THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (North Miami Beach, Florida) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 19, 1995
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO CITIZENS OF JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA
Jacksonville International Airport Jacksonville, Florida
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you for coming out. Thank you for waiting in the hot sun. Thank you, Governor Chiles. Thank you, Lt. Governor McKay. I thank your state's attorney for being here, and Congresswoman Corinne Brown, I thank you for being here. And it's wonderful to see all of you.
You heard Governor Chiles say that we have just been with Sheriff Glover in one of the neighborhoods here in Jacksonville. I want to say two or three things about being in this community. First of all, congratulations on your football team. I'm glad you've got one. (Applause.) And I know the season got off to a rough start. But I've had a few seasons like that; it's not over. Just stay in a good humor about it.
I also want to thank the people of Jacksonville for the dramatic contribution that you have made over so many years to the national defense of the United States -- so many people here serving in our military, supporting it, and we're very grateful to you for that. (Applause.)
And I'm sure you know that in the recent rounds of military reorganizations and base closings, Jacksonville is one of the communities in the United States that will actually gain several thousand jobs over the next few years because of the work you have done and the quality of support you have given to our military. So I thank you for that.
I want to make, if I might, just a couple of remarks, then I want to get out in the crowd and just say hello to all of you. (Applause.) I ran for President in 1991 and 1992 because I was afraid that our country was going in the wrong direction; that we had forgotten the basic values that make us strong -- our devotion to work and family and responsibility and community -- and that we were not changing to meet the demands of the 21st century.
The economy is different. You all know it. We have different challenges in holding our country together. And I made up my mind that if the people gave me a chance to serve I was going to try to get the economy going again so we could grow the middle class and shrink the under class; I would try to make the fighting of crime a major priority so we could reduce the crime rate in America and make our streets and our schools and our homes safer; I would try to change the way the government works, to be a genuine partner with people in their lives. And that's what we've been here celebrating today.
Florida is creating jobs at three times the rate it was when I became President. We have lowered the deficit. We have increased investment. We have a plan for a balanced budget. We're moving forward economically. The crime rate is down; the murder rate is down. All across America we are proving that we can lower the rate of crime in America if we work together and put more police officers on the street under the plan that was enacted in the 1994 crime bill.
I'm proud of that. People used to tell me we will never lower the crime rate. They were wrong. We can do it and we can do it all over America. (Applause.)
We're now trying to reform the welfare system. I just want to say a word about that. I've worked with Governor Chiles on this for years. I'm all for reforming welfare if what we mean by reforming welfare is moving people from welfare to work and giving them a chance to be good parents and good workers. I am not for punishing poor children just because they were born poor. We ought to be reforming welfare in a way that liberates people. (Applause.) I'm all for having tough standards and tough requirements on people to go to school and go to work if they've got a chance to do it and to take care of their children.
So when you watch this welfare reform debate in Washington ask yourself: Is this going to produce good workers and good parents? Is this going to make families stronger and children better? That is the test.
So I want to say to all of you, now I'm going on down to south Florida and then I'm going on across the country to Colorado, and I'm going to be talking with Americans all across the country about the debate in Washington about balancing the budget. And I want to say to all of you, Florida has a lot of interest in that debate. Every American should want the budget balanced. We never had a permanent deficit until the 12 years before I became President, and we've taken that deficit from $290 billion a year down to $160 billion in just three years. I'm proud of that; we should keep doing that. (Applause.)
But we also have responsibilities. You see it here in Jacksonville. We have responsibilities to the national defense. We have responsibilities to lower the crime rate. We have responsibilities to the elderly who depend on Medicare and Medicaid for their health care. And I say to you, we can balance the budget without undermining the national defense, without cutting our commitment to put 100,000 police on the street, without cutting the number of children in Head Start and the number of young people who are getting college loans, and without burdening older people. Seventy-five percent of the people in this country who get the benefits of Medicare and Medicaid live on less than $24,000 a year. We can fix Medicare without burdening them.
That is my commitment -- fix the Medicare system. You don't have to stick it to the older people in this country who barely have enough money to live on. So let's balance the budget and do it right so we can grow the economy, reduce the crime rate, and bring this country together. That is my commitment, and I think it's yours.
Thank you, and God bless you all. (Applause.)