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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 6, 1999
                     REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT
                        ON SURPLUS FOR FY 1999
                     Old Executive Office Building

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much, John, and thank you for your leadership. I wish you hadn't taken all of my OMB work jokes. (Laughter.) But it's great to be here. And I'd like to begin by expressing thanks to our outstanding economic team -- Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin; Budget Director Jack Lew; the Chair of our Council of Economic Advisors Janet Yellen; Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling; Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers. I also want to thank Sylvia Mathews, Deputy at OMB; and Sally Katzen, Deputy at NEC. And above all, following on John Podesta's comments, I want to thank the entire staff of the Office of Management and Budget.

It really would take a lot of work to calculate all of the hard work and sacrifice, much less the insight and the experience that the group of men and women in this room, and others who have worked with you, have poured into our budgets during these past six years. But I think everybody understands that we are a stronger nation because of your hard work and dedication. And we're extremely grateful to you.

Let's not forget what we inherited six years ago. It's easy sometimes as we struggle with the higher-class problems of what to do with the surplus to forget the problems that were bedeviling this nation six years ago, when we had a deficit of $290 billion -- the highest annual deficit in the history of the United States.

Government borrowing was so out of control that businesses throughout this nation and even foreign nations were pleading with us to stop blocking economic growth. It was routine for President Clinton's predecessors to go to international meetings and hear stern lectures about why the United States economic policy was so out of control and creating such problems in the rest of the world economy, and to go to business meetings and hear the same lecture from our business leaders here in the United States of America.

And no wonder. The deficit was not only $290 billion that year, it was projected to go on up to more than $400 billion by this year. And there was no consensus, no plan, no way to get the problem under control. America was trapped between two false and unappealing choices -- tax and spend on the one hand; cut and run on the other hand.

Well, President Clinton knew that both of those options were wrong, and with your help and supported by your hard work, President Clinton and I charted a new economic course for America, emphasizing strict fiscal discipline, open markets, and targeted investments in America's future.

I'm especially proud of the work that we've done through our reinventing government initiative to cut government down to its smallest size since President Kennedy's administration, and simultaneously, make it work better -- and in the process, to start to redeem the very promise of self-government.

In 1993, when we passed that plan that President Clinton wrote that eliminated most of our budget deficit, there were famous predictions, loudly made, that the plan would destroy jobs. Well, we now know that by balancing the budget and lowering interest rates, that plan has helped to fuel unprecedented private sector growth and more than 17 million new jobs.

In 1997, when we passed a balanced budget, some said we could never eliminate the deficit and cut taxes for the middle class, and invest in the future all at the same time. Well, today, we see surpluses as far as you can look over the horizon, and we've cut taxes for families, and we're making the 21st century investments that are going to fuel even stronger economic growth -- investments like 100,000 new teachers in the classroom to reduce classroom size; investments like the Next Generation Internet and many others.

And now, at the beginning of this year of 1999, President Clinton is unveiling a new agenda for the 21st century to help families care for aging loved ones, to strengthen our military, to crack down on crime and drugs, to protect the environment -- even as we reserve every penny of the surplus until we save Social Security first.

Well, we've come a long way from the runaway deficits and false choices of six years ago. And make no mistake, there is one man at the heart of all our economic progress in this nation. I'm going to present him in just a moment. He is the person who has laid the foundation for the greatest job-creating engine our nation has ever known. One person who has made fiscal discipline and lean, effective government a first principle, and not just a bumper sticker. One man who has made America's economic strategy the model for the entire world, and is giving us new faith in our ability to solve problems together.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present to you my friend, one of the greatest economic stewards in the history of the United States of America, our President, Bill Clinton. (Applause.)