Robert Dole photo

Remarks in Macomb County, Michigan

June 03, 1996

Before I start, I just want to say that I appreciate very much your being here. I know the notice was short. I appreciate very much the kind introduction and statements made by governor Engler, and I'm honored to be here with my good friend, Spence Abraham, as one of the bright shining stars in our party. Thanks to you, we've got an election.

[applause]

And I my co-chairman, Candice Miller, who's doing a great job as secretary of state. Betsy DeVos, who has two jobs now, national committee woman and chairman of the party. I think Dan DeGrow's down there somewhere, and I know Dick's down there somewhere, and so is Paul. So we're happy — where are you?

Where's Paul and Dick around here somewhere. Oh, here we go. Yes, got it right here. Good.

[applause]

I spent some of my earlier life Michigan, so I know a little about the state. Been some time ago when I was in Battle Creek, Michigan, but I learned a lot about people here and their generosity and their compassion and their integrity and their spirit.

So I'm very honored to be here today. But I can tell you I'm finally able to make this speech before President Clinton gets a copy of it makes it himself. So that's the way it goes.

[laughter]

[applause]

We're getting a lot of good work done, because everything I recommend, he's for.

[laughter]

And by tomorrow, he's going to have a tax cut package. Remember, he told you that in '92 and then gave you a big, big tax increase, so you'll read between the lines.

But, I would say this. In the last few weeks, I have spoken on issues that I believe are critical to the future of our nation. Issues which are profound and point out the profound and fundamental differences between myself and Bill Clinton. I think that's what the American people, people in Macomb County, this area, have a right to know.

About the kinds of men and women who should be appointed as federal judges. About ending and not just talking about the welfare system that has literally condemned generations to dependency and despair. About a foreign policy that understands America's interests and ideals and proudly stands up for them.

And about realizing Ronald Reagan's dream of building a defense to protect American against nuclear missiles. And I would say at that point, if I asked most people, what you have the president do if there was an incoming missile, ballistic missile, you would say, shoot it down. We can't, because President Clinton opposes it, and we support it.

But I'm here today to talk about another defining issue. Another question that divides the president and me and that will be decided by the people this November 5, by you, and by voters all across America.

Another issue that'll determine America's future for generations to come. And that is balancing the federal budget. And here's the heart of the matter. Unlike Mr. Clinton, I don't believe that problems that American people are taxed too little.

I believe the federal government is too big and spends too much money. And in my administration, that will stop. We will change it. We will change it.

[applause]

And in the months ahead, you'll be hearing me talk more and more about the difference between Mr. Clinton and me on this very important issue.

DOLE: He imposed the largest tax increase in the history of America on you, the people. And I intend to go precisely in the opposite direction. I believe we can cut taxes, reform the tax code, and balance the budget.

In fact, we must if we want to restore our nation to its full economic potential with faster growth and greater opportunity and a rising standard of living for our people.

And let me start by saying that in this campaign, the American people's biggest challenge will be to distinguish between words and actions, between words and actions. That is, because unfortunately, as we have seen time and time again, the words this president speaks have very little to do with the actions he takes. Put simply, he talks right and runs left.

But I believe the American people deserve better than zig-zag leadership. And nowhere

[applause]

And nowhere is this disconnect more true than on the question of the federal budget. And nowhere is it more pivotal. For whether or not we actually bring the budget into balance in the next few years will depend, more than anything else on the will and determination of the president of the United States. And as things stand in the Congress and the country today, if the president of the United States wants a balanced budget, we will have a balanced budget.

But this president's action made clear that he does not. I do. I do because I believe a federal budget that is balanced in the right way, with less spending, that permits lower taxes is a key, a critical key, to making America better for families and to restarting America's engine of economic growth.

Now some say that, "Well, deficits don't matter, that the American people just don't care about them." But the fact is that the federal budget is like a tax hike on working families. It drives up interest rates and not by a little but by a lot. It is a stealth tax that every family with a home, every father and mother with a child in college, every young person who buys a car must pay and pay and pay and pay.

And what is this stealth tax in dollar terms? Well, over $36,000 on a typical home mortgage, more than $1,400 on an ordinary student loan, nearly $700 on a typical car loan.

Everytime a family uses its credit card, it's paying that hidden tax, and the worst thing is it's a tax without any benefit. Higher interest rates simply means the consumer's money vanishes as if a pickpocket took your wallet.

That's what economists tell us. That is the cost of pushing up interest rates by about two percentage points. And as Americans, our budgets are constrained because the federal government's budget is not. And I say this stealth tax is wrong. It's wrong for families. It's wrong for workers. And it's wrong for our economy.

And I think it's time that it's eliminated.

[applause]

It's time we eliminate that and when I am elected on November 5, that's exactly what I intend to do.

DOLE: Instead of giving more money to Washington to let the government grow, I want to leave more money with the taxpayers to let the family grow and prosper, and that's a big, big difference.

[applause]

And I've said, I think as long as I've been around here, when we return to the economic values that once made the American family great, we'll strengthen the values that have made American great.

Now, where does President Clinton stand? That's a fair question.

And now that we're starting another campaign, and he has to face that American people again, he says he's for a balanced budget — again. But when it comes to balancing the budget, as with everything else, Bill Clinton's promises are like the tape in Mission Impossible. They self-destruct in about 10 seconds.

[laughter]

[applause]

Now think back to 1992. In the last campaign, candidate Clinton went on LARRY KING LIVE and promised to balance the budget in five years. A very clear statement.

When he got into office, his first budget had deficits as far as the eye could see. No balance anywhere. In fact, maybe there's an ad running in this area which says 10 years, nine years, eight years, seven years, six years, five years. Any of the above.

[laughter]

That's where he was. And for the first of many times, he did the exact opposite of what held promised.

And I think you can judge a president by what he does in his first 100 days. What did Bill Clinton do?

He proposed what we call an economic stimulus package which wouldn't have stimulated anything except the insatiable appetite of big government. And instead of restarting — or restraining spending, he wanted to spend more than $16 billion on new pork barrel projects and political patronage to fund such critical programs like $1 million for a boating marina in Key West, a $2.5 million alpine slide in Puerto Rico — I haven't quite figured how that's going to work.

[laughter]

One million dollars to construct a casino, $5 million to renovate a brewery, and $2.7 million for a movie theater.

Now, those are only just a few examples. The pork trough was 800 pages long, and the hogs would still be feeding in it today of Bill Clinton had gotten his way. But he was stopped by a united front of Senate Republicans. Every Senate Republican stood up and said, "No." every Senate Republican. And we only had 44 at the time.

So, when we took over the Congress tow years later, we said it was not time just to talk about a balanced budget, but to do something about it. And we put a balanced budget amendment up for a vote. And I must say we had a number of people of good will on the other side in the president's party who supported us.

But the White House lobbied furiously against us, and rounded up enough support to defeat the amendment by one vote. One vote. We needed 67, we got 66. So we lost on the constitutional amendment.

But then for the first time in a generation, as the governor alluded to, we passed a budget that was balanced. Not an amendment saying the budget should be balanced, but this time an actual budget. The president vetoed in, not once, but he vetoed it twice. A double whammy against the U.S. taxpayers.

And, ladies and gentlemen, I can say this with all honesty, he has fought us every step of the way.

DOLE: He sent up a smoke screen of rhetoric. He used scare tactics and every bit of patronage and power he had to strongarm members of his own party and keep them in line. He sent up a phoney budget with phoney numbers that fooled no one. With every action he could take he demonstrated his fundamental hostility to restraining the growth of government.

Now, don't take my word for it. As economic journalist Robert Samuelson wrote recently — and I'm quoting him now — "A president is supposed to help illuminate and resolve critical national choices. Clinton not only didn't do this, but he frustrated the process by viciously attacking those who tried." End of quote.

And then Samuelson continued, "The Republicans attempted to broaden the budget debate in a constructive way. They insisted on reaching a balanced budget. Clinton's 1996 budget envisioned perpetual deficits." End of quote. And Samuelson concluded with this, "Only when it was clear that Congress would enact a balanced budget did Clinton embrace the goal. Only when it was clear, did he embrace the goal." Those aren't my words. Not a Republican economist. Those are Robert Samuelson's words.

So now at least the president says he's for a balanced budget. We'll see what happens. As most of you know, I will soon be leaving the United States Senate. In fact, it's down to days now. It occurred to me that I should demonstrate to the American people — Republicans and Democrats and Independents — that you can't always have it both ways. And I know some, maybe in this audience, always assume that those of us in politics will work it out somewhere where we can't lose. If I lose this I've still got this.

So it occurred to me to demonstrate to the American people, to Republicans and Independents and Democrats who are looking for leadership, that I should roll the dice. As I say, give up all the trappings of power. Give up the comfort and security that some would say we have in the United States Senate; give up the Majority Leader's office and go to American people and listen to the America people and talk about America and talk about your families and your children and your hopes and your aspirations.

And I believe I made the right choice. The American people want leadership.

[applause]

But before I leave I'm going to bring up that balanced budget amendment one more time. One more time!

[applause]

Thank you. If the American people vote on a balanced budget tomorrow it would pass by an overwhelming majority; 83 percent, according to recent a Gallup poll. In this, Washington should learn from the Wisdom of the American people. So let me say it right now. Mr. Clinton, we all know that your Democratic colleagues in the Senate will look to you for a thumbs up or a thumbs down on this vote. You are the leader of one of America's two great parties. You're leadership on this issue matters.

DOLE: It really matters. And if you're as serious as you say about balancing the federal budget, if you've really had a real change of heart, if you truly want to stand with the American people, tell your Democratic colleagues in the Senate to vote for the balanced budget amendment, vote for the balanced budget amendment.

[applause]

And, Mr. President, do it in public. And do it now.

[laughter]

No winks. No nods. No behind the scenes maneuvers. No excuses. And do it loudly. And do it clearly. As they say in the commercial, just do it. Just do it.

[applause]

And to paraphrase President Reagan, Mr. Clinton, tear down this wall of resistance to a balanced budget amendment. Tear down this wall of resistance to a balanced budget amendment.

[applause]

Now let me say while I'm making this offer in good faith, I'm not holding my breath. When it comes to this president and this Oval Office, I'm not sure the buck stops there, but I'm certain reform does.

And I said earlier that the critical issue in balancing the budget and reducing the burden of the government on all Americans is presidential will, presidential will. And here in Michigan, you have one of America's best examples of how critical executive leadership is — Governor John Engler.

[applause]

When John Engler was elected — and I can't resist saying it was a come-from-behind victory — Michigan was cited as a poster child of the Rust Belt with a staggering deficit. Property taxes were the third highest in America and unemployment was the highest of the industrial states.

Leadership and will changed all of that because John Engler kept his promises. He did what he said he would do, eliminating the deficit with spending cuts, downsizing government bureaucracy, and in contrast to the conventional wisdom in Washington, he also cut taxes — 21 times — for both families and businesses.

And you know the results.

[applause]

You know the results.

Today Michigan has been transformed into a growth model for the nation. As the governor said, employment is up with 450,000 jobs created since 1991. The budget is in surplus. And per capita income growth is the fastest in the nation.

What John Engler has done for Michigan, I want to do for America, and with your help, we'll get it done. We need your help.

[applause]

And it's no mystery on what's holding America back. It's no force of nature or act of fate. It's the wrong-headed, out-dated liberal policies that can all be summed up in one word — Clintonomics, Clintonomics. That's the word, one word, Clintonomics.

[applause]

And you know one of the most amazing things about the present administration is they actually boast about the anemic substandard growth their policies have created.

DOLE: Remember in the last campaign in 1992 and it happened here in Michigan, Mr. Clinton's rallying cry and I quote was, "It's the economy, stupid"?

At that time, the economy was actually growing more than 50 percent faster than it has during the Clinton years — 50 percent faster.

The natural business cycle was pulling us strongly out of recession at that time with impressive growth.

But then Clinton's big government and high tax policy slammed on the brakes, and you know sometimes I think that Bill Clinton must be a very incredible magician. He took a middle class tax cut he promised in the campaign, he put it in the hat, and pulled out the biggest tax increase in the history of America — $265 billion tax increase. Don't forget that number.

And while Michigan, with John Engler's spending and tax cuts, was booming, what was happening to the rest of America? Bill Clinton's tax increases. We call it the Clinton crunch.

Workers saw their wages stagnate. Families had to work harder just to make ends meet. Judged against America's average growth for the entire post-war period, Clinton economic policies threw this country into a growth deficit that, according to Congress and the Joint Economic Committee, will cost the average household an astonishing $3,100 per year — that's $260 per month.

No wonder more and more American families feel they are falling behind. No wonder they feel the security of the past years is slipping away from them. And no wonder more and more Americans are saying our country is on the wrong track.

So this year, "It's the economy, stupid" takes on a whole new meaning. Bill Clinton is hoping the rest of us are stupid so we won't notice what a mess he's made of the economy. That's the new meaning of his slogan. And the way to get America back on the right track, the fast track to growth and prosperity, starts with letting families keep more of what they earn.

It means taming and restraining the federal budget, and giving the family budget a long overdue break so that more spending decisions are made on Main Street, U.S.A., and fewer on Pennsylvania Avenue in the District of Columbia.

It means curing the wasteful spending addiction this administration is hooked on so that we can cut taxes, including the Clinton stealth tax, pull our nation out of the Clinton growth deficit and release our country from the Clinton crunch.

It means replacing uncertainty with security, replacing hopelessness with jobs, and replacing doubt with opportunity. And it all starts with replacing the Clinton administration in Washington on November 5. It won't happen unless that happens.

[applause]

So if you'll help me, if you'll help me restore leadership to the White House, I promise that I will do all that I possibly can to help restore the full greatness of America.

You see, I believe leadership should be more than self-gratification. It should be about more than the politics of the moment. Leadership is about service, service to something greater than oneself. That's what leadership's about — greater than all of us, something as large and as grand as the promise and hope of America.

DOLE: It's about answering that call like so many millions of ordinary servicemen and women have done, like so many daily heroes in American life have done, paying the price, accepting the burden, giving something back to the country that has given you and given the world so much.

It's also about simple truths — telling the truth, the way I learned to do it in Russell, Kansas, a small town filled with big people, not big in money or prestige but big at heart, humanity, integrity and love — simple truths like doing the right thing, like saying what you mean and meaning what you say and sticking to it, even paying a price for your stubbornness when making excuses would be much, much easier.

It means having a faith in this land of freedom as strong as the faith of the pioneers who built it, a sustaining faith that carries you through the tough times and lights your way to the good ones.

So I've been talking here today about economics, but the real issue is even deeper than any numbers could represent. It goes to the heart of why we want to balance the budget and cut taxes.

It underlies all our goals of reforming the welfare morass, of rebuilding our military and strengthening our courts.

Fundamentally, it gets down to a very basic issue of values, what we believe America's been is and must remain — a nation of freedom, where the doors of opportunity are open to all, where our government respects the values on which families and neighborhoods and communities are built.

And that is why I'm running for president. I want to be the president of the United States because I believe that together we can put America back on the right track. Together we can get this economy moving again. Together we can put basic American values back at the center of our public life. Together we can restore the full greatness of this blessed land of liberty.

And that's what this is all about in this year of 1996. It's about you. It's about your business. It's about jobs. It's about opportunities, about taxes, about your families, your children, and education, and all the things you're concerned about in this great state of Michigan.

That's what this election in 1996 is all about. As I've tried to state in my statement, above all, it's about leadership, it's about will, it's about telling the truth. It's about doing the right thing. It's about making tough decisions. It's about standing up for America — standing up for America.

And as great as we are today, there's no doubt in my mind that our best days and years are ahead of us. And I want to take us into the next century full speed ahead — a better country, more jobs, more opportunities for Americans everywhere.

And with your help, we'll get it done.

Thank you very much and God bless America.

[applause]

Robert Dole, Remarks in Macomb County, Michigan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/285566

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