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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                   (Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts)
For Immediate Release                                     August 5, 2000
                             TO THE NATION

10:06 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Seven years ago this month, we set out on a course to eliminate the deficit, invest in education and open markets for American products overseas. By sticking to that path, we have turned record budget deficits into record surpluses, and produced the longest economic expansion in history; over 22 million new jobs, the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years, the lowest welfare rolls in 30 years, the lowest minority unemployment rate on record. Income taxes for the typical family are the lowest now in 35 years, and we're on track to achieve something unimaginable a few years ago: a debt-free America by 2012.

Now this is the right path for America. A path that allows us to pay down the debt, lengthen the life of Social Security and Medicare, keep investing in education and cut taxes for middle class families. We can't retreat from this opportunity of a lifetime to keep our economy strong and move our country forward. That's why I'm vetoing legislation that represents the first installment of a fiscally reckless tax strategy.

Today's economic progress is the direct result of a commitment to common sense, kitchen-table values -- responsibility and fairness, putting first things first, not spending what we don't have, looking out for our children's future. To stay true to these values, I've consistently vowed to veto tax breaks that abandon our pledge of fiscal discipline. For without this commitment, we wouldn't have a surplus today; we wouldn't be paying down the debt; we wouldn't have lower interest rates -- which have led to record business investment and an effective tax cut for typical families -- $2,000 in lower home mortgage payments, $200 less in car payments, $200 less in student loan payments.

Now once again, in spite if all this evidence, America is being asked to turn back. On Capitol Hill, the Republican majority has passed a series of expensive tax breaks to drain nearly a trillion dollars from the projected surplus. On the campaign trail they are proposing over another trillion dollars in tax giveaways.

If they support both the tax cuts this year and the tax cuts of their Republican presidential campaign they would drain over $2 trillion from the projected surplus. And that's just what it is, projected, it's not money in the bank.

Even by Congress' own optimistic estimates, their total tax breaks would put us back into deficits. That means higher interest rates, which is like another tax increase on ordinary Americans.

So I asked the Republican leadership, do you really stand behind this $2 trillion tax cut strategy? If so, how do you justify leaving nothing for Social Security or Medicare, nothing for a new Medicare prescription drug benefit or education? And how will we ever make America debt free?

Now let me be clear. I support tax cuts, but tax cuts we can afford. We can't afford a $2 trillion u-turn on the path of fiscal discipline and economic progress. That is not the way to continue our efforts to use these good times for great goals.

For seven and a half years we've achieved those great goals in the economy, in education, in welfare reform, in health care, in crime, in the environment, in building one America. If we want to keep making progress we've got to keep making good choices. And committing a hundred percent of the surplus, that may or may not materialize, to tax cuts is not a good choice.

There is a better way. Earlier this summer, I made an offer to the Republican leadership that I would sign a marriage penalty relief law if they would pass an affordable, voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit available to all seniors and disabled Americans who need it. Unfortunately, they rejected my offer. They've got another chance, though. When they come back we can work together for a middle class tax cut to help Americans send their children to college, provide long-term care for elderly or disabled relatives, make child care more affordable, provide targeted marriage penalty tax relief. We can do that and still pay off the debt, strengthen Social Security and Medicare, create a voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit and invest in education. We can do this. And that's what we ought to do.

We ought to keep interest rates down and save the future for our children. Let's not squander the surplus or this moment. Let's keep our economy strong, provide affordable tax relief, and extend our prosperity into the future. Let's do it together.

Thanks for listening.