Now, you'll hear if you watch the nightly news or you read the newspapers that, well, there’s gridlock, Congress is broken, approval ratings for Congress are terrible. And there’s a tendency to say, a plague on both your houses. But the truth of the matter is that the problem in Congress is very specific. We have a group of folks in the Republican Party who have taken over who are so ideologically rigid, who are so committed to an economic theory that says if folks at the top do very well then everybody else is somehow going to do well; who deny the science of climate change; who don't think making investments in early childhood education makes sense; who have repeatedly blocked raising a minimum wage so if you work full-time in this country you're not living in poverty; who scoff at the notion that we might have a problem with women not getting paid for doing the same work that men are doing.
They, so far, at least, have refused to budge on bipartisan legislation to fix our immigration system, despite the fact that every economist who’s looked at it says it's going to improve our economy, cut our deficits, help spawn entrepreneurship, and alleviate great pain from millions of families all across the country.
So the problem is not Dick Durbin. The problem is not Michael Bennet. The problem is not that the Democrats are overly ideological -- because the truth of the matter is, is that the Democrats in Congress have consistently been willing to compromise and reach out to the other side. There are no radical proposals coming out from the left. When we talk about climate change, we talk about how do we incentivize through the market greater investment in clean energy. When we talk about immigration reform there’s no wild-eyed romanticism. We say we're going to be tough on the borders, but let’s also make sure that the system works to allow families to stay together, and that we're attracting talent like Michael who constantly replenish the American Dream.
When we talk about taxes we don't say we're going to have rates in the 70 percent or 90 percent when it comes to income like existed here 50, 60 years ago. We say let’s just make sure that those of us who have been incredibly blessed by this country are giving back to kids so that they’re getting a good start in life, so that they get early childhood education, so that struggling middle-class families are able to finance their education, and that if a talented young person wants to go into teaching or wants to become a social worker that they’re not burdened by hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of debt.
Health care -- we didn’t suddenly impose some wild, crazy system. All we said was let’s make sure everybody has insurance. And this made the other side go nuts -- the simple idea that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, nobody should go bankrupt because somebody in their family gets sick, working within a private system.
So when you hear a false equivalence that somehow, well, Congress is just broken, it's not true. What’s broken right now is a Republican Party that repeatedly says no to proven, time-tested strategies to grow the economy, create more jobs, ensure fairness, open up opportunity to all people.
Which leads me to the reason we are here tonight -- I need a Congress that works. And that means I need a Democratic Senate. And it would be helpful to have a Democratic House. Now, you all know this so I'm preaching to the choir. But here’s the challenge we have: Democrats are not perfect and it turns out one of our great imperfections is we have a congenital tendency not to vote in midterm elections.
I don't know what it is. Presidential elections, we're all in. In 2008, you all went crazy; 2012, you still went crazy. High turnout, we're motivated, donors are involved, people are active, folks are knocking on doors, people making phone calls. And then the midterm comes and we fall asleep.
That cannot happen in this election because the stakes are too high. And I say this mindful that in every election somebody says how high the stakes are. But think about what’s at stake right now. Think about it. If we do not hang on to the Senate and make gains in the House we may not get immigration reform done, which means we could have another three, four years in which we're being deprived of talent we're training here in the United States -- they go back home and start businesses someplace else. There are Michael Polskys right now in universities that have the possibility of creating businesses here but may end up going back home because we have a broken immigration system. That's what’s at stake.
Basic research -- we're on the cusp of discovering -- when it comes to brain research, we've invested in a brain initiative that could discover cures for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, debilitating diseases, and as our population ages it's going to be more and more important. And yet, if you look at the Republican House budget, it slashes the very research that promises to provide cures to families all across America and could potentially create entire new industries in this country.
Energy -- we've doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars, doubled the production of clean energy. Solar has gone up three times since I came into office, new generation of wind power 10 times. We're making enormous progress. But if we don't have a Congress that has that same vision that we should be out in front, ahead, when it comes to the race for 21st century energy sources, then we're going to be stuck doing the same thing we've been doing forever. And that means that we cannot stop the trends towards higher emissions and higher greenhouse gases and global warming.
And I know it's hard to talk about global warming here in Chicago -- (laughter) -- after this winter. But everybody here understands that it's changing weather patterns that are at stake here, with potentially devastating, catastrophic consequences.
Minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, the Supreme Court -- all these issues are at stake in the midterms -- not in the presidential election. You have a President who is fighting for you in the White House. What you do not have right now is a Congress that can function.
And I want to make clear, by the way, because I'm in the Land of Lincoln -- the problem is not the Republican Party, per se. I want a functioning, coherent, reasoned-based Republican Party. And if they’ve got slightly different ideas than mine I am happy to sit down and work them out. I'm talking about a very specific faction of the Republican Party that's taken over and cannot get anything done.
Harry Truman used to talk about the “do-nothing” Congress. This Congress has done less than the “do-nothing” Congress that Harry Truman talked about. I'm serious.
So the bottom line is we have to feel a sense of urgency in this election. And that means that every one of you, many of whom are great supporters and have backed me for a long time and are happy to come to Michael and Tanya’s house and participate -- it means I need you to push a little further than you're doing right now. I'm going to need you to help to activate and mobilize folks throughout this town and your contacts across the country to say it is not good enough simply to sit back and complain. Cynicism is not an option. Cynicism is not wisdom.