[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[March 13, 1995]
[Pages 334-343]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the National League of Cities
March 13, 1995

    Thank you very much, Carolyn, for that warm introduction. And thank 
you, ladies and gentlemen, for the wonderful welcome you have given me. 
I'm glad to be here on this podium with all your officers, including 
Mayor Lashutka of Columbus. Did I pronounce that right? Close? Lashutka.
    I just had the Nebraska football team over at the White House, and 
so I had a lot of practice pronouncing names this morning. [Laughter] 
The Nebraska football team are so big, that's the only group of people 
in America I could stand with and look like the resident ballet dancer. 
    Mayor James, it's good to see you here, and all the other mayors who 
are here and all of the other representatives of the cities and towns of 
our country.
    I like to come here and meet with you because you deal with people 
at the level where you can have the greater contact with them. When I 
was Governor, nothing was more important to me than actually being able 
to spend a lot of time with the citizens at the grassroots community 
level who were interested in solving the problems of people. And I've 
always said that one of the things I like most about the job I used to 
have and one of the things I

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like least about the job I have now is that the closer you get to the 
people, the less political the work is, and the closer you get to 
Washington, the more political it becomes.
    The most frustrating thing about being President is that I don't get 
enough time to speak with ordinary Americans in terms that they can 
understand about what we're trying to do up here. Although I must say, 
when I was driving up here today, I thought, these local officials may 
be out of touch, too. This is the most beautiful day we've had in 
Washington in 6 months, and here you are listening to a politician 
inside. [Laughter] I don't know.
    You have the opportunity to see people struggling to keep the 
American dream alive every day. And when you think of these issues, it 
must stun you at times what you hear in the news about what's going on 
up here, when it seems too rhetorical. Because I know when you think of 
these issues, you know a name, you see a face, you know a life story. 
That gives meanings to the problems that we are dealing with. And I 
think Washington has suffered grievously from losing that connection, 
losing that touch with the people who sent us here, and trying to 
communicate with people from such a long way away over the mass media, 
through so many millions of conflicting messages with high levels of 
    I want to try to move back from that today and just to speak frankly 
about the choices that we face here and the choices that you face in 
doing your job and how we both can make the right decisions. As we stand 
on the edge of a new century and a new millennium, I think there are two 
great tasks facing America and our generation.
    The first is to make sure that we enter the next century with the 
American dream alive and well for all of our people, for the middle 
class whose interests are so often forgotten, for those who are 
struggling to make it in the global economy, for all the poor people in 
this country who are working hard to play by the rules and to live up to 
their God-given capacity.
    The second thing we have to do is to make sure we enter the next 
century making sure that America is still the strongest country on 
Earth, still the greatest force in the world for freedom and democracy 
and opportunity.
    There are two great threats to this endeavor. One is the stagnation 
of middle class economics. The other is the erosion of mainstream 
values. And the third thing that I want to talk to you about is the fact 
that the Government has often made these problems worse, not better, in 
the last several years. So we have to ask ourselves, what can we do to 
restore middle class economics, the opportunity part of the American 
dream? And what can we do to restore mainstream values, the 
responsibility part of the American dream? And what kind of Government 
changes do we need here to make sure we're good partners with the 
American people where you live and work?
    For the last 20 years, most people have worked the same hours or 
even longer hours for the same or even lower wages. There is a new class 
of permanently poor people, mostly young women and their small children, 
and they're growing. And the anxieties of people are pronounced, 
economically. Even in this time of economic recovery, people worry about 
downsizing everywhere and whether they really count in the workplace 
anymore. And there is a huge inequality growing among our workers, where 
those with good education and those capable of learning new skills tend 
to get good jobs with growing incomes and those without tend to be stuck 
in a rut forever.
    We have all this good news. We had in 1993--we haven't gotten the 
'94 figures yet--in '93 we had the largest number of new businesses 
started in the United States of America in any year in our history, and 
that's something to be proud of. But we also see people struggling just 
to hold on and to maintain their lifestyle, even though in many families 
both the husband and the wife are working and having less and less time 
to spend with their children.
    On the social front, the values we all cherish, work and family and 
community, are threatened as crime and violence and drug use rises all 
across America. And even when it falls, it's still too high. The rate of 
children that are born out of wedlock continues to go up. Our social 
problems, in many ways, seem more profound today than they have in a 
long time.
    And you see the traditions of breakdown in family, community, rooted 
in a loss of allegiance to these mainstream values and a lack of 
opportunity. This is a dangerous erosion of the things that made America 
great and kept us strong for over 200 years.
    We are now in the midst of a great debate here in Washington about 
what we ought to do about this. How can we make the good

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things more present, and how can we reduce the bad things in America? 
How can we do the things we need to do to keep the American dream alive 
and keep our country strong? How we answer these questions will say an 
awful lot about what kind of people we're going to be and what kind of 
country we're going to pass on to our children in the 21st century.
    There is on one side of the debate, on the extreme, the old and now 
discredited Washington view that a big, bureaucratic, one-size-fits-all 
Government can provide big solutions to all America's big problems and 
maybe to some of America's not so big problems.
    The other extreme is the view of the Republican contract, that 
Government is the source of all the problems, and if we could just get 
rid of it completely or at least reduce the Federal Government's 
spending role, every problem in America would miraculously solve itself.
    I have a different view, and it's probably rooted in the fact that I 
didn't live and work here until 2 years ago. My view is rooted in the 
fact that my experiences as a Governor of a small State are much more 
like yours than they are like most of the people who make most of the 
decisions in this community. I think we have to chart a course between 
and beyond the old way of big Government and the new rage of no 
    No great country can survive without a National Government that in 
the information age is more limited but is still strong and effective. 
We do have, after all, common problems as a people. We have common 
opportunities. And these require a common response. We need the 
Government, in short, to be a partner with people in their private lives 
as citizens, a partner with State and local government, a partner with 
all of us.
    I believe in a Government that promotes opportunity and demands 
responsibility, that deals with middle class economics and mainstream 
values, a Government that is different radically from the one we have 
known here over the last 30 to 40 years but that still understands it 
has a role to play in order for us to build strong communities that are 
the bedrock of this Nation. That's what the New Covenant I talk about 
all the time is really all about, more opportunity and more 
    Our job is to work together to grow the middle class, to shrink the 
under class, to expand opportunity and to shrink bureaucracy, to empower 
people to make the most of their own lives. We can't give any guarantees 
in this rapidly changing world, but we can give people the capacity to 
do for themselves. And we must do that; all of us must do it.
    And finally, we have to work to enhance our security on our own 
streets and around the world. I believe, in short, that the role of this 
Government is to be a partner in the fight for the future, not a 
savior--it can't be that--but not a spectator on the sidelines either. 
We've tried that, and it didn't work out very well.
    We must face the fact that we live in a certain historical period in 
which the economy is global. The information age means that the basis of 
most wealth in the future will be knowledge and that we can be far more 
decentralized and flexible than we ever have been before. No one will 
ever again have to rely on a distant bureaucracy to solve every problem 
in today's rapidly changing environment.
    We have to focus more on equipping people with the resources they 
need to tackle their own problems and to give people the responsibility 
to determine how best to do that. We have to send more and more 
decisions back not only to State and local government but to citizens 
    We must cut spending. We must cut Government. But I believe we must 
also invest more in jobs, incomes, technology, education, and training. 
That's what will make us wealthy.
    I ran for President because I felt these challenges were not being 
met, because I felt that there was no economic strategy for putting our 
people first. We had 12 years of trickle-down economics in which the 
deficit quadrupled and our future was mortgaged. But we didn't invest in 
our people or our economy. We had both less opportunity and less 
responsibility. In Washington all I ever heard was the blame game. And 
it often reminded me of--I felt often when I was out there in the 
country like you, like people must feel in a jury box, you know, when 
two lawyers get in an argument with a judge over what they can say or 
not. All the jury wants to know is who did it. [Laughter]
    And the American people, what they want to know is, what are we 
going to do? And are we going to do? And so I ran for this job because I 
was tired of a system in which both middle class economics and 
mainstream values were suffering. And the Government was doing well by 
special interests but not the public inter-

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est. I felt very strongly that we had to do something to stop the 
conditions in which most Americans were living, where people were 
working harder and harder and harder for less and less and less 
security. And I still believe that's what we ought to be about.
    Now we have begun to change all that. We have begun to change all 
that. And it required some pretty tough decisions. Some of them were 
unpopular. Some of the people who made those unpopular decisions lost 
their seats in Congress last year, because people were told for years 
and years and years they could have a free lunch, that there were no 
tough decisions to be made.
    Everything here operated at the level of rhetoric. We got down to 
business. They talked about cutting the deficit. We did, by $600 
billion. And we did it with over a quarter of a trillion dollars in 
spending cuts, with income tax increases on the wealthiest 1.2 percent 
of our people, with discipline--not by the way, because I think that's a 
good thing to do but because they were the ones best able to pay. And 
those were the people who were benefiting most economically from the 
    And at the same time, we were cutting 300 domestic programs. We were 
also providing tax relief for 15 million working families who were 
working at or near the poverty line to make sure that nobody who works 
40 hours a week with children in their home should ever live in poverty. 
It's the biggest incentive to stay off welfare to know that if you work 
hard and you raise your kids, you're going to be able to make a living 
wage. These are the things that we worked on.
    Now, we eliminated or consolidated or cut about 300 programs. And in 
this new budget that I've got--we'll talk more about that in a minute--
we propose to eliminate or consolidate 400 more. We reduced the size of 
the Federal work force in 2 years by over 100,000. And if no new laws 
pass--[applause]--thank you. If no new laws pass, the work force will be 
reduced over a 6-year period to its smallest size since John Kennedy was 
President. It will be 272,000 fewer people working here than on the day 
I was inaugurated President. I'm proud of that.
    We have shifted power away from Washington to more responsibility 
for States and counties and cities and towns. The Vice President has 
lead our reinventing Government initiative, which has already saved the 
taxpayers $63 billion and will save more. We've already cut regulations 
in banking and intrastate trucking and many other areas that make it now 
easier for businesses to create jobs and create opportunities. And we 
must do more, and we will. We've worked hard to try to make it easier 
for you to do your jobs and to improve the lives of the people that we 
both serve.
    Now, we've done a lot of other things as well that often get lost in 
the smoke around here. We passed the family leave law after 6 years of 
arguing about it. We passed the crime bill after 6 years of arguing 
about it. We expanded Head Start and provided for the immunization of 
all children under 2 by 1996. And we made lower cost, better repayment 
college loans available to 20 million young Americans so more people 
could go to college. We were busy around here in the last 2 years.
    And along the way we were able to pass two major trade agreements, 
resolve major trade disputes with China and other countries, and expand 
trade by more than at any time in a generation--very important when you 
consider the fact that low-cost goods from other countries come into our 
open markets if we have no trade agreements, but the trade agreements 
open markets for high value-added American goods and American services 
and American jobs all around the world. I say this to point out how much 
different it is where you live than where we live. If you had done that, 
your voters would know it, right? [Laughter]
    And all the nay-sayers said, ``Oh, if they put this economic plan 
in, it'll be the worst thing that ever happened to the country. The 
economy will collapse immediately. Everything will be terrible.'' Now 
they're all going to New Hampshire and giving the same speech all over 
again. I heard it for 2 years. You know, since no country has permanent 
growth, if they keep predicting a recession, eventually we'll get around 
to it. [Laughter] They said, ``Oh, this is a terrible thing, if they 
pass this program. Oh, it's terrible. The economy will just--it'll be 
    Well, what's happened in the last 2 years? We've got the lowest 
combined rate of unemployment and inflation in 25 years because we took 
it on. Over 6.1 million Americans have new jobs in the last 2 years. 
That is a good beginning.

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    Now, having said all that, let's face the facts. You live with these 
folks, and you know as well as I do, there are still profound problems 
out there. Most people still have not gotten a raise. Every year more 
and more people lose their health insurance even though they're in the 
work force. This is the only advanced country in the world that has a 
smaller percentage of people in the work force covered by health 
insurance in 1995 than had it in 1985. No other country can say that.
    And we know these other problems are still with us. Half of all 
Americans are living on less money than they had 15 years ago. So we now 
have to focus not only on creating jobs but raising incomes and 
improving the security of working life and family life when people do 
the right thing. If we're going to strengthen the middle class and 
shrink the under class, we have got to do those things which will enable 
people to really feel the American dream. We've got to begin by 
equipping people with the skills they need to compete in today's 
economy. Even as we cut yesterday's Government, we must invest more in 
the education and training of our people. We must. We must.
    We have tried to approach that work as the partner of people at the 
local level. Most folks around here think last year was the best year 
for education legislation passing through Congress in 30 years as we 
expanded Head Start and provided more funds for apprenticeships for 
young people who don't go onto college and made those college loans more 
affordable and wrote into Federal law the Goals 2000, the world-class 
standards for our schools.
    But we changed the way we were making education law in Washington 
pretty dramatically. We didn't neglect our responsibilities to help 
create educational opportunity, but we didn't presume to tell the people 
at the grassroots level how to meet the standards as the Government had 
done so much in the past. Instead, we gave to local educators and to 
parents the power to decide how to meet global standards of excellence.
    We said, ``Here are some things that have to be done to improve our 
children's education. Here are things we'd like to do to help you do it. 
But you decide how to do it.'' In many ways, in dealing more directly 
with city government, our empowerment zones and enterprise communities 
are the embodiment of that kind of approach: to create opportunity, to 
shrink bureaucracy, to demand more responsibility, and then let you 
decide what you want to do with it and how you can best create jobs and 
    We said to distressed communities, ``Give us a comprehensive plan to 
create jobs, to revitalize neighborhoods, to bring the community 
together, to involve the private sector. Find the solutions together. 
The opportunity you get will be some cash money and tax incentives to 
encourage investment and resources to deal with other problems, like 
transportation or safety. And we'll cut the redtape so you can apply 
those resources as you see fit.'' This is a partnership between 
government, the private sector, and communities to encourage investment, 
to create jobs in places where too many people have been left completely 
    If you think about it, our country has had major initiatives in the 
last several years to invest in Latin America, to invest in the 
Caribbean, to invest in all different kinds of places. They're fine. But 
this is the first major initiative we've had to get people to invest in 
America, to create jobs and markets and our best opportunities.
    And by the way, I hope that before this session is over we will see 
an expansion of that program, not a contraction of it, one that is paid 
for, one that is funded, but we ought to work to expand it, to involve 
more communities. We had hundreds of communities wanting to be involved 
in it who had good proposals that could not be funded. We have to 
recognize that if we want people to live by the work ethic, there must 
be work for them to do.
    That also is something we should remember as we deal with the next 
issue that is coming in this session of Congress that affects some of 
you more than others, depending on how the system operates in your 
State, but all of you in some ways, and that is, how are we going to fix 
the welfare system? I believe we should offer more opportunity in the 
form of education and work to people on welfare and then insist on more 
responsibility, requiring work after 2 years, tougher child support 
enforcement, responsible parenting. I've been working on this issue for 
15 years now, and I know that Washington doesn't have all the answers 
and neither does anybody else, or we'd have solved it by now.
    But we have done our best here to give more and more and more 
authority to conduct sweeping welfare reform efforts to the States. We

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have given 25 States waivers from the Federal rules and regulations to 
pursue welfare reform. Today we will give a waiver to Oklahoma, the 26th 
State to pursue a welfare reform proposal. That is more combined shift 
of power from the Federal Government to the States than occurred under 
my two predecessors, combined. I believe in this. I believe in this.
    I know that the Government shouldn't dictate all the rules from 
Washington. On the other hand, I don't think we should give States 
welfare money without any standards at all. We do have a national 
interest in promoting work and responsible parenting, the reduction of 
out of wedlock births. We have a national interest in doing this.
    Last year, I sent to Congress the most sweeping welfare reform plan 
ever proposed by an administration. It included the toughest possible 
child support enforcement. Let me just mention child support for a 
minute. Do you know, if we collected all the money owed in this country 
by deadbeat parents, we could move 800,000 mothers and children off the 
welfare rolls immediately, 800,000.
    Now, one of the things that we have reached agreement with the 
Congress on is that in this area there has to be some national standard 
setting, because 30 percent of these cases cross States lines. So even 
though we want to move decisions back to the States, when the Governors 
came to town, they said, ``Look, we know we've got to have some national 
action on child support enforcement, otherwise we can't ever collect on 
these orders that cross State lines.'' Justice should not depend solely 
on geography.
    Reforming welfare is now a top priority for both parties, and that's 
good news. And we've worked together to find common solutions, and 
that's good news. We still have our differences. My plan and the one our 
administration has been behind for over a year now sends a clear message 
to young people. It says, ``Take responsibility to turn your life 
around.'' Teen fathers must pay child support. Teen mothers should stay 
at home or in other appropriate settings, and they have to stay in 
school if they want to get a check.
    But the Republican plan sends a different message at some points. It 
says, for example, ``If you make a mistake before you're 18, and you 
have a baby, you're on your own''--no benefits for teenagers and their 
children who have babies before they're 18, until they turn 18, and then 
if the States want to keep them out of benefits forever, that's okay. I 
think that's a mistake. I think what we ought to be saying to people is, 
``You should not have done that. You made a mistake. We don't want 
anybody else to do it. But we're going to help you succeed as a student 
and a parent and a worker, and you have to help yourself by playing by 
these rules.'' I think that is a better approach.
    And I think it's in your interest. Look, when people get--if we just 
cut people off without putting them to work or keeping them in school, 
without making sure they have child care, if we just end all this, well, 
the Federal Government will save a little money. And you know what will 
happen, don't you? They'll be on your doorstep. They won't be part of 
some Federal statistic, and people will say, ``Oh, we're not spending 
money on that up here like we used to. We'll just give you the problem, 
and you figure out what to do with it.''
    Well, my own view is that just shifting the problem is not enough. 
Like many of the cuts currently being debated, I think it will 
ultimately be counterproductive. It will cost us more than we will save. 
The Federal Government, the cities, the States, the taxpayers all will 
pay more down the road if we do something that fundamentally undermines 
the health of our children, the future of our children, and our 
commitment to getting more Americans to live with the opportunities of 
middle class economics and the responsibilities of mainstream values. 
That's what I believe.
    Now, yes, yes, we do have to continue to cut the deficit. We do have 
to continue to save money. My new budget cuts the deficit another $81 
billion and has over $140 billion in spending cuts. And I want to work 
with the Republicans to do more. We have already reduced the rate of 
health care cost increases in the Federal budget over the next 5 years 
by $100 billion. We have to keep working on the deficit.
    But we have to do it in the right way. One of the things that the 
Republican leadership and I agree on is the line-item veto. We're about 
to take up debate on the line-item veto in the Senate. I hope it will 
pass quickly because it will give the President the opportunity and the 
responsibility to look at every single line item in the budget for 
waste. It will give us the chance to cut pork without hurting people. 
And that is an important distinction.

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    Let me give you an example of what I mean. Everybody knows we have 
to shrink the Department of Agriculture. Ross Perot had the best line of 
any of the candidates in the 1992 election. It grieves me to say that, 
but he did. [Laughter] Ross Perot had this great line where he said, 
``Did you hear about the employee at the Department of Agriculture that 
had to go see a psychiatrist because he lost his farmer?'' [Laughter] 
And what he meant by that was, of course, that the number of farmers was 
shrinking and that technology and the modern world had reduced the need 
for some of the size and scope of organization of the Agriculture 
Department. So we all wanted to do that. Everybody knows we've got to 
save money.
    One of the reasons I fought so hard for that GATT world trade 
agreement is so we could cut agricultural subsidies here without hurting 
our farmers in the global market. So my budget cuts agricultural 
subsidies, but now our competitors have to cut theirs more to give our 
people a fair break.
    I'll give you another example. We wanted to cut the Agriculture 
Department, so we just closed 1,200 offices, 1,200. That's a lot of 
money. I do not think the way to cut the Agriculture Department is to 
freeze the School Lunch Program and send it to you, which means we're 
going to cut school lunches as the price of food goes up and the number 
of kids goes up. I don't agree with that.
    And you cannot make me believe with all the poor kids in this world 
today and in this country who show up hungry to school every day, whose 
only decent meal occurs in school, you cannot make me believe that we 
cannot find a way to eliminate unnecessary spending from the Government 
budget without cutting the School Lunch Program. We can, and we will. We 
    I'll give you another example that affects a lot of you here. Some 
in Congress want to eliminate our community development bank initiative. 
Most of you probably have never heard of that, but let me tell you what 
it does. It's an initiative that would spend $500 million to either 
establish or support banks that are set up in economically distressed 
areas, whose primary purpose is to get lower income people in high 
unemployment areas into the free enterprise system.
    Now, I found out about this a few years ago when I was in Chicago, 
when I had a friend working for the South Shore Development Corporation. 
And we set up a community development bank in Arkansas when I was 
Governor that operated in a rural area, and it did amazing things. 
People got credit who could never get credit from any bank before, and 
they set up businesses, and they started working, and they started 
hiring people. And it changed lives for a lot of people in these 
    So when I ran for President, I said here's a good idea that came out 
of grassroots America. We could put a little money in it and make a lot 
of difference. It is estimated that the $500 million that we could spend 
on the community development bank initiative in your communities all 
over the country will generate $22 billion in activity in the free 
enterprise system in places that have no enterprise today. So I think it 
would be a mistake to eliminate it. That's what I believe.
    Believe you me, there's a lot of Government programs that don't have 
that kind of return. And keep in mind, what is the purpose of the 
Government? It's to empower people to make the most of their own lives, 
to enhance their security, and to help create opportunity as a partner. 
That's what this does.
    I'll give you another example of the things that I don't think 
should be cut. Our national service project, AmeriCorps, is all about 
opportunity and responsibility. A lot of you have AmeriCorps projects in 
your communities. Young people get a helping hand with their college in 
exchange for helping people solve their problems at the local community. 
Thousands of young people now are participants, as partners, as nurses, 
as teachers, working with pastors, working with police officers at the 
grassroots level. They walk police beats in Brooklyn. They build homes 
in Georgia. They fight fires in Idaho.
    But some people in the House want to cut this effort, to deny 15,000 
young people the chance to participate in it. Now, I've offered spending 
cuts, and I'll find some more. But I think it is a mistake to cut 
AmeriCorps because it's a good deal. It gives us better citizens, 
stronger communities, more education for limited money. And it enables a 
lot of people to do things in their communities that simply would not 
get done any other way.
    Ironically, one other area where we're having a big difference of 
opinion is in college loans. There's some in the Congress who want to 

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verely limit the reach of the so-called direct loan program that we 
started which, believe it or not, lowers the cost of the loans to the 
students, cuts the time of paperwork and bureaucracy to the colleges, 
and saves money for the taxpayers because we get around the middleman. 
So here's one area where we can do more to send people to school for 
lower cost and actually save money. We've offered millions and millions 
of young people the opportunity to take these loans out and then pay 
them back as a percentage of their income.
    But I want to emphasize that we've also been more responsible than 
Government was before. When I took office it was costing you as 
taxpayers, $2.8 billion a year to pay tax money for defaulted loans. We 
have cut that $2.8 billion down to $1 billion. We've cut it by nearly 
two-thirds and made more loans available so people can go to college. 
That's the approach we ought to be taking. That is the way to save money 
on the program.
    Now, one last thing in this area that I'm very concerned about, in 
the education area, and that is that one of the things in the House list 
of rescissions to cut is all the money for safe and drug-free schools 
that would go to 94 percent of the schools in this country. And that's 
very important to me, personally. I invested a lot of time in fighting 
the problem of drugs when I was a Governor. We have worked hard to get 
more investment to fight drugs in every area in which we fight it here, 
since I've been President. And we see disturbing signs that in parts of 
our population, among young people, drug use is going up again, more 
casual drug use, young people thinking, after a decade of it going down, 
that somehow it's maybe not dangerous anymore, forgetting that it's 
illegal. And a lot of our schools are still not safe because of the root 
problems of drugs and violence. Now this money gives schools the ability 
to hire police officers, to put up metal detectors, but also to have 
drug education programs, the programs like the D.A.R.E. program that so 
many of you have had in your schools and others that try and help these 
kids stay off drugs. I think it would be a mistake to cut this money 
    Let me remind you that this money got into the crime bill, which you 
worked so hard for, because I gave the Congress, for the first time, a 
plan to cut the size of the Federal Government by 270,000. So we didn't 
raise any taxes. We didn't take any money away from anybody. We shrunk 
the Government and gave the money to the communities of this country to 
fight crime, including the safe and drug-free schools money. We should 
not eliminate that. We should fight for it, not fight to cut it out.
    As we are trying, you and I, to make responsibility a way of life in 
this country again, to teach young people the value of work, I think 
that all of us are going to have to say, first of all, without regard to 
our party, we agree with that.
    Now that brings me to one other point I want to make beyond 
education. When I was a child, my mother used to say, ``Idle hands are 
the devil's workshop.'' You're going to have a whole lot more idle hands 
this summer if we cut out those 600,000 summer jobs for our young 
people. And is it worth it to deny 1,000 young people in Louisville or 
1,600 young people in Boston--I met with a young--the Mayor's Youth 
Council up there not very long ago, 2,000 in the San Jose area. Is it 
worth it to deny them the chance to work, to be around responsible 
adults, to learn what it's like to sort of show up on time, put a day's 
work in, how you relate to other people at work? I mean, this goes way 
beyond the little amount of money you get out of this.
    Now, I have proposed, I will say again, to consolidate 60 programs 
and eliminate 4,000 bureaucrats to save money in the Housing and Urban 
Development Department, for example. I have proposed to do a lot of 
things like that.
    I told you about the Agriculture Department. We're coming with more. 
Hold on; every week, there will be more. I am not here to defend the way 
Government has operated in the past in Washington. But we have to make 
judgments here. We get hired to make judgments and the right decisions 
and not to throw out the baby with the bath water.
    Take the HUD Department, for example, I'm all for--I'm consolidating 
60 programs. We're getting rid of 4,000 people. We're phasing the 
Department down. But I don't believe in the proposed cut to housing 
assistance that helps 63,000 families--women with small children, low-
income senior citizens.
    What we ought to do is to look at the right kind of cuts. This whole 
rescission package does some interesting things. We're supposed to be 
passing responsibility back to you, but not undermining your ability to 
do your job. I think it's smarter to streamline programs and cut bu-

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reaucrats than to put families on the street or to leave you to deal 
with the problem.
    Many of the people willing to pass you the buck are talking about 
ending unfair burdens on local government. I do want to say this: I 
think--and the Speaker probably said this earlier today--it looks like 
we may have an agreement now among all of the conferees and the 
administration and everybody on this unfunded mandate bill. I am very 
strongly in favor of that. It is a good thing to do. It's something we 
should do.
    It is long since past time to stop imposing those mandates on you 
without paying for them. I spent a decade in the Governor's office in 
Arkansas, writing checks for decisions other people made. Now, I'm 
excited about that. That bill just passed the House a few weeks ago. It 
passed the Senate. It's a good, good thing.
    But look at this: The rescission package that's moving through the 
Congress actually cuts off funds to help you comply with present Federal 
requirements, including safe drinking water, lead paint, and asbestos 
removal. So that makes them, I guess, not unfunded, but de-funded 
mandates. [Laughter] So we eliminate burdens on the one hand and create 
new ones on the other. I think that is an error.
    Let me mention just one final area where we worked closely last 
year. We passed the crime bill after the people who were here before 
just talked about it for 6 years, played politics with it, and the 
rhetoric was so juicy on both sides they could never get around to 
passing a bill. That's what always happens, you know?
    Every one of these issues are tough. If they were easy, somebody 
would have done them. And you could pick either side and say it in a way 
that a majority is for you, right? I mean, you can. Are you for a 
balanced budget? Yes. Do you want to cut Social Security? No. [Laughter] 
See what I mean? So both sides win, right? Meanwhile, you're like the 
jurors listening to the lawyers' argument. Well, what's going to happen? 
Who did it? So we've got to work on this.
    But I want to say this about the crime bill. We finally did that. 
And what we did largely was what was recommended by law enforcement 
officials and community leaders around the country: money for prevention 
with a lot of flexibility for people at the local level; tougher 
punishment, but help for States that would adopt tougher punishment, to 
build more prisons; and of course, more police, 100,000 more police on 
the street.
    We did that because of two things. First of all, the law enforcement 
people said, we need more police. They also said they wanted a 
prevention fund. Secondly, we did it because of the evidence of what 
happens when community policing is properly instituted in the cities of 
our country.
    From over about the last 30 years, the number of police in our 
country had grown by only about 10 percent, while the violent crime rate 
tripled. Clearly, there is a connection between those two statistics. 
And yet, still we've seen in place after place, where more police are 
put on the street in community policing modes, the crime rate will drop. 
That's why every major law enforcement organization supported that.
    Now, the congressional bills and the crime bill are different from 
the House and Senate, but I ask you to look at the system we have now 
and the work it did, not only to catch criminals but to prevent crime. 
In New York City, the police commissioner implemented an aggressive 
community policing program that helped to significantly reduce serious 
crimes last year: auto thefts down 15 percent, robberies down 16 
percent, murder down 19 percent. Not just in big cities: The mayor of 
Odessa, Texas, wrote to tell me that in 1991 and '92, they had a very 
high crime rate. Then they implemented community policing, and 3 years 
later, serious crimes have dropped a total of 43 percent. Union City, 
Tennessee, calls for help from the police went down by 30 percent and 
arrests went up by 35 percent with community policing.
    That's why this crime bill was a partnership to help communities 
willing to take the responsibility to invest in their own security be 
more secure. An opportunity that is buried in redtape can hurt more than 
it helps. I don't know how many times I've seen little towns in my State 
have to hire consultants to figure out how to get Federal money, and it 
cut the margin of benefit dramatically.
    What we did was to set this police program up so that cities and 
counties can apply directly to the Federal Government, using a one-page 
application with eight questions, awarding police resources directly to 
you. Now, I think that's a pretty good deal. I know one of those bills 
wants to add another layer to that. I don't think that's a very good 
idea, either. I think that we ought to have an opportunity for 

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to apply directly and get the funds directly for law enforcement. My 
fellow Governors may disagree with that, but that's what I think.
    Now, in just the last few months since the crime bill took effect 
last fall, half the police departments in America have already received 
authority to hire almost 17,000 new police officers. We are ahead of 
schedule, and we're under budget. Some people who criticize our bill 
said that local governments wouldn't really want it; it was too much of 
a burden; it's an imposition; they can't afford to pay any match. All I 
know is, we have already received almost 11,000 applications 
representing over 60 percent of the police departments in America. 
Somebody thinks it's a good idea, and I think we ought to stay with it.
    Here's the bottom line: The crime bill now on the books guarantees 
100,000 new police officers. The alternative proposal doesn't guarantee 
a single one. We do give more flexibility and responsibility to you. 
Some of their proposals add bureaucracy and cut funds at the same time. 
So I say to you, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
    We should never, never close the door to writing new laws that will 
make us more secure in the fight against crime. And it should never be a 
partisan issue again. I was sick when I got here 2 years ago and I 
realized they'd been fooling around with that crime bill for 4 years 
because each side could figure out how to gain rhetorical advantage. And 
small differences obscured large agreements. So I want to continue to 
work on this problem.
    But this police initiative is a better deal for you and a better 
deal for the American people. And as I have said repeatedly, if 
necessary, I will veto any effort to repeal or undermine it.
    But let me say this, what we need is not more vetoes. What we need 
is more action. What we need is for people here to behave the way you 
have to behave or you couldn't survive. Half of you come from places so 
small that if you made people declare their party every time they walked 
through the door to see if they got anything done or not, you'd be run 
out on a rail within a week. [Laughter]
    So, the veto is a useful device and an important thing on occasion. 
But what the country really needs is action. We need action. We need to 
remember these problems have faces, names, and life histories. We need 
to pull together. We're doing it on the unfunded mandates. We can do it 
on the line-item veto. We can do it on all these other areas if we will 
exercise simple common sense and recognize what our mission is. We've 
got to keep the American dream alive: middle class economics, mainstream 
values, jobs, incomes, work, and family. We've got to make sure this 
country stays strong.
    And I'm telling you, it takes action, not just words. You live where 
the action is. If you don't do anything else while you're here, give us 
your energy and tell us you want action.
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 1:02 p.m. at the Washington Hilton Hotel. 
In his remarks, he referred to Carolyn Long Banks, president, National 
League of Cities; Mayor Greg Lashutka of Columbus, OH; and Mayor Sharpe 
James of Newark, NJ. A portion of these remarks could not be verified 
because the tape was incomplete.