadbeat fathers who run out on their children and leave some struggling mother to take care of the responsibility.
There are so many issues out here. But this leads me, then, to the number one issue on the minds of all Americans: the economy, jobs. People out of jobs are looking for jobs, people who have jobs are worried they might lose it tomorrow, worried about their jobs, providing for their families, meeting the challenges of paying the bills, buying a home, setting aside for retirement.
The American people want this economy to grow, to create and preserve jobs. So in January, some of you may remember it in the State of the Union, I unveiled a two-part plan. The first part gets business moving again, upgrading plant and equipment, hiring workers again. It uses incentives like an investment tax allowance that speeds up the depreciation, calls for Congress to wake up and understand how jobs are created and to cut the tax on capital gains which will create a lot of new small business jobs.
Housing and real estate have led us out of recessions in slow times before. So to get housing back on its feet I unveiled several commonsense proposals to get people buying and building homes. These proposals will create in Florida alone an estimated 26,500 additional housing starts and 51,000 new construction jobs. Now, perhaps the most easily understood proposal is a ,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers, that young family together that needs just a little more to own their first home. People almost able to buy that first home could do it with that extra ,000 in their pocket.
Two hundred and three years ago on this very date the United States Congress met for the first time, this very date 203 years ago. I wonder what they would think today about the House Democrats' so-called plan. Here's the deal: 25 cents a day in temporary tax relief for 2 years, paid for, typical of them, by a large permanent tax increase. Now, over in the Senate, the bill the Democrats are working on is not much better than the one that's in the House. And its centerpiece is a huge tax increase. The last thing our economy needs now is a 0 billion tax hike, and they are not going to get it.
Zach alluded to this, we drew a line in the sand in the Persian Gulf, and we kept our word. So I'll draw another line in the sand right now. If the Democrats send me nonsense like the bill passed through the House, I will send it right back. I will veto it the minute it hits my desk. We are not going to inflict this on the American people. Instead of their crazy political maneuvers, Congress ought to pass my plan to make America more competitive. Here's the deadline: March 20th, the first day of spring. Here's the challenge: Give American workers a spring break. No more games. No more empty gestures. Just pass my plan, and get this economy moving.
Some question the need to act now. Well, let me repeat the story of a little boy who asked why his friend's grandmother read the Bible so much. ``I'm not sure,'' said his friend, ``but I think it's because she's cramming for her finals.'' Urgency counts in any world. And so I'm asking Congress to also pass the second part of my plan this year. It's a roadmap to make us competitive.
Our plan revolutionizes America's education system. I was reading that the average eighth grader spends 4 times as much of his time watching TV as doing homework. TV should not be America's babysitter. We can change that by making our schools accountable and demand excellence. Our plan will get the billions of dollars of Government research and development more quickly to private sector businesses and workers. Good education, and then use our know-how to move our technology from the Government labs out into the competitive world.
We have a commitment to children and strong families, and our plan provides tax relief to strengthen the family. We want to raise the tax deduction for children by 0. Make no mistake, I want this entire plan passed this year. I want it passed now.
Behind all of this is an idea vital to America: To succeed economically at home, we have to lead economically abroad. Zach put his finger on the importance of America's leadership around the world. Some don't want us to lead. They think we ought to just shut out the rest of the world. And they're dead wrong. More than 200,000 jobs in Florida stem from manufactured exports. And last year, more than billion in exports went out through the Miami customs district.
You know that the way to create jobs is not to cut and run, not to pull back in some isolationistic sphere of protection; rather to open markets for our exports everywhere in the world. And I am going to fight hard in every foreign market to do just that. It is exports that have saved us in these rough times, and it is exports that will lead us into the most prosperous decade that lies ahead. And it's working. Our overall trade imbalance is down. Look at the figures. In 1988 the trade deficit stood at 9 billion. Today it's dropped to billion, a 44-percent drop in that relatively short period of time.
Now, I believe the American people want to hear about how we're going to address all these challenges, our country's challenges. And they want to hear solutions, not just a lot of tearing this country down and telling America how bad everything is. We have an awful lot to be grateful for in this country. They want to hear about the solutions that will keep inflation low, get our confidence high, protect the savings of our elderly. Solutions that will win the war on drugs, and we are making great headway. And I salute Miami's heroic efforts in this battle against narcotics. We are winning. Witness the massive seizure of drugs in south Florida over the past several months. Witness the fact that drug use amongst teenagers is down by 60 percent in the last couple of years.
We've got a lot to do in this country, and a lot to do. But I am absolutely confident that we will get the job done. And I'm going to fight hard in the Florida primary for these people, fight for what is right and good. I saw, in the 8 years my friend Ronald Reagan led America, how leadership matters. Last year, as Zach mentioned, we saw America stand tall again in the Persian Gulf. And I believe the next 5 years are just too important to entrust to the inexperienced. So I ask for your help to keep our party strong, united so that we can win this fall.
And yes, we have many challenges before us. But when haven't we? We're America. We're on the move. We're a country of change. And I guarantee you, we will meet every single challenge, each and every one of them, and meet them from the great Panhandle to the tip of the Florida Keys.
And yes, there's an important primary next Tuesday, and then there's another election in November. And I guarantee you, I have never felt more confident about winning the primary and winning the general election. I've got to be a little careful; my mother's living up the coast here in Florida, so I've got to be careful. But I think I've been a good President, and I want to be your President for another 4 years. And I will give you my level-best and work my heart out for the greatest, freest country on the face of the Earth.
Thank you, and may God bless America. Thank you all very, very much. What a great evening and a great day in Florida.
Note: The President spoke at 8:30 p.m. in the East Hall of the Radisson Mart Plaza Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Zach Zachariah, Bush-Quayle financial cochairman for Florida, and Van Poole, Florida Republican Party chairman. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.