Remarks to the Community in Des Moines, Iowa
Thank you. First of all, I'd like to thank you for giving me a drier welcome than I had the last time I came to Iowa.
I want to thank the Dowling High School Band, thank you very much. I thank my good friend Senator Tom Harkin for that wonderful speech and for being a constant source of leadership and courage and support in the United States Senate. I don't know what I would have done without Tom Harkin in the last 2 years. And since I'm in Iowa, I also want to say that Ruth Harkin is the best Director of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and has made more American jobs in that position than anybody who ever held it before she took it.
I am delighted to be here with all the fine leaders of the Democratic Party and with your candidates for Congress: Glen Winekauf, Sheila McGuire, Elaine Baxter, my old friend Dave Nagle—the second time is the charm for Elaine and Dave; I know it will be—with Neal Smith, whom I admire more than I can say, and I want to say a little more about him later and about this race he is in; and with Bonnie Campbell, who ought to be the next Governor of the State of Iowa.
Ladies and gentlemen, this election all over America represents a choice, a choice between hope and fear, between the mainstream and the mean stream, between whether we're going to be together or we're going to be divided, between whether we're going forward or we're going to go back. I think I know the answer to that. You want to keep going forward!
Twenty-one months ago, with the help of the good people of Iowa, I moved to Washington to assume the Presidency. Now, since that time, I have kept my commitment to try to put the American people first, to make the Government work for ordinary people, to bring the economy back, to empower Americans so that everybody could assume the responsibility of living up to the fullest of their capacities, to give you a world that is more peaceful and more prosperous for Americans to work in. And while I know we've still got problems, we've still got folks who are worried about their jobs and worried they won't get a raise, people who still are worried about losing their health care—yes, there are still problems.
But I ask you to consider this: We went to Washington to deal with 30 years of accumulated social problems, with 20 years of stagnant wages and losing benefits for working people, with 12 years of the consequences of trickledown economics, with 4 years of the slowest job growth since the Great Depression. And folks, after 21 months we've still got a good ways to go, but this country is in better shape than it was 21 months ago.
We've taken a stand to try to help ordinary working people. You heard Bonnie mention the family and medical leave law; let me tell you what that means in Iowa. It means that 446,000 more Iowa working people can take a little time off if there's a baby born or a sick parent, without losing their jobs. That makes a difference here in Iowa. It means that in Iowa, 358,000 people will be eligible for lower costs on their college loans because of our reform of the college loan program. It means in Iowa that 118,640 working families got income tax reductions because they're working full-time, they have children in their homes, and we don't believe that anybody who does that should be in poverty. The tax system should lift them out of poverty, not put them in. For all their attacks on us, 13 times as many people in Iowa got an income tax cut as an income tax rate increase. That is the record of our administration with our supporters in Congress moving this country forward. I think we should keep doing it.
It means after years of bickering delay, we passed the Brady bill and the crime bill. And I can tell you that Iowa—Iowa—is the first State in the United States where the United States Attorney has brought an action under our "three strikes and you're out" law. If you commit three serious offenses, threatening or taking the lives of others, you should not be eligible for parole. And the first action under a law I signed 2 months ago has been taken in Iowa.
The other guys, they always told you how bad the Federal Government was. But when they were in charge, the Government got bigger. They always told you that they hated the deficit, but they quadrupled the national debt. Since we've been in office, we have reduced the Federal deficit, we have shrunk the Federal Government, and we have taken all the savings from the reduction in Federal bureaucracy and given it to local communities in Iowa and all across the United States to fight crime, to make our streets safer, to give our kids a better future. I think it's been a good bargain.
When I proposed and the Congress adopted our economic program, the other fellows said the sky would fall. They said the world would come to an end if the President's economic program was passed. Well, folks, they were wrong. They were wrong. You look at the results. In this country in the last 21 months, our economy has produced 4.6 million new jobs. For the first time in a long time—and this is very important for Iowa—more than half the new jobs created in 1994 in America played above the national average in wages and income. We had more high-wage jobs this year than in the past 5 years combined. We're moving in the right direction. We don't need to turn back now.
I told you if you would send me to Washington, I would be a President who would remember the farmers in rural America; would remember what it's like to live in the small towns, in the country crossroads, the places that Presidents don't visit and that people don't often take notice of. Well, in 21 months, in agriculture, I think we have plainly kept our commitments. We've increased loan rates. We've reformed the Nation's crop insurance system. We've given more crop disaster assistance payments; they've been based on quality, not just quantity. We've reduced the paperwork in the farm program. We've changed the farm income reporting system to more accurately reflect the real income of the average American farmer. We brought farmers into the policymaking process at the Department of Agriculture. We've reorganized. We've reduced spending. We've taken a $3.6 billion cut in the farm bureaucracy without doing what the Republicans say they want to do, which is to gut the farm programs. This is the friend-of-the-farmer administration, and you ought to support it and keep going forward.
And I want to say something especially about Tom Harkin and particularly about Neal Smith. When it came to ethanol, the Republicans said one thing but did another. I'd come out here in the middle of the farm country in Iowa and Illinois and the Dakotas, particularly in places that cared about ethanol. And people would say, "Well, we're farmers. We usually vote Republican." And I said, "Well, if you'll vote for me, I won't just talk about ethanol. I'll go to Washington and try to do something about it."
Well, during the last administration, they cultivated all the farmers, but they danced around the ethanol issue like a kid around a maypole. [Laughter] They'd tippy-toe here, and then they'd go back to Washington and they'd tippytoe there. I couldn't figure out why, until I got to Washington and all the establishment in Washington tried to get me to tippy-toe, too. And I said, "Folks, I haven't been here long enough to learn this Washington tippy-toe. I told them in Iowa I was for ethanol, and I'm going to be for ethanol."
I want you to understand how tough it was. Tom Harkin, Neal Smith led the fight in the Congress to approve the promotion of ethanol. The vote was close. In the United States Senate, it came down to a tie vote, and Al Gore broke the tie in favor of ethanol. We did it to make ourselves more independent of foreign oil. We did it to promote the cleanness of our environment. We did it to create new jobs for farm families. But if it had not been for Neal Smith— I want you to think about this Tuesday—if it had not been for Neal Smith, we would not have been able to do it. And he ought to be sent back to Congress to keep fighting for you.
We are trying to help farmers all over America. We resolved the wheat dispute with Canada. For the first time—it's a big deal where I come from—for the first time ever, we opened the Japanese market to American rice and the Chinese market to American apples. Twice this year, including yesterday, something you care about, when hog prices were at their lowest mark in decades, we approved additional sales to Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union through the Export Enhancement Program. We are helping the farmers of America.
Tom and Neal and a lot of other people have been talking to me about the record corn harvest. You know how it is when you're farming: You're either flooded or you're glutted. You escaped the flood. Now you've got more corn than you know what to do with. It's depressed feed grain prices by 10 to 15 percent below the average. Today I am glad to announce that we will open the Farmer Owned Reserve for 1994 feed grains. We will provide no-cost extension of the USDA loans due next July. We'll enable the farmers to store that grain, rather than sell it when prices are too low. You clap for me, but you ought to thank Tom Harkin and Neal Smith, the chief architect of the Farmer Owned Reserve.
When I flew over Iowa last year, when I sat down and I walked through and I saw the flooded fields and the flooded cities, it made an indelible impression on me that I will never forget. I'm proud of the work that our agencies did here last year: James Lee Witt and the Emergency Management Agency, Secretary Espy, Secretary Cisneros, all the others in our administration. Well, this year, more farmers are hurting from crop losses in Texas, in the Dakotas, in Kansas, in Georgia, all across the Southeast. Today we're authorizing further disaster payments for them, just under a billion dollars from the emergency funds we set aside. And you remember what Tom Harkin said, the only reason we can do this is because you had a Democratic President working with our friends in Congress who restored the cuts made in the disaster assistance program by the previous Republican administration.
And for those who say, "Well, that's what the Democrats do, they just spend money"— no, no, no. It was the Democrats: We reduced the deficit; we reduced defense and domestic spending this year for the first time in 25 years. We did that. But because of discipline, because of a commitment to root out waste, because we changed our buying practices so there wouldn't be any more $500 hammers and $50 ashtrays, we increased our investment in disaster assistance, in Head Start, in immunizing all the kids in this country under the age of 2 by 1996, in college loans. We increased our investment in the things that count in this country. Now, what we need to do, if you really want to keep going in this direction, is to give me partners. Send these people to Congress. I need help, folks.
The other guys, what did they do? They voted no every chance they got. Every one of them voted against our program to revolutionize the college loan program, to provide for more affordable college loans. And it saved money. It saved the Treasury $4 billion. It saved borrowers $2 billion. They voted against it because the organized interests were against it. Every one of them voted against our economic program to reduce the debt and give 118,000 families in this State a tax cut because they were just above the poverty line, because they didn't like it that we asked one percent of our people to pay higher tax rates because they could afford it to reduce the deficit, every one of them.
And there are so many things that a President does, that a Congress does that have their impact in the States. You know, I had the privilege of serving my State as Governor for quite a long while. On the tough days in Washington, I think that was the best job I ever had. [Laughter] And I can tell you that so much that I hope to do for our economy still can't be felt unless you have a Governor with an economic strategy for high-wage jobs, to help small businesses, to bring economic opportunity to the rural areas and the places where it has been lost in the last 10 years. Bonnie Campbell will do that. I want you to help her get elected.
This crime bill we passed, it is a very important piece of legislation. It has more punishment. It has more prisons. It has more police. It also has opportunities for prevention to keep kids out of trouble. But the work of fighting crime is done at the State level; it is done at the community level. We need partners out here in the country. You have the tools now to lower the crime rate to make your children safer, to make your future safer.
The leadership of the other party tried to kill the crime bill, but we stopped them and we passed it. But now you need a Governor who understands what it takes to lower the rate of crime, reduce violence, and give our kids a better future. Bonnie Campbell proved as attorney general she does that, she knows that. Give her a chance to serve.
Now listen when I tell you what the stakes are in Congress, and why it is so important that you return Neal Smith and elect these other candidates for Congress. Last Sunday on "Meet the Press," the Republicans' top strategist in Washington, Bill Kristol, said he wanted to end farm subsidies, and as soon as the election is over, the Republican Senator from Kansas, their leader, would take the lead in doing just that. He said that; I didn't. Now, Mr. Kristol, you've probably never heard of him, but he's the fellow that tells them what to think up in Washington. [Laughter]
He told them, for example, to stop cooperating with us on health care. I pleaded with them. I said, "You don't like my ideas. I'll try yours. Let's cooperate on health care." Another million Americans in working families lost their health insurance last year. Farmers in this State and throughout this country pay astronomical rates for their health insurance. It isn't right. It isn't fair. I had a plan so that farmers and small business people could buy health insurance at the same rates that those of us in the Federal Government and people that work for big corporations do. And they refused to cooperate because Mr. Kristol told them it was bad politics. He said—he released his memo. Folks in Washington, one thing I'll say about them, they're not humble. They'll tell you right what they're up to. [Laughter]
He released this memo, and the memo said, "You folks cannot cooperate with this President on health care because if this country solves the health care problem, the middle class will go back to voting for the Democrats. So at all costs, never mind the consequences, kill health care." That's what they said in the crime debate. They intimidated their Members of Congress. They said, "Whatever you do, don't vote for this crime bill. Our job is not to reduce crime. Our job is to beat the Democrats." You don't have to take my word for it. You remember what Congressman Grandy said. He said that he was ordered not to cooperate on health care.
So now they've got this plan on farm subsidies, and they say, "We're just practicing election-year scare tactics." Well, you look at their contract, the contract that Neal Smith's opponent signed and that some of these other folks' opponents signed and that they'll all be ordered to vote for, over 300 of them. Here's what the contract says—now, pay attention. The contract says, "Vote for the Republicans, put us in charge in Washington, and here is what we will do: We'll give everybody a tax cut, but mostly people in upper income groups; they'll get 70 percent of it. We will increase defense; we will bring back Star Wars; and we will balance the budget." Well, how much does that cost? "A trillion dollars." How are you going to pay for it? "We'll tell you after the election." [Laughter]
I'll tell you how you're going to pay for it. We had a study done. The House Budget Committee did a study. A trillion dollars, there's only one way to pay for it. You've got to cut everything else 20 percent across the board, Social Security, Medicare, farm programs, veterans benefits, college loans—20 percent, $2,000 a Social Security recipient a year. And boy, they squealed like a pig under a gate when we said that. If you take out Social Security, you know what you have to do? Cut everything else 30 percent across the board.
And if they're not serious, then what does that mean? If they're not serious, it means just what Tom Harkin said. We're going right back to where we were in the eighties. We're going to explode the deficit again. We're going to bury our kids in a mountain of debt. We're going to ship our jobs overseas, and people will be shipping out of Iowa all over again. No, thank you, we tried that. We want to go forward. We know better than that.
Now, I read coming in here—they always try to prepare me, and I read Congressman Smith's opponent, when Neal pointed this out that he'd signed this contract and he pointed out what the consequences were, he just went nuts and ran a television ad saying it was a lie. Well, it's not a lie. It's the truth. I know he is a plastic surgeon, but there are some things you cannot make pretty, and this contract is one of them. This contract will perform reverse plastic surgery on America. And we don't want it, and you don't want it. And you need to send Neal Smith back to Congress so he can fight it.
You don't have to take my word for it. Look what Mr. Grandy said about it. He said it's the crassest kind of politics. "How may times," I quote, "how many times does the elixir salesman show up with a hair tonic before people figure out this stuff doesn't work?" Do not be suckered.
Senator Warren Rudman, the former Republican Senator from New Hampshire, very prominent in deficit-reduction efforts in the Congress before he retired, a really old-fashioned Republican who believed in working with Democrats and sticking up for what he believed in, said the other day, "I guess you'd have to give the Democrats the credit for reducing the deficit and managing the economy. All the Republicans were against it." That's what the Republicans are saying, the mainstream, old-fashioned Republicans who are also mortified by what is going on today.
Folks, we've got to stand up against this. We are going forward in jobs. We are going forward in reducing the deficit. We are going forward in helping families with things like family leave and immunizations and expanded Head Start and the tax breaks for working people. We are going forward with welfare reform. We are going forward with the crime bill. We are going forward to make this world a better place. We have reduced the nuclear threat. For the first time since nuclear weapons were developed, there are no missiles pointed at the children of Iowa and the United States. And North Korea has committed itself to be checked and not to become a nuclear state.
And we are expanding the trade opportunities through NAFTA, through GATT, through the trip I'm about to take to the Far East after the election. We are breaking down barriers to American products and American services. We are standing up for peace and democracy from South Africa to South Korea, to the Persian Gulf, to the Middle East, to Haiti to Northern Ireland—everywhere. This country is leading a movement inside and outside the world to a more prosperous and a more peaceful level. And we are challenging the American people to make the most of their own capacities and to assume responsibility for their lives.
So you have a choice. Will you be for the progress that we are making, or will you go back? Will you be for the hope that we are promoting, or for the fear that they are pandering to? Will you be for what is best in us, or will you be for their easy promises and their cynicism? You know, these elections are going to be determined, in large measure, by the state of mind people are in when they go to the polls next Tuesday. We're out here telling people, "This is a great country, we can do better. We are doing better. But we've dealt with 30 years of social problems, 20 years of economic problems, 12 years of trickle-down economics. And in 21 months, we're moving things in the right direction." [Applause] Thank you. They're saying, "We've still got problems. Be mad. Vote against them. Vote for us. Look at our promises."
Those of us who are parents in the audience today, we know that one of the first things we have to teach our children when they get old enough to understand it is not to make important decisions when they're mad, isn't it? How many times, those of you who are like me and can still remember your childhood, just barely, did your mama or daddy say to you, "When you're mad, count 10 before you say anything"? Their theory is, count one and vote no. [Laughter] That's what their theory is. They don't want you to think. They don't want you to feel. They want you to lash out. We have to say no, we're better than that.
I just came home from this unbelievable opportunity I had to represent you and our country in the Middle East; to witness the signing of the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan because of the role the United States played in making that peace; to see our young men and women in uniform in the deserts of Kuwait; to look into the faces of millions and millions and millions of people from six other countries who saw in me and in them the promise of America. And let me tell you something, folks, outside this country, people are not cynical about this country. They know America is a very great nation, leading the world to a better future.
And so I ask you, I ask you to think about that. Out here today, we're all preaching to the saved. But tomorrow there will be other voters you can talk to, you can talk to for Bonnie Campbell, you can talk to for Neal Smith, you can talk to for these other fine people running for Congress. They need you, and the stakes are high, and America needs them. We are moving forward, we have always been a country moving forward. We are taking on problems that the other guys ignored for years and years and years. And yes, sometimes it's messy, and sometimes it's hard, and challenges are not as easy to hear as easy promises. But you know this is a challenging time. And I'm telling you, the best days of this country are still before us if we take up these challenges. Stick with these people. Go forward. Vote for hope. Vote for tomorrow.
Thank you, and God bless you all.
NOTE: The President spoke at 3:20 p.m. at the Des Moines International Airport.
William J. Clinton, Remarks to the Community in Des Moines, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/218099