[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[March 7, 1995]
[Pages 313-321]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the National Association of Counties
March 7, 1995

    Thank you very much. Thank you, Randy, for the T-shirt and for the 
sentiment which it represents. I thank all of you for having me here. 
I'm glad to be here with Secretary Shalala and Doug Bovin and Michael 
Hightower, Randy Johnson, John Stroger, my old friend from Arkansas by 
way of Chicago--[laughter]--Doris Ward, and Larry Naake.
    Let me begin by congratulating you on this program this morning. I 
was impressed that you had our longtime friend Marian Wright Edelman, 
who gave my wife her first job after law school in the Children's 
Defense Fund. And I'm glad the Speaker got to come back and give his 
talk today--[laughter]--and I thank you for hearing him.
    You know, I've done a lot of work over the years with the ACORN 
group and they stood for a lot of good things in my home State. But I 
think everyone deserves to be heard. And we need people debating these 
important issues in Washington. This is a very exciting time, and it's 
important that all the voices be heard and that people like you 
especially that have to live with the consequences of what is done here 
hear the ideas that are being debated and also that you be heard.
    I am always glad to be with people whom I think of as being in the 
backbone of public service in America. You serve at the level where you 
can have the greatest impact. When I was a Governor, nothing mattered 
more to me that just being in direct contact with the people who hired 
me to do my job. And I have to tell you, as President, perhaps the most 
frustrating thing about the job is that I don't have as many

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opportunities as you do to be in direct contact with the people who 
hired me to do this job. That's not good for me, and sometimes it's not 
so good for them as well.
    When I was Governor, people used to make fun of me and say that I 
was basically a courthouse Governor, which meant that I loved to go to 
the country courthouse in the rural areas of my State and sit for hours 
and talk to the officials and also visit with the people who would come 
in. But I know this: I know that one of the things that our Government 
in Washington has suffered from for so many years is being too far from 
the concerns of ordinary Americans.
    You see in personal terms, with names and faces and life histories, 
the struggle now going on to keep the American dream alive. And you know 
as well as any the importance of reconnecting the values of the American 
people to their Government. I ran for President because that American 
dream and those values were threatened in the face of the huge changes 
that are going on here in the United States and all around the world and 
because I thought that too often our Government was simply not prepared 
to deal with those challenges or, in some cases, actually making them 
    Now, for 2 years I have worked hard to help ensure that our people 
have the tools they need to build good lives for themselves as we move 
into the 21st century and that we cross that great divide still the 
strongest and most secure country in the world, still the greatest force 
for peace and freedom and democracy.
    We're about two-thirds through the first 100 days of this new 
Congress. On Saturday, March 4th, we had the 62d anniversary of 
President Franklin Roosevelt's inauguration as President and the start 
of the original first 100 days. On that day, Franklin Roosevelt began to 
restore our Nation and to redefine the relationship between our people 
and their Government for half a century. And a lot of things he said 
then are still accurate today. In his Inaugural he said, ``The joy and 
moral stimulation of work must no longer be forgotten. These dark days 
will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is 
not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and our fellow 
    Today, we face different challenges, but our job is much the same. 
We have to keep the American dream alive for ourselves and our children 
during a time of great change. And we have to do that while we maintain 
the values that have always made us strong: work, family, community, 
responsibility for ourselves and for the future of our children.
    As all of you know--and you're now seeing it played out this 
morning--we're engaged in a great debate here in Washington about how to 
do that. The old Washington view is that the Federal Government can 
provide big solutions to America's big problems. The new Republican 
contract view reflects often an outright hostility to almost any Federal 
Government involvement, unless the present majority in Congress 
disagrees with what's going on in the States, and then there is a 
curious desire to increase the Federal Government's control over those 
aspects of our lives.
    Now, my view is very different, really, from both. It reflects the 
years and years that I lived like you live now, when I was a Governor 
out there working among the American people and seeing these problems 
that people talk about in sound bites with names and faces and life 
    The New Covenant that I want to forge with the American people for 
the future says we need both more opportunity and more responsibility, 
that we don't have a person to waste, so we have to have very strong 
communities that unite us instead of divide us. We do need very big 
changes in the way Government works. We don't need big, bureaucratic, 
one-size-fits-all Government in Washington.
    But we do have common problems and common opportunities which 
require a partnership, a partnership with a limited but an effective 
Government; a Government committed to increasing opportunity in terms of 
jobs and incomes, while shrinking Government bureaucracy; a Government 
committed to empowering people through education and training and 
technology to make the most of their own lives; a Government committed 
to enhancing our security all around the world and here at home on our 
streets as well.
    Now, this kind of Government will necessarily send more decisions 
back to the State and local governments and to citizens themselves. It 
will cut unnecessary spending, but it will invest more in jobs, incomes, 
and educations. It will, in short, as I said in 1992, put people first. 
It will insist on more personal responsibility, and it will support 
stronger communities. It will be

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a partner, but it won't be a savior, and it won't sit on the sidelines. 
Either extreme is wrong.
    Now, I see this debate about the role of our Government as terribly 
important. And you can see it now playing out on every issue now before 
the Congress. We see it being debated in terms of how we should best 
educate our children, how we should train our workers, how we should 
make our communities safe again, how our civil justice system should 
work, what is the right way to fix the broken welfare system. I want you 
to watch it play out this year. Underneath it all will be, what is the 
responsibility of the Government in Washington, what is your 
responsibility at the grassroots level, how can it best be met.
    As we debate these matters, I will keep working to change the way 
Washington does business, to achieve a Government that gives taxpayers 
better value for their dollar, to support more jobs and higher incomes 
for the middle class and to shrink the under class, and to reinforce 
mainstream values of responsibility, work, family, and community.
    You know, for the 12 years before I came here, Washington allowed 
the deficit to quadruple and didn't do much to shrink the size or change 
the role of Government. Organized interests did very well, but the 
public interest suffered. In the last 2 years, we've begun to change 
that. We've cut the Federal deficit by $600 billion, shrunk the Federal 
Government faster than at any time in memory. We've cut more than 300 
domestic programs and consolidated hundreds of others. We've got more 
than 150,000 fewer people working for the Federal bureaucracy today than 
on the day I became President, and we are on the way to reducing it by 
more than a quarter of a million, so that the Federal Government will be 
the smallest it has been since President Kennedy took office.
    In the process, we have done a lot to shift power away from 
Washington to States, counties, cities, and towns throughout the 
country. Our reinventing Government initiative has already saved the 
taxpayers $63 billion under the leadership of the Vice President, and we 
will save more.
    We have cut regulations that make it harder on business and local 
Government to create opportunity, but we will do more. And all of this 
has made a difference in the work and the lives of the people you serve. 
The economy has created almost 6 million jobs since I became President, 
the combined rate of unemployment and inflation is at a 25-year low.
    But clearly, we still have more to do. Most people are working 
harder, without a raise, even though we've got a recovery. We're the 
only advanced country in the world where the percentage of people in the 
work force with health insurance is smaller today than it was 10 years 
ago. We still have a lot of economic problems out there, and you know 
    I am ready to work with the Republicans, especially in areas that 
will give you more power to do what you have to do. Together, we have 
moved forward legislation in the Congress that will keep Congress from 
imposing unreasonable new mandates on you without paying for them.
    We've got a few issues left to work out on that, but a bill has 
passed the House and a bill has passed the Senate, and I encourage all 
sides to work in a bipartisan way to resolve them soon. In particular, 
though--and I want you to weigh in on this, I hope you will--I think the 
bill ought to be made effective immediately. For reasons I don't 
understand, Congress seems to want to make it effective toward the end 
of this year or at the beginning of next year. If it's going to be a 
good idea then, it will be a good idea now. Let's go on and get it done.
    As we have worked to cut yesterday's Government, we've also invested 
in our people to help them solve their own problems. We have approached 
that work, too, as a partner with people at the local level. For 
example, last year we had the most productive year in passing education 
reform legislation, from expanding Head Start to making college loans 
more affordable to the middle class in 30 years. But our education 
reforms set world-class standards for our schools and yet give to 
educators and parents much more say than the Federal Government used to 
about how to meet these standards and how to improve out children's 
    We tried to be good partners with local government on the crime 
bill. I want to thank all of you at NACO for helping us to pass it. 
After 6 years of rhetoric and hot air in Washington, we finally passed 
the crime bill. You told us you wanted an end to gridlock, and you 
helped us get it. And we are providing what you told us you wanted, you 
and other local officials all across the country, resources for 100,000 
new law enforcement officers, smarter prevention efforts, tougher 
punishment, like ``three strikes

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and you're out,'' a hard-won ban on assault weapons.
    We are working with you now to implement this crime bill. The 
Justice Department and the Attorney General are working very, very hard. 
This is an amazing thing. I hear those who criticize this crime bill say 
that we have imposed this on local government, and they really don't 
want it, and they can't afford to pay any match. But do you know, since 
October, over half the police departments in the United States of 
America have already applied for assistance under the police grants--
over half. And in this 5-year program, we have already released funds 
just since last fall to our 17,000 new law enforcement officers, 
including over 1,000 deputy sheriffs.
    Now, sadly, some people in Congress think we ought to reverse this. 
I agree that we have to continue to cut the deficit. My new budget cuts 
$140 billion more in Federal spending. We have reduced the rate of 
health costs growing by about $100 billion over the next 5 years. We had 
about $250 billion in budget cuts in our last budget.
    But how are we going to do this? I do not believe we should 
sacrifice our safety and not put 100,000 police on the street. I do not 
believe that we should not keep working for education. Instead, I think 
it's clear that our security and our ability to pay our way in the world 
depends upon educating and training our people for the new global 
economy. That includes a stronger Head Start program, serving more 
children. It includes more affordable college loans for middle class 
students. It includes a whole range of educational initiatives.
    I don't think we should limit our efforts to make college loans more 
affordable, especially when you consider the fact that this 
administration has reduced your costs in delinquent college loans from 
$2.8 billion a year down to a billion dollars a year. We cut it by two-
thirds, the loss to taxpayers. So we're collecting on the student loans; 
let's give more loans to young people to go to college to make America 
    I don't agree that we should eliminate the national service project, 
AmeriCorps. It's doing a world of good out there at the grassroots 
level. A lot of you are using it. And I certainly don't agree--with drug 
use on the rise among young people, who seem to have forgotten that it 
is not only illegal, it is dangerous--I certainly don't agree that we 
should eliminate the provision for drug education programs and for 
security programs against drug problems in our public schools, which 
will now cover 94 percent of the schools in this country but if the 
proposal now in Congress passes will be wiped out. That is not the way 
to cut the budget. We do not have to do it that way.
    It depends on how you look at it. Some in Congress want to cut the 
School Lunch Program. You know what we did instead? We closed 1,200 
regional offices in the Department of Agriculture. I think we did it the 
right way.
    So my view of this is that yes, we've got to cut the budget, but we 
should expand opportunity, not restrict it. We should give people the 
tools they need to make the most of their own lives, not take them away. 
We should enhance security, not undermine it. Those are my standards, 
and I need your help. You can make it clear to Washington that America 
wants us to get our house in order. They like it when we reduce the 
deficit. We have to cut the spending, but there is a right way and a 
wrong way to do this work.
    And I'd like to ask your help in particular on an issue of concern 
to a lot of you. I know it differs from State to State in how it's 
implemented, but every American citizen has an interest in ending 
welfare as we know it. Like it or not, we have a welfare system that 
doesn't further our basic values, and like many of you, I have worked on 
this problem for years. Those of us who work in it know it's a little 
more complicated than people who just talk about it. I have spent 
countless hours in welfare offices talking to case workers, talking to 
people on welfare. For years and years now, about 15 years this year, I 
have been working on this problem as a Governor and as a President. I 
have seen this great drama unfold.
    You know, when welfare started under President Roosevelt, the 
typical welfare recipient was a West Virginia miner's widow, who had a 
grade school education, was never expected to be in the workplace, and 
had orphaned children that needed help. And everybody thought this was 
the right thing to do. Then, we had people on welfare who just hit a 
rough patch but who got off welfare in a couple of months. And believe 
it or not, nearly half the people who go on welfare today are still in 
that category. Welfare actually works for them; we shouldn't forget 
that. There are a lot of folks who hit a rough

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patch in life, and they get on welfare, and then they get themselves 
    Then, there are those whom all the American people, without regard 
to party or philosophy, are justifiably concerned with, people who are 
trapped on welfare in cycles of dependency that sometimes become 
intergenerational, that are plainly rooted to the explosion of teen 
pregnancy, out-of-wedlock births, coupled with low levels of education, 
inability to pierce the job market, inability to succeed as both workers 
and parents. What ought to be the greatest joy of life, giving birth to 
a child, has now become a great social drama for us, in which we all 
worry that our values are being regularly violated and that's being 
reinforced by the way a Government program works. And we are worried 
about it.
    Many of our people are worried because they don't have enough money 
to pay for their own kids and they think their tax money is going down 
the drain to reinforce values they don't support, to create more burdens 
on their tax money in the future.
    And nobody wants to get off the welfare system, I can tell you, any 
more than the people who are on it. All you've got to do is go out and 
sit in any welfare office in the country and talk to people. I had four 
people who had worked their way off welfare into the Oval Office to see 
me the other day, and it was just like every story I've heard for the 
last 15 years, people talking about how they were dying to get off 
    Now, our country has been engaged in a serious effort to try to 
address this problem for some years now. This is not a new issue. In the 
late 1980's, along with then-Governor and now-Congressman Mike Castle 
from Delaware, I represented a bipartisan group of Governors in working 
with the Congress and the Reagan administration to pass the Family 
Support Act of 1988. It was a welfare reform bill designed to promote 
work and education and to move people from welfare to work through 
having the States do more with education and training and job placements 
and requiring that people participate in these programs.
    And many of us who were Governors at the time used the Family 
Support Act to move people off welfare. But everybody who worked with it 
recognized that more had to be done if the welfare system was going to 
be changed. There were still a lot of people who said, ``Well, if I move 
from welfare to work, I'll lose my kid's child care,'' or ``I'll lose 
medical coverage for my child after a few months.'' There are others who 
still could kind of get through loopholes in the program because we 
didn't cover everybody. So to reflect our country's values of work and 
education and responsible parenting, we knew we needed to do more.
    We also knew that we needed more State flexibility in tackling this 
problem. If somebody knew how to fix this, it would have been done a 
long time ago and people in politics would be talking about something 
else. Right? That's what this whole State flexibility's about. The 
framers were pretty smart wanting the States and the localities to be 
the laboratories of democracy, because they knew that there would be 
thorny problems involving complex matters of economics and social 
organization and human nature that no one would know all the answers to.
    So I'm glad the Republicans chose to make welfare reform part of 
their contract for America. It's always been part of my contract with 
America. Now, let's see if there's some things we can all agree on.
    I think we should demand and reward work, not punish those who go to 
work. I think we should demand responsibility from parents who bring 
children into the world, not let them off the hook and expect the 
taxpayers to pick up the tab for their neglect. I think we must 
discourage irresponsible behavior that lands people on welfare in the 
first place. We must tell our children not to have children until they 
are married and ready to be good parents.
    Now, in the last 2 years we've made some progress in pursuing these 
goals. In 1993 when the Congress passed the economic reform plan, one of 
the provisions gave a tax break averaging $1,000 a year to families with 
incomes of under $25,000 to 15 million working families to send this 
message: If you work full-time and you have children in the home, you 
should not be in poverty. And there should never be an incentive to stay 
on welfare instead of go to work. That's what the earned-income tax 
credit expansion was all about.
    Last year I sent to Congress the most sweeping welfare reform plan 
ever presented to the United States Congress. It was prowork, 
proeducation, proresponsibility, and pro-State flexibility. It did not 
pass, but I still hope it will be the basis of what ultimately does 

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We are collecting child support at a record level from delinquent 
parents, $9 billion in 1993. And last week I signed an Executive order 
to crack down on Federal employees who owe child support to require them 
to pay as well.
    For the last 2 years, we have granted welfare reform waivers from 
Federal rules to two dozen States, more than the last two 
administrations in 12 years combined, giving States flexibility to try 
out their ideas without being stifled by Washington one-size-fits-all 
rules. Today I am proud to announce that Ohio has become the 25th State 
to receive a waiver to reform its welfare system.
    Now, here's what Ohio wants to do. I think it's an interesting idea. 
They want to take some of their welfare and food stamp money to 
subsidize jobs in the private sector, including an initiative with our 
new empowerment zone in Cleveland. That's not a bad idea. Some people 
say, ``Well, we don't have enough money to create government jobs for 
all these folks, and the private sector won't hire them if they have 
limited skills.'' So Ohio and Oregon and a couple of other States say, 
``Would you let us use the welfare check to give to employers, say, 
`Okay, you're going to pay whatever you're going to pay at this job. 
This will replace some of what you'll have to pay.' Put these people to 
work. Give them work experience. Give them a chance. Give them a chance 
to earn something.''
    Secretary Shalala thought it was a good idea, and so do I. These are 
the kinds of things being done all across America. Half the country 
today, as of this day with this waiver, now half the States are carrying 
out significant welfare reform experiments that promote work and 
responsibility instead of undermining it. Ten States are strengthening 
their child support enforcement. Nineteen are finding ways to insist on 
responsible behavior in return for help. Twenty States are providing 
incentives to families to go to work, not stay on welfare.
    I think we should go further and abolish this waiver system 
altogether in the welfare reform. Instead, we should give all States the 
flexibility to do all the things that our waivers allow 25 States to do 
today, so people don't have to come to Washington to ask.
    But I would like to say in this debate and for your benefit, 
especially those of you who have county responsibilities in this area, 
we shouldn't forget that the need for flexibility doesn't stop at the 
State level. We need it at the local level as well.
    So we're making some headway on this welfare reform. But we've still 
got a lot of work to do. In January, I called a meeting at the White 
House with leaders from both parties and all levels of government to 
press Congress to get moving on welfare reform legislation. I spoke 
about it in the State of the Union Address. I wanted the people who will 
write the legislation to hear from people like you, so we had 
representatives from local government at this meeting. I wanted them to 
hear from folks who will have to put this legislation into action on the 
front lines.
    We all know the old system did too little to require work, 
education, and parental responsibility, that it gave the States too 
little flexibility. The original Republican contract proposal did give 
the States more flexibility, with some exceptions, in return for 
substantial reductions in Federal payments in future years. But like the 
present system and unlike my proposal, the original Republican contract 
proposal was weak on work and parental responsibility. And in terms of 
denying benefits to all welfare parents under the age of 18 and their 
children, it was also, in my view, very hard on children.
    Now, the present bill in the Congress, as it stands today, as we 
speak, contains real improvements from the original contract proposal in 
the areas of work and parental responsibility. But I think there are 
still significant problems with it which could undermine our common 
goals. And in my view, they still make the bill too tough on children 
and too weak on work and responsibility. I'd like to talk a little about 
that, again, because there's a debate still to be had in the House and 
then when the bill goes to the Senate.
    When we met in January, we agreed, Democrats and Republicans alike, 
that the toughest possible child support enforcement must be a central 
part of welfare reform. If we collected all the money that deadbeat 
parents owe, we could move 300,000 mothers and over half a million 
children off the welfare roles immediately, tomorrow, just with child 
support collection.
    So at that meeting, people from every level of government and both 
parties agreed that while generally we want to move more of these 
decisions back to the State, we need national action on child support 
enforcement and na-

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tional standards because 30 percent of the cases where parents don't pay 
cross State lines.
    The original child support provisions in the contract of the 
Republicans left out a lot of the most effective means for finding 
delinquent parents, which were in our welfare reform bill, including a 
system to track them across State lines. But to the credit of the 
Republicans, they have recently included almost all our tough child 
support measures. And I appreciate it.
    There is more that we ought to do, I think, together. Our plan calls 
on States to deny drivers and professional licenses to people who refuse 
to pay their child support. Now, I know that's a tough idea, but let me 
tell you, 19 States are doing that today, and they're collecting a lot 
more child support as a result of it. So I hope that the Congress will 
join us to make this provision also the law of the land. We've got to 
send a loud signal: No parent in America has a right to walk away from 
the responsibility to raise their children. That's the signal; we've got 
to send it.
    Secondly, all of you know that the hardest and the most important 
part of welfare reform is moving people from welfare to work. You have 
to educate and train people. You've got to make sure that their kids 
aren't punished once they go to work by losing their health care or 
their child care. And then you've got to figure out where these jobs are 
coming from. I'm doing my best to lower the unemployment rate, but 
still, if there's unemployment in a given area, where will the jobs come 
from? Will the Government provide them? If not, you have to do things 
like I described in the Ohio waiver.
    But this work has always been at the core of my approach. I think 
what we want for every American adult is to be a successful parent and a 
successful worker. When I proposed my plan last year and when I was 
running for President, I said, if people need help with education, 
training, or child care so they can go to work, we ought to give them 
the help. But after 2 years, they should be required to take a job and 
get a paycheck, not a welfare check, if there is a job available. There 
should not be an option. If you can go to work, you must.
    Now, I know in their hearts this is really the position that most of 
the Republicans in the Congress agree with. Last year, 162 of 175 House 
Republicans, including Speaker Gingrich, cosponsored a bill that was 
similar to our plan on work in many ways. But the plan that they are 
currently considering in the House doesn't do much to support work. It 
would actually make it harder for many recipients to make it in the 
    Now, they wisely abandoned an earlier provision which basically 
allowed a welfare recipient to get around the work requirement literally 
by submitting a resume. But their new plan gives the States a perverse 
incentive to cut people off welfare. It lets them count people as 
working if they were simply cut off the welfare rolls for any reason and 
whether or not they have moved into a job. Now, when people just get cut 
off without going to work, we know where they're likely to end up, don't 
we? On your doorstep. That's not welfare reform. That's just shifting 
the problem from one place to another.
    Now, we know that an inordinate number of people also who get off 
welfare without work skills, without child care, wind up right back on 
welfare in a matter of a few months. Yet, the current Republican plan 
cuts child care both for people trying to leave welfare and for working 
people who are working at low incomes who are trying to stay off of 
    Equally important, this new plan removes any real responsibility for 
States to provide education, training, and job placement, though that is 
at the heart of getting and keeping people off welfare. In other words, 
these provisions on work effectively repeal the Family Support Act of 
1988 which was passed with the support of President Reagan and 
substantial Republicans in the Congress and actually did some good where 
the States implemented it in good faith. Why? Because basically the new 
provisions are designed to allow the Federal Government to send less 
money to the States over time, and in return for saving budget money, 
they're willing to walk away from the standards necessary to move people 
from welfare to work. It's like a lot of things you can do around here: 
It may feel good for a year or 2, but 5 years from now we'll be hitting 
ourselves upside the head, saying why have we got a bigger welfare 
problem than we had 5 years ago.
    Now, besides the need to support work and tough child support 
enforcement, I also think there are some other questions here, questions 
of the treatment of children and addressing the problems of teen 
pregnancy. Three-quarters of the unwed teen mothers in this country end 
up on welfare within 5 years. We clearly need a national campaign 
against teen pregnancy that

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sends a clear message: It is wrong to have a child outside marriage. 
Nobody should get pregnant or father a child who isn't prepared to raise 
the child, love the child, and take responsibility for the child's 
    I know the Republicans care about this problem, too. This is not a 
partisan political issue. It is not a racial issue. It is not an income 
issue. It is not a regional issue. This issue is eating the heart out of 
this country. You don't have to be in any particular political camp to 
know we're in big trouble as a society if we're headed toward a day when 
half of all the kids in this country are born outside marriage.
    But some aspects of this current plan in Congress could do more harm 
than good. Our plan sends a clear message to young men and women that 
mistakes have consequences, that they have to turn their lives around, 
that they have to give their children a better chance. We want teen 
fathers to know they'll spend the next 18 years paying child support. We 
want teen mothers to know they have to stay at home with their parents 
or in an appropriate supervised setting and stay in school. And they 
have to implement--or identify the fathers. They don't have a separate 
check to go out on their own.
    Now, the Republican plan in Congress sends a different message to 
young people that's both tougher and weaker. It says, ``If you make a 
mistake, you're out on your own, even if it means you are likely to end 
up on welfare for life and cost us even more money down the road.''
    Now, in recent weeks, we've narrowed our differences, the 
Republicans and the administration, in response to concerns that have 
been raised by people within the Republican Party. But their bill still 
denies--now listen to this--their bill still denies any assistance to 
teen mothers under the age of 18 and their children until they turn 18, 
and then leaves the States the option of denying those benefits 
permanently, as long--to anybody who was under 18 when they had a child.
    Now, I just believe it's a mistake to cut people off because they're 
young and unmarried and they make a mistake. The younger you are, the 
more likely you are to make mistakes, although I haven't noticed any 
absence of errors from those of us who get older. [Laughter] I think 
it's wrong to make small children pay the price for their parents' 
mistakes. I also think it's counterproductive. It's not in our interest. 
It will cost the taxpayers more money than it will save. It's bound to 
lead to more dependency, not less, to more broken families, not fewer, 
to more burdens on the taxpayer over the long run, not less.
    Now, our plan is different, but it is tougher in some ways. It would 
say, ``If you want this check and you're a teenager, you've got to live 
at home. And if you're in an abusive home, you must live in another 
appropriate supervised setting. You must stay in school. You must 
identify the father of the child.'' So we're not weaker, but we're 
    We also want a national campaign against teen pregnancy, rooted in 
our local communities, that sends a clear message about abstinence and 
responsible parenting. That is the clue, folks. If we could get rid of 
that, we wouldn't have a welfare problem, and we'd be talking about 
something else in the next couple of years.
    Now, there are other provisions in this bill that I think are unfair 
to children--and let me just mention, for your information, I think 
they're really tough on disabled children and children in foster homes--
and I think they ought to be modified. And finally, it is important to 
point out that under the guise of State flexibility, this plan reduces 
future payments to States in ways that make States and children very 
vulnerable in times of recession or if their population is growing more 
than other States. So basically, if we adopt this plan the way it is, it 
will say to you in your State, if times get tough, you're on your own.
    I don't think we should let budget-cutting be wrapped in a cloak of 
welfare reform. We have a national interest in the welfare of our 
children. Let's reform welfare. Let's cut the deficit. But let's don't 
mix up the two and pretend that one is the other. Let's put our children 
    Let me say that I have come here today in the spirit of good faith 
to try to outline these specifics. You may not agree with me; you may 
agree with them. But I want you to know what the points of debate are. 
Again, I am glad we're discussing this. This is a big problem for 
America. And I believe in the end we can work it out together as long as 
we remember what it's really about--again, the way you think about 
problems, you have a name, a face, and a life history. That's what we 
sometimes lose up here in Washington.
    I just want to close with this story. When I was Governor, I was 
trying to get all the

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other Governors interested in welfare reform. I once had a panel at a 
welfare meeting in Washington. And I didn't even know how many Governors 
would show up. Forty-one Governors showed up to listen to women on 
welfare, or women who had been on welfare, talk about their lives.
    There was a woman there from my State, and I was asking her 
questions, and I didn't know what her answers were going to be, letting 
her talk to the Governors. And I said, ``Do you think it ought to be 
mandatory for people on welfare to be in these education and job 
placement programs?'' She said, ``Yes, I do.'' I said, ``Why?'' She 
said, ``Because a lot of people like me, we lose all our self-
confidence. We don't think we amount to much, and if you don't make us 
do it, we'll just lay up and watch the soaps.'' But then I said, I asked 
her to describe her job, and she did. And I said, ``What's the best 
thing about having a job?'' She said, ``When my boy goes to school, and 
they ask him, what does your momma do for a living, he can give an 
    So I want you to help us, because whether you're Republicans or 
Democrats or black, brown, or white, or liberals or conservatives, you 
have to deal with people with names, faces, and life histories. We're up 
here dealing in sound bites trying to pierce through on the evening 
news. It's a big difference. It's a big difference.
    This debate is about more than welfare. It's about who we are as a 
people and what kind of country we'll want to pass along to our 
children. It's about the dignity of work, the bond of family, the virtue 
of responsibility, the strength of our communities, the strength of our 
democratic values.
    This is a great American issue. And I still believe that all of us 
working together can advance those values and secure the future of our 
children and make sure that no child in this country ever has to grow up 
without those values and the great hope that has made us, all of us, 
what we are.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:15 a.m. at the Washington Hilton Hotel. 
In his remarks, he referred to Randall Franke, president, Douglas Bovin, 
first vice president, Michael Hightower, second vice president, Randy 
Johnson, third vice president, John Stroger, immediate past president, 
and Larry Naake, executive director, National Association of Counties; 
Doris Ward, San Francisco County Assessor; Marian Wright Edelman, 
president, Children's Defense Fund; and ACORN, the Association of 
Community Organizations for Reform Now.