[While I refuse to be dragged into the horse race aspect of the 2008 Presidential campaign so early, I would like to offer a ready-made stump speech for any candidate to use in order to get my vote. My humble guess is using this speech would win quite a number of other voters over as well.]
My name is [candidate's name] and I want to convince you I'm the best candidate running for President of the United States.
I want to change the way America votes for presidential candidates. I don't want America to vote for me because I'm the cutest one, or the most charismatic, or have the flashiest outfit. I don't want you to vote for me because I kissed your baby, ate your corn dogs at your county fair, or because I'm the [guy/gal] you'd most like to have a beer with. I don't want you to vote for me because some loud media type on television or radio told you to vote for me. I don't want you to vote for me because some "expert" tells you I'm "winning the horse race." I don't want you to vote for me because I gave some poetic and flowery speech about Mom, apple pie, and a chicken in every pot, without giving you any details about what I stand for. And I most especially don't want you to vote for me because you're voting against the other candidate.
I think you're smarter than all of that. I think you're smart enough to hear what I would do as President and then make up your own mind to vote for me. Wouldn't you like to vote for someone again, instead of always choosing the lesser of two evils? Most of the other candidates in this race don't want you to hear this. They all want you to listen to their handlers, their spin doctors, and their friendly media to explain to you why they would be the best candidate. I reject that approach fully. I want to personally explain to you exactly what I stand for. That's because I trust you to make up your own mind.
To begin with, I'd like to admit that I am a liberal. I can hear some of you gasp. That word has been stolen from Democrats and redefined by radical right wing Republicans to be an ugly, almost profane word. They've succeeded in making it such an ugly word that some shy away from even using the whole word. But I proudly stand before you not as an "L-word," but as a liberal. I aim to take this word back, and remind America that liberal values are their values, too. Liberals have given this country so much that we now take for granted, and along the way we've forgotten that liberal values are mainstream American values.
Liberals gave this country a 40-hour work week, paid vacations, workman's compensation, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, a clean environment, an end to child labor, and a minimum wage, and I do not apologize for any of that. And don't forget that conservatives fought each and every one of these progressive ideas, but liberals fought back and made them law. Conservatives told America that these ideas would destroy the American economy, and they're still using the same language today, even though they've always been wrong in the past. But if you value these ideas, then you also may be a liberal and not even know it! The next time someone tries to make the word "liberal" sound like profanity, stand up and tell them, "I stand for the liberal values that have helped millions of Americans work for an honest wage without being exploited by giant corporations. How can you be against that?"
But I am not running on liberal accomplishments of the past. I am running to restore liberal values for the future of this country. I will do this by ending the class warfare the elitists of the far right have been waging on the middle class of this country. That's right -- I said "class warfare." The extreme right wing of this country has been successfully waging this class warfare since the 1980s... and as a result the ultra-wealthy are winning, big time. They've got the media so hoodwinked that every time a progressive politician tries to halt this massive transfer of fiscal responsibility from the rich to the middle class in this country, the right-wingers yell "Class warfare!" and the media goes along with it. Even pointing out the fact that the obscenely rich are getting richer is somehow "waging class warfare" to these types. I strongly disagree! I say that middle America is losing this class warfare, and I aim to change that by fighting for the middle class for a change. I want working men and women of this country to start winning the class warfare by forcing the Paris Hiltons of this world to start paying their fair share once again.
Now, I can already hear the other side screaming "tax-and-spend liberal!" But I promise that when I reform the tax structure, I will not raise taxes on anyone making less than $90,000 a year. Let me repeat that, so that everyone hears it loud and clear: I will not raise your taxes if you make less than $90,000 a year, or $180,000 a year for married couples. So when the right wing cranks up their misinformation machine and starts lying to you that I want to raise middle class taxes, you can say you heard it here first: I will not raise middle-class taxes.
Why would I raise middle class taxes? The whole point of my tax reform is to help the middle class, not hurt them.
Here's something else that will shock the partisans on the right: I want a flat tax structure for all income, no matter how it comes into your pocket. Again, I can hear some of you gasp, so please allow me to explain that. When the radical right calls for a "flat tax," what they really mean is two things: taking away your home mortgage deduction, and lowering Paris Hilton's tax rate so she only pays the same tax rate as a hardworking police officer or firefighter. That's not what I'm for. I'm for keeping the mortgage deduction, because it allows so many working Americans to afford a home. And I'm for flat-out treating all income the same. Right now, if you make your money as a salary working for a company, you pay almost twice the taxes you would if you had made that money buying and selling stocks. You heard that right -- the extremely wealthy (who make almost all their money from buying and trading and selling) pay HALF the taxes on their income as they would if they had made that same amount of money by putting in an honest day's work. In other words, Uncle Sam taxes your paycheck twice as much as if you had made the money on the stock market.
I think that's wrong. I think it needs to end. I think a billionaire making money with a phone call to his broker needs to pay the same taxes a working American pays. I think most of you probably agree that's a fair way to run things. But that's not the world the Republicans have given us.
Again, my opponents on the right will scream about "raising taxes," but I consider it making the fat cats pay the same as hardworking Americans pay. The top income earners in this country have already had their income tax rate cut in half from what they paid in 1980, and I think that's enough of a tax break -- I don't think they need their taxes cut 75%, I think they'll do just fine by only paying 50% of what they paid in the 1970s.
Next, I am in favor of raising the estate tax exemption to ten million dollars, but keeping it just as it is for inheritances over ten million dollars. I think that's fair, and I think you'll agree, once you see through the smokescreen Republicans have thrown up over the issue. The right wing has been frothing at the mouth over this so-called "death tax" for years, and their argument has always been that it hurts family farms and small businesses. But in all that time, they have yet to find a single family farm that had to get sold to pay this tax. It wasn't for lack of looking, either -- they really wanted to find a poster child for their insane idea of completely eliminating this tax. They looked and looked, and they couldn't find one person who fit their warped view of the facts.
That's because they're not being honest with you. This isn't about the family farm, and it isn't about small businesses. It's about Paris Hilton. They'll tell you this money is being "taxed twice," when it isn't. Think about it -- if your father buys $10,000 of stock and keeps it his whole life until it's worth twenty million dollars, then leaves it to you when he dies -- how has that twenty million dollars ever been taxed? I think that instead of inheriting twenty million tax-free dollars, that asking you to only inherit fifteen million is pretty fair. And I'll tell you, asking a child lucky enough to be born into a rich family to settle for a $50 billion inheritance instead of $100 billion doesn't cause me to lose sleep at night at all.
The estate tax was created in the era of the monopolists at the beginning of the 20th century, to avoid creating an American aristocracy -- one with 99% of the wealth and power of this country in the hands of the children and grandchildren of the ultra-wealthy. And you know what? I think that's a good thing for this country as a whole. It's not like you see any Rockefellers or Carnegies or Stanfords out on the street today, begging for spare change because the estate tax has left them penniless. Remember, under my plan, the first ten million dollars you inherit from anyone will be 100% tax free. You will pay no estate taxes at all on that first 10 million dollars. You will only pay the estate tax on anything over that. I think that's fair, and I think you'll agree with me.
The last tax proposal I have is to "save Social Security." We can do this without raising the tax rate, without reducing your benefits, and without forcing you to work until you are 70. And (of course), without destroying the system by privatizing it. The way to do this, again, is to make Social Security taxes a flat and fair tax. We'd even save so much money that we could give over 90% of Americans a tax cut at the same time.
Here's how we work this miracle: Tax every single dollar in an American paycheck at a flat six percent. This gives everyone making under $90,000 a year a small tax cut. Your take-home pay will be a little bigger, and we'll still save the system. The extra money comes from everyone making over $90,000 -- who right now pays no Social Security tax at all on this money. That's right -- if you're a CEO or a Chairman of the Board, when your pay goes over $90,000 every year, you don't have to pay any more Social Security taxes for the rest of the year. So while 94 percent of working Americans pay a flat 6.2 percent tax on every dollar they make, someone making a million dollars a year pays about one half of one percent in tax on their income. And the more you make, the smaller that percentage gets.
This is not fair. Your family pays 6.2 percent and the owner of your company pays less than half of one percent. All I'm asking is that the CEOs and other millionaires start paying the same percentage as every other American worker. And because this will bring in so much money, we can afford to give everyone a tax cut by lowering the rate for everyone from 6.2 to a flat 6.0 percent.
We need to move America forward, and fix the financial mess that the Republicans have left for us and for future generations. We need to get back to Democratic surpluses, and away from Republican deficits. We can do this by making everyone pay their fair share, without affecting your income taxes by one dime. The way to do it is to tax all income the same, tax the inheritances of the elites, and make the CEOs pay the same Social Security taxes you pay. I promise you I will turn around the class warfare that is being waged so successfully on the middle class. I want the American middle class to start growing again, instead of being squeezed out of existence. I think you'll agree with me, and with my plans to end this situation.
But getting our domestic policy house in order is only half of the picture. We also need to rebuild America's image in the eyes of the rest of the world. Sadly, the image of America as a moral country with universally-admired values has been severely tarnished and corroded by President Bush. Sure, Bush gives the concept lip service, by repeating "freedom" and "liberty" and "democracy" in almost every speech he gives. But just saying the words doesn't mean anything if you can't also show -- by your actions -- that you truly do believe in freedom and liberty and democracy and justice for all.
Torture is not and should never be an "American value." Kidnapping people and sending them to secret prisons to be tortured is not an "American value." Throwing someone in prison for years without being able to question in court why they are being held is not an "American value." Listening in to phone calls of private citizens without a warrant issued by a judge is not an "American value." And most importantly, sending more American soldiers to die in a war, against the advice of the generals on the ground, for political reasons only is definitely not an "American value."
I have different values. I have real American values, that tell me these things are wrong. Some will try to use these words against me to call me "soft on terrorism," but I deny those charges strongly. I think we can find terrorists and listen to their phone calls just fine by following existing law and getting a judge's approval. This is not "coddling terrorists," this is the American legal system of checks and balances. I do not believe the President of the United States should be above the law, because I trust America's judges to understand the dangers of terrorism, too. I trust the judges to allow the use of the full might of our intelligence services against the scourge of terrorism. I trust these judges to issue warrants promptly, as they are legally needed. And I think we can fight and win against terrorists while still doing so. My detractors apparently don't trust American judges to do what is right. I do. That is the difference which divides us. I trust the Constitution. They, apparently, don't.
The biggest problem facing America right now is what to do in Iraq. George Bush's incompetence has led this country into the biggest quagmire since Vietnam. His only strategy is "winning," which he apparently defines as: "keeping troops in Iraq until the next President takes over." I don't call that "winning," I call that playing politics with American soldiers' lives. I call it passing the buck for political reasons. And that is despicable. That an American President could care more about having the end of a failed war happen on someone else's watch than he does about the safety and lives of American fighting men and women is absolutely and completely despicable.
We need to start our inevitable withdrawal from Iraq now. We need to move all of our troops out of harm's way as soon as is safely and militarily possible. John Kerry asked of the Vietnam War, "How can you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" and the same exact sentiment needs to be repeated today. This war is George Bush's mistake. History will judge George Bush as one of the worst presidents in American history for making this mistake, and for waging this war in an incompetent manner from the beginning. It matters not under whose administration the last American troops leave Iraq, because history will accurately lay the blame for this war at the feet of George W. Bush. Since this is inevitable, I call on President Bush to swallow his ego and his stubbornness, and begin withdrawing our brave troops immediately.
Can you imagine where we would be now if the half-trillion dollars spent on Iraq had been used to free America from oil? Imagine a future where tribal wars in the Middle East would not affect our energy independence. Imagine using the brilliance of American science to come up with solutions to free us from foreign oil. I believe we can and should do this. President Bush makes nice speeches about it, but trusting the two oil men in the White House has not freed us from foreign oil, it has only led us to being militarily pinned down in the most volatile region in the world. We can do better than that.
America can have a great future, both at home and abroad, if we make the right choices now. I want to hear from fellow Americans that they are able to travel the world once again with their heads held high. I want the rest of the world to look up to America and her ideals once again, instead of holding us in contempt for George Bush's hypocrisy. When the President of the United States speaks of "freedom" and "liberty," I want the rest of the world to believe we know the true definition of these words. I want to protect the hardworking American middle class from having to bear the lion's share of funding our government. I want to give the middle class a chance to grow, and be the envy of the world once again. I firmly believe in these ideals, and invite you to vote for me if you share them.
Thank you. Together we can make America shine again. Vote for me to remove the tarnish George W. Bush has put on our great country, and I promise I will spend every day I am in office doing just that.
[I have obviously left some things out here. Some things I left out because I expect Nancy Pelosi to enact them into law before the campaign gets rolling (a minimum wage raise, for example), and some I left out due to limitations of space (like healthcare). What issues would you include in such a speech? Feel free to suggest additional paragraphs for your ideal candidate....]