[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book II)]
[November 2, 1995]
[Pages 1709-1712]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 1709]]

Remarks to the National Jewish Democratic Council
November 2, 1995

    Thank you very much, first of all, ladies and gentlemen, for that 
wonderful, wonderful welcome. Thank you, Jeff, for your introduction and 
for this beautiful Tzedakah box. Did I say it right--Tzedakah? 
[Applause] I'm very glad that you explained its significance, otherwise 
I was afraid that others would interpret it as something I might as well 
carry around, since whenever I see you, we seem to be--[laughter]. I was 
very moved by the story, and I'm very grateful. And that will have a 
happy place in the White House tonight.
    Thank you, Monte Friedkin, for your work here; and David Steiner, 
Nancy Jacobson, Liz Schrayer, all the others who worked on this tonight; 
Senator Dodd and Senator Daschle and Congressman Gephardt, Congressman 
Frost, Congressman Bentsen; and to your wonderful honorees behind me.
    You know, when Jeff said something about, look at this lineup, eight 
Jewish Senators, I thought he was going to say eight Jewish Senators and 
an Arkansas redneck. I didn't know what--[laughter]. I thought he was 
going to say, pick the person who's spoiling this lineup. [Laughter]
    Let me say to all of you, I'm grateful to be here. I'm grateful to 
be here among friends. I'm honored to be here with these eight Senators 
whom you are honoring tonight. They richly deserve it. I know I don't 
have to tell you this, but if it weren't for them, for their 
steadfastness, for their belief in the values we all share, for their 
vision for the future, my work as President today in the midst of the 
battles that are going on in Washington would be not only difficult but 
indeed impossible.
    I have never appreciated the wisdom of the Founding Fathers more 
than I have since this Republican budget has been working its way 
through Congress. They were really smart, those people who gave the 
President the veto. [Laughter] They understood the American system. They 
understood that there would be times in the history of our Republic, if 
we were going to last a very long time, when elections would produce 
unintended consequences and extreme conduct. And the President was given 
the veto because only the President has the responsibility to look after 
all the people of this country and to look into the future, to imagine 
that future, and to keep the country on the right path. But none of that 
would be possible without these whom you honor tonight and their allies 
in the Congress. They reflect the very best contributions of Jewish-
Americans to our way of life, as do the Jewish-American members of my 
Cabinet, Mickey Kantor and Secretary Reich and Secretary Glickman and 
Secretary Rubin and many others in our administration.
    I am delighted, again, I want to say, that you're giving them the 
Hubert Humphrey Humanitarian Award, and I'm delighted that Attorney 
General Humphrey from Minnesota is here with you tonight to present it. 
And I thank him for his friendship and contribution.
    I want to make a very brief argument to you tonight that I hope you 
will share with others throughout this country. When I sought the 
Presidency, I had a vision for what I wanted America to look like in the 
21st century. I wanted our country to be a place with opportunity for 
everybody; a place where children had good schools and safe streets; 
where we had a clean environment; where we were all investing and 
growing together; where we made a virtue, not a problem, of our 
diversity, and we were coming together, not being driven apart; a 
country where we were still strong enough and good enough to lead the 
world to peace and freedom and democracy.
    And I believe the only way to achieve that vision is to be open to 
new ideas consistent with the values that have made our country great 
and that make life worth living, both responsibility and opportunity; 
understanding the need of people not only for work but also for strong 
families; understanding that we are a community and we have 
responsibilities to each other, and that if we're going to make the most 
of our lives, we have to live by those responsibilities; understanding 
that standing up for America sometimes means doing what's unpopular in 
the short run because it's the right thing to do in the long run. These 
Members that you honor tonight and I have pursued for nearly 3 years now 
a very disciplined strategy to achieve that vision based on those 
values: pro-growth eco-

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nomics; a modern Government that is smaller and less bureaucratic but 
still strong enough to advance the public interest; and a genuine 
attempt to write these mainstream values into the public policy of 
    And I leave it for you to make a judgment. But if you look at where 
we are now compared to where we were 3 years ago, we have 7\1/2\ million 
more jobs. Home ownership is at a 15-year high. There have been more new 
businesses started in America in the last 3 years than in any comparable 
period in American history. Our sales to other countries of our products 
and services is up one-third in only 3 years. The deficit has gone from 
$290 billion a year to $164 billion a year. As a percentage of our 
income, the United States of America has the smallest Government deficit 
of any industrial country in the world except Norway. That is the record 
that these people have made in the last 3 years, and I think it is a 
very good record.
    Others may condemn big Government; these Democrats changed it. Your 
National Government has 163,000 fewer people than it did the day I was 
inaugurated. Next year, we'll have the smallest Federal Government since 
John Kennedy was President. As a percentage of our work force, it will 
be the smallest Federal Government since 1933--1933. Sixteen thousand 
pages of Federal regulation gone out of a total of 86,000.
    But we have not given up on the responsibility of the Government to 
work with the private sector to try to sell America's products abroad, 
to try to create jobs here at home, to try to protect the environment 
and public health, to try to empower all Americans to do what they need 
to do to make the most of their own lives.
    We have given you a modern Government. The era of big Government is 
over, but the era of good Government and strong Government cannot be 
over, because the public interest still must be advanced by the American 
people working together through their elected representatives. That is 
what these people have given you. And they are entitled to the gratitude 
and support of the United States of America.
    Most important of all to me, this country is getting its act 
together. We're coming back together as a people. In the last 3 years, 
compared with 3 years ago, the crime rate is down, the welfare rolls are 
down, the food stamp rolls are down, the poverty rate is down, the teen 
pregnancy rate is down, the infant mortality rate is at an all-time low, 
child support collections are up 40 percent, and the delinquency rate of 
young people on student loans has been cut in half. That is what has 
happened in the United States in the last 3 years. And a lot of the 
policies that we adopted that they supported have contributed to that. 
This country is on a roll. We're moving in the right direction.
    Do we have problems? Of course we do. Of course we'll all have 
problems as long as we're here on this Earth. The books of our faith 
tell us that. It is not given to people to be without problems. What are 
the problems of this time? Too many middle class people work harder 
without a pay raise and with increasing insecurity and no access to 
health care. Too many areas have not been affected by the economic 
recovery, and we have to find a way to get investment in enterprise into 
those areas; mostly they're in inner cities and isolated rural areas. 
And thirdly, even though all the social indicators look better, the 
truth is, a lot of our young teenagers are still in deep trouble. There 
are many places where the crime rate's going down but juvenile crime is 
going up. There are many places where drug use is going down but casual 
drug use by teenagers is going up. There are too many of our children 
still out there on the street raising themselves, frankly. And these are 
problems. But the answer to the problem is to do what we're doing and do 
more of it, to build on what we are doing, not to turn around and go in 
the other direction.
    This country is a force for peace and freedom around the world. We 
have stood up for America's values and America's interests. We've been 
able to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East, in Northern 
Ireland, and God willing, our people are working as hard as they can now 
in Ohio for the cause of peace in Bosnia, to put an end to the horrible 
slaughter in that troubled land.
    We have lessened the nuclear threat. We have fought terrorism and 
international drug running and organized crime. We are doing what can be 
done to stand up for this country's values. And yes, we were honored to 
be able to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East, but we're not 
done yet, and we have to keep working until the whole job is done. 
That's the only way that the people of Israel will ever be fully secure 
and the only way we will have ever finished our task there, when all the 
people are

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at peace with each other and pledge to one another's mutual existence, 
security, and freedom. And I pledge to you, I will keep working until 
the job is over.
    You must see this fight that we're in over the budget in the context 
of the brief remarks I have just made, in the context of what your 
values are and what your vision is for the 21st century. Let me tell you 
what this is not about: This is not about balancing the budget. And it 
is not about securing the Medicare program. That is not what this is 
about. This is about what kind of country we're going to be, what kind 
of people we are, and whether we're going to balance the budget in a way 
that is consistent with our mainstream values and consistent with our 
pro-growth economic policy. That's really what this is about.
    And you know, I have had to resist this whether it's popular or not. 
It seems that the public is coming back our way now. But the truth is 
that it is impossible to know from one year to the next what will be 
popular in a time of great change. The fundamental reality is we are 
changing dramatically the way we live and work and relate to the rest of 
the world. In a time like this, you can't read the polls; you have to 
fall back on your values and be open to new ideas.
    I've done a lot of things that made a lot of people angry, but I 
think I was right. The people that are in the majority now, when we 
passed our economic program, they said it would bring the country down. 
They were wrong. It lifted the country up. When we passed that economic 
program, we provided for lower cost college loans so young people like 
this could go to school at lower cost and pay their loans back on better 
terms. And they all opposed it because the organized interest groups 
were against it. But they were wrong, and we were right. It was the 
right thing for the long term of America.
    When these people were in the majority in Congress and we became the 
first National Government ever to take on the organized interest groups 
to pass the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban, they were all 
against it. But we were right, and they were wrong. And the American 
people are better off now.
    When we passed the crime bill that Jeff mentioned that put 100,000 
police on the street--and by the way, we're ahead of schedule and under 
budget. And you talk to any major police officer in this country in any 
city, and they will tell you that these police officers walking the 
street are not only catching criminals quicker, they are preventing 
crime. And after all, that is our objective.
    And when we gave the cities some money in block grants that they now 
are in love with, we were attacked for giving cities the money and 
letting them decide how best to tell our children that they don't have 
to turn to a life of crime; they don't have to turn to a life of drugs; 
they can solve their problems in ways other than violence. They were 
excoriated, these people were, because we gave that authority to cities 
to give our little children something to say yes to instead of something 
to say no to. But they were wrong, and we were right. And the crime rate 
is going down, and we are saving lives today because of the work these 
people are doing.
    The reason the budget fight is important is because it violates our 
values and it will undermine our future--what they are trying to do. I 
don't know about you, but my idea of America in the 21st century is not 
wrecking the Medicare program and being tougher on the oldest, the 
poorest, and the sickest senior citizens in this country. That's not my 
    My idea of the 21st century is not devastating the Medicaid program 
so that 4 million poor children will be denied medical care, hospitals 
will close in rural and urban areas, teaching hospitals and children's 
hospitals will stop doing the work they are now doing. That's not my 
idea of the 21st century. And we are better than that. We do not have to 
do that to balance the budget, and it is wrong to do it to advance some 
ideological theory.
    My idea of the America of the 21st century is not crippling the 
ability of the National Government to promote clean water and clean air, 
to protect the integrity of the American food supply, and to undermine 
the whole movement that we have made, all the progress we have made, to 
try to prove we could, in partnership, have economic growth and 
environmental protection. I believe if we give away the economy for 
short-term greed, we will all live to regret it. And these young 
children deserve better. We ought to give them a better 21st century 
than that.
    My idea of the 21st century does not include raising taxes on 
working families that make less than $27,000 a year in the most mean-

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part of all of their budget to give people in my income group and yours 
a tax cut. If they can figure out how to do it, fine--not by raising 
taxes on people with incomes of less than $27,000. This Congress cut 
them, and we ought not to raise them.
    There is no group in America devoted to the family more than Jewish-
Americans. When we took office and we started our work, I had heard 
people condemn welfare forever and ever and ever. I had actually spent a 
lot of time in my life talking to people on welfare, and I knew that 
most of them hated it and were dying to get off. And one of the things 
that we have to do is to make work pay. So this Congress, that these 
people were in the majority in, that you honor tonight, voted to double 
the working family's tax credit so that we could make a simple 
statement: If you work 40 hours a week and you have children back at the 
house, we want you to succeed as a parent as well as as a worker. So we 
won't let the tax system put you into poverty even if you just make a 
little bit of money; we will use the tax system to lift you out of 
poverty. There will never be an excuse to choose welfare over work. And 
if you choose work, you can also be successful as a parent. That's what 
the working-family tax credit did. It was signed into law by Gerald 
Ford, lauded by Ronald Reagan as the best antipoverty program in 
American history, expanded by George Bush. But because we doubled it, 
they are determined to cut it by more than we increased it. That is not 
my idea of the kind of America I want to live in in the 21st century. It 
is wrong. It is wrong. [Applause] Thank you.
    I want you to think about this last point. A lot of you run 
companies that are doing very well and are positioned to do better in 
the 21st century. Is there a single, sensible American company on the 
edge of the global village of the 21st century that would cut its 
investment in research, in technology, in education, and in training? Of 
course not. Their budget cuts our investment in research, in technology, 
in education, and training. That is wrong.
    Why would we make college education more expensive when we want more 
people to go? Why would we take 140,000 kids--or 45,000 kids--out of 
Head Start programs when we know young, poor kids need a chance to get 
off to a good start in school? Why would we do that? Why would we take 
college scholarships away from 150,000 young people when we need more 
people to go to college? Why would we cut the research budget of the 
United States when Japan, in the midst of a terrible recession, just 
voted to double their research budget? Why would we do these things?
    It is my job to be true to our common values, to stand up for our 
economic interests, and to look down the road toward the future for the 
young people of this country. That is what this struggle is all about. 
This country is on a roll. The economy is going in the right direction. 
The Government has a lot of work to do, but it is changing in the right 
direction. And most important of all, the American people are getting 
their act together. There is a remarkable resurgence of personal 
responsibility for self, for family, and for community. It would be a 
travesty if we at this moment, when we have things going in the right 
direction, when all of the problems we have require us to keep going and 
do more in that direction, if we took a terrible veer off into the dark 
waters of some extremist theory that drug this country into more 
division, in more problems, in more heartache, and that compromised the 
future of these young people. There is no country in the world better 
positioned than the United States for the 21st century.
    And so what I say to you tonight, these folks you're honoring and 
the person you helped to make President, we're going to do our best to 
give you that future. You rear back, relax, enjoy it, and help us fight 
for it.
    Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 7:59 p.m. at the National Museum of Women 
in the Arts. In his remarks, he referred to Jeffrey Hirschberg, chair, 
David Steiner, vice chair, and Nancy Jacobson, young leadership chair, 
Hubert H. Humphrey Award Committee; Monte Friedkin, national chairman, 
and Elizabeth Schrayer, acting executive director, National Jewish 
Democratic Council; and Hubert H. Humphrey III, Minnesota attorney