Good morning. If I sound a little hoarse today, it's because I haven't completely recovered my voice which I lost after I gave the State of the Union Address to Congress. You know, I don't like losing my voice, but frankly, it wouldn't be a bad thing in Washington if more people had to lower their voices and listen to you a little more. I think if they did, it would strengthen their determination to keep fighting to change this country for the better.
A lot of changes have occurred in the last year, and you, basically, deserve the credit for it, even though Congress had to enact the laws that I proposed. There's been an economic plan that cuts the deficit by half a trillion dollars, more than 1.6 million new jobs in the private sector, tax relief for 15 million low- and moderate-wage workers to reward work over welfare, a family and medical leave law to enable people to take a little time off when there's a child born or a parent sick without losing their jobs, the Brady bill to keep more guns out of the hands of criminals, more affordable loans for the middle class, and a national service program for young people who want to give something back to their communities and their country and earn credit toward a college education.
And it's beginning to pay off. Yesterday we received very encouraging growth figures for the last 3 months of 1993. This economic plan is promoting the right kind of recovery and growth through smaller deficits, lower interest rates, lower inflation, and productive investment. It's not the kind of growth we had too much in the 1980's, where there was ballooning debt and paper prosperity.
I know a lot of you aren't yet feeling the benefits of these changes, and our work won't be done until every American has the security to face the future without fear. But because you've demanded change, Washington finally is addressing America's agenda, the problems you face in your jobs, your communities, and your families.
Because good skills are the only tickets to good jobs and growing incomes, I'm asking Congress this year to invest more in education and training, to transform the unemployment system into a reemployment system that teaches new skills for new jobs. We need to do more to help people who don't go to college to move from high school to work. And we need to improve all our schools with our Goals 2000 plan, which links world-class standards to grassroots reforms.
Because the welfare system discourages work and destroys families, I'm asking Congress to help to revolutionize it. For those who depend on welfare, we should provide the support, the job training, and the child care needed for up to 2 years. But after that, anyone who can work must work.
Change is never easy, and I especially need your help on two crucial challenges: fighting crime and reforming our health care system. We need to make the criminal justice system work for the victims, not the criminals. And we must make the health care system work for all the hard-working families in this country, and put an end to the inefficiency, the fraud, and the abuse that has made our system the world's most expensive and the only one in the advanced world that doesn't provide some coverage to every family.
I'm asking Congress to pass a strong, smart, tough anticrime bill. We must tell career criminals, "If you commit a third violent crime, you'll be put away for good; three strikes and you're out." We should hire 100,000 more police officers to protect our communities. They help to reduce the crime rate. We must ban assault weapons that make criminals better armed than police. And we need more drug training and alternative punishments for young people, like boot camps.
And this year, we must make history by reforming the health care system and providing guaranteed private insurance for every American. The First Lady and I have traveled across the country; we've received almost a million letters. And you know, the only place where people say there's really no health care crisis is right here in Washington where so many enjoy secure health benefits at reasonable cost paid for by the taxpayers.
Let's face it, the health insurance system is rigged against ordinary families and small businesses. Insurance companies control it: They pick and choose whom they cover; they charge more if your business is too small; they might not cover you at all or a member of your family or one of your employees if you have what they call a preexisting condition. Unless we change things, 58 million Americans may have no coverage at all for some time this year, and experts say 3 of every 10 small businesses may be forced to stop covering their employees in the years ahead because small business costs are going up so much faster than big business and Government costs.
Let those who say there's no crisis tell it to Rick Tarnow of Longview, Texas. He left his job and secure benefits at a large corporation to start a small business. Then his son was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Because of the disease, the son can't get coverage. Every insurance company tells the Tarnows, "Until there's a cure for cystic fibrosis, we will not cover your child." As Rick's wife, Tracy, told my wife, "It's devastating enough to learn that your child has a chronic illness and then have to deal with the nightmare of insurance."
Those who say there's no crisis should tell it to the Janetakos family of Woburn, Massachusetts. Twelve years ago, Corrine Janetakos had a stroke, leaving her partially paralyzed. Now she and her husband, who owns a painting business, have trouble getting insurance because of her preexisting condition. She wrote to Hillary because, quote, "It's been very frustrating arguing my dilemma to the numerous insurance companies that we've applied to for coverage."
Well, with our approach it will be illegal for companies to deny anyone coverage for any reason, and every family will have comprehensive benefits that can never be taken away. The Tarnow family, the Janetakos family, and millions of other Americans live every day with the health care crisis. It's time we stopped denying there's a crisis and started fixing it.
Now is the time to debate and decide America's real agenda: health care, crime, jobs and skills, welfare reform, more hope for our young people. The debate is between those who don't even understand how you live and those who understand the urgency of change, between those who don't even see these problems and those who are working to solve them, between those who are comfortable with deadlock and drift and those who call for continuing the American journey of progress and renewal. If you raise your voice, the forces of change will prevail.
With your help, I'll keep speaking out for reforming health care, fighting crime, ending welfare as we know it, and improving our skills, our schools, and our future. And I'll try not to shout myself hoarse tomorrow on Super Bowl Sunday.