Bill Clinton photo

Remarks to the Community in Charleston, West Virginia

August 09, 1993

Thank you very much, and hello, West Virginia. It's good to be back again.

I want to thank my longtime friend, Senator Jay Rockefeller, for that wonderful introduction. And I want to thank Jay and Sharon for the work they have done for the people of West Virginia and the people of our country. I thank my friend Governor Caperton for being here and Mayor Hall and Congressman Rahall and Congressman Wise. I'd like to thank Congressman Mollohan and your fine Senator Robert Byrd in their absence for their support of our program.

I learned something about West Virginia that I already knew, but I saw it writ large in the last few days of the debate in the Congress when we really had to make tough decisions, when people who talked tough and they talked about talking tough, and they talked about talking about talking tough, finally had to act tough. West Virginia was there. And there was no wiggle or wobble or waffle or wonder. They were just there. They said, "This is good for America. I know it's tough. I know we'll be criticized. I know there are people who will find fault, but we're going to do what is right for the people of West Virginia, right for the people of America. Sign us up. We're moving toward the future." And I appreciate that.

I want to thank all the people who made this rally possible today. And I want to thank you and the people of this great country, who have endured hard times with hope, for helping us to break the gridlock in Washington. Now we can truly say change has come to America.

Last week Congress voted for the values of the American heartland, the values of the middle class, the values of the small business economy, the values of the small towns in the hills and hollows of West Virginia and my native State. They voted for work and family, for reducing our deficit and increasing our investment in our people and their future, for jobs and growth for those who work hard and play by the rules.

After 20 long years of stagnant incomes, after 12 years of exploding deficits and reducing investment in our people, after 12 years of partisan gridlock and talking tough and acting soft, we reversed the direction. Now there is a new direction in America: opportunity for those who are responsible; no more something for nothing; a sense of community again. We're all in this together, and everyone must do his or her part.

And again I say to you, I am very grateful to the West Virginia delegation and to all the others who voted for this program because they remembered amidst the withering fog of misinformation that surrounded it that, after all, none of us were sent to Washington to keep our jobs; we were sent to Washington to help you keep your jobs.

And so we have taken, my fellow Americans, a first but major step to regain control of our economic destiny. We cut the deficit. We cut spending. We reward work. We ask those who can pay more to pay their fair share. We give the private sector incentives to grow jobs and invest in the future of our people. This is a good beginning.

This plan will help our Nation's economy to create 8 million new jobs over the next 4 years. Just last month in calendar year 1993 we saw the one millionth job come into the American economy. That's about as many as were created in the previous 4 years. We are beginning.

Is it enough? Of course it isn't. West Virginia still has the highest unemployment rate in the Nation, although you may have the highest percentage of willing workers in the Nation. If ever there was a place where people wanted to go to work, this is it.

We cannot turn this around overnight, but we can never turn it around unless we show a willingness to change, and that is what last week was all about. In the last 12 years we added $3 trillion to our national debt. That's right. From the beginning of our Nation until 1980, we had a $1 trillion national debt. By 1992 it was $4 trillion. We were running annual deficits in the range of $300 billion a year over 5 percent of our annual income going to Government deficits.

When that happens, interest rates are too high, businesses cannot expand, and we cannot spend the money we need to spend to educate people, to create jobs, to deal with all the military cutbacks from California to Connecticut and help those people start a new life, to deal with the declines in mining and manufacturing in a State like West Virginia. It takes more money. And if you're up to your ears in debt paying more every year on interest in the debt, more for the same health care with an out-of-control budget, it cannot be done.

This plan cuts the deficit more than ever before by about $500 billion. There are $255 billion in specific spending cuts—no rhetoric, no hot air, no plugs, no "we'll think about it later"—specific cuts. And by the Executive order that I have signed, we will lock both the new taxes and the spending cuts away in a deficit reduction trust fund, an idea so long championed by Congressman Bob Wise. And when the Congress returns in September, with the help of Nick and Bob and Jay, I hope we will be able to persuade the entire Congress to create that trust fund in law.

The rest of the deficit reduction comes largely from asking those who received most of the economic gains in the 1980's to pay their fair share. Every serious economic analysis shows that the top one percent of our earners got over half the economic benefits of the last decade and a tax cut as well. We asked them to pay more not because we wish to punish success but because in America people who work hard deserve to be treated fairly, and we have to have a fair burden.

Eighty percent of these new revenues will come from those with incomes over $200,000 a year. Families with incomes of under $180,000, including 99 percent of all West Virginians, will not pay more in income taxes. For the first time in the history of this country, people who work 40 hours a week and have children in their homes will be lifted, not by a Government program but by the tax system, out of poverty—no bureaucracy, but a tax refund for people who do it.

I have heard for years and years and years the politicians make pious speeches about how bad welfare is and how we ought to move people from welfare to work. But if people with low education who can only get low-wage jobs can stay on welfare and have health care for their kids and they don't have to come up with child care, is it any wonder that some do? Now we say, "Go to work, and we'll spend tax money lifting you out of poverty because you work." That is what we ought to be doing.

I want to say to all of you that this idea of the earned-income tax credit being expanded to lifting the working poor and their children out of poverty was first championed by the National Commission on Children chaired by Jay Rockefeller. It was a good idea then, and it's a good idea now. Just think of it, 105,000 West Virginia working families being eligible to get some help to clothe their children and feed them and pay the medical bills and reinforce the values of work and family. It is one thing to talk about these things, my fellow Americans, and quite another to do it. This does it.

There's another very important part of this plan I want to emphasize here today because of your high unemployment rate. For the last 12 years most of the new jobs in America have been created by smaller businesses. And yet, very little attention has been given to what policies might help them. In fact, more and more, laws may be passed which affect them adversely whether in terms of more regulation or more taxes, without any thought being given to how we can create more jobs. This is the most prosmall business economic plan adopted in many a year in Washington, DC.

Over 90 percent of the small businesses in this country will get a tax break under this plan if they invest more in their businesses. There is a 75 percent increase in the expensing provision in the Tax Code for small businesses to reinvest in their own businesses, the biggest incentive for people in 1-, 2-, 5-, 10-, 20-, 25employee operations to reinvest in making their businesses more modern that I have seen in the last 12 or 15 years. It is a good provision. It will help everybody in Charleston, West Virginia, and Casper, Wyoming, and throughout this country.

There is another provision in this code which enables people here in West Virginia to take a bigger chance to start new businesses. It says if you invest your money, however modest, in a new business that is capitalized up to $15 million and you hold that investment for 5 years, you will get a 50 percent cut in the tax you owe from the gain you earn. Now, that's how to get a tax cut, invest and put people to work. That's when we should lower people's taxes, when they're putting the rest of America to work to move this economy forward.

The last thing I want to say is that we do our best in this plan to invest in our people. I was attacked during the course of this budget debate because there was some new spending in this program, and I plead guilty. There's a lot more spending cuts than spending, but there is some new spending. In every area I challenge you to prove that it doesn't make sense.

We spend some more money on the Head Start program to get poor children off to a good start in school; to help poor pregnant mothers while they are carrying their children to be wellnourished so their children are born at normal birth weight in good condition, to save the taxpayers money, not to cost them money; to immunize our children against serious childhood diseases. You tell me why the United States of America has the third worst record of all the countries in the Western Hemisphere in immunizing children against diseases. You are all paying for it in higher medical bills for everybody else because we don't immunize the kids. It's a good investment. It pays off. And yes, we spent some money to do it.

We spend a modest amount of money in this plan to provide more apprenticeship training programs for young people who don't go on to college but need a skill so they can earn a decent income. That will pay itself back, and you know it. And this plan makes it much, much easier for young people from working families to finance a college education: lower interest college loans, better repayment terms. You can pay it back based on a percentage of your income even if you borrow a lot of money, but you must pay the loan back now. It is a good change. It will educate more people.

My fellow Americans, Friday night we began to put our economic house in order. The specifics of the day may soon fade from our memories; even the closeness of the vote will someday fade. But what will endure is that it was at this moment that we finally decided that change had to come, that we must finally face our problems, meet our challenges, build a better future, and stop just talking about it.

Now, last week was more partisan than I had hoped. And as I say, I'm very deeply grateful to the West Virginia delegation and to many others who put the national interest ahead of their personal interest. There were some Democrats, because of the partisan nature of the debate, who came from districts where the people were not nearly so personally advantaged, who voted for it anyway even though they put their own political futures on the line. I think of Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky from Pennsylvania, for example, from one of the most prosperous congressional districts in America, who voted yes and said this is in the national interest. And even people who pay higher income taxes will benefit if we have lower interest rates. If their interest payments go down more than their taxes go up, they'll still create more jobs, and America will go forward. There were people like that in this Congress who literally put their necks on the line. But I say to you, we have to do better. We have to do better.

We cannot have every great issue of the day decided on the basis of partisanship, scheduled around the next trip to New Hampshire for a primary still 4 years away. We have got to do some of these things together.

This administration is devoted to change. But I don't care if it's called liberal or conservative or Democratic or Republican. I'm interested in tomorrow versus yesterday in solving the real problems of the country. You can see what we can do when we work together. Just last week with bipartisan support, the family leave act became effective so that people now don't have to lose their jobs if they go home and take care of a sick child or a sick parent. We can do more of that.

And I challenge the Congress when they return to pass with bipartisan support the national service act to give so many tens of thousands of our young people a chance to work off their college loans through serving their communities. Jay Rockefeller came here through national service. This is very, very important. It can open up a whole new area of solving our problems at the grassroots level. And we ought to do it without regard to partisanship.

But finally, we have to deal with the greatest continuing threat to our economic security and to the personal security of most American families, an issue that your Governor has dealt with, an issue that Senator Rockefeller has dealt with, an issue that your Congressmen have dealt with, particularly as it affects the coal miners here, and that is the question of health care.

Unless we reform the health care system of this country, we can never take the deficit down to zero. We can never assure that millions of working families will have their health insurance even if someone in their family gets sick and they have to change jobs. We can never assure that a small business will be able to continue to afford to cover its employees and never have to choose between going broke or going without health insurance. We can stop, if we do it, the pattern of the last 12 years where in workplace after workplace after workplace American working men and women had to give up their wage increases because of the increased cost of the health care package. We have got to do something to provide health security to all Americans in a way that is good for the private sector, good for our employers, and controls the cost without sacrificing quality. Can we do it? Of course we can.

And there is more to do. The Vice President will have a report next month on reinventing our National Government to further eliminate unnecessary Government wasteful spending. We will have a plan to continue our efforts to end welfare as we know it. We will have a crime bill to put more police officers on the street, not only to catch criminals but to prevent crime from happening. All of these things must be done in a different way, and we need bipartisan support. We need to put an end to the partisan rancor and put the American people first again.

My fellow Americans, when I got off at the airport, someone gave me this, a picture of President Kennedy when he was here 30 years ago in the rain in this spot in which he said, "The sun does not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do." Well, today the sun shone, and so did you, and I am very grateful. If it hadn't been for West Virginia, John Kennedy probably would not have been elected President of the United States. When he was here 30 years ago on his last visit, he reflected the eternal optimism, the unbending confidence that we could solve our problems that is his enduring legacy and his enduring lesson to those of us who come behind.

I tell you, throughout all the difficulties we have, the biggest problems we have are those that are inside our minds: the limitation on our vision, our will, and our heart and our willingness to put aside the old divisions and work together to build a better America. There is nothing before us that cannot be cured if we have the willingness to open our ears, lower our voices, roll up our sleeves, and make our words speak through our deeds. That is what we must do from now on.

Thank you for giving me a warm welcome. Change has come to America. Let's keep it going. God bless you all.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:15 p.m. at the State Capitol. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Kent Strange Hall of Charleston. The Executive order of August 4 on the deficit reduction fund is listed in Appendix D at the end of this volume.

William J. Clinton, Remarks to the Community in Charleston, West Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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