[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[April 23, 1998]
[Pages 604-606]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 604]]

Remarks on the Child Care Initiative and an Exchange With Reporters
April 23, 1998

    The President. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Hillary and I are 
delighted to have all of you here. We thank Mr. Tobias for his work and the power of his example. I thank 
Secretary Shalala and Secretary 
Herman for their extraordinary work, and 
Secretary Rubin, in his absence. And I note 
the presence here by SBA Director, Aida Alvarez, and our OMB Director, Frank Raines, in the back. I thank the Members of Congress who are here: 
Representatives Lois Capps, Rosa 
DeLauro, Sheila Jackson Lee, Sandy Levin, Patsy 
Mink, Tim Roemer, Ellen 
Tauscher, Lynn Woolsey, and Steny Hoyer.
    There are many other Members of Congress who are supporting this 
child care initiative, two who are not here; three that I think I should 
mention are Senators Dodd, 
Jeffords, and Kohl, 
along with Senator Specter, who have given 
real bipartisan leadership to the child care initiative in the Senate.
    Let me also say I'm delighted to see all the children here today. I 
like Take Our Daughters to Work Day. As Representative Capps pointed 
out, since her daughter works in the White House, she came to work with 
her daughter today instead of the other way around. [Laughter] But, for 
the rest of you, I like this day.
    When my daughter started preschool and she was asked what her father 
did, she said that he works at McDonald's. [Laughter] So I decided I'd 
better take her to work with me, even though I realized it would result 
in a diminution of my status in her eyes. [Laughter] So then by the time 
she went to kindergarten, she had actually been to work with me, and 
they asked her what I did for a living, and she said, ``Well, he drinks 
coffee, makes speeches, and talks on the telephone.'' [Laughter] So I'm 
delighted that all the children are here.
    The idea of merging work and family is embodied in Take Our 
Daughters to Work Day. There's also another important idea embodied in 
it, which is that we want our daughters to believe, along with our sons, 
that they can aspire to do whatever it is they want to do, whatever 
they're willing to do, whatever they're prepared to make the effort to 
do. Now, if you want that to be a reality, we have to make a commitment 
to give all of our children the best possible childhoods. That's really 
what all this is about.
    Last year Hillary and I sponsored two conferences that many of our 
administration people helped on and many of you participated, one on 
child care and the other one on early childhood and the brain. Now, what 
they showed is what all of you already know but what is still not widely 
accepted by decisionmakers in our society. They showed, first of all, 
that the early years are profoundly important and that an even greater 
percentage of a child's learning capacity and intellectual 
infrastructure is built up in those very early years. And they showed 
what we in the child care conference, what we've all been here to say 
today, that people are worried about whether they can find child care, 
whether they can afford it, and whether it will be good child care.
    We've been very fortunate in our country in the last few years, and 
I know we're all grateful to have the best economy in a generation and 
the lowest welfare rolls in 30 years and the lowest crime rates in a 
generation. But if we really want Americans to succeed over the long 
run, we have to allow every family the opportunity to succeed at home 
and at work. It is the most fundamental decision we have to make. There 
is no more important job in a society than raising children well. 
Nothing even compares with it. In the end, if you fail at that job, all 
the other jobs will, by definition, fail.
    Therefore, there is virtually nothing worse you can do to a parent 
than to put a parent in the position of basically just being knotted up 
every day, worrying about whether he or she has fulfilled the 
responsibilities to the child. How can you be at work worrying about 
your kids and if you have to leave work to take care of your kids, 
except in emergency situations or for appropriate events; there's a 
sacrifice there.
    One of the reasons the business community is interested in this is 
that enlightened business leaders understand that, actually, if you 
permit people to do the right thing by their children, you wind up 
having a happier, more upbeat, more affirmative, more positive business 
environment, and ultimately the business enterprise will be more 
successful because the workers are

[[Page 605]]

also successful at home. That's what this whole business is about: 
taking care of their children and not asking their parents to choose 
between being good parents and good workers. It all comes down to that.
    The private sector obviously can and should do more. We should have 
more companies that are willing to follow the example of these fine 
leaders who are here and who have been acknowledged. The Treasury 
working group that Secretary Rubin has led 
has done a very important job in participating in and presenting this 
report to me, and I am glad to receive it.
    I'm also releasing a report today, that Secretary Herman has provided, that highlights other family-friendly 
businesses, giving them sort of an honor roll status. I think it's well-
deserved, and I hope that the work the Labor Department will now do in 
serving as a clearinghouse for companies interested in child care and 
setting up mentoring programs between businesses on child care will get 
more and more private sector folks involved. Secretary Shalala pointed 
out that in the welfare reform bill--the one we finally got--we fought 
like crazy to get $4 billion in child care for States. But, believe it 
or not, there's still a lot of demand out there that's not being met, in 
State after State after State.
    Hillary said, before we came out 
of the Oval Office this morning, that everybody talks about how 
important child care is, but if you look at higher education--and this 
may be hard for some of you to believe if you have staggering tuition 
bills, but still, nationwide, families directly pay only about 25 
percent of the costs of their children's move through college.
    No one questions that we have the best system of higher education in 
the world. No one questions that it's not only been good to let our 
children live out their dreams, but it's also been very, very good for 
the American economy. By contrast, with child care, the average family--
at an earlier age with a lower income, just getting started out in the 
work force with young children--on the whole, pays over 60 percent of 
the cost out of pocket.
    So I would suggest to you that we basically have a choice to make 
here. I have put a proposal before Congress that deals with 
affordability, accessibility, the training of the workers, the quality 
of the child care. But the fundamental question is not so much over the 
specifics of our proposal, but whether the National Government has a 
responsibility to do more. And we have a fundamental choice: Do you 
believe that the early years are as important as all the evidence says? 
Do you believe that we could hardly do anything better for America's 
families than to relieve them of the burden of being terribly worried 
about their children while they're at work? In other words, do you 
believe that this should be an urgent priority for America?
    That is the decision every Member of Congress should make. And this 
year, we shouldn't slide by it. Everybody should just stand up and say, 
yes or no. Because the budget is going to be in balance, we have the 
money to make a major step forward.
    Now, there's a highway bill making its way through Congress, and I 
support a good highway bill. I presented a good highway bill that would 
have significant increase in our infrastructure. But I hope that, as 
Congress continues to consider this and determine how much money should 
be put in it, they will remember some other things. We've got to build a 
lot of highways--or bridges, if you will--to the 21st century. We have 
to have a road that will make Social Security strong in the 21st 
century. We have to have a road that will make our children's 
environment better in the 21st century. We have to have a road that will 
guarantee universal high-quality, high-standards education in the 21st 
    I think we have to have a road that will guarantee that people will 
not have to choose between being good parents and good children and that 
we will act on the overwhelming weight of the evidence about the 
importance of the earliest years in the child's life.
    Now, there are choices to be made, and it is wrong to pretend that 
there are no choices here. We now have the opportunity, because of the 
good fortune that we enjoy as a people, because of the solvency of the 
budget, to take a major step forward in child care, to build that part 
of our national infrastructure. You look around at all these children 
today and at their parents beaming about them; I don't really believe 
that any part of our infrastructure is more important than they are.
    Thank you very much.

Tax Cuts

    Q. Mr. President, do you propose tax cuts for mothers who want to 
stay home?

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    The President. I'm glad you didn't stay home today, Sam [Sam Donaldson, ABC News]. [Laughter]
    Q. What do you think of the idea of tax cuts for a stay-at-home mom?
    The President. Well, we need to get into a negotiation. We need to 
get started talking seriously about what we're going to do.
    Q. Would you be open to it?
    The President. I'll be happy to talk to them, but we've got to--are 
we going to make a serious effort here? We need to have a discussion 
about it.
    Q. So you are willing to negotiate, then?
    The President. I'm willing to negotiate with anybody who wants to 
help people raise their children better so that people can succeed at 
home and at work. It's not an either-or deal. That's why we had the $500 
tax credit last time, children's tax credit, because we wanted to help 
all parents. We're not against helping all parents. But the question is, 
most parents are in the work force and we have to do something serious 
about it. We have to decide, are we going to do it, or not?

Note: The President spoke at 10:20 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Treasury Department Working Group 
on Child Care member Randall L. Tobias, president, chairman, and chief 
executive officer, Eli Lilly and Co. He also referred to the Treasury 
working group report entitled ``Investing in Child Care,'' and the 
Department of Labor report ``Meeting the Needs of Today's Workforce: 
Child Care Best Practices.'' The exchange portion of these remarks could 
not be verified because the tape was incomplete.