"Thank you, Beth, for the kind introduction and inspiring words. Bethany Manufacturing is one of the many small business success stories in America. Beth is rightfully proud to have created good, secure jobs. Through her and her employees' ingenuity and hard work, Bethany keeps growing. But Beth tells me it gets harder every year, not because of the market and competition, but because of government regulations, taxes and the cost of health care. Beth, I promise you, if I'm elected President, we're going to remove these obstacles to your continued success, and make government a catalyst for growth and good jobs.
Before I take your questions, I want to begin by talking about the issue in this campaign Americans worry the most about -- the American economy.
All of us know what is happening to the economy. It is slowing. More than 400,000 people have lost their jobs since December, and the rate of new job creation has fallen sharply. Some economists have noted that companies seem to be on a "hiring strike." Americans are worried about the security of their current job, and they're worried that they, their kids and their neighbors may not find good jobs and new opportunities in the future. To make matters worse, gas is over $4 a gallon and the price of oil has almost doubled in the last year. The cost of everything from energy to food is rising.
I have a plan to grow this economy, create more and better jobs, and get America moving again. I have a plan to reform government, achieve energy security, and ensure that healthcare and a quality education are affordable and available for all. I believe the role of government is to unleash the creativity, ingenuity and hard work of the American people, and make it easier to create jobs.
At its core, the economy isn't the sum of an array of bewildering statistics. It's about where Americans work, how they live, how they pay their bills today and save for tomorrow. It's about small businesses opening their doors, hiring employees and growing. It's about giving workers the education and training to find a good job and prosper in it. It's about the aspirations of the American people to build a better life for their families; dreams that begin with a job.
So how are we going to create good jobs? Let's start with small businesses, which create the majority of all jobs. A recent report says small businesses have created 233,000 jobs so far this year while other sectors are losing jobs. Small businesses are the job engine of America, and I will make it easier for them to grow and create more jobs. My opponent wants to make it harder by imposing a "pay or play" health mandate on small business. This adds $12,000 to the cost of employing anyone with a family. That means new jobs will not be created. It means existing employees will have their wages cut to pay for this mandate. My plan attacks the real problems of healthcare -- cost, availability and portability.
Some economists don't think much of my gas tax holiday. But the American people like it, and so do small business owners. Just ask Andrew Emmett who runs Air-Tite insulation in Michigan. He has had to stop hiring new workers because of the cost of fuel for his trucks.
We need to keep the IRS from taking more of your income and making life harder for small business. If you believe you should pay more taxes, I am the wrong candidate for you. Senator Obama is your man. The choice in this election is stark and simple. Senator Obama will raise your taxes. I won't. I will cut them where I can. Jobs are the most important thing our economy creates. When you raise taxes in a bad economy you eliminate jobs. I'm not going to let that happen.
Senator Obama's tax increases will hurt the economy even more, and destroy jobs across this country. If you are one of the 23 million small business owners in America who files as an individual rate payer, Senator Obama is going to raise your tax rates. If you have an investment for your child's education or own a mutual fund or a stock in a retirement plan, he is going to raise your taxes. He will raise estate taxes to 45 percent. I propose to cut them to 15 percent. His plan will hurt the American worker and family. It will hurt the economy and cost us jobs. For those of you with children, I will double the child deduction from $3,500 to $7,000 for every dependent, in every family in America. At a time of increasing gas and food prices, American families need tax relief and I, not my opponent, will deliver it.
In addition to small business, the other bright spot in the economy are our exports, which are estimated to be growing at over seven percent. I will expand markets for our goods and services. Twenty-five percent of all the jobs in this country are linked to world trade. In five states alone -- Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Colorado -- over five million jobs depend on open markets.
My opponent believes America would be better off by refusing opportunities to sell in growing foreign markets. But protectionism not only puts a hidden tax on almost everything you buy, but it undermines American competitiveness and costs jobs. Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers live outside the U.S. Our future prosperity depends on opening more of these markets, not closing them.