Throughout my campaign, I have been listening to the voices of people across America. I met one man who told me, "I don't know what I did wrong. I got my education and I worked hard. I've been at the same company for 12 years now, but I've just been asked to train my successor because my job is moving to another country."
Another woman said to me, "I just can't make ends meet. My health care premiums have doubled, college tuition is up. How am I supposed to make it as a single mom?"
I am running for president to bring those voices to the White House and give people a chance to achieve the American Dream: having a good job, owning their own home and living with financial security. That means tackling our toughest challenges -- rising inequality, stagnating wages and a growing sense that too many middle class families are just one pink slip away from financial devastation.
My measure of economic success will never be a single, dry statistic. Rather, success means an economy that allows those at the bottom to work their way into the middle class, without pushing anyone out. It means leaving people better off when I finish than when I start. In short, success means an economy that shares its prosperity with all.
In the 1990s we saw how smart economic plans could help spur the economy to create 22 million new jobs and income growth across the board. For the past seven years we've seen the opposite. Corporate earnings have been impressive, but the average income of workers has declined. The typical household is paying $2,000 more in energy costs. Health care is nearly twice as expensive, with the number of uninsured rising to 47 million. Five million Americans have fallen into poverty.
Because of the Bush administration's neglect, the forces of globalization and technological change -- which should represent opportunities for economic growth -- have weakened America's great middle class.
Simply put, since 2001, our economy has failed the shared prosperity test, and we need decisive, experienced leadership to get us back on the right track.
As president, I will not hesitate to take swift, bold action to address our immediate challenges, starting with a strong stimulus package and a comprehensive solution to our housing crisis. And I will have a long-term economic plan that creates jobs, strengthens the middle class, and allows everyone to share in our economic growth.
- Shared prosperity means providing greater economic security and opportunity for middleclass families.
American families don't need new government bureaucracies; they need new tools to help them climb the economic ladder. This begins with health care, because rising costs erode workers' savings, make insurance less affordable, put businesses at a competitive disadvantage, and threaten our fiscal future.
And let's be clear: Unless we cover all Americans, we will never end the hidden tax that the uninsured pass on to the rest of us when they end up in the emergency room and we wind up footing the bill. Of all the candidates in either party, I have the most aggressive plan to lower health-care costs. It steps up prevention and chronic-care management, cuts unnecessary spending, creates electronic medical records, and ends health discrimination by insurers. And by providing sensible and generous health-care tax credits, I will ensure that everyone can afford to be covered.
Shared prosperity also means doing something about the cost of education. My plan will make college affordable again by more than doubling the Hope tax credit, increasing Pell grants, enacting more sensible loan repayment schedules, returning to direct loans with stable and low interest rates, and allowing those who perform community service or pursue a public interest career, like teaching, to get a break on college costs.
We must also encourage America's families to save. Research confirms that when you make savings easy and automatic, and give generous incentives to save, more people will save. So my American Retirement Accounts plan will offer up to $1,000 in matching tax cuts, and will give employers new incentives to automatically enroll their employees in savings accounts.
- Shared prosperity means addressing the root causes of poverty.
I thank John Edwards for his role in making poverty a central focus of this campaign. Ensuring that all Americans, especially our children, have a decent life is central to the goal of shared prosperity.
The cause of children in need has been the passion of my life, fueling my interest in early childhood education, foster care reform, and children's health care and combating poverty. It will be a top priority for my presidency.