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Remarks on Signing the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 and an Exchange With Reporters

August 03, 1993

The President. Thank you very much. Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, when I took this office with a real determination to engage in what we've come to call reinventing Government around here, it was really encouraging to me to see that there were Members of the Congress who had been examining these questions for years and seriously trying to address them. I want to say a special word of thanks to Senator Glenn, in his absence, and to Senator Roth; to my friend Congressman Conyers and Congressman Clinger and the other Members who have worked so hard to try to put us on the road to seriously reexamining how this Government works. It is important to restore the confidence of the American people in their Government. It is important because, to the extent that our Government works with greater efficiency and effectiveness and less unnecessary cost, it will strengthen the American economy as well as the bonds of our citizenship.

This law holds a lot of promise to do both things. The legislation itself mainly involves the inner workings of Government, things that most people don't think about and maybe don't ever want to think about. It requires the formulation of strategic plans, of setting yearly goals and targets for every program, of measuring and reporting how well programs actually perform compared to the targets set for them, and more accountability for achieving results. But we should view this structure in much simpler terms, terms that every American should be able to identify with. The law simply requires that we chart a course for every endeavor that we take the people's money for, see how well we are progressing, tell the public how we are doing, stop the things that don't work, and never stop improving the things that we think are worth investing in.

Earlier this year I met with our staff to discuss this. The Vice President and I were both enthusiastic about this bill, and I am very, very pleased that it has passed so rapidly. I do want to point out that it is, as the Vice President said, an important first step in the efforts to reform the way the Federal Government operates and relates to the American people. It may seem amazing to say, but like many big organizations, ours is primarily dominated by considerations of input, how much money do you spend on a program, how many people do you have on the staff, what kind of regulations and rules are going to govern it, and much less by output, does this work, is it changing people's lives for the better, can we say after we take money and put it into a certain endeavor that it was worth actually having it away from the taxpayers, into this endeavor, and their lives are better? These may seem like simple questions, but for decades they haven't been answered in a very satisfactory way. We are determined to do that.

I think it's fair to say that most Americans will understand that no organization as large and complex as the National Government can be transformed overnight. I also want to say that a lot of the things that this Government does, it does pretty well, and there are a lot of dedicated employees out there who do their jobs well. But everyone who has ever spent any time looking at how we do things, how decisions are made, how they tend to pile one on top of the other, year-in and year-out, without ever being examined in total or in terms of their effect would say that this is an effort that is long, long overdue.

So I ask, as I sign this bill, for the support of the American people to continue the work of reinventing Government and for their careful attention to the report that the Vice President will present to me next month. I ask for the support of the Congress in being willing to reexamine all of our assumptions and to try to take a fresh look at the way we spend the people's money. And I ask for the support of the fine people who work for the Federal Government to try to find a new spirit of renewal and change that I think will make their jobs more satisfying, and I know will help to restore the credibility and confidence of the American people in the public enterprise.

Thank you very much.

[At this point, the President signed the bill.]

Income Tax Increases

Q. Mr. President, sir, on the subject on which you're not getting bipartisan support, on the budget, can you respond to Republican, very sharp Republican criticism of the retroactivity of the income tax increases?

The President. Well, as you know, we had supported moving it up for 6 months. But in the conference committee there was a very strong demand to do some other things that made it very difficult not to put it back retroactively, apparently. For example, the conference wanted to raise the income threshold to which Social Security recipients were subject to higher income taxes so that now no one on Social Security, and I think it's about the bottom 90 percent, will not be subject to any higher taxes.

And the people that we have to get votes from asked for the following: They said, we want the economic incentives in, we want $495 billion of deficit reduction, and we don't want a higher energy tax number. And I think the conferees— I don't think any of them were very happy about that, but I think they thought that since that had been announced in January, or February, since a lot of people were already making adjustments on the basis of that, that that was a fairer way to do it than to run the risk of dropping below $490 billion in deficit reduction and, frankly, not being able to pass the program.

Q. Won't it be underwithheld, and won't it be a drag on the economy——

The President. It depends on what else we do. We think we have some options to offset it, but it is ironic that the same people who filibustered the jobs program earlier this year are worried about a drag on the economy. They had a chance to put a half a million Americans to work and turned away from it.

This money will be spent to reduce the deficit and to provide economic incentives to many of those same people who will provide the higher taxes. So I think that, on balance—I understand the decision the conferees made. I wish it hadn't been necessary. But part of it was just dictated by the size of the deficit reduction package we wanted and the low energy number. I think it is a good package; it's solid; it's clearly real numbers. It's very different from the 1990 package in many ways. So I feel quite good about it.


Q. Mr. President, what message is being sent to Bosnian Serbs and Muslims with this agreement that NATO has reached?

The President. The message is, first of all, that the allies are determined to protect the United Nations forces there, determined to secure the humanitarian relief program. And the other message is that we would very much— all of us—like to see a successful agreement and a fair peace agreement that can then be enforced. We'd like to see an end to the fighting. There should be an end to the shelling of Sarajevo, an end to the misery before we go through another winter with grave, grave difficulties ahead. And I hope the message will be there. I feel very good about what happened yesterday, and I appreciate the support of the allies for the United States position.

Q. How long do the Serbs have before air strikes would begin?

The President. Thank you very much.

Spending Cuts

Q. Did you notice they kept the honeybee subsidy, the one thing you had promised to get rid of?

The President. We'll eventually get it.

The Vice President. Phil Lader and I are going to get rid of that.

The President. Let me tell you, there will be many more budget cuts. This is the beginning, not the end. The House has already embarked on that course. There will be more.

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:43 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. S. 20, approved August 3, was assigned Public Law No. 103-62.

The Office of the Press Secretary issued a statement on August 2 concerning the NATO decision on air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs, with the text of the NATO resolution attached.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on Signing the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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