Good morning. On this Fourth of July weekend, I want to talk about one thing that is at the root of all of our independence: going to work. It makes you self-sufficient. It makes you and your family truly independent.
Unfortunately, millions of Americans are not independent because they are dependent on welfare. The vast majority of these Americans dream the same dreams most of us do. They want the same dignity that comes from going to work and the pride that comes from doing right by their children. They want to be independent.
The Congress and I are now working hard on welfare reform to give them that kind of independence. I look forward to Congress passing and my signing into law a bipartisan bill that stands a real chance of ending welfare as we know it.
Though there are very different approaches in the bills now before Congress, we have agreed on much of what we need to do. We agree there must be time limits on welfare, after which all who can must work. And I'm pleased that Congress has now agreed with me that we must enforce child support with the toughest possible laws.
But if we're going to end welfare, we must do more about a crucial element that is missing from the current approach of many in Congress. Instead of providing the child care people need to get off welfare, some in Congress actually are trying to cut child care.
So today I say to Congress, child care must be the central element of our effort to put welfare mothers to work. The bold plan that I support, which has been proposed by Senators Daschle, Breaux, and Mikulski, provides that kind of child care. Our bill presents a genuine opportunity for bipartisan agreement, and I hope we take advantage of it soon. After all, we should want the same thing for people on welfare we want for all Americans, the chance to build strong families and to make the most of their own lives.
The very name of the welfare program says it all: Aid to Families With Dependent Children. Children by nature are dependent. The point of welfare reform must not be to punish children but to help their families become independent. To be independent with dependent children, a person must be able to succeed both as a worker and a parent. That's what most Americans have to do these days.
That's a big reason I worked so hard back in 1993 to cut taxes for working families with children whose incomes were under $28,000, and now they're about $1,000 lower than they used to be. And that's why I'm working hard to include in my middle class bill of rights a tax credit of $500 per child for all the children under 13 in middle class families. And that's why it is pure fantasy to believe we can put a welfare mother to work unless we provide child care for her children. We don't need more latchkey kids. We certainly don't need more neglected children. And we don't want more welfare mothers staying at home, living on welfare just because they can't find child care.
We do want people to be good workers and good parents. And if we want parents on welfare to go to work, we have to make sure they can find good, clean, safe places for their children to go during the day.
Many in Congress want to cut child care just to save money. Well, I want to cut spending, and I want to save money too. But we have to do it the smart way. Cutting child care will make it harder for parents to get off and stay off welfare. It will therefore cost us far more down the road than it will ever save in the near term.
Some people in Congress want to take even more extreme steps that will hurt, not strengthen, families. They don't want welfare reform unless it cuts off all help to children whose mothers are poor, young, and unmarried. I want to discourage teen pregnancy. We have to do that, but not by hurting innocent babies. We should require teen mothers to live at home, stay in school, and turn their lives around so they and their children stay off welfare for good.
Our administration has already put 29 States on the road to ending welfare as we know it with waivers to free them up from cumbersome Federal rules and regulations when they have good ideas to reform welfare. Today I'm pleased to announce that Virginia will receive the newest waiver. Virginia's plan requires people on welfare to go to work. Like the States of Oregon, Missouri, and a few others, it also allows money now spent on welfare and food stamps to go to employers to supplement wages to help create jobs in the private sector. And it helps people get child care. It's a good plan, and I'm proud to be supporting it.
Several months ago, I called on Congress to send me a welfare reform bill by July 4th, Independence Day. I'm disappointed they haven't been able to meet that deadline, but I am hopeful that we'll move forward on a bipartisan welfare reform bill. I don't want filibusters. I don't want vetoes. I don't want gridlock. But I do want real welfare reform that requires work, demands responsibility, and provides the child care people need to move off welfare and to be successful as workers and parents.
It's time to get to work so we can give millions of other Americans a new Independence Day.
Thanks for listening.