THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 5, 1996
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF COUNTIES
The Washington Hilton and Towers Hotel
11:05 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you, Doug
Bovin. Thank you, Michael Hightower. I have enjoyed working with
Doug. I know I will enjoy working with Michael, and I enjoy working
with all of you.
I want to talk to you today about our partnership. And
we were joking outside -- I know that in some states, the states may
be too big for the person running for governor to basically operate
from county courthouse to county courthouse, but I never found that an
obstacle at home. And I feel right at home here, and I thank you for
your warm welcome. (Applause.)
Before I begin my remarks to you I feel obliged to say,
because this is my first public appearance of the day, that I'm sure
that all of you as Americans share my outrage at the campaign of
terror which is being directed at the people of Israel. These are
desperate and fanatic acts aimed not just at killing innocent people,
including innocent children, but at killing the growing prospects for
peace in the Middle East. They must not succeed.
Today I'm announcing a series of steps to support the
fight against future terrorist attacks, to bring killers to justice
and to rally support for peace in the Middle East. These steps
include immediate emergency transfer to Israel of highly sophisticated
detection equipment; the dispatch of American specialists to work with
their Israeli counterparts on strengthening antiterrorism measures;
the development of a comprehensive package of training, technical
assistance and equipment to improve antiterrorism cooperation among
Israel, the Palestinians, and other governments in the region; and
contact with foreign governments to ask for their help in the fight
for peace and against terrorism.
The United States has always stood with the people
of Israel through good times and bad, and we stand with them today.
Let me say that in so many ways your work is the polar
opposite of the extremism which threatens to tear apart the fabric of
so many societies in the world today. When you walk out of your
office the great challenges of our time confront you with human faces.
You have no choice but to reach out to your fellow citizens and to try
to work together to meet those challenges. As the great former Mayor
of New York City, Fiorello La Guardia, once said, there is, after all,
no Republican or Democratic way to clean the streets.
You have shown what can be accomplished if people put
aside their differences and work together. And I hope while you're
hear you'll remind every elected official in Washington that we, too,
can do our job here if we do it together.
I came into this community and into my job with a very
straightforward vision. I wanted to make sure that our country would
go into the 21st century with the American Dream alive and well for
every single American willing to work for it. I wanted our country
to remain the strongest force for peace and freedom, for security and
prosperity in the post-Cold War world. And above all, I wanted to
see this country together around our basic value and our mutual
respect for one another.
Our strategy started with a commitment to grow the
economy to create economic opportunity. In the last three years, we
have worked on getting the deficit down, interest rates down,
investment in our people up, opportunities for Americans to sell their
goods and services all across the world up; our commitment to
technology, to research, to breaking the barriers to economic
opportunity for all Americans up.
In the last three years we've made some notable progress.
Americans have created almost 8 million new jobs. We have the lowest
combined rates of unemployment and inflation in 27 years.
Homeownership is at a 15-year high. For the first time in many years,
average earnings are going up, and for the first time in many years
our exports are growing faster than our imports. Our auto industry
leads the world again, and for two years in a row, after many years on
the back benches, our international economic forum has said that
America is the world's most productive economy.
For three years in a row, our people have set successive
records for starting new businesses. We're also beginning to come
together around our basic values. The crime rate, the welfare and
food stamp rolls, the poverty rate and the teen pregnancy rate are all
coming down in America, thanks in no small measure to the labors that
many of you carry on in communities dealing with these challenges
But if you take a full accounting of America's picture,
you have to take the challenges along with the successes. We know
still, in spite of the fact that our economy has produced 8 million
new jobs, almost -- and I might say, just to give you an idea of the
magnitude of that achievement, the G-7 economies, the world's Big
Seven economies have created, net, a total of 7.7 million new jobs.
And America has created 7.7 million new jobs. The other six have
created some -- some have created some, some have lost. Their net is
It is not easy for wealthy countries to create new jobs.
The United States has been doing that, and we can be proud of the
people who are doing it, almost exclusively in the private sector with
the environment that has been created and the work that they do.
Still we know that an awful lot of our people are working
as hard or harder than they ever have without a raise. For about half
of Americans their real incomes in terms of what it will buy have not
gone up in more than a decade. Too many of our people have gone
nearly two decades. And a lot of parents are beginning to wonder
whether they'll be able to give their children a better standard of
living than they enjoy.
We know that our economy is becoming highly competitive,
but that too many of our people are being downsized in their most
productive years, and years when their families are most relying on
them, when their children are being raised or when they're about to go
off to college. And a lot of these folks have no real idea about how
they're going to move in a reasonable time to another job doing as
well as they were before. And we know that even though unemployment
is below six percent and below the 25-year average unemployment rate
of America, there are still too many urban neighborhoods and rural
communities where there aren't enough jobs for young people to believe
that they have a bright future.
If you look at the social front, who would have believed
three years ago that we could bring the crime rate down, but that
random violence among juveniles, children under 18, would be going up?
Who would believe that the drug usage among people between the age of
18 and 34 would be going down, but that casual drug use among children
under 18, including -- and illegal -- tobacco smoking, even though
it's illegal in every state in the country, would be going up?
How did this happen? The truth is, no one knows all the
answers, but it is clear that a big part of it is that you and I are
serving in public life at a time of very profound change; I would
argue the most profound period of change in the last 100 years. You
have to go back about 100 years to the time when Americans moved from
living primarily in rural areas to living primarily in cities and
towns, in the time when Americans moved from working primarily on the
farm to working primarily in the factory or in businesses supporting
That's what is happening today -- we are moving from a
national economy to a global economy. The nature of work is changing.
Even manufacturing, which is still very strong -- indeed, growing
stronger in America -- is becoming characterized more by information
technology than by hard work in terms of muscle power.
Work now in almost every endeavor requires more mind and
less muscle. More and more workplaces are less hierarchical, less
bureaucratic, indeed, on average, less big. The average manufacturing
facility contains 300 or fewer employees. So the work is changing;
the workplace is changing; the markets are changing; and information
Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, in his book, The
Road From Here, says that the digital chip is the biggest change in
information technology in 500 years, since Gutenberg first printed the
Bible in Europe. But that is the dimension of the change through
which we are all living.
Now, on the whole, this change has been good for America.
There are more possibilities open to young people to live out the
future of their dreams than at any time in our nation's history. But
as with any time of change this profound, there is also a great
uprooting, a great unsettling, where established patterns of life and
living and working together are disrupted. And when that happens, it
is imperative that those of us who are charged with the public
purpose, with bringing people together, with giving everybody a
chance, work hard to see that we make these changes, that we go
through this period of change in a way that gives every American the
chance to be a full citizen living up to his or her full abilities.
How we will master this moment of change is, therefore,
the great question not only before the President and the Congress, not
only before the business leaders of this country, but before every
community leader in the United States of America.
In my State of the Union address I outlined the seven
great challenges that I think we have to meet as a people if we're
going to fulfill those objectives that I brought to this office, if
we're going to guarantee the American Dream for all Americans, if
we're going to maintain our world leadership for peace and freedom, if
we're going to come back together around our basic values.
We have to build stronger families and better childhoods
for all of our children. We have to open educational opportunities so
that every child and every adult has access to world-class lifelong
learning. We have to provide economic security for families who are
willing to work for it. We must take back our streets -- all our
streets -- from crime and gangs and drugs. We must provide a healthy
and clean environment for today and tomorrow. We must maintain our
leadership in the fight for freedom and democracy, because if we don't
do that no one else will. And we must reinvent our
government so that it works better and once again inspires real trust
in the American people.
None of these things can be done unless we do them
together, unless we understand that the old categories by which we
thought and the old categories by which we classify each other have to
have enough flexibility in them to allow us to reach out across the
lines that divide us to meet these common challenges.
One of the things that we must do here in Washington is
to understand that while we have an obligation to have a clear vision,
to set clear national goals, to challenge people from every walk of
life to meet these goals, we cannot solve America's problems for
America. We have to instead focus on giving individuals and families
and neighborhoods and communities the tools they need to make the most
of their own lives and to meet our common challenges.
In other words, we need to focus as much as possible on
the what America needs to do and do as much as we can to let you and
people like you all over America determine the "how" -- how it will be
For more than 15 years now there has been a raging debate
in our country about what the role of the federal government should
be, and whether the government was the problem instead of part of the
solution. Well, we all know that the era of big government is over.
We're moving to a time when large bureaucracies are not only not
necessary, they're not the most effective way of meeting our common
challenges. But I submit to you that that does not mean that we can,
under the guise of saying the government is the problem, return to a
time when all of our people were left to fend for themselves. That
will not meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. (Applause.)
What works in the global economy is teamwork. What works
in the global economy is getting diverse people together and finding
out who has got what skills and figuring out how people can work
together for their mutual benefit. Individuals can be fulfilled in
this kind of world only when they are prepared to work with each other
to help every one of them fulfill their God-given capacities. I
believe that more strongly than anything else. If you ask me, what is
the one most important lesson you have learned as President, I would
say it is that we must go forward together; we cannot go back to the
time when people were left to fend for themselves under the luxury of
believing that anything we do together is wrong. (Applause.)
We do not need a big bureaucracy for every problem, but
we don't want a weak government. When I traveled to Washington and
Oregon and Idaho, to Pennsylvania the other day to see the effects of
the terrible flooding, no one wanted the Federal Emergency Management
Agency to be weak, they wanted it to be quick.
When I see that for 15 years now -- 15 years -- the
Fortune 500 companies have been reducing employment -- this is not a
recent development, but small businesses in America have been creating
more jobs every year than big business is laying off. Indeed, in the
last three years, businesses owned by women alone have created more
jobs than the Fortune 500 have laid off. We do not need a weak Small
Business Administration. It can be smaller, but it should be strong.
So what I'd like to do today is to talk about what your
role is and what our role is and what we have to do together. The
idea that Washington can actually solve all problems rather than
empowering people and communities to solve their problem is moving
Just in the last three years, the size of your federal
government has been reduced by 205,000 people. It is now the smallest
it's been since 1965. By the end of this year, the federal government
will be the smallest it's been since 1962. We are getting rid of
16,000 pages of federal regulations. And as I'm sure Carol Browner
told you before I came, we are trying to find more innovative ways to
work in partnership not only with local government, but also with the
We have approved a record number of welfare reform
waivers -- 53 different projects for 37 states. We do need welfare
reform legislation, but you should know that 10 million people, or
almost three-quarters of all the people on welfare in the United
States of America, are covered by welfare reform projects already
approved by this administration in just the last three years.
I want to pass the right kind of welfare reform bill
because I'd like to get out of the waiver business altogether. I
don't want states or counties to have to come to Washington every time
they want to try some new, innovative approach to moving people from
welfare to work. We know essentially were stuck with a system which
was designed for a population different from the population now on
welfare. We know that what welfare people want and need is the same
thing that all of us are living with, which is they need to work, but
they need to be successful parents. And one of the great challenges
for America is how every family can be successful in the home and at
Therefore, welfare reform should be tough on work and
supportive of children, not weak on work to save money in the short
run and tough on kids -- but within those parameters and with the
objective of moving everybody who can be moved into the workplace who
can become independent, who can become self-supporting, who can
communicate respect to their own children and help to raise their own
children better. That is the kind of welfare reform we ought to have.
We passed the unfunded mandates law, which I know you all
support. (Applause.) For years and years and years it was easy for
Congress to cut taxes, cut spending, and just solve all the public
problems by passing a mandate along to you. I remember when I was a
governor once I asked a member of Congress in an election season -- I
said, which one would you rather be, a member of Congress who cut
taxes and cut spending, or a governor who got a mandate and had to
raise taxes and spending to meet an order from the federal government
-- so that the responsibility was always different from the burden of
who was actually carrying the burden of public persuasion. That's
what the unfunded mandate law was all about and we did the right thing
to pass it.
We've also given you new flexibility to build roads, to
turn public housing projects into safe, affordable, mixed-income
communities. The empowerment zone and enterprise community initiative
has given federal support to community-based reform. And I was in
Michigan yesterday with the County Executive there, Ed McNamara, and
the Mayor of Detroit, Dennis Archer, at one of our most successful
endeavors. I want a second round of empowerment zones and enterprise
communities. We need to keep doing this to give incentives to local
people that work together to build their own futures. And we're just
We know that if were going to continue doing what we've
been doing and continue making progress, we have got to give more
responsibility -- not just in the state capitals, but also in the
county seats and the city halls of America where the rubber meets the
road and the decisions must be made. (Applause.)
Let me talk just a minute about what I think we should be
doing and then a little bit about what you and I have to do together
for the future. First of all, we have to meet the continuing
challenges of this economy. If I had told anybody three years ago
that we'd have a 27-year low in the combined rates of unemployment and
inflation and almost 8 million new jobs, and a record number of new
businesses and a 15-year high in homeownership, but half the American
people would not have a raise and a lot of people would feel very
uncertain in the downsizing, and some communities would be left out
still of the new jobs, you would have found that hard to believe. It
is because of the nature of the changes that are going on.
The answer is not to try to put a wall around America or
turn around and run back into a past that we can never achieve again.
The answer is to keep pushing until we get all the way through this
period of change in a way that permits all Americans to win. That's
exactly what we did the last time we went through a period of change
like this. It took us decades before; I believe we can do it in less
time now because the pace of change is so great.
But let's look at what we have to do. We have to have
more growth to produce more good jobs and to spread that opportunity
to more people, and to help people who lose their jobs move through
the transition more quickly so that they can once again become
productive and support their families and have the kind of
self-respect every American deserves who is willing to work for it.
What should we do? Yesterday, I called on Congress to
pass a growth agenda within 60 days to build on the work of the last
three years. I won't go through it all now, but let me just mention
two or three points. First of all, we ought to pass the right kind of
balanced budget, and we ought to do it now.
The economic plan of 1993, though it was controversial,
cut our deficit in half in three years, drove interest rates way down.
What happened with low interest rates? That helped to bring about the
homebuilding boom and the 15-year high in homeownership. That helped
to increase incomes by cutting the costs Americans have for their car
payments, their credit card payments, their home mortgage payments.
That helped to sustain a long period of growth.
If we can pass a balanced budget plan, we'll get interest
rates down again, so that we'll not only be lifting the burden of debt
off of future generations, we'll be giving the present economy the
best stimulus it can have to grow and grow and grow. And that means
people at your level will be able to pay tax revenues they get from
earning more money to fund the county services that you all
desperately need to provide. (Applause.)
But there is another issue in the budget that I know has
already been discussed here. We're not only still negotiating over
how to balance the budget for the next seven years, we're still
talking about finishing the budget work for this year, and that is
very hard on you. You have to plan, after all, for day care services,
911 lines, for jail cells. You have a road budget to meet. You have
all of these things you have to do.
Without a national budget, you can't plan. You can't
answer basic questions -- what kind of resources can I count on to
implement this initiative or that one. How much flexibility am I
going to have to make this happen? It is unacceptable for America's
counties, for America's cities, for America's states not to know
what's coming at them. And the effects of this uncertainty are not
good. I read the survey you released on Friday. A good many of you
have had to postpone construction projects, reduce services, stop
hiring. You're looking at higher costs across the board for health
care, for welfare, for summer jobs programs.
Enough is enough. We cannot afford to have our counties
stuck in suspended animation. You deserve to know what to expect. So
I ask you to join with me in saying to the Congress, you're back in
town, we've got to stop governing by continuing resolution. It's time
to come together and pass a budget for this year. (Applause.) But
also time to come together and pass a budget that will be in balance
in seven years.
We can do this. I want to make it clear to you that as a
result of all the negotiations that went on in the previous months
between the congressional leaders and the White House, we have now
identified savings that are common to both the Republican plan and my
plan amounting to $700 billion. That is more than enough to balance
the budget, and done right, to protect Medicare and Medicaid; to
protect our investments in the environment; to protect our investments
in education; to avoid doing away with the summer jobs program, which
I think would be a terrible mistake. (Applause.)
It is also enough to provide a modest tax cut to families
who have been struggling to stay ahead over the last several years,
and to give what I think would be the best tax cut of all -- a tax
deduction for the cost of college education and all education expenses
after high school. (Applause.)
But also remember it's important to balance the budget,
which means that all of us, including the President, have to deal with
cuts that we may not otherwise like to deal with, because if we
balance the budget we get interest rates down again, we keep the
economy going, we keep creating jobs, we give incomes a chance to
continue to rise. That is very, very important.
If you have any doubt about whether this can be done by
Republicans and Democrats in this environment in an election year, I
ask you just to look at what's happening today on Capitol Hill.
Members of both parties, led by Senator Kassebaum of Kansas and
Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts, are announcing a bipartisan
commitment to pass historic legislation that will stop insurance
companies from cutting off customers just because someone in the
family gets sick or they change jobs. It is high time. (Applause.)
This is something that we can do to increase access for
all people to health care -- a critical component of family security
in the modern world. I applaud Congress for their commitment here,
Republicans and Democrats alike. I look forward to signing the
Kennedy-Kassebaum bill and I hope they will continue.
We've got three weeks until Congress takes a break for
Easter. That's more than enough time to move ahead on health care
reform and to pass the balanced budget. There are other things that I
think should be done, including raising the minimum wage and other
aspects of the economic growth issue. (Applause.) But just think
what would happen if we could do this by Easter, just these two
things, to pass that health care reform bill and to pass the balanced
budget plan. Think of the confidence, the spirit, the energy it would
send throughout America. Think how people would feel differently
about the ability of the government to solve problems and the ability
of the country to move forward and the ability of people in Washington
to behave in a bipartisan, even a nonpartisan way, in the way that so
many of you have to do, day in and day out.
We have to do this. But it is not enough. We also have
to work with you in a partnership to meet the challenges that I
outlined in the State of the Union. We're working together to
strengthen America's families, by fighting to end the tragedy of
domestic violence. Last month, as a part of our continuing effort, we
set up a national domestic violence hotline. This will help, but it
won't work alone.
Counties have a special role to play in this endeavor.
Your police officers are the ones who respond to the desperate 911
call. Your judges are the ones who have to bring domestic abusers to
justice. You have to make sure that members of your community and
your officers of the law understand that this is a serious, serious
problem in the United States. It can't be solved by simply taking
repeated abusers out for a walk around the block to cool down. This
is a crime where training and education that you can provide can truly
make a difference, a huge difference in the quality of childhood and
the quality of life in America.
So I ask you to stand with hundreds of thousands of women
who are battered each year, with the thousands and thousands of
children who are abused, and say, no more. I salute you for what
you're doing, and I ask you for more. (Applause.)
We must bring the same spirit of partnership to our
efforts to provide all Americans with the educational opportunities
they need for this new era. Let's take the Goals 2000 education
reform, for example. It says that we should have nationally
competitive standards, standards that will stand us in good stead in
the world, and that those standards are needed in a global economy, in
the smallest rural community in my home state, and in the biggest
cities of America. But it says that states and counties and school
districts should agree to meet them, but should then have the ability
to decide on how to meet them.
Our administration is taking the lead in setting higher
national standards in calling for measurable means for determining
whether they're being met or not, but in giving more flexibility to
local schools and local entities than ever before in determining how
to achieve educational excellence. That is a partnership we must
embrace with great fervor and with enough dedication that we will keep
at it until the job is done.
Let me just give you one example. We're going to have to
work together with the private sector to meet the important national
goal of connecting every school and every library, every classroom and
every library in America to the Information Superhighway by the year
2000. We have to do that. (Applause.) We at the national level can
provide some seed money and some real influence in terms of reaching
out to people everywhere to try to help them contribute. But you have
to do that as well. People in the private sector in every state and
county in America are eager to help.
Just later this week I am going out to California where,
on one day, we will connect 20 percent of the classrooms in the state
to the Internet in 58 separate counties. That's the down payment on
something that must sweep America in the next couple of years.
(Applause.) We have to work together to clean the environment. And I
won't repeat anything that Carol Browner said, but you and I know we
have to be partners, whether it's in dealing with the Superfund issue
or other challenges facing us.
I want to thank this group for the work you did in our
development of a sustainable development plan for the future of
America. You were consulted, you were involved, and I appreciate it.
I was so glad to see one of the officers holding the report when I
came in the door today. We have to do this together. We have to
disabuse our people of the notion that you have to grow the economy by
weakening the environment, and that we have to choose a good job over
clean air, clean water and a safe future.
The truth is, over the long run we cannot grow the
economy unless we preserve the environment. And you and I have to
take the lead in doing that. (Applause.) We have to help working
Americans become winners in this time of economic change. I suppose
I've spent more time in community colleges than any President in
history. I've done it because I believe that they symbolize the kind
of institutions that America needs more of if we're going to solve our
problems -- community placed, driven by the needs of the moment,
susceptible and flexible to the personal needs and desires of the
individual students; not political in a negative sense, but political
in a positive sense -- in the sense that most of them are highly
influential in terms of getting the resources and the support they
need from the public and private sector to drive on into a better
future. That's what we need more of.
And that's why I've challenged Congress to collapse 70
separate overlapping training programs into a single voucher worth
$2,600 a year that we can just mail to anyone as soon as they lose
their job, and say, here, take this to your local educational
institution and get back to work by learning and moving to a better
future, not a darker one. That is the sort of support that we all
need to give. (Applause.)
And, finally, let me say that we have had a remarkable
partnership through the Crime Bill -- a Crime Bill that was written
after six years of haggling, and passed in 1994 largely through the
influence of local law enforcement officials. A bill that provides
funds for police, for punishment and for prevention. A bill that is
helping to move 100,000 police officers on the street. We are ahead
of schedule and under budget in that endeavor because local law
enforcement officials know how badly we need more police officers in
community policing settings.
I am proud to say that this approach is working all over
the country. I see rates of crime coming down -- violent crime,
property crimes, all kinds of crimes. But we have not succeeded and
we cannot believe we have succeeded just because the crime rate is
going down, first, because the crime rate among juveniles is going up;
and, secondly, because we all know this country still has too many
streets, too many neighborhoods, too many schools that are too
dangerous and too violent. And we have to keep at it.
We cannot tolerate any attempt to repeal the Crime Bill
and to move away from strategies that we know are working to lower the
crime rate. I ask for your support to put more police officers on the
street, to keep those prevention programs and to stand up for giving
America a future when we will once again be surprised when we turn on
the television and see that a terrible crime has been committed. You
want to know when we'll win the battle against crime? When you're
surprised when you turn on the evening news and you read about some
violent, outrageous, unforgivable act. (Applause.)
Sustained growth, a balanced budget, stronger families,
safer streets, a cleaner environment, better education, welfare
reform, health care for those who need it most -- we can do all these
things if we will do them together. You know, I know that a lot of
people are so bewildered by the things that are going on in the world
today and I know that it is easy to get disheartened. And I read from
time to time about how people have gone from being skeptical to being
cynical. But I say to you, my fellow Americans, that is a luxury we
cannot afford. If you went to work cynical every day it would be an
excuse for you to do nothing, and soon you would be out of a job.
The only people in this country who can't be fired in
their roles are citizens. The Constitution gives our citizens the
right to vote or the right not to vote; the right to say what they
believe or the right to keep silent. And, therefore, they ultimately
have the right, if they choose, to be cynical. But I want to tell you
something: This is a very great country. Most people in the world
would still give anything to have the opportunities Americans have.
Most wealthy countries in the world would give anything to be able to
see a private sector vital enough to create the kind of jobs that have
been created in this economy. And all the problems we have are simply
because we are fortunate enough to be living at the time of most
profound change this country has endured in 100 years.
Now, there are problems associated with that change.
There is no change that is painless, ever. There never has been and
there never will be. There is no such thing as a painless
consequence-free period of change. But we should rejoice that we have
been given the opportunity to serve the public at this moment in our
history. And one of the things that you can do, because you are so
close to the people, is to go back home and say, look, there is
nothing facing this country we can't handle if we'll work together;
and cynicism is a poor excuse for inaction and is the only thing that
will determine our failure. (Applause.)
All my life I have believed it was wrong -- fundamentally
wrong -- for any human being to be denied the opportunity to make the
most of his or her own life. That is fundamentally what public life
is all about. That is what your work is all about; that is what my
work is all about. And a big part of that is involving our citizens
in the process of getting through this period of change and
I believe if we do that the years ahead of us will be
America's best years. And if we do it, you can take a full measure of
pride and credit in that magnificent endeavor.
Thank you, and God bless you all. (Applause.)
END 11:50 P.M. EST