For the past few days, all of us have been properly focused on one of the worst storms of our lifetimes. We mourn those who were lost. And we pledge to stand with those whose lives have been turned upside down for as long as it takes them to recover and rebuild.
Because when hardship hits, America is at its best. The petty differences that consume us in normal times quickly melt away. There are no Democrats or Republicans during a storm – only fellow Americans. That's how we get through the most trying times: together.
That spirit has guided this country along its improbable journey for more than two centuries, especially as a nation of immigrants. People have come to America from all over the world, willing to take risks, build their dreams and make sure their kids can dream even bigger. It's that spirit that's carried us through the last four years.
Four years ago, we were mired in two wars and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Together, we've battled our way back. The war in Iraq is over, Osama bin Laden is dead, and our heroes are coming home. Our businesses have created more than 5 million new jobs in the last two and half years. Home values and 401(k)s are rising. We are less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in the last 20 years. And the American auto industry is back.
We're not there yet. But we've made real progress. And on Tuesday, all Americans will get to choose between two fundamentally different visions of what makes America strong.
I believe America's prosperity was built on the strength of our middle class. We don't succeed when a few at the top do well while everyone else struggles to get by – we're better off when everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.
When Bill Clinton was president, he believed that if America invested in the skills and ideas of its people, good jobs and businesses would follow. His economic plan asked the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more so we could reduce our deficit and still invest in job training and education, research and technology, better health care and a dignified retirement. And what happened? By the end of his second term, our economy created 23 million new jobs. Incomes rose. Poverty fell. Deficits became the biggest surplus in history.
The path Governor Romney offers is the one we tried for eight years after President Clinton left office – a philosophy that says those at the very top get to play by a very different set of rules than everyone else. Bigger tax cuts for the wealthy that we can't afford. Encouraging companies to ship jobs and profits overseas. Fewer rules for big banks and insurance companies. Vetoing the DREAM Act and making life so miserable for undocumented workers that they'd "self deport." They're the policies that caused this mess in the first place.
In the closing weeks of this campaign, Governor Romney has started calling himself an agent of change. And I'll give him one thing – offering another $5 trillion tax cut weighted towards the wealthy, $2 trillion in defense spending our military didn't ask for and more power for big banks and insurance companies is change, all right. But it's not the change we need.
We know what real change looks like. And we can't give up on it now.