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President Clinton Announces Medicare Commission Members

December 5, 1997

SPEAKER: WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

CLINTON: They are still coming?

(UNKNOWN): Yes.

CLINTON: Good.

(LAUGHTER)

(UNKNOWN): Photographers.

CLINTON: It's nice, isn't it? I just want to do it while the sun's out. It gets a lot colder when it goes in.

(LAUGHTER)

This wasn't my idea. I'm going to lay it off on the staff. It wasn't my idea.

(LAUGHTER)

But when they wanted to do it, the sun was out and it was much warmer.

Today, I want to discuss our continued economic progress and important steps we must take to continue it. For the last five years, we have pursued a comprehensive economic strategy to spur growth, to increase incomes, create jobs, keep the American dream alive and well in a new century.

Today, we see the latest evidence that our economy is growing steady and strong, that the American dream is in fact alive and well.

Last month, the economy created 400,000 new jobs. Unemployment is now 4.6 percent, the lowest in a quarter century. There were more new manufacturing jobs in the past year than in any year in three decades. Inflation remains low and appears to be poised to continue at its low rate.

And after lagging for years, wages finally are rising again. Our economy is the strongest in a generation.

This continuing prosperity is due to the ingenuity and the enterprise and the hard work of the American people, who are creating the economy of the future. It is also the result of our economic strategy of cutting the deficit, investing in education and our future and expanding our exports through trade agreements.

This year's balanced budget law both honors our values and continues that progress.

It extends opportunity to our children with the most significant new investment in health care in a generation and in education in a generation.

CLINTON: It offers tax cuts for college and provides for health insurance for up to five million children. It honors our duty to our parents by extending the lifetime of the Medicare trust fund until 2010.

Now we have more to do to strengthen Medicare while preserving its commitment to older Americans. Medicare is at the core of our historic social compact, our recognition of the duty we owe to one another. It has been one of the great achievements of this century, and now we have an obligation to strengthen it for the next century to ensure that it is as strong for our children as it has been for our parents and to ensure that the baby boomers have access to quality, affordable health care when we retire.

The Medicare reforms I signed into law this year were the product of strong cooperation among Democrats and Republicans, the president and the Congress.

The balanced budget law establishes also a commission to continue this bipartisan progress and draft comprehensive reform.

Today I'm pleased to announce my appointees to the commission. They include Stuart Altman, a highly respected health care expert who has worked for presidents of both parties; Dr. Laura Tyson, who served our nation well as chair of the National Economic Council and chair of the Council of Economic Advisers in our administration; Bruce Vladeck, who directed the Medicare program for four years as the administrator of the Health Care Financing Agency; and Anthony Watson, the CEO of a major, progressive managed care plan in New York that has pioneered support for fair treatment of patients while providing quality care.

These are distinguished, respected, highly skilled experts. They understand health care and share our unshakable commitment to the values represented by Medicare. I expect them to work as strong partners with the other commissioners, and I look forward to their proposals to keep Medicare at the core of the American dream in the new century.

CLINTON: Thank you.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the economy is so great...

CLINTON: One at a time.

QUESTION: Do you think -- are you think -- really thinking of a tax cut?

CLINTON: No, I don't believe that's a fair interpretation of what I said yesterday in my comments.

What I said was -- I was asked about proposals for tax reform -- and what I said was that I thought any tax reform that was adopted had to be fair, good for the economy, not burden the deficit and make the system simpler. That was the context in which that discussion occurred.

Then there was a separate discussion about the discussion that is going around town her about what ought to be done with the surplus. Some people say we should have a tax cut with the surplus. Some people say we should spend more money with the surplus. Some people say we should apply it to the debt.

What I tried to point out yesterday is that there is not a surplus. The people who say there is a surplus are talking about the difference in the projected line of deficit to 2002 when we adopted the balanced budget law and I signed it, and the projected line now.

Now, no doubt this news today is good news. It augers for stronger growth in this quarter and it may well mean that we will have a better prediction in terms of the size of the deficit and eliminating it altogether now than we did at the time the balanced budget law was passed, at the time of the mid-session review last August.

Only point I tried to make is, all those are still estimates. And it's good to have a good estimate, but we don't want to spend money we don't yet have.

We -- the thing that has driven this economic recovery is getting interest rates down, getting investment up, creating a framework in which the American economy could grow.

And bringing down the deficit from $300 billion a year to $23 billion a year is a big part of that.

So before we make any unduly rash decisions about the future, let's make sure that we're taking care of the economy, because that the best thing you can do for Americans' incomes is to give them a strong economy.

QUESTION: Mr. President, are you concerned...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

CLINTON: I can't hear all of you.

QUESTION: Mr. President, are you concerned that...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

CLINTON: One at a time.

I'll answer this, but let me answer this one first.

What I'd like to say today, and all I'm going to say today is .

The only think he's required to do is to enforce the law as the Supreme Court hands it down or as the Congress passes it and to recuse, in the case of any kind of personal conflict which he said he would do in the case of the California law which is now moot.

So, I believe -- I will say again -- he is entitled to a vote. The senators ought to vote on him. There is -- no one has put forward a credible reason for why this man should not be appointed. Surely the fact that he agrees with the president who wishes to appoint him on the question of what kind of affirmative action programs we should or shouldn't have, surely that should not disqualify him for this position.

That is the point I've made. I still think that he ought to be able to serve.

QUESTION: Mr. President, are you concerned that the Southeast Asia financial blowout which seems to be ongoing still is going to eat into these economic growth figures that you reported today?

CLINTON: First of all, I think we all have to acknowledge that our economies are interrelated.

About a third of our growth over the last five years has been due to our ability to sell more American products around the world -- about a third.

Copyright © 1997 Federal Document Clearing House

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