View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 29, 1999
                        REMARKS OF THE PRESIDENT
                      UPON DEPARTURE FOR SARAJEVO

                             The South Lawn

8:05 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Before I leave for Sarajevo, I'd like to say just a word about our country's continuing prosperity, and what we have to do to keep it going.

It was six years ago this summer that America made a visionary decision to set a new course for our economy; to abandon the large deficits and high unemployment of the previous 12 years, and to pursue an economic strategy of fiscal discipline, investing in our people, and expanding trade in American goods and services abroad. The strategy is working and has lifted our nation to an unprecedented level of prosperity.

Now we have nearly 19 million new jobs, the lowest unemployment rate in 29 years, the highest home ownership ever -- from a $290 billion deficit in 1993, we're moving toward a record high surplus of $99 billion in 1999.

The Senate is about to make a pivotal choice -- whether to move forward with a sound strategy that led us to this point, or to return to the reckless policies that threw our nation into stagnation and economic decline. Congress must decide whether to invest our surplus, to honor our obligations to the future, saving Social Security and Medicare, continuing to invest in education, and paying down the debt, or to squander the surplus on a short-sighted, irresponsible, overlarge tax plan.

The right choice for me is clear; putting first things first. First we must maintain our strategy of fiscal discipline and seize this moment to address the large, long-term challenges of the nation. We must dedicate the bulk of the surplus to saving Social Security, and to strengthening Medicare, and modernizing its benefits with a prescription drug package. I have proposed a balanced budget that honors these values. It upholds our commitments to educating our children, protecting our environment, promoting biomedical research, strengthening defense, and fighting crime.

The Republican majority, it appears, is determined, however, to pass this large and risky tax cut. It would exhaust our surplus without: one, devoting a penny to lengthening the life of the Social Security trust fund; two, devoting a penny to lengthening the life of the Medicare trust fund; three, it would force huge cuts in education, agriculture, the environment, defense, biomedical research -- indeed, everything we are doing to strengthen our country -- if we are going to stay on a balanced budget.

If those cuts are not made, it would cause us to revert to the dark, old days of huge deficits, high interest rates, low economic growth and stagnation. We tried it that way for 12 years and it didn't work.

As the Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told the Senate yesterday, this tax cut will cut into the surplus and "risk a great deal of good to the economy."

So I say to Congress, if you send me a tax cut that short-changes America's priorities and our children's future, I will veto it. Let me be clear again: I do strongly support tax cuts, but not if they are so large they undermine our strength and they undermine our ability to save Social Security, to strengthen and modernize Medicare, and to get this country out of debt for the first time since 1835.

My balanced budget contains targeted tax cuts to help ordinary families with retirement savings, child-care costs, long-term care costs. It is responsible in size. This debate is not about whether we should have tax cuts; it's about how big they should be and what else this country has to do -- and whether we want to go back to a failed economic strategy after being so richly rewarded for doing the right thing for our children and our future.

I hope, again, that we can get a bipartisan agreement that will save Social Security, save and reform Medicare, continue to invest in education, and get this country out of debt. If we do those big things first, there's still money left for a good size tax cut. But what is being done now is wrong.

Thank you very much.

END 8:10 A.M. EDT