Remarks to the Community in Louisville
Thank you. Thank you very much. Governor Patton, Mr. Mayor, Congressman Ward, Judge Armstrong, Chief Hamilton: Let me say on behalf of not only myself but Attorney General Reno, who is here with me, and our team from the Justice Department, we are honored to be in Louisville today. We are honored to be your partners in the search for a safer community. And I personally was honored to spend a few moments this morning with some of your community leaders and your police officers. And I think any community in America would be proud to have a community leader like Carolyn MacLuton and a police officer like Stephen Kelsey, and I thank them.
I want to thank Mr. Burks, your principal here at the Louisville Male High School. I thank the orchestra quartet and the band for playing and the people for singing. Some of my staff was in here listening, and they said I missed a pretty good show. And since I like music a lot I hope I'll get a raincheck to hear what I missed, because I heard they were terrific. Let's give them a hand. Thank you, sir. [Applause]
Since I am in this high school, too, I could not leave without acknowledging a graduate of this high school who is making a contribution of signal importance to the United States. Thomas Graham, Jr., is serving today as my Special Representative for Arms Control and Disarmament. His picture hangs in the school hall of fame here, and I just want you to know he's in my hall of fame, too. He's doing a great job for the United States of America.
Last night I had the privilege to deliver the State of the Union Address to the United States Congress and to our country. I came here today to continue to work on the themes and the issues that I discussed with the American people last night. And I did it because Louisville has done so much to make community policing a reality, and because without safe streets the American people cannot be free.
Without the fear of crime and violence it is going to be hard for us to get investment and jobs and opportunity back into some of our most distressed neighborhoods all across America. Unless we can prove that we have the discipline, the values, and the intelligence to organize ourselves into a safer society that give our young people a better hope for the future, it's going to be hard for America to reach its other objectives and for all of our people to live out their dreams.
So I came here today to follow up on the work of the State of the Union. As I said, our Union is strong. In many ways our economy is stronger than it's been in 30 years. We have the lowest combined rates of unemployment and inflation we've had in 27 years. In the last 3 years there have been over 7.8 million new jobs coming into our economy. We have all-time high trade numbers. We have all-time high numbers of small business formation. We have an alltime high number of self-made millionaires, not people who are inheriting their money, people that went out there and earned it and made it on their own.
All these things are good. But we also know that most Americans are out there working harder and harder and harder just to get by, and they're worried about their family's security. This is the kind of thing that happens when you change the economy as dramatically as the world has changed in the last few years, when we're no longer basically a self-contained economy, we're in a global economy. We no longer have an established industrial society; the information and technology age is changing the way everybody works.
And because of this there are challenges in this economy, as well as things to be proud of. Our country has been the world's leading force for peace and freedom, as we are today, everyplace from Bosnia to the Middle East to Northern Ireland. And we're feeling secure, but we also know that we are threatened by terrorists from beyond and within our borders, by organized crime, by drug traffickers, by weapons of mass destruction. We see when a little vial of gas can break and open in a Tokyo subway and kill hundreds of people, we know we still have challenges there.
Our country is getting stronger in terms of reasserting our basic values. I think that's the most important thing of all. In the last 3 years the crime rate is down; the welfare rolls are down; the food stamp rolls are down; the poverty rolls are down; the teen pregnancy rolls are down; and the divorce rate is down in America. That's encouraging.
The American people did all that. I believe that our crime bill and cracking down on child support enforcement and some of the things we've done supported that. That's the American people kind of getting their act together and coming back to our roots.
And as you look ahead—this basically, this time we're living in and the time toward which we're going, should be the age of greatest possibility the American people have ever known. More people from all walks of life and all corners of our country should have more options to reach all kinds of personal and family and community fulfillment than they have ever had in all of human history.
Our question is, how are we going to do this? And my answer is, we have to do it together. We have to recognize that as a country everybody has got to have a chance to achieve the American dream. And if we're going to do this, we have to remain the world's strongest force for peace and freedom. And if we're going to do this, we have to find a way to go into this very modern, new world still clinging to our old-fashioned values, because it's no accident that we're around here after 220 years. This is the longest lasting democracy in human history because the principles on which we started were good, sound, correct principles that we have to hold fast to even as we change and adapt.
In Washington, our primary focus, as you know now, is on trying to reach agreement on how to balance the budget in 7 years. It's important that you understand that your country has rarely in its history had a permanent deficit, really never had a permanent deficit. There is a use for Government deficits, and we should all understand that.
It is generally conceded that there are two times when it is quite good to run a deficit. One is if you get into a steep recession; if the Government can borrow money today and spend it today and pay it back tomorrow, then you can send it to the places that are in recession. You can keep people from starving. You can help people get by. And you can pump the economy up to get out of the recession more quickly. We have always done that, particularly in this century. The other is if you have to mobilize the whole country for some emergency, usually in wartime. We had a huge deficit, by far bigger than we have today, back during World War II because we literally had to mobilize overnight. But those are generally the only two circumstances in which it is permissible to have a large deficit. We never had a—all during the 1970's we had relatively small deficits, but we had recession after recession after recession in the 1970's.
In the 1980's we adopted a theory that didn't work. We said we can cut taxes and increase spending, and it will be so good for the economy, the budget will be balanced. And it didn't work. So we quadrupled the debt in 12 years, and we got ourselves in a fix. And there's plenty of blame to go around. No party is blameless in this. I didn't come here to talk about blame. But we have to change that, and both parties are going to have to help change it.
Now, in 1993 the Democrats adopted what was a very controversial deficit reduction plan which they were criticized for. But it cut the deficit in half in 3 years, and it cut interest rates and got the economy going.
Now, the Republicans, as I said last night in my speech, are working hard. I believe they honestly do want to balance the budget in 7 years. And they want to do it, and we should give them credit for that. That's a genuine feeling on their part. And I have been working with them to get that done.
We have now identified, in common to our two plans, there are almost $700 billion in savings. And last night, if you heard the speech you know that I reached out to them, and I said, "Look, we still have some differences on the shape of—what we should do on Medicare. We still have some differences on Medicaid. We still differ on how much it takes in investment to protect education and the environment. We still have some policy differences on the environment. But we have both identified savings that are more than enough to balance the budget in 7 years. And we are both willing to assume that responsibility. And the American people will have plenty of opportunities to decide who they think is right about these other things, but we can really do this."
This morning the Speaker of the House, Mr. Gingrich, had a press conference in which he issued—basically showed some interest in a variation of this proposal. And I had a good conversation with him. I attempted to call Senator Dole. I expect to talk to him later. But our staffs are working. And I just want you to know that we are up there working on this. We ought to give the American people their balanced budget.
We can still afford a modest tax cut. It will drive interest rates down. And we can go on and worry about the future then. But we are determined to do this. We need to do this for America, and we have to do it together, Democrats and Republicans together. Everybody is going to have to make some sacrifice. We have got to do this. We cannot go on with the idea that we can permanently run a big deficit.
We now have as a percentage of our income the smallest deficit of any of the big countries, any of the big economies, because of what we've done in the last 3 years. But we need to finish it. It wouldn't even bother me today but for what happened in the 12 years before. And because of that we have got to keep going; we have got to finish this.
And I just ask for all of your support and your understanding. We're going to have to make some tough decisions, but we owe this to our country. And we need to do this in a bipartisan way so it doesn't become a big partisan issue because, like I said, there's plenty of blame to go around for what happened in the 12 years before. But now we have to fix it. And if we can adopt a plan that has discipline and support across the country, you will see interest rates go down, and we can keep this economic growth going and keep the jobs coming into Louisville, into Kentucky, into this county, and into our country. So I ask for your prayers, your support. Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, this is something we need to do for the United States.
Now, I'd like to talk a little about what I think the future holds for the young people in this audience and for all of us here and to focus in particular on the crime issue that we discussed last night. Because we have moved from an industrial age to a technology and information-driven age, large bureaucracies will not dominate the future. The era of big Government would be over if for no other reason that the economy has changed.
In addition to that, we now know that a lot of our most profound problems may need the Government to act as partner but can't be solved by the Government. We can't drive the crime rate down unless people in their local communities are working at it. That's the genius of community policing. That's why those two people came up here and introduced me, the police officer and the community leader, working together to prevent crime.
We can't do that in Washington, but we can give them the ability to hire the police they need to do it. We can give them the ability to start the youth sports teams they need to give our kids something to say yes to. We can do things to help them, to empower them. But people at the grassroots level have to make the most of their own lives. That reduces dramatically the need for large Government organizations.
And the third reason is we've got a big deficit, so we can't afford it. [Laughter]
So in the last 3 years we've—as I said last night, we've reduced the size of your Federal Government by 200,000 people, by 16,000 pages of regulations, by literally hundreds of programs being eliminated and thousands of offices being closed. But we still have a role to play in being a partner with the American people as we go toward the future. And as I said, I believe that basically we have a clear set of challenges that we have to meet in our families, in the workplace, in our churches and synagogues, in our community organizations.
We have to do it together, with the Government being a partner in this. We have a challenge to do better by our children and to help our families grow stronger and stay together, a challenge to renew our schools and open the doors of college education even wider, with more scholarships and loans and opportunities for work-study and community service. And I hope any tax cut that passes will give people a deduction for the cost of a college education. I think that's about the best kind of tax deduction we could have, because both children and their parents may need it.
We've got a challenge out there to help people that are working hard and struggling, trying to find enough economic security for their families. That's why I favor raising the minimum wage. That's why I favor giving people who lose their jobs or who are underemployed, instead of directing them to a specific Government training program, I want to stop all that and just give everybody a voucher and let them go to their local community college or pick the training program they want to attend.
You know, almost every community in America now has very good education programs, 2year degree programs. Almost every American is within driving distance of one. The Government no longer needs to tell people when they're out of work or when they're struggling on a very low-wage job what kind of training they need. Employers and employees can figure that out on their own.
So we ought to get rid of the programs. And if you lose your job you just ought to get a slip of paper in the mail that says, "Here's $2,500 if you use it for education." That's what I want to do. I think it would make a big difference in the people's lives.
I think it is wrong that a million Americans in working families have lost their health insurance in the last 2 years. And if we just could change the rules—I know we cannot agree in Washington on what needs to be done to change this entirely; I proved that. But at least if we could agree to change the rules, there seems to be bipartisan agreement that we ought to be able to change the rules that says, if you get insured, you ought to be able to not lose your insurance if you change jobs and not be cut off just because somebody in your family gets sick and you develop a preexisting condition. I think if we could just change those two rules it would make a big difference.
I believe that—let me just say a couple of other things. We have a great challenge to keep our environment clean and safe. If you could see what I have just seen back on the East Coast with all these huge floods—I'm sure you've seen it on television—in Pennsylvania, right there. I called the Governor of Pennsylvania the other day. A couple years ago I spent the night in the Pennsylvania Governor's Mansion, and it's a hundred yards, I bet, from the river that's right in front of it. And the water was up in the Pennsylvania Governor's Mansion, in the basement. And all the flooding and all the problems—and one of our major news magazines had a cover a couple of weeks ago saying that a lot of this extreme weather, both the heat and the cold, the tornadoes and the hurricanes, was all due to the fact that we are changing the way the Earth works, by not protecting the air and basically by consuming more of the atmosphere.
I believe that if we're going to grow our economy over the long run, we have to be concerned about clean air and clean water. We have to be concerned about the fact that millions of our kids are growing up near toxic waste dumps. I believe we can have more economic growth by cleaning up the environment than we can by continuing to pollute it. And I think the American people should reach consensus on that across partisan lines.
I know—I will say again what I said last night, most of the foreign policy decisions I make, I think, from time to time are unpopular almost by definition. Most Americans will say, "We've got enough problems here at home. Don't worry about it. Leave it alone." But if you could see how people all across the world still react to the United States and if you could see how I do that the problems that we face have no borders, we can't protect ourselves from them, you would want us to cooperate with other countries for peace and freedom.
We got a terrorist that we arrested in Asia because another country cooperated with them and brought that person back here to face our system of justice. We see all the time the problems we have of drugs moving across national lines. That's why I named that four-star general last night, General Barry McCaffrey, to be our drug czar, because he proved to me that we could use the military to help the Justice Department to cut off drugs coming into our country. But if we want those countries where those farmers are growing the coca leaf and other countries where criminal gangs are hiding out in thick jungle hideouts and making the drugs to go into the veins of our children, if we want them to risk their lives—which they have to do, they have to risk their lives to uproot this— then we have to be good neighbors with them. We have to be good partners with them. So this is an important thing.
And the last thing that I would say is that we need to do our part in Washington to convince you that you get your money's worth. And that's what I said last night. I want the Congress to pass a line item veto. I want them to pass campaign finance reform. I want us to be able to prove we can protect our borders from illegal immigration. And I want you to feel that you're getting your money's worth up there.
But I'll say again, these challenges, these six challenges, we can meet them all. And America will not become what it ought to be until people do not feel that they are at risk every time they walk outside their home. Today I heard stories in Louisville about police officers and community people being friends, about children being able to walk on their streets, about people slowly regaining self-confidence that their neighborhoods belong to them again.
Let me just tell you one tiny story about why this is such a big deal to me. At this time of year, almost exactly now, 4 years ago—just a few days later than this 4 years ago, we were coming up to the New Hampshire primary. I was a candidate for President. And I had to go down to New York City, and there was a fundraiser planned there. And I'm ashamed to admit this, but on this particular night I was feeling sorry for myself and totally preoccupied with what was going on in the campaign.
And they were taking me through a kitchen in this hotel where I was in New York. And I was lost in my own thoughts, wondering about what was going to happen in New Hampshire in 10 days and all that. And this man who was in a hotel uniform—he was obviously working there in the kitchen—came up to me and just grabbed me. He said, "Governor, I want to talk to you." And he spoke with a heavy accent. He was an immigrant, obviously, first-generation immigrant. I said, "Okay." He says, "My 10year-old boy, he studies this election in the school. And he has decided I should vote for you."
I didn't know any 10-year-old boy in New York knew who I was at the time. [Laughter] And so my spirits brightened, and I said, "Well, thank you very much." And he said, "But let me tell you something. If I vote for you, I want you to do something for me." He said, "In the country where I came from," he said, "we were very poor, but we were free." He said, "Here we have a park across the street from our apartment house. My boy cannot play in it unless I am there with him because he would be in danger. We have a school, a good school, only two blocks from our home. My boy cannot walk to school, because he would be in danger unless I go with him. So if I vote for you, will you make my boy free?"
It's an amazing thought, isn't it? Liberty— we take it for granted that Americans have liberty. We cannot have liberty unless crime becomes the exception rather than the rule. We'll always have crime. We'll always have violence. You can't just transform human nature. But the kind of stuff we've been putting up with as Americans for years and years and years is unacceptable. We have to say no. We have to take our streets back.
I came to Louisville because this program is working. And I came to Louisville to say to the American people, we're going to put another 100,000 police on the street. We're going to do our best to work with community leaders, with mayors and county executives and neighborhood leaders all across this country to make sure—and police chiefs—that there is a good community policing program in every community in America. But as I learned today sitting around the table listening to the people who introduced me and the others who were there, none of this will work unless citizens are prepared to do their part in fighting crime and taking back the streets.
This system works primarily not because you catch people quicker when they commit crimes; it works primarily because people don't commit crimes in the first place if neighbors work with police officers, if every child is identified, if people work this all the time.
There are a lot of Americans out there who are concerned about crime. The Americans in Louisville have done something about it. The police have even started running an academy for citizens so that neighborhood leaders can go to the police academy, learn how the police force is organized, learn what their budget is, learn how many people they have, learn what their resources are, understand how they're deployed.
People are working together here. And what I want to say to America here in Louisville is that every American has something to contribute. You may not think you do, but you could. You could be in a neighborhood watch group. If you see somebody in trouble, you could pick up the phone and call the police. If you don't have a neighborhood watch group, you could ask your neighbors to get one together and call the local police force and tell them you're ready to help. People could spend a few hours a week at a Boys Club or a Girls Club.
This city is also now trying to organize sports teams for boys and girls in areas where they'd be at risk. We've got to give our kids more to say yes to, and we've got to have citizen help here. The Government in Washington can provide funds to help hire the police. The Government in Washington can provide modest funds to help support the prevention efforts. The people power has to come from you.
We can't decide who should be hired for the police force, how they should be trained, where they should be deployed, for goodness' sakes. We don't know what the difference is between one neighborhood and another. You have to do this, and people like you all across America.
We can help with laws like the Brady bill. I went to a memorial service for my dear friend Mike Synar today, who died a few days ago, a former Member of Congress. And Jim and Sarah Brady were there, and we were talking about how people like Mike Synar made it possible to keep 44,000 felons, people with criminal records, from buying guns. We can do that. But unless somebody is out there taking responsibility, neighborhood by neighborhood, and child by child, we are not going to make crime the exception rather than the rule.
The Attorney General and I are very concerned about the problem of gangs, and there are too many violent gangs now which go out and try to involve juveniles in serious, serious criminal activity. We intend to target them. The FBI and the other investigative agencies are going to wage a coordinated war on gangs that involve juveniles in violent crime. We will do that. If there are young people who kill and maim like adults, they ought to be prosecuted like adults. If there are people living in these public housing projects, where the other lawabiding citizens have enough problems as it is keeping body and soul together and they're out there working their fingers to the bone for modest wages and trying to live a decent life, they ought not to be involved in crime and drugs. And if they are, they ought to be kicked out of the public housing project immediately.
But the point I want to make is, in the end the answer is to stop people from doing that in the first place. We will never be able to jail our way out of this crisis. We cannot do that. We will not be able to jail our way out of this crisis. If people hurt other people and they're serious threats to society, they ought to be put in jail for a long time. But we cannot solve the crime problem by making prison guards the fastest growing employment category in the United States of America.
We need you. That is ultimately my message to you. We're going to have the best drug strategy we can possibly have with General McCaffrey. We're going to have the best antigang strategy we can possibly have with the Attorney General. We're going to keep supporting community policing with the great team she has put together, and we're not going to give these cities any hassles, these counties any hassles when they're trying to get this job done. We will be supporting them.
But if you really want an America where crime is the exception, not the rule again, it's going to take you, too. We cannot do it unless people, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, say, "There's somebody that shouldn't be in this neighborhood." "There's an abandoned car that might have drugs or weapons in it." "There's a child that needs a helping hand." You have to do that. We have got to have your help.
I ask you to think about this as I close. We're here in this high school, this old, old high school—although this beautiful new auditorium—and you think about the life you want these young people who are coming out of this high school to live. Imagine all the possibilities that will be there. By the year 2000 we've got a plan to hook up every classroom in America and every library in America to the worldwide Internet. You'll have kids in Louisville who live in public housing projects getting into libraries in Australia to do research about volcanoes. It will be amazing.
You'll have people able to travel the world and do things that people 20 or 30 years ago would never even have dreamed of being able to do. It will be very exciting. But they won't be free. No matter how modern, how fancy, how wonderful it is, they won't be free unless crime is the exception rather than the rule. And that won't happen unless all of us do our part to make sure those kids get to live up to their God-given abilities.
Thank you very much, and God bless you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 3:32 p.m. in the auditorium of the Louisville Male High School. In his remarks, he referred to County Judge/Executive David Armstrong; Joseph Burks, Jr., school principal; and Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania.
William J. Clinton, Remarks to the Community in Louisville Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/223223