[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book II)]
[September 9, 1995]
[Pages 1334-1335]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 1334]]

The President's Radio Address
September 9, 1995

    Good morning. As a candidate for President, I pledged to end welfare 
as we know it. And as President, I've been doing everything in my power 
to keep that pledge.
    Earlier, for more than 15 years, first as Governor of Arkansas and 
later when I became President, I have always felt it was critically 
important to fix our broken welfare system. It doesn't honor our values 
of work and family and personal responsibility. Well, it's been a long 
time coming, but finally the Senate is taking up this issue.
    Meanwhile, over the last 2\1/2\ years, while I've been urging 
Congress to act, my administration has worked as hard as we can to 
change the welfare system by executive action in a way that honors the 
values most Americans hold dear: work, responsibility, and family. We've 
put tough child support enforcement at the center of the national 
debate. Our administration collected a record level of child support in 
1994--$10 billion. And I signed a tough Executive order to crack down on 
Federal employees who owe child support.
    We've also cut through Federal redtape to speed up welfare reform 
all around the country by approving experiments in a record 34 States. 
Just through these experiments, 7 million recipients of welfare around 
the country are now being required to work, pay child support, live at 
home, and stay in school or earn a paycheck from a business that pays 
them with money that used to be spent on food stamps and welfare. Now, I 
have told all 50 States they can have these welfare reforms immediately, 
within 30 days, just by asking.
    Next week, it's the Senate's turn to do its part. The current system 
must be replaced. Instead of requiring people to work, now it penalizes 
people who go to work. Instead of strengthening families, now it gives 
teenagers a separate check to leave home, leave school, and set up their 
own households. Instead of demanding responsibility, it lets too many 
parents who owe child support just walk away without paying. That's not 
right, and it's time to change it.
    But we should do this the right way, not the wrong way. Real reform, 
first and foremost, must be about work. We should impose time limits and 
tough work requirements while making sure that parents get the child 
care they need to go to work. We should reward States for putting people 
to work, not for cutting people off. We will only succeed if we move 
people from welfare to work.
    But real welfare reform is also about family. That means putting in 
place the toughest possible child support enforcement. It means 
requiring teen mothers to live at home, to stay in school, to turn their 
lives around. But it doesn't mean punishing children for the mistakes of 
their parents.
    And finally, welfare reform must be about responsibility. States 
have a responsibility to maintain their own efforts to move people from 
welfare to work. That way we can have a race to independence, not a race 
to the bottom. And individuals have a responsibility to work in return 
for the help they receive. It's time to make welfare a second chance, 
not a way of life. It's time to make responsibility a way of life.
    Let me be clear: Some differences still remain between the 
congressional proposals and me. But we must find common ground, and 
soon. Look how far we've come already. Not long ago, some conservatives 
were talking about putting young people in orphanages. And not long ago, 
many liberals opposed requiring welfare recipients to work. But we've 
reached consensus on these issues. Now we need to go the final mile.
    We've stood at the brink of welfare reform before. But for too long, 
American people have been frustrated by demands for ideological purity, 
by politicians who put their personal ambitions first. Millions of 
people who are trapped in the system and millions more taxpayers who pay 
the tab have suffered as a result. We can't let that happen again.
    This is a time to deliver for the American people, not to pander to 
extremists who have held us back for too long. We can't let welfare 
reform die at the hands of ideological extremism or Presidential 
politics or budget politics. If welfare reform gets caught up in the 
whirlpool of the budget debate, we run the risk that it might drown.

[[Page 1335]]

    This is an historic moment. For 30 years, under both Democratic and 
Republican leadership, we've been saddled with a broken welfare system. 
Now we've got a real chance to reach common ground and higher ground. 
The Senators owe it to the people who sent them to Washington not to let 
this opportunity slip away by doing the wrong thing or by failing to act 
at all. The American people have waited long enough.
    Next week, let's end the old system that fosters dependence, and 
let's give the American people a new one based on independence, work, 
responsibility, and family.
    Thanks for listening.

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