[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[March 18, 1995]
[Pages 372-373]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

The President's Radio Address
March 18, 1995

    Good morning. This morning I want to talk about responsibility, the 
responsibility all parents have to support their children. I'm pleased 
to be joined by Gerri Jensen, the president of the leading child support 
enforcement group in America, along with six other conscientious parents 
who have struggled to raise their children without the child support 
they were entitled to.
    Our generation, at the end of the 20th century, has two great 
responsibilities: first, to keep the American dream alive and well for 
all our children and, second, to help our country remain the strongest 
force for freedom and democracy in the world. We can't do that if we 
don't have strong families and responsible parenting.
    In Washington we're having a great debate about what we ought to do 
here to support these goals. On one side is the old Washington view that 
big, bureaucratic, one-size-fits-all Government can provide big 
solutions to America's big problems. On the other side is the new 
extreme view that Government is the source of all our problems and if we 
just get rid of it every problem would go away as well.
    I've got a different view based on practical experience. I think we 
have to chart a course between the old way of big Government and the new 
rage of no Government. I think Government's job is to expand opportunity 
while shrinking bureaucracy, to get more jobs and higher incomes with 
less burden from Government, to empower people to make the most of their 
own lives through more education and training and technology and support 
for families and for work, and to enhance our security on our streets 
and around the world.
    To achieve these ends, the Federal Government has to be a partner, a 
partner with the private sector, with State and local governments, with 
individual citizens to strengthen our communities, a partner in 
promoting opportunity and at the same time demanding more 
responsibility. That's what the New Covenant is all about.
    Nowhere is the lack of values, the lack of opportunity and 
responsibility more apparent than in our own failed welfare system. We 
all agree we have to end welfare as we know it. I think to do it we'll 
have to offer more opportunity to move people from welfare to work and 
demand more responsibility in return, to have a requirement that anyone 
on welfare who can work must go to work, and to discourage irresponsible 
behavior that lands people on welfare in the first place by insisting on 
tougher child support enforcement and responsible parenting. We have to 
make responsibility a way of life.
    I've been working on this issue for the last 15 years. Last year I 
sent Congress a sweeping welfare reform plan. Congress didn't act last 
year, but I applaud the new Republican majority and the Democrats, both 
of them, for making

[[Page 373]]

welfare reform a priority this year. Meanwhile, in the last 2 years, 
we've cut through Federal redtape to give 26 States, more than half the 
country, the authority to conduct their own welfare reform experiments. 
And Republicans and Democrats now agree on tougher child support 
enforcement. They all agree that we have to have national action on 
tougher child support enforcement because 30 percent or more of the 
child support cases that are delinquent cross State boundaries.
    I've worked hard on this. Since I've been President, child support 
collections are up substantially. And I just issued a tough Executive 
order to crack down on delinquency by Federal employees.
    If deadbeat parents paid all the child support they should in this 
country, we could immediately move over 800,000 mothers and children off 
welfare. Let me say that again: If deadbeat parents paid the child 
support they owe, we could move immediately over 800,000 mothers and 
children off welfare. This goes way beyond welfare. Millions of children 
of working parents would have more secure lives and much brighter 
futures if the errant parents, absent parents, paid what they owe.
    The welfare reform plan I sent to Congress last year included five 
key provisions for tough child support enforcement: employer reporting 
of new hires to catch deadbeats who move from job to job, uniform 
interstate child support laws, computerized statewide collection to 
speed up payments, streamlined efforts to identify the father in every 
case, and tough new penalties, like driver's license revocation.
    These reforms will work. According to a report issued today by the 
Department of Human Services--of Health and Human Services, if we crack 
down on deadbeat parents by making these five provisions the law all 
over America, child support collections would go up by $24 billion in 
the next 10 years.
    I am pleased that the House Republicans have come our way on these 
child support enforcement issues. They have included four of the five 
steps I proposed in their welfare bill. But I think the fifth step is 
crucial as well. Our plan calls on States to deny driver's licenses and 
professional licenses to people who refuse to pay the money they owe for 
their own children. Nineteen States are doing that today, and they're 
collecting a lot more child support as a result.
    So I hope the House Republicans will take a look at these new 
findings and join us to send deadbeat parents all across this country a 
loud signal: If you neglect your responsibility to support your 
children, we'll suspend your license, garnish your pay, track you down, 
and make you pay.
    Eighteen years ago, Gerri Jensen's husband abandoned her and her two 
young sons. She held down several low-paying jobs but eventually was 
forced to turn to welfare because her ex-husband stopped paying child 
support altogether. She got so fed up with weak laws and bureaucratic 
runarounds that she launched a grassroots movement to crack down on 
deadbeat parents nationwide. We are all in her debt, and we all owe an 
obligation to all the people like her in America who are doing their 
dead-level best to be good parents. They deserve our support.
    Gerri Jensen stood up and fought to make our laws reflect our 
values. No parent has a right to walk away from responsibility to his or 
her children. Now, if we work together, we can make this kind of 
responsibility the law of our land.
    Thanks for listening.

Note: The address was recorded at 3:23 p.m. on March 17 in the Roosevelt 
Room at the White House for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on March 18.