Bill Clinton photo

Remarks to the Community in Portland, Maine

June 19, 1993

Thank you very much. Thank you, Senator Mitchell. Thank you, Congressman Andrews. Thank you, Mayor Pringle. Thank you ladies and gentlemen, for coming out today in such large numbers. It's good to be back in Maine, and I want you to know I walked down this park in a pair of Dexter shoes made in Maine. I enjoyed it. I also want you to know that Senator Mitchell caught me playing golf in a pair of shoes not made in Maine, and now I have Dexter golf shoes that I wear every time I play golf.

I want to thank the convention and visitors bureau. I want to thank the parks department for hanging the American flag so high today. I want to thank the fire department, and I want to thank all the people who performed before I got here. I'm sorry I didn't hear the Maine humor. I'm sorry I missed the country music. I'm sorry I missed the jazz music. I'm glad I didn't miss you.

I also want to say that behind us there are students from the Reiche School, who won one of our blue ribbon excellence awards. Hear them cheering? Their representatives were in the Rose Garden a few days ago with me and representatives of other distinguished schools all across America. But I know you're proud of your schools and your students, and I did want to say a special word of hello to them because they were with me not very long ago down in Washington.

It is wonderful to be back in Maine. I've been here when it's hot; I've been here when it's cold. This is just about perfect today, and I'm glad to be back.

I want to say a special word of thanks to your Senator, the Senate majority leader and a genuine national treasure, George Mitchell. You know, he said all that about the election being about change and the fact that you gave me your votes in the last election. I'm very grateful for that. But it is hard for a President to make change alone. Some things have to come with the support of Congress. And thanks to the leadership of George Mitchell, just this week the American people had a good week.

First, the Senate passed a campaign finance reform bill that lowers the cost of campaigns, reduces the influence of special interests, and when the campaign limits are broken, helps people who are outspent to get their access to the airwaves, too. It is a good bill, and it's a real advance. And not very long before that, the Senate passed a bill, finally, to require all the lobbyists in Washington to register and say who they are, what they're lobbying for, and to report any money they spend lobbying the rest of us, which I think is a very good thing to do. That's a message you sent in November. But I can't wave a magic wand and do that. The Congress has to go along. And the Senate has, thanks to Senator Mitchell.

The second thing that happened this week was that the Senate and the House, by significant bipartisan margins, voted out of committee the bills that I have been proposing to open the doors of college education to all Americans. And I want you to know how that will work. We're going to be able to save money by changing the way college loans are given out and provide them to students, without regard to income, at lower interest rates and then give students the chance to pay it back as a percentage of their income, so nobody will ever be discouraged from borrowing money for fear that they'll go broke when they get out of college. And as George Mitchell said, tens of thousands of them will be able to pay it back with service to their communities, whether in big cities or small towns or rural areas, through national service, rebuilding America from the grass roots here at home, a domestic peace corps. That's going to be the best money we ever spent to educate America to compete in the 21st century.

The third thing that happened is that the Senate Finance Committee took action on the economic program that succeeded in passing through the House, thanks to the leadership of the chairman, Senator Moynihan from New York, and Senator Mitchell, who besides being the majority leader is also on the Finance Committee. And next week the Senate will have a chance to vote on this economic program, send it to the House so they can agree on a bill that I think is critical to this country's future.

Now, there's been a lot of talk about this in the last few weeks, and our opponents have said a lot of things about my plan that aren't true. So I want to say to you who gave me a chance to be President, here's my report on what's really in that plan.

First of all, let me tell you, I didn't live in Washington before January, and I didn't take the debt from $1 trillion to $4 trillion or the annual deficit from $74 billion to $300 billion. I was a Governor in a State not very different from Maine, working hard within a balanced budget to provide good educations to our people and good jobs to our people. And I never had to raise any money to pay down a deficit. But the plain fact is that this country is awash in debt. And one of the reasons it is, is that no President's budget has been taken seriously in more than a decade. It's all been political rhetoric.

Last year, my predecessor's budget was voted against by 75 percent of the members of his own party in the House of Representatives. Our party passed the budget in the House, and we're going to do it in the Senate. And we're going to have a comprehensive economic plan to get this country moving again, thanks in no small measure to George Mitchell. And I want you to know what is in it.

First, this plan reduces our deficit by $500 billion over the next 5 years. It begins with $250 billion in spending cuts in everything, in defense, in foreign aid, in veterans benefits, in Medicare. In everything you can conceive of, we have cut across the board, and it is not very easy. But the Democrats have taken the lead in cutting spending. Ask Senator Mitchell how many Republican amendments there were to cut spending in the Senate Finance Committee last week. I'll tell you how many: zero. We cut the spending—we did it—$250 billion.

Do we raise taxes? Yes, we do. But how is it raised? I'll tell you how. Seventy-five percent of the tax money we propose to raise comes from the upper 6 percent of income earners in this country. Over two-thirds of the money comes from people with incomes above $200,000 a year, because their taxes went down and their incomes went up in the 1980's when we gave 70 percent of the gains to the top 1 percent of the population. They can pay now, and they should.

Now, does this plan ask anything of the middle class? Yes, it does. If your income is above $30,000 but below $100,000, we ask for a contribution. Why? Because after the election, lo and behold, the Government says the deficit's going to be $165 billion bigger in the next 5 years than it was going to be before the election, and because if we don't gain our economic destiny back, if we don't get control of our future, if we don't do something about this debt, we're not going to be able to go on to the other challenges facing us. But you have to decide if it's a good deal.

Working families with incomes of under $30,000 are held harmless in this program. And I'll tell you something else that's awfully good about it. For the first time in history, if this program passes, we'll be able to say that people who work for a living and still live in poverty-and there are millions of them in America-will be lifted out of poverty by the tax system. If you work 40 hours a week and you've got a child in the house, you can get out of poverty if this economic program passes because of the changes in the tax system.

Let me put it to you another way. For every $10 in deficit reduction in this plan, $5 comes from spending cuts, $3.75 comes from the upper 6 percent, $1.25 comes from the middle class with family incomes above $30,000. I think that is fair. I think that is balanced. It will work. And let me tell you why it's important. Why is it important? It's important because when we start to bring down the deficit—and we've been working on this since right after the election-interest rates come down. And when interest rates come down, it puts money back in your pocket, and it puts money back into the economy.

Look what's happened now. We have a 20-year low in mortgage rates, a 7-year high in housing sales, 755,000 new jobs in the economy just since January 20th, 130,000 new construction jobs. That is a 9-year high in construction job growth because of these low-interest rates. And eventually, that's going to help the people making a living out of the wood in Maine and in Arkansas, because they depend upon people building things to make a living. That's why this is important.

Now, do we spend some money in this budget? Yes, we do. You can decide whether you think it's worth doing. This budget increases, for example, the amount of money a small business man or woman can expense every year on the tax return from $10,000 to $25,000. I think it's a great idea. Why? Because small business is the backbone of this economy. Because small business is providing most of the jobs. Because small business stopped providing new jobs to this economy a couple of years ago, and if you take that fight off from 10 to 25 grand, a lot of those small business people are going to be able to hire one more person. And if millions and millions of them do it, it will be an awful boon for this economy, and we can get going again. I think it's worth spending that money.

It costs some money to change the Tax Code so that people who work for a living and are still in poverty are lifted above poverty. But I think it is worth it to say it is never a good thing to be on welfare. If you can work, here's an incentive to move from welfare to work and to reward the dignity of work. We're not going to have a tax program grind you into poverty; we're going to have it lift you out of poverty if you're working for a living. It costs some money, but I think it's worth doing.

Maine and Arkansas have some of the poorest rural areas and small towns in the country. I'll tell you something else in this program that costs money. We have some enterprise or empowerment zones in this program that will give real incentives in big cities and in small rural areas for private sector people to come in and invest money to start businesses and put people to work. I've heard Republicans and Democrats talk for 10 years about why we shouldn't give people extra incentives to put private funds into depressed areas, both rural and urban. But nobody's ever tried it. So we're going to try it. There's not enough Government money to rescue the poor and depressed areas in this country. Let's see if we can get the private sector to do it. We've got to give them some incentives. It costs some money, but I think it's worth it. And I think we ought to try it.

And let me say this: Even though overall there's a 5-year freeze on what's called discretionary spending at home, we do spend some more money on Head Start, on education and training, on dealing with the people who have lost their jobs because of defense cutbacks, on trying to develop new technologies so that we can compete and win in this global economy and so that people who lose manufacturing jobs can get them back in a different way, by getting ahead of the curve instead of being behind like we have for the last 12 years. It costs some money. Our competitors are doing it. I think it is worth the money. We can't walk away from what is plainly needed to move this economy forward. We're not in the business of liquidating America; we're in the business of growing America. And we better get about it.

Let me just give you one example that Congressman Andrews has talked to me about. In the last 10 years more than 120,000 American shipbuilders and shipyard suppliers have lost their jobs to foreign competition and cuts in defense spending. And believe me, our competitors subsidize their businesses. Now, our Government didn't do much to help our folks compete in that global economy. And we started cutting defense spending way back in '86 and went for years and never did anything to help the workers and the communities adjust or the businesses get into new lines of production. And we want to change all that. Your Congressman, Tom Andrews, got a bill passed last year—I want to get the formal title here—called the Shipbuilding Promotion Act of 1992, ordering the Federal Government to establish a group to look at threats to shipbuilding jobs. Well, we're doing that. And we're going to do that. And we're going to come back and report and see what we can do about it.

Last year when I was running for President, the Congress passed a bill to appropriate $500 billion to communities that were hurt by defense cutbacks to help the businesses learn to produce new things, to help the workers be trained to do new work, to help the communities redevelop themselves. And when I became President, not one red cent of that money had been released, because they did not believe, the people who were there before, in investing to help people to deal with defense cutbacks. So you had whole areas of State after State after State in terrible economic trouble. Well, we're moving that money.

The Secretary of Labor, Bob Reich, another New Englander, I might add, has approved $3 million for two defense conversion grants just to the State of Maine, $2 million to assist workers at the Loring Air Force Base and $900,000 to assist those being laid off from the Bath Iron Works. And that is a good beginning. But believe me, folks, it is just the beginning of what we have to do.

Now, our opponents chant like a mantra; they say, "Less tax, more cuts; less tax, more cuts." How in the word could anybody be against that? It sounds great, except guess what? There's only been two versions put forward. In the House of Representatives—unlike the Senate, at least the House put a plan out there. And guess what? The House Republican plan, because it was more unfair to the middle class, to the elderly, to the working poor, and to the economic climate of the country, lost more Republican votes than my plan lost Democratic votes. So it sounds great, but when the Republicans looked at it, they didn't like it very well either. And then there was this plan floated in the Senate a few days ago which lowered taxes on upper income people and cut more out of Medicare and did other things that would weaken our economy and be unfair to the elderly and to working people just above the poverty line.

So I say to people: Where is your idea? Senator Mitchell will tell you, this week when the Senate Finance Committee voted that economic plan out, our opponents on the other side, many of whom ought to be helping us, had all kinds of amendments saying let's cut this tax, let's cut this tax, let's cut this tax. Guess what? How many amendments did they offer to cut spending? Zero. And when they were asked, where are your amendments to cut spending, you know what they said? "We don't want to take any politically unpopular votes on spending cuts." Folks, we are telling you the truth for a change. We are telling you the truth. We had 12 years where people said, "We're going to cut your taxes, and we're going to cut somebody else's spending." And what they did was to increase spending, cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans, have back-door tax increases on the middle class, and let the economy go down the tubes. We can do better. And I need your help and support, and so does George Mitchell, in making sure we do better.

And let me tell you, there is more to do. I want to reemphasize, we are not trying to deal with these tough issues just to reduce the debt. When you reduce the debt, you free up money to invest, to create jobs. You think about it. There are people in this audience today who have refinanced their homes since interest rates started dropping so much last November. That's happening to millions of people all across America, and that frees up money. People are getting lower business loans. People are getting lower consumer loans and lower car loans. And over the next year and a half, it will help this economy. It helps the economy if you invest in giving kids a head start, if you retrain workers, if you invest in helping companies produce things for the civilian market if they don't have a defense contract anymore. It helps the economy if you do what it takes to compete with our foreign competitors everywhere. That's what helps the economy. And that's what we are committed to doing.

And let me say this: After this budget fight is over, as Senator Mitchell just said, I want us to begin in earnest, and we can do it this year if we'll get after it, to provide the security that will come to millions of Americans if we provide affordable, quality health care to every American family. And we can do that, too.

We can pass the national service bill and open the doors of college education to all. We can pass a welfare reform bill that puts people to work instead of maintains them in dependency. We can change the nature of politics. But you have to stay with us. You have to say: We want the House of Representatives to pass campaign finance reform. We want the House of Representatives to tell us where all the lobbyists are and who they're giving money to. We want the whole Congress to pass an economic plan, and we don't want you to stop.

Change is hard and difficult. And it's not easy to get 218 votes in the House and 51 Senators to agree on anything. They all come from different places with different interests. And my job as President is to try to make sure that the national interest overrides the particular interest of anybody and any group in any State, including yours and mine. We have got to pull this country together again and be a family again so we can move forward again.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6 p.m. at Deering Oaks Park.

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

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