[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[February 2, 1998]
[Pages 152-154]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on Submitting the 1999 Federal Budget
February 2, 1998

    Thank you very much for that warm welcome. Good morning. Thank you, 
Mr. Vice President, Mr. Bowles, members of our economic team, members of the 
Cabinet, and administration. And I thank the large numbers--large number 
of Members of Congress who have come here today, and others, all of you 
here, for the submission of the first balanced budget in 30 years, one 
that will truly strengthen our Nation for the 21st century.
    This budget marks the end of an era, an end to decades of deficits 
that have shackled our economy, paralyzed our politics, and held our 
people back. It can mark the beginning of a new era of opportunity for a 
new ``American Century.''
    Consider what has been achieved in so short a time. In the 12 years 
before I took office, trickle-down economics led to an explosion in the 
Federal deficit which quadrupled our national debt in only 12 years. 
Government deficits soaked up trillions of dollars in capital that 
should have been used for productive investment. Massive deficits led to 
high interest rates that slowed growth. And massive deficits also 
paralyzed the Congress in their attempts to invest in our future, as we 
spent more and more and more of the taxpayers' dollars just to pay 
interest on the debt we had run up.
    The new economy was being held back by old political ideas and 
arrangements. The deficit was more than an economic reality; it was a 
powerful symbol that Government had simply failed to meet its most basic 
obligations. And doing something about the deficit was one of the 
reasons I ran for President in 1992.
    The day I took office, the deficit was projected to be about $300 
billion for that year. For 5 years, beginning in 1993, as the Vice 
President said, the Congress and the American people have worked 
tirelessly to put our economic house in order; we have worked hard here 
to put our fiscal house in order. The Government is the smallest it's 
been in 35 years. And deficit reduction has given us lower interest 
rates, higher investment, and, I might add, lower unemployment, more 
taxpayers, and more funds to invest in America's future.
    That is the gamble we took in 1993--a gamble now that I thought was 
not such a gamble at all. But it did, as the Vice President said, cost 
several Members of Congress their jobs. Wherever they are today--
wherever they are--I hope they know and remember that we passed that 
budget in '93 by one vote in the Senate and by one vote in the House; we 
did not have a vote to spare. And everybody that stood up, and 
especially those who lost their seats, can know they gave 14 million 
Americans jobs that would not have been there otherwise and a brighter 
future for all the American people, and I'm very grateful for that.
    I also want to point out, as the Vice President did, that the job to 
be finished and to eliminate

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the structural deficit came with the balanced budget agreement last 
year. And we should applaud all those in both parties who were part of 
that, because it will not only enable us to achieve a balanced budget, 
it will enable us to maintain a balanced budget long into the future, if 
we stay with the disciplined framework that was embraced last year by 
very large majorities in both Houses of both parties. And that is very 
important. It's one thing to get the deficit down, another thing to hold 
it there. And that balanced budget agreement will not only go from a 
much smaller deficit down to balance but also will hold it there, if we 
stay with the discipline. We have not done all this work to let it go.
    Now, I believe if we will stay with the plan, we can balance the 
budget without further cuts. Indeed, the balanced budget I submitted 
shows we can balance the budget and still hire 100,000 new teachers and 
modernize 5,000 schools. We can balance the budget and allow hundreds of 
thousands of middle-aged Americans who have no health insurance through 
no fault of their own to buy into Medicare. We can balance the budget 
and still extend child care to a million more children. And above all, 
we can balance the budget and save Social Security first.
    In other words, it is obvious that you can have a smaller Government 
but a more progressive one that gives you a stronger America. We've done 
more than simply balance the budget, more than just line up numbers on a 
ledger. We have restored the balance of values in our policy, restored 
the balance of confidence between Government and the public. Now, we'll 
have a balanced budget not only next year but as far as the eye can see.
    We have to use this opportunity to build a stronger America. And 
let's just talk about that. First and foremost, we project that the 
budget will not only balance, it will actually run a surplus of $9.5 
billion next year and over $200 billion over the next 5 years, fully $1 
trillion over the next 10 years. This budget reserves that surplus--I 
want to say it again--this budget reserves that surplus, saving it until 
we have taken the steps necessary to strengthen Social Security into the 
next century.
    One of the reasons that balancing the budget has been hard is that 
we have insisted on a balanced budget that honors our values. Finding a 
way to reduce red ink without shrinking the circle of opportunity has 
been at the heart of our efforts. And when we started, most people said 
you couldn't do it. They said there is no way to cut the rest of 
Government enough to reduce the deficit and increase investment in 
important areas. But that is an important achievement as well.
    Now it is most important of all that we balance the budget while 
renewing our commitment to save Social Security. When I left Washington 
last week and went to Champaign, Illinois, and La Crosse, Wisconsin, I 
was moved by the strength and depth of the American people's priority 
for the surplus they created. I think they want us to save Social 
Security first, as well. And I hope all of you, and Members of Congress 
in both parties, will support that.
    We have a great opportunity now to take action now to avert a crisis 
in the Social Security system. We have a great opportunity now to be 
able to tell all these young people who are shadowing their Cabinet and 
administration leaders that Social Security will be there for them when 
they retire. We have a great opportunity, those of us in the baby boom 
generation, to tell our own children that when we retire and start 
drawing Social Security, it isn't going to bankrupt them to take care of 
us and undermine their ability to take care of their own children. We 
need to do this. We don't need to take any shortcuts; we don't need to 
take any short-term benefits. Before we do anything with that surplus, 
let's save Social Security first. [Applause] Thank you.
    The budget continues our efforts at education reform. As I said, it 
enables us to hire 100,000 new teachers working with States, to reduce 
class size to an average of 18 in the first, second, and third grades, 
and to help modernize or build 5,000 schools. It helps to give our 
parents the tools they need to meet their responsibilities at home and 
at work, among other things allowing people between the ages of 55 and 
65 who lose their health insurance to buy into the Medicare program. It 
includes a breakthrough investment in child care through tax credits, 
vouchers for States, scholarships for caregivers.
    It will help America to meet its obligations in international 
leadership, meet our obligations to stabilize the world's financial 
markets, to pay our dues to the United Nations, to continue our support 
of our military so that our men and women in uniform can continue to do 
the job for us.

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    It will provide tax cuts in research and development to help meet 
the challenge of global climate change in a way that enables us to grow 
the economy while actually improving the environment. It continues to 
support our urban empowerment strategy, bringing more private sector 
investments to our hardest-pressed cities and neighborhoods while 
continuing to put 100,000 police officers on the streets and giving our 
children something to do after school, so more of them can stay out of 
trouble and on a path to success.
    It will leave to future generations the gift of scientific and 
medical advances. The 21st century research fund, the largest funding 
increases ever for the National Institute of Health, the National 
Science Foundation, and the National Cancer Institute, will speed the 
progress of biomedical breakthroughs in the fight against many of our 
deadliest diseases.
    The budget funds these initiatives by continued cuts in Government 
programs, by closing unwarranted tax loopholes, and from the passage of 
tobacco legislation, which, as every passing day shows, is critically 
important to the future of our children and therefore of our country.
    This budget meets the test I set out before Congress last week: no 
new spending initiatives, no new tax cuts unless they can actually be 
accomplished without adding a dime to the deficit. For more than two 
centuries, Americans have strengthened our Nation at every critical 
moment with confidence, unity, a determination to meet every challenge. 
For too long, the budget deficit, a worsening crime wave, the seemingly 
unsolvable welfare difficulties--they all seemed to challenge our innate 
American confidence. In the past 5 years, the American people have met 
these challenges and have moved to master them. Now we have a chance, in 
a period of peace and prosperity with renewed confidence, to build for 
the future. That's what this balanced budget does.
    Now, it is--I am going to close my remarks now by asking the Vice 
President to give me a magic marker so that 
I can be the first person to actually certify what the budget will say 
for the coming year. Even we can do this. I am technologically 
challenged; therefore, we're not doing this on a computer. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 10:44 a.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. At the end of his remarks, he wrote ``$0!'' on a poster labeled 
``1999 Deficit.''