[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1993, Book I)]
[February 15, 1993]
[Pages 104-106]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Address to the Nation on the Economic Program
February 15, 1993

    Good evening. I have chosen this day on which we honor two great 
Presidents to talk with you about the serious problems and the great 
promise of our country and the absolute necessity for change if we're to 
secure a better future for ourselves and for our children. On

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Wednesday evening I'll address the Congress about the specifics of my 
plan, but first I turn to you for your strength and support, to enlist 
you in the cause of changing our course.
    This is a momentous time for our Nation. We stand at the end of the 
cold war and on the edge of the 21st century. For two decades we've 
moved steadily toward a global economy in which we must compete with 
people around the world, a world which requires us to work hard and 
smart, a world in which putting people first is more than a political 
slogan, it's a philosophy of governing and the only path to prosperity.
    For 12 years we've followed a very different philosophy. It declared 
that Government is the problem, that fairness to the middle class is 
less important than keeping taxes low on the wealthy, that Government 
can do nothing about our deepest problems: lost jobs, declining wages, 
increasing inequality, inadequate educational opportunity, and a health 
care system that costs a fortune but does too little.
    During those 12 years as Governor of Arkansas, I followed a very 
different course, more like what you've done at home and at work. I 
invested in the future of our people and balanced a State budget with 
honesty and fairness and without gimmicks. It's just common sense. But 
in the 26 days I've been your President, I've already learned that here 
in Washington, common sense isn't too common. And you've paid a lot for 
that loss of common sense.
    The typical middle class family is working harder for less. Despite 
the talk of a recovery, more than 9 million of our fellow citizens are 
still out of work. And as this chart indicates, if this were a real, 
normal recovery, 3 million more Americans would already be back at work 
by now. In fact, there are more jobless people now than there were at 
what the experts call the bottom of this recession.
    All during this last 12 years the Federal deficit has roared out of 
control. Look at this: The big tax cuts for the wealthy, the growth in 
Government spending, and soaring health care costs all caused the 
Federal deficit to explode. Our debt is now 4 times as big as it was in 
1980. That's right. In the last 12 years we piled up 4 times as much 
debt as in the previous 200.
    Now, if all that debt had been invested in strengthening our 
economy, we'd at least have something to show for our money: more jobs, 
better educated people, a health care system that works. But as you can 
see, while the deficit went up, investments in the things that make us 
stronger and smarter, richer and safer, were neglected: less invested in 
education, less in our children's future, less in transportation, less 
in local law enforcement. An awful lot of that money was just wasted.
    This matters. When you don't invest in jobs and education and 
economic opportunity, unemployment goes up and our incomes go down. And 
when the deficit gets bigger and bigger and bigger, the Government takes 
more of your money just for interest payments. And then it's harder for 
you to borrow money for your own business or to afford a new home or to 
send a child to college.
    That's exactly what's been happening. Once our living standards 
doubled every 25 years. But at the rate we're going today our living 
standard won't double for another 100 years, until our grandchildren's 
grandchildren are born. That's too long. We must act now to restore the 
American dream.
    Despite the enormity of this crisis, believe it or not, the status 
quo still has its defenders, people who point to hopeful statistics like 
the recent increase in productivity and consumer confidence and say we 
should do nothing. Well, American business has been forced to become 
more competitive in this global economy. And I'm glad that consumers' 
confidence is up since the election. But we're not generating jobs or 
making headway on these other long-term problems.
    My message to you is clear: The price of doing the same old thing is 
far higher than the price of change. After all, that's why you sent me 
here: not to keep this seat warm but to work for fundamental change, to 
make Washington work for all Americans, not just the special interests, 
and to chart a course that will enable us to compete and win in this new 
    Here's the challenge I will offer the Congress and the country on 
Wednesday. We'll invest in our future by nurturing our children and 
supporting their education, by rewarding work and family, by creating 
the jobs of the future and training our people to fill them. Our every 
effort will reflect what President Franklin Roosevelt called bold, 
persistent experimentation, a willingness to stay with things that work 
and stop things that don't.
    Change must begin at the top. That's why I cut the White House staff 
by 25 percent and

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ordered Federal agencies to cut billions of dollars in administrative 
costs and to trim 100,000 Federal positions by attrition. And in my 
budget there will be more than 150 specific cuts in Government spending 
programs. Then I'll ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair 
    That brings us to those of you who gave the most in the 1980's. I 
had hoped to invest in your future by creating jobs, expanding 
education, reforming health care, and reducing the debt [deficit] \1\ 
without asking more of you. And I've worked harder than I've ever worked 
in my life to meet that goal. But I can't because the deficit has 
increased so much beyond my earlier estimates and beyond even the worst 
official Government estimates from last year. We just have to face the 
fact that to make the changes our country needs, more Americans must 
contribute today so that all Americans can do better tomorrow. But I can 
assure you of this: You're not going alone anymore. You're not going 
first. And you're no longer going to pay more and get less. Seventy 
percent of the new taxes I'll propose, 70 percent, will be paid by those 
who make more than $100,000 a year. And for the first time in more than 
a decade, we're all in this together.
        \1\ White House correction.
      More important, here's the payoff: Our comprehensive plan for 
economic growth will create millions of long-term, good-paying jobs, 
including a program to jumpstart our economy with another 500,000 jobs 
in 1993 and 1994. And as we make deep cuts in existing Government 
programs, we'll make new investments where they'll do the most good: 
incentives to business to create new jobs; investments in education and 
training; special efforts for displaced defense workers; a fairer tax 
system to ensure that parents who work full-time will no longer raise 
their children in poverty; welfare reform to move people from welfare to 
work; vaccinations and Head Start opportunities for all children who 
need them; and a system of affordable quality health care for all 
Americans. Our national service plan will throw open the doors of 
college opportunity to the daughters and sons of the middle class. Then 
we'll challenge them to give something back to our country as teachers, 
police officers, community service workers, taking care of our own right 
here at home. And we'll do it all while reducing our debt [deficit].\1\
    Change this fundamental will not be easy, nor will it be quick. But 
at stake is the control of our economic destiny. Within minutes of the 
time I conclude my address to Congress Wednesday night, the special 
interests will be out in force. Those who profited from the status quo 
will oppose the changes we seek, the budget cuts, the revenue increases, 
the new investment priorities. Every step of the way they'll oppose it. 
Many have already lined the corridors of power with high-priced 
lobbyists. They are the defenders of decline. And we must be the 
architects of the future.
    I'm confident in our cause because I believe in America, and I know 
we have learned the hard lessons of the 1980's. This is your country. 
You demonstrated the power of the people in the last election. I urge 
you to stay informed and to stay involved. If you're vigilant and vocal, 
we can do what we have to do.
    On this Presidents' Day, we recall the many times in our history 
when past Presidents have challenged this Nation from this office in 
times of crisis. If you will join with me, we can create an economy in 
which all Americans work hard and prosper. This is nothing less than a 
call to arms to restore the vitality of the American dream.
    When I was a boy, we had a name for the belief that we should all 
pull together to build a better, stronger nation. We called it 
patriotism. And we still do.
    Good night, and God bless America.

Note: The President spoke at 9 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White