[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[February 25, 1995]
[Pages 267-269]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

The President's Radio Address
February 25, 1995

    Since I became President, I have worked hard to fulfill our 
responsibility, in this time of dramatic change, to preserve the 
American dream for all of our citizens and to make sure this country 
enters the next century still the strongest nation on Earth.
    Much of what we have to do, creating jobs, raising incomes, 
educating all of our citizens, promoting work over welfare, much of this 
work is harder because in the 12 years before I became President, 
Government made the problem worse, promoting inequality by overtaxing 
the middle class and not asking the wealthiest of our citizens to pay 
their fair share; reducing investments in our future, things that would 
grow jobs and incomes; and unbelievably, quadrupling the national debt.
    We have to be responsible with our tax dollars. If we don't have a 
responsible budget, nothing else can get done. That's why with each 
budget I've submitted to Congress, we've cut Government, cut the 
deficit, and still invested more in the American people so that they can 
make the most of their own lives.
    Two years ago when I submitted my first budget, some argued that it 
was impossible to dramatically reduce the deficit, increase investment 
in education and training and jobs, and create economic opportunities. 
Well, 2 years later, the facts have silenced the naysayers. We cut the 
deficit by over $600 billion; our new budget cuts it another $80 
billion. Our 1993 economic plan cut over 300 domestic programs; this new 
budget eliminates or consolidates 400 more. And still we invested more 
in education, training, and jobs. Since I took office, the economy has 
created almost 6 million new jobs.
    I remain committed to cutting the deficit further and to moving 
toward a balanced budget. The question is, what's the best way to do it? 
The United States Senate is about to vote n the so-called balanced 
budget amendment. The amendment doesn't really balance the budget, it 
simply requires Congress to come up with a drastic combination of cuts 
and tax hikes and to cram them in by a date certain, no matter what the 
other economic impacts might be, unless 60 percent of both Houses vote 
to continue to deficit spend. Now, there are some serious problems with 
this approach, and I'd like to mention three of them.
    First, we're fortunate that today our economy is strong. But it 
won't always be, and when the economy is weak, many people need a little 
extra help to get back on their feet. Now, when more people are out of 
work, Government spending on things like job training goes up, and tax 
revenues go down because there aren't as many taxpayers. At a time like 
this, the last thing the American people need is a tax hike or a cut in 
job training or an arbitrary cut in our national defense. But the 
balanced budget amendment will force us to make just those decisions 
every time the economy is weak. That kind of extreme fiscal policy makes 
a small recession worse. In its most exaggerated form, it's what helped 
to turn the economic slowdown of the 1920's into the Great Depression of 
the 1930's. According to the Treasury Department, if a balanced budget 
amendment had been in effect in 1992 during the height of the last 
recession, another one and a half million Americans would have been out 
of work.
    The second problem is this: The Constitution clearly establishes 
that budgetary choices should be made by elected representatives. But 
under this balanced budget amendment, budget decisions could end up 
being made by Federal judges, who certainly aren't elected. That's why 
an army of constitutional scholars from every part of the political 
spectrum, from conservative Robert Bork to liberal Laurence Tribe, have 
advised the United States Senate to defeat this amendment. We do not 
want budget decisions affecting tens of millions of Americans being made 
by unelected Federal judges.

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    The third problem is this: Interest payments on our debt, run up 
between 1981 and 1993 before I took office, are so big now that paying 
our interest will soon be a bigger part of the budget than the defense 
budget. What that means is that every time the Federal Reserve raises 
interest rates to hold down inflation, that increases the deficit. Since 
this economic recovery got going, there have been seven interest rate 
increases; the last few have added more than $100 billion to our 
deficit. Now, this balanced budget amendment, therefore, could give the 
unelected Federal Reserve the power not only to raise your interest 
rates but also to cut spending on things like Head Start, childhood 
immunization, and educational opportunities for all of our children. I 
don't think that's a very good idea.
    We do need to keep reducing the deficit. We need to bring the budget 
into balance on a regular basis. What does this require? It requires 
tough decisions. Our administration has made those decisions. Except for 
the interest payments we're making on the debt, our administration is 
running a surplus for the first time in over 25 years. We are going to 
have a balanced budget for the first time in over 25 years next year, 
except for the interest payments on the debt run up just between 1993 
and 1981, in the 12 years before I came here. That's because we've made 
tough decisions. Do we need to make some more? You bet we do.
    This new Congress has been here over 50 days, but there is still no 
serious explanation of how the budget is going to be balanced by 2002 
coming out of the new leadership, even though they support balancing the 
budget by then. Why is that? That's because these decisions are tough. 
It's not easy to make the cuts we've already made. It's not going to be 
easy to make the cuts we've proposed. It's not going to be easy to go 
beyond that. But we have to do it.
    The Federal budget is a statement about our priorities as a nation. 
The American people have a right to know what's going to be cut, how 
it's going to affect them. They have a right to know that before a 
balanced budget amendment is adopted. They have a right to know it if we 
don't adopt a balanced budget amendment and we keep doing the 
responsible thing to reduce the deficit. Only recently has the new 
Republican Congress started to make its priorities clear. I want to work 
with them on this, but I believe some of their intentions run counter to 
the best traditions and the best interests of our people.
    Many of these Republican leaders seem to be saying that we ought to 
cut programs for children to pay for a capital gains cut for upper 
income people. I don't believe we should reduce the School Lunch 
Program, but some Republicans have proposed to do exactly that. Just to 
take that program for an example, it's done a world of good for millions 
of kids from all backgrounds, all across America, since Harry Truman was 
President. ``If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'' That used to be the 
conservative credo; it ought to be again.
    We shouldn't dramatically increase the cost of college tuition for 
millions of students either. But Republicans have proposed to eliminate 
the student loan subsidy and start charging interest on loans to low-
income students while they're still in college. That could increase the 
cost of their college education by more than 20 percent. We need more 
people going to college at lower cost, not fewer people going to college 
at higher cost.
    And finally, we must uphold our responsibility to care for elderly 
Americans. It's important to me and most people in our country to do 
this. But Republicans are suggesting dramatic cuts in Medicare and other 
services to our elderly citizens.
    These are some of the targets for cuts if a balanced budget 
amendment is adopted. I don't think they're the right choices for 
America. I came here to stand up for our children, for people who work 
hard to make the most of their lives, for people who've worked hard and 
played by the rules all of their lives. I don't intend to let them down.
    We must continue to reduce the deficit and to strengthen our 
economic security. We must continue to cut Government and make it work 
better. But we must be careful, not careless; lean, not mean. The only 
way to preserve the American dream for our children is to make tough 
choices and hard decisions. We can't avoid our responsibility by 
legislating those choices away and giving them to people who were not 
elected to make these decisions.
    Thanks for listening.

Note: The President spoke at 10:06 a.m. from the Oval Office at the 
White House.

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