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I want to start by thanking your governor, Charlie Crist, for joining us today. Governors understand our economic crisis as well as anyone; they’re on the front lines dealing with it every day. And Governor Crist shares my conviction that creating jobs and turning this economy around is a mission that transcends party. When the town is burning, we don’t check party labels. Everyone needs to grab a hose!
Governor Crist and governors across the country understand that. Mayors across the country understand that. And I think you understand that, too. Which is what I want to talk about today.
Last night, I addressed the nation to explain why I believe we need to put the economic recovery plan that is before Congress in motion as soon as possible. But during the day, I spent some time out in Indiana talking to folks. And today, I wanted to come to Florida and visit you all in Fort Myers.
You see, too often the debate in Washington tends to take the measure of our challenges in numbers and statistics. But when we say we’ve lost 3.6 million jobs since this recession began – nearly 600,000 in the past month alone; when we say that Lee County has seen its unemployment rate go from 3.5 percent to nearly 10 percent in less than two years; when we talk about the plummeting home prices and soaring foreclosure rates that have plagued this area, and layoffs at companies like Kraft Construction and Chico’s – companies that have sustained this community for years – well, we’re not just talking about faceless numbers. We’re talking about families you probably know.
We’re talking about people like Steve Adkins, who has joined us today with his wife Michelle, and their son Bailey and daughter Josie. Steve’s the president of a small construction company in Fort Myers that specializes in building and repairing schools, but work has slowed considerably. He’s done what he can to reduce overhead costs, but he’s still been forced to lay off half his workforce. And he and Michelle have made sacrifices of their own – they sold their home and moved into a smaller one.
That is what this debate is about. Folks in Fort Myers and all across the country who have lost their livelihood and don’t know what will take its place. Parents who’ve lost their health care and lie awake at night praying their kids don’t get sick. Families who’ve lost the home that was the foundation of their American dream. Young people who put that college acceptance letter back in the envelope because they just can’t afford it.
That’s what those numbers and statistics mean. That is the true measure of this economic crisis. Those are the stories I heard every time I came here to Florida and that I have carried with me to the White House.