The addresses are separated by three asterisks: ***
Dates of addresses by William J. Clinton in this eBook: January 25, 1994 January 24, 1995 January 23, 1996 February 4, 1997 January 27, 1998 January 19, 1999 January 27, 2000
State of the Union Address William J. Clinton January 25, 1994
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, members of the 103rd Congress, my fellow Americans:
I am not sure what speech is in the TelePrompTer tonight, but I hope we can talk about the State of the Union.
I ask you to begin by recalling the memory of the giant who presided over this chamber with such force and grace. Tip O'Neill liked to call himself "A Man of the House" and he surely was that. But even more, he was a man of the people, a bricklayer's son who helped to build the great American middle class. Tip O'Neill never forgot who he was, where he came from, or who sent him here. Tonight he's smiling down on us for the first time from the Lord's gallery. But in his honor, may we too also remember who we are, where we come from, and who sent us here.
If we do that we will return over and over again to the principle that if we simply give ordinary people equal opportunity, quality education, and a fair shot at the American dream, they will do extraordinary things.
We gather tonight in a world of changes so profound and rapid that all nations are tested. Our American heritage has always been to master such change, to use it to expand opportunity at home, and our leadership abroad. But for too long and in too many ways, that heritage was abandoned, and our country drifted.
For 30 years family life in America has been breaking down. For 20 years the wages of working people have been stagnant or declining. For the 12 years of trickle down economics we built a false prosperity on a hollow base as our national debt quadrupled. From 1989 to 1992 we experienced the slowest growth in a half century. For too many families, even when both parents were working, the American dream has been slipping away.
In 1992 the American people demanded that we change. I year ago I asked all of you to join me in accepting responsibility for the future of our country.
Well, we did. We replaced drift and deadlock with renewal and reform. And I want to thank every one of you here who heard the American people, who broke gridlock, who gave them the most successful teamwork between a president and a Congress in 30 years.
This Congress produced a budget that cut the deficit by half a trillion dollars, cut spending and raised income taxes on only the wealthiest Americans. This Congress produced tax relief for millions of low-income workers to reward work over welfare. It produced NAFTA. It produced the Brady bill, now the Brady law.
And thank you, Jim Brady, for being here, and God bless you, Sarah. This Congress produced tax cuts to reduce the taxes of nine out of 10 small businesses who use the money to invest more and create more jobs. It produced more research and treatment for AIDS, more childhood immunizations, more support for women's health research, more affordable college loans for the middle class, a new national service program for those who want to give something back to their country and their communities for higher education, a dramatic increase in high-tech investments to move us from a defense to a domestic high-tech economy. This Congress produced a new law—the motor voter bill—to help millions of people register to vote. It produced family and medical leave—all passed, all signed into law, with not one single veto.
These accomplishments were all commitments I made when I sought this office, and in fairness, they all had to be passed by you in this Congress. But I am persuaded that the real credit belongs to the people who sent us here, who pay our salaries, who hold our feet to the fire. But what we do here is really beginning to change lives. Let me just give you one example.
Family And Medical Leave
I will never forget what the family and medical leave law meant to just one father I met early one Sunday morning in the White House. It was unusual to see a family there touring early Sunday morning, but he had his wife and his three children there, one of them in a wheelchair. And I came up, and after we had our picture taken and had a little visit, I was walking off, and that man grabbed me by the arm and he said, "Mr. President, let me tell you something. My little girl here is desperately ill. She's probably not going to make it. But because of the family leave law, I was able to take time off to spend with her, the most important I ever spent in my life, without losing my job and hurting the rest of my family. It means more to me than I will ever be able to say. Don't you people up here ever think what you do doesn't make a difference. It does."
Though we are making a difference, our work has just begun. Many Americans still haven't felt the impact of what we've done. The recovery still hasn't touched every community or created enough jobs. Incomes are still stagnant. There's still too much violence and not enough hope in too many places.
Abroad, the young democracies we are strongly supporting still face very difficult times and look to us for leadership.
And so tonight, let us resolve to continue the journey of renewal, to create more and better jobs, to guarantee health security for all, to reward welfare—work over welfare, to promote democracy abroad and to begin to reclaim our streets from violent crime and drugs and gangs to renew our own American community.
Last year, we began to put our house in order by tackling the budget deficit that was driving us toward bankruptcy. We cut $255 billion in spending, including entitlements, in over 340 separate budget items. We froze domestic spending and used honest budget numbers.
Led by the vice president, we've launched a campaign to reinvent government. We've cut staff, cut perks, even trimmed the fleet of federal limousines. After years of leaders whose rhetoric attacked bureaucracy but whose actions expanded it, we will actually reduce it by 252,000 people over the next five years. By the time we have finished, the federal bureaucracy will be at its lowest point in 30 years.
Because the deficit was so large and because they benefited from tax cuts in the 1980s, we did ask the wealthiest Americans to pay more to reduce the deficit. So on April the 15th, the American people will discover the truth about what we did last year on taxes. Only the top one—the top 1.2 percent of Americans, as I said all along, will face higher income tax rates—let me repeat, only the wealthiest 1.2 percent of Americans will face higher income tax rates and no one else will, and that is the truth. Of course, there were, as there always are in politics, naysayers who said this plan wouldn't work, but they were wrong. When I became president, the experts predicted that next year's deficit would be $300 billion, but because we acted, those same people now say the deficit's going to be under $180 billion, 40 percent lower than was previously predicted.
Our economic program has helped to produce the lowest core inflation rate and the lowest interest rates in 20 years, and because those interest rates are down, business investment and equipment is growing at seven times the rate of the previous four years. Auto sales are way up, home sales at a record high. Millions of Americans have refinanced their homes and our economy has produced 1.6 million private-sector jobs in 1993, more than were created in the previous four years combined.
The people who supported this economic plan should be proud of its early results—proud. But everyone in this chamber should know and acknowledge that there is more to do. Next month I will send you one of the toughest budgets ever presented to Congress. It will cut spending in more than 300 programs, eliminate 100 domestic programs, and reforms the way in which governments buy goods and services.
This year we must again make the hard choices to live within the hard spending ceilings we have set. We must do it. We have proved we can bring the deficit down without choking off recovery, without punishing seniors or the middle class, and without putting our national security at risk. If you will stick with this plan, we will post three consecutive years of declining deficits for the first time since Harry Truman lived in the White House. And once again, the buck stops here.
Our economic plan also bolsters our strength and our credibility around the world. Once we reduced the deficit and put the steel back into our competitive edge, the world echoed with the sound of falling trade barriers. In one year, with NAFTA, with GATT, with our efforts in Asia and the national export strategy, we did more to open world markets to American products than at any time in the last two generations. That means more jobs and rising living standards for the American people, low deficits, low inflation, low interest rates, low trade barriers and high investments. These are the building blocks of our recovery. But if we want to take full advantage of the opportunities before us in the global economy, you all know we must do more.
As we reduce defense spending, I ask Congress to invest more in the technologies of tomorrow. Defense conversion will keep us strong militarily and create jobs for our people here at home.
As we protect our environment, we must invest in the environmental technologies of the future which will create jobs. This year we will fight for a revitalized Clean Water Act and a Safe Drinking Water Act and a reformed Superfund program.
And the vice president is right; we must also work with the private sector to connect every classroom, every clinic, every library, every hospital in America into a national information superhighway by the year 2000. Think of it. Instant access to information will increase productivity. It will help to educate our children. It will provide better medical care. It will create jobs. And I call on the Congress to pass legislation to establish that information superhighway this year.
As we expand opportunity and create jobs, no one can be left out. We must continue to enforce fair lending and fair housing and all civil rights laws, because America will never be complete in its renewal until everyone shares in its bounty. But we all know, too, we can do all these things— put our economic house in order, expand world trade, target the jobs of the future, guarantee equal opportunity.
But if we're honest, we'll all admit that this strategy still cannot work unless we also give our people the education, training and skills they need to seize the opportunities of tomorrow. We must set tough, world-class academic and occupational standards for all our children and give our teachers and students the tools they need to meet them.
Our Goals 2000 proposal will empower individual school districts to experiment with ideas like chartering their schools to be run by private corporations or having more public school choice, to do whatever they wish to do as long as we measure every school by one high standard: Are our children learning what they need to know to compete and win in the global economy?
Goals 2000 links world-class standards to grassroots reforms and I hope Congress will pass it without delay. Our school to work initiative will for the first time link school to the world of work, providing at least one year of apprenticeship beyond high school. After all, most of the people we're counting on to build our economic future won't graduate from college. It's time to stop ignoring them and start empowering them. We must literally transform our outdated unemployment system into a new reemployment system. The old unemployment system just sort of kept you going while you waited for your old job to come back. We've got to have a new system to move people into new and better jobs because most of those old jobs just don't come back. And we know that the only way to have real job security in the future, to get a good job with a growing income, is to have real skills and the ability to learn new ones. So we've got to streamline today's patchwork of training programs and make them a source of new skill for our people who lose their jobs. Reemployment, not unemployment, must become the centerpiece of our economic renewal. I urge you to pass it in this session of Congress.
And just as we must transform our unemployment system, so must we also revolutionize our welfare system. It doesn't work; it defies our values as a nation. If we value work, we can't justify a system that makes welfare more attractive than work if people are worried about losing their health care.
If we value responsibility, we can't ignore the $34 billion in child support absent parents out to be paying to millions of parents who are taking care of their children—. If we value strong families, we can't perpetuate a system that actually penalizes those who stay together. Can you believe that a child who has a child gets more money from the government for leaving home than for staying home with a parent or a grandparent? That's not just bad policy, it's wrong and we ought to change it.
I worked on this problem for years before I became president, with other governors and with members of Congress in both parties and with the previous administration of another party. I worked on it with people who were on welfare, lots of them. And I want to say something to everybody here who cares about this issue. The people who most want to change this system are the people who are dependent on it. They want to get off welfare; they want to go back to work; they want to do right by their kids.
I once had a hearing when I was a governor and I brought in people on welfare from all over America who had found their way to work and a woman from my state who testified was asked this question. What's the best thing about being off welfare and in a job. And without blinking an eye, she looked at 40 governors and she said, when my boy goes to school and they say "What does your mother do for a living?" he can give an answer. These people want a better system and we ought to give it to them.
Last year, we began this. We gave the states more power to innovate because we know that a lot of great ideas come from outside Washington and many states are already using it. Then this Congress took a dramatic step. Instead of taxing people with modest incomes into poverty, we helped them to work their way out of poverty by dramatically increasing the earned income tax credit. It will lift 15 million working families out of poverty, rewarding work over welfare, making it possible for people to be successful workers and successful parents. Now that's real welfare reform.
But there is more to be done. This spring I will send you a comprehensive welfare reform bill that builds on the Family Support Act of 1988 and restores the basic values of work and responsibility. We will say to teenagers if you have a child out of wedlock, we'll no longer give you a check to set up a separate household, we want families to stay together; say to absent parents who aren't paying their child support if you're not providing for your children we'll garnish your wages, suspend your license, track you across state lines, and if necessary make some of you work off what you owe.
People who bring children into this world cannot and must not walk away from them.
But to all those who depend on welfare, we should offer ultimately a simple compact. We will provide the support, the job training, the child care you need for up to two years, but after that anyone who can work, must, in the private sector wherever possible, in community service if necessary. That's the only way we'll ever make welfare what it ought to be, a second chance, not a way of life.
I know it will be difficult to tackle welfare reform in 1994 at the same time we tackle health care. But let me point out, I think it is inevitable and imperative. It is estimated that one million people are on welfare today because it's the only way they can get health care coverage for their children. Those who choose to leave welfare for jobs without health benefits, and many entry level jobs don't have health benefits, find themselves in the incredible position of paying taxes that help to pay for health care coverage for those who made the other choice, to stay on welfare. No wonder people leave work and go back to welfare, to get health care coverage. We've got to solve the health care problem to have real welfare reform.
Health Care Reform
So this year we will make history by reforming the health care system. And I would say to you, all of you my fellow public servants, this is another issue where the people are way ahead of the politicians.
That may not be popular with either party, but it happens to be the truth.
You know, the first lady has received now almost a million letters from people all across America and from all walks of life. I'd like to share just one of them with you. Richard Anderson of Reno, Nevada, lost his job and, with it, his health insurance. Two weeks later, his wife, Judy, suffered a cerebral aneurysm. He rushed her to the hospital, where she stayed in intensive care for 21 days. The Anderson's bills were over $120,000. Although Judy recovered and Richard went back to work at $8 an hour, the bills were too much for them and they were literally forced into bankruptcy.
"Mrs. Clinton," he wrote to Hillary, "no one in the United States of America should have to lose everything they've worked for all their lives because they were unfortunate enough to become ill." It was to help the Richard and Judy Andersons of America that the first lady and so many others have worked so hard and so long on this health care reform issue. We owe them our thanks and our action.
I know there are people here who say there's no health care crisis. Tell it to Richard and Judy Anderson. Tell it to the 58 million Americans who have no coverage at all for some time each year. Tell it to the 81 million Americans with those preexisting conditions; those folks are paying more or they can't get insurance at all or they can't ever change their jobs because they or someone in their family has one of those preexisting conditions. Tell it to the small businesses burdened by skyrocketing costs of insurance. Most small businesses cover their employers, and they pay on average 35 percent more in premiums than big businesses or government. Or tell it to the 76 percent of insured Americans, three out of four whose policies have lifetime limits, and that means they can find themselves without any coverage at all just when they need it the most.
So, if any of you believe there's no crisis, you tell it to those people, because I can't.
There are some people who literally do not understand the impact of this problem on people's lives, but all you have to do is go out and listen to them. Just go talk to them anywhere, in any congressional district in this country. They're Republicans and Democrats and independents. It doesn't have a lick to do with party. They think we don't get it, and it's time we show that we do get it.
From the day we began, our health care initiative has been designed to strengthen what is good about our health care system—the world's best health care professionals, cutting edge research, and wonderful research institutions, Medicare for older Americans. None of this—none of it should be put at risk. But we're paying more and more money for less and less care. Every year, fewer and fewer Americans even get to choose their doctors. Every year, doctors and nurses spend more time on paperwork and less time with patients because of the absolute bureaucratic nightmare the present system has become.
This system is riddled with inefficiency, with abuse, with fraud, and everybody knows it. In today's health care system, insurance companies call the shots. They pick whom they cover and how they cover them. They can cut off your benefits when you need your coverage the most. They are in charge.
What does it mean? It means every night millions of well-insured Americans go to bed just an illness, an accident, or a pink slip away from having no coverage or financial ruin. It means every morning millions of Americans go to work without any health insurance at all—something the workers in no other advanced country in the world do. It means that every year more and more hard working people are told to pick a new doctor because their boss has had to pick a new plan. And countless others turndown better jobs because they know, if they take the better job, they'll lose their health insurance.
If we just let the health care system continue to drift, our country will have people with less care, fewer choices, and higher bill.
Now, our approach protects the quality of care and people's choices. It builds on what works today in the private sector, to expand employer based coverage, to guarantee private insurance for every American. And I might say, employer based private insurance for every American was proposed 20 years ago by President Richard Nixon to the United States Congress. It was a good idea then, and it's a better idea today.
Why do we want guaranteed private insurance? Because right now, nine out of ten people who have insurance get it through their employers—and that should continue. And if your employer is providing good benefits at reasonable prices, that should continue too. And that ought to make the Congress and the president feel better. Our goal is health insurance everybody can depend on—comprehensive benefits that cover preventive care and prescription drugs, health premiums that don't just explode when you get sick or you get older, the power—no matter how small your business is —to choose dependable insurance at the same competitive rates that governments and big business get today, one simple form for people who are sick, and most of all, the freedom to choose a plan and the right to choose your own doctor.
Our approach protects older Americans. Every plan before the Congress proposes to slow the growth of Medicare. The difference is this. We believe those savings should be used to improve health care for senior citizens. Medicare must be protected, and it should cover prescription drugs, and we should take the first steps in covering long-term care.
To those who would cut Medicare without protecting seniors, I say the solution to today's squeeze on middle class working people's health care is not to put the squeeze on middle class retired people's health care. We can do better than that. When it's all said and done, it's pretty simple to me. Insurance ought to mean what it used to mean. You pay a fair price for security, and when you get sick, health care is always there—no matter what.
Along with the guarantee of health security, we all have to admit, too, there must be more responsibility on the part of all of us in how we use this system. People have to take their kids to get immunized. We should all take advantage of preventive care. We must all work together to stop the violence that explodes our emergency rooms. We have to practice better health habits, and we can't abuse the system. And those who don't have insurance under our approach will get coverage, but they will have to pay something for it, too. The minority of businesses that provide no insurance at all, and in so doing, shift the cost of the care of their employees to others, should contribute something. People who smoke should pay more for a pack of cigarettes. Everybody can contribute something if we want to solve the health care crisis. There can't be anymore something for nothing. It will not be easy, but it can be done. Now in the coming months I hope very much to work with both Democrats and Republicans to reform a health care system by using the market to bring down costs and to achieve lasting health security. But if you look at history, we see that for 60 years this country has tried to reform health care. President Roosevelt tried, President Truman tried, President Nixon tried, President Carter tried. Every time the special interests were powerful enough to defeat them, but not this time.
Campaign Finance Reform
I know that facing up to these interests will require courage. It will raise critical questions about the way we finance our campaigns and how lobbyists yield their influence. The work of change, frankly, will never get any easier until we limit the influence of well financed interests who profit from this current system. So I also must now call on you to finish the job both houses began last year, by passing tough and meaningful campaign finance reform and lobby reform legislation this year.
You know, my fellow Americans, this is really a test for all of us. The American people provide those of us in government service with terrific health care benefits at reasonable costs. We have health care that's always there. I think we need to give every hard working, taxpaying American the same health care security they have already given to us.
I want to make this very clear: I am open, as I have said repeatedly, to the best ideas of concerned members of both parties. I have no special brief for any specific approach, even in our own bill, except this: if you send me legislation that does not guarantee every American private health insurance that can never be taken away, you will force me to take this pen, veto the legislation, and we'll come right back here and start all over again.
But I don't think that's going to happen. I think we're ready to act now. I believe that you're ready to act now. And if you're ready to guarantee every American the same health care that you have, health care that can never be taken away—now, not next year or the year after, now is the time to stand with the people who sent us here. Now.
As we take these steps together to renew our strength at home, we cannot turn away from our obligations to renew our leadership abroad. This is a promising moment. Because of the agreements we have reached this year, last year, Russia's strategic nuclear missiles soon will no longer be pointed at the United States. Nor will we point ours at them.
Instead of building weapons in space, Russian scientists will help us to build the international space station.
And of course there are still dangers in the world: rampant arms proliferation, bitter regional conflicts, ethnic and nationalist tensions in many new democracies, severe environmental degradation the world over, and fanatics who seek to cripple the world's cities with terror. As the world's greatest power, we must therefore maintain our defenses and our responsibilities. This year we secured indictments against terrorists and sanctions against those harbor them. We worked to promote environmentally-sustainable economic growth. We achieved agreements with Ukraine, with Belarus, with Kazakhstan, to eliminate completely their nuclear arsenals. We are working to achieve a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons. We will seek early ratification of the treaty to ban chemical weapons worldwide. And earlier today we joined with over 30 nations to begin negotiations on a comprehensive ban to stop all nuclear testing.
But nothing—nothing—is more important to our security than our nation's armed forces. We honor their contributions, including those who are carrying out the longest humanitarian airlift in history in Bosnia—— those who will complete their mission in Somalia this year and their brave comrades who gave their lives there. Our forces are the finest military our nation has ever had, and I have pledged that as long as I am president they will remain the best-equipped, the best-trained and the best-prepared fighting force on the face of the earth.
Last year, I proposed a defense plan that maintains our post-Cold War security at a lower cost. This year, many people urged me to cut our defense spending further to pay for other government programs. I said no. The budget I send to Congress draws the line against further defense cuts. It protects the readiness and quality of our forces. Ultimately, the best strategy is to do that. We must not cut defense further. I hope the Congress without regard to party will support that position.
Ultimately, the best strategy to ensure our security and to build a durable peace is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere. Democracies don't attack each other. They make better trading partners and partners in diplomacy. That is why we have supported, you and I, the democratic reformers in Russia and in the other states of the former Soviet bloc. I applaud the bipartisan support this Congress provided last year for our initiatives to help Russia, Ukraine and the other states through their epic transformations.
Our support of reform must combine patience for the enormity of the task and vigilance for our fundamental interest and values. We will continue to urge Russia and the other states to press ahead with economic reforms, and we will seek to cooperate with Russia to solve regional problems while insisting that, if Russian troops operate in neighboring states, they do so only when those states agree to their presence and in strict accord with international standards.
But we must also remember as these nations chart their own futures, and they must chart their own futures, how much more secure and more prosperous our own people will be if democratic and market reform succeed all across the former communist bloc. Our policy has been to support that move and that has been the policy of the Congress. We should continue it.
That is why I went to Europe earlier this month, to work with our European partners to help to integrate all the former communist countries into a Europe that has the possibility of becoming unified for the first time in its entire history, it's entire history, based on the simple commitments of all nations in Europe to democracy, to free markets, and to respect for existing borders.
With our allies, we have created a partnership for peace that invites states from the former Soviet bloc and other non-NATO members to work with NATO in military cooperation. When I met with Central Europe's leaders, including Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel, men who put their lives on the line for freedom, I told them that the security of their region is important to our country's security.
This year, we must also do more to support democratic renewal and human rights and sustainable development all around the world. We will ask Congress to ratify the new GATT accord, we will continue standing by South Africa as it works its way through its bold and hopeful and difficult transition to democracy. We will convene a summit of the Western hemisphere's democratic leaders from Canada to the tip of South America. And we will continue to press for the restoration of true democracy in Haiti.
And as we build a more constructive relationship with China, we must continue to insist on clear signs of improvement in that nation's human rights record.
We will also work for new progress toward the Middle East peace. Last year the world watched Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat at the White House when they had their historic handshake of reconciliation. But there is a long, hard road ahead. And on that road I am determined that I and our administration will do all we can to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace for all the peoples of the region.
Now, there are some in our country who argue that with the Cold War, America should turn its back on the rest of the world. Many around the world were afraid we would do just that. But I took this office on a pledge that had no partisan tinge to keep our nation secure by remaining engaged in the rest of the world. And this year, because of our work together, enacting NAFTA, keeping our military strong and prepared, supporting democracy abroad, we have reaffirmed America's leadership, America's engagement, and as a result, the American people are more secure than they were before.
But while Americans are more secure from threats abroad, I think we all now that in many ways we are less secure from threats here at home. Everyday the national peace is shattered by crime.
In Petaluma, California, an innocent slumber party gives way to agonizing tragedy for the family of Polly Klaas. An ordinary train ride on Long Island ends in a hail of nine millimeter rounds. A tourist in Florida is nearly burned alive by bigots simply because he is black. Right here in our nation's capital, a brave young man named Jason White, a policeman, the son and grandson of policemen, is ruthlessly gunned down.
Violent crime and the fear it provokes are crippling our society, limiting personal freedom, and fraying the ties that bind us.
The crime bill before Congress gives you a chance to do something about it, a chance to be tough and smart. What does that mean? Let me begin by saying I care a lot about this issue. Many years ago, when I started out in public life, I was the attorney general of my state. I served as a governor for a dozen years. I know what it's like to sign laws increasing penalties, to build more prison cells, to carry out the death penalty. I understand this issue and it is not a simple thing.
First, we must recognize that most violent crimes are committed by a small percentage of criminals who too often break the laws even when they are on parole. Now those who commit crimes should be punished, and those who commit repeated violent crimes should be told when you commit a third violent crime, you will be put away and put away for good, three strikes and you are out.
Second, we must take serious steps to reduce violence and prevent crime, beginning with more police officers and more community policing. We know right now that police who work the streets, know the folks, have the respect of the neighborhood kids, focus on high crime areas, we know that they are more likely to prevent crime as well as catch criminals. Look at the experience of Houston, where the crime rate dropped 17 percent in one year when that approach was taken. Here tonight is one of those community policemen, a brave, young detective, Kevin Jett, whose beat is eight square blocks in one of the toughest neighborhoods in New York. Every day he restores some sanity and safety, and a sense of values and connection to the people whose lives he protects. I'd like to ask him to stand up and be recognized tonight.
You will be given a chance to give the children of this country, the law abiding working people of this country, and don't forget, in the toughest neighborhoods in this country, in the highest crime neighborhoods in this country the vast majority of people get up every day and obey the law, pay their taxes, do their best to raise their kids. They deserve people like Kevin Jett, and you're going to be given the chance to give the American people another 100,000 of them, well trained, and I urge you to do it.
You have before you crime legislation which also establishes a police corps to encourage young people to get an education, and pay it off by serving as police officers, which encourages retiring military personnel to move into police forces—and enormous resources for our country, one which has a safe schools provisions which will give our young people the chance to walk to school in safety and to be in school in safety instead of dodging bullets. These are important things.
The third thing we have to do is to build on the Brady Bill—the Brady Law to take further steps——to take further steps to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
Now, I want to say something about this issue. Hunters must always be free to hunt, law abiding adults should always be free to own guns and protect their homes. I respect that part of our culture. I grew up in it. But I want to ask the sportsmen and others who lawfully own guns to join us in this campaign to reduce gun violence. I say to you, I know you didn't create this problem, but we need your help to solve it. There is no sporting purpose on earth that should stop the United States Congress from banishing assault weapons that outgun police and cut down children.
Fourth, we must remember that drugs are a factor in an enormous percentage of crimes. Recent studies indicate, sadly, that drug use is on the rise again among our young people. The Crime Bill contains—all the crime bills contain—more money for drug treatment, for criminal addicts, and boot camps for youthful offenders that include incentives to get off drugs and to stay off drugs. Our administration's budget, with all its cuts, contains a large increase in funding for drug treatment and drug education. You must pass them both. We need then desperately.
My fellow Americans, the problem of violence is an un-American problem. It has no partisan or philosophical element. Therefore, I urge you find ways as quickly as possible to set aside partisan differences and pass a strong, smart, tough crime bill.
But further, I urge you to consider this: As you demand tougher penalties for those who choose violence, let us also remember how we came to this sad point. In our toughest neighborhoods, on our meanest streets, in our poorest rural areas, we have seen a stunning and simultaneous breakdown of community, family, and work, the heart and soul of civilized society. This has created a vast vacuum which has been filled by violence and drugs and gangs. So I ask you to remember that even as we say no to crime, we must give people, especially our young people something to say yes to. Many of our initiatives, from job training to welfare reform to health care to national service will help to rebuild distressed communities, to strengthen families, to provide work, but more needs to be done. That's what our community empowerment agenda is all about—challenging businesses to provide more investment through empowerment zones, ensuring banks will make loans in the same communities their deposits come from, passing legislation to unleash the power of capital through community development banks to create jobs, opportunity, and hope where they're needed most.
But I think you know that to really solve this problem, we'll all have to put our heads together, leave our ideological armor aside, and find some new ideas to do even more.
The Role Of Government
And let's be honest, we all know something else, too. Our problems go way beyond the reach of government. They're rooted in the loss of values and the disappearance of work and the breakdown of our families and our communities. My fellow Americans, we can cut the deficit, create jobs, promote democracy around the world, pass welfare reform and health care, pass the toughest crime bill in history and still leave too many of our people behind.
The American people have got to want to change from within if we're going to bring back work and family and community. We cannot renew our country when, within a decade, more than half of the children will be born into families where there has been no marriage. We cannot renew this country when 13-year-old boys get semi-automatic weapons to shoot 9 year olds for kicks. We can't renew our country when children are having children and the fathers walk away as if the kids don't amount to anything. We can't renew the country when our businesses eagerly look for new investments and new customers abroad but ignore those people right here at home who'd give anything to have their jobs and would gladly buy their products if they had the money to do it.
We can't renew our country unless more of us—I mean all of us—are willing to join the churches and the other good citizens, people like all the black ministers I've worked with over the years or the priests and the nuns I met at Our Lady of Help in East Los Angeles or my good friend Tony Campolo in Philadelphia, unless we're willing to work with people like that, people who are saving kids, adopting schools, making streets safer. All of us can do that.
We can't renew our country until we realize that governments don't raise children; parents do. Parents who know their children's teachers and turn off the television and help with the homework and teach their kids right from wrong—those kind of parents can make all the difference. I know. I had one. And I'm telling you we have got to stop pointing our fingers at these kids who have no future and reach our hands out to them. Our country needs it. We need it. And they deserve it.
And so I say to you tonight let's give our children a future. Let us take away their guns and give them books. Let us overcome their despair and replace it with hope. Let us, by our example, teach them to obey the law, respect our neighbors, and cherish our values. Let us weave these sturdy threads into a new American community that once more stand strong against the forces of despair and evil because everybody has a chance to walk into a better tomorrow.
Oh, there will be naysayers who fear that we won't be equal to the challenges of this time, but they misread our history, our heritage, even today's headlines. All those things tell us we can and we will overcome any challenge.
When the earth shook and fires raged in California; when I saw the Mississippi deluge the farmlands of the Midwest in a 500 year flood; when the century's bitterest cold swept from North Dakota to Newport News it seemed as though the world itself was coming apart at the seams. But the American people, they just came together. They rose to the occasion, neighbor helping neighbor, strangers risking life and limb to stay total strangers, showing the better angels of our nature.
Let us not reserve the better angels only for natural disasters, leaving our deepest and most profound problems to petty political fighting.
Let us instead by true to our spirit, facing facts, coming together, bringing hope and moving forward.
Tonight, my fellow Americans, we are summoned to answer a question as old as the republic itself, what is the state of our union?
It is growing stronger but it must be stronger still. With your help and God's help it will be.
Thank you and God Bless America.
State of the Union Address William J. Clinton January 24, 1995
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, members of the 104th Congress, my fellow Americans:
Again we are here in the sanctuary of democracy. And once again, our democracy has spoken.
So let me begin by congratulating all of you here in the 104th Congress, and congratulating you, Mr. Speaker.
If we agree on nothing else tonight, we must agree that the American people certainly voted for change in 1992 and in 1994.
And as I look out at you, I know how some of you must have felt in 1992.
I must say that in both years we didn't hear America singing, we heard America shouting. And now all of us, Republicans and Democrats alike, must say: We hear you. We will work together to earn the jobs you have given us. For we are the keepers of the sacred trust and we must be faithful to it in this new and very demanding era.
Over 200 years ago, our founders changed the entire course of human history by joining together to create a new country based on a single, powerful idea. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It has fallen to every generation since then to preserve that idea—the American idea—and to deepen and expand its meaning in new and different times. To Lincoln and to his Congress, to preserve the Union and to end slavery. To Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, to restrain the abuses and excesses of the Industrial Revolution and to assert our leadership in the world. To Franklin Roosevelt, to fight the failure and pain of the Great Depression and to win our country's great struggle against fascism.
And to all our Presidents since, to fight the cold war. Especially, I recall two who struggled to fight that cold war in partnership with Congresses where the majority was of a different party. To Harry Truman, who summoned us to unparalleled prosperity at home and who built the architecture of the cold war. And to Ronald Reagan, whom we wish well tonight, and who exhorted us to carry on until the twilight struggle against Communism was won.
In another time of change and challenge, I had the honor to be the first President to be elected in the post-cold-war era, an era marked by the global economy, the information revolution, unparalleled change in opportunity and in security for the American people.
I came to this hallowed chamber two years ago on a mission: To restore the American dream for all our people and to make sure that we move into the 21st century still the strongest force for freedom and democracy in the entire world.
I was determined then to tackle the tough problems too long ignored. In this effort I am frank to say that I have made my mistakes. And I have learned again the importance of humility in all human endeavor.
But I am also proud to say tonight that our country is stronger than it was two years ago.
Record numbers, record numbers of Americans are succeeding in the new global economy. We are at peace, and we are a force for peace and freedom throughout the world. We have almost six million new jobs since I became President, and we have the lowest combined rate of unemployment and inflation in 25 years.
Our businesses are more productive and here we have worked to bring the deficit down, to expand trade, to put more police on our streets, to give our citizens more of the tools they need to get an education and to rebuild their own communities. But the rising tide is not lifting all the boats.
While our nation is enjoying peace and prosperity, too many of our people are still working harder and harder for less and less. While our businesses are restructuring and growing more productive and competitive, too many of our people still can't be sure of having a job next year or even next month. And far more than our material riches are threatened, things far more precious to us: our children, our families, our values.
Our civil life is suffering in America today. Citizens are working together less and shouting at each other more. The common bonds of community which have been the great strength of our country from its very beginning are badly frayed.
What are we to do about it?
More than 60 years ago at the dawn of another new era, President Roosevelt told our nation new conditions impose new requirements on Government and those who conduct Government. And from that simple proposition he shaped the New Deal, which helped to restore our nation to prosperity and defined the relationship between our people and their Government for half a century.
That approach worked in its time but today we face a very different time and very different conditions. We are moving from an industrial age built on gears and sweat to an information age demanding skills and learning and flexibility.
Our Government, once a champion of national purpose, is now seen by many as simply a captive of narrow interests putting more burdens on our citizens rather than equipping them to get ahead. The values that used to hold us all together seem to be coming apart.
So tonight we must forge a new social compact to meet the challenges of this time. As we enter a new era, we need a new set of understandings not just with Government but, even more important, with one another as Americans.
That's what I want to talk with you about tonight. I call it the New Covenant but it's grounded in a very, very old idea that all Americans have not just a right but a solemn responsibility to rise as far as their God-given talents and determination can take them. And to give something back to their communities and their country in return.
Opportunity and responsibility—they go hand in hand; we can't have one without the other, and our national community can't hold together without both.
Our New Covenant is a new set of understandings for how we can equip our people to meet the challenges of the new economy, how we can change the way our Government works to fit a different time and, above all, how we can repair the damaged bonds in our society and come together behind our common purpose. We must have dramatic change in our economy, our Government and ourselves.
My fellow Americans, without regard to party, let us rise to the occasion. Let us put aside partisanship and pettiness and pride. As we embark on this course, let us put our country first, remembering that regardless of party label we are all Americans. And let the final test of everything we do be a simple one: Is it good for the American people?
Let me begin by saying that we cannot ask Americans to be better citizens if we are not better servants. You made a good start by passing that law which applies to Congress all the laws you put on the private sector—and I was proud to sign it yesterday.
But we have a lot more to do before people really trust the way things work around here. Three times as many lobbyists are in the streets and corridors of Washington as were here 20 years ago. The American people look at their capital and they see a city where the well-connected and the well-protected can work the system, but the interests of ordinary citizens are often left out.
As the new Congress opened its doors, lobbyists were still doing business as usual—the gifts, the trips—all the things that people are concerned about haven't stopped.
Twice this month you missed opportunities to stop these practices. I know there were other considerations in those votes, but I want to use something that I've heard my Republican friends say from time to time: There doesn't have to be a law for everything.
So tonight I ask you to just stop taking the lobbyists' perks, just stop.
We don't have to wait for legislation to pass to send a strong signal to the American people that things are really changing. But I also hope you will send me the strongest possible lobby reform bill, and I'll sign that, too. We should require lobbyists to tell the people for whom they work what they're spending, what they want. We should also curb the role of big money in elections by capping the cost of campaigns and limiting the influence of PAC's.
And as I have said for three years, we should work to open the air waves so that they can be an instrument of democracy not a weapon of destruction by giving free TV time to candidates for public office.
When the last Congress killed political reform last year, it was reported in the press that the lobbyists actually stood in the halls of this sacred building and cheered. This year, let's give the folks at home something to cheer about.
More important, I think we all agree that we have to change the way the Government works. Let's make it smaller, less costly and smarter. Leaner not meaner.
I just told the Speaker the equal time doctrine's alive and well.
The Role Of Government
The New Covenant approach to governing is as different from the old bureaucratic way as the computer is from the manual typewriter. The old way of governing around here protected organized interests; we should look out for the interests of ordinary people. The old way divided us by interests, constituency or class; the New Covenant way should unite us behind a common vision of what's best for our country.
The old way dispensed services through large, top-down, inflexible bureaucracies. The New Covenant way should shift these resources and decision making from bureaucrats to citizens, injecting choice and competition and individual responsibility into national policy.
The old way of governing around here actually seemed to reward failure. The New Covenant way should have built-in incentives to reward success.
The old way was centralized here in Washington. The New Covenant way must take hold in the communities all across America, and we should help them to do that.
Our job here is to expand opportunity, not bureaucracy, to empower people to make the most of their own lives and to enhance our security here at home and abroad.
We must not ask Government to do what we should do for ourselves. We should rely on Government as a partner to help us to do more for ourselves and for each other.
I hope very much that as we debate these specific and exciting matters, we can go beyond the sterile discussion between the illusion that there is somehow a program for every problem, on the one hand, and the other illusion that the Government is the source of every problem that we have.
Our job is to get rid of yesterday's Government so that our own people can meet today's and tomorrow's needs.
And we ought to do it together.
You know, for years before I became President, I heard others say they would cut Government and how bad it was. But not much happened.
We actually did it. We cut over a quarter of a trillion dollars in spending, more than 300 domestic programs, more than 100,000 positions from the Federal bureaucracy in the last two years alone.
Based on decisions already made, we will have cut a total of more than a quarter of a million positions from the Federal Government, making it the smallest it has been since John Kennedy was president, by the time I come here again next year.
Under the leadership of Vice President Gore, our initiatives have already saved taxpayers $ 63 billion. The age of the $ 500 hammer and the ashtray you can break on David Letterman is gone. Deadwood programs like mohair subsidies are gone. We've streamlined the Agriculture Department by reducing it by more than 1,200 offices. We've slashed the small-business loan form from an inch thick to a single page. We've thrown away the Government's 10,000-page personnel manual.
And the Government is working better in important ways. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has gone from being a disaster to helping people in disaster.
You can ask the farmers in the Middle West who fought the flood there or the people in California who've dealt with floods and earthquakes and fires and they'll tell you that.
Government workers, working hand-in-hand with private business, rebuilt Southern California's fractured freeways in record time and under budget.
And because the Federal Government moved fast, all but one of the 5,600 schools damaged in the earthquake are back in business.
Now, there are a lot of other things that I could talk about. I want to just mention one because it'll be discussed here in the next few weeks.
University administrators all over the country have told me that they are saving weeks and weeks of bureaucratic time now because of our direct college loan program, which makes college loans cheaper and more affordable with better repayment terms for students, costs the Government less and cuts out paperwork and bureaucracy for the Government and for the universities.
We shouldn't cap that program, we should give every college in America the opportunity to be a part of it.
Previous Government programs gather dust; the reinventing Government report is getting results. And we're not through—there's going to be a second round of reinventing Government.
We propose to cut $ 130 billion in spending by shrinking departments, extending our freeze on domestic spending, cutting 60 public housing programs down to 3, getting rid of over a hundred programs we do not need like the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Helium Reserve Program.
And we're working on getting rid of unnecessary regulations and making them more sensible. The programs and regulations that have outlived their usefulness should go. We have to cut yesterday's Government to help solve tomorrow's problems.
And we need to get Government closer to the people it's meant to serve. We need to help move programs down to the point where states and communities and private citizens in the private sector can do a better job. If they can do it, we ought to let them do it. We should get out of the way and let them do what they can do better.
Taking power away from Federal bureaucracies and giving it back to communities and individuals is something everyone should be able to be for. It's time for Congress to stop passing onto the states the cost of decisions we make here in Washington.
I know there are still serious differences over the details of the unfunded mandates legislation but I want to work with you to make sure we pass a reasonable bill which will protect the national interest and give justified relief where we need to give it.
For years, Congress concealed in the budget scores of pet spending projects. Last year was no different. There was a million dollars to study stress in plants and $ 12 million for a tick removal program that didn't work. It's hard to remove ticks; those of us who've had them know.
But I'll tell you something, if you'll give me the line-item veto, I'll remove some of that unnecessary spending.
But, I think we should all remember, and almost all of us would agree, that Government still has important responsibilities.
Our young people—we should think of this when we cut—our young people hold our future in their hands. We still owe a debt to our veterans. And our senior citizens have made us what we are.
Now, my budget cuts a lot. But it protects education, veterans, Social Security and Medicare, and I hope you will do the same thing. You should, and I hope you will.
And when we give more flexibility to the states, let us remember that there are certain fundamental national needs that should be addressed in every state, north and south, east and west.
Immunization against childhood disease, school lunches in all our schools, Head Start, medical care and nutrition for pregnant women and infants—all these things are in the national interest.
I applaud your desire to get rid of costly and unnecessary regulations, but when we deregulate let's remember what national action in the national interest has given us: safer food for our families, safer toys for our children, safer nursing homes for our parents, safer cars and highways and safer workplaces, cleaner air and cleaner water. Do we need common sense and fairness in our regulations? You bet we do. But we can have common sense and still provide for safe drinking water. We can have fairness and still clean up toxic dumps and we ought to do it.
Should we cut the deficit more? Well of course we should. Of course we should. But we can bring it down in a way that still protects our economic recovery and does not unduly punish people who should not be punished, but instead should be helped.
I know many of you in this chamber support the balanced-budget amendment. I certainly want to balance the budget. Our Administration has done more to bring the budget down and to save money than any in a very, very long time.
If you believe passing this amendment is the right thing to do, then you have to be straight with the American people. They have a right to know what you're going to cut, what taxes you're going to raise, how it's going to affect them.
And we should be doing things in the open around here. For example, everybody ought to know if this proposal is going to endanger Social Security. I would oppose that, and I think most Americans would.
Nothing is done more to undermine our sense of common responsibility than our failed welfare system. This is one of the problems we have to face here in Washington in our New Covenant. It rewards welfare over work, it undermines family values, it lets millions of parents get away without paying their child support, it keeps a minority—but a significant minority—of the people on welfare trapped on it for a very long time.
I worked on this problem for a long time—nearly 15 years now. As a Governor I had the honor of working with the Reagan Administration to write the last welfare reform bill back in 1988.
In the last two years we made a good start in continuing the work of welfare reform. Our Administration gave two dozen states the right to slash through Federal rules and regulations to reform their own welfare systems and to try to promote work and responsibility over welfare and dependency.
Last year, I introduced the most sweeping welfare reform plan ever presented by an Administration. We have to make welfare what it was meant to be—a second chance, not a way of life.
We have to help those on welfare move to work as quickly as possible, to provide child care and teach them skills, if that's what they need, for up to two years. But after that, there ought to be a simple, hard rule. Anyone who can work must go to work.
If a parent isn't paying child support, they should be forced to pay.
We should suspend driver's licenses, track them across state lines, make them work off what they owe. That is what we should do. Governments do not raise children, people do. And the parents must take responsibility for the children they bring into this world.
I want to work with you, with all of you, to pass welfare reform. But our goal must be to liberate people and lift them from dependence to independence, from welfare to work, from mere childbearing to responsible parenting. Our goal should not be to punish them because they happen to be poor.
We should—we should require work and mutual responsibility. But we shouldn't cut people off just because they're poor, they're young or even because they're unmarried. We should promote responsibility by requiring young mothers to live at home with their parents or in other supervised settings, by requiring them to finish school. But we shouldn't put them and their children out on the street.
And I know all the arguments pro and con and I have read and thought about this for a long time: I still don't think we can, in good conscience, punish poor children for the mistakes of their parents.
My fellow Americans, every single survey shows that all the American people care about this, without regard to party or race or region. So let this be the year we end welfare as we know it.
But also let this be the year that we are all able to stop using this issue to divide America.
No one is more eager to end welfare.
I may be the only President who's actually had the opportunity to sit in the welfare office, who's actually spent hours and hours talking to people on welfare, and I am telling you the people who are trapped on it know it doesn't work. They also want to get off.
So we can promote, together, education and work and good parenting. I have no problem with punishing bad behavior or the refusal to be a worker or a student or a responsible parent. I just don't want to punish poverty and past mistakes. All of us have made our mistakes and none of us can change our yesterdays, but every one of us can change our tomorrows.
And America's best example of that may be Lynn Woolsey, who worked her way off welfare to become a Congresswoman from the state of California.
I know the members of this Congress are concerned about crime, as are all the citizens of our country. But I remind you that last year we passed a very tough crime bill—longer sentences, three strikes and you're out, almost 60 new capital punishment offenses, more prisons, more prevention, 100,000 more police—and we paid for it all by reducing the size of the Federal bureaucracy and giving the money back to local communities to lower the crime rate.
There may be other things we can do to be tougher on crime, to be smarter with crime, to help to lower that rate first. Well if there are, let's talk about them and let's do them. But let's not go back on the things that we did last year that we know work—that we know work because the local law-enforcement officers tell us that we did the right thing. Because local community leaders, who've worked for years and years to lower the crime rate, tell us that they work.
Let's look at the experience of our cities and our rural areas where the crime rate has gone down and ask the people who did it how they did it and if what we did last year supports the decline in the crime rate, and I am convinced that it does, let us not go back on it, let's stick with it, implement it—we've got four more hard years of work to do to do that.
I don't want to destroy the good atmosphere in the room or in the country tonight, but I have to mention one issue that divided this body greatly last year. The last Congress also passed the Brady bill and in the crime bill the ban on 19 assault weapons.
I don't think it's a secret to anybody in this room that several members of the last Congress who voted for that aren't here tonight because they voted for it. And I know, therefore, that some of you that are here because they voted for it are under enormous pressure to repeal it. I just have to tell you how I feel about it.
The members who voted for that bill and I would never do anything to infringe on the right to keep and bear arms to hunt and to engage in other appropriate sporting activities. I've done it since I was a boy, and I'm going to keep right on doing it until I can't do it anymore.
But a lot of people laid down their seats in Congress so that police officers and kids wouldn't have to lay down their lives under a hail of assault-weapon attacks, and I will not let that be repealed. I will not let it be repealed.
I'd like to talk about a couple of other issues we have to deal with. I want us to cut more spending, but I hope we won't cut Government programs that help to prepare us for the new economy, promote responsibility and are organized from the grass roots up, not by Federal bureaucracy.
The very best example of this is the National Service Corps—AmeriCorps. It passed with strong bipartisan support and now there are 20,000 Americans —more than ever served in one year in the Peace Corps—working all over this country, helping person to person in local grass-roots volunteer groups, solving problems and in the process earning some money for their education.
This is citizenship at its best. It's good for the AmeriCorps members, but it's good for the rest of us, too. It's the essence of the New Covenant and we shouldn't stop it.
All Americans, not only in the states most heavily affected, but in every place in this country are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country.
The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public services they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. That's why our Administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more, by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens.
In the budget I will present to you, we will try to do more to speed the deportation of illegal aliens who are arrested for crimes, to better identify illegal aliens in the workplace as recommended by the commission headed by former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.
We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it.
The most important job of our Government in this new era is to empower the American people to succeed in the global economy. America has always been a land of opportunity, a land where, if you work hard, you can get ahead. We've become a great middle-class country; middle-class values sustain us. We must expand that middle class and shrink the underclass even as we do everything we can to support the millions of Americans who are already successful in the new economy.
America is once again the world's strongest economic power: almost six million new jobs in the last two years, exports booming, inflation down, high-wage jobs are coming back. A record number of American entrepreneurs are living the American dream.
If we want it to stay that way, those who work and lift our nation must have more of its benefits.
Today, too many of those people are being left out. They're working harder for less. They have less security, less income, less certainty that they can even afford a vacation, much less college for their kids or retirement for themselves.
We cannot let this continue. If we don't act, our economy will probably keep doing what it's been doing since about 1978, when the income growth began to go to those at the very top of our economic scale. And the people in the vast middle got very little growth and people who worked like crazy but were on the bottom then, fell even further and further behind in the years afterward, no matter how hard they worked.
We've got to have a Government that can be a real partner in making this new economy work for all of our people, a Government that helps each and every one of us to get an education and to have the opportunity to renew our skills.
That's why we worked so hard to increase educational opportunities in the last two years from Head Start to public schools to apprenticeships for young people who don't go to college, to making college loans more available and more affordable.
That's the first thing we have to do: We've got to do something to empower people to improve their skills.
Second thing we ought to do is to help people raise their incomes immediately by lowering their taxes.
We took the first step in 1993 with a working family tax cut for 15 million families with incomes under $ 27,000, a tax cut that this year will average about $ 1,000 a family.
And we also gave tax reductions to most small and new businesses. Before we could do more than that, we first had to bring down the deficit we inherited and we had to get economic growth up. Now we've done both, and now we can cut taxes in a more comprehensive way.
But tax cuts should reinforce and promote our first obligation: to empower our citizens through education and training to make the most of their own lives. The spotlight should shine on those who make the right choices for themselves, their families and their communities.
Middle Class Bill Of Rights
I have proposed a middle-class bill of rights, which should properly be called the bill of rights and responsibilities, because its provisions only benefit those who are working to educate and raise their children and to educate themselves. It will, therefore, give needed tax relief and raise incomes, in both the short run and the long run, in a way that benefits all of us.
There are four provisions:
First, a tax deduction for all education and training after high school. If you think about it, we permit businesses to deduct their investment, we permit individuals to deduct interest on their home mortgages, but today an education is even more important to the economic well-being of our whole country than even those things are. We should do everything we can to encourage it, and I hope you will support it.
Second, we ought to cut taxes $ 500 for families with children under 13.
Third, we ought to foster more savings and personal responsibility by permitting people to establish an individual retirement account and withdraw from it tax free for the cost of education, health care, first-time home buying or the care of a parent.
And fourth, we should pass a G.I. bill for America's workers. We propose to collapse nearly 70 Federal programs and not give the money to the states but give the money directly to the American people, offer vouchers to them so that they—if they're laid off or if they're working for a very low wage—can get a voucher worth $ 2,600 a year for up to two years to go to their local community colleges or wherever else they want to get the skills they need to improve their lives. Let's empower people in this way. Move it from the Government directly to the workers of America.
Cutting The Deficit Now
Any one of us can call for a tax cut, but I won't accept one that explodes the deficit or puts our recovery at risk. We ought to pay for our tax cuts fully and honestly. Just two years ago it was an open question whether we would find the strength to cut the deficit.
Thanks to the courage of the people who were here then, many of whom didn't return, we did cut the deficit. We began to do what others said would not be done: We cut the deficit by over $ 600 billion, about $ 10,000 for every family in this country. It's coming down three years in a row for the first time since Mr. Truman was President and I don't think anybody in America wants us to let it explode again.
In the budget I will send you, the middle-class bill of rights is fully paid for by budget cuts in bureaucracy, cuts in programs, cuts in special interest subsidies. And the spending cuts will more than double the tax cuts. My budget pays for the middle-class bill of rights without any cuts in Medicare, and I will oppose any attempts to pay for tax cuts with Medicare cuts. That's not the right thing to do.
I know that a lot of you have your own ideas about tax relief. And some of them, I find quite interesting. I really want to work with all of you.
My tests for our proposals will be: Will it create jobs and raise incomes? Will it strengthen our families and support our children? Is it paid for? Will it build the middle class and shrink the underclass?
If it does, I'll support it. But if it doesn't, I won't.
The goal of building the middle class and shrinking the underclass is also why I believe that you should raise the minimum wage.
It rewards work—two and a half million Americans, often women with children, are working out there today for four-and-a-quarter an hour. In terms of real buying power, by next year, that minimum wage will be at a 40-year low. That's not my idea of how the new economy ought to work.
Now I studied the arguments and the evidence for and against a minimum-wage increase. I believe the weight of the evidence is that a modest increase does not cost jobs and may even lure people back into the job market. But the most important thing is you can't make a living on $ 4.25 an hour. Now —especially if you have children, even with the working families tax cut we passed last year.
In the past, the minimum wage has been a bipartisan issue and I think it should be again. So I want to challenge you to have honest hearings on this, to get together to find a way to make the minimum wage a living wage.
Members of Congress have been here less than a month but by the end of the week—28 days into the new year—every member of Congress will have earned as much in congressional salary as a minimum-wage worker makes all year long.
Everybody else here, including the President, has something else that too many Americans do without and that's health care.
Now, last year we almost came to blows over health care, but we didn't do anything. And the cold, hard fact is that since last year—since I was here—another 1.1 million Americans in working families have lost their health care. And the cold, hard fact is that many millions more—most of them farmers and small business people and self-employed people—have seen their premiums skyrocket, their co-pays and deductibles go up.
There's a whole bunch of people in this country that in the statistics have health insurance but really what they've got is a piece of paper that says they won't lose their home if they get sick.
Now I still believe our country has got to move toward providing health security for every American family, but—but I know that last year, as the evidence indicates, we bit off more than we could chew.
So I'm asking you that we work together. Let's do it step by step. Let's do whatever we have to do to get something done. Let's at least pass meaningful insurance reform so that no American risks losing coverage for facing skyrocketing prices but that nobody loses their coverage because they face high prices or unavailable insurance when they change jobs or lose a job or a family member gets sick.
I want to work together with all of you who have an interest in this: with the Democrats who worked on it last time, with the Republican leaders like Senator Dole who has a longtime commitment to health care reform and made some constructive proposals in this area last year. We ought to make sure that self-employed people in small businesses can buy insurance at more affordable rates through voluntary purchasing pools. We ought to help families provide long-term care for a sick parent to a disabled child. We can work to help workers who lose their jobs at least keep their health insurance coverage for a year while they look for work, and we can find a way—it may take some time, but we can find a way—to make sure that our children have health care.
You know, I think everybody in this room, without regard to party, can be proud of the fact that our country was rated as having the world's most productive economy for the first time in nearly a decade, but we can't be proud of the fact that we're the only wealthy country in the world that has a smaller percentage of the work force and their children with health insurance today than we did 10 years ago—the last time we were the most productive economy in the world.
So let's work together on this. It is too important for politics as usual.
Much of what the American people are thinking about tonight is what we've already talked about. A lot of people think that the security concerns of America today are entirely internal to our borders, they relate to the security of our jobs and our homes and our incomes and our children, our streets, our health and protecting those borders.
Now that the Cold War has passed, it's tempting to believe that all the security issues, with the possible exception of trade, reside here at home. But it's not so. Our security still depends on our continued world leadership for peace and freedom and democracy. We still can't be strong at home unless we're strong abroad.
The financial crisis in Mexico is a case in point. I know it's not popular to say it tonight but we have to act, not for the Mexican people but for the sake of the millions of Americans whose livelihoods are tied to Mexico's well-being. If we want to secure American jobs, preserve American exports, safeguard America's borders then we must pass the stabilization program and help to put Mexico back on track.
Now let me repeat: it's not a loan, it's not foreign aid, it's not a bail-out. We'll be given a guarantee like co-signing a note with good collateral that will cover our risk.
This legislation is the right thing for America. That's why the bipartisan leadership has supported it. And I hope you in Congress will pass it quickly. It is in our interest and we can explain it to the American people, because we're going to do it in the right way.
You know, tonight this is the first State of the Union address ever delivered since the beginning of the cold war when not a single Russian missile is pointed at the children of America.
And along with the Russians, we're on our way to destroying the missiles and the bombers that carry 9,000 nuclear warheads. We've come so far so fast in this post-cold-war world that it's easy to take the decline of the nuclear threat for granted. But it's still there, and we aren't finished yet.
This year, I'll ask the Senate to approve START II to eliminate weapons that carry 5,000 more warheads. The United States will lead the charge to extend indefinitely the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to enact a comprehensive nuclear test ban, and to eliminate chemical weapons.
To stop and roll back North Korea's potentially deadly nuclear program, we'll continue to implement the agreement we have reached with that nation. It's smart, it's tough, it's a deal based on continuing inspection with safeguards for our allies and ourselves.
This year, I'll submit to Congress comprehensive legislation to strengthen our hand in combating terrorists, whether they strike at home or abroad. As the cowards who bombed the World Trade Center found out, this country will hunt down terrorists and bring them to justice.
Just this week, another horrendous terrorist act in Israel killed 19 and injured scores more. On behalf of the American people and all of you, I send our deepest sympathy to the families of the victims. I know that in the face of such evil, it is hard for the people in the Middle East to go forward. But the terrorists represent the past, not the future. We must and we will pursue a comprehensive peace between Israel and all her neighbors in the Middle East.
Accordingly, last night I signed an executive order that will block the assets in the United States of terrorist organizations that threaten to disrupt the peace process. It prohibits financial transactions with these groups.
And tonight I call on all our allies in peace-loving nations throughout the world to join us with renewed fervor in a global effort to combat terrorism, we cannot permit the future to be marred by terror and fear and paralysis.
From the day I took the oath of office, I pledged that our nation would maintain the best-equipped, best-trained and best-prepared military on earth. We have and they are. They have managed the dramatic downsizing of our forces after the cold war with remarkable skill and spirit. But to make sure our military is ready for action and to provide the pay and the quality of life the military and their families deserve, I'm asking the Congress to add $ 25 billion in defense spending over the next six years.
I have visited many bases at home and around the world since I became President. Tonight I repeat that request with renewed conviction. We ask a very great deal of our armed forces. Now that they are smaller in number, we ask more of them. They go out more often to more different places and stay longer. They are called to service in many, many ways, and we must give them and their families what the times demand and what they have earned.
Just think about what our troops have done in the last year, showing America at its best, helping to save hundreds of thousands of people in Rwanda, moving with lightning speed to head off another threat to Kuwait, giving freedom and democracy back to the people of Haiti.
We have proudly supported peace and prosperity and freedom from South Africa to Northern Ireland, from Central and Eastern Europe to Asia, from Latin America to the Middle East. All these endeavors are good in those places but they make our future more confident and more secure.
Well, my fellow Americans, that's my agenda for America's future: expanding opportunity not bureaucracy, enhancing security at home and abroad, empowering our people to make the most of their own lives.
It's ambitious and achievable. But it's not enough.
We even need more than new ideas for changing the world or equipping Americans to compete in the new economy, more than a Government that's smaller, smarter and wiser, more than all the changes we can make in Government and in the private sector from the outside in.
Values And Voices
Our fortunes and our prosperity also depend upon our ability to answer some questions from within—from the values and voices that speak to our hearts as well as our heads, voices that tell us we have to do more to accept responsibility for ourselves and our families, for our communities, and yes, for our fellow citizens.
We see our families and our communities all over this country coming apart. And we feel the common ground shifting from under us. The PTA, the town hall meeting, the ball park—it's hard for a lot of overworked parents to find the time and space for those things that strengthen the bonds of trust and cooperation.
Too many of our children don't even have parents and grandparents who can give them those experiences that they need to build their own character and their sense of identity. We all know that while we here in this chamber can make a difference on those things, that the real differences will be made by our fellow citizens where they work and where they live.
And it'll be made almost without regard to party. When I used to go to the softball park in Little Rock to watch my daughter's league and people would come up to me—fathers and mothers—and talk to me, I can honestly say I had no idea whether 90 percent of them were Republicans or Democrats.
When I visited the relief centers after the floods in California, Northern California, last week, a woman came up to me and did something that very few of you would do. She hugged me and said, "Mr. President, I'm a Republican, but I'm glad you're here."
Now, why? We can't wait for disasters to act the way we used to act every day. Because as we move into this next century, everybody matters. We don't have a person to waste. And a lot of people are losing a lot of chances to do better.
That means that we need a New Covenant for everybody—for our corporate and business leaders, we're going to work here to keep bringing the deficit down, to expand markets, to support their success in every possible way. But they have an obligation: when they're doing well, to keep jobs in our communities and give their workers a fair share of the prosperity they generate.
For people in the entertainment industry in this country, we applaud your creativity and your worldwide success and we support your freedom of expression but you do have a responsibility to assess the impact of your work and to understand the damage that comes from the incessant, repetitive, mindless violence and irresponsible conduct that permeates our media all the time.
We've got to ask our community leaders and all kinds of organizations to help us stop our most serious social problem: the epidemic of teen pregnancies and births where there is no marriage. I have sent to Congress a plan to target schools all over this country with anti-pregnancy programs that work. But government can only do so much. Tonight, I call on parents and leaders all across this country to join together in a national campaign against teen pregnancy to make a difference. We can do this and we must.
And I would like to say a special word to our religious leaders. You know, I'm proud of the fact that the United States has more house of worship per capita than any country in the world. These people, who lead our houses of worship, can ignite their congregations to carry their faith into action, can reach out to all of our children, to all of the people in distress, to those who have been savaged by the breakdown of all we hold dear, because so much of what must be done must come from the inside out. And our religious leaders and their congregations can make all the difference. They have a role in the New Covenant as well.
There must be more responsibility for all of our citizens. You know it takes a lot of people to help all the kids in trouble stay off the streets and in school. It takes a lot of people to build the Habitat for Humanity houses that the Speaker celebrates on his lapel pin. It takes a lot of people to provide the people power for all the civic organizations in this country that made our communities mean so much to most of us when we were kids. It takes every parent to teach the children the difference between right and wrong and to encourage them to learn and grow and to say no to the wrong things but also to believe that they can be whatever they want to be.
I know it's hard when you're working harder for less, when you're under great stress, to do these things. A lot of our people don't have the time or the emotional stress they think to do the work of citizenship. Most of us in politics haven't helped very much. For years, we've mostly treated citizens like they were consumers or spectators, sort of political couch potatoes who were supposed to watch the TV ads—either promise them something for nothing or play on their fears and frustrations. And more and more of our citizens now get most of their information in very negative and aggressive ways that is hardly conducive to honest and open conversations. But the truth is we have got to stop seeing each other as enemies just because we have different views.
If you go back to the beginning of this country, the great strength of America, as de Tocqueville pointed out when he came here a long time ago, has always been our ability to associate with people who were different from ourselves and to work together to find common ground. And in this day everybody has a responsibility to do more of that. We simply cannot wait for a tornado, a fire or a flood to behave like Americans ought to behave in dealing with one another.
I want to finish up here by pointing out some folks that are up with the First Lady that represent what I'm trying to talk about. Citizens. I have no idea what their party affiliation is or who they voted for in the last election, but they represent what we ought to be doing.
Cindy Perry teaches second-graders to read in AmeriCorps in rural Kentucky. She gains when she gives. She's a mother of four.
She says that her service inspired her to get her high school equivalency last year. She was married when she was a teen-ager. Stand up, Cindy. She married when she was a teen-ager. She had four children, but she had time to serve other people, to get her high school equivalency and she's going to use her AmeriCorps money to go back to college.
Steven Bishop is the police chief of Kansas City. He's been a national leader—stand up Steve. He's been a national leader in using more police in community policing and he's worked with AmeriCorps to do it, and the crime rate in Kansas City has gone down as a result of what he did.
Cpl. Gregory Depestre went to Haiti as part of his adopted country's force to help secure democracy in his native land. And I might add we must be the only country in the world that could have gone to Haiti and taken Haitian-Americans there who could speak the language and talk to the people, and he was one of them and we're proud of him.
The next two folks I've had the honor of meeting and getting to know a little bit. The Rev. John and the Rev. Diana Cherry of the A.M.E. Zion Church in Temple Hills, Md. I'd like to ask them to stand. I want to tell you about them. In the early 80's they left Government service and formed a church in a small living room in a small house in the early 80's. Today that church has 17,000 members. It is one of the three or four biggest churches in the entire United States. It grows by 200 a month.
They do it together. And the special focus of their ministry is keeping families together. They are—Two things they did make a big impression on me. I visited their church once and I learned they were building a new sanctuary closer to the Washington, D.C., line, in a higher-crime, higher-drug-rate area because they thought it was part of their ministry to change the lives of the people who needed them. Second thing I want to say is that once Reverend Cherry was at a meeting at the White House with some other religious leaders and he left early to go back to his church to minister to 150 couples that he had brought back to his church from all over America to convince them to come back together to save their marriages and to raise their kids. This is the kind of work that citizens are doing in America. We need more of it and it ought to be lifted up and supported.
The last person I want to introduce is Jack Lucas from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Jack, would you stand up. Fifty years ago in the sands of Iwo Jima, Jack Lucas taught and learned the lessons of citizenship. On February the 20th, 1945, he and three of his buddies encountered the enemy and two grenades at their feet. Jack Lucas threw himself on both of them. In that moment he saved the lives of his companions and miraculously in the next instant a medic saved his life. He gained a foothold for freedom and at the age of 17, just a year older than his grandson, who's up there with him today, and his son, who is a West Point graduate and a veteran, at 17, Jack Lucas became the youngest marine in history and the youngest soldier in this century to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. All these years later, yesterday, here's what he said about that day: Didn't matter where you were from or who you were. You relied on one another. You did it for your country. We all gain when we give and we reap what we sow. That's at the heart of this New Covenant. Responsibility, opportunity and citizenship.
More than stale chapters in some remote civic book they're still the virtue by which we can fulfill ourselves and reach our God-given potential and be like them. And also to fulfill the eternal promise of this country, the enduring dream from that first and most-sacred covenant. I believe every person in this country still believes that we are created equal and given by our creator the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
This is a very, very great country and our best days are still to come. Thank you and God bless you all.
State of the Union Address William J. Clinton January 23, 1996
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of the 104th Congress, distinguished guests, my fellow Americans all across our land:
Let me begin tonight by saying to our men and women in uniform around the world, and especially those helping peace take root in Bosnia and to their families, I thank you. America is very, very proud of you.
My duty tonight is to report on the state of the Union—not the state of our government, but of our American community; and to set forth our responsibilities, in the words of our Founders, to form a more perfect union.
The state of the Union is strong. Our economy is the healthiest it has been in three decades. We have the lowest combined rates of unemployment and inflation in 27 years. We have created nearly 8 million new jobs, over a million of them in basic industries, like construction and automobiles. America is selling more cars than Japan for the first time since the 1970s. And for three years in a row, we have had a record number of new businesses started in our country.
Our leadership in the world is also strong, bringing hope for new peace. And perhaps most important, we are gaining ground in restoring our fundamental values. The crime rate, the welfare and food stamp rolls, the poverty rate and the teen pregnancy rate are all down. And as they go down, prospects for America's future go up.
We live in an age of possibility. A hundred years ago we moved from farm to factory. Now we move to an age of technology, information, and global competition. These changes have opened vast new opportunities for our people, but they have also presented them with stiff challenges. While more Americans are living better, too many of our fellow citizens are working harder just to keep up, and they are rightly concerned about the security of their families.
The Role Of Government
We must answer here three fundamental questions: First, how do we make the American Dream of opportunity for all a reality for all Americans who are willing to work for it? Second, how do we preserve our old and enduring values as we move into the future? And, third, how do we meet these challenges together, as one America?
We know big government does not have all the answers. We know there's not a program for every problem. We have worked to give the American people a smaller, less bureaucratic government in Washington. And we have to give the American people one that lives within its means.
The era of big government is over. But we cannot go back to the time when our citizens were left to fend for themselves. Instead, we must go forward as one America, one nation working together to meet the challenges we face together. Self-reliance and teamwork are not opposing virtues; we must have both.
I believe our new, smaller government must work in an old-fashioned American way, together with all of our citizens through state and local governments, in the workplace, in religious, charitable and civic associations. Our goal must be to enable all our people to make the most of their own lives—with stronger families, more educational opportunity, economic security, safer streets, a cleaner environment in a safer world.
To improve the state of our Union, we must ask more of ourselves, we must expect more of each other, and we must face our challenges together.
Here, in this place, our responsibility begins with balancing the budget in a way that is fair to all Americans. There is now broad bipartisan agreement that permanent deficit spending must come to an end.
I compliment the Republican leadership and the membership for the energy and determination you have brought to this task of balancing the budget. And I thank the Democrats for passing the largest deficit reduction plan in history in 1993, which has already cut the deficit nearly in half in three years.
Since 1993, we have all begun to see the benefits of deficit reduction. Lower interest rates have made it easier for businesses to borrow and to invest and to create new jobs. Lower interest rates have brought down the cost of home mortgages, car payments and credit card rates to ordinary citizens. Now, it is time to finish the job and balance the budget.