“Hey, good afternoon, Detroit. How about a round of applause for Jejuan? What a great example for us. I am so happy to be with you. Thank you, Detroiters. Thank you, Michiganders. You guys are important, and it is so exciting to be here at Focus: HOPE. And I’ve got a great guest with me, my wife, Anne Holton, who is a – magnificent, magnificent public servant in her own right. My wife, Anne, was a legal aid lawyer and a juvenile court judge, and then when I was governor she helped me reform the Virginia foster care system, or I guess I should say I assigned staff to help her reform the Virginia foster care system, if I’m going to be honest. And she just stepped down as secretary of education because she wanted to be all in and make sure that Hillary Clinton is the next president of the United States.
I had a chance to visit with the CEO here at Focus: HOPE, Jason Lee. Give Jason and everybody at Focus: HOPE a big round of applause. And I am particularly excited to be here with some great friends in public service, and let me just acknowledge a couple of them. I serve in the Senate with your two great senators, Gary Peters – I was with his wife Colleen a little bit earlier today – but Debbie Stabenow right here is a wonderful, wonderful friend. And she’s been very important to Project HOPE through the ag committee that she has chaired or been ranking member of because of the senior meal program in the farm bill. And so she’s very connected here. We’ve got Congressman Sandy Levin, and I was with – Sandy, I was with your brother, Carl, a few minutes ago. Very good to have Sandy here with us. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. Have I seen Debbie? I see John right here, who is a titan and a champion. And there’s Debbie coming right in. Thank you. Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence. I was with Brenda earlier, and I think she might be here as well, but I just want to acknowledge her. And then your mayor, Mike Duggan, who I had a chance to visit with a little bit. Mike, thanks so much. Former Governor Jim Blanchard, who I’ve known for a number of years – Jim and Janet. And then, when I was a mayor, when I was the mayor of Richmond, the head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Dennis Archer. Mr. Mayor, so good to have you here too. So good to have you here.
This has been a surreal campaign. I will say, I have been – this is my ninth race, and because I was national party chair I worked on a lot of races. This has been by far the most surreal race I’ve ever seen, and I’m in the middle of it. And one of the things that sometimes is sad in a campaign that’s surreal is the things that get attention aren’t necessarily the things that are really important. But I’m really happy to be here today, I’m really happy to be here at Focus: HOPE, because I want to talk about something that’s really important, and that is what we can do, what a Hillary Clinton administration will do, to battle poverty in the United States. That is really important. It’s a lot more important than a lot of things that are getting a lot of attention during this campaign.
And we wanted to do it here at Focus: HOPE because this place has got a powerful history. You heard Jejuan is an example of the history, but what an amazing history. Fifty years ago, at a time when this neighborhood was marked by racial tensions and challenges, a local parish priest decided to step up and do something about it. Father William Cunningham, I’ve heard his story: he stepped outside the doors of the church and he partnered with Eleanor Josaitis, who was a mother and activist from suburban Detroit, and they founded Focus: HOPE to address poverty and injustice in struggling neighborhoods.
I have so much respect for this organization and for the hundreds and thousands of other organizations like it all across this country. We see this example of the local initiative – can we tackle a problem and solve a problem? And just since these guys had a spiritual motivation, I’ll go there a few times today. It’s kind of a loaves-and-fishes story. When they started, did they know they would be even going a week later? No. Did they know they’d be going a year later? No. But here they are 50 years later and Focus: HOPE is doing so much good for so many people. You set the right example. You set the right example.
And because this is a momentous time in America and we’re in a momentous election, and it’s an election that is more than just the difference between candidates, although those differences are so stark – this is an election that’s really a test of our values. This is an election that’s a test of our commitment to one another. I have described this as an election that is an America looking in the mirror and deciding what is it that we see there election. It’s a self-definition election, and not every election is that.
I’m really honored to serve as Hillary Clinton’s running mate, because she cares deeply, as do I, as do all of you, about making sure that the economy works for everybody and not just for those at the top. And when an economy works for everybody, it works for everybody, including those at the top; but if it doesn’t work for everybody, it just doesn’t work at all.
Hillary and I have a plan for creating jobs and opportunity across the board, and I’m going to talk about some of the elements in that plan, but with a focus. The focus on the commitment that we have and that was in the Democratic Party platform to work toward eliminating poverty in the United States.
We shouldn’t be afraid to dream big. We shouldn’t be afraid to reach far. We shouldn’t be afraid to say something bold and then have people hold us accountable for trying to do it. Because when Hillary and I talk about creating an economy that works for everybody, we really do mean everyone. And that includes Americans living near or below the poverty line. Some have lived near or below the poverty line their entire lives. Some, for generations. And some were above the poverty line but the recession that we’ve been through has dropped people down into poverty. What can we do?
If we’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity to serve as your president and vice president, we’ll need your help – in Detroit, in Michigan, all across this country. I see great folks from organized labor here. We’ll need your help. Because what you do here exemplifies the kinds of ideas and strategies that we’ll want to implement all across the country.
Okay, let’s start with what you’ve got to start with. You know, in a 12-step program, the first step is acknowledge you have a problem. If we’re going to fight poverty, you first have to see it and acknowledge it and talk about it openly and honestly. You know that here in Detroit. As the auto industry has come strongly back to life, the amazing city is showing an amazing comeback spirit, but you’re just getting started. And I know I had a chance to visit with Mike earlier, your great mayor. Him, the city government, the business community, organized labor: there’s a commitment to work together on economic revitalization and renaissance and until that reaches every neighborhood. But like so many great cities, like Richmond where I live, like Kansas City where I grew up, Detroit still faces the challenges of concentrated poverty. And you’re on the front lines in trying to come up with the solutions to tackle it.
Of course, you’ve got to acknowledge poverty isn’t just confined to cities, and it’s not only in the places that we normally think of, like isolated parts of Appalachia – Anne’s family is from the Appalachian part of Virginia – or rural America or Indian country. No, a lot of people live in poverty in places that we think of as comfortable and as doing fine. Twenty percent of the people in Taylor, near here, are living in poverty. And that’s a number that’s well above the national average. In a lot of communities, poverty is hiding in plain sight. And wherever it is, and however it looks, we’ve got to challenge ourselves to tackle it. We’ve got to open it up and see it for what it is.
I grew up in Kansas City, a town with its share of economic struggles. My dad ran an ironworker-organized welding shop with a lot of the machines just like I’m looking at back here, lathes and presses and punches and welding rigs. I lived and worked as a civil rights lawyer in Richmond for 32 years. Richmond, a city with some pain and some scar tissue. Seen a lot of progress but also too many people and too many neighborhoods left behind who still feel like they can’t see the ladder that they can climb to be successful.
Like the founders of Focus: HOPE, I don’t just look at this issue as a matter of justice or economics or public policies. I look at is as a moral issue. I look at it from a faith perspective. We all have our own traditions, and we can learn from each other’s traditions and get better. Jesus spoke more about the poor than just about any other topic, probably more than any other topic. He comes back to it in Scripture again and again to drive home the central teaching that serving the poor is among the most important things we do. […] traditions teach essentially the same thing, that if we don’t have a conscience and a heart that can be pricked and opened and challenged and we can’t respond to people in need, then we are not all that a human being should be.
Hillary Clinton grew up in a Methodist youth group with a pastor who took her to see Martin Luther King when she was a kid growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, and that opened her eyes to the challenges in the world. And I grew up in an Irish Catholic household, but we share this belief. We’ve got some Irish Catholics here. I already see the shout-out from the Irish Catholic section. That’s great. The teachings that my parents exposed me to and my church made a deep impression upon me as a young man educated at a Jesuit high school in Kansas City. They led me to interrupt my time teaching – I’m sorry, interrupt my time in law school to go be a teacher, volunteering with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras to teach carpentry and welding. And I saw families and kids living in some of the most abject poverty you can imagine. There was poverty a few miles away from me growing up that I never saw, and then I moved countries away to see it, but once you see it, wherever you see it – it can be in your neighborhood, it can be halfway across the world – it changes your attitude. And like Father Cunningham and Eleanor did here when they started Focus: HOPE, I used the skills that I got in my dad’s ironworking shop to help train others to support themselves.
That commitment from working with these great missionaries to reducing poverty drove me to become a civil rights lawyer in Richmond. I fought housing discrimination – people who had been turned away from housing either because of their skin color or their disability. And I petitioned the city council to approve a homeless shelter in a neighborhood where people needed a safe place to sleep and get back on their feet. Battling in my time in Richmond, my first years there, for civil rights and to end homelessness led me to do something that was absolutely unthinkable: run for the Richmond city council. […] I remember when I told Anne’s dad I was doing that […], and Anne’s dad was the first elected Republican governor of Virginia – ‘Lin, guess what, I’m running for the Richmond city council.’ He said, ‘Why in the hell would you want to do something like that?’
Well, I did it. I won my first race by 97 votes. That was nine races and 22 years ago. And throughout my time as a councilman, mayor, lieutenant governor, governor, and now Senator, in a commonwealth with both real poverty and real affluence, I saw how our economy grew and changed and I saw how all Virginians benefit when everybody had a fair shot at success. But I also saw that even as we benefited on average with the median income going up on average, or an unemployment rate going down on average, there are pockets all around my state where the average doesn’t tell the story because people in particular ZIP codes or people who were trained in particular industries, they don’t see the ladder that they can climb to success.
So fighting poverty has been the important cause of my life, and Anne is right there with me, and it’s an important cause in this campaign. And here’s some good news to start with. We have so much more to do, but some good news. The Census Bureau found that there were 3.5 million fewer people living in poverty in 2015 than in 2014, and it was one of the greatest changes in a single year ever in our history. And I don’t think President Obama gets enough credit – credit that he deserves – for the progress that he’s made. Because remember, and I know our congressional members and others – President Obama came in in the midst of the worst recession since the 1930s, and he’s had to do an awful lot with one complete side of Congress hardly lifting a finger to help him. And that achievement is something that we should be proud of him for.
But if President Obama were here, he’d be the first to remind us, even with that change – that’s fine – but nearly 40 percent of Americans will experience at least one year of poverty at some point in their life – 40 percent. Think about that. So it’s not an issue that just impacts a few and it’s not an issue that we can ignore. So to tackle the problem of poverty, we need to understand all the complications. We’ve got to examine root causes, like the legacy of racial discrimination that has held down the relative wealth of majority and minority populations.
I mean, just for a second, I have a bill in Congress right now to commemorate 400 years of African Americans in the United States. The first African Americans were brought – captured from a slave ship to Jamestown in 1619. The 400th anniversary will be in 2019. If you think about 400 years of African American history, and we can talk about other minority groups, but just 400 years of African American history divided into eight half centuries. For five of the eight half centuries that African Americans have been here, they were legally held as slaves and they were not entitled to be U.S. citizens even if they were born free – five of the eight half centuries. For two of the eight half centuries, African Americans could not be enslaved and they were entitled to be U.S. citizens, but they were also treated legally as second-class citizens in housing, in education, in voting, in public accommodations, in virtually every aspect of life.
It’s only been in the last one-eighth of the history of 400 years of African Americans here that they have been treated with legal equality. That’s not the same as social equality, but at least legal equality for only one-eighth of that entire history. And so needless to say, the differences in wealth between African American and majority communities are very significant when you look at how hard it was to accumulate wealth while being held in second-class status for so very, very long.
If you can’t – if you can’t describe it and name it and just be honest about the facts, you’re never going to be able to move beyond and try to find solutions. So you’ve got to look at root causes like racial discrimination and its legacy that still reaches into our community, underinvestment in communities, holes in the social safety net that are still too easy to fall through if you get hit with a sudden medical bill or an illness or an accident.
So let me tell you what Hillary and I plan to do to help our low-income Americans and the communities that have been left out or left behind – what we would like to do if we have the honor to serve and what we would like to do working in partnership with this community and others.
First, the entire progressive economic agenda that we have is aimed at creating more growth and fairness. So nearly every major priority in the first pillar of the three pillars of the campaign – an economy that works for all, not just for a few – will help families living in poverty. When we talk about making the largest investment in jobs since World War II, that will help more families climb out of poverty. When we talk about reducing barriers for those in the workforce by providing child care or paid family leave, equal pay for women, that will help more families climb out of poverty. When we talk about making sure Wall Street never wrecks Main Street again or renegotiating NAFTA or rejecting trade deals like TPP that won’t create more jobs or raise wages, or when we talk about having a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect low-income consumers from abusive loans, ultimately these economic pillars, which are broad in scope, will help families climb out of poverty too.
I’m proud of the progressive that we have, and I’m proud that Hillary hasn’t backed away from bold principled commitments that she made when she won a very fairly and vigorously contested Democratic primary against a great colleague and friend, Bernie Sanders. We are progressives who want to get things done, and we believe getting things done is good policy and good politics. So that’s the kind of campaign we’re running, and if we’re successful, that’s the kind of administration we’ll lead.
But I want to focus today not on the general policies that will help deal with poverty, but on the specific things. What are the parts of the agenda that are specifically targeted at addressing poverty? And I want to talk about three sort of pillars. Hillary and I are looking at a comprehensive approach. And the first pillar is we’ve got to raise incomes for working families and just put more money in people’s pockets, raising income for working families. And the second thing we do is we have to make sure every family has a safe and healthy home and neighborhood, because that’s the foundation for economic success. And finally, we’ve got to make sure that all our kids have the education and skills they need to get ahead and provide for their own families one day. That’s how we’re going to break the grip of generational poverty, and all of this is achievable and all of this is affordable. And it shouldn’t be too much to ask for the wealthiest nation on earth.
So let’s start. Let’s start with pillar one. Let’s start with pillar one. How can we create jobs and get incomes rising in communities that have been left behind? One of the big problems in low-income neighborhoods is underinvestment. Focus: HOPE is not just the building we’re in. Focus: HOPE has taken 100 square blocks in this neighborhood and has programs like tentacles reaching everywhere, whether it’s food service for seniors or pre-K education or entrepreneurship training or the workforce training right here. We’ve got to invest in communities that have been underinvested.
We’re inspired by ideas here. We’re inspired by programs like the New Markets Tax Credit to help neighborhoods all over the country. Congressman Jim Clyburn has a proposal many of you know about – the 10-20-30 plan. It would direct 10 percent of federal investments to communities where 20 percent of the population has been living below the poverty line for 30 years. Why not focus – sometimes we run into a problem in legislative politics where you take what you do and you kind of spread it so thin over everywhere that you don’t get the bang for the buck. Let’s focus our energy and try to get bang for the buck in the communities that have most need. As mayor of Richmond, I worked on similar strategies to target our public investment in hard-hit neighborhoods so that they could see the most dramatic improvement. And we ought to do the same thing on a national level.
Our plan to make historic investment in jobs, especially around infrastructure and manufacturing and research, will provide funding for cities like Detroit to make desperately needed infrastructure repairs. Why don’t we put people to work building the road, rail, airport, port, public transit, broadband, and clean energy infrastructure of tomorrow? Interest rates are low; it’s the perfect time to do it. And we know on the infrastructure side this is something that the Chamber of Commerce loves every bit as much as organized labor loves it, and mayors and governors, Republican and Democrat, will be there advocating for it because they know the need is there. So these investments in jobs will be the core, and we’re going to do this in the first 100 days – put a bold proposal down before Congress and say, ‘Let’s do something good and then let’s fight about who should get credit for it rather than not do anything and fight about who to be blamed when nothing happens.’
Second, in this – in the jobs and in the area of jobs and wages, it is important to kind of know where jobs come from, right? They aren’t created by magic. Hillary and I come from small business families. Small businesses in this country create two-thirds of new jobs – two-thirds of new jobs. And so if you want more jobs, I mean, let’s go to the place where jobs come from, and that’s small businesses and our startups. We want to make it easier for small businesses to start in our communities, especially communities that need it most – minority and women-owned small businesses. The great thing about small businesses that isn’t always the case about the bigger businesses is that small business is just connected to the community. They’re going to be engaged in the philanthropies. They’re going to be engaged in the community activities and street fairs. Sometimes the biggest companies, they don’t have the loyalty necessarily to every neighborhood, but a small business is connected to the community where they are created.
Your mayor has launched programs like Motor City Match. We talked about it on the phone. Really excited to accelerate and – accelerate the ability of smart, innovative entrepreneurs to put their ideas into action. You’ve got a quarterly competition where people compete to get dollars to help them succeed. And those who don’t win the competition, hey, they get mentored and helped so maybe they’ll win the next quarter’s competition.
We need to encourage innovative approaches like that all across the country to help our small businesses grow, because the unemployment rate for young people is more than double that of older citizens and particularly high for young people of color. We’re putting an extra focus on youth jobs just as you do here. And we’ve got to help folks who’ve made a mistake but want a second chance to re-enter the workforce. We will follow the lead of President Obama as he’s pushed policies to ban the box and enable people who want a second chance to show that they’ve still got something to offer. They’ve got something to offer to society.
On the wage side, we’ve got to make sure that anybody who works full time doesn’t live in poverty. I mean, we say work is – the key to success is hard work, but get this, if you tell people that but then your minimum wage is such that if you have a dependent, you work full time and then you’re under the poverty level, then you’re not being honest. If we’re saying work is important, we ought to value work and we ought to have a minimum wage that values work and that will get you above the poverty level if you are working hard. You know this: A full-time worker on minimum wage earns just $15,000 a year, and that’s below the poverty line for a household of two. And that why Hillary and I are proud that the party has come together to push in its platform for a $15 minimum wage – a $15 minimum wage. And over time, we’ll work to achieve that goal with appropriate timelines because different regions of the country are different. But that should be the goal and that’s what we’re going for.
Here’s another idea that we’re excited about and that will make a big difference for families in poverty. We’ve proposed doubling the Child Tax Credit. Now, everybody I know – everybody I know with young children talks about how expensive child care is. And look, it’s not bad that it’s expensive, because you would want to make sure if you’re putting the most precious thing in your life, your children, in the hands of somebody else for child care, you want to make sure that they’re good and that they’re well compensated and they’re well trained, so of course it’s going to be expensive because it’s really, really important. But it’s hard for working families to afford it. So we will have up to $2,000 of a Child Care Tax Credit and letting benefits for low-income families kick in immediately so that more families are able to qualify for the tax credit. Right now, a single mom working 20 hours a week in Detroit while raising a seven year old and a toddler receives a little more than $600. Boy, stretch that out over a year of child care. Stretch that out over a month and a half of child care. It’s not very easy. Under our plan, this same working mom would receive a $3,000 credit for those two kids, not $600. And estimates suggest that this change alone could benefit 14 million American families and help many rise out of poverty entirely just because of a better Child Care Tax Credit.
And then we’ve got to have a strong social safety net that helps get people back on their feet, and this includes protecting Social Security. Very, very connected – very, very connected to the poverty agenda. There’s probably no program that’s ever been done, Congressman Dingell, as an anti-poverty program that’s been as successful as Social Security. I mean — “
JOHN DINGELL: “My dad’s bill.”
TIM KAINE: “It was Congressman Dingell’s dad’s bill – just like health care and the expansion of health care was your bill. Because we used to live in a society where you’d spend your whole life working, and not just working. You would work and you would raise your kids and you would be the little league coach and you would be the Sunday school teacher and you would do everything else, and then you would retire and then you would go be poor. That was your recompense for a life of hard work for others. You would retire and you would be poor. And the Social Security program was designed to, ‘No, you’re going to do that and then we’re going to be there for you and you’re going to retire and you’re not going to be poor.’ And to a remarkable degree, that’s what Social Security’s done. What a great legacy in terms of who the Democratic Party is: a Social Security program that’s lifted the seniors that we ought to celebrate out of poverty. And it did it in an interesting way. It lifted seniors out of poverty by creating a bargain between the generations, between the working generation and the mentor generation, a bargain, ‘You help you, and then we’re going to help you,’ a benefit that you earn for a lifetime of hard work. But Social Security hasn’t kept up with today’s realities. It hasn’t kept up with the life expectancies that we’re living. And that means too many seniors are falling back into poverty.
And Hillary and I know we’ve got to fix it. We’re not only just going to defend Social Security. Forget about anybody’s efforts to privatize or tinker around with it. No. We’re not only just going to defend it. We’ve got to go on offense. We want to expand it, especially for those who need it most. Right now, the folks who need it most, elderly widows as we are living longer and woman who because they were caregivers were outside the workforce for big chunks of time, Social Security is not what it should be for them. And we need to expand it to make sure that it is what it needs to be for them and for everybody.
And it is an important thing just to underline that Social Security isn’t just about seniors. It’s a safety net for low-income people of all ages because a lot of children rely on caregivers who are on Social Security or are being raised by grandparents or other relatives who are on Social Security. So if we’re expanding Social Security, it’s not just for the seniors. It’s also for the younger generation that relies on seniors. Social Security lifted a million children out of poverty just in 2014. Expanding and protecting it will enable us to keep doing that. So that’s number one: jobs and wages, jobs and wages.
Second, putting more money in people’s pockets is crucial, but if we’re going to tackle poverty, we’ve got to go a little bit out of the pocketbook and get into neighborhoods and housing. People have to have a safe and healthy environment to raise their kids. And this is the second part of the anti-poverty agenda. Where you live, the ZIP Code where you live, determines the jobs you can find. It determines the schools your kids can attend. It determines whether you have easy transportation to opportunities that you want to avail yourself of. Sadly, it can determine whether the very air you breathe or the water you drink is healthy or not. It shapes the opportunities that you are going to have, the ZIP Code where you live. It’s like a big lottery. And you’re born, and you’re born into a ZIP Code. And – and you didn’t – you didn’t choose it, but you’re born into a ZIP Code. And that ZIP Code ends up with a massive impact. And this is what we have to do with respect to housing and neighborhoods. When the only options available to you if you’re in maybe a ZIP Code that isn’t as preferred as others are not connected to opportunities in society, it really cuts to the core of who you are and who you can be.
I’m really passionate about this. I worked in Richmond. And I fought hard against housing discrimination, people who had been turned away because of the color of their skin or their disability. I remember my first client. I had been only a lawyer for about two months. And this young woman named Lorraine came to me. And she – she was just like me. She was just my age. I just was out of school. I just had moved to a new community. I had just gotten a new job. And I was just looking for an apartment, that kind of thing that’s really cool to go out and be on your own and how great that is. And my experience had worked out very, very well. And, yet, I had this client who was just like me, but her experience hadn’t worked out well because she had been turned away from the apartment that she wanted when the landlord saw that her skin color was black. And then she was able to with a colleague prove that was the case. I took her case, and we won it. But it wasn’t – the winning of the case was sort of secondary because she had a different experience than I did. My experience of going out on my own in the big, wide world was a good experience. And her experience was a bad one. And that experience put a doubt in her mind, ‘The next time I try, am I going to get the same treatment again? The next time I go out and look for a house and apartment or maybe even a car loan, am I going to get treated differently because of who I am?’
At the very time as I was battling on these cases early in my career, at the same stage in his career, Donald Trump was being sued by the Justice Department for blatantly discriminating against people of color who were trying to rent apartments from him. He – they were instructing – this was the lawsuit. It was one of the largest lawsuits that the Justice Department has ever brought in the area of housing discrimination. The employees were being instructed to write a ‘C’ – and you know what the ‘C’ stands for – on the – on the application of anybody whose skin color was brown or black so that they would then know how to treat that person. And they weren’t doing it to treat them better, believe me.
That’s a pretty clear distinction in this election. In a Clinton and Kaine administration, we’re going to enforce the fair housing laws, and we’re going to provide more incentives to create affordable rental housing through expansion of the low-income tax credit program. I talked with your mayor and others about that here in Detroit about that early. Too many people in our country are poor because they have to pay too much of their income for housing. If you’re having to pay 35, 40, 50 percent of your income for housing, then you don’t have the money left over to do the kinds of things that you want to do to keep yourself above the poverty level. And so we’ve got to expand tax credits, ramp up counseling and rental assistance, expand the choices that recipients of housing vouchers have in deciding where to live. And for working families looking to buy their first home, our plan would encourage sustainable home ownership, provide up to $10,000 in assistance for down payments.
We’ve got to work on something else. I know many of you are active in this field: stop predatory lending practices. My wife was a Legal Aid lawyer who really went to town on some predatory lenders when she was doing that back in Richmond, predatory lenders that hurt so many low-income communities. And we need to provide safe bank accounts, check-cashing options, and other things that don’t rip people off and we can protect them against the worst abuses of payday lenders. And to do that, we’ve got to defend the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that Congress created. This – this protects families from unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices. Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress say they want to eliminate it. They want to repeal the Dodd-Frank law that created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We’re not going to let them. We’re not going to let them do that.
And – and here is something that we shouldn’t have to say in 2016. But you know it in Michigan, and, frankly, everybody does around the country. A safe home means being able to drink the water. I mean, it means being able to drink the water. Is that so controversial? Is that so hard in the richest nation in the history of the world? That’s why we’ve got to address the devastating impacts of environmental injustices, like what we’ve seen in Flint. And Flint is the tip of the iceberg on this because aging infrastructure, water infrastructure and other utility infrastructure, around the country are exposing people, especially in our older central cities, where the infrastructure is older, to really serious environmental harm. Donald Trump tried to show he cared about Flint. He dropped by the water treatment plant. He told everybody they had done a great job. And then he went to a local church and ended up picking a fight with the pastor in her own church in Flint.
Hillary took a different approach. She – she made sure that the entire country stopped and saw what was happening in Flint. She spoke out about it, said that if kids in a wealthier suburb of Detroit or Richmond, for that matter, had been drinking poisoned water, something would have happened, and it would have happened quick. And when she did – when she visited Flint, she did a lot of listening. […] fund to help ensure the delivery of clean and safe water to the town’s residents.
As the crisis continued, we’re going to keep calling on Congress. And nobody, nobody more than Debbie has been passionate about this until we finally find the funding that Flint and our other cities need. And can I just tell you – can I just tell you how weird Congress is? Debbie has been fighting, along with Gary and along with your congressional delegation, Sandy, to do the right thing by Flint since this came up earlier in the year again and again and again. And – and we sort of finally were on the verge of a deal. And this was the deal. We will get funding for Flint and other cities, and we will also get storm relief funding for Baton Rouge in the aftermath of the horrible flooding there. And we were going to do both when we were together just a couple of weeks ago in Congress. And the Democrats said we were going to do both. And the Republicans said: No. We just want to do Baton Rouge. We don’t want to do Flint. We just want to do Baton Rouge. You – a lot of – a lot of Republican members of Congress from that area, Republican senators from that area: We want to do Baton Rouge, and we don’t want to do Flint. And we said: No. We want to do both.
And get this. The Republican majorities in both houses said: All right. If you insist that we’ve got to treat them equally, here’s our solution. We won’t help Flint, and we won’t help Louisiana. I mean, can you – can it be any clearer than that in terms of who you are trying to help that they ended up pitching their own priority overboard because they didn’t want to help Flint, Michigan? Well, we’re going to make sure that we change Congress and that we change that and that we can help Flint, Michigan and help Baton Rouge and do the right thing for all of our communities, regardless of whether they have Democrats or Republicans representing them in Congress?
The infrastructure plan that I talked about a minute ago is also about infrastructure with respect to crumbling water systems and infrastructure around the country. So this jobs bill at the front is about fixing infrastructure. And we have a goal to eliminate lead as a major public health threatwithin five years. This is not something that should be hard to do for the greatest nation on Earth.
While we’re focused on health, let’s just make real clear here we’re going to make sure that our low-income families maintain access to the quality of affordable healthcare that the Affordable Care Act has provided. Twenty million low-income Americans have health insurance that they didn’t have before, that they didn’t have before. And others who did have insurance end up having protections against insurance company practices that they didn’t have before.
One of the great things about being on a national ticket is just campaigning around and having somebody grab you and tell you, ‘You’re going to listen to me now.’ I was at the Iowa State Fair. And a grandfather came up with a little three-year-old boy named Jude. And he said, ‘Hey. Here’s my grandson Jude.’
I said, ‘Tell me about Jude.’
And he looked at me in the eye. And then the mom and dad came over, too. They all looked at me in the eye. Jude has had five heart operations at the Omaha Children’s Hospital that he wouldn’t have been able to have had it not been for the Affordable Care Act. And because of his condition, he would have a preexisting condition and would never be able to be covered for the rest of his life had it not been for the Affordable Care Act.
And then the dad, who was a big guy, put his hands on both of my shoulders and say, ‘Are you going to tell me that you are going to fight to maintain the Affordable Care Act?’ And I just said, ‘Yes, sir. You can take it to the bank.’ We’re not letting them roll it back. We’re not letting them take health insurance away from 20 million low-income Americans.
But we can improve it. In fact, we can’t rest on our laurels about anything. We can improve it. We need to reduce out-of-pocket and prescription drug costs. We need to make it easier for the small businesses that we talked about to access a tax credit so that they can buy health insurance. We want to expand Medicaid. There are still 15 or 20 states – sadly, Virginia is one; I’ve got a Democratic governor that wants to do the right thing, and two Republican houses that don’t want to let him. Here in Michigan with a Republican governor and Republican legislature, at least you could see it’s important to make sure that people have health care. You have embraced the Medicaid expansion. But we got to make sure that other states do it, too. And we’ve got to create a public option for health care so that we can continue to drive down health care prices.
Hillary worked with Bernie Sanders on a really important thing, to double federal spending for community health centers. You’ve got a great network of them here in Michigan, just like we do in Richmond. They’re the providers of first instance for so many families, and we’ll double funding for them.
And finally, you can’t talk about the neighborhood issues without talking about gun violence. I have a – this is really personal to me. I was a city councilman and mayor in Richmond. We had the second highest homicide rate in the United States when I got elected. And we had to really listen to our neighborhoods, especially minority neighborhoods that were most victimized, to figure out what were the strategies to cut gun violence by a lot.
And then this problem followed me. I was governor of Virginia when the shooting happened at Virginia Tech, the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States, 32 people killed. And I’ll tell you, this will sound odd when I say it, but I think you’ll get what I mean. After a lot of time trying to comfort a lot of parents who had lost children or family members who had lost husbands and wives who were professors, when the dust all settled from that, we had the black mark on our state of this as the worst shooting in the history of the United States. But I always hoped that it would be. I always hoped that there would not be a shooting that would be as bad as that, and that we would learn something from it and we would get better. But sadly, since 2007, Sandy Hook or now 49 people gunned down in the nightclub in Orlando, Florida just in June of this year.
Can’t we learn something, folks? Can’t we learn something, that you can be a constitutional Second Amendment supporter and a gun owner, as I am, but you can also accept reasonable rules like background record checks and things like that that will keep our communities safer? This epidemic – this epidemic scars every community in the United States. It’s no respecter of race. It’s no respecter of income. It scars every community in the United States. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for young black men. The leading cause of death. And so Hillary and I will keep working with colleagues to fight for common-sense reforms that the American public and even gun owners overwhelmingly want but that Congress has thus far kind of turned a deaf ear towards. If we speak up loudly enough, we will enable people to listen and find a path forward to making common-sense reforms to keep our communities safer.
Well, the final pillar of the anti-poverty plan, and this may be – I don’t know, may be the most important one, and this is something that unifies us, is the education pillar. Education is the great lifter. It’s the great leveler. We’re a nation with a great tradition, but we’re kind of – we’re kind of falling backwards a little bit. And we’ve got to go back to really prioritizing. Our administration would want to do a number of things to make sure that from kids to seniors, throughout their working life, we are making sure that people have the skills they need to be successful as individuals, but with the knowledge that if they do, the society and our economy is going to be doing better, too. We’re going to start with early childhood education.
Early childhood education, the research is so powerful, so powerful, that if you can provide high-quality early childhood education for a kid, especially an at-risk kid, and help them, when they start kindergarten, be just ready to go at the starting line, just ready to go like their other colleagues, you will affect them positively throughout their entire life. Hillary started her career working on the Yale Child Study Center and then at the Children’s Defense Fund. In every office she’s held – First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the U.S., Senator, or Secretary of State – she’s talked about the importance of starting the learning process as early as possible. My wife Anne, as Virginia Secretary of Education, championed expansions of early childhood exchange in our commonwealth with Terry McAuliffe, who’s our governor now and a great governor.
As mayor or governor or Senator, I fought to increase the availability of early childhood education because the research – I mean, just read the research. It’s one of the best things you can do to reduce disparities in achievement. And that’s why Hillary and I, we want to make universal pre-K available for every 4-year-old in this country. And we will work with mayors and we will work with governors to make that happen. And this will be music to Focus: HOPE. We want to double funding in Early Head Start. Focus: HOPE has a great Early Head Start program for the 3-year-olds and below. And if we do that, that will even help kids be more successful.
Kids should be entitled to go to good schools, no matter what zip code they live in. Detroiters know this well, and so do Richmonders. It’s not necessarily the case in low-income communities. Let’s just start with the buildings. When I got elected to city council in Richmond, we had two elementary schools in our city that were still being used where part of the school had been built in the 1880s. And these were not buildings that were suitable to a 21st century, much less a 20th century, exchange because of poor HVAC and inadequacy in terms of computer wiring. That’s why I spent a lot of time as mayor building schools. In poor areas across our nation, kids are sitting in classrooms, sometimes with mold hurting their health, sometimes with rodents. That’s no way for kids to learn.
So back to infrastructure. Part of this infrastructure plan has to be about prioritizing the repair and the upgrade of public schools serving low-income students. If a child walks into a building that is clearly substandard, there’s a message there. That child is going to absorb a message: I guess this must not be very important because society sure doesn’t value very much what’s going on in this place. If they valued it, it would look a lot different. It wouldn’t be rag-tag. And so we got to send the right message to the kids about that we value what they’re doing. We value education.
We got to send that same message about valuing teachers. Too often in public life people talk about teachers as if the only issue is, how do you get rid of a bad teacher? We got to attract and keep and celebrate and reward and incentivize and train good teachers. We have good teachers leaving the profession because they don’t feel that they’re valued enough by society. That’s something that we’ve got to change.
We know there’s a link between mass incarceration and poverty. We got to make an effort to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. What is that? You hear people use that phrase. Right? School-to-prison pipeline. In so many communities now, there’s an over-reliance on suspensions, expulsions, and even arrests. And then that knocks kids off the ladder as they’re trying to climb the ladder to get out of poverty, as they’re trying to climb the ladder to find their path to success. We can do better, and we can work with our school systems to reform overly punitive disciplinary policies and help them invest in social workers and guidance counselors and behavioral health supports because law enforcement gets involved. This is something that the mayor and others in Michigan, I know you’re tackling right now. And we’ve also been working on this in Virginia.
You’ve got to provide community services in school buildings, the community schools model, to provide a wide range of services for children and families. The teachers aren’t really the ones to provide. A child can’t learn if she needs glasses but has never had an eye exam. A child can’t learn if he’s struggling with a mental health issue but has never had a diagnosis. You’ve got to have social services available. That’s not what you’re going to be able to do, Lord knows, with a class of 25 kids when you’re a teacher. You should be teaching, but there should be the social services right there in school buildings to assess where kids are and remove the barriers that keep them from learning.
After high school, Hillary and I want to make it so that every low-income family in America can send their kids to a public university or community college absolutely tuition-free. Make less than $125,000, tuition-free at the in-state level. Debt-free for everybody. Helping people refinance loans. It’s easier to refinance a loan on a corporate jet in this country than it is to refinance a student loan. There’s something wrong with that, and that’s something we can change.
And finally, and I’m looking at my organized labor here, we got to make sure we preach this message. There’s more than one path to a fulfilling life and a career. So we’ve got to focus, as Focus: HOPE does, on another long-time passion of mine, which is career and technical education. I have friends – I got AFGE. The guy who’s the immediate past President of the Ironworkers, Walt Wise, is a Roanoke guy from Virginia. And Walt always tells the story of going to the high school career and college night, and there’s an Ironworkers table, and then there’s all the colleges.
And people are lining up at the college tables to get the glitzy brochure, and they’re learning about a school where, if they go – and they might get a great education, but they’re probably going to come out with a lot of debt. And then they may or may not get a job. But if they do, they’ll be struggling to pay debt. And here he is sitting at the Ironworkers table and talking about an apprenticeship program where, no, it’s not going to cost you. We’re going to pay you during the apprenticeship program. And you’re going to finish it in 3 and a half years, and you’re not going to have any debt. And with the American Welding Society certification and a graduation of this program, you’re going to have a great job for the rest of your life.
But Walt talks about being at that table and nobody’s coming over because parents and guidance counselors in sort of the last couple generations of American public education, we didn’t celebrate the technical skills and the trades. And now we have all these jobs that are unfilled. We have to bring in welders on foreign specialty H-1B visas to get great-paying jobs in this country because we’re not training enough here. Nobody does this better than organized labor, and we need to advance apprenticeships and career and technical education. And also to increase wages, we got to stand up for the right to collectively bargain. That’s one of the key pillars, the key pillars of support for fair wages in this country.
I co-founded a Career and Technical Education Caucus in the Senate. I did it because I’m really smart. I stole a good idea from the House, Sandy. They had a Career and Technical Education Caucus, and we didn’t have one in the Senate. So I co-founded it because of my background in an ironworking shop of my dad’s and teaching kids to be ironworkers and carpenters in Honduras. And I saw how much opening up the definition of ‘success’ to trades and career and technical skills – I saw how much that can advance us.
As Detroit recovers and companies are coming back in, they’re going to need a skilled workforce to fill all these new jobs. The mayor was sharing with me and interesting challenge, and it’s a challenge. Jobs are coming back, but will they be jobs that can be accessed by people who are right here? If jobs are growing but they’re jobs that people are coming in from elsewhere to take and they’re not jobs that are accessible right here in the community because we’re not training people the right way, then we’re not doing it quite right. And so that’s why the career and technical education thing is so important. And that’s why Focus: HOPE has played such a key role.
For a long time, a lot of people were graduating Detroit high schools without the skills training or quantifies they needed – too many people. And Focus: HOPE said, okay. We’re going to offer programs right here to give students additional skills in reading, math, and computers. You heard Jejuan’s story about this. We’ll wrap around programs that won’t just teach the skill, but will also teach the interpersonal skills that are necessary to thrive in the workforce. And we ought to put this model to work on a national scale so that the next generation of kids born into low-income families no longer have to lower their expectations. In fact, an awful lot of challenge with kids in low-income families is they don’t even know enough about what’s out there in the work world to even set their expectations. And so programs like this expand the sense of what’s possible, what the work world looks like, and enables kids to pick a path and then figure out how to achieve that path.
So we’ve got to do all these things at once if we’re going to battle against poverty. We’ve got to invest in underserved communities to create jobs and get incomes rising. We have to help more low-income families live safe, healthy lives in dignified housing in safe neighborhoods. And we’ve got to give our more at-risk kids the skills and the opportunities that they need, that they describe. They don’t just need them, they deserve them, to succeed.
We’re in a global competition. We know this. We can’t afford to leave talent on the sidelines. When we write people off, we’re not only shortchanging individuals and shortchanging their dreams, we’re also shortchanging the future of the entire country. But if we work together, as Hillary always says, we can help every single American go as far as their God-given potential will take them.
Fighting poverty is really a growth strategy. It’s a competitiveness strategy. But it’s also a moral responsibility. And it’s going to be a defining mission of a Clinton-Kaine administration. Hillary and I, we’ve always rooted for underdogs. She’s a Cubs fan. Lord. We’ve always rooted for underdogs. And I think most Americans kind of have that same feeling. In my own faith tradition, there’s the tale of the good Samaritan. And it’s a story that is known throughout different traditions.
Somebody is beaten up and lying on the side of the road. And a whole lot of people, even people who know better, even leaders, just walk on by. They pretend that they don’t notice, or they notice and they just decide not to do anything. And I bet one of them even walked on by and said, ‘You’re a loser.’ And then – and then – a Samaritan, and in the story the Samaritan was a member of kind of a despised minority group – decides not to walk on by and to lend a hand. That’s a parable that just speaks to today.
This is not a yesterday story. This is a today story and it’s a tomorrow story because here in this country there are still people who are at the side of the road and they’re asking for help. Some have been victims of violence. Some are hungry. Some need education and an opportunity. Some made a mistake and they’re just looking for a way back in to get a second chance. Some are lonely and just need a word of kindness. The question before us in this election – there’s big policy issues at stake, but the question before us in this election is, do we just walk on by or do we go over and try to help? Even if we don’t know all the answers. Even if we don’t even know all the words to say. Do we at least roll up our sleeves and go over and do what we can to make somebody else’s life better?
Here’s something I’ve learned. I’ve learned it in 22 years in elected office in my Commonwealth and now on a national ticket and in this national party chair traveling around. I’ve learned it about us. We’re not always at our best, but I’ve learned it about us most of the time: Americans, we’re not a nation of people who just walk on by. Father Cunningham and Eleanor, 50 years ago, they didn’t walk on by. Hillary Clinton and I, we don’t walk on by. Detroiters, you don’t walk on by. We reach out. We help because we know we are all neighbors. And we know that we truly are stronger together.
Thanks so much for having me today. Let’s go win this election, and then let’s take this big battle to create an economy that works for everybody, especially providing ladders of success for the poor. Let’s make it a reality. Thanks so much, Detroit!”