Good morning. For a year and a half now, I and my administration have worked very hard to do the right thing by ordinary Americans, to restore the values of community, opportunity, and responsibility that have always strengthened our country. Thanks to you, we're getting the job done on many fronts.
We've reduced the deficit dramatically. We're going to have 3 years of deficit reduction for the first time since Harry Truman was President. We've expanded trade and increased investment in our people's education and training and in new technologies. All of this has produced steady growth in our economy. There are now 3.4 million new jobs in the economy in the last 16, 17 months, more than in the previous 4 years combined.
Meanwhile, we've worked hard to give more of our children a better education, more of our workers a chance to meet the changing demands of the job market. This week we offered a plan to end welfare as we know it, a plan that will encourage personal responsibility and help strengthen our families through tougher child support, more education and training, and an absolute requirement to go to work after a period of time.
We've broken 7 years of gridlock to pass the family and medical leave law to give working families the security of knowing they won't lose their jobs if they have to take time off from work for a child's birth or a sick parent; 7 years of gridlock to pass the Brady bill to help keep more of our citizens and police officers alive by keeping guns out of the hands of people with dangerous criminal or mental health records. And then our efforts to reform health care, to provide health care to all Americans: For the first time ever, a committee of Congress has recommended private health insurance for every American family. We're trying to break 60 years of gridlock and stranglehold by special interests on health care.
Now, each of these accomplishments is important in its own right. But all of them take on an even greater meaning when we see them as part of our larger mission. That mission is to make it possible for all Americans, without regard to their race, their gender, their income, the region of the country from which they come, to be able to make better lives for themselves, to face the future with all of its changes with the enthusiasm and confidence that they should have. Our goal is not to hand anyone anything but to improve the economy, offer opportunities, strengthen families and communities so that people can assume the responsibility to make a better life for themselves.
No issue poses the need to come together more to deal with the problems that we face than does the cancer of crime and violence that is eating away at the bonds that unite us as a people. I saw it again this week when I visited a housing project in Chicago called Robert Taylor Homes.
I went there once 3 years ago, so I'm pretty familiar with all the wonderful people who live there, the good things they're trying to do, and the terrible problems they face from violence and guns and drugs. I went there because it's a good place to emphasize to all Americans that we have begun a nationwide effort to drive the guns, the gangs, and the drugs from public housing and from all neighborhoods where Americans feel terrorized. I wanted to underscore how important it is to empower our people to take back their homes, their streets, and their schools wherever they live. Unless we do something about crime, we can't be really free in this country, we can't exercise the opportunities that are there for us, and our children can't inherit the American dream.
Now, our administration and the Congress must do our job on crime so that the American people can do their job in the communities where they live. We have waited 5 long years, through partisan and political gridlock, for a crime bill that will address the growing crisis. That's long enough. The crime bill, which has now passed both Houses of Congress, but which must be reconciled into one bill and passed one more time, does provide us with the tools we need to help prevent and punish crime.
Congress is on the verge of adopting this crime bill. It contains almost all the elements of the anticrime plan I've been promoting ever since I started running for President. Now it's time to pass the bill, to stop talking, to stop posturing, and pass the bill.
The crime bill will put 100,000 more police officers on the street. They'll be visible. They'll know the children and the neighbors. They'll give our communities the power to keep themselves safer. Properly trained and properly deployed, 100,000 more police officers on our street will lower the crime rate and increase security.
The bill will enforce our sense of safety in many other ways. We did what many said couldn't be done, including in this bill a ban on assault weapons. I saw hundreds, I mean hundreds, of those assault weapons in one little police cubicle in the office in Robert Taylor Homes just on Friday. We have got to take these weapons of killing away from people who are putting the police at a disadvantage and terrorizing our children and our neighborhoods.
This bill will provide for capital punishment for anyone who kills a law enforcement officer. It will give serious repeat offenders what they have earned, a life sentence, by making "three strikes and you're out" the law of the land. It will make it illegal for teenagers to possess handguns unless they're under the supervision of a responsible adult. It will make our schools safer by giving the most dangerous school neighborhoods in the country more resources to provide for safe schools.
But providing more police and tougher punishment isn't enough. We have to deter crime where it starts. This proposal also gives people something to say yes to. It provides jobs for thousands of young people from high-crime neighborhoods, particularly those who stay in school, off drugs, and out of trouble. It gives funds to keep schools open after hours. It adds support for boys and girls clubs, for community activities like midnight basketball. It builds better partnerships between our police and our young people.
An investment in a child is not only a contribution to America's future, it's a real stroke in the war against crime. Those on the frontlines of crime, our police officers, have witnessed firsthand the explosion in youth crime and violence, and they know this is true. A coalition representing more than half a million law enforcement officers nationwide has just written to me and said, "We support the inclusion in the crime bill of substantial funds for prevention programs. They can help make a difference."
Here at the Robert Taylor Homes on Friday I saw young people wearing T-shirts for peer groups, for adopt-a-grandparent's program, for antidrug programs, for midnight basketball programs. I met adults working in tenant patrols. All these prevention programs are unleashing the grassroots energy of responsible residents who understand that they, too, have a duty to try to do something about crime. They're young, they're old, they're middle-aged; they want to take their streets, their neighborhoods, their communities back. And we owe it to them to support them. We can only do it if we keep the prevention component of the crime bill.
Now is the most crucial time to make sure your Congressmen know you want action on the crime bill. There has been enough talk. We have broken years of gridlock to get the bill through both Houses of Congress. But unless it comes to my desk and I sign it, all this effort will have been for nothing. We can give the families of this country the chance to control their own neighborhoods, to raise their children in safety and security. That's what real freedom requires. We can't give up until we've got it.
Thanks for listening.