THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
Excerpt from the Vice President's Remarks
1996 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching Old Executive Office Building June 11, l997
We have made it our number one priority to ensure that Americans have the best education in the world. We must meet these important goals: Every 8-year-old must be able to read; every 12-year-old must have access to the information superhighway; every 18-year-old must be able to go to college or community college if that boy or girl wants to do so; and every adult must be able to keep on learning for a lifetime and get the skills necessary to hold down good, well-paying jobs.
The original bipartisan balanced budget agreement reflected this priority. It included the largest federal investment in education in over a generation.
It expanded Head Start and supported Title I. It invested in the America Reads Initiative, supported higher academic standards and put technology in the classroom. And it helped swing open the doors to college with a huge increase in Pell Grants and tax cuts targeted to higher education to make college more affordable for American families.
But the question that I want to ask today is this: will the Republican-controlled Congress do right by our teachers and students.
The early signs, I have to tell you, are not encouraging. There is still time in the process for them to live up to the agreement, but the Republican tax package falls $13 billion short in the amount of higher education tax cuts specifically agreed upon earlier. And the House plan cuts the President's HOPE Scholarship proposal in half --slamming the door shut to those who want to gain new skills or go to community college.
One of the messages the President and I took to the country last year was that these HOPE Scholarships are crucial to our future. Let's make the first two years of community college essentially free for all American families --so that the thirteenth and fourteenth years of education become as commonplace and as accepted as twelfth grade is today --in recognition of the new challenges that we're facing in the world economy and in the complicated world that these young people are going to grow up in.
Well, I think the award-winning math teachers in this room would agree with me: we can't help families and create opportunity --with an education policy that's all subtraction and division. (Laughter) I was hoping you would like that line.
And we're not the only ones who feel that way.
There is a broad consensus of education organizations --from the American Association of Community Colleges to the American Association of State Colleges to the United States Student Association --and just last night, The College Board . . . all of which have voiced their strong disapproval for the Republican tax package as it currently stands.
Let me be clear: the Republican tax package, as it currently stands, clearly breaks faith with the bipartisan balanced budget agreement.
There was a specific agreement. They signed on to it; the President signed on to it. The President is keeping his word. In fact, even when it was politically painful to say to allies that he would not support some provisions that he would really like to see become law, but they were inconsistent with the agreement he signed on to, he said I'm going to honor this agreement, because what's in it is really good for our country.
The President is keeping his word; the Republican leadership and the Republicans in the Congress should be called upon to do the same.
The Republican tax package not only breaks faith with the bipartisan balanced budget agreement, it breaks faith with the support that we owe our teachers. It breaks faith with our belief in the promise of the students of this nation.
Teachers and parents demand better. Our children deserve better. And those who truly care about education know better.
That's why I'm very pleased that Congressman Charlie Rangel --he's the ranking Democrat on the House tax writing committee, the Ways and Means Committee --Congressman Rangel has drafted a tax package that embraces the central elements of the President's education tax breaks.
It is good for education, good for families, and good for America.
It helps to meet one of the President's key goals --that is, to help parents raise and educate their children the way they want to and the way they believe their children deserve.
Specifically, Congressman Rangel's proposal proposes the President's HOPE scholarship tax credit, with some improvements that we wholeheartedly support. And it also proposes a variation of the President's $10,000 tax deduction for tuition costs, providing for a 20 percent credit for tuition of up to $10,000.
We are delighted that Congress will have an opportunity to vote on a proposal that strongly endorses the President's education agenda. And we want to continue working closely with Congressman Rangel on our shared goal of providing the best education for children, parents, and teachers that we possibly can.
Hopefully, the Republican majority will honor the original budget agreement and keep their word. Because if there's one thing that's clear, it is this: when we find common ground and invest in education --invest in our future --we take great strides forward as a nation.
We know that partisan bickering can lead to deadlock and even gridlock. We also know that we have a divided government --one party in the White House and the other party the majority in the congress. We know that when that happens the way to have progress is to get both sides together and figure out what both can support that's good for our country, and then stick to it.
Well, the President led an effort with the Republican leadership in the Congress and the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate to hammer out an agreement that most all of them supported and that the President and the Speaker and the Majority Leader announced. And it included these large increases in support for education and support for families that want to send their children to college or community college.
We can afford this and it's in the context of a balanced budget. And one reason that we can do it is that we now have the strongest economy in a generation.
In fact, Fortune magazine and some of the others have said it is the strongest economy ever. That may be an overstatement, but I like the way it sounds. And whether they'll ultimately decide that or not, just look at the facts --the job market has doubled. The minimum wage has gone up. The gap between rich and poor is closing up. Real incomes are rising in every category. 12.3 million new jobs have been created. We're seeing the unemployment rate down to lowest level in 24 years, and we're seeing progress.
But we can do more. We can make sure our tax code does right by America's small businesses --and rewards the risk-takers and innovators of the new economy.
So, I'm also pleased to announce that later today, our Administration will unveil two tax provisions that will provide new fuel for start-up companies and the growing ranks of self-employed Americans.
First, we will expand our targeted small business capital gains tax incentive so that smaller companies will be able to raise capital more easily.
Under our plan, investments in companies with assets of up to $100 million will be eligible for reduced taxes on capital gains. This kind of capital gains tax cut will help more start-ups get off the ground, and ensure that America continues to lead the world in high technology.
Second, we will expand the home office deduction to reward the growing ranks of Americans who are self-employed and who perform the main parts of their job from their home. This Information Revolution has brought about an increase in the number of people who use the new information technology and the Internet to do productive work at home.
These two small business tax cuts recognize the new realities of the new economy. They are narrowly targeted; they won't bust the budget. And they provide America's entrepreneurs the resources they need to ensure that America's economy remains the envy of the world.