THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT THE SAXOPHONE CLUB FUNDRAISER
The Regency Ballroom Omni Shoreham Hotel Washington, DC
10:05 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, if I had any sense, I would quit while I'm ahead. (Laughter.) I believe Terry's about to get the hang of this. (Laughter.)
I want to thank Terry McAuliffe for the magnificent job that he has done, along with Laura Hartigan and all of our staff. I want to thank Sean, who thought up the idea of the Saxophone Club in his office about three years ago. And it, I think you could say, has sort of caught on -- (applause) -- thanks to you. And I appreciate that. (Applause.) I thank you. I thank Matt and all the people who have worked hard to make the Saxophone Club a success.
This, in some ways, is my favorite part of the campaign, the Saxophone Club, because a lot of you have come here and have contributed and it hasn't been easy for you. But those of you who have joined the Saxophone Club who are basically in Sean's generation -- some a little younger, maybe some a little older -- you're the people that I ran for President for. I wanted so badly to see our country go into the next century still the strongest country in the world, the strongest force for peace and freedom and democracy, the American Dream alive and well here at home, and with people coming together instead of being split apart. That's why I ran and that's why I'm running for reelection.
I think every day of what I want this country to look like 10, 20, 30 years from now when your children are coming up and growing up and looking forward to their futures. I want this to be a country with great opportunity for entrepreneurs; a country where we can, through hard work, grow the middle class and shrink the under class; a country with good schools and a clean environment and safe streets; a country that is characterized by fairness, not meanness, and by unity, not division. (Applause.)
We're having this great debate in Washington now which is more extreme in the options being discussed than has been the case in previous times. And part of it is because we're going through a period of change, and whenever we go through a period of change, extreme debates tend to arise and old alliances tend to get unsettled.
But the fundamental questions are clear: How are we going to get into the 21st century, rewarding the values that made America great with the new ideas that are always required in a time of change? How are we going to reward both freedom and responsibility? How are we going to lift up both work and family? How are we going to empower individuals to make the most of their own lives, and families and communities to solve their own problems? How are we going to honor our obligations across the generations, to our parents and our children, across our racial and ethnic lines, across our income lines?
Fundamentally, we have to decide, as my friend, Lawton Chiles, the Governor of Florida, said the other day, whether we're going to be a community or a crowd. You think about it. That's what the fairness and meanness debate is all about. It's also about whether you believe you will do better in the 21st century if you live in a community or a crowd.
You, obviously, have decide you want to live in a community, even though most of you could do pretty well in a crowd. A crowd is a group of people occupying the same space who basically have no rules, and they can just elbow each other until the strongest prevail and the weak are left behind. A community is a group of people occupying the same space who believe that their success and meaning and richness in life depends upon other people's success as well; that we go up or down together and, therefore, we have certain obligations to one another and to our land and to our future.
I want this country to be a community, not a crowd. I want it to be a country where huge opportunity exists for individuals, but where we do it with fairness and not meanness. That's basically what this debate is all about now.
When I look to the future, I see an economic policy that has worked. My friends in the other party, they all said if my economic plan passed it would be the end of the world -- we'd have the awfullest recession you ever saw. I keep waiting for all those fellows who want to be president in the Republican primary to be just quoted back what they said about our economic plan in '93. (Laughter and applause.) Where are they? (Applause.) Sooner or later we should stop rewarding people for being wrong, wrong, wrong every time. (Laughter and applause.)
But, in spite of everything Terry said -- in spite of the fact that we had over 7 million new jobs and 2.5 million new homeowners and 2 million new small businesses, and the largest number of self-made millionaires than any time period in history that's comparable, and a 4,700 stock market -- the median wage dropped. So if we're going to be a community, not a crowd, we have to find a way to give everybody a shot at the American Dream, which means that we should invest more money in education and research and development and new technologies, not less. (Applause.) We should give everybody a chance to go forward. (Applause.)
If we really believe in responsibility along with opportunity and along with freedom, then we have to believe in safe streets and a clean environment; we have to believe in child support enforcement; we have to believe in genuine welfare reform which rewards work and parenting, instead of punishing children. If we really believe in that. (Applause.)
I am proud of the fact that, since our crime bill passed -- the same crowd, you know, they said if the President's crime bill passes he claims there will be 100,000 police in six years, but they'll never get to 20,000. Well, in the first year we're over 25,000 and rising. (Applause.) And I keep hoping somebody will ask them about what they said. Maybe I'll get a chance to one day. (Laughter.)
But I'm proud of that. I'm proud of the fact that we have stiffened child support enforcement. I'm proud of the fact that we have cracked down on fraud in the Medicare and Medicaid and food stamp program. I am proud of the fact that we have done the things we've done. We've had the first conviction this week under the Violence Against Women Act. (Applause.) We've begun to convict people under the three strikes and you're out bill. I'm proud of that. (Applause.)
And I'm proud of the fact that we seem to be coming back to our senses in many ways as a society. In every state just about, the crime rate's down, the murder rate's down, the welfare rolls are down, the food stamp rolls are down. The teen pregnancy rate is down in America two years in a row now. (Applause.) Even the divorce rate is down. We seem to be coming back together.
But it's just like on the economic side. The drug use rate is down for people over 18, but among young children, between 12 and 17, the rate of random violence and random drug use is up again. So we have to keep doing what works, but we have to also have an agenda for those young people, which means we shouldn't abandon a crime bill that is working with both prevention and preventive policing. It means we shouldn't cut out things like summer jobs and other programs designed to give these kids something to say yes to, instead of just something to say no to. It means we shouldn't walk away from our commitment to safe and drug-free schools and giving these children access to role models that give them a chance to make something positive of their lives. Because a lot of them are just out there kind of raising themselves, and they've been kind of cut loose. And we can't walk away from them.
If you look at what we have tried to do in the way we run our government -- our adversaries, they always talked about big government and how they wanted to do something about it. But there are 163,000 fewer people working for the national government today then there were the day I took office. (Applause.) We have downsized the government. We took 16,000 pages of regulation away. We reduced SBA regulations, for example, by 50 percent, and the budget by 40 percent, and doubled the loan volume including an 85-percent increase in loans to women and a 75-percent increase in loans to minorities, without making one single loan below our normal standards. We did those things. (Applause.)
So I'm all for that. But there's still work to be done. We still have to say there are some things as a community we do through our nation that we don't want to just leave alone.
In the world, I'm proud of the foreign policy accomplishments that Terry mentioned. I'm glad for what happened here in Bosnia today with the new agreement. (Applause.) And I am glad that on Thursday we will have a second signing between Israel and the Palestinians, moving forward on peace in the Middle East. (Applause.)
But we are still vulnerable in our country to the forces of organized destruction, from terrorism and religious and ethnic and racial hatred and fanaticism. So there's more to do. We've got an antiterrorism bill to pass. I was told that bill would pass by Memorial Day, and I am still waiting for it. We still have things to do to make the world a better place.
I want to comprehensive nuclear test ban. I want the chemical weapons treaty to pass. (Applause.) I want the START II treaty to pass. (Applause.) I want us to have ultimate real peace in Bosnian and in Northern Ireland. I want the world to be moving in the right direction so that you will have less chaos and madness to deal with. And I want the United Nations and NATO to work. That means the United States has to lead.
All those things are issues. But they're all rooted in whether we want to be a community or a crowd, whether we want to reward responsibility as well as freedom, whether we want to reward opportunity for individuals and strength for families and communities. And that's really what this debate about the budget is. It's really not much about money, it's about what kind of people we're going to be.
We have proved -- I have given the Congress a budget that the Chairman of the Federal Reserve says is credible, based on economic estimates that have been more accurate than those of Congress in the previous two years. It is a good, solid budget. But this is not about balancing the budget. Both parties agreed now we should balance the budget, and we should. The Democrats should never be in the position of being for a permanent deficit. We never had one until the 12 years before I showed up here. (Applause.)
But let balanced budgeting be a goal in and of itself, done consistent with our values. Don't use the balanced budget as an excuse to destroy programs that you don't like that will make us more uneven, less healthy, undermine our environment and weaken our community. (Applause.) Let's do it in the right way. (Applause.)
When I learned, for example, that among the proposals in this budget is a gimmick to make the cost of college loans more expensive to students and to take away options that students have to repay those loans so that bankers and other middle men can get more money back. That's not about cutting the budget. That's about our values. If we want to grow the economy by cutting the budget, why would we undermine economic growth by taking college out of the reach of more and more Americans? It doesn't make sense. It's not consistent with our values. (Applause.)
Why would we make it harder for little poor children to get off to a good start in school, or for districts that don't have so much money to have smaller classes and more computers and higher standards? Those children may not be your children, but they'll be a big part of your future, because when those of you who are young or my age, they will be who you'll be looking at to care for you, to strengthen your country, to drive us forward. We have to be thinking about 20 years, 30 years down the road. This is not a smart thing to do. And it violates our values as well as our interests.
If you look at the environment, my idea of balancing the budget does not include gutting the EPA so they can't enforce the Clean Air Act. (Applause.) This administration -- not the previous Republican administration, this administration -- has gone to big industries and said, look, if you can meet the standards of the Clean Air Act and you're willing to be tested for it, you can throw the rule book away. We're tired of over-regulating American. We just want a clean environment and we'll look for ways to get it. (Applause.)
Our administration has gone in partnership to Detroit and other automotive interests and said, we will work with you to develop a clean car, but we have to triple the auto mileage that we're going to get out of our automobiles. And we have to do it soon; otherwise the greenhouse gas emissions from all this automobile driving around the world is going to choke the future.
We have to do it. But we did it in a partnership. I could give you example after example after example. But to jump in the tank and claim that the environment doesn't matter anymore? You see, just last week, we had a new scientific report that said now there is virtually unanimity among all the established scientists in the world that the globe is heating up, that the hole in the ozone is bigger than we thought, that if we could -- we could see the temperature of the Earth grow up to eight degrees in the next hundred years. If you do that, you'll have the polar ice caps breaking up; you'll have the water level rising; you'll have temperature extremes going wacky. And the world will be a very different world for your great grandchildren.
We cannot let that happen. We don't have to let that happen. We owe it to our country to preserve our heritage. And we sure don't need a commission on closing the national parks, which is another part of their budget. (Applause). It's wrong. (Applause.)
I grew up in one of those little national parks they say they want to close. And I can tell you we had a lot of elderly people coming down and retiring in my hometown from the Middle West, living in little rooming houses, barely had enough money to live on. They came there because of the national park, because of what it offered, because they could for no money be in five minutes from downtown in peaceful, beautiful surroundings. And they can have access to the sulphur springs and all the other things that were there. And that story is replicated all over America.
When our family went to Yellowstone and Grand Teton this summer, and we drove through there for 10 bucks -- for 10 bucks, our family could go through there and visit the national park, just like any other family. For $25 you can get a year pass and your car can get into any national park in America. (Laughter.) Now, listen, we're laughing, but there are a lot of Americans who haven't had a pay raise in 15 years; they can still have the dignity and the rest and the exhilaration of seeing the most beautiful places on God's Earth at an affordable price because your country has the national parks. (Applause.)
My idea of balancing the budget does not include a Medicare program where, as they told us in both Houses in the last week, we want to double the deductibles, double the premiums, not give anybody Medicare until they're 67, and, oh, by the way, in Medicaid we're going to abolish all the national standards for nursing homes -- signed into law by Ronald Reagan , hardly a liberal Democrat -- (laughter) -- we're going to get rid of all them, and we're going to adopt a rule that says before an elderly person can get any help, if they're married the state has the right to make their spouse sell the car, the house and clean out the savings account, and live in abject poverty.
That is not the America I want you to live in in the 21st century. It is wrong. (Applause.) I don't want you to live in that America. (Applause.) I don't want you to be living in Maryland making a living and have your parents in Indiana or some other place out there in the country and worried to death because there are no national quality standards for nursing homes if your parents have to be there. I don't want you to have to live that way. (Applause.) That's not right, and it's not necessary. I don't want that.
And I'll tell you something else: Look at what happened to working families this week in this budget. They proposed to cut my taxes, but to just erode the working family tax credit that we put in, so that they're going to raise taxes on families with incomes of less than $25,000 a year to lower mine. No, thank you. That's not right. That's not pro-work; it's not pro-family. It's not good for America. (Applause.) It is not right. It is not right. How can you do that? (Applause.)
I'm telling you, there are huge numbers of American families out there where there's one or two parents, where people are working full-time, where they have children in the home, and they're living on $11,000, $12,000, $13,000, $15,000, $16,000 a year. It is all they can do to educate their children and put clothes on their back and make sure they get to the doctor if they're sick. It is all they can do.
And in 1993, when we passed our economic plan, we lowered taxes on 14 million of those families -- with 50 million Americans in them -- because we wanted always to encourage work over welfare, and because we wanted to have an elemental principle in our country: if you're a parent and you're trying to be a good parent, and you're willing to work 40 hours a week, you should not be in poverty. That is right, and we should say this. (Applause.)
And let me tell you something else that you may not know about their budget. They voted this week to say that a company keeping a retirement plan can deposit money into workers' retirement funds and then take it out and spend it for whatever they want -- for whatever they want. As long as they leave a minor and inadequate cushion there, you can put money into your workers' retirement and then take it out and spend it on whatever you want.
Is there no memory? Just last December, just last December I signed a bill to strengthen our national pension benefit guarantee system. It saved the pensions of 8.5 million Americans. It secured the pensions of 40 million other Americans. Have we no memory? We just saw people losing their whole retirement. Now they propose to let people loot their workers' pension plans for whatever reason? Take it out of the pension and give it in dividends. Take it out of the pension and give it to managers in extra pay, for a third home or something. (Laughter.)
Let me say this -- I want people to do well in this country. I am proud of the fact that under our administration, we've had record numbers of new businesses and record numbers of self-made millionaires. And I want every one of you who wants to be a millionaire or a successful entrepreneur to do it. But we don't have to hurt the rest of America. This is a middle-class country with middle-class values, committed to families and children and their parents and doing right by everybody. We don't have to hurt people to do that. We don't have to. (Applause.)
So I say to you, it is about values. And it's also about leadership, and leadership includes making policies like this based on principle, not mere politics -- based on principle, not mere politics -- and being willing to do certain things that are unpopular. You heard Terry reel off a few of them. The conventional wisdom was that we shouldn't take on the NRA over the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban. You all clapped and cheered, but the Democrats lost the House over because of it, don't you ever forget it. There were a lot of people who laid down their careers so that last year, 40,000 people with criminal records would not be able to get handguns. (Applause.)
And they did because there were actually people out there who were willing to frighten good, God-fearing Americans who owned guns and engage in sporting contests -- they actually convinced them that that threatened their weapons. It didn't, and they knew it, but they did it anyway. And, yes, they won a short-term political battle, but there are more people alive today because of that. There are more people alive because we're going to take those assault weapons out of the schools and off the streets. (Applause.) And nobody's going to lose the right to have a hunting weapon or a sporting weapon. (Applause.)
And everybody says that this tobacco thing is going to be chapter two of the same thing. They'll terrifying all those good, God-fearing tobacco farmers into thinking that we're going to put them in the street. They'll try to convince people that Big Brother, the government's going to take over these decisions. And maybe it's bad politics, but let me tell you something, folks. You know what the 14-month study by the FDA showed? It showed that, number one, there were some people in the industry that had known for decades about the dangers of tobacco and how addictive it was. Number two, there was advertising still having a heavy attraction for children. And since they lose a certain number of customers every year, they've got to get a few more. (Laughter.)
And number three -- you're laughing, but it's true. Number three showed that of the 3,000 young people a day who begin to smoke, 1,000 will have their lives shortened. Now, if we can give 1,000 kids a day, for the next however many months I've got to be President -- you know, whether it's 64 or some less -- a thousand people day is worth the political consequences. (Applause.) For the long run it is the right thing to do. (Applause.)
But there are lots of other examples where I have to do what I think is right. I knew the Haiti thing was unpopular, but it was right. And we're in better shape in Latin America and the world, and democracy's in better shape because we restored democracy to Haiti, and because of the way we did it without having to kill a bunch of them or our people as well. It was the right thing to do, even if it wasn't popular in the moment. (Applause).
I can see it now building up. In Bosnia, you know, every -- people say, well, we like the fact that now our allies decided to go along with our strategy and we did the strong and right thing in Bosnia, and now we have a chance to make peace. But if we make peace, because we're the world's leader and because we're the leader of NATO, we'll have the same obligation here we had when Egypt and Israel made peace in the late '70s. We have to help enforce that.
We never lost a person in the Sinai as a result of the Middle East peace. And if we have a good peace agreement here, in all probability none of our soldiers will be put in harm's way. But there will be people who try to stir folks up and say it's a bad thing to do. But if you want your country to be a leader for peace and freedom, we cannot say: we're the leader; here's what you should do; now, you go do it. (Applause.) We've got to -- we have to show up for work in the morning. (Applause.) We have to. (Applause.)
I could give you lots of other examples. I knew, when I gave my affirmative action speech, I know what the politics of that is. But I'm nearly 50 years old. I have lived through the world of racial segregation in this country. I was raised by a working grandmother and a working mother, and I have seen women's opportunities expand and discrimination continue. I know in my own mind that we are not yet able to fully make decisions, all of us, totally disregarding the gender and race of the people with whom we deal. Now, that doesn't mean that we don't have to fix affirmative action, there weren't a bunch of things wrong it we need to clean up and deal with. And I'm trying to do that.
The popular thing is just say get rid of it. But it's not the right thing. The right thing is for us to band together and to grow together. Our ethnic diversity, and the fact that we are willing to give all of our people, regardless of their gender, a chance to live up to the fullest of their God-given abilities, is our meal ticket in the global society of the 21st century if we can live together instead of using cheap politics to drive each other apart. (Applause.) It is our meal ticket. (Applause.)
So I say to you, when people ask you why you're involved in this campaign and why you're fighting for my reelection, say you're -- I'm not fighting for the President; I'm fighting for myself and my children and my future and my country. (Applause.) That's what I'm interested in. (Applause.)
When people ask you why they should support this campaign, you can tell them what Terry did about our record. And I hope you will become familiar with it. And I hope you will be able to say that. But the real thing is, what are we going to do tomorrow to make it better? We've got to have a strong economy. We've got to have strong families. We've got to have good individual opportunity. We have to have a government that is leaner and makes more sense. We have to be leaders in the world.
But most important, if we want the 21st century to look right, we've got to stand up for responsibility as well as freedom; for family and for work -- and for the elemental proposition that the reason we're around here after more than 200 years is that at all critical junctures we have deepened our understanding and our willingness to act on what it means to be a community instead of a crowd.
Thank you, and God bless you all. (Applause.)
END 10:35 P.M. EDT