[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[June 6, 1995]
[Pages 818-824]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the National Governors' Association Summit on
Young Children in Baltimore, Maryland
June 6, 1995

    Thank you very much. To Governor Dean and Governor Leavitt and all 
of the Governors who are here, Governor Glendening and Mayor Schmoke and 
Congressman Cardin: I'm glad to be back in Baltimore. I'm going to have 
to register as a citizen and begin to pay taxes if I don't stay out of 
your State a little more, Governor.
    I am delighted to be here in Baltimore because Baltimore was one of 
the six cities which won a highly contested race for the empowerment 
zones in our country. And I congratulate Mayor Schmoke on that, and I 
look forward to his work, along with the Governor and others, in making 
Baltimore an even stronger and greater city as a result of that.
    Governor Dean, I want to thank you for your leadership of the 
Governors' Association. I don't think I ever enjoyed any job more than 
being chairman of the Governors' Association, although it was not always 
easy to please all the Governors. I think it's still not always easy to 
please all of the Governors. [Laughter]

[[Page 819]]

    I'm delighted to see so many representatives of State government, 
county government, local government here. My good friend Representative 
Blue from North Carolina, it's nice to see you here; Representative 
Campbell; and Commissioner Franke, thank you for your work, sir.
    I thank all of you for coming here to meet about the fate of our 
children. This has been a concern of mine, as the Governor said, for a 
long time and, of course, a profound concern for my wife. When I met 
her, she was spending an extra year in law school to do 4 years instead 
of 3, so that she could devote a year to the study of the laws that 
affected our children. And I might say she then predicted a lot of the 
more disturbing trends which we've seen unfold in our country over the 
last 20 years.
    Hillary is working on a book now about children's issues and the 
responsibilities we owe to them, and she picked the title of the old 
African proverb, ``It takes a village to raise a child.'' I want to come 
back to that a little bit during my remarks because I think there is a 
great difference of opinion about that in the United States today. I 
began with the premise that the first responsibility for children lies 
with their parents, but that since all our futures are bound up in 
theirs, the rest of us share a responsibility in the United States and 
in our States and in our communities for their welfare. I do believe, in 
other words, that it takes a village to raise a child, especially when 
you consider the facts of life that children face today.
    I ran for this job because I wanted to ensure a better future for 
our children, to ensure that instead of losing so many of our children 
and seeing so many of them grow up with the American dream beyond their 
grasp, that they could be rewarded for their work and that the values 
that we all share of work and family and community would be stronger, 
not weaker, when they came of age.
    I realized that people my daughter's age were in danger of growing 
up to be the first generation of Americans to do worse economically than 
their parents but, perhaps even more important, to live in a country 
that was less supportive of the kind and quality of life that most 
people in my generation took for granted.
    The recent report of the Carnegie Corporation tends to corroborate a 
lot of those disturbing trends with statistics you all know well. In 
``The Quiet Crisis,'' they say that still, after years of effort, 
compared to other industrialized countries, our infant mortality rates 
are higher, our low-birth-weight baby rates are higher, our teen 
pregnancy rates are much higher, our childhood immunization rates are 
lower, and of course, our children are subjected to far, far higher 
rates of violence in the United States than they would be in any other 
country in the world.
    If we are going to rescue our children's future, we have to do a 
number of things. We have to grow the middle class and shrink the under 
class. We have to support policies that reinforce work and families and 
communities. We have to change the way the Government operates so that 
it promotes independence, not dependence, opportunity and not 
bureaucracy. We have to give our youngest children things that they 
can't guarantee for themselves.
    If you believe it takes a whole village to raise a child, it means 
that the Government has a responsibility, working with people in the 
private sector, to guarantee children who can't get it for themselves 
health, safety, and education, and then when they get older, to empower 
them to make the most of their own lives. To do that, I believe we need 
not another ideological war but a passionate and practical commitment to 
what we know will work. The whole issue of welfare is at the core of 
    But let me just say for a moment, for the last 2\1/2\ years a great 
deal of what I have sought to do has been centered in that conviction, 
that we have to have a passionate and practical effort to go beyond 
ideological wars right to the heart of what will make life better for 
our children. We've worked hard to strengthen families and to give 
children a better start.
    The earned-income credit will now provide a tax reduction for 
working families with children with incomes below $27,000 an average of 
$1,000 a year. That's a pro-family policy. We should continue that, not 
reverse it.
    The family and medical leave law, more than anything I've done as 
President, has caused ordinary citizens to come up to me and say, 
``Thank you. I had a sick child. I had a sick spouse. My wife had a 
baby. We were able to continue to work and to provide for ourselves. We 
were able to be good parents and successful workers.'' That, it seem to 
me, is the kind of thing that we ought to do.
    Secretary Shalala, who is here, has worked very hard to expand 
immunization so that all our children under the age of 2 will be 

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immunized by the turn of the century. We have expanded Head Start 
dramatically. The Goals 2000 program in which many of you have 
participated--most of you have--emphasizes grassroots reforms to achieve 
national, indeed, international standards of excellence.
    When children are more independent, we have given them access to 
lower cost, better repayment terms for college loans with tougher 
requirements to repay them. We've worked with you for more 
apprenticeship programs for the young people who don't go to 4-year 
colleges and universities, through the school-to-work program. And of 
course, many of you have been very active in the national service 
program, AmeriCorps, which gives our young people a chance to give 
something back to their communities and earn more funds to go on to 
school. And I want to say a special word of thanks to Senator Mikulski 
of Maryland for her work on national service.
    The crime bill was an important part of this because it emphasized 
not simply more punishment and more prisons but also protecting children 
through 100,000 more police officers on the street and through 
prevention programs that give our young people something to say yes to 
as well as something to say no to.
    We were able to do those things and still reduce the deficit. The 
new majority in Congress uses 7-year terms. We use--the deficit is going 
down by a trillion dollars over 7 years, thanks to the '93 and '94 
budgets. More than 6.3 million new jobs came into our economy. But we 
did it while saying that it takes a whole village to raise a child; that 
children deserve education, health, and safety; that families should be 
strengthened and supported; that work should be exalted; and that 
parents have to be able to succeed in the world we are living in, both 
as parents and as workers.
    One thing we did not do is to pass comprehensive welfare reform. And 
that is now what is before the Congress. And that, more than anything 
else in this debate, captures a lot of the philosophical arguments that 
are at the core of what is going on in our national discussion today.
    I don't think there's any question that I believe we ought to reform 
the welfare system. I was proud to represent the Governors when the 
Family Support Act was written under President Reagan's administration 
with strong bipartisan support. I realize what the shortcomings of it 
are, especially since it was never properly funded. And therefore, I 
have now given, the Secretary and I have, 29 of the 50 States exemptions 
from Federal rules and regulations to pursue your own path to welfare 
reform to move people to work. Nothing like that has ever been done 
    In Missouri, Vermont, and Wisconsin, Governors Carnahan, Dean, and 
Thompson are using their waivers to impose time limits and to require 
work. In Ohio and Oregon, Governors Voinovich and Kitzhaber are moving 
people to work by using money now spent on welfare and food stamps to 
subsidize private sector jobs. Others are doing other things that are 
very important. Every Governor I've ever spoken with, without regard to 
party, understands that welfare reform is important and must, first and 
foremost, be about work.
    Unfortunately, to my mind, the welfare reform bill in Congress--or 
the debate--has not focused as much as it should have about work. And I 
believe that in important respects, the tenor of the debate not only in 
the House but also in the Senate puts both children and States at risk. 
The House bill, clearly, was too tough on children and too weak on work. 
Finally, after a lot of efforts, the House did agree to be tough on 
deadbeat parents, something that everyone among the Governors agreed it 
needed to be done. The Senate Finance Committee reported a bill out the 
other day that clearly is a step in the right direction in many areas 
but, I believe, still misses the point on work and on children.
    According to the Congressional Budget Office, the current Senate 
Finance Committee bill will not succeed in moving people from welfare to 
work. The Congressional Budget Office--and the person who wrote the 
report was generally acknowledged to be one of the preeminent Republican 
experts on welfare reform--concluded that only six of our States would 
be able to fulfill the bill's work requirements in the year 2000 with 
the bill's funding provisions. Forty-four States will fail. Six out of 
fifty in baseball is a .120 batting average. You can't play for the 
Orioles with that batting average; you can't stay in the minor leagues. 
And you sure won't elevate children or end welfare as we know it.
    The reason the Senate bill failed on the standard of work seems to 
me is clear. It takes away the tools that States now use to move people

[[Page 821]]

from welfare to work: child care, job training, greater incentives for 
job placement.
    I very much want to work across party lines to solve this problem. 
But if we're going to end welfare as we know it, Congress must pass a 
bill that meets some basic principles. First, we have to require people 
who can work to go to work and make sure that they have the child care 
to do it so that they don't have to hurt their children to do the right 
thing as citizens. It defies common sense to insist that people go to 
work when they have very young children if doing so will actually cost 
them money.
    Second, the legislation should have real work requirements, but it 
ought to be backed up with the resources necessary to get people into 
jobs and keep them there. According to the CBO, the Congressional Budget 
Office, it would cost you, the States, $10 billion a year by the year 
2000 to meet these requirements just in the Senate bill. And yet, this 
bill asks you to meet these requirements with less money than you have 
    Now, I was a Governor long enough to remember what an unfunded 
mandate is. A lot of you--Governor Voinovich was in the Rose Garden 
celebrating when we signed the unfunded mandates bill; I strongly 
supported it. Just because this doesn't say it's one doesn't mean it 
isn't by another term. So I think we have to look at this forthrightly.
    The third thing that I think is important is that welfare reform 
should have real incentives to reward the States who do succeed in 
putting people to work, not for cutting them off. The current bill gives 
States an incentive instead to save money simply by throwing people off 
the welfare roles. The House bill even gives States what the Catholic 
Church has called an illegitimacy bonus, an incentive for more people to 
have abortions. That is not welfare reform. If we're going to change the 
culture of welfare, we have got to reward success, we've got to depart 
from the status quo. I want a performance bonus but one that will force 
the welfare bureaucracy and the welfare recipients to focus on work.
    The fourth thing I believe is that the legislation should protect 
States so they can continue to move people from welfare to work even 
when there is an economic downturn, extraordinary population growth, or 
unpredictable emergencies. In their current forms, these bills could 
really hurt the high-population States, the growth States, like Florida 
and Utah and others, and could put every State at risk in the next 
recession or profound natural disaster.
    Finally, let me say we ought to protect our children. If you believe 
it takes a whole village to raise a child, we should avoid mean-spirited 
restrictions on benefits to children. We should avoid cuts in child 
nutrition and adoption and child protective services. We should give 
States more flexibility, but we should also make sure States continue to 
fulfill their responsibilities. The proposed legislation contains no 
incentives or requirements for States to maintain their own funding for 
cash assistance or for child care or work supports.
    Now, I know that if you believe in the pure theory of State 
experimentation--and you know that I believe a lot of that, because if 
you just look at what's in these 29 waivers, I have pretty much gone 
along with anything the States wanted to do to move people from welfare 
to work. So you might argue that, in theory, if we believe that States 
ought to have great flexibility, why don't we just give them a block 
grant without any requirement for local maintenance or anything of that 
kind? But the serious danger there is that this will become a race to 
the bottom. It's always cheaper to cut people off welfare than to move 
them to work. It will always be cheaper to lower benefits than to figure 
out how to reduce the caseload by moving them to work.
    We already do less for young children than most of our major 
competitors--perhaps all of our major competitors--throughout the world. 
And I just believe that we cannot allow welfare reform to be a race to 
the bottom.
    Let me say again, I know in theory it's right, but let me remind all 
of you, I served for 12 years as a Governor. I served in good times and 
bad times. I know that the last 2 years, this is the second year in a 
row when in all probability all 50 States will have economic growth. 
That is a highly unusual circumstance over the last two decades.
    And I'm just telling you, I've been in enough State legislatures in 
my life, not just in my State but all around this country, to know 
what's going to happen. If you put this welfare reform block grant with 
less money and no local maintenance requirement up against the Medicaid 
cuts and the education cuts and the other things that are in this 
budget, you tell me how the poor children of your State are going to 
fare when

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they have to deal with the nursing home lobby. And I'm not complaining 
about the nursing home lobby; you just tell me how they're going to 
    You know, everybody wants to cut Medicaid to shreds, because they 
say that's just a poor person's health care. You know as well as I do 
almost 70 percent of that money goes to the elderly and the disabled. 
And they're all coming to see you and your State legislators.
    Now, how are they going to do? How are these poor children going to 
do? How are they going to do against some of my favorite lobbies--the 
education lobbies? How are they going to do? Not very well. How are they 
going to do against a lobby that no one can say no to, the prison lobby? 
The crime rate goes up, and your legislature stiffens sentences, and 
people don't want you paroling folks that have no business on the 
street. And the only way you can get this Federal money for prisons is 
if you promise to leave people in longer and ignore your own parole 
laws. When you have to match that money or build prisons on your own, 
how are you going to stand up and say, ``Well, somehow we're going to 
keep doing what we used to do for poor children?''
    And you can walk away and say, ``Well, what we used to do doesn't 
work, so maybe we shouldn't do anything.'' But the truth is we do less--
I will say it again--we do less for children than the countries with 
which we compete.
    And this is not a partisan issue, at least it never has been before. 
Everything that happened in the last 2 years on Head Start, on every 
education initiative we did, on the family and medical leave, every 
single thing was a bipartisan issue, everything.
    Now, I think there are two big debates that are undergirding this 
welfare debate, and I'd like to just put it out on the table today. One 
is the debate about what causes people to be on welfare. Is it economic 
and politics, or is it culture? That's really what's behind all this 
debate about what's in the movies and in the rap lyrics and all.
    And by the way, I think it's a positive thing. You know, Mrs. Gore 
was talking 18 years ago about the dangers of destructive entertainment 
forces on children. I've been challenging Hollywood and the television 
networks to reduce violence for years. I don't mind this debate. I think 
this is a good debate.
    But the truth is, it's not either/or. You see, there was one young 
girl interviewed in a movie line last week--asked her, what do you think 
about this debate in Washington about whether movies were causing the 
breakdown of families. And she said, ``Well, my father's working three 
jobs. I'll tell you, that's not good for our family. I wish he'd just 
come home and spend some time with me.''
    On the other hand, people who deny that culture is a force are 
wrong. The States in this country with the lowest incarceration rates 
also have the highest high school graduation rates, and they often don't 
spend the most money. There are almost no poor children in families with 
two parents in the home. So if I could just wave a magic wand and make 
this problem go away, I would never have another kid in a home where 
there weren't two parents until the child reached a certain age so that 
then the child could take care of himself or herself. That would be a 
wonderful thing if that could be done. And in that sense, there is a 
cultural component to all this.
    So the people that are out there exhorting parents to be more 
responsible, and especially male parents to be more responsible, people 
like this Promise Keepers group, they deserve our support. They deserve 
our support. There is a cultural element in all this. But to say that 
there is no national responsibility on the economic and political side, 
I think is just plain wrong and defies the experience of every, single, 
solitary country in the world. And I might add that all the people that 
are out there working in the private charities, go interview them and 
ask them if they think that we can just walk away from this.
    So I would say, this cultural debate is a very good thing, and we 
ought to have it. But there is plainly a political and economic root to 
this. If you look at rising poverty and stagnating middle class incomes 
in this country, it is clearly the result of international economic 
trends sweeping all advanced countries and national economic policies. 
And all those things are reinforced, one with another.
    We are on the verge of having a 40-year low in the minimum wage. Why 
would somebody who was on welfare who had two kids, who at least had 
health care from Medicaid and they've got food stamps, go to work if we 
won't even raise the minimum wage to keep it up

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to where it was 10 years ago--in fact, we're going to let it go to a 40-
year low?
    So I implore you, Governors are supposed to be the places where 
people look at the real world and they get away from all this theory and 
look at the practice. There's a political and an economic element to 
this problem, and there is a cultural element to the problem. That is 
one big deal. I think there is a public responsibility and there is a 
private responsibility, both, not either/or.
    There's another debate going on here which is, what is the most 
important thing we can do to help grow the economy and stabilize the 
society? And on one side of that debate there are those who say the most 
important thing we can do is to reduce the deficit and shrink the 
Government, and nothing else really matters because the Federal 
Government would mess up a one-car parade.
    And on the other side of that debate are not people who say we need 
a big Government, we need an expanded bureaucracy; that debate is not 
existent in Washington. You look at the record. We have reduced already, 
with the two budgets already adopted, the size of the Federal Government 
by 270,000. Congressman Cardin's already voted to do that, to bring the 
Federal Government to its smallest size since President Kennedy was 
President. We've had dramatic changes in regulation. The 29 States with 
the waivers from Federal rules on welfare is just one example. The 
deficit has been brought down three times in a row for the first time 
since Mr. Truman was here. Nobody is for a higher deficit. That is not 
the issue.
    The issue is, are there any other responsibilities of the National 
Government? I believe there are some. I think we have to help people who 
cannot help themselves through no fault of their own, not because 
they're irresponsible but through no fault of their own, like little 
children who are poor. And I think we have to empower people to make the 
most of their own lives, because that way we'll all be better off. 
That's what I believe. Therefore, I don't think that you can sacrifice 
our responsibility to educate people and our responsibility for basic 
health and safety, security issues, on the altar of deficit reduction.
    You know, sometimes I think my big problem is that I was for some of 
these things before they were popular, like deficit reduction. 
Everybody's for it now. That doesn't mean we didn't do a lot of it in 
the last 2 years.
    So we have to decide that. Now, don't kid yourself--from the point 
of view of the Congress, welfare reform has stopped being welfare reform 
primarily. Primarily welfare reform is a way to cut spending on the 
poor, so that we don't have to worry about it and we can balance the 
budget in 7 years and give a big tax cut, largely benefiting upper 
income people who have done pretty well in the 1980's. That's what this 
is about.
    It is true that a lot of people genuinely believe the States ought 
to have more say over this. So do I. It is true that a lot of people 
believe the prior system didn't do much good for people who were 
permanently dependent on welfare. So do I, and I have for 15 years. But 
we should not confuse--if we really say it's more important to cut 
spending so that we can balance the budget in 7 years and still give a 
tax increase to upper income people, even if we're going to hurt poor 
children, people ought to just say that flat out because that's what's 
really underneath this.
    So I ask you to think about it. What's it going to be like the next 
time the coasts are growing and the Middle West is in a depression, when 
the farmland goes to pieces? What's it going to be like the next time 
there's a high-tech collapse and the coasts are in trouble and only the 
heartland is doing well? What's it going to be like the next time we 
have a serious national recession if there is not even a maintenance-of-
effort requirement, if there is no real effort to have work? You know 
what it's going to be like. You'll have less people moving from welfare 
to work, more people getting less money, and the most important thing is 
our children, our future, will be in more difficult circumstances.
    You could not design a program that would be too tough on work for 
me. You could not design a program that would give the States any more 
flexibility than I want to give them as long as we recognize that we, 
our American village, have a responsibility to our children and that in 
the end, our political and economic policies must reinforce the culture 
we're trying to create. They ought to be pro-family and pro-work. But if 
we get in the fix in this country where people cannot succeed as parents 
without being derelict at work or they cannot succeed at work without 
being derelict to their children, which is exactly what exists for too 
many people

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in America today or that is their deep worry, then we are going to 
suffer. We are going to suffer economically, and we are going to suffer 
    Now, I think this is a huge opportunity. We can save some money and 
reduce the deficit in this welfare area. I have proposed that. I think 
we can. I don't believe every penny we're spending is sacrosanct, but I 
just would say to you we must not walk away, and you should not walk 
away, and you shouldn't want us to put you in a position to walk away 
from our fundamental responsibilities. Just imagine all the debates that 
are going to occur here. Children are not very well organized. Poor 
children are very poorly organized. They will not do well on balance in 
all the State legislatures of the country the next time things are 
really bad and, especially, after all the other budget cuts come down to 
all the other people who will also be on your doorstep.
    We can have welfare reform. We can balance the budget. We can shrink 
the Government and still be faithful to our fundamental responsibilities 
to our children and our future. Let's don't make it either/or. Let's do 
it all, do it right, and take this country to the next century in good 
    Thank you, and God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 1:38 p.m. at the Stouffer Renaissance 
Harbor Place. In his remarks, he referred to Governors Howard Dean of 
Vermont, Mike Leavitt of Utah, Parris N. Glendening of Maryland, Mel 
Carnahan of Missouri, Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin, George V. 
Voinovich of Ohio, and John A. Kitzhaber of Oregon; Mayor Kurt Schmoke 
of Baltimore; State legislators Daniel T. Blue of North Carolina and 
Jane L. Campbell of Ohio; and Randall Franke, president, National 
Association of Counties.