Remarks at a Rally for Representative Ron Klink in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Thank you very much. I always learn something when I come to Pittsburgh. [Laughter] Today I learned, never ask for another pat of butter. [Laughter] And never rent a mule. [Laughter] Let me say, I am delighted to be back in western Pennsylvania, and I'm delighted to be in this State again with Ron Klink and his wife, Linda, and their two fine children and all the people associated with their campaign. And Senator, thank you for your speech, your leadership of the party. Mayor Murphy, thank you for being such a good friend to me in these years we've worked together to help Pittsburgh reach its full potential.
I thank all the candidates who are out here. I think Catherine Baker Knoll is here, and I thank her for being here. Thank you, Catherine. And I want to mention your former mayor, Sophie Masloff, who was a good friend of mine, and State Senator Christine Tartaglione. And thank you, Franco Harris, for being here and for being my friend and supporter all these years.
Now, let me say, I want to thank you for giving some money to Ron Klink. [Laughter] And I'll tell you one thing I'm absolutely sure of. If more people had done what you did today, he would be ahead, not behind, in the polls. Why is that? Because when the American people have enough information and enough time to digest it, they nearly always get it right. Now, do you have any doubt at all that if every voter in Pennsylvania knew what the real records and the real differences between these two candidates are, that Ron Klink would win? Do you have any doubt at all?
Audience members. No-o-o!
The President. All right. If you have no doubt at all, then he can still win if you get out there and cover the gap between now and election day. That's what I want to tell you. I believe that. And I came out here—I have been calling people all over the country saying, "You ought to send Ron Klink some money. We can win in Pennsylvania."
The people of this State have been very good to me, and I am profoundly grateful. We won a big victory here in '92. In '96 I didn't get to campaign as much as I wish I had in Pennsylvania because we were trying to win some places we hadn't won in a long time, including Florida, where we did win. But the people of Pennsylvania stayed with me.
I think this is a pretty simple election here. But what I want to tell you is, every one of these races is important. No one in America understands more clearly than I do how important every single House race is, every single Senate race is, and of course, the race for the White House.
You need to go ask people whether we're better off than we were 8 years ago. That's what they used to say the test was. My favorite point in the last Presidential debate—we're going to have another one tonight. We all have our little moments, but my favorite moment was when their nominee said, "Well, I think that Clinton/Gore got a lot more out of the economy than the economy got out of Clinton/Gore. The American people did this with their hard work." Now, when they were in, they took credit when the Sun came up in the morning. You remember that? [Laughter] "It's morning in America. Vote for us." It's morning, right? [Laughter] So they said that. And then the Vice President said, "Yes, the American people and their hard work do deserve credit. But they were working just as hard back in 1992 and getting different results." [Laughter] And I thought, goodbye. That was a good answer.
Now, look, here is the deal. There are differences. They're real, and they have consequences in people's lives. And if every voter in Pennsylvania understands that and what the differences are and what the consequences are, Klink wins. To the extent that there are voters who don't understand it, it's harder for him to win. To the extent there are voters who think there are two perfectly nice moderate guys running and maybe we ought to stick with the moderate guy who's in, it's bad for him.
And this is what they're doing all over the country. They want to blur these differences, you know. I mean, butter wouldn't melt in their mouth today. It's hard to remember the rhetoric they used just a couple of years ago, isn't it? "Oh, we're so moderate. We're so nice. We feel so bad about all these problems America has. We really want to do something about it." [Laughter] "We're glad the Democrats got rid of the deficit and put us into surplus and gave us the longest expansion in history. We're glad they put 100,000 police on the street, even though we fought them. We're glad they cut the welfare rolls in half without taking food and medicine away from the kids, like we tried to. We're glad it all worked out. Now, please let us stay in." [Laughter]
That's their pitch. I'm laughing because I don't want to cry here. [Laughter] And then you ought to ask yourself, well, why is it then, if we did the right things, why do they have more money? What does that tell you? Because we decided a long time ago, a long time before I ever came along, that we thought that the best politics and the best economics and the best social policy was what allowed us all to go forward together, not just what took care of the people who had the ability to give you a financial advantage in a campaign.
Now, look, we're better off than we were 8 years ago. Ron Klink supported the economic policies of this administration. His opponent didn't. Ron Klink, you heard him say, supported putting 100,000 police on the street. They tried to take it away. Even when the crime rate was coming down, they tried to undo what was working. And by the way, they promise to undo it if they win the White House and the Congress next time.
We're going up to 150,000 police on the street. We've got crime down 7 years in a row, down to a 27-year low. And their major commitment on law enforcement is to promise to undo the Federal Government's commitment to put 150,000 police on the street because they don't think we have any business doing it. Never mind the fact that we're all safer. Now, how many voters in Pennsylvania know that? Not enough. If they did, would it make a difference? I think it would. I believe it would.
You look at this economics issue. This may be the thing that will have the biggest impact on you. We've got a chance now to spread this recovery to people and places left behind, to inner-city neighborhoods and rural communities and places that lost industries and Native American communities—people that still aren't fully part of this. But we've got to keep the economy going. We've got to keep the labor markets tight. We've got to keep the general progress going if our initiatives to spread the economic recovery are going to work and benefit everybody.
Now, our policy is, we want to give you a tax cut, but we've got to be able to afford it, which means we've got to save some money to invest in education, in health care, in the environment and national defense, in science and technology. And we've got to keep paying down the debt, because when we pay down the debt, we keep interest rates lower and the economy stronger. That's our position.
Their position is, "Vote for us. We'll give a much bigger tax break." Most middle class people are actually better off under ours, but some of you who can afford to buy a ticket today would be better off under theirs. So why are you here? You've got to be able to answer this. Listen, this is important.
Their tax cut—the Vice President's is about $500 billion. Theirs is about a trillion six, I'd say—maybe a little more. They say a little less, but it's clearly about that. Now, here is the problem with their tax cut. Number one, it's a trillion six. That's lots of money.
Number two, they have also promised, as Ron said, to partially privatize Social Security. He told you about one problem, which is, if you take your 2 percent payroll and you lose money, then you lose income. But there is another problem with that. Forget about that. Let's suppose everybody here under 45 took the 2 percent and made money. There is another problem. They're going to guarantee the benefits for everybody over 55, which by the time they get it passed will be me. [Laughter]
Now, here is the problem. If Social Security is supposed to go broke in 35 years, and you start pulling money out of it like no tomorrow because all the young people think they can do more in the stock market, but you guarantee everybody's benefits who is 55 or over—and keep in mind, if you live to be 65 in America, your life expectancy is 82 now and going up— what happens? Well, the money starts running out just as your guarantee goes up. So what do you have to do? You have to put more money in it.
And I want to compliment the nominee of the Republican Party. In the last debate he acknowledged that he would take a trillion dollars from our surplus and put it into Social Security to make the commitments to the people over 55—55 and over—in order to let everybody else take money out. Now, if you've got a $1.6 trillion tax cut and a $1 trillion Social Security hold, you've already spent $400 billion more than the most wildly optimistic estimate of the surplus, which, you can take it from me, is probably $400 billion to $500 billion overstated because of built-in costs of the Federal Government. And they haven't spent any of the money they promised, plus all the Star Wars things they promised and all that. I'm telling you, they're going to put us back in debt. That's why the economic analysis that I've seen indicates that the Democratic plan, the Gore-Lieberman plan, will keep interest rates a point lower a year for a decade.
Now, do you know what a percent a year a decade—you need to go out and talk to people here in western Pennsylvania about that. It affects this Senate race. Do you know what it means to you if you keep interest rates one percent lower a year for a decade? That is the equivalent of $390 billion in lower home mortgages, $30 billion in lower car payments, $15 billion in lower college loan payments, not to mention lower credit card payments, lower business loans, which means more businesses, more jobs, higher incomes, and a stronger stock market.
Now, so you've got a $435 billion tax cut to ordinary Americans by getting this country out of debt for the first time since 1835. One party will do it. The other won't. And people that vote for President and people that vote for Senator ought to know that, because it will have a huge impact on whether we can keep western Pennsylvania coming back in the next 10 years. I want you to make certain people know that.
Now, let me just give you another example, health care. When I became President, they told me Medicare was going to be broke in 1999, last year. We added 27 years to the life of Medicare and did more to cover preventive coverage for breast cancer, for prostate cancer. We dramatically improved diabetes care. You can keep your health insurance now when you change jobs or somebody in your family gets sick. We've insured 2 1/2 million under the Children's Health Insurance Program that Ron Klink supported, that has given us a reduction in the number of people without health insurance for the first time in a dozen years.
We have big challenges. You heard him talking about the Patients' Bill of Rights. It failed by one vote. If he'd been in the Senate, instead of his opponent, I would have signed into law the Patients' Bill of Rights already. Now, this is a huge deal. This is a huge deal. Do you have a right to see a specialist if your doctor says? Do you have a right to keep your doctor if you change health care providers in the middle of a pregnancy or a cancer treatment? That's what the Patients' Bill of Rights says. Do you have a right, if you get hurt, to go to the nearest emergency room, or can they drag you past three or four to get to one covered by your plan? And if you get hurt, do you have a right to sue because you've been hurt? And if you don't, it's just a patients' bill of suggestions, not rights. And most important, does it cover everybody, or does it leave a bunch of folks out?
Now, the HMO's say they don't want this, because they say by the time they get sued and everybody gets covered, your health care premiums will go up. That bothers me. But guess what? I already put it in for everybody covered by the Federal Government. Now, people need to know this. In western Pennsylvania, you need to know this. I put the protections of the Patients' Bill of Rights in for everybody on Medicare, Medicaid, veterans' health, Federal employees' health insurance, Federal retirees being covered by health care. Do you know what it did to the premiums? They went up a buck a month—a buck a month—to give you those kind of protections.
Even the Republicans' own Congressional Budget Office says that for the population at large, it would go up less than $2 a month. Now, I would pay a $1.80 a month on my health insurance to make sure that—God forbid—if you get hit by a car walking out of this rally, you could go to the nearest emergency room. And I think most of you would, too. There's a big difference here. The people in western Pennsylvania need to know where he is and where his opponent is.
Now, let me just give you one more, the prescription drugs for seniors fight. First, we were for it, and they weren't for anything. And then they realized they were in deep trouble. You remember that phrase the former President Bush used to use for that—that deep whatever it was he used to say. [Laughter] They knew they were in a world of hurt. So they came up with a plan, and they said, "Well, you know, this thing might be too expensive, giving Medicare-financed drug coverage to all seniors who need it." Our plan does that. It says, under Medicare you have a voluntary option to buy in. If you're poor, we'll pay your premiums. If you're not, you've got to pay a little. If you have catastrophic bills, we'll help you with those. That's our plan.
So they said, "Well, we can't be caught out here with no plan." So they went to the drug companies, and they said, "I'm sorry, guys. We can't carry your water unless you give us something to be for." This is the way Washington works, folks. I'm just telling you. They went to the drug companies, and they said, "Look, we can't carry your water anymore. They're going to blow us away here."
So they did all these surveys and everything and did this research. And they came up with this plan that says, "The Democrats want the Government to take over your drug business, and they want to fix prices. And what we want to do is help the poor people get their coverage and let everybody else buy insurance and put it all in the private sector, which is so much better." They tested all this. They got the phrases where they sounded right and all that.
So that's what the fight is between Congressman Klink and Senator Santorum, and all over the country. Now, you must be sitting out here asking yourself, why wouldn't the drug companies want to sell more drugs? Did you ever meet a politician that didn't want more votes? Did you ever meet a car salesman that didn't want to sell more cars? Did you ever meet an insurance salesman that didn't want to sell more insurance? What is this? Why don't the drug companies who want everybody who needs the drugs to buy them? It doesn't make any sense, does it?
Here is what is going on. You need to understand this. This is a big issue. First of all, the Republicans' plan won't work. They pay for people up to 150, 175 percent of the poverty line; 175 percent is $18,700, more or less, for a couple. The problem is, half the people that need the medicine, because they've got big drug bills, make more than that. And there is no private insurance for these people. Nevada adopted the Republican plan. Do you know how many insurance companies offered drugs under it? Zero. Not one—not one. That's one thing I admire about our Republican friends: Evidence never fazes them. I admire that. [Laughter] You've got to admire it, you know? "Don't bother me with the facts. Yes, their economic approach worked. Let's reverse it anyway and give our friends a big tax cut that we can't afford."
So I'm just telling you, this is a big issue. Now, here is the problem. You need to make sure people understand this in western Pennsylvania, because I'm sure there will be all these ads about how they're both for drugs, Klink wants the Government to take it over. Medicare is a private health care delivery system, right? You all go to a private doctor, private hospitals, financed through Government. It has an administrative cost of about 1.5 percent. There is no price fixing here.
You want to know what the real problem is? Why can you go to Canada and get drugs cheaper, made in America, than you can here? Because the drug companies have spent a lot of money developing these drugs, and they spent a lot of money advertising them, and they can't recover those costs anywhere but America, because everyplace else fixes prices. Then once you pay enough for those drugs to get their advertising and development costs back, it's then cheap for them to make another little pill, and they can sell it in Canada, Europe, or anywhere.
And the reason they don't want this bill to pass is, if we get enough market power with enough seniors in the same plan, they're afraid, not through price fixing but through bargaining, we'll be able to get prices that are almost but not quite as cheap as you could buy American drugs in Canada. And they think that will cut their profit margins down and limit their ability to do research and advertise. That is what is going on. That's what this whole deal is about. You never read that in the paper, did you?
Now, I say that so you don't have to demonize the drug companies. It's good that we've got them in America. It's good they're developing these medicines that keep people alive and improve the quality of their lives. But it is wrong to say we're going to solve their problem by keeping American seniors from getting the drugs they need to stay alive and have good lives. Let's solve the problem of the senior citizens. And then, those people have plenty of money and power; let them come down to Washington, and we'll help them solve their problem. That's what we ought to do.
I've taken the time to talk about these issues today, unconventional at this kind of event, because I know I won't be back in western Pennsylvania, in all probability, between now and the election. And I want you to go out and talk to everybody you can find between now and the election. Look, these elections are close. Ron Klink can win if people understand what the differences are and what the consequences are to them, their families, your community, and your country.
So I ask you, please go out there. Talk to people about where we were 8 years ago, where we are today, what Congressman Klink's role has been in it, and talk to people about the economic issues, the health care issues, the education issues out there. Remember, clarity is our friend. We may never have another chance in our lifetime, have a country that is this prosperous, making this much progress, and pulling together.
You look at the children in this audience. We've got to do it right for them. We may not have another chance in our lifetime to have an election like this.
Again, let me tell you I am profoundly grateful for everything the State of Pennsylvania, and especially this part of Pennsylvania, has done for me and Al Gore and our administration.
The only thing I can tell you is, I've worked as hard as I could to turn this country around, pull this country together, and move us forward. Now it's up to you. Don't miss a person. Every one of you knows hundreds of people who will vote on election day but who will never, ever come to an event like this, never, never have the chance that you've had to engage in this kind of thinking.
So go out there and tell them what the economic differences, the health care differences, the education differences are. And tell them the future depends upon making a good decision for Al Gore, Joe Lieberman, Ron Klink, and the rest of our crowd.
Thank you, and God bless you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 12:25 p.m. in Room S-2 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. In his remarks, he referred to Representative Klink's children, Juliana and Matthew; State Senator Leonard J. Bodack; Mayor Tom Murphy of Pittsburgh; Catherine Baker Knoll, candidate for State treasurer; Sophie Masloff, former mayor of Pittsburgh; former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris; and Republican Presidential candidate Gov. George W. Bush of Texas. Representative Klink was a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.
William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Rally for Representative Ron Klink in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/228500