[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[January 19, 1995]
[Pages 62-63]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on the Retirement Protection Act of 1994
January 19, 1995

    Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. After that kind introduction I'm 
loath to say what I was about to say, which is I'm afraid the headline 
on this story will be ``Reich comes out for playing hard.'' [Laughter] 
But I think people who work hard should also be able to play hard. 
    I want to thank Paul Wood for his story and Marvin Clarke for his 
testimony in his long battle to make sure the country did something to 
help people so that there wouldn't be other people in the situation he 
finds himself in. I want to thank the steelworkers and the senior 
citizens groups and all the others who were mentioned by Secretary 
Reich. I'd like to especially thank someone who is not here, my longtime 
friend J.J. Pickle, who retired from the Congress and who left this as 
his last legacy in a long career of helping people with their own lives. 
I'd like to thank another longtime friend of mine who is still here--
that's maybe a disability in this town, but Marty Slate has done a 
wonderful job at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. I'll never 
forget the first time Hillary told me about Marty Slate. She said, 
``That's the smartest guy I ever met in my life. He'll find a way to 
solve any kind of problem.'' And you have done a fine job, and we're 
grateful to you.
    And I'd like to thank someone whose name I don't know and I've been 
trying to find out before this moment. I'd like to thank the person in 
the Richmond debate in 1992 who asked President Bush and Ross Perot and 
Bill Clinton about the problems of underfunded pensions and first got my 
attention on this issue. I wish--I don't know who that person was, but I 
am deeply indebted, and now so are several million other Americans, to 
that person for bringing this issue personally to me in a very direct 
    Two years ago from tomorrow, I became President, with a commitment 
to try to restore the American dream for all Americans and to make sure 
that we enter the next century as the strongest country in the world, a 
force for peace and freedom and democracy, but most important of all, as 
one which in a very different world would keep the American dream alive 
for all of our people.
    When I signed the Retirement Protection Act into law last month, it 
was almost completely unnoticed because at the end of the year it had to 
go through in the comprehensive legislation that involved the passage of 
the GATT trade agreement. And we wanted to do this today because this 
act was so profoundly important to so many millions of Americans and it 
says a lot about what we are trying to do here in Washington.
    This is part of a new economic policy designed to help the American 
people stay ahead in a world economy that is changing so rapidly that, 
while it offers vast new benefits to people, it also is very frightening 
to a lot of people and causes too much insecurity and unsettling for 
people who have worked hard and done the right things all their lives. 
It gives the American taxpayers a more effective, more efficient, and 
more disciplined Government. And this bill furthers what I have called 
my own contract with America, the New Covenant. It says that people who 
act responsibly should be rewarded.
    The Retirement Protection Act says that people deserve a pension 
system that they rely on. They deserve employers who take actions to be 
worthy of their own trust and the labor that they give them, year-in and 
year-out. They deserve a Government that will protect them and stand by 
them, a Government that is their partner.

[[Page 63]]

    It says to employers that they can no longer gamble with the 
retirement savings of their own employees, allowing pension plans to 
become dangerously underfunded, expecting taxpayers to bail them out. It 
means that responsible businesses with well-funded plans will no longer 
have to carry an unfair share of the burden of the insurance costs for 
businesses who do not do the same.
    As a result of the new law, the funding level of large, underfunded 
pension plans will be increased dramatically so that the benefits can be 
paid as they were promised. The National Pension Insurance System will 
remain secure. Employees will get better information warning them when 
their plans could be at risk.
    In stabilizing the Federal insurance system, we used the power of 
Government to avert a potential crisis, protecting millions of retirees, 
corporate pension plans, and the taxpayers from huge potential losses.
    Today we can be grateful that the security of our pensions are 
strong and growing stronger, thanks to the Retirement Protection Act and 
the work of all of you in this room who did so much to make it happen.
    Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:34 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the 
White House. In his remarks, he referred to Marvin D. Clarke of 
Moundsville, WV, who lost one-third of his pension, and Paul E. Wood of 
Griffin, GA, who feared losing his pension. The Retirement Protection 
Act of 1994 appears in title VII of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act of 
1994, approved December 8, 1994 (Public Law No. 103-465).