[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1993, Book I)]
[February 3, 1993]
[Pages 37-40]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to Office of Management and Budget Employees
February 3, 1993

    Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President. Mr. Panetta, Ms. Rivlin, 
ladies and gentlemen. I'm really sorry to know that the Vice President 
has a lavish office in this building. If it gets any hotter over at the 
White House he may want to occupy it. [Laughter]
    I want to tell you how very proud I am to be here today, how 
grateful I am for the enormous amount of work I know all of you have 
been doing because of the tight timetables we have set on ourselves 
leading up to the February 17th address to Congress. Nobody in this 
country is working any harder than you are to give the promises I made 
to the American people a chance to take life. And I just wanted to come 
by here today and say a simple thank you.
    For years politicians have run for President and Governor and other 
offices by running against the Government. And to be sure, there is a 
lot to run against; there is a lot which needs to be changed. There are 
people here in this room today that know more specifically about what 
needs to be changed than those of us who give speeches about it. But I 
think it is terribly important, in the midst of all that rhetoric, not 
to forget that behind that Government that needs to be changed there are 
people who have decided to give their lives to the interest of the 
United States and its citizens. And they deserve to be honored. And I do 
appreciate that.
    I wanted to tell you today a little bit about why I think I got 
elected to this job and what I hope, together, we can do, and most 
importantly, what's behind the enormous and increasingly complex 
challenges facing this country.
    Let me begin by relating a simple experience I had a few months ago 
which affected me deeply, involving a man named Benjamin Edwards, a 52-
year-old man who lived in Philadelphia. The night of the first 
Presidential debate, he had a viewing party at his house, but it was a 
highly unusual viewing party. He was out of work, and his electricity 
had been turned off because he couldn't pay the bills. So his neighbors 
brought over television sets and lamps and ran extension cords from a 
nearby apartment because that's the only way they could watch it. About 
100 of them did. And the next day Benjamin Edwards took a bus 15 miles 
to attend one of our campaign rallies. As I came down the line, he 
grabbed my hand and told me to win the election because he had to have a 
job. I told him that if I won the election I'd try to get him a job. 
Well, he's got a job now because he became somewhat famous as a result 
of this incident. [Laughter]
    But there are millions and millions of other Americans who still 
don't. I read an article yesterday in the paper about another unemployed 
person who had voted for me who had only gotten a form response from the 
White House. And I told somebody today to pick up the phone and call him 
and talk to him and try to make him feel connected to his Government 
    I say this to reiterate something that I think most of you already 
know, but it's easy to forget here working in the splendid isolation of 
the Capital City. Budgets are not about numbers; they're about people. 
They mean jobs and health care, education or training. We can't ever 

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to let our people get lost in a blizzard of statistics.
    Since the election we've learned even more about the difficulty of 
the budgets and the difficulty of putting together an economic program 
that puts people to work in the short run and deals with the long-term 
problems of this economy.
    Just today we got the news about the economic indicators for the 
month of December being the best in 10 years and yet the disturbing 
prospect that a lot of new jobs are not being created. How could this be 
so? Well, partly because there's been no inflation in the economy and 
interest rates have been down for some while; people are now beginning 
to refinance their home, debts, or buy and sell new homes, so that 
generates a lot of economic activity. And partly because we have an 
inordinate number of companies in our free enterprise system who have 
gotten more and more productive and therefore earning more money. The 
problem is that a lot of them are doing what we need to do, which is to 
gradually downsize. A lot of them are not hiring new people, even though 
their incomes are going way up.
    Now, during the eighties that happened to the Fortune 500 companies, 
which reduced employment by over a couple hundred thousand a year all 
during the eighties. But all those jobs were made up for in the eighties 
by small businesses hiring new people. And yet, now small business 
hiring is dropping, too, as small businesses are loathe to hire new 
people because they can't afford to pay for health care or because they 
can't get credit from their local banks.
    So we have this anomalous situation where the economy seems to be 
growing but employment is not, and where more and more middle-income 
workers are working harder and harder every year but their wages aren't 
keeping up with inflation, and the costs of health care and education 
are outstripping inflation.
    So we have this perplexing dilemma. How can we build on what the 
free enterprise system is doing that is good, get small business growth 
going again, and increase investment so that we generate more high-wage 
jobs, so that the economy can grow, not just in the overall statistics 
but in the real lives of real people? That's important to you, not only 
because of your mission at OMB but because how you do is a reflection of 
how the taxpayers do, since they pay your bill.
    So you have an immediate as well as a long-range interest in the 
success of what is our economic commitment: to do something which the 
American people have never before had to do, to increase investment and 
bring down the deficit at the same time. That is our challenge.
    And on February 17 we're going to start anew in an effort to meet 
that challenge. We've got to turn this country around to build a long-
term stable growth of jobs and income. We cannot go 10 more years with 
insufficient jobs and insufficient income growth for people who are 
working hard, playing by the rules, willing to become educated and 
trained in ever-new skills, meeting ever-new challenges.
    That is our challenge. And we are doing our best to meet it. Since 
no one has ever tried to do both these things at once, to get the job 
base going, which we want to do with a modest stimulus program in the 
beginning, increase permanently investment in people and jobs and 
growth, and reduce the deficit, it is not always clear exactly what 
specific decisions we must make. But the general path we have to follow 
is clear, because if we don't do something about investment, we won't 
have the kind of high-wage jobs that will shape a good future for 
ourselves and our children. If we don't do something about the deficit, 
it will eventually overwhelm our ability to borrow money at affordable 
rates and to have any money left in the public purse to take care of 
people in need and to invest in our future.
    So we have no choice but to embark on this course, but it is an 
uncharted course. No one has ever tried to do both things at the same 
time before. President Roosevelt elected to pursue investments in 
putting the American people back to work; deflation was so bad he didn't 
have to worry about the deficit. And before he had to deal with it, we 
were in a world war with full production and a massive deficit that then 
dropped dramatically as a percentage of our income for the next 35 years 
for the simple reason that we were growing so fast we didn't have to 
worry about it. Now we need a new commitment to investment, but we 
cannot ignore our debt.
    We have to remember a few basic things, I think, in putting this 
program together. The first is that while every American is willing to 
make a contribution, the contribution we ask of every American must be 
viewed against what

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happened to them in the 1980's. In the 1980's, the middle class paid the 
bill while the wealthiest Americans enjoyed the fruits of their labors. 
Taxes went up on middle class Americans while their real incomes went 
down. Taxes went down on upper income Americans while their real incomes 
went up.
    The expansion of Government services, the expansion of all the 
public programs was basically done on the backs of the people who 
weren't having any income growth. That means before we ask them to do 
more, we have to demand that Government do everything it can to do with 
less. Before I ask working Americans to work harder and pay more, I will 
ask the economic elite, who made more money and paid less in taxes, to 
pay their fair share. We have to literally be about the business, as 
Vice President Gore said first, of reinventing Government.
    I have been very careful, I will say again, to honor the 
contribution of public employees. I know that to a major degree, I 
cannot succeed as President unless you and the people who work in all 
these other departments believe in our common mission.
    I know that for every subject I could bring up that I want do do 
something about, there are 10 employees in this city of the Federal 
Government who know more about the details of what ought to be done than 
I do. I need your ideas and your energy. When I say we're going to 
reinvent Government, we're going to downsize some things; we're going to 
stop doing other things. We're going to do it in a way that lifts up the 
influence, the energy, and values the ideas of our best employees, not 
that grinds them down or uses them as political footballs. I have no 
interest in doing that to you or to anybody else. I think the American 
people know you want a change, too.
    But let me just give you two or three examples. When I took office, 
the Labor Department had a nice executive dining room for its Secretary 
but not enough money to train unemployed workers. I'm going to propose a 
stimulus package that has some more money to train unemployed workers, 
and the Secretary of Labor is now eating in the dining room with the 
    When I took office, the White House had a telephone system that had 
been there since President Carter and a switchboard that has been there 
since the 1960's. They talk about jamming the White House switchboards--
you can do it tomorrow if you want to; it's not hard. I could not have a 
conference call in my office on my telephone, except an unwanted one. 
Anybody in the central office could punch a lighted button and listen to 
what I had to say. [Laughter] The American people, I think, would be 
pretty surprised and disappointed that after a dozen years of people who 
promised to run the Government like a business--they meant a business in 
the 1950's, not for the 21st century. [Laughter]
    So we are committed to making the kinds of structural changes that 
every major organization in this country has had to make in order to 
survive. It is not right for us to spend taxpayers' money on antiquated 
communications systems, on unjustifiable perks, and on a system that 
cannot be, cannot be justified to the American people, given the times 
that they're having and the sacrifices we're going to ask of them.
    In the next several days, I will be finalizing and announcing plans 
which will demonstrate a substantial reduction in spending at the White 
House, reversing many years of growth in services and personnel provided 
to the President. We're going to rely more on help from people in the 
departments to run the Government and on a new partnership to move the 
country forward. And we're going to set an example by saving money for 
the taxpayers, which will then have to be followed by everybody else in 
the executive branch and I hope in the legislative branch as well.
    Second, I'm going to ask, as I said, those who made more money in 
the eighties and paid fewer taxes to pay their fair share before I ask 
anyone in the working middle class to pay more. But we have to recognize 
that together we have to find a way to change the mix of Government 
spending away from so much consumption toward more investment and, at 
the same time, to reduce the deficit so we can bring interest rates down 
and bring up long-term living standards. We have no right, frankly, to 
continue to finance a Government budget that is 20 percent debt-
financed, and will be more debt-financed in the years ahead, and leave 
it to our children to figure out how to live with lower incomes than 
they otherwise would have. And believe me, it isn't just our children. 
We're going to be living with the consequences in the very near future.
    And I might add something that all of you who work on budgets know, 
which is that one

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of the huge dilemmas we face--and that can't be resolved today in this 
speech, but I just want to lay it out there--is one that all of you 
know. And that is we are spending 14 percent of our income on health 
care. No other country except Canada spends more than 9, and they're 
just a little above 9.
    And every day we read in the paper another expert, just like there's 
one today, saying, well, you certainly can't save any money on health 
care costs in this country. God forbid that you should put any of that 
in there; you can't do that. If we can't do that, we can't fix the 
deficit; we can't fix the economy; we can't turn America around. And if 
we could lower the rate of health care spending increase, we would save 
more than twice as much money in the private sector and in the public 
sector, unleashing more money for investment than anything we can do in 
terms of tax cuts, spending increases, or anything else to turn this 
economy around. So there's plenty for us to do.
    What I want you to know is that I do not believe our problems are 
insoluble. And one of my major goals is to leave the next President with 
a new set of things to worry about. [Laughter] I'm getting bored reading 
the same problems in the paper, decade after decade. I want people to 
have to deal with new problems.
    I am asking you today to do two things: First of all, to personally 
invest yourself in this great mission. It is our job in this generation 
to deal with these problems so that the American dream can endure. 
Ultimately, that is why everybody should come to work for the Federal 
Government and why everyone's job counts. And I am asking you to 
remember how terribly difficult life is for many people who pay our 
bills and pay your salary and mine.
    I got an incredibly moving call the other day from a friend of mine, 
shortly before I took office, in which he said he had just talked to a 
person who worked in his office who said that--in bad grammar but 
compelling truth--he said, ``This woman came up to me and said, `You 
know, it's scary to be a little people.' '' And it really is.
    I want to send a signal to this country that I may not do everything 
right, and I can't do everything that's just popular in the short run, 
but every day in every way we're trying to set an example for the people 
that sent us here. We don't want the people to sacrifice their income 
before the Government sacrifices everything it can. We don't want the 
people who bore the burden in the eighties to make any contributions 
before people who reaped the benefits of the eighties do their fair 
share, and that together we really believe we can make a difference. If 
you help me and we work together, I'm confident that we can.
    Thank you, and bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 11:02 a.m. in the New Executive Office