[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book II)]
[October 27, 1997]
[Pages 1433-1437]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 1433]]

Remarks to the Democratic Leadership Council
October 27, 1997

    Thank you very much. If you listen closely, you will hear that I am 
in my annual voice-loss mode. [Laughter] I think I can get through this 
talk. We celebrated Hillary's 50th birthday over the weekend. A lot of 
our friends came in, and the weather changed. And about once a year when 
this happens, this happens. [Laughter] I'll do my best.
    Let me thank Al From and Senator Lieberman. My good friend Sandy 
Robertson, thank you for what you said. To all the Members of the Senate 
and House who are here and who have been so good to the DLC over the 
years; to all my predecessors as chairman of the DLC, including several 
Members of the Congress and former Congressman McCurdy.
    It's hard for me to believe that it's been 7 years since Al From, in 
his sort of gentle, demure way--[laughter]--persuaded me to become 
chairman of the DLC. It's hard to believe it's been 6 years since I 
announced my candidacy for President, nearly 5 years since we began to 
work together to prepare America for the 21st century. But it has been.
    And for nearly 5 years, we have worked together on a simple but 
profound vision to say that the American dream should be alive for 
everybody who is responsible enough to work for it; that our country 
must continue to lead the world for peace and freedom and prosperity; 
that we have to find a way to bring our people together, across all the 
lines that divide us, into one America.
    The success of the last 5 years owes much to the ideas and the work 
of the DLC and its grassroots leaders, going back to the mid-1980's, 
when a small handful of us organized it. Even then, the DLC was working 
to go beyond the stale debate and the false choices of Washington, DC, 
with modern policies, good ideas, mainstream values. Today, from time to 
time, I still lament the fact that we have not rid the rhetoric of our 
Nation's Capital of a lot of the old debate and a lot of the old false 
choices. But believe you me, out there in the real world where Americans 
live, we're a long way from where we were just 5 years ago, and you 
should be very proud of it.
    First, we had to define what the role of Government should be in 
preparing our country for the future. We had to reject the idea of those 
who say we should do nothing with Government and reject those who say we 
should try to do everything. Instead, we gave the American people a 
Government that is very much smaller, more focused, but more committed 
to giving people the tools and the conditions they need to make the most 
of their own lives.
    Then we had to go area by area to abandon those old false choices, 
the sterile debate about whether you would take the liberal or the 
conservative position, that only succeeded in dividing America and 
holding us back.
    On the economy, we replaced trickle-down economics and its huge 
deficits with invest-and-grow economics, a strategy aimed at both 
reducing the deficit and investing in our people. On crime, we replaced 
all the tough talk with tough action, with a strategy that had both 
punishment and prevention, along with more police officers on the 
street. On welfare, we went beyond those who were complacent on the one 
side and those who condemned all people on welfare on the other, with a 
strategy that is tough on work but good for children and welfare 
families. On education, we went beyond the old debate of abandoning 
public education altogether or simply throwing more money at the status 
quo with a strategy of standards, reform, and investment. On the 
environment, we rejected the idea that protecting the health of our 
families has to hurt the economy. Instead, we embraced a strategy 
designed to preserve and enhance the environment and our public health 
while growing the economy. We also restored the primacy of family and 
community to our work with initiatives like family and medical leave, 
the dramatic expansion of the earned-income tax credit, the empowerment 
zones for distressed areas in our inner cities, AmeriCorps, the national 
service proposal, which the DLC did so much to begin. And along the way, 
we soundly defeated the Republican Party's 1995 Contract With America.
    Our philosophy of opportunity, responsibility, and community, 
guideposts embraced by the DLC before 1993, are now America's guideposts 
to the 21st century. Our vision has, in large

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measure, become America's vision. And because of that, America is 
stronger than it has been in a long time: our economy the healthiest in 
the world, our social fabric mending, our international leadership 
unchallenged. With 13 million new jobs, low inflation, low unemployment, 
homeownership at an all-time high, crime down for 5 years in a row, 
record millions of people moving from welfare to work, we are preparing 
America for the 21st century.
    Once again, we face the future with confidence, confidence that must 
give us strength for the work ahead. For today I want to talk to you 
about that, what we still have to do to prepare our people for this new 
era. Today, it seems to me the central challenge for the DLC, for all 
Democrats, indeed, for all Americans, is how to seize the benefits of a 
new economy in a way that benefits all our people, that keeps us all 
moving forward together.
    The cutting-edge industries of the future, computers, biotech, 
aerospace--in those, America leads the world. We also lead the world 
again for the first time since the seventies in automobile production 
and sales. In sectors old and new, information and technology and global 
commerce are leading the transformation. The new wealth of nations is to 
be found in skills, knowledge, and imagination. But this must also be 
backed up by strong trade policies, strong economic policies, a 
commitment to the environment and to giving all our people the chance to 
    Here again, this must not be an either/or choice. We must embrace 
both the global economy and the idea that there should be a social 
compact of mutual interdependence and responsibility.
    Now, in the industrial age, the progressive movement and the New 
Deal forged the social compact in which the success of the economy was 
premised on the security of working people. The 20th century social 
compact served us very well. It built our middle class. It embodied the 
American dream. But it is not adequate to deal with the rapid change and 
energy of the information economy.
    Therefore, it is up to us--to all of us--the generation of the 
computer revolution, to craft a new social compact for a new economy, a 
new understanding of the responsibilities of Government and business and 
every one of us, of what we owe to each other. It is up to us to make 
sure that our people have the strength, the skills, the security, the 
flexibility we need to reap the rewards of the 21st century.
    Now, when I took office in 1993, the new economy was within reach, 
but our policies were keeping it from us, building up big deficits, high 
unemployment, stagnant wages. We took a new and different approach--
first, to reduce the deficit, to free our people of the dead weight that 
had been on us since the 1980's. In 1993, with your strong support, we 
did just that. Normally, I don't dwell on the past, but I think it's 
worth pointing out one more time: the deficit reduction plan of 1993 was 
supported only by Democrats, enacted in the face of the most withering 
partisan criticism and real political risk that cost some Members their 
positions in Congress. Well, it's time for the naysayers to admit they 
were wrong. It worked, and America is better for it.
    On the day I took office, the deficit was $290 billion. I am pleased 
to tell you that today, the budget deficit this past year was $22.6 
billion. That is a reduction of $267 billion, more than 90 percent, even 
before the balanced budget law saves one red cent. The Democratic Party 
gave that to America, and I am proud of them for doing it.
    Our deficit today is the smallest share of our economy since 1970, 
the first time in 50 years the deficit has gone down 5 years in a row, 
the first time in decades our economy has grown while the deficit went 
down, not up. Now the balanced budget law will complete the process, 
give us the first balanced budget in a generation. And I hope the DLC 
will always be proud of its role in replacing trickle-down economics 
with invest-and-grow economics.
    The second strategy of--the second element of our strategy has been 
to expand exports. You all know the arithmetic: We are 4 percent of the 
world's population, 20 percent of its income; 96 percent of the world's 
consumers live somewhere else; the developing countries are growing 3 
times as fast as the developed countries. We are the world's number one 
exporter. If we want to keep our income, with our population base, we 
have to sell even more to the other 96 percent, especially those who are 
growing the most rapidly.
    Export-related jobs pay more. Fully a third of our economic growth 
in the past 5 years came from trade. This has happened in no small 
measure because we have negotiated tough trade agreements--over 200 of 
them--to open

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new markets to American products. Our markets in general have been open 
to the world for decades. The core of our international economic 
strategy has been to open the world's markets to us. Our workers, when 
given a fair chance, can outcompete anyone. When I've had the authority 
to make broad agreements, I have used it in America's interest.
    That's why it's critically important that the President be given 
this fast-track authority again, to negotiate trade agreements and 
submit them to Congress, the same authority every President of either 
party has had since Gerald Ford, the ability to create open and fair 
trade for business and working people and to advance our prosperity.
    Let me just give you one example. The information technology 
agreement we reached with 37 other nations just a year ago will 
eliminate tariffs and unshackle trade of $500 billion in computers, 
semiconductors, and telecommunications. This $5 billion cut in tariffs 
on American products can lead to hundreds of thousands of high-wage jobs 
for our people. And we can do more of this if I have the power to do it.
    I want to open trade in areas where American firms are leading: 
computer software, medical equipment, environmental technology. I want 
to open foreign markets to our agricultural products that aren't open to 
them now. I want to open the markets of Chile and other Latin nations to 
our goods and services, and other nations that are growing 3 times the 
rate of the American, the European, and the Japanese economies. If we 
don't seize these opportunities, our competitors will.
    Last year, for the first time in recent history, Latin American 
nations had more trade with Europe than the United States. Now that 
Canada has negotiated a trade agreement with Chile, every major economy 
in the hemisphere has duty-free access to Chile's markets but one--ours. 
Now, that's a bad deal for our businesses and our workers. It's an 
``America last'' strategy. For the life of me, I can't figure out why 
anybody in the wide world believes it will create jobs for us to stay 
out of markets that other people are in, when we can win the competitive 
    The fast-track legislation I support is responsible. It recognizes 
that America is not alone in needing to see that the new economy is 
accompanied with a new social contract. It will give us leverage to make 
progress with our trading partners on child labor, labor standards 
generally, the environment. The most detailed and concrete authority for 
these issues ever to be included in this kind of legislation is in bills 
reported out by the committees.
    Now, there are some who want more, who would prescribe what has to 
be in a trade agreement even before I negotiate it. They want to delay 
fast-track authority because they don't think, apparently, I have enough 
of it. But walking away from this opportunity will not create a single 
job. It will not save jobs. It will not keep a single child in another 
country out of a sweatshop. It will not clean up a single toxic site in 
another nation. Turning away will not expand our economy, enhance our 
competitiveness, empower our workers. It will simply give away markets 
and jobs and global leadership that Americans should have.
    Now, again I say, like so many other things, this is not an either/
or proposition. I want to thank you for fighting for fast track. I want 
to ask you to keep fighting for it. I still believe we're going to win 
it. But we have to fight every day till the last vote is taken. But I 
also want to challenge all of you here to recognize that those of us who 
support open trade and want to reap its benefits have a responsibility 
to figure out what no advanced society has yet fully done, which is how 
can you embrace all the changes of the technological information age, 
all the changes of the global economy, and still preserve some measure 
of social contract so that everybody who's responsible has a chance to 
get a good education, to find a decent job, to build a strong family, to 
be part of a thriving community.
    What is the new social compact? Well, we know at a minimum it's 
investing in the skills of all our people. We know that the core of any 
agreement in society in this economy must say that we have to equip 
everyone to reap the rewards of change. The risk and rewards of this 
economy don't fall evenly. Those who are better educated, who are 
flexible, who have skills and confidence to move on from one job to 
another and seize new opportunities, they are rewarded.
    Therefore, we must make education our most important tool in 
erecting this new social compact. We cannot rest until we know that 
every one of our 8-year-olds can read, every 12-year-old can log on to 
the Internet, every 18-year-old can go to college, every adult can learn

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for a lifetime. And as I said at the beginning, we have to say in 
education we must be--to succeed--for standards, reform, and investment.
    We've worked hard to open the doors of college to all who want to 
go--the biggest increased investment in higher education in 50 years. 
We're moving forward to renew our public schools with school choice and 
thousands of charter schools which the DLC has been so strongly 
advocating, to connect every classroom to the Internet by 2000, to raise 
standards so that every child can master the basics.
    And again, I say, if Congress walks away from this standards fight, 
I can't for the life of me see how we're going to help one single, 
solitary poor child by saying, ``It's okay with us if you stay in a 
school, and you get out, and we don't know whether you know math or 
whether you can master the language or not.'' That is a terrible 
mistake, and you ought to hang in there with me on the standards fight 
and make sure we win it.
    Today, good news--I expect to sign into law full funding for the 
America Reads challenge, which will significantly increase support, 
Senator Wofford, for AmeriCorps, a legacy of the DLC, so that our young 
citizen service can harness the energy of a whole army of volunteer 
tutors, now including over 800 colleges and universities in America who 
are going out into schools to teach young children to read.
    We are trying to create opportunity and security for working people 
in other ways: giving them more pension portability and security, making 
it easier for people to carry their health insurance around, investing 
more in the health insurance of children of working families who don't 
have it now, the big increase in the earned-income tax credit. All these 
things will help people to build coherent work, family, and community 
life in the midst of change.
    Our new balanced budget provides for more investment in empowerment 
zones, new community development financial institutions to help those 
areas that haven't been hurt by trade but haven't been helped by it 
either--all in the name of trying to make it possible for us to have a 
coherent life for responsible citizens in America, to empower people so 
that they can make their way.
    Now, I think we have a special obligation to people who have not 
felt any benefits from this economic program. And I think we have a 
special obligation for those who are going to be displaced. I have never 
denied that with every economic change there would be displacement. But 
there has always been displacement. When we had electricity, the people 
who made candles didn't have so many jobs. Does that mean they weren't 
good people, that their lives had less meaning, that they had no 
dignity? Of course not. But it also meant we didn't abandon electricity.
    So what is the proper answer? The proper answer is to recognize 
fully and frankly that we have not done as well as we should to deal 
with people who are displaced by the modern economy. We need to be 
humble about this. Nobody has solved this problem. You look at every 
advanced economy, they're trying to struggle with this. Nobody has a 
magic bullet, but we know we have to do better. And the DLC ought to be 
on the front line of saying, ``You bet we're for fast track, but no, we 
don't want to leave those people who lose their jobs behind. And yes, we 
understand there are neighborhoods in this country where there still 
hasn't been any economic prosperity, and you bet we're concerned about 
them, too.'' That ought to be our contribution to this debate--more 
trade and more opportunity to make it in the new economy for everybody.
    We're working with some Members of Congress to develop new 
initiatives to bring more Americans into the winner's circle, which we 
will announce next week. We also have to increase our investment in 
workers who do lose their jobs, whether it's because of a trade 
agreement, technology, or for any reason. We have to increase our 
investment in communities that suffer from dislocation.
    We have learned a lot from our experience with military base 
closures. And based on that, we're going to step up our involvement when 
a factory closes because of trade or technology. And we have to do more 
to tap the potential of our inner cities and our poor rural communities. 
They are the great, nearest untapped market for American enterprise, the 
most important source of new economic growth. And we have to lift people 
up there so they can become a part of the growing middle class.
    All of these things we have to do--balance the budget, expand 
exports, invest in our people--this will create a vital new economy. It 
is a strategy that has been developed and hammered into place out of the 
ideas that the DLC was advocating a long time ago. Now, we can't

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turn back, and our party can't turn back. We need an economy for the 
21st century, a Democratic Party for the 21st century to lead the way.
    Every generation of Americans, at every critical juncture of our 
history, has fulfilled its responsibility to the progress of our great 
American experiment. And each step along the way has required us not 
only to advocate our independence but to acknowledge our 
    The first American social compact was forged by the Pilgrims braving 
stormy seas to flee religious persecution and begin anew. As he came to 
join this colony, John Winthrop told his shipmates gathered in the hold 
of their ship that in America we must be knit together in this work as 
one man--rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, 
always having before our eyes our community in the work, our community 
as members of one body.
    At the dawn of the new century, we ought to remember Mr. Winthrop as 
we write a new social compact. We must be the authors of our time. We 
can master this new economy, but we have to do it as one America.
    Thank you. God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:40 p.m. in the Regency Ballroom at the 
Omni Shoreham Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Al From, president, 
Democratic Leadership Council; Sanford R. (Sandy) Robertson, event 
chairman; former Representative Dave McCurdy of Oklahoma; and former 
Senator Harris Wofford of Pennsylvania, Chief Executive Officer, 
Corporation for National and Community Service.