[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book II)] [September 18, 1995] [Pages 1368-1373] [From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]
Remarks at a Fundraiser in Philadelphia September 18, 1995 Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here tonight and for all your support. I want to thank, obviously, Tom Leonard and Ken Jarin and Alan Kessler and Bill Batoff and Lynn Barrick and everyone else who worked so hard on this. Mr. Mayor, we're delighted to be back in your city. I thank my good friends from Pittsburgh for being here and from throughout the State, the State legislators and others, and of course, the four distinguished Members of the House of Representatives who are here, without whom a lot of the accomplishments the Vice President just reeled off would not have occurred. I'd also like to say a special word of thanks to two Pennsylvanians--one of who is here and one of whom is not--to my good friend Harris Wofford for helping me to give birth to national service and for now, his willingness to lead the fight to preserve national service and to increase it; and to Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky for her wonderful leadership in Beijing, China. I thank you. I came up here, and the Vice President had just concluded and introduced me. I said, ``Al, whatever I say now, I'm going to be behind. Why don't you just keep on talking; it sounds pretty good.'' I'd forgotten we did half the stuff he talked about. I say that only half in jest. You know, when I asked Al Gore to become the nominee for Vice President on our Democratic ticket, I did it after we had a long set of talks, and we agreed that we were going into an uncertain time when we had to make difficult decisions rooted in what was best for the United States over a 10- or a 20- or a 30-year period, that might not be popular in the short run, that might not even be able to be easily explained in the short run. We knew that. And we and our wonderful spouses made a commitment to an administration that would always look toward the future, that would always embrace new ideas, that would have the highest standards of excellence, but most important of all, would seek to find common ground in the things we all believe in: the preservation of the American dream, bringing Americans together around work and responsibility and family and community, leading the world into a new era of peace and prosperity, and giving our children the opportunity to have a better future in the 21st century. And I am very grateful for that. One of the reasons I like dealing with people like your mayor is that they're open to new ideas and to changing things. And thanks to the Vice President, we've done a lot of those things he talked about. It may take 10 more [[Page 1369]] years, but some day America will develop what we call in our administration a clean car, one that will get triple or quadruple the mileage that automobiles get today and produce less air pollution and contribute less to the global warming that we all now see all the scientists in the world saying is a problem. There may not be a single vote in it, but our children will live in a better world because Al Gore made a partnership with the auto companies for a clean car and a cleaner future. That is the sort of thing that we have tried to do. When we started this work on reinventing Government, I said, you know, there's never been a single incident when a President or an administration generated any popular support for changing the way the Government works. But we are going into a new age, and we can no longer have a top-down bureaucracy that is too heavy with management, that delivers too few services, and is too oriented toward yesterday's top- down regulation. It may not be any sort of political benefit in it, but 10 years from now, our country will be better off because we have downsized the Government, because we have abolished regulations, because we have forged new partnerships with people to do the right things because they want to do the right things, not because someone in Washington is figuring out 900 different ways to tell them how to do it. These are the kinds of things that we have tried to do. And I say that simply to make this point, that I really have appreciated the kind of partnership that the mayor discussed that the Vice President and I have enjoyed. We've done a lot of things that no other administration has done. And we have been told we were politically crazy for doing it. We were advised not to liberate Haiti, but we did it and it worked out all right. We were advised that if I became the first sitting President to take on the NRA over the issues of the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban that it would be a terrible political mistake. And it turned out to be a terrible political mistake for a lot of brave Members of the House of Representatives who laid down their seats in Congress so that we could keep Uzis out of schools and off the street and keep kids from being shot down in drive-by shootings, but it was the right thing to do. And let me tell you, we were told that we had no business becoming the first administration to ever take on the powerful tobacco companies in our campaign to reduce teenage smoking. But 3,000 kids start smoking every day, and 1,000 of them will have their lives shortened as a result. And who cares what the political consequences are? It is the right thing to do. And that is the kind of thing we are trying to do. I say that to make this general point about why it is so important that you're here today. This is an incredible country that we have been given, and we happen to have been given the responsibility to live in this country at a remarkable moment in history. When I ran for President in 1991 and 1992, I did so believing that the end of the cold war and the dawn of this new global economy presented us with challenges which would require us to change the way we conducted our business, both personally as families and communities and as a country, and that we had to break out of a lot of the established ideas that both parties had advanced. And I wanted to do that. I did not imagine, even though I thought I understood it well, the absolute scope and sweep and depth of those changes. And I come here tonight to tell you that I believe we are living through the period of most profound change in the way we live and work as Americans that we have experienced in 100 years. It was about 100 years ago when we basically became an industrial and more urbanized country, shifting from an agricultural and rural country. And we had to decide what that meant about how we were going to treat each other. For when we became an industrial country, a lot of people were getting fabulously wealthy, and it was a time of incredible opportunity. But a lot of the ties that bound people together were uprooted; families were uprooted; whole communities began to disappear. People came to great urban centers looking for opportunities. Immigrants came here from other countries looking for opportunities. And those that found them were doing very well. But we also saw children working 10, 12, 14 hours a day, 6 days a week in the mines and the factories of this country. We saw an absolute disregard for the preservation of our natural resources. And for about 20 years we had this raging debate, and we decided that the National Government should promote genuine competition, if it meant breaking up monopolies; should pro- [[Page 1370]] tect children from the abuses of child labor that were then present; should attempt to preserve our natural resources; and should, in common, promote the personal well-being and the development of our people. Those decisions were made about 100 years ago, from roughly 1895 to about 1916. And what happened after that was the most dramatic, breathtaking period of economic and social progress in the United States ever experienced by any country. Yes, we had to get through the Great Depression; yes, we had to win a great world war; yes, we had to make good on the promise of the Civil War and the amendments thereafter to liberate ourselves from legalized racial discrimination. But it all happened because we decided that we were going to be one country, that we were going to live up to the promise of the Constitution and our best values in a new time. We are now going through all that all over again. When you hear these radical debates in Washington, you hear people say things you think are half crazy. You should not be surprised; it is because we are being kind of uprooted again, for we are moving from an industrial economy to one based on information and technology, even manufacturing more based on information and technology. We are moving from a cold war arrangement among the nations, where we're divided into two armed camps of nation-states looking across the Iron Curtain at each other, into a global economy where the borders of all nations are becoming more porous as money and technology and trade flee around the world at rapid paces; where we're becoming more integrated economically, but in every country there are pressures for disintegration as the global economy makes it more difficult for families and communities to keep going and as radical political groups tend to arise capturing the benefits of the frustration of ordinary people. And you see it all across the globe. We don't now fear a bomb dropping on us from the Soviet Union. I am proud to say that since I've been President, for the first time since the dawn of the nuclear age there are no Russian missiles pointed at the people of the United States. And you should be proud of that. But we do see the development of organized terrorism all around the world, whether it is someone blowing up the Federal building in Oklahoma City or someone blowing up a school bus of innocent people in Israel or someone breaking open a vial of poison sarin gas in a subway in Tokyo. So we're living now in a world that is in transition, that is full of incredible possibilities, exhilarating hope, and troubling change. It is against that background that this election in 1996 must occur. It is our duty to preserve the American dream for our children. It is our duty to bring the American people together around our common values of work and family and responsibility and community. It is our duty to lead the world to a new era of peace and prosperity. And we ought to be happy about doing our duty. We also have to understand that in a period like this, it is hard for a lot of people to sort out what's going on and that we cannot worry about what is popular in the short run. We have to do what we think is right 10 or 20 or 30 years from now. There is no political roadmap. We must create the future consistent with our values, not based on what we think is popular in the moment. So I say to you, I have loved the opportunity to serve as your President. I have been frustrated from time to time when there was no clear answer. And in the end, I have tried to do what I thought was right. The Vice President's account of our record would indicate that, more often than not, it's come out all right. But we have to look to the future. What is our job in the future? Let's look at the economy. Let's just begin with that. If I had told you 30 months ago that in the space of 2\1/2\ years we would have 7\1/2\ million new jobs, 2\1/2\ million new homeowners, 2 million new small businesses, a record number of new self-made millionaires in America, the stock market would go over 4,700, we'd have record corporate profits, the African-American unemployment rate would drop below 10 percent for the first time in more than two decades but the median wage of Americans, the guy in the middle, would drop in the midst of all this, it would have seemed impossible. But that's exactly what happened. Why? Because only some of us are doing well in this global economy; because we live in a world where what you earn depends on what you can learn; because there are some people who are caught in the transition from a defense to a domestic economy. That's why we had the meeting about what's going to happen at the Philadelphia shipyard today, because there are some places that have been ignored in all this [[Page 1371]] entrepreneurial explosion and no one is investing in our best economic opportunity, which is all the working people of America who live in poor communities. That's why we have the empowerment zone program. But it's not surprising when you hear all this fabulous economic news and you realize it hasn't reached everybody. So it is our duty to see that it reaches everybody. If you look at our social situation, believe it or not, in almost every major area in America the crime rate is down, the murder rate is down, the welfare rolls are down, the food stamp rolls are down, divorce is down, and abortion is down. Almost everywhere we are coming back to our roots. But we still know it's way too high. And we're afraid of losing our children because juvenile crime is up, people under 18 are committing more crime, because casual marijuana use among young children is up, because they don't know if they've got a future. So what we have to do is to say, ``Hey, look at what's going on good in this country. We can do it. We can make it.'' And we have to have the discipline and courage to spread those good things to everybody in this society. I honestly believe if we do our job in this period of transition, our best days are before us. But we have to remember what we're trying to do. Now, if you look at the budget debate in that context, to me, what we ought to do becomes easier, and it's not so partisan or political. Should we balance the budget? You bet we should. This country never had a permanent deficit unrelated to economy slowdowns until 1981. It was only 12 years ago--or 12 years before I became President--that there was a political decision made or not made, that it was easy to cut taxes and increase spending and then too hard to do anything about it, so we just run a deficit from now to kingdom come. Always before, the country borrowed money for two reasons: One is, there was an economic slowdown and we needed to pump things up. And that was a good thing to do. The other is, we needed to borrow money as a nation the way you borrow money as a family or a business, the same way you'd borrow money to buy a home or start a business. We didn't borrow money to go out to dinner on until 12 years before I became President. And in only 12 years, we quadrupled the debt of the country. The Democratic Party should work with the Republican Party to get rid of this. It is a bad precedent. We're spending more and more money on interest on the debt. It we don't balance the budget next year, we'll spend more on interest than we do on defense. This year, the budget would be in balance but for the interest we pay on the debt run up in the 12 years before I took office. And we've taken the deficit from $290 billion to $160 billion a year, and we ought to go all the way until we get the job done. America should invest in the future, not squander the present. And we should all be for that. But we should do it consistent with our values. Why are we going to do it? Because we want America to be stronger in the 21st century. We want our kids to have the American dream like we had. What does that mean for how you balance the budget? It means, number one, don't cut education, don't cut technology, don't cut defense conversion, don't cut research and development. All together, it's a small part of our budget. But if we want to grow the economy and give children a chance, why would we reduce the number of people on Head Start? Why would we reduce the number of schools in the safe and drug-free schools program or the number of schools that can teach character education to kids who may not get it anywhere else or the number of schools who can put computers in their classes or have smaller classes for poor kids so they can get the kind of instructions they need or the number of people who can get low- interest college loans on better repayment terms or scholarships? No, we should balance the budget, and we can have a tax cut. But we can't balance the budget in 7 years with a tax cut that the Congress proposes without cutting education. And cutting education would be like cutting the defense budget at the height of the cold war. It's our national security. We ought not to do it. We ought to avoid that. And I say--not because it's money but because of the way the money is being invested now--high standards, high expectations, high accountability, that's what we're doing now, grassroots reform. It is different than it used to be. It's not just throwing money at the problem. The same thing about Medicare. Our administration warned 2 years ago that the Trust Fund which finances hospital care for Medicare was [[Page 1372]] close to running out of money. We warned that. And we said, here's a plan to give it more life. And the people now in the majority in Congress said we were wrong, said we were crazy, said we didn't know what we were doing. And so without any help, we added 3 years to the life of the Medicare Trust Fund. Then, in health care reform, we proposed to do some more. And they said, ``Oh, you can't cut Medicare by that much. You'll wreck the system.'' Now that they're in the majority, they've proposed to cut it more than twice as much as we ever did. Now, do we have to slow the rate of health care inflation to preserve Medicare for future generations? Yes, we do. Yes, we do. We absolutely should. Do seniors who have the ability to pay a little bit more have a responsibility to do it because they have very high incomes? I think you can make that case. But here is what is going on, folks. Under the guise of bailing out the Medicare Trust Fund, people in Congress are trying to require elderly people who make less than $24,000 a year--don't forget, three- quarters of all the people on Medicare in this country make less than $24,000 a year--they want them to pay more in their own premiums. And what they don't tell you is, not a single penny of that money goes into the Trust Fund. The premium money goes to pay for things like doctor bills, and that's paid for out of the general budget. So what they're saying is, we want to charge elderly people with incomes of less than $24,000 a year more so we can pay for this tax cut and balance the budget in 7 years. I say, let's save Medicare. But let's don't take money away from older people with less than $24,000 to give it to people like me who have not even asked for a tax cut but do want their budget balanced. Let's do it consistent with America's values and what we owe to the people of this country who have made us what we are. The Vice President talked about the environment. You know, my family and I just took a vacation in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. And every day, we benefit from what our country has done for public health and the environment that we don't even think about, cleaner air, clean water, safe food. Now there are those who say, ``Well, we shouldn't even have the Government involved in this.'' The House of Representatives actually defeated an amendment twice to say, ``Well, at least give us the money to go ahead and regulate things like arsenic in water.'' They defeated once an amendment that said, ``At least give us the chance to keep things like cryptosporidium out of municipal water supplies.'' That's what killed all those people in Milwaukee about a year ago. Now, folks, Al Gore, since he's been Vice President, running our reinventing Government project, has helped us to eliminate 16,000 pages of Federal regulations. We have cut regulations at the Small Business Administration in half. We cut the budget of the Small Business Administration by 40 percent and doubled the loan volume, doubled the loan volume. We kept the loan volume the same to white males and dramatically increased it to females and minorities and never changed the standards. We're committed to less regulation. e've cut the regulations at the Department of Education on school districts by 40 percent. We're cutting the time people have to fool with the EPA by 25 percent. We want to get rid of regulation, but somebody has to show up every day to make sure that your children have clean water, clean air, and safe food. We should not cut that to balance the budget. You heard the Vice President talking about crime. The crime bill we adopted was rooted in the advice we got from prosecutors and police officers. It was bipartisan. Mayor Rendell came down with Mayor Guiliani from New York several times to lobby for the crime bill. It has punishment. We just convicted the second ``three strikes and you're out'' felon, five serious felonies. For once, the guy is going to jail for life so he can't hurt anybody anymore. We have more police officers on the street, and we have more prevention to give our children something to say yes to. There are those who say, ``Well, let's just get rid of it. Send a check to the States.'' I say, we had a solemn commitment to 100,000 police. This is a small part of the bill. We paid for it entirely by personnel cuts in the Federal Government. That is not the way to balance the budget. I could give you a lot of examples. I just want to give you one more, because to me it represents the most important thing of all. In the world toward which we're moving, it's going to be harder and harder to keep families together. More and more parents are working, more and more two-parent families are working. The most important job of any society is still [[Page 1373]] to raise children in an appropriate way. We therefore have no more important obligation than to enable people to succeed as parents and as workers. I think we would all admit that. That's why the family leave law was so important. Another thing that we did in that budget last year was to cut taxes on 15 million American working families with over 50 million Americans, almost 20 percent of our people, through something called the earned- income tax credit, the family tax credit. You heard the Vice President talking about it. Eventually, it will lower taxes for families of four with incomes of under $30,000 or $31,000 a year. For families of four with incomes of $11,000 a year, they can get up to $3,000 back. Why? Because we believe no one should be taxed into poverty. If you want people to move from welfare to work, if you believe in family, work, and responsibility, then people who are willing to go out there and work full-time and still do the best they can with their kids and they're making all they can make, should not be taxed into poverty. The tax system should lift them up, not tear them down. Now, in this budget fight, there are those who believe that they should get rid of this earned-income tax credit or cut it in half or cut it by a third. How in the world can we justify raising taxes on low- income working people, lowering taxes on folks like me, and then telling them, ``Don't you be on welfare. You get out there and work. You do your part.'' This is not about money. This is about who we are. What are our obligations to one another? How are we going to give our kids the American dream? I'm telling you, I will say again: This is a very great country. We wouldn't be around here after almost 220 years if this were not a great country and if more than half the time we didn't make the right decisions. We have a set of 100-year decisions to make, 100-year decisions. You know that, deep in your bones, you know how much change we're going through. But what works is what has always worked for us. When we look to the future, when we work together, when we try to give people the ability to make the most of their own lives, when we try to be a force for peace and freedom throughout the world, we do just fine. So I say to you, this is not an ordinary election. And this election cannot be won by sound bites. And this election cannot be run on the politics of resentment. This election must be won by the mind and the heart and the vision of Americans looking down the road to the next generation and saying, I want the 21st century to be an American century, too. I want the American dream to be alive and well. When I was born, in my home State the per capita income was 56 percent of the national average. I was the first person in my family ever to go to college. I was raised by a grandfather with a 6th-grade education. I became President of the United States not because of my hard work and my innate goodness but because I had the help of a country that cared about the old-fashioned things and wanted every single American to have access to them. So I say to you, if we do this election right, if we make these 100- year decisions right, the best is yet to be. Thank you, and God bless you all. Note: The President spoke at 9:05 p.m. at the Wyndham Franklin Plaza Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Philadelphia Democratic fundraisers Thomas A. Leonard, Kenneth M. Jarin, Alan C. Kessler, William Batoff, and Lynn Barrick; Mayor Edward Rendell of Philadelphia; and Mayor Rudolph Guiliani of New York City.