Bill Clinton photo

Remarks to the Community in Sacramento, California

October 03, 1993

Thank you very much. Thank you for coming. Thank you for being here. Thank you for doing what you have done for the United States. It's wonderful to be here. It's wonderful to be in Sacramento, and it's great to be at McClellan, and I thank you for all being here with me today.

I'd like to say a special word of thanks to General Phillips and the people at this base for the work they have done and the work they did with your Mayor and others to keep this base alive. You are a good testimony to the wisdom of that decision, and I thank you for that.

I also want to thank General Yates, the Commander of the Air Force Materiel Division, for flying all the way across the country to be with us today. And I want to tell you one thing, he made a real sacrifice because this is his birthday, and I thank him for spending it with us today.

I want to say, also, a special word of thanks to Congressman Hamburg, Congressman Matsui, and Congressman Fazio——

[At this point, audience members interrupted the President's remarks.]

You all ignore them. They don't want you to hear, but you want to hear it. Just come on. Most people in this country still believe in free speech. That's one of the things worth fighting for. I also want to say a very special word of thanks to these Members of Congress who have supported our efforts to deal with the problems of America.

I got interested in making that long and challenging race for President because I was worried about three things: I thought this country was coming apart when it ought to be coming together; I thought we were going in the wrong direction economically and we risked losing the American dream for millions of young people; and I thought that politics had become a sideshow of shouting words, instead of an instrument by which the American people could forthrightly face their problems and do something about it.

I am reminded, too, on this day, because of the events in Moscow and in Somalia, that we still live in a dangerous world. And I ask you to take just a few moments, once again, to quietly express your support for the people who are fighting for freedom in Russia and for the brave men and women in our Armed Forces, including those in Somalia today who lost their lives in a very successful mission against brutality and anarchy. My deepest condolences go to the families and the friends of those brave young Americans, and I know that all of you support them, as well.

One of the hardest things we have had to learn as a people, in the last few years, is that there is now no longer an easy division between our national security at the end of the cold war abroad and our economic and social security here at home. There's no longer an easy division between foreign policy and domestic policy, and it is perfectly clear to everyone now that if we are not strong at home, we cannot continue to lead the world. And so I have done what I could to help us to become stronger at home.

That means, as much as anything else, as we attempt to revive this economy, we have got to focus on the economy of California, the State which has 12 percent of our Nation's people but 25 percent of our Nation's unemployed. It is clear to me that we must take this problem which has developed for you over a period of years and go after it with a vengeance, step by step, with discipline and concentration.

This last week, in Washington, we made several announcements which mean more jobs and a brighter future for California. Last week, the Vice President and I announced that the United States, in recognition of the end of the cold war, would remove export controls on 70 percent of the computers and supercomputers made in the United States. That will increase exports by billions and tens of billions of dollars. It means more jobs for California. In this State, that order frees up $30 billion of exports in computers, $2 billion in telecommunications, and $5 billion in supercomputers. In a State where one in 10 jobs depends on exports, that is very good news, indeed.

Last week, I also announced a plan to help our shipbuilders to be more competitive in the global economy. There are 124,000 Americans employed in shipbuilding, many of them in California, in places like the Nasco plant in San Diego. This plan will help them get access to foreign markets which they deserve and which they have been denied for too long.

And last week, with so many people in this country desperate for work and knowing we have to find a way to help create jobs through supporting the environment, something you've done here, we announced a ground-breaking research plan involving our defense labs, our military facilities, and the Big Three automakers to triple the fuel efficiency of our automobiles within a decade, creating tens of thousands of new jobs for Americans.

Earlier this year we announced a project very important to the future of this area, a technology reinvestment program to convert defense technology either to dual uses, defense and commercial, or purely commercial uses, something you are doing here. We have received, in return for what will soon be about $1 billion in Federal matching money, over 2,800 proposals. And guess what? Twenty-five percent of them came from the State of California. That means more jobs for California.

Tomorrow I know that Congressman Fazio and others will release the details of a new joint partnership between the Government and automakers to develop and produce electric cars, taking advantage of dual-use technology right here at McClellan. That means more jobs for California and a brighter future for America.

And let me thank you, especially here at McClellan, for the partnership you have formed with the Environmental Protection Agency and the California EPA. By streamlining Government and working together, you have performed a cleanup that, under the old rules, would have taken 6 years and $10 million. You did it in 8 weeks at a fifth of the cost. And we intend to do that all over America, copying your leadership.

Let me say to you, my fellow Americans, my biggest task as your President is to try to clearly define the time in which we live, point the way to positive change, and give the American people the security they need to make those changes. We cannot, any of us in our personal lives, in our family lives, and in our communities, make changes we need to make unless we are personally secure enough to make them. But we cannot deny the changes that are abroad in the world and pretend that they're not there.

When I leave you and walk back into this hangar, I will see some of the work that is being done here in McClellan to develop dualuse technologies. That means that the people here have decided that change will be our friend and not our enemy. When faced with a time of profound change, we can take one of two courses. We can hunker down, turn away, and pretend it's not there, and that works about one time in 100. Most of the time, you know as well as I do, when you see profound change and you want to preserve what is most important in your values, your family, your community, you have to find a way to make that change your friend. That is what this administration is dedicated to doing, both in trying to change the rules of the economic game and in trying to open up a new era of time when Americans who work hard and play by the rules have a certain basic security.

Yes, I think we ought to change our economic policies. We are giving this country the toughest trade policy it's had in years and years, demanding access to our markets. Yes, we cannot continue to have massive trade deficits with the Far East, where 40 percent of our exports are going. And yes, I favor opening up trade to Mexico and ultimately to Latin America because we have a trade surplus there and its means more jobs for Americans. I do favor it.

But let me say something. If you listen to the people who are opposed to the trade agreement, they have some very good arguments, but they're arguing against things that happened for the last 12 years. They're arguing against the insecurity of the times our people have faced and the fact that our Government has not responded to them. And so we have sought to give the American people more security by bringing this deficit down, which threatens our children and grandchildren; by changing the tax laws so that working families with children in the home, without regard to their incomes, will be lifted above poverty so there will never be an excuse to stay on welfare because work will be rewarded for people; but by reforming the student loan program so that we lower the interest rates and string out the repayment terms and make college available to every American for the first time; by giving tens of thousands of our young people the chance to serve their country in their community through a program of national service that will also enable them to earn credit against a college education or other education and training.

Yes, security is important, and we have other challenges before us, as well. If you look at the number of people who have been killed in this country just in the last month in driveby shootings and mindless acts of violence, and you consider the fact that this is the only advanced country in the world where children can be in cities with no supervision, no support, roaming the streets, better armed than the police because we refuse to take automatic weapons out of their hands or pass the Brady bill, or check on it, that is wrong, and we must change that. We must change that.

But, my fellow Americans, at the root of so much of our security is the fact that we are living in a changing economy where the average young worker will change jobs eight times in a lifetime; where more and more, when people lose their jobs and they go on unemployment— it's not the way it was when I was young, where people would go on unemployment for 4 weeks or 8 weeks and then they'd get their old job back. Now most people get another job, but it's a different job. So we don't need an unemployment system anymore, we need a reemployment system to retrain our workers for the jobs that are there and for the future.

More than anything else, if you look to the heart now of our Federal budget deficit, if you look to the heart now of the economic problems of many of our leading exporters, and if you look to the heart of the gnawing insecurity that grips hardworking American families, you will find lurking behind it all the most expensive, least efficient health care system in the entire Western world.

Only in America—only in America do we spend over 14 percent of our income on health care—Canada's at 10, Germany and Japan below 9—going up more rapidly than any other country; going up twice as fast as inflation. And we still leave 35 million people, 35 million permanently without health insurance, 2 million more every month, another 100,000 every month permanently losing their health insurance.

Only in America do we have 1,500 separate insurance companies writing thousands of different policies, creating mountains of different paperwork and always, always looking for ways not to cover the people who bought their insurance. That only happens in this country.

Only in America are the doctors who hired out to keep people well and help people who are sick spending more and more countless hours, some of them as much as 25 hours a week now, filling out forms and paperwork. Only in America has that happened. Only in America have, in the last 10 years, we seen the work of clerical workers in the hospitals grow at 4 times the rate of new doctors and health care providers. That is not happening anywhere else.

Why? Because while we have the finest doctors and nurses and technology and research in the world, we have a system of financing and delivering health care that is a nightmare. It is a nightmare for people who have lost their health insurance. It is a nightmare for people who don't get it. It's a nightmare for people who have to depend on the Government to get theirs, when not all the providers will cover Medicaid. It has been bad. And guess what? It is the primary cause of the exploding Federal deficit. It is the primary cause of many of our biggest companies' inability to compete more overseas. It is the primary cause that millions of American workers will not get a raise between now and the end of the decade because all the new profits of the companies that are trying to cover their health care will go into the exploding cost of premiums. And only in America do we spend 10 cents on the dollar in a $900 billion health care bill on paperwork that no other country has.

I say to you, my fellow Americans, it's time to give the American people health care that is always there, health care that can never be taken away, health care that is simpler and better.

Now, you know, since we're here at this magnificent air base, let me just ask you something: Can you think of a single institution in this country in the last 10 years, in the midst of all the chaos and social breakdown and violence and family troubles in America, is there any institution that has worked better than the United States military to train and educate people to perform missions, to continually give people new skills, and to provide the coherence that we need? And is there any institution that's done a better job of opening opportunities to people without regard to race or gender? No. Why? One reason is, there is order, security, and support. Could the military have done its mission if they had the same health care system the rest of the American people have and half the people in the service could lose their health care on a given day by some accident or because a wife or a husband or a child turned out to have an illness that wasn't covered in the fine print of some policy? You know it couldn't have happened. We owe the rest of the American people that security in the face of the changing times in which we live.

Let me say, people say to me, oh, you can't slow the growth of health care costs. I say to them, look at California. I want to thank your insurance commissioner for the work he's done with my wife's Health Care Task Force to develop a health care system. You look at the California experience. Look at what happened to the health care costs of the people who had the benefit of being in the California public employee system, when the people who were providing it knew that the State was broke and didn't have a lot of money and when there were enough people there that they had bargaining power to get high-quality health care at an affordable price. What happened? The inflation rate and the premiums was less than one-third the national inflation rate in health care.

And let me say some other things about this health care system, because there's been a lot of misinformation put out there. I see all these children here. One of the things that is killing this health care system of ours is that so many people have no coverage, that when they get health care, it's when they're real sick, and it's real expensive, and they show up at the emergency room. Under this plan, for the first time in history, there will be a comprehensive package of benefits which will guarantee preventive and primary health care services to pregnant mothers, to little children, to women who need mammograms, to men who need cholesterol tests. Those are the things that will lower the cost of health care and strengthen the fabric of our economy.

Look at the burden that California alone pays because of the uninsured cost of caring for AIDS patients. Look at that. Under this system, when everybody gets covered and all people are in big pools so that one high-risk patient's cost is spread across a lot of folks, we will have coverage in the regular system and you will not have particular States going broke because they have disproportionate burdens of immigrants, of AIDS patients, or anything else. This is another important feature of this.

But finally, let me say two other things. Under this system the American people will have more choice than most Americans do now. If you have a health care plan that's better than the one we're writing into law, your company can keep giving it to you, and the cost of it won't go up as rapidly. But there's a limit for the first time to what can be taken away. If you don't have one, you will get one. And you'll have more choices today. Only one in three workers in a plant with a health insurance plan has any choice in the way they get their health care. Every American worker will be guaranteed at least three different options in the health care plan. And that's a plus for America, to give the consumers of this country more choices.

And finally, I want to say a special word of thanks to the thousands of Americans from all across this country who helped us to put this plan together and especially to the literally hundreds and hundreds of doctors and nurses and others who told us their stories, so that we found, unbelievably, we had doctors who were miserable, nurses who were unhappy, and the people who lost their insurance in the 11th hour when they didn't know what was going to hit them. So for the first time in the history, we are going to have a health care plan that has significant input on the front end from the people who provide the health care because they know, the ones who've been involved in this process, that we cannot go on.

And finally, let me just make this point: At some point in life when you have a problem, whatever it is, you have to ask yourself a pretty simple question, because every change involves taking a chance, you have to ask yourself which is greater: the cost of change or the cost of staying the same? It is clear that the greater cost is to keep on doing what we're doing and letting America go bankrupt and breaking the hearts of millions of American families.

And so I say to you, we've got a lot of work to do to turn the California economy around. But we've taken important steps that were not taken before, and there's more to come. We've got a lot of work to do to work through all the complexities of the health care issue. We've got a lot of work to do to convince Americans to have the courage and to give Americans the security they need to change. But I am telling you, folks, if we do what we ought to do, California and this country will walk into the 21st century with their heads held high, with the American dream still alive for our children, with our diversity a strength, not a weakness, in a nation that is still leading the world, if we have the courage to change and the will to give our people the security they deserve.

That is what I'm dedicated to. And I thank you for being here today to support that. God bless you all. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 5:04 p.m. at McClellan Air Force Base.

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

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