Democrats' Radio Response

The following is a transcript of the Democrats radio response to President Bush's weekly radio address:

Hello, I'm Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois. It's really hard to believe, but if he were alive today, Dr. Martin Luther King would be 77 years old. He's been gone now for nearly as long as he lived. Yet his name, and his life, and his dream still remain a potent moral force in America.

I wonder what Dr. Martin Luther King would think about America today? I'm sure he would be pleased with the progress we have made on racial justice. He sure would be proud of Barack Obama, who keynoted the Democratic National Convention and now serves as my colleague from Illinois. He won in my state by one of the largest margins in the history of the Land of Lincoln.

But Dr. King would know - we all know - that we haven't reached the Promised Land. There are a lot of other changes in America that would trouble Dr. King.

In his last book, his last words to America, here's what he said: "There is nothing wrong with power. The problem is that, in America, the power is so unequally divided."

That is certainly true in America and you can see it in Washington today. Powerful corporate special interests control the agenda and people who don't have paid lobbyists really don't have much of a voice. To these power players, the challenges facing America are not problems to solve, but opportunities to exploit. We're all paying the price for that.

Instead of a reliable Medicare prescription drug benefit for seniors, we have a complicated mess that wastes tens of billions of dollars on giveaways to pharmaceutical companies and big insurance companies.

Instead of a strategy for real energy independence for America, we end up with a plan that includes $10 billion in subsidies to big oil and gas companies -- companies that are already enjoying the highest profits in their histories.

Corporate profits are up dramatically, but real wages for American workers have gone down now for four years in a row. Think of this: People are putting in a lifetime on their jobs and then losing their pensions to mergers, bankruptcies and corporate sleight of hand.

In the wealthiest nation on Earth, it is unforgivable that 45 million Americans have no health insurance and so many people are underinsured -- at some of the highest costs you can imagine. Yet the White House and this Republican Congress have done literally nothing over the last five years to address this challenge.

Many years ago when I was a college student, I was fortunate to work as an intern for one of the greatest men to ever serve the state of Illinois in the United States Senate. His name was Paul Douglas. He worked with Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders to help pass the 1957 Civil Rights Act. He was also the first chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee.

Senator Douglas once said that the greatest cost of cronyism and corruption is not the dollars it wastes, but the damage it does to people's trust in government. Here's what he said: "That helps to destroy one of the major foundations in democracy itself."

The litany of corruption today in Washington reaches the highest levels you can imagine: from the White House, to Congress, to the well-appointed corporate suites on K Street.

Now, neither Democrats nor Republicans have a monopoly on virtue. The leadership that brought us to this moment, though, is undeniable. For the last five years, Republicans have enjoyed almost total control of the federal government. This nearly unprecedented concentration of power has produced, sadly, a culture of corruption that is preventing government from dealing with the real needs of our nation.

Americans deserve better, and Democrats have pledged to do better. The first step is to restore honest leadership in Washington. When Congress returns this week, Democrats will introduce a comprehensive reform package. Here's what we need to do: increase accountability in government; enforce the government ethics rules; strengthen lobby bans; and close the revolving door between Congress and K Street - to stop people at the highest levels of government from cashing in on government service.

When the President delivers his annual State of the Union address at the end of the month, I hope he will join us, on a bipartisan basis, in reforming the way Washington does business. As Dr. King reminded us, America has no second- or third-class citizens. We should all have an equal voice and an equal chance to succeed.

I'm Dick Durbin from Illinois. Thanks for listening.