[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: WILLIAM J. CLINTON (2000-2001, Book III)]
[January 12, 2001]
[Pages 2904-2907]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on the 2001 Economic Report and an Exchange With Reporters
January 12, 2001

    The President. Good morning. Today I'm sending my eighth and final 
economic report prepared by the Council of Economic Advisers. I want to 
thank Dr. Martin Baily, Kathryn Shaw, Robert Lawrence, 
and the CEA staff for their fine work in analyzing America's new 
    I also want to thank Secretary Summers, Gene Sperling, Jack Lew, Sylvia Mathews, my entire 
economic team for all they have done these last 8 years to turn our 
country around and move us forward together.
    Over the last 8 years, these annual economic reports have helped to 
tell America's story--a story of prosperity and progress, of the hard 
work of our people, and the results of policies rooted in common values 
and common sense. The message of this final report is clear: The economy 
remains strong, on a sound foundation, with a bright future.
    Eight years ago it was a very different story, with 10 million of 
our fellow citizens out of work, high interest rates, low confidence, a 
deficit that was $290 billion and rising, a debt that had quadrupled in 
the previous 12 years. The new course we charted to eliminate the 
deficit, invest in education and the American people's future, and open 
overseas markets for America's products has worked. Year-in and year-
out, we have resisted politically attractive but economically unwise 
temptations to veer from the path of fiscal discipline.
    We have in the course of this effort turned the record deficits into 
record surpluses and produced the longest economic expansion in history. 
We have not only had 22\1/2\ million new jobs and the lowest 
unemployment in 30 years; we've been able to add to the life of both 
Medicare and Social Security to help ease the burden on future 
generations, and make the long-term solutions less difficult in the 
present. And we're on track to do something that was unimaginable

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8 years ago when I first came here, to get America out of debt at the 
end of this decade.
    The evidence in this report shows that maintaining the path of 
fiscal discipline is critical to keeping America on the path of economic 
progress. Fiscal discipline has allowed the energy and entrepreneurship 
of the American people to increase investment, productivity, and living 
standards. Fiscal responsibility has given us lower interest rates, 
which by the end of the year will be--excuse me--has given us not only 
lower interest rates; it's given us surpluses that by the end of the 
year will have permitted us to pay down about $560 billion off the 
national debt. And I think all of us are very proud that we can leave 
that legacy to the incoming administration and to the children of this 
    More important in an economic sense, perhaps, is that it has lowered 
interest rates. By having the Government pay back debt instead of borrow 
more money, you have lower interest rates for business loans, college 
loans, home loans, car loans. It amounts, on the average, to $2,000 in 
mortgage payment savings a year for the average family, $200 in car 
payments, $200 in college loan payments. It has also given us higher 
    Now, over the last couple of years, the economy was growing at a 
blistering pace. Everyone knew that the rate of growth would ease off. 
But that is not to say that the evidence suggests anything other than 
that the expansion will and should continue.
    So that's the context in which we have tried to work for 8 years and 
the options that we leave to our successors. And there are many options. 
I have repeatedly said America can afford a tax cut. But I do not 
believe that the tax cut plus whatever spending plans there will be 
should be so large as to take us off the path of fiscal discipline, for 
a simple reason--paying down the debt keeps interest rates lower. That 
means stronger businesses, higher incomes, more jobs, a stronger market. 
Keeping those long-term rates down is profoundly important.
    So what I would hope for the future when the Congress deliberates 
this and the President makes his proposal--the details are up to them; 
I'm moving out of the policy business in just a few days here--but I 
would hope that the combined total of the tax cut and the spending plans 
would not be so large as to call our commitment to fiscal discipline 
into question in a way that would run the risk of returning to on-budget 
deficits, higher interest rates, and in the process, would drain away 
the savings that will be needed to deal with the Social Security and 
Medicare challenges the retirement of the baby boomers will present.
    Eight years of responsible budgets and fiscal responsibility have 
put our country in a position to take advantage of our long-term 
opportunities and to meet our long-term challenges. It's a path that I 
hope we'll be able to stay on. I would like it very much if our country 
were debt-free by the end of this decade, for the first time since 1835.
    Even more, I would like it if we were able to free up 11 cents on 
the dollar of the Federal budget to deal with Social Security, Medicare, 
invest in education, and provide further tax cuts in the future.
    So I think we're in good shape. I think I'm leaving with all options 
open. And the only cautionary point I want to make is, I think that the 
combined impact of spending and tax cuts, I would hope, would not be 
such as to prevent us from continuing to pay down this debt, so we can 
keep interest rates low and the economy strong over the long run.
    Thank you.

Korean War Incident at No Gun Ri

    Q. Mr. President, survivors of the No Gun Ri killing say that the 
U.S. report is a whitewash and that your statement of regret does not 
offer a sincere apology. How do you respond to that criticism? And did 
you intend your statement of regret to be an apology?
    The President. Well, I think on a personal basis, as I said 
yesterday, I don't think there is any difference in the two words. They 
both mean that we are profoundly sorry for what happened and that things 
happened which were wrong.
    I think the word which was agreed on, working with the Koreans, 
pursuing the investigations, was thought to be appropriate in a, if you 
will, a legal and a political sense, because the evidence was not clear 
that there was responsibility for wrongdoing high enough in the chain of 
command in the Army to say that, in effect, the Government was 
responsible. I think that was the real issue.
    But I don't think--from a purely human point of view, I don't think 
there's any difference in the fact that we know things happened which 
should not have happened. Things were done

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which should not have been done. Innocent people died, and others were 
wounded. Their families were wounded and remain wounded to the present 
day, and we are profoundly sorry about that.
    So I don't think in terms of the human impact and the 
acknowledgement that things that happened that shouldn't have happened 
that were wrong, I don't think there is any difference.
    And I certainly told the investigators I didn't want the 
investigation whitewashed. We did our best to find out what happened and 
to determine the facts as best we could. And we issued a joint statement 
and sort of path of proceeding with the Korean Government--I talked to 
President Kim last night about it--and we've 
done our best to do the right thing.

National Economy

    Q. Do you believe that President-elect Bush's comments about the economy, slowing economy, and the 
Vice President's comments about that the economy is possibly heading 
towards recession is actually a self-fulfilling prophecy and perhaps 
potentially dangerous talk?
    The President. Well, I don't want to get into characterizing that. I 
think it's not wise for me to do that, and not appropriate. I can only 
tell you what I've tried to do for 8 years. What I've tried to do for 8 
years is to level with the American people based on the evidence and to 
be conservative in my estimates when it came to the tax cuts I advocated 
and the spending I advocated.
    The evidence is, the blue chip consensus is for growth of about 2.6 
percent next year, slightly slower in the first half of the year and 
more robust in the second half. And they have written that down from a 
previous projection of something over 3 percent.
    If we grow at 2.6 percent, then the unemployment rate should stay 
around where it is now and we will continue to create new jobs. So 
that's what the evidence is today. And if the evidence changes, then 
everyone should look at what the facts are and act in an appropriate 
way. But the experts who make a living doing this believe the economy 
will grow at 2.6 percent next year, slightly slower in the first 6 
months, slightly more robust in the second 6 months.

Middle East Peace Process

    Q. On the Middle East, can you say, having heard from what the 
Israelis and Palestinians discussed at Erez, that it's now--there's no 
hope of an agreement on your watch between the two? Have you given up 
hope on that?
    The President. No, but I've not tried to raise hopes, either. They 
are--they have a surprising amount of agreement and a few intense points 
of controversy. And I think that there are all kinds of reasons why an 
agreement on the big issues has always been kind of against the odds. 
But they have continued to try, and they're trying now in a climate 
which is much less negative than just a few days ago and the preceding 
    So this is really up to them. I'm working hard on it, and I'm 
spending time on it every day. But they have to decide. And I think the 
United States will be very supportive of them if they do decide to do 
it. And I'll do whatever I can to help.

James Riady

    Q. Sir, can you tell us what your relationship was with James Riady, 
and are you concerned at all by his decision to plead guilty to a 
campaign finance offense and pay a large fine?
    The President. Well, I knew him when he was in Arkansas and when he 
owned--his family owned part of a bank there, and I've kept up with him 
since. And I have--no, I'm not at all concerned about it. I think that--
I think people should know what our campaign finance laws are and should 
obey them.

Lt. Comdr. Michael S. Speicher

    Q. Mr. President, how is the United States going to get Iraq to give 
up information about Lt. Commander Speicher?
    The President. Well, we're working on that. Let me just say to all 
of you, I agreed with the decision to take his name off the killed in 
action list and put it on the missing in action list. I think it was the 
right decision. But I do not want to raise false hopes here. We do not 
have hard evidence that he is alive.
    We have some evidence that what had been assumed to be the evidence 
that he was lost in action is not so. And we're going to do our best to 
find out if he is alive, and if he is, to get him out--because as a 
uniformed service person, he should have been released by now if he is 

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2000 Presidential Election

    Q. Mr. President, were you trying to call into question the 
legitimacy of the Bush Presidency with your remarks the other night?
    The President. In Chicago? No, I was trying to have a little fun 
with Bill Daley. I mean, we were there in 
Chicago, he had just introduced his brother, a bunch of his family members were there, all of his 
friends were there, he'd been out of Chicago for sometime, and I was 
trying to say what a good job he had done running the campaign. And we 
were all just having a good time. It was all in good fun, and everybody 
laughed about it, and most everybody agreed with what I said who was 
there, because it was all a bunch of Democrats, as you would expect.
    But there was no--I intended to have no impact on that. Let me go 
back--I have nothing to add on that question to what I said after the 
Vice President made his statement. We 
accept the decision of the Supreme Court. It is the way our system 
works. And it's not the first time or probably the last time the Supreme 
Court will make a decision with which I do not agree, but I did not call 
into question his legitimacy. I was having a good, old-fashioned little 
bit of fun with Bill Daley and his 
brother and his friends and my friends in 
Chicago. We were just having a good time, and I was trying to say that I 
thought he did a fine job running the Vice President's campaign, and I 
do think that. And I think he did a fine job.

President's Future Plans

    Q. Mr. President, after the Inauguration, you're going to Chappaqua, 
is that correct?
    The President. Absolutely.
    Q. Are you coming back to Washington or going to Arkansas or staying 
in New York?
    The President. I'm going to live in New York. But I will come--and 
Hillary and I will spend weekends in New York, and every now and then I 
hope I can come down here and see her in the week. But if I get in the 
newspapers, I probably won't come anymore. I'd like to keep an 
appropriate low profile for some time. I think it's important. And I 
want to take a couple of months to rest. I've been working for 27 years 
now, pretty hard, and I want to rest a little while and really think 
about the rest of my life and how I can serve best. And that's what I 
want to do.
    So I'll be mostly in New York. I'll be going to Arkansas to get my 
library project up and going and trying to think through exactly how I'm 
going to do my foundation work, my service work. And we'll have a 
transition office here for 6 months, as all former Presidents do, and 
then I'll have an office in New York City after that and maybe before 6 
months is up.
    Thank you very much.

President's Pets

    Q. Are you really giving Socks away?
    The President. Oh, I don't know. I did better with the Arabs--the 
Palestinians and the Israelis than I've done with Socks and Buddy. 
[Laughter] And I won't have as much space or as much help in managing 
them, so I'm trying to figure out whether I can do it. Because I've had 
that cat a long time. You know, we took him in as a stray back in 
Arkansas, and I hate to give him up, although Betty and a lot of other people here in the White House 
really love him. It's just another one of those places where I haven't 
yet made peace. But I've got 8 days. [Laughter]
    Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:10 a.m. on the South Grounds at the 
White House. In his remarks, he referred to President Kim Dae-jung of 
South Korea; Gore 2000 campaign director William M. Daley and his 
brother, Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago; and Betty Currie, the 
President's personal secretary.