Joe Biden’s first rally ended about an hour ago: he made news on Medicare for All and non-compete clauses. This is his first rally since announcing his campaign for President, and it was super light on news.
Please note that Biden speaks with a bit of word salad, so even though it may appear I have transcribed something incorrectly, that’s just the way he talks.
The following is a transcript of Joe Biden’s first Presidential rally of the 2020 cycle in Pittsburgh, PA, during the evening of 4/29/2019.
Thank you everybody. My name -- thank you. My name is Joe Biden and I’m Jill Biden’s husband. That's how I’m known back home, that’s how I’m known most places. Thank you Denise, and before I begin, what I want to do is I want to take a moment, quite frankly, to reflect on something that happened here in the state, not long ago. Matter of fact, very recently -- it reflects on the anti-semitic attack that took place this weekend. In Poway Synagogue in California, one dead, three injured, but folks we saw hate in Charlottesville, we saw it again in Pittsburgh, at the Tree of Life synagogue and attack -- the deadliest in American history on a Jewish community, and we're reminded again, that that we are in a battle. We are in a battle for America’s soul.
I really believe that. And we have to restore it. So folks, I want to thank Rich Fitzgerald, county executive of Allegheny County -- executive -- for being here and -- and Mayor of the city of Duquesne is here as well, right here. Somewhere in there. I got to see you.
National firefighters, General President and my friend for a long, long time. One of the guys in our unions that as they say along with the teachers brung me to the dance when I started. Thank you -- [inaudible] and thank you for your endorsement.
And Kevin Smith, President, Teamsters local here, thanks for the -- for the use of the house. I appreciate it.
President of Firefighters. Dade, where are you? The Pennsylvania firefighters? Dave, thank you very much and also a real -- a union that helped me in the very, very beginning of my career and I've had great respect for the United Steelworkers, Bobby -- Bobby Mack, President and the building trades. Where’s Frank? Frank's here, too.
So look -- you got it, pal -- look. I -- the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers, Pennsylvania State Association, American Federation of Government Employees AFGE, United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Service Employees Union, SEIU, United Food and Commercial Workers, by the way, I make no apologies. I am a union man. Let me tell you -- let me just -- thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Well, let me tell you why.
Let me tell you why I chose Pittsburgh to begin this effort. I believe that Pittsburgh and my native town of Scranton and my hometown of Wilmington and Claimont. They representat the cities and towns that made up -- make up hard working middle-class Americans who are the backbone of this nation. That's not hyperbole, the backbone of this nation.
I also -- I also came here because, quite frankly, folks, if I'm going to be able to beat Donald Trump in 2020 it's going to happen here. It’s going to happen here in Western Pennsylvania.
With your help -- with your help, I think we're going to be able to do that.
We're going to be able to do it. In Pennsylvania, Western Pennsylvania, northeast Pennsylvania, places where a little lately we've had a little bit of a struggle. But the truth of the matter is, I think, I think we're coming back.
So please, please go to JoeBiden.com. and sign up and join our campaign. We need your help. We need your help.
Folks, there are three basic reasons why I'm running for President of the United States. The first is to restore the soul the nation and the second is to rebuild the backbone of this nation and third, is to unify this case, we already do better if we act as one America.
Today -- today, I want to speak about the second of these three -- and that's rebuilding the backbone of America.
That is that we have time, all my time in public life for the stuff gotten involved. I've been referred to as Middle Class Joe, it's not always meant as a compliment. It's usually that I'm not sophisticated. That's why I'm Middle Class Joe. But the fact of the matter is, I'm awfully sophisticated about how, why, and who built this country.
Let me say this simply, clearly. And I mean, this, the country wasn't built by Wall Street bankers, CEOs, and hedge fund managers. It was built by you. It was built by the great American middle class.
America -- American middle class is built by unions -- by you.
Look, folks, you know, that's the story of America. When ordinary people from neighborhoods like yours and mine, we grew up or go out and do extraordinary things. That's how it's happened. When I look out at this crowd, I see the folks in my neighborhood and Claimont and Wilmington in Scranton, and I'm not being solicitous, I mean it.
I see people with physical courage and brains. I see people who busted their backs their whole lives to care for their families. I see people like the millions of people across this nation who get up every single day, go out, work like the devil, raise their families pay their taxes, volunteer in their communities to make this country work. I see people understand that being middle class is not a number. It's a value set. It's being able to send your kid to a park where you know they’re gonna come home safe, being able to own your own home, and not just have to rent it. It’s being able to it's been able to send your kid to a good school and they do well they can go beyond high school, to trade school or college or beyond. It's about being able to take care of your geriatric mom when your dad passes and hope your children never have to take care of you, because you've earned a solid and decent retirement.
That’s middle class. That’s not asking a lot.
Look -- everybody knows it, you know, middle class is hurting, it's hurting now. 53% of the folks in America don't think your children are going to have the same standard of living that they had.
To the best of my knowledge, it's the first time that's happened in a long, long, long time. The stock market is roaring, but you don't feel it.
There's $2 trillion tax cut last year. Did you feel it? Did you get anything from it? Of course not. Of course not. All of it went to folks at the top and corporations that pay no taxes, the number of corporations pay no taxes now has doubled since that tech (sic).
Look, guys, this is not good. What's happened here has happened for a lot of different reasons. But for me, one of them stands out. The basic bargain used to exist the Democrats and Republicans used to agree to has been broken.
And that is -- you contribute to the welfare of the enterprise you work for, you got to share in the benefits and the profits.
If the enterprise sees hard times everybody took a hit, up and down the line, from the secretary to the CEO, but that bargain’s been broken. Now the only people benefiting when a company does well are the CEOs and the shareholders. The people at the top. Know when people get hurt when a company gets hit by hard times? Our workers. It's a one-way street these days.
Just look around. GM. I worked like the devil to see to the GM stays alive in the White House.
Union workers, the UAW, took incredible cuts in their future, their pensions and the left (sic) to get GM working. To keep it alive. The taxpayers bailed them out. They paid it back and paid it back with interest. But what happened? Where the CEOs and the executives, the one that did quite well. And the second -- the second they hit hard times. What’d they do? They closed plants. They announced they're going to lay off or transfer 14,000 workers. They also got that last year, over $192 million in tax breaks. They could have given everyone they laid off severance pay if they had to (sic)
They could have given everyone. They did nothing. They brought back their stock, raised their benefits, raised their salaries, announced they were going to build their new truck in Mexico.
Folks -- folks, no -- I -- look. I just did a rally for the -- for the United Food Commercial Workers in Boston. 31,000 workers went on strike to protect their wages, health care, benefits and retirement benefits. Was Stop & Shop in trouble? No. Their parent company had made $2 billion the year before. $2 billion.
So what’d they do? They're going to decide -- notwithstanding that -- they're going to buy back their stock and try to cut wages or freeze wages for the people. It's not right.
Now here, UPMC, one of the largest employers in the state -- no, but -- but I think people have to understand this, you understand it -- the SEIU is engaged in one of the most important organizing fights in this country.
Folks, it was 200 years ago, in steel mills and coal mines -- it’s true today, in our big hospital system, right today, the same is happening in big hospital -- big hospital system. It's going to take a strong union to get justice for healthcare workers.
You know, so you have UPMC, stop the union busting, stop.
Stop trying to keep your workers from organize. (sic)
I want you to know, UMPC workers, I am with you, I have your back, and if I am President, I will find like the devil to make sure you are not blocked. Unions are not blocked unfairly by this. It’s economically wrong and it's morally wrong. So what do we do, folks?
I think we have to -- I think we have to rethink how we define what constitutes a successful economy. It's not enough for the stock market to rise. That's not a bad thing. But it's just not enough.
Workers feel powerless, too often humiliated. I call it an abuse of power. And I can't stand it. never have been able to. When I think about work, I think about dignity. I think about a lot about my dad, a proud gentleman. My dad had an expression he said, “Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It's about your dignity. It's about respect. It's about your place in the community. It's about being able to look at your kid and say honey is going to be okay. And mean it.”
But folks, too many people, they can look at their kids today and say it's gonna be okay. And mean it. That's what we got to change. I think about so many people across this country today. We're just not getting respect, not treated with respect.
How do you get to a place -- how do we ever get here? Where people who teach our kids take care for our sick, transport our goods, build our bridges, repair our roof, keep our water system safe. People who race into burning buildings, people who race into danger to protect us. People will pick up our garbage off our streets, Ironworkers, workers, steelworkers, Boilermakers, plumbers, electrical workers, salespeople, how did we get to this place? Where they don't think we see them? Or hear or know them? And maybe most importantly, respect them. Respect.
Folks, so I think the question today is how did we get here? How did it happen? What are you going to do about it? All across America, communities are hurting. With too many people left out or left behind. Our political system is broken. We're tearing America part instead of lifting it up.
And the major -- in my view -- the major moral obligation of our time, is to restore, rebuild, and respect the backbone of America, the middle class.
As we rebuild it, we need this rebuilding to be all-inclusive, opening the doors to opportunity for all Americans, no matter their race, their gender, who they love, no matter who or where they're from. No matter whether or not they have a disability. All America has to be included as we rebuild. All America.
And I guarantee you this is remain (sic), and will be my measure what constitutes economic success. The dignity of work is my measure, which is about being able to provide security, and share joys with your families.
How can a person’s dignity be maintained if they can't afford to care for the sick child or family members because of a pre-existing condition? Or because they -- they've reached a point where their healthcare has run out and the insurance company says no more.
Jill and I, my family, like many of you went through a year knowing our son was terminally ill. I could not imagine what it'd be like if we were told that he's run out of the amount of money in insurance policy and they're gonna have to cut them off of the palliative care he was getting. My Lord. Think about it.
How can a parent maintain the dignity, their dignity, if their talent qualified child wants to go beyond high school, trade school, community college or college, and they can't afford it.
How do you get ‘em there? Folks, it's not just that that child is not going to have an opportunity to grow and be better. But think about it. Think about it. I'll never forget the day. My senior in high school of -- going down to my dad's office to borrow a car for the prom, driving down an old car and pick up a car for the senior prom.
And I asked the Secretary where he was she said he's out in the alley, honey behind -- behind the office. I walked out my dad was a gentle, decent man, was pacing back and forth -- is absolutely guarantee a true story.
I walked in, he said “Joey, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.” I thought my god what happened with some happen to mom or my brothers or sisters before cell phones, I said -- I said, “What's the matter, dad?” He said, “I went to the bank today to try to borrow money to help you get to school. But they won't lend it to me. I'm so ashamed.”
How many people in America today are in that situation? Hard working and decent people, because the cost of education is skyrocketing so badly. And access is so difficult.
Folks, dignity -- Emmanuel Kant, the philosopher, said dignity -- the definition of dignity is that people should never be treated as a means to an end, but an end in themselves. That's how today's corporate culture works. CEOs and this administration see the different way. They see work resistant means to an end, not the end of themselves and themselves.
Look at -- look at the record. They treat their employees in a way that -- it's only about how can they maximize the profit? Not how can they maximize the circumstance for the employees and help them build the operation. They're squeezing the life out of workers.
You know, when you look under the hood of the labor market, you see how tough it is for workers to negotiate. I have to tell you union folks that you see how companies that become so adept at squeezing every last penny out of their payroll, how good they become at tilting the scales in their favor. But it's not only making it harder for -- for -- harder and harder to meet our basic needs.
They're doing it across the board, not only stripping away unions rights to negotiate, but your personal dignity, just take a look. Not only going after Labor, and unions to try to take away and diminish the right to bargain. They're going after individuals, all to suppress their wages,
Do you realize that why -- a sandwich worker -- an hourly worker -- making sandwiches have to sign a non compete clause? Promise, I will not compete with this -- already. Because I know we laugh about it. But here's the deal, guys. They can't go across town to another sandwich place and get a 15 cent raise if they could, they can't even advertise themselves. They can't move. Because why? All to suppress wages, all to suppress wages.
You have seen these agreements, at least once during the career -- 40 million -- or excuse me -- 40% of them. It's wrong. It's immoral, and it should be made illegal in the states where they try to do it.
They do the same thing with occupational licenses. Why should someone who braids hair have to get 600 hours of training? It makes no sense. It's designed to keep the competition down.
Look, folks, you can't just transfer your licenses across one state to another. They're making it harder and harder in a whole range of professions all to keep competition down.
Why should we get rid of these unnecessary hoops out there? Because we have to restore America's ability and individuals Americans (sic) to be able to fight for their own dignity. You know, we should stop companies from classifying low wage workers as managers, you see it all the time, we tried in our Administration -- be -- why’d they do that? So they don’t have to pay overtime. It costs more than 4 million workers last year, $1.2 billion in lost overtime pay. Reclassification.
And by the way, speaking of overtime, it's well past time that the minimum wage national be a minimum of $15. It's time to start rewarding work, over wealth.
The first step is reverse President Trump's tax cuts for the very wealthy, big corporations, we need to eliminate the special tax rates and the tax code that rewards millionaires.
Let's get rid of capital gains loopholes for multimillionaires. Warren Buffett said it best, he should not pay a lower tax rate than his secretary has. That's because of capital gains.
It's wrong. I'm going to change that. So millionaires and billionaires don't pay lower taxes than firefighters, teachers and I could go on and on. We need to reward work in this country, not just wealth.
Look -- there's much more we need. There's much more we need to do to build a middle class and the coming weeks, coming on -- a great deal more detail about this, but you've been standing too long. Look, it starts with access to affordable education so that everyone can get the skills they need. 12 years of education in the 21st century is not enough.
Simple, but it's got to be affordable. 65 out of 100 jobs today require training beyond high school. 65 out of every 100. Bt what we have to make it post-secondary education, add trend, make training affordable, make sure employees -- the economy works, not just for the wealthy for -- not just for people who get four-year college degrees, but those who compete for job training and trades and programs.
Look, guys, we can do all this. It means being able to me have a quality healthcare, care for all American. Affordable Health Care was a huge step forward -- the ACA -- in our country. We made historic progress by extending health care to 22 million people.
Americans that don't -- didn't have it before, now have it -- 22 million. We have to stop this
administration's effort to gut it first, and then we have to move on and finish the job and make healthcare a right. Healthcare is a right, not a privilege.
We have to give everybody the peace of mind they deserve, whether you're covering it to your employer on your own or not, you all should have a choice to be able to buy into a public option plan for Medicare, your choice. And the insurance companies and doing the right thing by you should have another choice.
It means rebuilding America's clean, renewable energy: cleaner, safer, faster transportation, so not only make us safer, and make our dreams our children, but to provide millions of good paying middle-class jobs.
It means investing much more in medical research to conquer devastating diseases like cancer and addiction and Alzheimer's.
We have the ability to do that. Invest in it. We can do all this without punishing anybody. You know, when Reagan was President, there were $800 billion in tax expenditures, meaning tax loopholes.
Know what it is today? It's over 1,600,000,000,000. We could send everyone in America to a community college for free. 6 million folks. 6 million folks new.
By doing one thing, eliminating one loophole, or the 1,600,000,000,000. I don't like -- it robs the country of $17 billion a year. It's called stepped up basis. It's a fancy way -- if you get a capital gain, you're about to go cash it in, God forbid you hit by a truck, you leave it to your child, they pay no tax, it’s not an inheritance tax, it’s $16 billion -- $17 billion old five minutes earlier. If you eliminate that one, you could put every -- cut college costs in half. And you could in fact -- in fact have $11 billion left to reduce the deficit.
So folks, quite frankly, only thing that stands in our way is our broken political system that's deliberately being undermined by our President to continue to abuse the power of the office. Donald Trump is only President -- is the only president who's decided not to represent the whole country. President has his base. We need a President who works for all Americans. And we can afford this. We can do this. And I'm optimistic for two reasons. One, I know the history, the journey this country, when ordinary Americans like my family are given an even chance, just an even chance. They do extraordinary things. They have never, ever, ever let the country down.
And the second reason I'm optimistic is that I know we are better positioned in a nation in the world to own the 21st century. We not only have the strongest military in the world, we have the most productive workers in the world, three times as productive as workers in Asia.
North American energy makes us independent -- U.S. has been -- U.S. has more great research university (sic) -- where all these major breakthroughs come from that all the rest of the world combined. No other nation in the world can match us. We can -- we can bring and be a positive force for everyone.
Folks, nothing is beyond our capacity. The only thing that can tear America part is America itself. But folks, everybody knows who Donald Trump is. And I believe -- I believe in hope. They know who we are, we have to let them know who we are.
We, Democrats, and independents, who have the same view, have to choose hope over fear, unity over division, maybe most importantly, truth over lies.
It's time to pick up our heads. Remember who we are. This is the United States of America.
There is not a single thing beyond our capacity, not a single thing. So God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.