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Previously: Truman Days 2011 in Kansas City (May 13, 2011)

A bumper sticker on a car in the hotel parking lot. Yep, we were in the right place.

On Saturday morning Senator Claire McCaskill (D) was the keynote speaker at the Fifth Congressional District Democratic Women’s Club Truman Days breakfast in Kansas City.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D) working the room during the breakfast before her speech.

The transcript:

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): …I thought instead I’d try to talk about why we’re all here and why we should care so much. Um, ’cause it really isn’t about me. It’s really about you. And it’s about the people that you care about. And it’s about our values and our priorities. So I thought I’d try to give everyone a little pep talk this morning about why you should not be discouraged about the Democratic Party. And why this is a moment we should see as an opportunity, because it really is.

We have an election this year that is gonna really define our nation and our state in so many ways. Because, let’s be honest, uh, the voters of this country decided last November they wanted to put the brakes on the Democrats. We can’t avoid that. We can’t avoid acknowledging that. We can try to dress it up and say it’s something different, but, truth be known, the independent voters of Missouri, not the Democrats and not the Republicans, the independent voters of Missouri  decided to put the brakes on the Democrats. And they did that all over the country. So, what we have to do is check back in, first, for all the things we’ve gotten done, and secondly, all the reasons that we have to fight next year harder than we fought in two thousand eight when we elected Barack Obama President of the United States in this country. [applause]…

…And let’s be honest, we have a tendency to complain. Now, do I have a witness? [laughter] I think we have a tendency as activists in the Democratic Party to always complain about what’s going wrong. Well, you know, Obama should have, you know, he should have gone with single payer. Or, you know, I, I really don’t like the fact that we’re having to cut many of the programs I care about. And, you know, and Jay Nixon, he just isn’t doing the right thing. Or, you know, I wish Claire McCaskill wouldn’t have voted for Rockefeller.

Well, on and on and on. And I think we have a tendency not to focus on how much we’ve gotten done that we all care about. And so I’m gonna briefly go through a very short list, a very short list of the things that have been accomplished since the Democrats took over the United States Senate with the election of Claire McCaskill in Missouri in two thousand six. First, we did sweeping health care reform that will, in spite of what, all the misinformation that’s out there, it will provide quality, choices, affordability, and access. We have expanded the Pell Grant program, making college real for millions of kids that wouldn’t have ever got in to college. We now have more Pell Grant assistance, even with the cut we had to do in summer programs, than we’ve ever had before in the United States of America. We passed a child nutrition law that will make a difference in terms of [inaudible] children, especially needy children, have the kind of nutrition they need to avoid those big health care costs down the line. We took, regulated tobacco for the first time in the United States of America, we have finally regulated tobacco. We fought and won the tobacco lobby in Washington. [applause, cheers] We have done over five hundred billion dollars of targeted tax cuts for small businesses and for working families. Did, did you hear that? [voice: “Yes.”] [applause] We’ve done over five hundred billion of targeted tax cuts for small businesses and the middle class. We did the stimulus which stopped the bleeding, cut taxes, provided unemployment in, insurance benefits, and gave the State of Missouri a lifeline through the rockiest road of economic downturns that we’ve seen in this country since the Great Depression. [applause] We did Wall Street reform and regulation to prevent future messes like the one that we have been cleaning up since the day George Bush left office. [voice: “Yeah.”][applause] We expanded the Children’s Health Insurance Program. [applause].  Did I mention five hundred billion dollars in targeted tax cuts [applause] for small businesses and middle class families? [cheers] We created a small business lending fund that, uh, is right now helping capital get to small businesses because we all know the vast majority of the jobs that are created in this country are not created by the big companies, they’re created by small companies. We passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act [cheers, applause] .  We put into place a first time home buyer tax credit. We did housing loan modification legislation that has proved, prevented foreclosures all across the country. We did the fraud enforcement and recovery act, and this is a big one. We fought the credit card companies and did real credit card company reform in terms of how [applause] consumers are treated in terms of their credit cards. We did Defense Department weapons acquisition overhaul to prevent waste and cost overruns at the Pentagon. We did emer, emergency  border security supplemental funding. We did Iran sanctions to try to keep a country in check that could be very dangerous for our national security. We did hate crimes prevention, passed that [applause] over a lot of opposition on the other side of the aisle. We did a new G.I. Bill that allows those veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan today to have the exact same benefits that my father had when he came home from World War Two. [applause, cheers]  We did the veterans caregiver assistance bill which allows family members that are caring for veterans that have been injured to get the support they need so that their lives are not even more disrupted by the tragedy that they’re dealing with. And, we have established record funding for veteran’s programs in the United States of America. [applause]  And now we’ve had fourteen consecutive months of solid job growth in the private sector. [applause] Not bad, not bad.

If I would have done the complete list I would have been late to my next event in Columbia at noon. [laughter] I couldn’t list everything. But the next time you feel frustrated, the next time you feel like you want to complain that the Democrats aren’t saying it right or doing it right reflect on that list. And understand that many of those came over incredible opposition from the Republican Party. And so, it has been productive and there is a lot for us to be proud of and we should not lose sight of that for a minute as we prepare for next year. [applause]

And we have a fight. We have a fight along with a huge deficit and debt problem. So how are we gonna get through the next decade and maintain our priorities and values? This will be a challenge. And I want to make sure no one leaves this room without me saying very clearly how serious the problem is. It is impossible to find a country in the world that has had economic growth when their debt equaled their GDP. When the debt in a country had equaled their gross domestic production countries don’t grow. Now, we are gonna be there in less than ten years. We will be there. So, if we don’t want to get there we all have to be honest and realistic about what has to happen. Does i
t have to be the way [Republican Congressman] Paul Ryan wants it to be? No, of course not. it does not have to be the way Paul Ryan. Do we have to end Medicare? No, we do not and we will not end Medicare, [applause, cheers] not on my watch. But we have a fight to in the future. And we have to have targeted investments in infrastructure, in innovation, and of course, in education. But we also have to realize that the footprint of the federal government is gonna have to shrink. And we do have to have a tax code that is less tilted towards the very, very, very, very wealthy in this country. [applause]

Our fight is to hold on to the values of our nation, our civil rights, equality, tolerance, and religious freedom. Now, what are they fighting for? Now this is where it gets a little weird. [laughter] Since they’ve taken over the majority in the House and taken over so many Governor’s jobs in this country and taken big majorities in so many state legislatures their priorities have been interesting. And I’m being kind. They have taken a meat axe to education. I mean, the folks in Jeff City didn’t want to spend the money that we had sent them from the federal government to make sure they didn’t have to lay off teachers. In some kind of symbolic political gesture. Really? Somebody asked me one day, well, what message are the legislators in Jefferson City sending when, when they are trying to, you know, they say they’re trying to send a message to the federal government that they shouldn’t be spending money this way? I said, I’ll tell you the message they’re sending, they’re sending a message to Missourians that they don’t give a hoot about public education in this state. [applause] That’s the message they’re sending.

We can’t have an America that we know and love by inflicting all of the pain on fifteen percent of the budget. While I am absolutely committed to making sure the footprint of the federal government shrinks, this is a situation where the pain has to be felt by all. We can’t just do it with Pell Grants, Head Start, funding for Agriculture, highways, foreign aid, that’s only a little bitty sliver of our budget you guys. It’s a little bitty sliver. We aren’t, we could cut all that money out and we’d still have a huge debt structure problem. So we’ve got to look at, at means testing. We’ve got to quit buying Warren Buffet’s prescription drugs. We can’t afford to buy warren Buffet’s prescription drugs. If you are very wealthy you should buy your own prescription drugs, [applause] not have the government buy them for you.

And then have to look at all of the spending. And believe me, there is no one in Washington that cares more about our military than I do. There is no one in Washington who has a better handle and understands better how important our military readiness is. But let me just walk you down the path of waste at the Pentagon. In two thousand one the Pentagon’s base budget, I’m not talking about the war s now, forget about the wars, that’s a whole ‘nother budget, just the Pentagon, their base budget was three hundred billion dollars. This year their base budget is five hundred and fifty three billion dollars. Now can you imagine what your kids would ask for if you never told ’em no? Can you imagine how far they might go in asking for things if you never told them no? How ’bout multiple IT systems to track the same equipment? Both IT systems costing billions of dollars tracking the same equipment in two different branches of the military and the two systems can’t even talk to each other. Now, that is absolutely should infuriate tax payers. It should infuriate the members of the House. And you know what they did in their budget this week? They didn’t touch the Pentagon’s budget. In fact, they added money to the Pentagon’s budget. There is real money savings we can find in the Pentagon without absolutely having any impact on our military readiness, on the best military in the world, or protecting our men and women in harm’s way. [Applause] And that’s what we have to focus on.

You know, if we are gonna be serious about our debt and deficit we have to be also serious about the tax code and the goodies that are in it. and as [Jackson County Executive] Mike [Sanders] mentioned, one of the things that ought to be the easiest to get done, you know, they are busy wanting to cut Pell Grants, they are busy wanting to cut [inaudible], you know, the money that helps feed children that are poor, they’re busy wanting to cut Head Start, but they don’t want to talk about taking away money, taxpayer money, from the wealthiest corporations on the planet. Now really, how serious are they about the debt and deficit?

Um, big oil. Big oil, I’m, and you know, this bill that I introduced, it’s just the five biggest oil companies. It’s not the small independent oil companies. We want them to keep competing, right? It’s the five biggest. You know what they made the last three months, these five companies? Their profit? North of thirty-five billion dollars in three months. And what we’re talking about over a year, they’re gonna make north of a hundred twenty-five billion this year. We’re talking about taking away two billion dollars of their profit that’s your money. And the Republicans say, oh, no, can’t do that because, you know, or gas prices will go up. I got news for you. They’ve got those subsidies, our gas prices are going up. [voice: “Yeah.”] [applause] Hasn’t had any difference.  I don’t think [applause], I don’t think anyone’s noticed that the, the gas companies, the big oil companies are worried about our gas prices. And to use that as an excuse to keep handing them our federal money. Are you kidding me? How in the world, if we are not willing to go after the most egregious examples of corporate welfare? What nerve do they have, going after the Pell Grants and Head Start?  That’s the difference between a Republican and a Democrat [cheers, applause]  right there. That’s the difference. [cheers]

You know, in the tax code also, um, let’s, let’s, let’s talk about this. In, in the nineties, uh, there was a little bit more taxes that multimillionaires paid and we balanced the budget. And we had twenty-two million jobs created. And then we cut taxes for the multimillionaires and guess what? We didn’t have much job creation. So, I got to tell you, the other thing that’s important as part of this equation, putting everything on the table, part of this equation is we really do need to say to folks, you know, on your second million you can pay three percent more in taxes. You really can. [applause] And I really don’t think on your second home that you need a mortgage interest deduction. Really? [laughter] Um, I don’t think that is something that is really motivating folks who buy a second home for recreation purposes.

And then finally, I just want to say, um, the other thing that you’ve noticed since they’ve taken over so many places is they are working very hard to weaken the voices of working people in this country. [voice: “Yes.”] [applause] With all of the excesses that caused our financial meltdown their solution is to go after the nurses and the teachers and the firefighters and the policemen? Really? With all of the excesses, all of the greed, and all of the, the incredible motivation to make hundreds of millions of dollars in all of these ridiculous secure, securitized mortgages and all of the subprime meltdown, after that mess they think what we need to do is to go after the two people who, maybe, their combined income is eighty grand a year? That’s the way we’re gonna make America strong again? To go after the pensions of the people who have worked in our classrooms for twenty-five years? I will tell you, one thing the Democratic Party is gonna do next year, we’re gonna make very clear to America that the teachers of this country are not the problem. [applause, cheers]. They are not the problem.  [applause, cheers] [inaudible] Yay, for the teachers. [applause][inaudible]

You know this, this fight is a noble one. And it’s one that should motivate all of us. It is about the small business, it’s about the
family with two parents working full time and hoping they can figure out a way to get their kids to college.  It’s about single moms and their struggles to be god mothers and good providers at the same time and figuring out what time they can get their kids ready for school and still get to the bus so they can get to their job. It’s about families, no matter what they look like. This fight is, uh, not about policy. It’s about people. And it’s about the fundamental principle that all of us believes so deeply in, and that is we have to have a country where there still is opportunity for everyone. And we cannot ever turn our back on that fundamental value. It’s our party that will always wage this fight. It is our party that will state this cause with passion and emotion. And is our party that tonight, today, tomorrow, next week has to put aside our small disappointments with one another and focus on a message of unity and strength. Because, you know what, hat mother who’s trying to get her child ready for school to get them to the school bus so that she can get down and catch the bus to her job? She’s got nobody to count on but us. So let’s do it for her.

Thank you all very much. [applause]

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders (D) introduced Senator McCaskill. Missouri Democratic Party Sate Chair Susan Montee also addressed the crowd.

Missouri State Treasurer Clint Zweifel (D) attended the brakfast and worked the crowd.