FridayTalkingPoints.com

Friday Talking Points -- How About A Little Economic Good News?

[ Posted Friday, December 3rd, 2021 – 17:29 UTC ]

Democrats, as a whole, are pretty bad about messaging. Every so often a brilliant orator breaks this mold (Bill Clinton, Barack Obama) by displaying an ease of communicating with average Americans on a relatable level while still clearly getting their point across. But for the most part, Democratic politicians struggle to master what should be a basic political artform. This problem shows up in an acute way when the subject is the economy. Democrats perpetually shy away from touting economic gains because they fear sounding "out of touch" with the people out there who are still struggling. Republicans, on the other hand, never worry about this at all -- they tout their own successes as a never-before-seen golden age of economic bliss, no matter what is actually going on around kitchen tables across the country. The GOP hammers home this "things are great!" message so effectively that a lot of people start thinking positively about the future even if their own circumstances haven't changed (or have actually gotten worse). Democrats never tap into this inherent optimism because they're always worried that someone somewhere is going to react negatively to hearing some positive news.

President Joe Biden is trying to break through on the subject, but with very limited success. The indicators are mixed. The public is rightfully worried about inflation and high prices. The price of gasoline most especially, mostly because (unlike every other commodity consumers purchase) it is advertised on giant signs in every neighborhood that scream what today's price is every time you drive by them. You can't escape it, and if you have to drive for your life and work, you know you are at the mercy of the oil companies.

But Biden isn't facing some sort of economic meltdown. Far from it, in fact. The real uncertainty in the economy is directly tied to the ongoing worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. The news of a new variant (before it was even dubbed Omicron) caused a major drop in stock prices. We still don't know what the ripple effects will be, and we're only now just beginning to recover from the Delta downturn. So the short-term outlook is: "Reply hazy, ask again later."

Nevertheless, Biden should not wait but instead remind people that things aren't as bad as cable news might make them seem. As mentioned, Biden is indeed trying to do this -- he gave a great speech this week that we're going to excerpt heavily later on, in fact -- but other Democrats need to also start singing from the same songbook. So here is our template for what Democrats should start saying about the state of the economy:

COVID caused over 20 million American jobs to be lost at the very start of the pandemic. Since then, those jobs have been steadily coming back. President Joe Biden has seen more jobs added in his first year in office than any president in American history. When he took office, we were still 10 million jobs down from where we were before the crisis struck. That gap is now below 4 million and it continues to steadily shrink. That is a big difference, folks!

The jobs report just released showed that 1.1 million Americans started new jobs last month. More people are working again -- the workforce is growing. When Biden took office, unemployment stood at 6.7 percent. In the last year, we have seen progress on this front that, during the last economic turndown, took three-and-a-half years to achieve. Last month alone unemployment dropped from 4.6 percent to 4.2 percent -- an incredible gain for just a single month. In November, we saw the lowest weekly number of people filing for unemployment since 1969. The unemployment rate should hit the pre-pandemic low of 3.5 percent sometime early next year, at this rate. That is an astonishingly fast turnaround -- nowhere near as slow as the Great Recession.

This is because the economy is actually booming. We have supply chain issues because so many people are buying so much stuff. This has also introduced some temporary inflation -- again, because of the incredible demand out there. But economists are predicting we will see 7 or even 8 percent economic growth this quarter, up from a little over 2 percent last quarter (due mostly to the Delta wave). That is a strong economy indeed. And we are confident that inflation pressures will ease soon, as well.

The job market is booming, too. Jobs are plentiful, and pay is going up as employers are forced to compete with each other to hire good workers. That means bigger paychecks for American families. For the first time in a very long time, workers actually have the upper hand -- they don't have to accept any job offered, because they have so many options available. That is something to celebrate indeed.

Gas prices are finally beginning to come down as well, and are expected to fall even faster in the upcoming weeks. The supply chain bottlenecks are improving across the board, and the major retailers are confident that shelves will be stocked for the entire holiday shopping season. That is good news for consumers.

As always, there are challenges that will need to be overcome, but if you step back and look at the big picture, it actually looks pretty good right now. For all the doom and gloom you hear from some in the media, things are dramatically better now than they were one year ago. We may see further setbacks if the Omicron variant becomes dominant, but we are much better positioned to fight this off than we were even at the start of the Delta wave. More people are vaccinated and booster shots are being given out by the millions. With more and more of the public fully protected, perhaps Omicron and future variants will simply not have the same negative impact the earlier waves did. That is definitely something to look forward to.

Democrats are not done, either. According to one analysis -- of just a few of the elements of the bill, not even counting all the rest of it -- Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan would give average families (with two parents and two kids) a benefit of $7,400 a year. A single mom with two kids would see a whopping $15,000 benefit each and every year. That is what Democrats are fighting for and it is what Republicans swear they'll vote against. So when you hear them squawking about high prices, please keep in mind that they're against making things easier for average families.

Democrats have to start painting a vivid picture that things are actually pretty good and that they're going to get even better in the near future. This is all backed up by data, it is not some rosy-tinted viewpoint. But it has to be said. The public may feel pessimistic right now, but the only way to change that outlook is to make your case. Reminding people that things are nowhere near as bad as they could be -- and nowhere near as bad as they were, just a short time ago -- can indeed change people's minds. Republicans certainly know this -- they are never shy about saying everything is wonderful. Because they know it can change attitudes. They never worry about being seen as "out of touch," instead they accuse others (Democrats, the media) of the ones who are out of touch. Democrats really need to learn this lesson if their (and Biden's) poll numbers are ever going to improve.

Moving on from the economy (more about it later, in the Talking Points), there was one other major political story this week, but it didn't directly involve Joe Biden or Congress. The Supreme Court heard a case on a Mississippi abortion law that could mean the end of Roe v. Wade. After hearing the questioning, most observers concluded that it is really only a question of whether Roe will be entirely overturned or just weakened so much that individual states will be able to essentially regulate it out of existence.

This is a major development, but it took no one by surprise. This is the end result of at least four decades of Republicans caring a lot more about judicial appointments as a political issue than Democrats, plain and simple. Imagine where we would be today if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency in 2016, for instance. We would have at least a 5-4 majority on the court, and perhaps even six liberal justices. Cases like this one attacking Roe wouldn't even be considered. It'd be a completely different world, both for the court and federal law and for the politics behind it all.

Instead, of course, we have six conservative justices, which means even John Roberts (who is often a moderating influence) is completely irrelevant if the other five decide the time is ripe to overturn Roe completely. We wrote about this in detail twice this week (first examining the political consequences of a decision like this coming out in June of a midterm election year and then a second article exploring what could possibly be done to ensure American women have the right to choose no matter what state they live in), in case anyone's interested.

Also in the political sphere was the big pandemic news -- the Omicron variant was given an official name (we're all very slowly now learning the Greek alphabet, it seems) and it was then hyped beyond belief on every television screen tuned into a news program.

Now, it certainly did get a rather ominous-sounding name, we have to admit. "Omicron" kind of sounds like a 1960s-era James Bond villain, after all. But the key to keep in mind is that nobody knows how bad it will be right now. It could become the dominant strain of the COVID-19 virus (as happened with Delta) or it could fizzle (as Mu did). It could be more transmissible and deadly, or it could not. Nobody knows. Nobody is going to know this for at least another week or so, because science is not magic and takes time. Please bear this in mind when listening to the breathless panic-inducing news media reports until the science does provide some answers. So far, as Joe Biden put it, it is a matter of concern, but not one to panic over.

In the House of Representatives, we really should have seen a spate of "Republicans In Disarray" articles in the media, but of course that is never going to happen (such headlines are apparently reserved only for Democrats). A vicious insult fight began with one GOP member cracking jokes about Democrat Ilhan Omar -- you know, yukking it up over how because she's a Muslim she's part of a "Jihad Squad" and would likely have a backpack of explosives inside the U.S. Capitol. Fun stuff like that.

Omar took umbrage (as she was fully entitled to) and the whole thing became a big issue (it still is -- over 40 Democrats are now calling for Lauren Boebert to lose her committee assignments over the slur), but then an interesting thing happened. A decent and moral Republican House member (we know -- we were shocked too, we thought they were extinct...) objected strenuously to such hate-filled and violent rhetoric from a member of her own party. As Nancy Mace put it to CNN, she had previously condemned colleagues on "both sides of the aisle for racist tropes and remarks I found disgusting -- and this is no different than any others." That's an amazingly consistent moral position for a Republican these days to express, obviously. Of course, she was immediately attacked for it by the extremist faction within the House GOP. Which Mace replied to, with a rather amusing collection of emojis.

Kevin McCarthy, the titular leader of the House Republicans, proved beyond a shadow of a doubt (once again) that he has no moral compass whatsoever. Or, for that matter, a spine. He has refused to denounce the anti-Muslim comments of one of his own members, and instead just tried to convince everyone to not attack fellow Republicans in closed-door meetings. These meetings didn't work. McCarthy took no disciplinary action against Boebert, showing once again how cowardly he is towards the most extreme voices within his party.

This does not bode well, should the Republicans win back control of the House in the midterms. If Kevin McCarthy becomes speaker, he's going to remain a captive of the most extreme members of the GOP -- and these days, that's really saying something. Look for such "eating their own" fights within Republican ranks from now on, folks, because McCarthy is obviously completely incapable of disciplining anyone in his own ranks.

Perhaps this is why several prominent Republican moderates have decided against running for the Senate next year. Candidates in both Vermont and New Hampshire who may have been able to easily flip two Democratic seats have both decided to sit this one out. It's hard to blame them, when you see what the GOP congressional dynamic is right now. Even "disarray" is putting it politely.

Instead, they'll have to settle for accused wife-beaters and television quack doctors who push miracle cures as Senate candidates instead.

You'd think this would generate at least a few "Republicans In Disarray" headlines, but sadly you would be wrong about that.

 

Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

President Joe Biden gave a rather impressive speech this week, even if it didn't get much of an audience. But we're going to highlight it in the Talking Points section, so instead we're going to hand this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Schumer didn't have a great week, mind you, but it also wasn't a complete disaster. The military appropriations bill hit a snag (it was supposed to get a vote midweek) but Schumer did successfully pass a continuing resolution which will avoid a government shutdown tonight and he did so a whole day early. These days, that's more impressive than it sounds.

On both measures, the GOP did what it does best -- mindlessly obstruct. But since nobody really wanted a government shutdown (at least, nobody sane -- a few Republicans were actually cheering for it, of course), Schumer was able to strike a deal with Mitch McConnell to pass the budget with a whole day to spare before the looming government shutdown. This might also bode well for smoothly increasing the debt limit, which also has to be accomplished this month (McConnell has very quietly been in behind-the-scenes talks with Schumer to strike a deal on the debt limit, reportedly).

In any case, the upshot was that the petulant Republicans who were demanding a vote (an "anti-mandate" vote) got what they asked for, and their measure failed 48-50 (two Republicans didn't even show up for the vote). Which allowed the continuing resolution to pass with a healthy (and bipartisan) 69-28 majority. Earlier, it had passed the House with a much more partisan vote of 221-212 (Adam Kinzinger was the only Republican to cross the aisle and vote for it).

This represents the basic duty of Congress -- to keep the lights on and a budget in place. And the can was only kicked down the road to February, so it's really not all that impressive in and of itself. But the fact that the shutdown was averted was.

December is going to be a critical month for all sorts of legislation, so while (as we mentioned) it wasn't all that stellar a week for Schumer and his Democrats, it was impressive enough. Just imagine all the finger-pointing and bloviating which would have taken place if the government had shut down -- and which will now not happen.

So we have to hand the MIDOTW award to Chuck Schumer, for keeping the lights on once again, even in the face of GOP recalcitrance. The outcome was messy, as usual, but a whole lot better than the alternative.

[Congratulate Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

We're rather lukewarm in this award category as well, this week. No Democrat was completely and utterly disappointing, so almost by default we are going to award this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to Senator Joe Manchin.

Schumer struck the deal with the Republicans to allow them to propose their anti-mandate amendment to the bill, expecting it to fail. But Manchin just had to insert himself into the middle of this drama by hinting that he might just cross the aisle and vote with the Republicans:

In allowing a vote on an amendment, Senate leaders ultimately put an end to the political stalemate. But that option for hours appeared shrouded in its own political uncertainty, after Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) unexpectedly expressed an openness to supporting the proposal. Even though he opposed a similar vote this fall, it occurred before the president announced his vaccine and testing policies targeting private businesses.

"I've been very supportive of a mandate for federal government, for military, for all the people who work on a government payroll," Manchin said. "I've been less enthused about it in the private sector. So we're working through all that."

Manchin, however, ultimately voted against Republicans' proposal, which targeted some of the vaccine policies he did support.

In the end, as he usually does, Manchin voted with the Democrats. But not before he had made a little tempest in a teapot just to see his name in the news once again. This is really nothing short of political grandstanding for the sake of grandstanding.

Which is why he's getting this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award -- just for being Joe Manchin, essentially.

[Contact Senator Joe Manchin on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 643 (12/3/21)

Instead of our weekly discrete talking points, we are going to provide major portions of a speech President Biden gave this Wednesday. Mostly because it shows that Biden is indeed trying to tout his own successes while still addressing current and future challenges, but also because he seems to finally be placing a lot of the blame exactly where it belongs: at the feet of the Republicans. His Build Back Better agenda has many good things in it which can very effectively be used in this fashion against the GOP. None of them will vote for any of this stuff, and it's time Democrats started making that political case. In fact, some Republicans are even openly celebrating bad economic indicators as being helpful to their party -- an astonishing display of "party before country," but one that needs pointing out for the public to even hear about it.

This week, Biden's official Twitter account posted what is possibly his most pointed tweet yet, and it also deserves a lot more attention that it is now getting. Here's the tweet:

One Republican Senator said that rising prices were "a gold mine" for Republicans politically.

Imagine rooting for higher costs for American families just to score a few political points.

That's nowhere near as bad as pretty much any random tweet from the previous president, of course, but it certainly makes a point. Republicans want Americans to pay more just to help them out politically.

Biden goes out of his way to make this point more explicitly in his speech. But unfortunately, few saw this speech and few news organizations reported anything at all about it. The one line that did become a soundbite had nothing to do with the speech itself, it was just a bit of throwaway snark at the very end. Biden was asked, as his final question, about Donald Trump testing positive for COVID three days before a debate was held. Biden's response to: "Do you think the former president put you at risk?" was the snappy comeback: "I don't think about the former president. Thank you." Biden then figuratively dropped the mic and walked off the stage.

This was amusing, to be sure, but there was so much else said in this speech that really deserves more attention. We said it before Thanksgiving and we'll say it again: Joe Biden should schedule a primetime address to the nation some time this month, and make his case to the American people. He could do this in a few weeks, when we start getting hard scientific evidence about the virulence of the Omicron variant -- that would be an excellent reason to give such a prominent address.

Biden needs to reassure the country and make his own case of where we currently are and what is going to happen in the near future. He will have a formal opportunity to do so at the end of January, in his first official State Of The Union speech, but he shouldn't wait two months to get out there in front of the cameras.

Again, this was a very good speech from the president. The problem is it only really reached politically wonky people (such as ourselves) and gained zero traction with the public at large. Which is why we chose to highlight it this week. We would love to hear Biden give this speech -- or one very close to it -- to the whole nation soon, not just the people who can tune in midday on a Wednesday.

[Editor's Note: This is all from the official White House transcript, which includes verbal stumbles (which are sometimes edited out in journalism, but we left them untouched). Also, because this speech was given earlier in the week, Biden quoted the "4.6 percent" figure for unemployment -- not today's good news that it is down to 4.2 percent.]

 

Remarks By President Biden On The Nation's Supply Chains

[W]e are looking ahead to a brighter and happier December with an economy markedly stronger than it was last year.

It's been a tough couple of years, but we've made incredible progress. And, today, I'd like to speak about some of the steps we're taking to address challenges in the economy and how those actions are already starting to pay off for American families.

. . .

If you've watched the news recently, you might think the shelves in all our stores are empty across the country, that parents won't be able to get presents for their children on holidays -- this holiday season.

But here's the deal: For the vast majority of the country, that's not what's happening. Because of the actions the administration has taken in partnership with business and labor, retailers and grocery stores, freight movers and railroads, those shelves are going to be stocked.

. . .

Over the last month, the number of containers left sitting on docks blocking movement to those stores is over -- was for over eight days. Now it's down -- it's down by 40 percent, which means they're heading to shelves in stores more quickly.

That's an incredible success story. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have moved 16 percent more containers so far this year than last year.

By working with business and labor, my administration has been able to handle the huge surge in goods moving through some of our biggest ports. And that has translated into shelves across our country being well-stocked.

. . .

The CEOs I met with this week reported that their inventories are up, shelves are well-stocked, and they're ready to meet the consumer demand for the holidays.

The CEO of -- of Etsy represents over 5 million small businesses and entrepreneurs. He told me, and I quote, "Our survey data says there are less -- they are less concerned about supply chain challenges this year than they were last year." End of quote.

I've also spoken with the CEOs of UPS and FedEx, which are on track to deliver more packages than ever.

Now, I can't promise that every person will get every gift they want on time. Only Santa Claus can keep that promise. But there are items every year that sell out, that are hard to find.

Some of you moms and dads may remember Cabbage Patch Kids back in the '80s or Beanie Babies in the '90s, or other toys that have run out at Christmas time in past years when there was no supply chain problem.

But we're heading into a holiday season on very strong shape. And it's not because of luck. We averted potential crisis by figuring out what needed to get fixed and then we brought people together to do the hard work of fixing it.

That's exactly what we're doing with the second concern I want to talk about today: prices.

Here are a few things you should know: Just about every country in the world is grappling with higher prices right now as they recover from the pandemic.

In the United Kingdom, price increases have hit a 10-year high. In Germany, a 28-year high. In Canada, price increases are the highest they've been since the '90s.

This is a worldwide challenge -- a natural byproduct of a world economy shut down by the pandemic as it comes back to life.

Prices are still out of sunk -- excuse me -- prices are still out of sync as the world comes back. But as we continue to overcome these obstacles, the more price pressures will ease.

But I have not been content to sit back and wait. I've used every tool available to address the price increases. And it's working.

Take gas prices: Last week, I announced the largest-ever release from the United States Strategic Petroleum Reserve to increase the supply of oil and help bring down prices.

I brought together other nations to continue and contribute to the solution. India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the United Kingdom all joined us. They all agreed to release additional oil from their reserves. And China may be doing so as well.

This worldwide effort we're leading will not solve the problem of high gas prices overnight, but it has been making a difference.

Over the last month, likely due in part to anticipation of this action, we've seen the price of oil and gasoline on the wholesale markets come down significantly.

In fact, since the end of October, the average weekly price of gasoline in the wholesale market has fallen by about 10 percent. That's a drop of 25 cents per gallon.

Those savings should reach the American people very soon, and it can't happen fast enough.

And I've asked the Federal Trade Commission to consider whether potentially illegal and anti-competitive behavior in the oil and gas industry is causing higher prices to remain -- be maintained for consumers when the overall cost of oil is down. We can also ensure that American people are paying a fair price for gas.

So, let's take a step back and take stock of where our economy is. Wages are up. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we've delivered significant tax cuts for families raising kids.

Tax cuts and rising wages for middle-class families mean that Americans, on average, have about $100 more in their pockets every month and -- than they did last year -- about $350 more each month than they did before the pandemic, even after accounting for inflation.

Let me repeat that: Even after accounting for rising prices, the typical American family has more money in their pockets than they did last year or the year before that.

In fact, we're the only leading economy in the world where household income and the economy as a whole are stronger than they were before the pandemic.

You know, there are other signs of strength too. The number of small businesses is up 30 percent compared to before the pandemic.

Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we've cut child poverty in America by more than 40 percent. Think about that: Millions of children who spent last Christmas in poverty will not bear that burden this holiday season. And the Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, described it yesterday, that it is, quote, "A profound economic and moral victory for [our] country." End of quote.

Since I took office, we've had record job creation: 5.6 million new jobs since January 20th of this year. The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.6 percent. We're seeing more new small businesses, higher wages, and more disposable income. Fewer children in poverty. Fewer people getting unemployment checks.

None of this was inevitable. It was because of the American Rescue Plan, which virtually every Democrat in Congress voted for and every Republican voted against.

It was because of the hard work my administration has done to try to solve the challenges in our economy, instead of just pointing fingers and complaining.

Now -- now it's time to build on our success and cut costs further for families. That's what my Build Back Better plan does.

It will lower out-of-pocket costs for childcare, eldercare, housing, college, healthcare, and prescription drugs. These are the biggest costs that most families face.

In fact, a new independent analysis released today showed that my Build Back Better plan would mean $7,400 in tax cuts and savings for the typical family with four -- excuse me -- the typical family of four with two kids.

Seventeen Nobel laureate winners in the -- Nobel economics winners have written a letter affirming that this bill will reduce inflationary pressure in the economy.

Two of the leading rating agencies on Wall Street confirmed this month that my plan will not -- will not add to inflationary pressures. In fact, they will, quote, "take the edge off of inflation."

Now my Republican friends are talking a lot about prices, but they're lined up against my Build Back Better plan, which would go right at the problem for rising costs for families. Why is that?

I don't want to speculate on anyone's motive. But it's always easier to complain about a problem than to try to fix it.

One Republican senator even said that rising prices were, quote, "a gold mine," end of quote, for Republicans politically. Imagine rooting for higher costs for American families just to score a few political points.

The fact is the Build Back Better plan is fiscally responsible. And it's the first major piece of legislation in more than a decade that is not only fully paid for, but will generate more than $100 billion in deficit reduction.

It fully covers the cost of its investments by making the largest corporations and the richest Americans pay a little more in taxes. Think about that. Because that's a trade-off worth making, in my view: having those who have done very well pay their fair share in order to provide a little breathing room for millions of American families.

But my critics don't seem to agree. They have a lot of speeches about high prices, supply chains, and other challenges we are facing, but they don't offer any answers. So, they're just doing the "no" vote. That's their plan: Vote "no."

But what does that mean? What does a "no" vote mean on this bill? Not on cable news, not on Fox, not -- in the real world, in your life, around your kitchen table.

Well, here's what it's going to mean: It means for millions of American families, this bill -- the bills you're paying right now for daycare could be substantially lowered, capped at 7 percent of your income. But the Republicans said, "No, pay more."

It means the bills you're paying right now to take care of your elderly parent could have been lower -- a lot lower. But Republicans said, "No, don't vote for this bill. Pay more."

It means the cost of your prescription drugs could have been lower -- a lot lower. But Republicans think that those 200,000 children, for example, who need regular doses of insulin should continue to pay as much as $1,000 a month, instead of $35 a month.

Think of that. It not only affects the health of the child and the family, but imagine you're being a parent and not being able to afford $1,000 a month. Not only it risks the health of your child, but it robs you of your dignity.

The list goes on, but the point is the same.

What I have proposed is a way to lower some of the most difficult costs families have to pay every month by asking big corporations -- 40 of the Fortune 500 companies paid zero in taxes; making $40 billion in the process -- and the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share in taxes.

Look, remember: We're in a situation that as far as Republicans are concerned, they'd rather the bills at your kitchen table be higher so the tax bills of corporate conference rooms and big mansions can be lower.

In this case, let me tell you something: Nothing will be more expensive for American families than a "no" vote on the Build Back Better plan.

I believe we simply can't afford to do nothing and wait and see what happens. In the moments we face today, that just isn't a responsible course.

We live in uncertain times. Families are anxious about COVID, the economy, the cost of living. And the way to relieve that anxiety is with consistent, determined, focused action.

I started my presidency with the American Rescue Plan. Now that law is carrying our nation forward on vaccinations, boosters, keeping our schools open, and so much more.

I designed it as a year-long plan because I knew we'd have a lot of obstacles to overcome.

Next, we passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law because a lot of our infrastructure is crumbling. We have to prepare ourselves to compete and win the 21st century global economy.

For most of the 20th century, we led the world in signif- -- by a significant margin because we invested in ourselves -- not only in our roads and highways and bridges, but in our people and our families.

We built the Interstate Highway System. We invested to win the space race. We were among the first to provide access to free education, beginning back in the late 1800s. These decisions to invest in our country and our families are a major reason why we were able to lead the world for much of the last century.

But somewhere along the way, we stopped investing in ourselves. America is still the largest economy in the world. We still have the most productive workers and the most innovative minds in the world.

But we've risked losing our edge as a nation. Our infrastructure used to be the best in the world. Today, according to the World Economic Forum, we rank 13th.

And we have to invest in our greatest asset as well: our people. For example, we used to lead the world in educational achievement. Now, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranks America 35 out of 37 major countries when it comes to investing in early childhood education and care.

We can't be competitive in the 21st century global economy if we continue to slide.

One of the reasons I believe so firmly in this is because I know what this country can be. We've always been a nation of possibilities. We didn't become this nation we know by dreaming small. Throughout our history, we've emerged from crisis by investing in ourselves.

During and after the wa- -- the Civil War, we built the transcontinental railroad, uniting America.

During the Cold War, we built the Interstate Highway and -- System, transforming the way Americans are able to live their lives.

And now, we'll build the economy for the 21st century.

I truly believe that 50 years from now, when historians look back at this moment they're going to say this was the beginning of the moment when America won the competition for the 21st century. I think that's what we're going to see happen, God willing.

May God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you very much.

 

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground