President Bill Clinton Discusses Senate Budget
April 3, 1998
CLINTON: Thank you very much.
Before I read my statement, I'd like to make a brief comment
on a momentous event which occurred during my trip to Africa
The vice president turned 50.
And I hope all of you noticed the increased gravity and
maturity of his aura.
I personally am greatly relieved. Not long before he turned
50, as I told him when I called him, an elderly lady came up to
me and she said -- I think you and that young man are doing such
a good job.
And it's nice to have a middle-aged team now at the White
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: She was very elderly.
CLINTON: Let me say Hillary and I are delighted to be back
from what was a wonderful trip to Africa. We are working hard
to strengthen the bonds of the African continent that I am
convinced is in the midst of a renaissance, where political and
economic liberty is on the rise.
I only wish every American could have been with me every step
of the way to see, first, Africa -- not only its problems, which
are profound, but the energy and intelligence and determination
of the people.
I also wish every American could have had yet one more
opportunity to see how a very important part of the world sees
America -- still as a beacon of equality and freedom and hope
Today we learned that the unemployment rate in the first
quarter of this year, averaging 4.7 percent, is the lowest its
been since 1970 -- 28 years. While there will be ups and downs,
our economy continues to be one of the strongest in history.
: Over the past year we've seen the strongest wage
growth in 20 years. Inflation is still low. Home ownership now
at a record level.
As we approach the longest peacetime expansion in our
history, this is a springtime of hope and opportunity for the
Our economy is the product of the hard work, the creativity,
the innovation of our citizens and the ingenuity and drive of
our businesses. But also it is the fruit, as the vice president
said, of the comprehensive economic strategy we have pursued
since 19The coming months will now test our nation. It will
determine whether we will maintain our discipline and pursue our
priorities to strengthen our country for the new century.
We can make this a time of action as well as a time of
abundance, to secure our prosperity well into the future, to
widen the circle of opportunity so that all Americans have a
chance to reap the rewards of economic growth.
First, we should go on and balance the budget this
year and do it in a way that continues our investment in our
people and their future. With projected budget surpluses of $1
trillion over the next decade, I'm pleased that members of
Congress of both parties have joined my call to reserve every
penny of the surplus until we save Social Security first.
This is very significant. I compliment the leadership of
both parties. It will strengthen our nation. At the same time
as we live within a balanced budget, we must invest to create
prosperity for the future.
Many times I have said that in the new economy, education is
the leading economic indicator. We will continue to lead the
world only if our children receive the world's best education.
In that context, I am very concerned that the budget plan now
working it's way through the Senate will squeeze out critical
investments in education and children.
I believe America must address the challenges before us --
class size for our children. We must hire 100,000 new teachers
so that we can reduce those class sizes. We must spur school
modernization to make our classes smaller and our schools safer.
We must invest in path-breaking, scientific research that
will lengthen our lives and promote prosperity into the 21st
century. And we must make those investments which will make
credible our call for higher standards and higher performance in
The budget now being drafted by Congress simply
does not meet these urgent national priorities.
I'm also determined that highway spending, though it is quite
important and though our budget provides for a very impressive
increase in investment in highways and mass transit, must be --
such spending must meet be within the balanced budget and should
not crowd out critical investments in education, child care,
health care or threaten our budget discipline.
In the coming months I look forward to working with Congress
in cooperation with lawmakers of both parties so that America
stays on the path of both fiscal discipline and targeted
investment, a balanced budget that is in balance with our values
and our long-term interest in the future.
That is what has brought us this far since 1993. We should
not depart from that strategy now.
Finally, I am determined to seize this historic opportunity
to pass bipartisan legislation to protect our children from the
dangers of tobacco. This Congress can be the Congress that
saves millions of children's lives.
I want to say that we seem to be making some progress on that
with the vote in the Senate committee, but there is an enormous
amount of work still to be done.
And I hope during this working recess the lawmakers
of both Houses and both parties will be talking to the folks
back home about the tobacco legislation, and will come back here
at the end of this month with a renewed determination to
actually pass legislation that will get the job done. Our
economy is the strongest in a generation.
Our social fabric is on the mend. Our leadership around the
world, as we saw on the trip to Africa, remains unrivaled. But
our history and our heritage tells us that we can do better and
that our success depends upon our constant effort to do better.
The American people want us to use this sun-lit moment, not
to sit back and enjoy, but to act. We were hired by the
American people to act. If we do so, in the 21st century the
American dream will be more powerful than ever. Thank you.
QUESTION: Do you have any comments on reports that Kenneth
Starr is being urged to indict Monica Lewinsky and name you as a
CLINTON: Whoa, whoa, whoa.
QUESTION: On the tobacco deal, sir, how concerned are you
that one or more of the tobacco companies might walk away from
this proposed settlement? And do you believe that you need
their cooperation both so that there is money for your budget
priorities and so that you can win restrictions on cigarette
CLINTON: Well, the latter is of greater concern. That is
their agreement -- or lack of it -- would influence the way
Congress would have to raise the money through raising the price
of cigarettes to deter more consumption and to raise the funds
for the health care costs of tobacco and the health research and
the other things that I believe should be funded out of this
But on the advertising, of course, that could be a concern
because of the governing legal precedents. But I still believe
that the incentives are there for the tobacco companies to do
this. With each new revelation of the strategies which have
been vigorously pursued to market cigarettes to children, I
think they have an enormous interest in trying to reverse the
record of the past, to try to put this unforgivable chapter
behind them and to start off on a new path.
So I still believe that, in the end, we will
achieve an agreement which will convince them -- or which they
will be convinced will be in the interests. The advertising
issue is the more important one from a legal point of view. But
I think we'll get there because they have -- you know, they have
now with this evidence continuing to mount up about the
deliberate strategy which was followed -- they have a big
interest in pursuing it.
And on the other matter, you know I'm not going to comment on
that. I'm going to try to do what the Supreme Court said I
should do, which is not to be in any way deterred by this and
I'm going on with my business. Others will comment on that.
QUESTION: Mr. President...
QUESTION: Moody's debt rating service earlier today issued a
warning about Japan's sovereign debt. The United States has
repeated urged Japan, with little apparent success, to try to
jumpstart its domestic economy.
Do you see any signs that the Japanese government
is now ready to take actions that would help bring it into
CLINTON: Well, the prime minister keeps moving forward in
ways that then the market seems to believe are insufficient.
And we have obviously urged aggressive action because we want
the Japanese economy to grow.
We think the Japanese economy is the key to stability and
growth in Asia and we have always wanted a strong, healthy
Japan is a great democracy, they've been a great partner for
us, they've been a great engine of economic growth for many
years until the last few years. There may be some momentary
disruption because now you have some business leaders speaking
out in Japan.
But it appears to us on the outside of this that there is an
ongoing struggle between the -- what is now the articulated view
not only of the United States and others, but of the business
community in Japan about the direction that country should take
and the entrenched resistance to that in the permanent
government bureaucracy that followed a different strategy with
great success in previous years.
And I think we need to be both respectful but firm
in urging the Japanese to take a bold course. Prime Minister
Hashimoto is an able man and he understands the economy.
And I believe he wants to take such a course. And what has
to be done is that the people within the permanent government
there, which have always enjoyed great power, have to realize
that the strategies that work in the past are not appropriate to
They have to make a break now in some ways that's not so
different from the break that we made in 1993. You simply can't
stay with a strategy that is clearly not appropriate to the
times and expect it to get the results that are needed for the
But Japan is a very great country full of brilliant people
who had a great understanding of economics, and as I said, I
think the prime minister understands this and is willing to take
risks and wants to do it.
And he's got this raging battle going on and I have to hope
that the forces of the future will prevail.