I can report to you tonight that it's working. Violent crime is down, robbery is down, assault is down, burglary is down for five years in a row all across America. Now, we need to finish the job of putting 100,000 more police on our streets.
Again, I ask Congress to pass a juvenile crime bill that provides more prosecutors and probation officers to crack down on gangs and guns and drugs and bar violent juveniles from buying guns for life. And I ask you to dramatically expand our support for after-school programs. I think every American should know that most juvenile crime is committed between the hours of 3:00 in the afternoon and 8:00 at night. We can keep so many of our children out of trouble in the first place if we give them some place to go other than the streets, and we ought to do it.
Drug use is on the decline. I thank General McCaffrey for his leadership, and I thank this Congress for passing the largest anti-drug budget in history. Now I ask you to join me in a ground-breaking effort to hire a thousand new Border Patrol agents and to deploy the most sophisticated available new technologies to help close the door on drugs at our borders.
Police, prosecutors, and prevention programs, good as they are, they can't work if our court system doesn't work. Today, there are large numbers of vacancies in our federal courts. Here is what the chief justice of the United States wrote: "Judicial vacancies cannot remain at such high levels indefinitely without eroding the quality of justice."
I simply ask the United States Senate to heed this plea and vote on the highly qualified nominees before you, up or down.
We must exercise responsibility not just at home but around the world. On the eve of a new century, we have the power and the duty to build a new era of peace and security. But make no mistake about it; today's possibilities are not tomorrow's guarantees. America must stand against the poisoned appeals of extreme nationalism. We must combat an unholy access of new threats from terrorists, international criminals and drug traffickers.
These 21st century predators feed on technology and the free flow of information and ideas and people, and they will be all the more lethal if weapons of mass destruction fall into their hands. To meet these challenges, we are helping to write international rules of the road for the 21st century, protecting those who join the family of nations and isolating those who do not.
Within days, I will ask the Senate for its advice and consent to make Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic the newest members of NATO. For 50 years, NATO contained communism and kept America and Europe secure. Now these three formerly communist countries have said yes to democracy. I ask the Senate to say yes to them, our new allies.
By taking in new members and working closely with new partners, including Russia and Ukraine, NATO can help to assure that Europe is a stronghold for peace in the 21st century.
Next, I will ask Congress to continue its support for our troops and their mission in Bosnia. This Christmas, Hillary and I traveled to Sarajevo with Senator and Mrs. Dole and a bipartisan congressional delegation. We saw children playing in the streets where, two years ago, they were hiding from snipers and shells. The shops were filled with food. The cafes were alive with conversation. The progress there is unmistakable; but it is not yet irreversible.
To take firm root, Bosnia's fragile peace still needs the support of American and allied troops when the current NATO mission ends in June. I think Senator Dole actually said it best. He said: "This is like being ahead in the fourth quarter of a football game; now is not the time to walk off the field and forfeit the victory."
I wish all of you could have seen our troops in Tuzla. They're very proud of what they are doing in Bosnia, and we're all very proud of them. One of those—one of those brave soldiers is sitting with the first lady tonight: Army Sergeant Michael Tolbert. His father was a decorated Vietnam vet. After college in Colorado, he joined the Army. Last year he led an infantry unit that stopped a mob of extremists from taking over a radio station that is a voice of democracy and tolerance in Bosnia. Thank you very much, Sergeant, for what you represent.
In Bosnia and around the world, our men and women in uniform always do their mission well. Our mission must be to keep them well-trained and ready, to improve their quality of life, and to provide the 21st century weapons they need to defeat any enemy.
I ask Congress to join me in pursuing an ambitious agenda to reduce the serious threat of weapons of mass destruction. This year, four decades after it was first proposed by President Eisenhower, a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban is within reach. By ending nuclear testing, we can help to prevent the development of new and more dangerous weapons, and make it more difficult for non-nuclear states to build them.
I am pleased to announce that four former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—Generals John Shalikashvili, Colin Powell and David Jones, and Admiral William Crowe—have endorsed this treaty, and I ask the Senate to approve it this year.
Together we must also confront the new hazards of chemical and biological weapons, and the outlaw states, terrorists and organized criminals seeking to acquire them.
Saddam Hussein has spent the better part of this decade, and much of his nation's wealth, not on providing for the Iraqi people, but on developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them.
The United Nations weapons inspectors have done a truly remarkable job, finding and destroying more of Iraq's arsenal than was destroyed during the entire gulf war. Now, Saddam Hussein wants to stop them from completing their mission.
I know I speak for everyone in this chamber, Republicans and Democrats, when I say to Saddam Hussein, "You cannot defy the will of the world," and when I say to him, "You have used weapons of mass destruction before; we are determined to deny you the capacity to use them again."
Last year, the Senate ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention to protect our soldiers and citizens from poison gas. Now we must act to prevent the use of disease as a weapon of war and terror. The Biological Weapons Convention has been in effect for 23 years now. The rules are good, but the enforcement is weak. We must strengthen it with a new international inspection system to detect and deter cheating. In the months ahead, I will pursue our security strategy with old allies in Asia and Europe, and new partners from Africa to India and Pakistan, from South America to China. And from Belfast to Korea to the Middle East, America will continue to stand with those who stand for peace.
Finally, it's long past time to make good on our debt to the United Nations.
More and more we are working with other nations to achieve common goals. If we want America to lead, we've got to set a good example. As we see—as we see so clearly in Bosnia, allies who share our goals can also share our burdens. In this new era, our freedom and independence are actually enriched, not weakened, by our increasing interdependence with other nations. But we have to do our part.
Our founders set America on a permanent course toward a more perfect union. To all of you, I say, it is a journey we can only make together, living as one community.
First, we have to continue to reform our government, the instrument of our national community. Everyone knows elections have become too expensive, fueling a fund-raising arms race.
This year, by March the 6th, at long last the Senate will actually vote on bipartisan campaign finance reform proposed by senators McCain and Feingold. Let's be clear; a vote against McCain-Feingold is a vote for soft money and for the status quo. I ask you to strengthen our democracy and pass campaign finance reform this year.
But at least equally important, we have to address the real reason for the explosion in campaign costs: the high cost of media advertising. I will— for the folks watching at home, those were the groans of pain in the audience—I will formally request that the Federal Communications Commission act to provide free or reduced-cost television time—for candidates who observe spending limits voluntarily. The airwaves are a public trust, and broadcasters also have to help us in this effort to strengthen our democracy.
Under the leadership of Vice President Gore, we have reduced the federal payroll by 300,000 workers, cut 16,000 pages of regulation, eliminated hundreds of programs and improved the operations of virtually every government agency. But we can do more.
Like every taxpayer, I'm outraged by the reports of abuses by the IRS. We need some changes there: new citizen advocacy panels, a stronger taxpayer advocate, phone lines open 24 hours a day, relief for innocent taxpayers.
Last year, by an overwhelming bipartisan margin, the House of Representatives passed sweeping IRS reforms. This bill must not now languish in the Senate. Tonight, I ask the Senate: Follow the House; pass the bipartisan package as your first order of business. I hope to goodness before I finish I can think of something to say 'Follow the Senate' on so I'll be out of trouble!
A nation that lives as a community must value all its communities. For the past five years, we have worked to bring the spark of private enterprise to inner city and poor rural areas with community development banks, more commercial loans into poor neighborhoods, cleanup of polluted sites for development.
Under the continued leadership of the vice president, we propose to triple the number of empowerment zones to give business incentives to invest in those areas. We should. We should also give poor families more help to move into homes of their own, and we should use tax cuts to spur the construction of more low-income housing.
Last year, this Congress took strong action to help the District of Columbia. Let us renew our resolve to make our capital city a great city for all who live and visit here.
Our cities are the vibrant hubs of great metropolitan areas. They are still the gateway for new immigrants from every continent who come here to work for their own American dreams. Let's keep our cities going strong into the 21st Century. They're a very important part of our future.
Our communities are only as healthy as the air our children breathe, the water they drink, the Earth they will inherit. Last year we put in place the toughest-ever controls on smog and soot. We moved to protect Yellowstone, the Everglades, Lake Tahoe. We expanded every community's right to know about toxics that threaten their children.
Just yesterday, our food safety plan took effect, using new science to protect consumers from dangers like e. coli and salmonella.
Tonight, I ask you to join me in launching a new Clean Water initiative, a far-reaching effort to clean our rivers, our lakes and our coastal waters for our children.
Our overriding environmental challenge tonight is the worldwide problem of climate change, global warming, the gathering crisis that requires worldwide action. The vast majority of scientists have concluded unequivocally that if we don't reduce the emission of greenhouse gases at some point in the next century, we'll disrupt our climate and put our children and grandchildren at risk.
This past December, America led the world to reach a historic agreement committing our nation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through market forces, new technologies, energy efficiency.
We have it in our power to act right here, right now. I propose $6 billion in tax cuts, in research and development, to encourage innovation, renewable energy, fuel-efficient cars, energy-efficient homes. Every time we have acted to heal our environment, pessimists have told us it would hurt the economy. Well, today our economy is the strongest in a generation, and our environment is the cleanest in a generation. We have always found a way to clean the environment and grow the economy at the same time. And when it comes to global warming, we'll do it again.
Finally, community means living by the defining American value, the ideal heard 'round the world: that we're all created equal. Throughout our history, we haven't always honored that ideal, and we've never fully lived up to it. Often it's easier to believe that our differences matter more than what we have in common. It may be easier, but it's wrong.
What we have to do in our day and generation to make sure that America truly becomes one nation, what do we have to do? We're becoming more and more and more diverse. Do you believe we can become one nation? The answer cannot be to dwell on our differences, but to build on our shared values.
And we all cherish family and faith, freedom and responsibility. We all want our children to grow up in the world where their talents are matched by their opportunities.
I've launched this national initiative on race to help us recognize our common interests and to bridge the opportunity gaps that are keeping us from becoming one America. Let us begin by recognizing what we still must overcome.
Discrimination against any American is un-American. We must vigorously enforce the laws that make it illegal. I ask your help to end the backlog at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Sixty thousand of our fellow citizens are waiting in line for justice, and we should act now to end their wait.
We should also recognize that the greatest progress we can make toward building one America lies in the progress we make for all Americans, without regard to race. When we open the doors of college to all Americans, when we rid all our streets of crime, when there are jobs available to people from all our neighborhoods, when we make sure all parents have the child care they need, we're helping to build one nation.
We in this chamber and in this government must do all we can to address the continuing American challenge to build one America. But we'll only move forward if all our fellow citizens, including every one of you at home watching tonight, is also committed to this cause.
We must work together, learn together, live together, serve together. On the forge of common enterprise, Americans of all backgrounds can hammer out a common identity.
We see it today in the United States military, in the Peace Corps, in AmeriCorps. Wherever people of all races and backgrounds come together in a shared endeavor and get a fair chance, we do just fine. With shared values and meaningful opportunities and honest communications and citizen service, we can unite a diverse people in freedom and mutual respect. We are many. We must be one.
In that spirit, let us lift our eyes to the new millennium. How will we mark that passage? It just happens once every thousand years. This year, Hillary and I launched the White House Millennium Program to promote America's creativity and innovation and to preserve our heritage and culture into the 21st century. Our culture lives in every community, and every community has places of historic value that tell our stories as Americans. We should protect them.
I am proposing a public-private partnership to advance our arts and humanities and to celebrate the millennium by saving America's treasures great and small. And while we honor the past, let us imagine the future.
Now, think about this. The entire store of human knowledge now doubles every five years. In the 1980s, scientists identified the gene causing cystic fibrosis; it took nine years. Last year, scientists located the gene that causes Parkinson's disease—in only nine days! Within a decade, gene chips will offer a road map for prevention of illnesses throughout a lifetime. Soon, we'll be able to carry all the phone calls on Mother's Day on a single strand of fiber the width of a human hair. A child born in 1998 may well live to see the 22nd century.
Tonight, as part of our gift to the millennium, I propose a 21st Century research fund for pathbreaking scientific inquiry, the largest funding increase in history for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the National Cancer Institute. We have already discovered we have already discovered genes for breast cancer and diabetes. I ask you to support this initiative so ours will be the generation that finally wins the war against cancer and begins a revolution in our fight against all deadly diseases.
As important as all this scientific progress is, we must continue to see that science serves humanity, not the other way around. We must prevent the misuse of genetic tests to discriminate against any American, and we must ratify the ethical consensus of the scientific and religious communities, and ban the cloning of human beings.
We should enable all the world's people to explore the far reaches of cyberspace. Think of this: the first time I made a State of the Union speech to you, only a handful of physicists used the World Wide Web— literally just a handful of people.
Now in schools and libraries, homes and businesses, millions and millions of Americans surf the Net every day.
We must give parents the tools they need to help protect their children from inappropriate material on the Net, but we also must make sure that we protect the exploding, global commercial potential of the Internet. We can do the kinds of things that we need to do and still protect our kids. For one thing, I ask Congress to step up support for building the next generation Internet. It's getting kind of clogged, you know. And the next generation Internet will operate at speeds up to a thousand times faster than today.
Even as we explore this inner space, in the new millennium we're going to open new frontiers in outer space.
Throughout all history, human kind has had only one place to call home: our planet Earth. Beginning this year, 1998, men and women from 16 countries will build a foothold in the heavens—the International Space Station. With its vast expanses, scientists and engineers will actually set sail on an uncharted sea of limitless mystery and unlimited potential.
And this October, a true American hero, a veteran pilot of 149 combat missions and one five-hour space flight that changed the world, will return to the heavens. Godspeed, John Glenn!
John, you will carry with you America's hopes, and on your uniform once again you will carry America's flag, marking the unbroken connection between the deeds of America's past and the daring of America's future.
Nearly 200 years ago, a tattered flag, its broad stripes and bright stars still gleaming through the smoke of a fierce battle, moved Francis Scott Key to scribble a few words on the back of an envelope, the words that became our National Anthem. Today, that Star-Spangled Banner, along with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, are on display just a short walk from here. They are America's treasures. And we must also save them for the ages.
I ask all Americans to support our project to restore all our treasures so that the generations of the 21st century can see for themselves the images and the words that are the old and continuing glory of America, an America that has continued to rise through every age against every challenge, a people of great works and greater possibilities, who have always, always found the wisdom and strength to come together as one nation, to widen the circle of opportunity, to deepen the meaning of our freedom, to form that more perfect union.
Let that be our gift to the 21st century.
God bless you, and God bless the United States.
State of the Union Address William J. Clinton January 19, 1999
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, honored guests, my fellow Americans:
Tonight I have the honor of reporting to you on the State of the Union.
Let me begin by saluting the new speaker of the House and thanking him especially tonight for extending an invitation to two guests sitting in the gallery with Mrs. Hastert. Lyn Gibson and Wei Ling Chestnut are the widows of the two brave Capitol Hill police officers who gave their lives to defend freedom's house.
Mr. Speaker, at your swearing in you asked us all to work together in a spirit of civility and bipartisanship. Mr. Speaker, let's do exactly that.
Tonight, I stand before you to report that America has created the longest peacetime economic expansion in our history. With nearly 18 million new jobs, wages rising at more than twice the rate of inflation, the highest homeownership in history, the smallest welfare roles in 30 years, and the lowest peacetime unemployment since 1957.
For the first time in three decades, the budget is balanced. From a deficit of $290 billion in 1992, we had a surplus of $70 billion last year. And now, we are on course for budget surpluses for the next 25 years.
Thanks to the pioneering leadership of all of you, we have the lowest violent crime rate in a quarter century and the cleanest environment in a quarter century.
America is a strong force for peace—from Northern Ireland to Bosnia to the Middle East.
Thanks to the leadership of Vice President Gore, we have a government for the Information Age, once again a government that is a progressive instrument of the common good, rooted in our oldest values of opportunity, responsibility and community, devoted to fiscal responsibility, determined to give our people the tools they need to make the most of their own lives in the 21st century, a 21st century government for 21st century America.
My fellow Americans, I stand before you tonight to report that the state of our union is strong. Now, America is working again. The promise of our future is limitless. But we cannot realize that promise if we allow the hum of our prosperity to lull us into complacency. How we fare as a nation far into the 21st century depends upon what we do as a nation today.
So, with our budget surplus growing, our economy expanding, our confidence rising, now is the moment for this generation to meet our historic responsibility to the 21st century.
Our fiscal discipline gives us an unsurpassed opportunity to address a remarkable new challenge, the aging of America. With the number of elderly Americans set to double by 2030, the baby boom will become a senior boom.
So first and above all, we must save Social Security for the 21st century.
Early in this century, being old meant being poor. When President Roosevelt created Social Security, thousands wrote to thank him for eliminating what one woman called "the stark terror of penniless, helpless old age." Even today, without Social Security, half our nation's elderly would be forced into poverty.
Today, Social Security is strong, but by 2013, payroll taxes will no longer be sufficient to cover monthly payments. By 2032, the trust fund will be exhausted and Social Security will be unable to pay the full benefits older Americans have been promised.
The best way to keep Social Security a rock solid guarantee is not to make drastic cuts in benefits; not to raise payroll tax rates; not to drain resources from Social Security in the name of saving it. Instead, I propose that we make the historic decision to invest the surplus to save Social Security.
Specifically, I propose that we commit 60 percent of the budget surplus for the next 15 years to Social Security, investing a small portion in the private sector just as any private or state government pension would do. This will earn a higher return and keep Social Security sound for 55 years.
But we must aim higher. We should put Social Security on a sound footing for the next 75 years. We should reduce poverty among elderly women, who are nearly twice as likely to be poor as are other seniors. And we should eliminate the limits on what seniors on Social Security can earn.
Now, these changes will require difficult, but fully achievable choices over and above the dedication of the surplus. They must be made on a bipartisan basis. They should be made this year. So let me say to you tonight, I reach out my hand to all of you in both houses in both parties and ask that we join together in saying to the American people, we will save Social Security now.
Now, last year, we wisely reserved all of the surplus until we knew what it would take to save Social Security. Again, I say, we shouldn't spend any of it, not any of it, until after Social Security is truly saved. First thing's first.
Second, once we have saved Social Security, we must fulfill our obligation to save and improve Medicare. Already we have extended the life of the Medicare trust fund by 10 years, but we should extend it for at least another decade. Tonight, I propose that we use one out of every six dollars in the surplus for the next 15 years to guarantee the soundness of Medicare until the year 2020.
But, again—but, again, we should aim higher. We must be willing to work in a bipartisan way and look at new ideas, including the upcoming report of the Bipartisan Medicare Commission. If we work together, we can secure Medicare for the next two decades and cover the greatest growing need of seniors—affordable prescription drugs.
Third, we must help all Americans from their first day on the job to save, to invest, to create wealth.
From its beginnings, Americans have supplemented Social Security with private pensions and savings. Yet today millions of people retire with little to live on other than Social Security. Americans living longer than ever simply must save more than ever.
Therefore, in addition to saving Social Security and Medicare, I propose a new pension initiative for retirement security in the 21st century. I propose that we use a little over 11 percent of the surplus to establish universal savings accounts—USA accounts—to give all Americans the means to save.
With these new accounts, Americans can invest as they choose and receive funds to match a portion of their savings with extra help for those least able to save. USA accounts will help all Americans to share in our nation's wealth and to enjoy a more secure retirement. I ask you to support them.
Fourth, we must invest in long-term care.
I propose a tax credit of $1,000 for the aged, ailing or disabled and the families who care for them. Long-term care will become a bigger and bigger challenge with the aging of America—and we must do more to help our families deal with it.
I was born in 1946, the first year of the baby boom. I can tell you that one of the greatest concerns of our generation is our absolute determination not to let our growing old place an intolerable burden on our children and their ability to raise our grandchildren.
Our economic success and our fiscal discipline now give us the opportunity to lift that burden from their shoulders, and we should take it.
Saving Social Security, Medicare, creating U.S. accounts, this is the right way to use the surplus. If we do so, if we do so, we will still have resources to meet critical needs and education and defense.
And I want to point out that this proposal is fiscally sound. Listen to this, if we set aside 60 percent of the surplus for Social Security and 16 percent for Medicare over the next 15 years, that savings will achieve the lowest level of publicly-held debt since right before World War I in 1917.
So with these four measures; saving Social Security, strengthening Medicare, establishing the USA accounts, supporting long-term care, we can begin to meet our generation's historic responsibility to establish true security for 21st century seniors.
Now, there are more children, from more diverse backgrounds, in our public schools that any time in our history. Their education must provide the knowledge and nurture the creativity that will allow our entire nation to thrive in the new economy.
Today we can say something we couldn't say six years ago. With tax credits and more affordable student loans, with more work-study grants and more Pell Grants, with education IRAs, the new HOPE Scholarship tax cut that more than five million Americans will receive this year, we have finally opened the doors of college to all Americans.
With our support, nearly every state has set higher academic standards for public schools and a voluntary national test is being developed to measure the progress of our students. With over $1 billion in discounts available this year, we are well on our way to our goal of connecting every classroom and library to the Internet.
Last fall, you passed our proposal to start hiring 100,000 new teachers to reduce class size in the early grades. Now I ask you to finish the job.
You know our children are doing better. SAT scores are up. Math scores have risen in nearly all grades. But there's a problem. While our fourth-graders out performed their peers in other countries in math and science, our eighth-graders are around average, and our 12th-graders rank near the bottom. We must do better.
Now each year the national government invests more than $15 billion in our public schools. I believe we must change the way we invest that money to support what works and to stop supporting what does not work.
First, later this year I will send to Congress a plan that for the first time holds states and school districts accountable for progress and rewards them for results. My Education Accountability Act will require every school district receiving federal help to take the following five steps:
First, all schools must end social promotion.
Now, no child, no child should graduate from high school with a diploma he or she can't read. We do our children no favors when we allow them to pass from grade to grade without mastering the material. But we can't just hold students back because the system fails them.
So my balanced budget triples the funding for summer school and after-school programs to keep a million children learning. Now, if—if you doubt this will work, just look at Chicago, which ended social promotion and made summer school mandatory for those who don't master the basics. Math and reading scores are up three years running with some of the biggest gains in some of the poorest neighborhoods. It will work, and we should do it.
Second, all states and school districts must turn around their worst performing schools or shut them down. That's the policy established in North Carolina by Governor Jim Hunt. North Carolina made the biggest gains in test scores in the nation last year. Our budget includes $200 million to help states turn around their own failing schools.
Third, all states and school districts must be held responsible for the quality of their teachers. The great majority of our teachers do a fine job, but in too many schools teachers don't have college majors or even minors in the subjects they teach. New teachers should be required to pass performance exams, and all teachers should know the subject their teaching.
This year's balanced budget contains resources to help them reach higher standards. And to attract talented young teachers to the toughest assignments, I recommend a six-fold increase in our program for college scholarships for students who commit to teach in the inner-cities and isolated rural areas and in Indian communities. Let us bring excellence to every part of America.
Fourth, we must empower parents with more information and more choices. In too many communities it's easier to get information on the quality of the local restaurants than on the quality of the local schools.
Every school district should issue report cards on every school. And parents should be given more choices in selecting their public schools.
When I became president, there was just one independent public charter school in all America. With our support on a bipartisan basis, today there are 1,100. My budget assures that early in the next century, there will be 3,000.
Fifth, to assure that our classrooms are truly places of learning, and to respond to what teachers have been asking us to do for years, we should say that all states and school districts must both adopt and implement sensible discipline policies.
Now let's do one more thing for our children. Today, too many schools are so old they're falling apart, or so overcrowded students are learning in trailers. Last fall, Congress missed the opportunity to change that. This year, with 53 million children in our schools, Congress must not miss that opportunity again. I ask you to help our communities build or modernize 5,000 schools.
If we do these things—end social promotion, turn around failing schools, build modern ones, support qualified teachers, promote innovation, competition and discipline—then we will begin to meet our generation's historic responsibility to create to 21st century schools.
Now, we also have to do more to support the millions of parents who give their all every day at home and at work.
The most basic tool of all is a decent income. So let's raise the minimum wage by a dollar an hour over the next two years.
And let's make sure that women and men get equal pay for equal work by strengthening enforcement of the equal pay laws.
That was encouraging, you know? There was more balance on the seesaw. I like that. Let's give them a hand. That's great.
Working parents also need quality child care. So, again this year, I ask Congress to support our plan for tax credits and subsidies for working families, for improved safety and quality, for expanded after-school program. And our plan also includes a new tax credit for stay-at-home parents, too. They need support as well.
Parents should never have to worry about choosing between their children and their work. Now, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the very first bill I signed into law, has now, since 1993, helped millions and millions of Americans to care for a newborn baby or an ailing relative without risking their jobs. I think it's time, with all of the evidence that it has been so little burdensome to employers, to extend family leave to 10 million more Americans working for smaller companies, and I hope you will support it.
Finally, on the matter of work, parents should never have to face discrimination in the workplace. So I want to ask Congress to prohibit companies from refusing to hire or promote workers simply because they have children. That is not right.
America's families deserve the world's best medical care. Thanks to bipartisan federal support for medical research, we are not on the verge of new treatments to prevent or delay diseases from Parkinson's to Alzheimer's to arthritis to cancer. But as we continue our advances in medical science, we can't let our medical system lag behind.
Managed care has literally transformed medicine in America, driving down costs, but threatening to drive down quality as well.
I think we ought to say to every American, you should have the right to know all you medical options, not just the cheapest. If you need a specialist, you should have a right to see one. You have a right to the nearest emergency care if you're in an accident. These are things that we ought to say. And I think we ought to say you should have a right to keep your doctor during a period of treatment whether it's a pregnancy or a chemotherapy treatment or anything else. I believe this.
Now I've ordered these rights to be extended to the 85 million Americans served by Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health programs. But only Congress can pass a Patients' Bill of Rights for all Americans.
Last year, Congress missed that opportunity, and we must not miss that opportunity again. For the sake of our families, I ask us to join together across party lines and pass a strong enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights.
As more of our medical records are stored electronically, the threats to all of our privacy increase. Because Congress has given me the authority to act if it does not do so by August, one way or another, we can all say to the American people, we will protect the privacy of medical records this year.
Now, two years ago, we acted to extend health coverage to up to five million children. Now we should go beyond that. We should make it easier for small businesses to offer health insurance. We should give people between the ages of 55 and 65 who lose their health insurance the chance to buy into Medicare.
And we should continue to ensure access to family planning. No one should have to choose between keeping health care and taking a job. And therefore, I especially ask you tonight to join hands to pass the landmark bipartisan legislation proposed by Sens. Kennedy and Jeffords, Roth and Moynihan, to allow people with disabilities to keep their health insurance when they go to work.
We need to enable our public hospitals, our community, our university health centers to provide basic, affordable care for all the millions of working families who don't have any insurance. They do a lot of that today, but much more can be done. And my balanced budget makes a good down payment toward that goal. I hope you will think about them and support that provision.
Let me say we must step up our efforts to treat and prevent mental illness. No American should ever be able—afraid ever to address this disease. This year we will host a White House Conference on Mental Health. With sensitivity, commitment and passion, Tipper Gore is leading our efforts here, and I'd like to thank her for what she's done. Thank you. Thank you.
As everyone knows, our children are targets of a massive media campaign to hook them on cigarettes. Now, I ask this Congress to resist the tobacco lobby, to reaffirm the FDA's authority to protect our children from tobacco and to hold tobacco companies accountable, while protecting tobacco farmers.
Smoking has cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars under Medicare and other programs. You know, the states have been right about this. Taxpayers shouldn't pay for the cost of lung cancer, emphysema, and other smoking-related illnesses, the tobacco companies should.
So tonight I announce that the Justice Department is preparing a litigation plan to take the tobacco companies to court and with the funds we recover to strengthen Medicare.
Now, if we act in these areas—minimum wage, family leave, child care, health care, the safety of our children—then we will begin to meet our generation's historic responsibilities to strengthen our families for the 21st century.
Today, America is the most dynamic, competitive, job-creating economy in history, but we can do even better in building a 21st century economy that embraces all Americans.
Today's income gap is largely a skills gap. Last year, the Congress passed a law enabling workers to get a skills grant to choose the training they need. And I applaud all of you here who were part of that.
This year, I recommend a five-year commitment to the new system, so that we can provide over the next five years appropriate training opportunities for all Americans who lose their jobs and expand rapid response teams to help all towns which have been really hurt when businesses close. I hope you will support this.
Also, I ask your support for a dramatic increase in federal support for adult literacy to mount a national campaign aimed at helping the millions and millions of working people who still read at less than a fifth-grade level. We need to do this.
Here's some good news. In the past six years, we have cut the welfare rolls nearly in half.
Two years ago, from this podium, I asked five companies to lead a national effort to hire people off welfare. Tonight our welfare-to-work partnership includes 10,000 companies who have hired hundreds of thousands of people, and our balanced budget will help another 200,000 people move to the dignity and pride of work. I hope you will support it.
We must bring the spark of private enterprise to every corner of America, to build a bridge from Wall Street to Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta, to our Native American communities, with more support for community development banks for empowerment zones, for 100,000 more vouchers for affordable housing.
And I ask Congress to support our bold new plan to help businesses raise up to $15 billion in private sector capital, to bring jobs and opportunities and inner cities, rural areas, with tax credits, loan guarantees, including the new American Private Investment Companies, modeled on the Overseas Private Investment Companies.
Now, for years and years we've had this OPIC, this Overseas Private Investment Corporation, because we knew we had untapped markets overseas. But our greatest untapped markets are not overseas—they are right here at home. And we should go after them.
We must work hard to help bring prosperity back to the family farm.
As this Congress knows very well, dropping prices and the loss of foreign markets have devastated too many family farmers. Last year, the Congress provided substantial assistance to help stave off a disaster in American agriculture, and I am ready to work with lawmakers of both parties to create a farm safety net that will include crop insurance reform and farm income assistance.
I ask you to join with me and do this. This should not be a political issue. Everyone knows what an economic problem is going on out there in rural America today, and we need an appropriate means to address it.
We must strengthen our lead in technology. It was government investment that led to the creation of the Internet. I propose a 28-percent increase in long-term computing research.
We also must be ready for the 21st century from its very first moment by solving the so-called Y2K computer problem. We had one member of Congress stand up and applaud. And we may have about that ration out there applauding at home in front of their television sets. But remember, this is a big, big problem, and we've been working hard on it. Already we've made sure that the Social Security checks will come on time.
But I want all the folks at home listening to this to know that we need every state and local government, every business large and small to work with us to make sure that this Y2K computer bug will be remembered as the last headache of the 20th century, not the first crisis of the 21st.
For our own prosperity, we must support economic growth abroad. You know, until recently a third of our economic growth came from exports. But over the past year and a half, financial turmoil has put that growth at risk. Today, much of the world is in recession, with Asia hit especially hard. This is the most serious financial crisis in half a century.
To meet it, the U.S. and other nations have reduced interest rates and strengthened the International Monetary Fund and while the turmoil is not over, we have worked very hard with other nations to contain it.
At the same time, we will continue to work on the long-term project: building a global financial system for the 21st century that promotes prosperity and tames the cycle of boom and bust that has engulfed so much of Asia. This June, I will meet with other world leaders to advance this historic purpose and I ask all of you to support our endeavors. I also ask you to support creating a freer and fairer trading system for 21st century America.
You know, I'd like to say something really serious to everyone in this chamber in both parties. I think trade has divided us and divided Americans outside this chamber for too long. Somehow, we have to find a common ground on which business and workers and environmentalists and farmers and government can stand together. I believe these are the things we ought to all agree on. So, let me try.
First, we ought to tear down barriers, open markets and expand trade, but at the same time, we must ensure that ordinary citizens in all countries actually benefit from trade; a trade that promotes the dignity of work and the rights of workers and protects the environment.
We must insist that international trade organizations be open to public scrutiny instead of mysterious, secret things subject to wild criticism.
When you come right down to it, now that the world economy is becoming more and more integrated, we have to do in the world what we spent the better part of this century doing here at home. We have got to put a human face on the global economy.
Now, we must enforce our trade laws when imports unlawfully flood our nation. I have already informed the government of Japan if that nation's sudden surge of steel imports into our country is not reversed, America will respond.
We must help all manufacturers hit hard by the present crisis with loan guarantees, and other incentives to increase American exports by nearly $2 billion. I'd like to believe we can achieve a new consensus on trade based on these principles. And I ask the Congress to join me again in this common approach and to give the president the trade authority long used and now overdue and necessary to advance our prosperity in the 21st century.
Tonight, I issue a call to the nations of the world to join the United States in a new round of global trade negotiation to expand exports of services, manufactures and farm products.
Tonight, I say, we will work with the International Labor Organization on a new initiative to raise labor standards around the world. And this year, we will lead the international community to conclude a treaty to ban abusive child labor everywhere in the world.
If we do these things—invest in our people, our communities, our technology—and lead in the global economy, then we will begin to meet our historic responsibility to build a 21st century prosperity for America.
You know, no nation in history has had the opportunity and the responsibility we now have to shape a world that is more peaceful, more secure, more free.
All Americans can be proud that our leadership helped to bring peace in Northern Ireland.
All Americans can be proud that our leadership has put Bosnia on the path to peace. And with our NATO allies we are pressing the Serbian government to stop its brutal repression in Kosovo—to bring those responsible to justice and to give the people of Kosovo the self-government they deserve.
All Americans can be proud that our leadership renewed hope for lasting peace in the Middle East. Some of you were with me last December as we watched the Palestinian National Council completely renounce its call for the destruction of Israel.
Now, I ask Congress to provide resources so that all parties can implement the Wye Agreement, to protect Israel's security, to stimulate the Palestinian economy, to support our friends in Jordan. We must not, we dare not, let them down. I hope you will help me.
As we work for peace, we must also meet threats to our nation's security, including increased danger from outlaw nations and terrorism.
We will defend our security wherever we are threatened, as we did this summer when we struck at Osama bin Laden's network of terror. The bombing of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania reminds us again of the risks faced every day by those who represent America to the world. So let's give them the support they need, the safest possible workplaces, and the resources they must have so America can continue to lead.
We must work to keep terrorists from disrupting computer networks. We must work to prepare local communities for biological and chemical emergencies, to support research into vaccines and treatments. We must increase our efforts to restrain the spread of nuclear weapons and missiles, from Korea to India and Pakistan. We must expand our work with Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet nations to safeguard nuclear materials and technology so they never fall into the wrong hands. Our balanced budget will increase funding for these critical efforts by almost two-thirds over the next five years.
With Russia we must continue to reduce our nuclear arsenals. The START II Treaty and the framework we have already agreed to for START III could cut them by 80 percent from their Cold War height.
It's been two years since I signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. If we don't do the right thing, other nations won't either. I ask the Senate to take this vital step, approve the treaty now to make it harder for other nations to develop nuclear arms, and to make sure we can end nuclear testing for ever.
For nearly a decade, Iraq has defied its obligations to destroy its weapons of terror and the missiles to deliver them.
America will continue to contain [Iraqi President] Saddam [Hussein] and we will work for the day when Iraq has a government worthy of its people. Now, last month, in our action over Iraq, our troops were superb. Their mission was so flawlessly executed, that we risk taking for granted the bravery and skill it required. Captain Jeff Taliaferro, a 10-year Air Force veteran of the Air Force, flew a B-1B bomber over Iraq as we attacked Saddam's war machine. He is here with us tonight. I would like to ask you to honor him and all the 33,000 men and women of Operation Desert Fox.
It is time to reverse the decline in defense spending that began in 1985.
Since April, together we have added nearly $6 billion to maintain our military readiness. My balanced budget calls for a sustained increase over the next six years for readiness, for modernization, and for pay and benefits for our troops and their families.
You know, we are the heirs of a legacy of bravery represented in every community in America by millions of our veterans. America's defenders today still stand ready at a moments notice to go where comforts are few and dangers are many, to do what needs to be done as no one else can. They always come through for America. We must come through for them.
The new century demands new partnerships for peace and security. The United Nations plays a crucial role, with allies sharing burdens America might otherwise bear alone. America needs a strong and effective U.N. I want to work with this new Congress to pay our dues and our debts.
We must continue to support security and stability in Europe and Asia— expanding NATO and defining its new missions, maintaining our alliance with Japan, with Korea, with our other Asian allies, and engaging China.
In China last year, I said to the leaders and the people what I'd like to say again tonight: Stability can no longer be bought at the expense of liberty.
But I'd also like to say again to the American people, it's important not to isolate China. The more we bring China into the world, the more the world will bring change and freedom to China.
Last spring, with some of you, I traveled to Africa, where I saw democracy and reform rising, but still held back by violence and disease. We must fortify African democracy and peace by launching radio democracy for Africa, supporting the transition to democracy now beginning to take place in Nigeria, and passing the African Trade and Development Act.
We must continue to deepen our ties to the Americas and the Caribbean, our common work to educate children, fight drugs, strengthen democracy and increase trade. In this hemisphere, every government but one is freely chosen by its people. We are determined that Cuba, too, will know the blessings of liberty.
The American people have opened their arms and their hearts and their arms to our Central American and Caribbean neighbors who have been so devastated by the recent hurricanes. Working with Congress, I am committed to help them rebuild.
When the first lady and Tipper Gore visited the region, they saw thousands of our troops and thousands of American volunteers. In the Dominican Republic, Hillary helped to rededicate a hospital that had been rebuilt by Dominicans and Americans working side by side. With her was some one else who has been very important to the relief efforts. You know sports records are made and sooner or later, they're broken. But making other people's lives better and showing our children the true meaning of brotherhood, that lasts forever. So for far more than baseball, Sammy Sosa, you're a hero in two countries tonight. Thank you.
So I say to all of you, if we do these things, if we pursue peace, fight terrorism, increase our strength, renew our alliances, we will begin to meet our generation's historic responsibility to build a stronger 21st century America in a freer, more peaceful world.
As the world has changed, so have our own communities. We must make the safer, more livable, and more united. This year, we will reach our goal of 100,000 community police officers ahead of schedule and under budget.
The Brady Bill has stopped a quarter million felons, fugitives, and stalkers from buying handguns and now, the murder rate is the lowest in 30 years, and the crime rate has dropped for six straight years.
Tonight, I propose a 21st Century Crime Bill to deploy the latest technologies and tactics to make our communities even safer. Our balanced budget will help put up to 50,000 more police on the street in the areas hardest hit by crime, and then to equip them with new tools from crime-mapping computers to digital mug shots. We must break the deadly cycle of drugs and crime.
Our budget expands support for drug testing and treatment, saying to prisoners, "If you stay on drugs, you have to stay behind bars." And to those on parole, "If you want to keep your freedom, you must stay free of drugs."
I ask Congress to restore the five-day waiting period for buying a handgun and extend the Brady Bill to prevent juveniles who commit violent crimes from buying a gun.
We must do more to keep our schools the safest places in our communities. Last year, every American was horrified and heartbroken by the tragic killings in Jonesboro, Paducah, Pearl, Edinboro, Springfield. We were deeply moved by the courageous parents now working to keep guns out of the hands of children and to make other efforts so that other parents don't have to live through their loss.
After she lost her daughter, Suzann Wilson of Jonesboro, Arkansas, came here to the White House with a powerful plea. She said "Please, please for the sake of your children, lock up your guns. Don't let what happened in Jonesboro, happen in your town."
It's a message she is passionately advocating every day. Suzann is here with us tonight, with the first lady. I would like to thank her for her courage and her commitment.
In memory of all the children who lost their lives to school violence, I ask you to strengthen the Safe And Drug Free School Act, to pass legislation to require child trigger locks, to do everything possible to keep our children safe.
Today, we're—excuse me—a century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt defined our great central task as leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us. Today, we're restoring the Florida Everglades, saving Yellowstone, preserving the red rock canyons of Utah, protecting California's redwoods, and our precious coasts.
But our most fateful new challenge is the threat of global warming. Nineteen ninety-eight was the warmest year ever recorded. Last year's heat waves, floods and storm are but a hint of what future generations may endure if we do not act now.
Tonight, I propose a new clean air fund to help communities reduce greenhouse and other pollutions, and tax incentives and investment to spur clean energy technologies. And I want to work with members of Congress in both parties to reward companies that take early, voluntary action to reduce greenhouse gases.
Now, all our communities face a preservation challenge as they grow, and green space shrinks. Seven thousand acres of farmland and open space are lost every day. In response, I propose two major initiatives. First, a $1 billion livability agenda to help communities save open space, ease traffic congestion, and grow in ways that enhance every citizen's quality of life. And second, a $1 billion lands legacy initiative to preserve places of natural beauty all across America, from the most remote wilderness to the nearest city park.
These are truly landmark initiatives, which could not have been developed without the visionary leadership of the vice president and I want to thank him very much for his commitment here. Thank you.
Now, to get the most out of your community, you have to give something back. That's why we created AmeriCorps, our national service program that gives today's generation a chance to serve their communities and earn money for college.
So far, in just four years, 100,000 young Americans have built low-income homes with Habitat for Humanity, helped tutor children with churches, work with FEMA to ease the burden of natural disasters and performed countless other acts of service that has made America better. I ask Congress to give more young Americans the chance to follow their lead and serve America in AmeriCorps.
Now, we must work to renew our national community as well for the 21st century. Last year, the House passed the bipartisan campaign finance reform legislation sponsored by Representatives [Christopher] Shays (R-Conn.) and [Martin T.] Meehan (D-Mass.) and Sens. [John] McCain (R-Ariz.) and [Russell] Feingold (D-Wis.). But a partisan minority in the Senate blocked reform. So I would like to say to the House, pass it again—quickly.
And I'd like to say to the Senate, I hope you will say yes to a stronger American democracy in the year 2000.
Since 1997, our Initiative on Race has sought to bridge the divides between and among our people. In its report last fall, the Initiatives Advisory Board found that Americans really do want to bring our people together across racial lines.
We know it's been a long journey. For some it goes back to before the beginning of our republic. For others, back since the Civil War; for others, throughout the 21st century. But for most of us alive today, in a very real sense this journey began 43 years ago, when a woman named Rosa Parks sat down on a bus in Alabama and wouldn't get up.
She's sitting down with the first lady tonight, and she may get up or not as she chooses.
We know that our continuing racial problems are aggravated, as the presidential initiative said, by opportunity gaps.
The initiative I've outlined tonight will help to close them. But we know that the discrimination gap has not been fully closed either. Discrimination or violence because of race or religion, ancestry or gender, disability or sexual orientation, is wrong and it ought to be illegal. Therefore, I ask Congress to make the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act the law of the land.
You know, now since every person in America counts, every American ought to be counted. We need a census that uses modern scientific methods to do that.
Our new immigrants must be part of our one America. After all, they're revitalizing our cities, they're energizing our culture, they're building up our economy. We have a responsibility to make them welcome here, and they have a responsibility to enter the mainstream of American life.
That means learning English and learning about our democratic system of government. There are now long waiting lines of immigrants that are trying to do just that.
Therefore, our budget significantly expands our efforts to help them meet their responsibility. I hope you will support it.
Whether our ancestors came here on the Mayflower, on slave ships; whether they came to Ellis Island or LAX in Los Angeles; whether they came yesterday or walked this land 1,000 years ago, our great challenge for the 21st century is to find a way to be one America. We can meet all the other challenges if we can go forward as one America.
You know, barely more than 300 days from now we will cross that bridge into the new millennium. This is a moment, as the first lady has said, to honor the past and imagine the future.
I'd like to take just a minute to honor her, for leading our Millennium Project, for all she's done for our children. For all she has done in her historic role to serve our nation and our best ideals at home and abroad, I honor her.
Last year—last year I called on Congress and every citizen to mark the millennium by saving America's treasures. Hillary's traveled all across the country to inspire recognition and support for saving places like Thomas Edison's invention factory or Harriet Tubman's home.
Now we have to preserve our treasures in every community. And tonight, before I close, I want to invite every town, every city, every community to become a nationally recognized millennium community by launching projects that save our history, promote our arts and humanities, prepare our children for the 21st century.
Already the response has been remarkable. And I want to say a special word of thanks to our private sector partners and to members in Congress of both parties for their support. Just one example. Because of you, the Star Spangled Banner will be preserved for the ages.
In ways large and small, as we look to the millennium, we are keeping alive what George Washington called the "sacred fire of liberty."
Six years ago, I came to office in a time of doubt for America, with our economy troubled, our deficit high, our people divided. Some even wondered whether our best days were behind us. But across this nation, in a thousand neighborhoods, I have seen, even amidst the pain and uncertainty of recession, the real heart and character of America.
I knew then we Americans could renew this country.
Tonight, as I deliver the last State of the Union Address for the 20th century, no one anywhere in the world can doubt the enduring resolve and boundless capacity of the American people to work toward that "more perfect union" of our founders' dreams.
We are now, at the end of a century, when generation after generation of Americans answered the call to greatness, overcoming Depression, lifting up the dispossessed, bringing down barriers to racial prejudice, building the largest middle class in history, winning two world wars and the "long twilight struggle" of the Cold War.
We must all be profoundly grateful for the magnificent achievements of our forbearers in this century.
Yet perhaps in the daily press of events, in the clash of controversy, we don't see our own time for what it truly is—a new dawn for America.
A hundred years from tonight, another American president will stand in this place and report on the State of the Union. He—or she—will look back on the 21st century shaped in so many ways by the decisions we make here and now.
So let it be said of us then that we were thinking not only of our time, but of their time; that we reached as high as our ideals; that we put aside our divisions and found a new hour of healing and hopefulness; that we joined together to serve and strengthen the land we love.
My fellow Americans, this is our moment. Let us lift our eyes as one nation, and from the mountaintop of this American century, look ahead to the next one—asking God's blessing on our endeavors and on our beloved country.
Thank you, and good evening.
State of the Union Address William J. Clinton January 27, 2000
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, honored guests, my fellow Americans:
We are fortunate to be alive at this moment in history. Never before has our nation enjoyed, at once, so much prosperity and social progress with so little internal crisis or so few external threats. Never before have we had such a blessed opportunity—and, therefore, such a profound obligation— to build the more perfect union of our founders' dreams.
We begin the new century with over 20 million new jobs. The fastest economic growth in more than 30 years; the lowest unemployment rates in 30 years; the lowest poverty rates in 20 years; the lowest African-American and Hispanic unemployment rates on record; the first back-to-back budget surpluses in 42 years.
Next month, America will achieve the longest period of economic growth in our entire history.
We have built a new economy.
Our economic revolution has been matched by a revival of the American spirit: Crime down by 20 percent, to its lowest level in 25 years. Teen births down seven years in a row and adoptions up by 30 percent. Welfare rolls cut in half to their lowest levels in 30 years.
My fellow Americans, the state of our union is the strongest it has ever been.
As always, the credit belongs to the American people.
My gratitude also goes to those of you in this chamber who have worked with us to put progress above partisanship.
Eight years ago, it was not so clear to most Americans there would be much to celebrate in the year 2000. Then our nation was gripped by economic distress, social decline, political gridlock. The title of a best-selling book asked: "America: What went wrong?"
In the best traditions of our nation, Americans determined to set things right. We restored the vital center, replacing outdated ideologies with a new vision anchored in basic, enduring values: opportunity for all, responsibility from all, and a community of all Americans.
We reinvented government, transforming it into a catalyst for new ideas that stress both opportunity and responsibility, and give our people the tools to solve their own problems.
With the smallest federal workforce in 40 years, we turned record deficits into record surpluses, and doubled our investment in education. We cut crime: with 100,000 community police and the Brady Law, which has kept guns out of the hands of half a million criminals.
We ended welfare as we knew it—requiring work while protecting health care and nutrition for children, and investing more in child care, transportation, and housing to help their parents go to work. We have helped parents to succeed at work and at home—with family leave, which 20 million Americans have used to care for a newborn child or a sick loved one. We have engaged 150,000 young Americans in citizen service through AmeriCorps—while also helping them earn their way through college.
In 1992, we had a roadmap. Today, we have results. More important, America again has the confidence to dream big dreams. But we must not let our renewed confidence grow into complacency. We will be judged by the dreams and deeds we pass on to our children. And on that score, we will be held to a high standard, indeed. Because our chance to do good is so great.
My fellow Americans, we have crossed the bridge we built to the 21st Century. Now, we must shape a 21st-Century American revolution—of opportunity, responsibility, and community. We must be, as we were in the beginning, a new nation.
At the dawn of the last century, Theodore Roosevelt said, "the one characteristic more essential than any other is foresight. . . It should be the growing nation with a future which takes the long look ahead."
Tonight let us take our look long ahead—and set great goals for our nation.
To 21st Century America, let us pledge that:
Every child will begin school ready to learn and graduate ready to succeed. Every family will be able to succeed at home and at work—and no child will be raised in poverty. We will meet the challenge of the aging of America. We will assure quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans. We will make America the safest big country on earth. We will bring prosperity to every American community. We will reverse the course of climate change and leave a cleaner, safer planet. America will lead the world toward shared peace and prosperity, and the far frontiers of science and technology. And we will become at last what our founders pledged us to be so long ago—one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
These are great goals, worthy of a great nation. We will not reach them all this year. Not even in this decade. But we will reach them. Let us remember that the first American revolution was not won with a single shot. The continent was not settled in a single year. The lesson of our history—and the lesson of the last seven years—is that great goals are reached step by step: always building on our progress, always gaining ground.
Of course, you can't gain ground if you're standing still. For too long this Congress has been standing still on some of our most pressing national priorities. Let's begin with them.
I ask you again to pass a real patient's bill of rights. Pass common-sense gun-safety legislation. Pass campaign finance reform. Vote on long overdue judicial nominations and other important appointees. And, again, I ask you to raise the minimum wage.
Two years ago, as we reached our first balanced budget, I asked that we meet our responsibility to the next generation by maintaining our fiscal discipline. Because we refused to stray from that path, we are doing something that would have seemed unimaginable seven years ago: We are actually paying down the national debt. If we stay on this path, we can pay down the debt entirely in 13 years and make America debt-free for the first time since Andrew Jackson was president in 1835.
In 1993, we began to put our fiscal house in order with the Deficit Reduction Act, winning passage in both houses by just one vote. Your former colleague, my first Secretary of the Treasury, led that effort. He is here tonight. Lloyd Bentsen, you have served America well.
Beyond paying off the debt, we must ensure that the benefits of debt reduction go to preserving two of the most important guarantees we make to every American—Social Security and Medicare. I ask you tonight to work with me to make a bipartisan down payment on Social Security reform by crediting the interest savings from debt reduction to the Social Security Trust Fund to ensure that it is strong and sound for the next 50 years.
But this is just the start of our journey. Now we must take the right steps toward reaching our great goals.
Opportunity and Responsibility in Education
First and foremost, we need a 21st Century revolution in education, guided by our faith that every child can learn. Because education is more than ever the key to our children's future, we must make sure all our children have that key. That means quality preschool and afterschool, the best trained teachers in every classroom, and college opportunities for all our children.
For seven years, we have worked hard to improve our schools, with opportunity and responsibility: Investing more, but demanding more in return.
Reading, math, and college entrance scores are up. And some of the most impressive gains are in schools in poor neighborhoods.
All successful schools have followed the same proven formula: higher standards, more accountability, so all children can reach those standards. I have sent Congress a reform plan based on that formula. It holds states and school districts accountable for progress, and rewards them for results. Each year, the national government invests more than $15 billion in our schools. It's time to support what works and stop supporting what doesn't.
As we demand more than ever from our schools, we should invest more than ever in our schools.
Let's double our investment to help states and districts turn around their worst-performing schools—or shut them down.
Let's double our investment in afterschool and summer school programs— boosting achievement, and keeping children off the street and out of trouble. If we do, we can give every child in every failing school in America the chance to meet high standards.
Since 1993, we've nearly doubled our investment in Head Start and improved its quality. Tonight, I ask for another $1 billion to Head Start, the largest increase in the program's history.
We know that children learn best in smaller classes with good teachers. For two years in a row, Congress has supported my plan to hire 100,000 new, qualified teachers, to lower class sizes in the early grades. This year, I ask you to make it three in a row.
And to make sure all teachers know the subjects they teach, tonight I propose a new teacher quality initiative—to recruit more talented people into the classroom, reward good teachers for staying there, and give all teachers the training they need.
We know charter schools provide real public school choice. When I became President, there was just one independent public charter school in all America. Today there are 1,700. I ask you to help us meet our goal of 3,000 by next year.
We know we must connect all our classrooms to the Internet. We're getting there. In 1994, only three percent of our classrooms were connected. Today, with the help of the Vice President's E-rate program, more than half of them are; and 90 percent of our schools have at least one connection to the Internet.
But we can't finish the job when a third of all schools are in serious disrepair, many with walls and wires too old for the Internet. Tonight, I propose to help 5,000 schools a year make immediate, urgent repairs. And again, to help build or modernize 6,000 schools, to get students out of trailers and into high-tech classrooms.
We should double our bipartisan GEAR UP program to mentor 1.4 million disadvantaged young people for college. And let's offer these students a chance to take the same college test-prep courses wealthier students use to boost their test scores.
To make the American Dream achievable for all, we must make college affordable for all. For seven years, on a bipartisan basis, we have taken action toward that goal: larger Pell grants, more-affordable student loans, education IRAs, and our HOPE scholarships, which have already benefited 5 million young people. 67 percent of high school graduates now go on to college, up almost 10 percent since 1993. Yet millions of families still strain to pay college tuition. They need help.
I propose a landmark $30-billion college opportunity tax cut—a middle-class tax deduction for up to $10,000 in college tuition costs. We've already made two years of college affordable for all. Now let's make four years of college affordable for all.
If we take all these steps, we will move a long way toward making sure every child starts school ready to learn and graduates ready to succeed.
Rewarding Work and Strengthening Families
We need a 21st Century revolution to reward work and strengthen families— by giving every parent the tools to succeed at work and at the most important work of all—raising their children. That means making sure that every family has health care and the support to care for aging parents, the tools to bring their children up right, and that no child grows up in poverty.
From my first days as President, we have worked to give families better access to better health care. In 1997, we passed the Children's Health Insurance Program—CHIP—so that workers who don't have health care coverage through their employers at least can get it for their children. So far, we've enrolled 2 million children, and we're well on our way to our goal of 5 million.
But there are still more than 40 million Americans without health insurance, more than there were in 1993. Tonight I propose that we follow Vice President Gore's suggestion to make low income parents eligible for the insurance that covers their kids. Together with our children's initiative, we can cover nearly one quarter of the uninsured in America.
Again, I ask you to let people between 55 and 65—the fastest growing group of uninsured—buy into Medicare. And let's give them a tax credit to make that choice an affordable one.
When the Baby Boomers retire, Medicare will be faced with caring for twice as many of our citizens—and yet it is far from ready to do so. My generation must not ask our children's generation to shoulder our burden. We must strengthen and modernize Medicare now.
My budget includes a comprehensive plan to reform Medicare, to make it more efficient and competitive. And it dedicates nearly $400 billion of our budget surplus to keep Medicare solvent past 2025; and, at long last, to give every senior a voluntary choice of affordable coverage for prescription drugs.
Lifesaving drugs are an indispensable part of modern medicine. No one creating a Medicare program today would even consider excluding coverage for prescription drugs. Yet more than three in five seniors now lack dependable drug coverage which can lengthen and enrich their lives. Millions of older Americans who need prescription drugs the most pay the highest prices for them.
In good conscience, we cannot let another year pass without extending to all seniors the lifeline of affordable prescription drugs.
Record numbers of Americans are providing for aging or ailing loved ones at home. Last year, I proposed a $1,000 tax credit for long-term care. Frankly, that wasn't enough. This year, let's triple it to $3,000—and this year, let's pass it.
And we must make needed investments to expand access to mental health care. I want to thank the person who has led our efforts to break down the barriers to the decent treatment of mental illness: Tipper Gore.
Taken together, these proposals would mark the largest investment in health care in the 35 years since the creation of Medicare—a big step toward assuring health care for all Americans, young and old.
We must also make investments that reward work and support families. Nothing does that better than the Earned Income Tax Credit, the EITC. The "E" in "EITC" is about earning; working; taking responsibility and being rewarded for it. In my first Address to you, I asked Congress to greatly expand this tax credit; and you did. As a result, in 1998 alone, the EITC helped more than 4.3 million Americans work their way out of poverty and toward the middle class—double the number in 1993.
Tonight, I propose another major expansion. We should reduce the marriage penalty for the EITC, making sure it rewards marriage just as it rewards work. And we should expand the tax credit for families with more than two children to provide up to $1,100 more in tax relief.
We can't reward work and family unless men and women get equal pay for equal work. The female unemployment rate is the lowest in 46 years. Yet women still earn only about 75 cents for every dollar men earn. We must do better by providing the resources to enforce present equal pay laws, training more women for high-paying, high-tech jobs, and passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Two-thirds of new jobs are in the suburbs, far away from many low-income families. In the past two years, I have proposed and Congress has approved 110,000 new housing vouchers—rent subsidies to help working families live closer to the workplace. This year, let us more than double that number. If we want people to go to work, they have to be able to get to work.
Many working parents spend up to a quarter of their income on child care. Last year, we helped parents provide child care for about two million children. My child care initiative, along with funds already secured in welfare reform, would make child care better, safer, and more affordable for another 400,000 children.
For hard-pressed middle-income families, we should also expand the child care tax credit. And we should take the next big step. We should make that tax credit refundable for low-income families. For those making under $30,000 a year, that could mean up to $2,400 for child-care costs. We all say we're pro-work and pro-family. Passing this proposal would prove it.
Tens of millions of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. As hard as they work, they still don't have the opportunity to save. Too few can make use of IRAs and 401-K retirement plans. We should do more to help working families save and accumulate wealth. That's the idea behind so-called Individual Development Accounts. Let's take that idea to a new level, with Retirement Savings Accounts that enable every low- and moderate-income family in America to save for retirement, a first home, a medical emergency, or a college education. I propose to match their contributions, however small, dollar for dollar, every year they save. And to give a major new tax credit for any small business that provides a meaningful pension to its workers.
Nearly one in three American children grows up in a home without a father. These children are five times more likely to live in poverty than children with both parents at home. Clearly, demanding and supporting responsible fatherhood is critical to lifting all children out of poverty.
We have doubled child support collections since 1992, and I am proposing tough new measures to hold still more fathers responsible. But we should recognize that a lot of fathers want to do right by their children—and need help to do it. Carlos Rosas of St. Paul, Minnesota, got that help. Now he has a good job and he supports his son Ricardo. My budget will help 40,000 fathers make the choices Carlos did. And I thank him for being here.
If there is any issue on which we can reach across party lines it is in our common commitment to reward work and strengthen families. Thanks to overwhelming bipartisan support from this Congress, we have improved foster care, supported those who leave it when they turn eighteen, and dramatically increased the number of foster children going to adoptive homes. I thank you for that. Of course, I am especially grateful to the person who has led our efforts from the beginning, and who has worked tirelessly for children and families for thirty years now: my wife, Hillary.
If we take all these steps, we will move a long way toward empowering parents to succeed at home and at work and ensuring that no child is raised in poverty. We can make these vital investments in health care, education and support for working families—and still offer tax cuts to help pay for college, for retirement, to care for aging parents and reduce the marriage penalty—without forsaking the path of fiscal discipline that got us here. Indeed, we must make these investments and tax cuts in the context of a balanced budget that strengthens and extends the life of Social Security and Medicare and pays down the national debt.
Responsibility and Crime
Crime in America has dropped for the past seven years—the longest decline on record, thanks to a national consensus we helped to forge on community police, sensible gun safety laws, and effective prevention. But nobody believes America is safe enough. So let's set a higher goal: let's make America the safest big country in the world.
Last fall, Congress supported my plan to hire—in addition to the 100,000 community police we have already funded—50,000 more, concentrated in high-crime neighborhoods. I ask your continued support.
Soon after the Columbine tragedy, Congress considered common-sense gun safety legislation to require Brady background checks at gun shows, child safety locks for all new handguns, and a ban on the importation of large-capacity ammunition clips. With courage—and a tie-breaking vote by the Vice President—the Senate faced down the gun lobby, stood up for the American people, and passed this legislation. But the House failed to follow suit.
We've all seen what happens when guns fall into the wrong hands. Daniel Mauser was only 15 years old when he was gunned down at Columbine. He was an amazing kid, a straight-A student, a good skier. Like all parents who lose their children, his father Tom has borne unimaginable grief. Somehow Tom has found the strength to honor his son by transforming his grief into action. Earlier this month, he took a leave of absence from his job to fight for tougher gun safety laws. I pray that his courage and wisdom will move this Congress to make common-sense gun safety legislation the very next order of business. Tom, thank you for being here tonight.
We must strengthen gun laws and better enforce laws already on the books. Federal gun crime prosecutions are up 16 percent since I took office. But again, we must do more. I propose to hire more federal and local gun prosecutors, and more ATF agents to crack down on illegal gun traffickers and bad-apple dealers. And we must give law enforcement the tools to trace every gun—and every bullet—used in a crime in America.
Listen to this: the accidental gun death rate of children under 15 in the United States is nine times higher than in the other 25 industrialized nations—combined. Technologies now exist that could lead to guns that can only be fired by the adults who own them. I ask Congress to fund research in Smart Gun technology. I also call on responsible leaders in the gun industry to work with us on smart guns and other steps to keep guns out of the wrong hands and keep our children safe.
Every parent I know worries about the impact of violence in the media on their children. I thank the entertainment industry for accepting my challenge to put voluntary ratings on TV programs and video and Internet games. But the ratings are too numerous, diverse, and confusing to be really useful to parents. Therefore, I now ask the industry to accept the First Lady's challenge—to develop a single, voluntary rating system for all children's entertainment, one that is easier for parents to understand and enforce.
If we take all these steps, we will be well on our way to making America the safest big country in the world.
Opening New Markets
To keep our historic economic expansion going, we need a 21st Century revolution to open new markets, start new businesses, and hire new workers right here in America—in our inner cities, poor rural areas, and on Indian reservations.
Our nation's prosperity has not yet reached these places. Over the last six months, I have traveled to many of them—joined by many of you, and many far-sighted business people—to shine a spotlight on the enormous potential in communities from Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta, from Watts to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Everywhere I've gone, I've met talented people eager for opportunity, and able to work. Let's put them to work.
For business, it's the smart thing to do. For America, it's the right thing to do. And if we don't do it now, when will we ever get around to it?
I ask Congress to give businesses the same incentives to invest in America's new markets that they now have to invest in foreign markets. Tonight, I propose a large New Markets Tax Credit and other incentives to spur $22 billion in private-sector capital—to create new businesses and new investments in inner cities and rural areas.
Empowerment Zones have been creating these opportunities for five years now. We should also increase incentives to invest in them and create more of them.
This is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. It is an American issue. Mr. Speaker, it was a powerful moment last November when you joined me and the Reverend Jesse Jackson in your home state of Illinois, and committed to working toward our common goal, by combining the best ideas from both sides of the aisle. Mr. Speaker, I look forward to working with you.
We must maintain our commitment to community development banks and keep the community reinvestment act strong so all Americans have access to the capital they need to buy homes and build businesses.
We need to make special efforts to address the areas with the highest rates of poverty. My budget includes a special $110 million initiative to promote economic development in the Mississippi Delta; and $1 billion to increase economic opportunity, health care, education and law enforcement for Native American communities. In this new century, we should honor our historic responsibility to empower the first Americans. I thank leaders and members from both parties who have already expressed an interest in working with us on these efforts.
There's another part of our American community in trouble today—our family farmers. When I signed the Farm Bill in 1996, I said there was a great danger it would work well in good times but not in bad. Well, droughts, floods, and historically low prices have made times very bad for our farmers. We must work together to strengthen the farm safety net, invest in land conservation, and create new markets by expanding our program for bio-based fuels and products.
Today, opportunity for all requires something new: having access to a computer and knowing how to use it. That means we must close the digital divide between those who have these tools and those who don't.
Connecting classrooms and libraries to the Internet is crucial, but it's just a start. My budget ensures that all new teachers are trained to teach 21st Century skills and creates technology centers in 1,000 communities to serve adults. This spring, I will invite high-tech leaders to join me on another New Markets tour—to close the digital divide and open opportunity for all our people. I thank the high-tech companies that are already doing so much in this area—and I hope the new tax incentives I have proposed will encourage others to join us.
If we take these steps, we will go a long way toward our goal of bringing opportunity to every community.
Global Change and American Leadership
To realize the full possibilities of the new economy, we must reach beyond our own borders, to shape the revolution that is tearing down barriers and building new networks among nations and individuals, economies and cultures: globalization.
It is the central reality of our time. Change this profound is both liberating and threatening. But there is no turning back. And our open, creative society stands to benefit more than any other—if we understand, and act on, the new realities of interdependence. We must be at the center of every vital global network, as a good neighbor and partner. We cannot build our future without helping others to build theirs.
First, we must forge a new consensus on trade. Those of us who believe passionately in the power of open trade must ensure that it lifts both our living standards and our values, never tolerating abusive child labor or a race to the bottom on the environment and worker protection. Still, open markets and rules-based trade are the best engines we know for raising living standards, reducing global poverty and environmental destruction, and assuring the free flow of ideas. There is only one direction for America on trade: we must go forward.
And we must make developing economies our partners in prosperity—which is why I ask Congress to finalize our groundbreaking African and Caribbean Basin trade initiatives.
Globalization is about more than economics. Our purpose must be to bring the world together around democracy, freedom, and peace, and to oppose those who would tear it apart.
Here are the fundamental challenges I believe America must meet to shape the 21st Century world.
First, we must continue to encourage our former adversaries, Russia and China, to emerge as stable, prosperous, democratic nations. Both are being held back from reaching their full potential: Russia by the legacy of communism, economic turmoil, a cruel and self-defeating war in Chechnya; China by the illusion that it can buy stability at the expense of freedom. But think how much has changed in the past decade: thousands of former Soviet nuclear weapons eliminated; Russian soldiers serving with ours in the Balkans; Russian people electing their leaders for the first time in a thousand years. And in China, an economy more open to the world than ever before. No one can know for sure what direction these great countries will choose. But we must do everything in our power to increase the chance they will choose wisely, to be constructive members of the global community.
That is why we must support those Russians struggling for a democratic, prosperous future; continue to reduce both our nuclear arsenals; and help Russia safeguard weapons and materials that remain.
That is why Congress should support the agreement we negotiated to bring China into the WTO, by passing Permanent Normal Trade Relations as soon as possible this year. Our markets are already open to China. This agreement will open China's markets to us. And it will advance the cause of peace in Asia and promote the cause of change in China.
A second challenge is to protect our security from conflicts that pose the risk of wider war and threaten our common humanity. America cannot prevent every conflict or stop every outrage. But where our interests are at stake and we can make a difference, we must be peacemakers.
We should be proud of America's role in bringing the Middle East closer than ever to a comprehensive peace; building peace in Northern Ireland; working for peace in East Timor and Africa; promoting reconciliation between Greece and Turkey and in Cyprus; working to defuse crises between India and Pakistan; defending human rights and religious freedom.
And we should be proud of the men and women of our armed forces and those of our allies who stopped the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo—enabling a million innocent people to return to their homes.
When Slobodan Milosevic unleashed his terror on Kosovo, Captain John Cherrey was one of the brave airmen who turned the tide. And when another American plane went down over Serbia, he flew into the teeth of enemy air defenses to bring his fellow pilot home. Thanks to our armed forces' skill and bravery, we prevailed without losing a single American in combat. Captain Cherrey, we honor you, and promise to finish the job you began.