[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[April 8, 1995]
[Pages 493-504]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the California Democratic Party in Sacramento
April 8, 1995

    The President. Thank you very much. Thank you for the wonderful, 
wonderful welcome. And thank you for the wonderful film. It's nice to 
see the record out there in a compelling way. Thank you, and bless you.
    I guess you all know that this is Bill Press' birthday. We threw him 
a good party, didn't we? Happy birthday.
    I'm delighted to be here with all the officers of the Democratic 
Party, with Arlene Holt and of course with our chair, Don Fowler. I 
thank him for this remarks. Wasn't Barbara Boxer wonderful this morning? 
I'll tell you, you have no idea what a joy it is to see her in 
Washington, with all those other politicians kind of tippy-toeing around 
and trying to be just careful, you know. And there's Barbara every day 
just right there through the door, the same way every day. I want to 
thank the members of the California delegation who are here, Norm 
Mineta, Bob Matsui, Vic Fazio, Maxine Waters, Walter Tucker. They have 
been our friends and our partners. They have worked hard to turn this 
country around and move it forward and to help California. I thank them. 
I'm glad to be here with Willie Brown. I was watching him on the 
television back there, and he was smiling, you know. And I thought, I 
hope I look half that good when I'm his age. The truth is he already 
looks younger than me, and I resent it. [Laughter] Senator Lockyer, I'm 
glad to be here with you. And Mayor Serna, thank you for hosting us. I'm 
glad to be here with your State controller, Kathleen Connell; your 
superintendent of education, Delane Eastin; and of course, I love 
hearing Gray Davis talk. It's nice to know that you're always going to 
have a Governor, no matter what, and a good one on occasion.
    I'm delighted to be here with a number of my California staffers, of 
course, led by my Chief of Staff, Leon Panetta. I know a lot of you used 
to be represented by him, and you're glad to see him. And you all give 
him a good hand. He doesn't get much of this in Washington, so he needs 
it. I mean, he needs it. Give him really more. Give him a little more. 

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plause] Don't overdo it; he might quit and come home. [Laughter] That 
was just about right. Thank you.
    I want to also tell you that after we leave here we're going down to 
Los Angeles, and we're going to have an event with the National 
Education Association on school violence. So we have representatives 
here from the national NEA, and our wonderful Secretary of Education, 
Dick Riley, is also here with me today. And I'd like for you to welcome 
    I was looking at that film, and I don't know how many of you know 
this, but there was only one moment in that film when I got kind of a 
twinge and I sort of had to control myself, when that picture of me in 
the academic robe and the tassel--that was at UCLA. [Laughter] Well, 
they won it fair and square, and they deserved it.
    I am delighted to be here. You know, you folks believed in the 
campaign I ran in 1992 well enough to go out and work your hearts out to 
try to turn the direction of the country and the direction of California 
around. And we carried this State for the first time a Democratic 
President had carried it since 1964, and I thank you for that.
    I also want to thank you for all of the applause that came out of 
this audience when the picture of Hillary appeared on the screen. Thank 
you for that. Hillary and Chelsea have just come home, you know, from a 
very long trip. They went to India, to Pakistan, to Bangladesh, to 
Nepal, to Sri Lanka, always looking at the condition of women and young 
girls in these countries, in that very important part of the world. You 
know this in California because you have so many people living here who 
come from those places, but the future of the globe will be determined 
in no insignificant measure by what happens in those nations. And the 
ability to preserve democracy and hope and freedom in those nations 
depends in no small measure on how women and girls are treated and 
whether they have the opportunity to live up to their God-given 
    My fellow Americans, we are at an historic moment and an interesting 
time in our history. You know because of what was on that film that I 
have kept the commitments I've made to the people of California and the 
people of the United States in the campaign of 1992.
    I ran for President because I was deeply concerned about the lives 
of ordinary Americans, because half of our people were working harder 
for the same or lower wages than they were making 15 years before; 
because people were working harder, sleeping less, spending less time 
with their children; because we had profound problems in the fabric of 
our society, pressures on the family unit, more and more of our children 
being born out of wedlock, high rates of crime and violence and drugs, 
the absence of hope for so many of our people who felt isolated and 
abandoned; because the Government seemed to me to be caught in a 
gridlock where one side could blame the other, but the facts were that 
we had 12 years of trickle-down economics in which the deficit exploded, 
investment in our people went down, and nobody was really willing to 
take on the serious problems of the country, so that most people in 
their ordinary lives just felt left out. The National Government became 
less and less and less relevant to their lives, except at tax time when 
it was a burden. And so I thought we could change that.
    I ran for President because I thought our country had three great 
tasks: First, we needed to begin once again to reestablish the American 
economic dreams, to grow the middle class, shrink the under class, and 
create more opportunities for entrepreneurs to live out their dreams. 
Second, because I thought we needed to reassert the fundamental values 
that made this country great, responsibility, responsibility in our 
individual lives, in our work lives, in our family lives, and in our 
communities, taking responsibility one for another, understanding that 
we are going up or down together in this country whether we like it or 
not, so we had better make the most of it. And thirdly, because I 
thought we ought to reform Government, to make it more relevant and more 
effective to our daily lives, to do four things: to create more economic 
opportunity; to shrink the bureaucracy; to make our people more secure, 
not only around the world but here at home on our streets and in our 
schools and in our homes; and most important of all, to empower people 
through education to make the most of their own lives in the global 
    Now, in the first 2 years, we have gone a long way toward keeping 
all those commitments. The economy is up; the deficit is down. We have 
the lowest combined rates of unemployment and inflation this country's 
had in 25 years in spite of the economic problems that continue to 
endure in this State, and I'm proud of that.

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    In California, which was hit hardest by the 1989-90 recession and 
hit by far harder than any other State by the defense cutbacks, the 
unemployment rate has now dropped about 2 percent. So we are moving in 
the right direction in terms of the economy. We're trying to help places 
that have been left behind with empowerment zones and extra investments 
in cities that need it.
    We are trying to establish community development banks in cities 
that will loan money to people who previously could never get any money, 
so we can bring free enterprise into poor areas and give people the 
promise that they can get a bank loan and start a business and hire 
their friends and neighbors and get something to happen.
    We have plainly shrunk the bureaucracy, something they never thought 
the Democrats would do. The Democrats reduced the deficit, and the 
Democrats shrunk the Government bureaucracy by 100,000 in 2 years and 
put it all into paying for safety on our streets. That's something the 
Democratic Party did.
    My friends, when you go back out of this room and you see people you 
know who don't belong to the Democratic Party, you just remind them of 
this: that this Government is the first Government in 30 years that is 
running an operating surplus, that is, except for the interest on the 
debt run up between 1981 and 1982, before our administration took over, 
our budget would be in balance today. And don't you forget it. And you 
ought to be proud of that.
    The third thing we have done is to make this country more secure. 
For the first time since the dawn of the nuclear age, there are no 
Russian missiles pointed at the children of the United States of 
America. And we have taken on a lot of tough issues to make our world 
more secure, from North Korea to Northern Ireland to Haiti to Mexico. 
I've done a lot of things that weren't popular, but they were right, to 
make this country more secure, to have this country have a better 
    And perhaps most important of all, we really have moved on the 
education agenda I promised in 1992. We expanded Head Start. We have 
given more money to our schools to meet high standards. We have 
supported apprenticeship programs for young people who don't go to 
college but do want to have good education. We have made over 1.5 
million people right here in California alone eligible for lower cost 
college loans and better repayment terms, so that everybody can go to 
college who wants to go. And here and throughout the country, our 
national service program has given 20,000 young people a chance to earn 
their way to college by serving their communities at the grassroots 
level in the best, old-fashioned, American tradition. And there are some 
of them right there.
    Now, let's talk about where we are today. You might say, well, if 
we've got 6.3 million new jobs in the country; the lowest combined rates 
of unemployment and inflation in 25 years; we're making progress in 
terms of our national security abroad and here at home with the crime 
bill, the Brady bill, the assault weapons ban, 100,000 more police on 
our streets; if we have shrunk the size of the Federal Government; and 
if we are doing more for education and that's the central problem of our 
time, how come they won the last election?
    Well, let's talk about it. One reason is we spent too much time 
working and too little time talking about it. And they're better 
talkers, and we're better workers. And we ought to give them credit for 
that. They're great; they say one thing one day and another thing the 
next, and it doesn't bother them. And they sometimes get rewarded for 
that. So you can say that's what happened. But that's not really what 
    What really happened is that this country's economic problems have 
been building for 20 years, and our country's social problems, tearing 
at the fabric of orderly life, have been developing for 30 years. And 
they are clashing against one another in place after place after place. 
And Government's irresponsibility has been there for more than a decade. 
And in this new age, a lot of what we do in Washington to help the 
economy, whether it's bringing the deficit down to get interest rates 
down so people invest and create jobs or expanding trade so we get more 
high-wage jobs, those things have an indirect effect on people, not a 
direct effect on people.
    So a lot of people's lives haven't changed. There may be more jobs, 
but most people haven't gotten a raise. There may be more jobs, but a 
lot of big companies are still downsizing and making people feel 
insecure. And a lot of the things that we have done that are good have 
an indirect effect on people. So in 1994, the people said, ``We still 
feel insecure; we still feel uncertain. We want more done. We want

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it to happen faster.'' And they gave the Republicans a chance to control 
the Congress.
    Well, in the last 100 days, the House of Representatives has 
certainly passed a series of bold initiatives. Of the 10 items on their 
contract, they passed all but one, term limits, which they didn't really 
want to pass anyway, now that they're in control. [Laughter] And then, 
in the Senate, one has been defeated, the balanced budget amendment. Two 
items [applause]--two items I was proud to sign into law, because I also 
campaigned on them in 1992, and I'll talk about that more in a minute.
    So here we are now at the beginning of the second 100 days. Now, one 
of the things we ought to do is to reaffirm what we are as Democrats. 
Barbara Boxer did that; you cheered; that's good. Don't forget. Don't 
forget. But we also ought to say, what are we going to do in the next 
100 days and beyond? What do you want us to do in Washington, what do we 
believe we must do, and what should you be doing out here in the 
    Keep in mind--keep in mind the object of this for you is to remind 
the American people that we've been up there fighting for them and that 
a lot of these items don't have much to do with their welfare. They 
won't raise their incomes; they won't educate their kids; they won't 
create any more jobs; they won't help to bring us together. That is not 
what is going on here. They basically amount to an attack on Government 
and an assertion that the private market is always better than anything 
done by Government.
    Now, that is plainly not so. But let me go through these things with 
you item by item and tell you what I'm going to do on them. And let me 
remind you that we have an unfinished agenda. We have not yet done 
everything we pledged to do in 1992. I believe what the country wants us 
to do is to get up there and try to do something that makes sense that 
helps ordinary people improve their lives. That's what I think the 
country wants us to do.
    When I ran for President, I wanted to do things to change your life 
for the better. I did not imagine that I would go there to try to make 
political points by piling up a stack of vetoes. I still don't want to 
do that, but I will if I have to. What I want to do is to do what is 
best for the country.
    Now therefore, we have to look at where we are. So let's just go 
through the items, one by one, on their agenda and on our agenda. Taxes: 
In 1993, I made a commitment to try to give some tax relief to the 
middle class. In 1993, the Congress passed our economic plan which ended 
trickle-down economics, cut the deficit, and invested more in education 
and economic growth. What happened? We made a down payment on the middle 
class tax cut. In California today, when people file their taxes, the 
average tax cut for families of four with incomes of $25,000 a year or 
less in this State will be $1,000 because of what we did in 1993. We 
concentrated on that group of people. Why? Because people with modest 
incomes who work full-time and raise children should not be in poverty. 
You want welfare reform? Make work pay. Reward people who work.
    So I do believe in this recovery. Since most people have not gotten 
a raise, we ought to have tax relief for people in the middle class so 
they can feel what is going on in the economy. But this $200 billion tax 
cut that was passed by the House is a fantasy. We can't afford it; it's 
not fair. It will be paid for by cutting programs for poor people and 
for children, and we shouldn't do it. That won't happen. So the question 
is, what will happen?
    It's also important to remind you that we have to keep bringing that 
deficit down because that gets interest rates down. That means more 
money for more people in California to expand the economy, to buy homes, 
to do the things that have to be done to put this country back together.
    So what should we do? First, we ought to target the tax cut to the 
right people. Give the tax cut to middle class people who are working 
hard and haven't gotten a raise. Don't give it to people who have done 
very well in the eighties and the nineties. Their tax bill gives half 
the aid, half, to the top 10 percent of our people and 20 percent of the 
aid to the top 1 percent. All of those folks have done real well in the 
eighties and the nineties. They do not need it. Middle class people 
whose incomes have been stagnant or declining need help. That's where 
the tax relief should go.
    Second question: What should the money be for? Should we just give 
people a check and say go blow it? No. We should target the money to 
things that will grow our economy over the long run and lift people's 
earnings in the short run and the long run. If you get a tax cut, your 
income goes up. But will your income go

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up in the long run? It depends on what the tax cut is for. So I say, 
target the tax cut to the work that is being done in America that is 
most important. Target it to raising children and target it to 
education. Give a tax cut for the cost of education after high school to 
the American people.
    I'll say more about this in a moment, but what is giving rise to all 
this anxiety behind the affirmative action debate? Because--I'll tell 
you what it is. The middle class is splitting apart in America. The 
middle class is splitting apart. This is a big, new development. From 
the year I was born at the end of World War II until the year I was 
first elected Governor of my State in 1978, all of us as Americans rose 
together economically. The income of all groups of Americans roughly 
doubled from 1950 to 1978, except for people in the lowest group, the 
lowest 20 percent. And theirs went up even more. So we were going up 
together, and we were coming together.
    What's happened since then? We are splitting apart. Even within the 
great American middle class, we are splitting apart. Why? In a global 
economy the fault line is education. Those who have it do well; those 
who don't get punished. Give a tax break for education, so we can lift 
the country and put it back together again.
    Let's talk about welfare reform. Yesterday the Speaker said he 
passionately wanted welfare reform. Well, so do I. In 1992, I ran for 
President with a commitment to end the present welfare system as we know 
it. In 1994, they put it in their contract. What happened in between? I 
have given 25 States, half of this country, permission to pursue welfare 
reform on their own initiatives. And I gave Congress the most 
comprehensive welfare reform ever presented.
    What do I want to do? I want to promote work and responsible 
parenting and tough child support enforcement. That's what I want to 
promote. I want these young parents who made a mistake to have a chance 
to put their lives back on track. And I want these children to have a 
better future. Now, that's what's really important.
    So I take up that challenge. Let's go do welfare reform. But look 
what's in the House bill. I agree that there should be time limits, if 
there's a job at the end of the road. I agree we should let the States 
have more flexibility, because the problems are different from State to 
State. And I am gratified that the House took all of our tough child 
support enforcement provisions, including yanking driver's licenses and 
professional licenses from people who owe money for their kids and they 
won't pay.
    But I do not agree with the rest of the bill because primarily it is 
designed to save money to pay for the tax cuts by cutting aid to 
welfare. We should cut aid to welfare by genuinely, honestly reducing 
the welfare rolls by putting people to work, so they can be good parents 
and good workers. That's the way to cut the welfare budget.
    As compared with our support, theirs is weak on work and tough on 
kids. It ought to be the reverse. That's what ought to happen. Let me 
give you an example. Their bill says, no welfare if someone has a child 
before the age of 18 for the mother or the child at least until they 
become 18. If the State doesn't want to give them any money ever, that's 
fine. I just think that's wrong. Why punish the child for the sins of 
the parents?
    You know, you look across this State or Nation, a baby is a baby. 
You know, in my little Baptist Sunday school class we used to sing a 
song, ``Yellow, brown, black, or white, they are precious in His 
sight.'' In or out of wedlock, those kids are going to grow up someday. 
They're going to be in Stanford, Berkeley, or San Quentin, or someplace 
in between. You think about it. They're going to be in Stanford, 
Berkeley, San Quentin, or someplace in between. They're going to be in 
prison; they're going to be in university; they're going to be someplace 
in between. And whether they are or not is due in part to what we do and 
how we behave. Let us not punish the children and cut off our own nose 
to spite our face in this welfare reform. [Applause] Thank you.
    And as to the parents, think of this. What good does it do to punish 
somebody for a mistake they have already made? If you have a child, 
better to say to the child, ``Now things will change. You must be a 
responsible parent. You must be a student. You must be a worker. You 
must become independent. We want you to succeed as a citizen, as a 
worker, as a parent.'' So I don't have any problem at all with having 
tough requirements on children. But the tough requirements should be 
designed to give the child a chance to grow into responsible adulthood, 
to be a productive citizen. So let's be tough, but let's be smart. Let's 
do something that makes sense.

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    Senator Boxer talked about cutting the deficit. I'm glad they want 
to cut the deficit. We cut it $600 billion in the first 2 years without 
a lick of help from them, so I'd be glad to have some help.
    When we did the deficit cutting before, they were AWOL. I was told 
the first week I became President by their leader in the Senate, ``There 
will be no votes, none, for your deficit reduction package, none. We'll 
give you not one. We don't believe in imposing any tax increases on the 
wealthiest Americans, and we just want you to be out there. And if it 
succeeds, you can get credit, but we'll blame you anyway and call it a 
tax bill.'' That's the first week I was President, that's what they told 
    Well, we did it anyway, because it was right for the country. We--
[inaudible]--some political heat because it was right for the country, 
and that's why we have 6.3 million jobs today. And you ought to go out 
of this hall and remind people that that's what we did and that's what 
we're going to do in the future.
    But nonetheless, we're here where we are today, and the country 
would be better off if we could figure out a humane and smart way to 
reduce the deficit. So I say to the Republicans: Let's work on making 
sensible cuts, not partisan cuts. Let's don't do something that's really 
foolish. I don't think it helps us to cut our children. I don't want to 
cut immunizations or school lunches or infant formulas or nutrition 
programs. I can't imagine what good that will do.
    In their budget, two-thirds of the cuts come out of the poorest 
people in the country who get only 5 percent of the benefit of their 
proposed tax cuts. You don't have to be a genius to figure out what 
happens to the fabric in America and our need to give everybody a chance 
at a fair shot at the American dream. It is not fair, and it is not in 
our interest to do that. So let us not make those cuts. That is wrong, 
it is unfair, it is unnecessary.
    And let me give you an example. I want to compliment Senator Boxer 
and Senator Feinstein. We just had a big debate in Washington on the so-
called rescission bill. Now, the rescission bill is a bill that cuts the 
present budget, the one that we adopted last year, to get savings to pay 
for our California earthquake aid and our California flood aid and to 
pay for some other investments we have to make and to reduce the deficit 
a little more. I was open to that. But the House-passed bill had 
terrible cuts in it. They cut education. They cut child nutrition. They 
cut the environment. They cut housing. They gutted the national service 
program. A lot of it was politics and ideology. It was extremist.
    I insisted on restoring some more cuts. The Senate Republicans were 
even embarrassed by some of the things they did, and they put some back 
in. And then we said, ``Put the other cuts back for the kids. Restore 
them. We'll give you some better cuts.'' And Senator Boxer and every 
Democrat in the Senate refused to let the bill come for a vote until 
they did it. They did it. It was sensible. It passed 99-0 because of 
Barbara Boxer and the other Senate Democrats, 99-0. So I can tell you 
that it would work. It would work.
    Political reform. The two bills I've signed are political reform 
bills. One applies to Congress the laws they put on the private sector; 
I'm for that. The other limits the ability of Congress to impose on 
State and local governments mandates they don't help pay for; I'm for 
that, and I'll bet your legislators are, too. But there's more to 
political reform than that. We need campaign finance reform, and we sure 
need lobby reform.
    I'll guarantee you--you heard Barbara Boxer talk about this, when 
the Congress takes out a bill that will raise $3.2 billion over 10 years 
simply by telling billionaires, ``Look, if you make a lot of money in 
our country as Americans, you can't get out of paying the tax that you 
owe on the money you made as an American by renouncing your citizenship 
before the tax bills are due.'' And it was put in, and then they took it 
out. Now believe me, that was not an act of total charity. Somebody 
lobbied for that, hard, carefully, secretly. And I think the American 
people are entitled to know. I think the American people are entitled to 
    So I applaud them for what they've done, but let's go the rest of 
the way. Let's give the American people what they really need, which is 
lobby reform, campaign finance reform, and an even shot in every 
election to have the will of the people manifested.
    Let's talk about regulations. You know, they cuss regulations. Well, 
all of you can cuss regulations. I bet there's not a soul here that 
can't think of one stupid thing that was at least done to you at one 
time by the State, the Federal, or a local government. Everybody can 
tell a story that would make you believe the Govern-

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ment would mess up a one-car parade. That's the staple of American life. 
But the answer is to fix it, not to stop Government from regulating what 
it ought to.
    We have done what we could to fix it. Let me give you an example. 
Our Environmental Protection Agency Director, Carol Browner, has set up 
a compliance center. If you're a small business person and you're 
worried, ``Am I out of compliance with the environmental laws,'' if you 
call and ask for help in good faith, you cannot be fined for 6 months, 
because we know that you're trying to do better.
    We now give our people the right to waive fines for any first-time 
violators if they're doing it in good faith. We now give our people the 
right to tell people, instead of being fined, why don't you keep this 
money if you will spend it to fix the problem that you've got in the 
first place, clean the environment.
    So we're going to cut 20 million hours of paperwork burden out of 
the American people's time next year in dealing with the EPA. That's 
fine. But if they send me a bill that lets unsafe planes fly or 
contaminated meat be sold or contaminated water get into the city water 
systems, I will veto it, because we need to do that. [Applause] Thank 
    Look at this--let me give you some other examples. Look at the crime 
bill. Everybody is against crime. Anybody who is for crime, please stand 
up. [Laughter] And it's a very serious issue. It's a very serious issue. 
I never will forget when I was doing one of my town meetings in northern 
California, looking at that young man who changed schools with his 
brother because they were so terrified at the school they were in. And 
when they were standing in line to register at the new school, a crazy 
gunman walked in the school and shot his brother standing in line--
somebody he didn't even know.
    This is a big deal. And it's part of the volatility in our country 
today. People feel if we can't even be safe, is there no discipline, is 
there no control, is there no direction in our society? This is an 
important thing.
    Well, after 6 years of political posturing, we passed the crime bill 
last year. All the law enforcement agencies in the country supported it. 
It had stronger punishments, including a ``three strikes and you're 
out'' law. It had more money for prisons if States had strong sentencing 
provisions. But it also had money for 100,000 police, for community 
policing of the kind that we have seen actually lowers the crime rate, 
because, after all, that's our objective, isn't it? We want a safer 
society. We want to lower the crime rate. And it had money for 
prevention, to give our young people something to say yes to as well as 
no to. It was a balanced, balanced bill. And it was a joy to sign.
    Now, they say they want their crime bill and they want to be even 
tougher on crime. Well, I say if they send me a bill that repeals 
100,000 police or repeals the assault weapons ban, I will veto that bill 
because that is wrong. But if they have some good ideas that will allow 
us to build on last year's crime bill to be more effective in making 
people safer, we would be wrong to turn away from it. We would be wrong 
to turn away from it.
    Crime should not be a Republican or Democratic issue. It was not a 
partisan issue last year until we got right up to the campaign and they 
saw that they could twist it around and turn it into a pork argument. 
They had been supporting the effort all along. And we should not do to 
the American people what they did to the American people to get a few 
votes in last November's election. This should not be a partisan issue. 
When somebody gets killed or robbed or raped, I don't care what their 
political party is, it is wrong. And all of us should say, ``We don't 
want this to be a political issue. We'll work with you, but don't tear 
down what we've done.''
    Let's talk about environmental protection. I've already said I want 
to ease the burden of foolish regulation. But I do not want and I will 
not tolerate the compromise of any effort to clean our water or our air 
or to clean up our toxic waste dumps. That, too, would be wrong. The 
environment cannot protect itself. It requires effort. The California 
Desert Protection Act was a good example of the effort. In implementing 
environmental protection it requires sensible compromise.
    I'm proud of the fact that previous administrations just let 
everybody fight, but we hammered out a compromise dealing with the old-
growth timber in the Pacific Northwest. We handed out a compromise that 
we hammered out dealing with the farmers and the environmentalists over 
the use of water here in California. We've been able to work out some 
compromises dealing with the Endangered Species Act so that responsible 
developers can do their work in California. We should not be immune to 

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promise. A lot of these acts can be implemented in a way that defies 
common sense. But we should not, we should not sit on the sidelines and 
watch the work that has been done by Republicans and Democrats together 
for 25 years to protect the environment of America, be wiped away with 
some ill-advised laws overnight.
    Let me give you one example. If that law, which was passed by the 
House, the so-called takings bill, which would require the Government to 
pay property owners billions of dollars every time we act to defend our 
natural heritage of seashores and wetlands and open spaces, were to 
pass, it would either tie our hands in the environment or bankrupt the 
budget. If that is the law in States throughout the country, what it 
means is that local Governments have to give up zoning altogether. This 
same provision has been on the ballot in 20 States and has been defeated 
every time, even in conservative Republican States. In Arizona, the bill 
the House just passed was on the ballot last November in Arizona, hardly 
a bastion of the Democratic Party, and it was defeated 60-40. Now, 
that's how extremist this legislation is. Now, the people don't have a 
vote on this bill, but I do, and I say no, it will not become the law of 
the land.
    Let me say something else that most Americans don't care much about 
today, but I want you to think about it, and that's our foreign policy. 
The House passed a so-called peacekeeping bill that would restrict the 
ability of the United States to cooperate with the United Nations in 
solving the problems of this old world. Well, the U.N. is 50 years old 
this year, and it's going to be a big celebration out here of that. But 
it's only 4 or 5 years old in terms of a real force for peacekeeping, 
because the cold war and Soviet vetoes kept it from being what it could 
have been for a long time. Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Dwight 
Eisenhower and Senator Vandenberg, Republicans and Democrats alike, 
always believed the United Nations could be a force for peace and that 
the United States would be a partner in that.
    Now there are those who say that we're oppressed, we're mistreated 
in the U.N., everything's terrible, we should just walk away. Folks, 
they're wrong. They're just wrong. What we did in Haiti was a noble 
thing and a good thing. But for all of our frustrations in Bosnia, the 
United Nations troops on the ground there--none of them American--are 
risking their lives to minimize the slaughter. They're doing it; they 
don't ask us for our troops. All we do is to supply them food and 
medicine, and our ships are there, our planes are there to help them in 
case they get in trouble. It would be wrong for us not to support them 
when they are there, putting their lives on the line, trying to keep 
people alive.
    I know at a time when we have so many problems here at home it is 
easy to say let's just walk away from this. But we are a great country, 
and the world looks to us for leadership. We must not let this kind of 
thing stand.
    So these are the things that are in the contract. I will work on 
welfare reform. I will work on crime. I will work on regulatory reform. 
I will work on tax cuts. I will work on deficit reduction with the 
Republicans. But my idea of cutting spending in the Agriculture 
Department is to close 1,200 offices--that's what we did--not to cut the 
School Lunch Program.
    So I say to you, when you leave here and you see people you know who 
aren't ardent Democrats like us, say to them, ``We're not against 
deficit reduction; we're not against tax cuts; we're not against welfare 
reform. We want America to be a safer place. We want our streets and our 
schools and our own homes to be safer, but let's don't go too far. Let's 
don't be extreme. Let's remember that we've got to put the American 
people first; we've got to put the future of this country first. And 
we've gotten past the first 100 days; now, let's roll up our sleeves and 
do something that makes sense. Otherwise, we'll have to say no. Better 
to say yes to our future, but better to say no than to go to an extreme 
which we will regret for the rest of our lives.''
    Now, I also ask for your support for three other things. They are 
unfinished agenda from the New Covenant that I ran on. One is, we've got 
to do something about health care. Now, I am well aware that by the time 
the interest groups and our political adversaries got through spending 
$300 billion to tell the American people how lousy my ideas were, 
reverse plastic surgery had been performed on them. [Laughter] And I am 
well aware of the fact that the American people believe that I bit off 
more than I could chew in the bill I sent to Congress last year.
    But I also have not forgotten the fact that we got over 1 million 
letters, Hillary and I did, from people who had heartbreaking problems,

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that there are people every year who have to give up more and more 
coverage because of the cost of health care, that there are millions of 
people who don't have any health insurance, that we are the only wealthy 
country in the entire world where there's a smaller percentage of people 
today with health insurance than people who had it 10 years ago. Nobody 
else has this problem, only us, because we refuse to deal with it.
    So let's take it one step at a time. Let's say, you cannot lose your 
health insurance when you change jobs. Let's make the benefits portable. 
Let's say that a family ought to be able to get health insurance even if 
somebody in the family has been sick. Preexisting conditions preventing 
people from getting health insurance is wrong. Let's say that every 
State ought to have a huge pool where all small business people and 
farmers and self-employed people can buy health insurance for the same 
price as those of us who work for government or big corporations can buy 
it. And let's expand home care for the elderly and the disabled, so that 
they don't have to spend themselves into poverty and go into a nursing 
home to get any decent care. We can afford to do this.
    My fellow Americans, we can afford to do this without raising taxes 
and without expanding the deficit, while lowering the deficit. We can do 
these things. So let's ask them to do it. And let's do two more things. 
Let's ask the Republicans to start acting like Republicans used to act 
and join with us as Democrats and raise the minimum wage.
    They say they want to index tax rates to protect against inflation, 
so we did that. Now they want to index capital gains to protect against 
inflation, which mostly helps the wealthiest people. And they want to 
guard the defense budget against inflation, and I respect that. The only 
people they don't want to protect against inflation are the people that 
are getting hurt worst by it.
    You know, you cannot raise a child on $8,500 a year anymore. You 
just can't do it. And if we don't raise the minimum wage this year, next 
year the minimum wage will be at its lowest value in 40 years. Now, 
we're going around telling everybody, ``Get off welfare; go to work.'' 
We're going to extol the work ethic; we're creating 6 million new jobs. 
Is your version of post-cold-war America, is your version of a high-
technology information age one in which minimum wage workers make their 
lowest income in 40 years? Not mine. Let's raise it, and let's ask them 
to help us.
    Finally, let's ask them to reduce the deficit without cutting 
education. Let's say instead we should increase education. We should 
increase education. Do you really seriously believe that California is 
going to be stronger 10 years from now because of all the hits education 
has taken out here in the last few years?
    Audience members. No-o-o!
    The President. Nobody does. Nobody does. You know, they used to 
attack us and say, ``Oh, the Democrats are indiscriminate. They just 
want to spend more money on everything.'' Well, that's not true anymore. 
We cut 300 programs. I've asked the Congress to cut 400 more or 
consolidate them. I don't want to spend more money on everything. I want 
to spend more money on the right things. They want to spend less money 
on everything. Neither extreme is right. The right thing to do is to say 
education is the fault line in the modern world; if you want the 
American dream, if you want the middle class to grow, if you want us to 
go up and down together, we had better get every last person in this 
country a decent education. And we had better not walk away from it.
    You imagine this, imagine what California would have been like when 
all these layoffs started occurring if we had had the ``GI bill'' for 
America's workers that I proposed. Take all these Federal training 
programs, put them in a block of money, and send a check to the 
unemployed worker for 2 years, say, ``Go out and get your training. Do 
not sit where you are. We will help you pay for 2 years of education for 
a lifetime.'' We're going to have to do this if we want America to grow. 
We're going to have to do it.
    Let me close with a few words on this affirmative action issue and 
know where we are as Democrats.
    Audience members. [Inaudible]
    The President. Let me speak. Don't scream; let's talk. That's just 
what they want us to do. They want to get this country into a screaming 
match. They win the screaming matches; we win the conversations.
    You already heard what Barbara Boxer said about the incomes. We know 
that. We know there's still disparity in incomes. I'm really proud of 
the fact that under my administration the African-American unemployment 
rate is

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below 10 percent for the first time in 20 years. But there's still a big 
disparity. But there's still a disparity, right? So we know that.
    Let me tell you something else. There are still things in the human 
heart in this country that we're not totally aware of that affect our 
decisions. I'm old enough to remember that when I was still a young man 
first starting to vote, there were county courthouses on courthouse 
squares in my part of the country and in my State that still had 
restrooms marked ``white'' and ``colored,'' in my lifetime, when I was 
as old as those young people out there.
    Now, we have made great progress in the last 30 years. But we still 
don't all, any of us, understand fully what is in all of our hearts 
about all these complex issues of gender and race. Let me say something 
for all the people that are pushing for this. This is psychologically a 
difficult time for a lot of white males, the so-called angry white 
males. Why? Because those who don't have great educations and who aren't 
in jobs which are growing, even though they may have started out ahead 
of those of you who are female and of different races, most of them are 
working harder for less money than they were making 15 years ago.
    Imagine what it's like for them, just for a moment, to go home at 
night when they're my age, and they're nearly 50, and they think, 
``Gosh, when I was 20 I thought the whole world was before me. I thought 
by the time I was 50 I'd have three or four kids, I'd be sending them 
all to college, my retirement would be secure, we'd have a good life.'' 
Now they've been working for 15 years without a raise, and they think 
they could be fired at any time. And they go home to dinner, and they 
look across the table at their families, and they think they've let them 
down. They think somehow, ``What did I do wrong?''
    It's pretty easy for people like that to be told by somebody else in 
the middle of a political campaign with a hot 30-second ad, ``You didn't 
do anything wrong; they did it to you.'' But what I want you to 
understand is, that doesn't make their feelings any less real. You may 
be aggrieved. Somebody may have been discriminatory against you, but 
that doesn't make their feelings any less real, either.
    I got a letter the other day from a guy I went to grade school with. 
He was a very poor boy. He grew up and became an engineer. He worked 
over 20 years for a Fortune 500 company. They had a good year last year; 
they made a bunch of money. They laid off three of their engineers, gave 
their work to two others who were younger and less well-paid, and they 
trumpeted the fact that one of the other people was a minority. This guy 
wrote me a letter saying, ``Mr. President, I'm glad you ordered a review 
of those programs, and I'm glad you didn't abandon them.'' But he said, 
``You have to understand what a lot of people are feeling out here is 
what I'm feeling. Three of us who are 50-year-old white males got fired. 
Now, they got rid of us because they wanted to cut their salary costs 
and cut their future health care and retirement costs. And the fact that 
we'd given over 20 years to our company didn't mean anything. There was 
no affirmative action reason they got rid of us, but it's easy for 
people like us to believe that's why it happened, because people then 
say, well, look at us, we're doing better on another front.''
    What I'm telling you, folks, is that what we have done to give more 
opportunities to women and minorities is a very good thing. And we 
should not stop doing that. But--and I'll give you three examples that I 
talk about all across the country that I'm proud of that prove that what 
we're doing is right.
    If you look at the United States military, the United States Army 
not only produced General Powell, it produced a lot of other African-
American generals and a lot of Hispanic generals. I was with a retired 
African-American general in Dallas yesterday who is phenomenally 
successful in business now and leading the fight to preserve the 
national service movement in Texas because he sees it as giving young 
people the kind of opportunity that he got in the Army. And nobody in 
America thinks that's a bad thing.
    But they do make a special effort to make sure every time there's a 
promotion pool that it reflects the racial and gender makeup of the 
people in the rank just below. No unqualified person ever gets promoted, 
but they do really work hard to make sure that people's innate abilities 
get developed and that they're there and they get a chance. And it's 
made a difference.
    I'll give you another example. The Small Business Administration 
under my administration last year increased loans to minorities by over 
two-thirds, to women by over 80 percent, but didn't increase loans to 
white men. And we didn't

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make a single loan to an unqualified person. We gave people who never 
had a chance before a chance to get in business. I'm proud of that. We 
didn't hurt anybody.
    Look at the appointments our administration has made to Federal 
judgeships. Look at them. We have appointed more women and minorities to 
the Federal bench than the past three Presidents, one Democrat and two 
Republicans, combined. But you know what I'm really proud of? We have by 
far the largest percentage of judges rated well-qualified by the 
American Bar Association. We did the right thing giving people a chance.
    So we have to keep working on this, but we have to realize that 
there is a real problem out there in this country. We can't deny that. 
There are a lot of people who go home every night and look across the 
table at their families and think that either they have failed or they 
have been stuck by somebody treating them unfairly. That is what we must 
respond to.
    What the people who want to use this issue out here for political 
gain hope is that we will get in a big old shouting match with them, and 
they'll have more people on their side of the shouting match than we 
will, and it'll be a wedge, and they will drive it right through the 
stake of progressive efforts in the State and in this Nation.
    And what we need here is what I've tried to do in Washington. We 
need to evaluate all these programs, we need to defend without any 
apology whatever anything we're doing that is right and decent and just 
that lifts people up, that lifts people up.
    But we do not--we do not need to say that we're insensitive to 
what's going on in these other people's lives. We do not need to say 
that we are for people who are unqualified getting Government-mandated 
benefits over people who are. And we do not need to shrink as Democrats 
when we think there has been a case, however rare, of reverse 
discrimination. We entered a lawsuit, our Justice Department did, on 
behalf of a young, white man at Southern Illinois University who was 
told he couldn't even apply for a public job because he was the wrong 
gender and the wrong race. Now, that's clearly wrong.
    So what we need to do is to say to these people--and what you ought 
to do in California--you can do it--you need to say, look, look around 
this room here. We're living in a global society. Does anybody seriously 
believe that we'd be better off if we were divided by race and gender? 
Look at this room. California, when you get through this terrible 
downturn caused by the military cutbacks, is once again going to become 
the engine of America's economy in large measure because of your 
diversity. Because of your diversity. And everything we do to empower 
people, everything we do to empower people to contribute--when you 
empower people with disabilities to work and to be self-sufficient, you 
strengthen the rest of us. When we empower Native Americans through 
letting them have more economic power, more say over their own tribal 
affairs, that helps the rest of us because more people live up to their 
God-given capacity. That's important. When we find every person we can--
however poor, however different, wherever they are--and give them a 
chance to become what they ought to be, we're all better off.
    So we can use this occasion for a great national conversation. We 
don't have to retreat from these affirmative action programs that have 
done great things for the American people and haven't hurt other people. 
We don't. But we do have to ask ourselves, are they all working? Are 
they all fair? Has there been any kind of reverse discrimination? And 
more importantly, what we really ought to ask ourselves is, what are we 
going to do about all these folks that are out there working hard and 
never getting ahead. That's what the middle class tax cut is all about.
    What are we going to do? What are we going to do about all these 
people who are being RIF'd by these big companies and by the Federal 
Government--although our severance package is much more humane--what are 
we going to do about these people in middle age who are being told, 
``Thank you very much for the last 25 years, but goodbye, goodbye before 
your full pension vests, goodbye 15 years before you can draw your 
pension. Goodbye to your nice health care package for yourself and your 
family. Goodbye to your future raises.'' What are we going to do for 
    Use this opportunity to tell people that we have to do this 
together. I'm pleading with you, stand up for the affirmative action 
programs that are good, that work, that bring us together, but don't do 
it in a way that gives them a cheap political victory. Do it in a way 
that reaches out and brings people in and says we care about

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you, too. Don't do it in a way that gives them a cheap political 
    Now, I want to read you something. I want to read you something, and 
then I'm done. I got a letter--I got a great little poster. I had two 
posters greeting me when I came in from my morning run, one from a local 
kindergarten and one from the Bowling Green Charter School Number 8, 
Sacramento, California. And these children had written in their little 
handprints the virtues they were being taught in school. I want you to 
listen to these. These are what we are teaching our children: 
cooperation, respect, patience, caring, sense of humor, common sense, 
friendship, responsibility, flexibility, effort, creativity, initiative, 
communication, problem-solving, integrity, perseverance.
    You know what? No place in there, this list of what we are teaching 
our children about how they ought to live, is demonize people that 
aren't like you, look for ways to divide people one from another, take a 
quick victory if you can by making people angry at one another. We do 
not practice our lives as citizens the way we teach our children to 
live, the way we try to run our families, the way we try to run our 
    Now, that's what I'm asking you to do. Go out of here and engage 
these people and say, ``Listen, we are moving this economy, we're moving 
on the problems of the country, we're changing the way the Government 
works, but we had better behave as citizens the way we try to teach our 
children to behave as human beings and the way we try to run the rest of 
our lives.'' You do that, and the Democrats are coming back.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:22 a.m. at the Convention Center. In his 
remarks, he referred to Don Fowler, chairman, Democratic National 
Committee; Bill Press, chairman, and Arlene Holt, first vice chair, 
California Democratic Party; Willie L. Brown, Jr., California State 
Assembly speaker; and Bill Lockyer, California State Senate president 
pro tempore.