Remarks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Reception
Thank you, Congressman Serrano, and to all my colleagues up here on the stage, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and to Secretary Babbitt, Secretary and Mrs. Cisneros, Secretary and Mrs. Pena. I know the Attorney General is coming. I haven't seen her here, but I think she's here somewhere. And I thank her and all of them for serving our Cabinet and our country so well. To Rita Elizondo, and all the others who work at the Institute, and to all of you, first, let me thank you for receiving me so well, and thank you for letting me come early and leave early. You know I have a date with President Yeltsin tonight. [Laughter] And I don't want to stiff him, so I'm going to have to leave here in just a moment. I do want to— I wish I could take the mariachis back with me to entertain him. [Laughter]
I want to say a special word of thanks to a couple of people here: First, to Congressman Ron de Lugo who's retiring after two decades representing the Virgin Islands. We will miss him very much. And thanks—next I would like to say a special word of thanks to the chief deputy whip, Congressman Bill Richardson, for his wonderful efforts in Haiti, to help us make peace and restore democracy in Haiti.
Congressman Serrano went over some of the accomplishments of this administration, but I want to do it again to ask you to do something for all of these Members who are up here, because they have worked very hard—very, very hard—to make this country work again. And our biggest problem—the thing you laughed about there, about not getting credit—I don't really care who gets the credit, as long as the country is going forward. But when the congressional elections come up, the people who are getting credit for moving the country forward need to be rewarded, so the voters don't wind up inadvertently voting for the very things they are against.
And that's what I want you to think about. If someone had told you 20 months ago that in 20 months we would see the biggest deficit reduction passed in history; the biggest spending cuts in history; scores of Government programs eliminated outright; the smallest Federal bureaucracy since Kennedy was President; 3 years of deficit reduction in a row for the first time since Truman was President; and still more money being spent to put 200,000 more kids in Head Start, to immunize all the children in America under the age of 2 by 1996; for education and training for people who are unemployed, for young people who want to go into good jobs when they get out of high school, but don't want to go on to college—you need apprenticeships; that we would reform the student loan program and make 20 million Americans eligible for student loans at lower interest rates, lower fees, and longer repayment terms; and that these things would produce 4.3 million new jobs, a 1.5 percent decline in the Hispanic unemployment rate, you'd say that was pretty good, wouldn't you?
We are moving this country in the right direction. The guys that voted against us said if we did this, it would wreck the economy. They were wrong; we were right; the American people should know it. It's important, and you need to make a commitment not simply to support these folks here with the Institute and with your presence at this dinner but with your voice and your heart and your spirit and getting people out to vote between now and November 8th. They were wrong; we were right.
They should be rewarded because we are moving this country in the right direction. Since NAFTA was ratified, we have increased exports to Mexico by 19 percent, 3 times as much as our exports are going up elsewhere. Automobile and truck exports are up 600 percent. We've got folks in those auto factories working overtime for the first time in more than 10 years. And I might say, that's why I hope we can pass the GATT agreement before we leave, because that will bring another 300,000 to 500,000 jobs into this economy. We had 8 months in a row this year where manufacturing employment increased for the first time in 10 years. And for the first time in 9 years, the annual vote of the panel of international economists, the United States was voted the most productive economy in the entire world. We're moving in the right direction. They need to be rewarded for it, these people in Congress who have made it possible.
Because of the Hispanic Caucus, we're closer to reenacting the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to help give educationally disadvantaged children a better chance. Congressman Becerra worked especially hard on that.
In addition to passing, in this economic plan, a tax cut for 15 million working families with children, who are working and hovering just above the poverty line—who are disproportionally Hispanic, I might add—we cut their taxes. We raised tax rates on the top 1.2 percent of Americans, cut taxes for 15 million working families so they wouldn't fall into poverty while they were working, so they could succeed as parents and workers, so they wouldn't choose welfare over work. We did it; they all voted against it. You ought to reward the people who did it and not the reverse.
We also passed the motor voter bill after several years of gridlock, the Brady bill and the family and medical leave bill after 7 years of gridlock, the crime bill after 6 years of gridlock. We're about to announce the communities, sometime this year, who won the empowerment zone competition, the enterprise community competition. We have more coming forward.
Last week I signed the community development banking bill, which will put $4.8 billion into poor communities, urban and rural, in this country so poor people can borrow money to put themselves in business in ways that will make a profit. This has been proven to work in other countries. It is wrong that America has not done it before, but we're going to bring free enterprise to the inner city and the isolated rural areas of America and prove that poor people want to work as well, and they can and will and will succeed. And I want to say a special word of thanks to Chairman Gonzalez and Nydia Velazquez, Luis Gutierrez, and Lucille Roybal-Allard for their leadership on this community development initiative; it was very important.
This administration has also kept its commitment to look more like America. With 302 Hispanic-American appointments, we have now appointed more than twice the number of Hispanic-Americans as my predecessor and, even better than that, of all those that went before. And I might add, in the area of Federal judges, we have appointed twice the number of Hispanic-Americans appointed by the last three Presidents, Democratic and Republican, combined, and I am proud of that.
One other thing I want to mention, because some of you were there, but one of the greatest honors I have had as President was the opportunity that I was able to take to give the Medal of Freedom to Cesar Chavez. I only wish he had been there to receive it in person.
Let me close with this. I had the opportunity to have a great meeting, when I spoke to the United Nations yesterday, with President Salinas. And he said to me, "Mr. President," he said, "I follow American politics very closely, and we've had a wonderful partnership." And he said, "I understand many things about America, but I do not understand how, with your economy booming, with so much progress being made, with all these bills flying through Congress, most Americans say when they're polled they think the country is going in the wrong direction." I said, "Well, you just have to live here to understand that." [Laughter]
But you think about it. Every one of you works in some working group; maybe it's a big one, maybe it's a small one. How well could you do at your job if every day two-thirds of the people who showed up to work with you were convinced nothing good was going to happen and, when something good did happen, denied that it did? [Laughter] That is the environment you ask these people to come to work every day in. You ask them to take brave decisions, vote for change, stand up to interest groups, push the country forward, when they know that there's better than a 50 percent chance that the people they're fighting for may not even get the message. That is what elections are for.
The fact is that against enormous odds from interest groups and enormous political odds and relentless opposition, the people on this stage with me have been responsible for an economic revival, for seriously addressing many of the greatest social problems facing this country. The deficit is down; the economy is up; jobs are up; trade is up. We have seriously addressed the crime problem. The American people are going to be more secure. We have done things for children, too long deferred, on immunizations, Head Start, the family leave policy, the policy of giving a tax break to working families on low incomes. We are moving the country forward and pulling it together. What remains is to get the message of the record of the last 20 months to the voters in the next 5 weeks.
You can do it; they need it. I will be out there doing my part. But if you liked what has happened before, you must ratify it by getting your friends and neighbors to say, "We are not going to be fooled, we are not going to be divided, and we are certainly not going back to the old policies of the past which wrecked the economy and divided this country. We're going forward together."
Thank you very much, and God bless you all.
NOTE: The President spoke at 6:46 p.m. at the Washington Hilton Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Rita Elizondo, executive director, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.
William J. Clinton, Remarks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Reception Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/217901