Remarks to the Governor's Leadership Conference in New York City
Thank you very much. You know, after the sort of reception. When I came in and you last several months in Washington, I'm sort of were so wonderful and warm and you were disoriented. I don't know how to react to that cheering, I said to the Governor, I said, "Well, shall we sit down now?" He said, "No, no, no." He said, "That's part of your problem." He said, "Let them cheer. When they boo, you sit down." [Laughter]
When Andrew Cuomo, who as you know is a Presidential appointee, wrote his father a note and said, "Ten minutes, don't be too long," and then the Governor came up and embarrassed his son by telling you that, I wrote a note on the note. I said, "Clinton's eighth law: Blood is thicker than water, but the paycheck is thicker than blood." [Laughter]
I appreciated what Governor Lundine said about my supporting tourism in New York. I have supported it in two ways. I brought the Democratic Convention here, and I come here. And then when I come here, no one else can get out, so they have to spend money. [Laughter] And so you know, I've gotten to feeling like a thief when I come to New York. I have to leave in the middle of the night so I don't inconvenience anybody. But I love to come, and I am delighted to be here. And I am delighted to be here with so many of you.
I want to say a special word of thanks to Congressman Schumer for his work on the crime bill—thank you, sir—and to Congressman Rangel for many things, but especially for supporting our policy on Haiti before anybody else was for it. Thank you, sir.
I appreciate the presence here of my longtime friend Bob Reich and the other members of our administration who are here, and those who have been here already. I'm proud that they are a part of this.
You know, we're kind of practical people of this administration. There are a lot of folks who worked in State government and local government and the private sector who came to Washington. As a matter of fact, we think it's kind of strange that Congressman Gingrich says his goal in life is to convince you that I am the enemy of normal Americans. As somebody pointed out to me the other day, before I came to Washington I was one. [Laughter] And we tried to bring a lot of normal Americans to Washington who would not forget that most of what counts in this country is done somewhere else and that our job was to change the role of Government away from this back-and-forth pendulum of either trying to solve all the problem or sitting on the sidelines and acting as if they didn't exist. We have tried to bring a genuine constructive partnership to this country.
And I must say, it is a lot easier in New York State and New York City because we've had good leadership to work with, and I thank the Governor and I thank the mayor for that.
I must tell you that because I was a Governor for a good long while, I have a sympathy for people who like to be Governor for a good long while. [Laughter] It's the best job I ever had, in some ways. And I like it because it was a real job, dealing with real peoples and real problems and real opportunities.
I think it makes a difference whether you have a partnership for growth in New York; I really do. And whether you think that or not is a big part of whether you will make any kind of difference. I think it makes a difference who's in the partnership. It makes a difference whether you have new ideas. Long before I ever dreamed of running for President and thought it was a practical option for me, I read the first volume of the Cuomo commission report. And I remember both volumes very well, all the ideas that they had, all the suggestions they gave not only to States but to our country for dealing with these problems. To me, that's what we ought to be doing in government, being catalysts for helping people take responsibility for their own lives and get together in their communities and reach across the lines that divide them and solve their problems and seize their opportunities.
Twenty-one months ago I went to Washington, determined to do what I could to restore the economy, to make our Government work for ordinary Americans again, and to empower people to compete and win in the 21st century. After 21 months, there's a lot we still have to do. But it is clear that America is in better shape. We have more jobs, a lower deficit, low inflation, a smaller Federal Government doing much more. We're doing things that make Government work for ordinary people, valuing work and family with things like the family leave law, our initiatives in welfare reform, tax credits for working families just above the poverty line so they don't fall into the poverty line—no one who raises kids and works 40 hours a week should fail at either task—immunizing all the children in the country under the age of 2 by 1996.
We've made a serious assault on crime. You've already talked about it a lot. Let me just say that a lot of the ideas in that crime bill have been pioneered here by Governor Cuomo, including the boot camps and the after-school programs as prevention. It is a bill of punishment, police, and prevention, and it's a bill which will lower crime, not because of what the Federal Government will do but because of what the Federal Government has empowered you to do.
One of the things that we're doing is hammering over and over and over again on the need to implement this crime bill, every single part of it, in the proper way: the safe schools provision, the violence against women provision, the victims rights provision, a lot of things most people don't even know are in there. If you do them all in New York, you will lower the rate of crime and violence, not because of what the Federal Government did but because of what you will be empowered to do with the tools that are in the bill.
We also supported, as I'm sure the Secretary of Labor has already said, the idea of lifetime learning. The average 18-year-old will change jobs six or seven times in a lifetime. Many Americans today with good jobs still feel insecure because they keep reading about big companies laying people off, and they're afraid to change jobs when they're 45 or 50. We have to make these kinds of changes the friend of ordinary Americans, because nothing any public official can do will repeal the laws of global economic change. But if we are prepared to seize them and make them our own, then all these changes will make life more exciting, more interesting for ordinary people. The changes in work will be an opportunity to move up, to broaden one's horizons, not to be undermined or have your family lose their security or have people lose their sense of self-worth. So this issue of developing a system of lifetime learning is hugely important in preserving the sense of optimism and strength and inner confidence that has always been at the core of what is America's greatness.
We also clearly are working to make the world a safe and a more democratic and a freer place. For the first time since the dawn of the nuclear age, Russian missiles are no longer pointed at the United States. We have played a major role in trying to promote peace in Northern Ireland, in the Middle East, and of course, in Haiti. We have secured an agreement with North Korea to end that nation's nuclear program, which is terribly important. And we have told Iraq that we still believe the territorial integrity of its neighbors are inviolate and that it must not be enabled to intimidate the United Nations.
All of this is exhausting work and sometimes frustrating work in a world that is ever changing. But it is clear to me that the rewards will go to people with vision and energy and discipline and an upbeat outlook on the future, and people who are not deterred.
Let me say today the saddest moment for me in the morning was reading about the horrible bombing in Israel, the deaths of innocent civilians by a terrorist determined to wreck the quest of the Arabs and the Israelis for peace in the Middle East. If you think about the kind of disappointments and obstacles those people have to face every day—and they're still out there determined to sign that peace treaty with Jordan next week, to make a comprehensive peace in the Middle East to go forward—now those are real problems.
The American people should look at the strengths and assets we have and say there is nothing that can stop us, look at strengths and assets New York has and just say there is nothing that can stop us. This is a very big deal when you see Americans feeling a little more pessimistic than the facts warrant.
So I'm glad you're here. And if you don't do anything else when you leave but to pat each other on the back and convince yourselves that if you work together you will make a difference, you will have done more than half of the good you can do by showing up in the first place. And I hope you believe that.
I want to talk very briefly about what we tried to do here. A big reason we've had some success in the last 2 years is that our administration came into office with an economic mission. We wanted to rebuild the American dream and make sure every American was empowered to take advantage of it. We had a long-term strategy as well as a short-term strategy. And we organized the White House and the administration in a completely different way.
The key figure in that reorganization was Bob Rubin from New York, my National Economic Adviser. I don't even know if he's still here. But if it hadn't been for him, this whole thing would not have worked in the proper way. We have regular, disciplined, sustained efforts involving the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Labor, the Trade Ambassador, the Council of Economic Advisers Chair, our Commerce Secretary, who's clearly the most active Commerce Secretary in my lifetime, the SBA Director, who has changed the Small Business Administration dramatically. You now apply for an SBA loan on a one-page form and get an answer in 3 days.
We work with all the other Departments you see here: The Education Department is a part of our economic strategy; the Health and Human Services Department and welfare reform is a part of our economic strategy; HUD is a huge part of our economic strategy. And we all work together in a disciplined way to think about where America is going in the rest of the world and what America has to do at home. And we work very hard to support and cooperate with and move forward with Governors and mayors and folks in the private sector, with whom we meet on a regular basis and work through the major issues.
Now, if you look at the economy we confront, we all know what the strengths of it are. We also all know we have some problems: 30 years of accumulated social problems; 20 years of stagnant wages for hourly wage earners with limited educations, increasingly buffeted by a global economy; and 12 years of an economic theory that I don't think worked very well, except to give us a big debt and reduced investment.
Our strategy was pretty simple and straightforward: reduce the deficit; increase investment in education and training, new technologies, and defense conversion; increase trade and the sales of American products and services around the world; work with business to sell abroad when it is appropriate and proper to do so; give special incentives to forgotten areas—you heard the talk earlier about the community development banks and the empowerment zones—so that we can get free enterprise into inner cities and isolated rural areas; reduce the role of Government wherever we can, reduce regulation, reduce bureaucracy, but increase the effective leverage the Federal Government has and be a good partner. That has been our strategy.
Now, if you look at what's happened, the deficit is going down dramatically. It's about half of what it was when I took office, as a percentage of our national income. Trade has increased dramatically. Since NAFTA was ratified, trade to Mexico is up 19 percent this year; that's 3 times as much as our overall trade. The GATT world trade agreement will bring hundreds of thousands of high-wage jobs into the country, and the Congress will adopt it, I believe, in late November. We're selling everything from rice and apples to telephones and Mustangs in Japan now, some of them for the first time. Every country in our hemisphere but one is now a democracy, and they're all going to meet in Miami in December and talk about how we can increase our common wealth and prosperity by working together. We are doing things, in short, that make a lot of sense.
We've increased our investment in Head Start and apprenticeships, in providing more affordable college loans to middle class kids, in spite of the fact that the overall deficit has been reduced on the domestic side for the first time in 25 years this year. We still were able to increase our investment in education and training.
Governor Cuomo mentioned in passing a very important thing about Long Island in defense conversion. We are investing hundreds of millions of dollars around this country to help communities where bases have closed that need to rebuild themselves and to help businesses that used to depend on defense business that's not there anymore. Defense spending's peak in 1987—it peaked in 1987. In 1993 when I took office, there was still $500 million in funds the Congress of the United States had appropriated for defense conversion that had not been spent. We were just leaving these companies and these communities out there floating in the wind with no strategy to bring them back into the industrial base of America and the industrial future of America.
We are changing that now, and it is very important. If you look at New York, if you look at the economic profile of New York, especially out on Long Island, it is criminal to walk away from these companies that helped us win the cold war just because we are reaping the benefits of the cold war by reducing defense spending. So that's a big, big part of our economic strategy.
These things are working. The community development bank legislation I just signed, but you will see when it comes out that we'll be able to create, we estimate, about 150,000 jobs in very isolated inner-city and rural areas just with the community development bank authority that has already been provided. So I am very hopeful about that.
We're also shrinking the Government. It's an unusual thing for the Democrats to be doing, but we did it anyway. We passed bank reform legislation that was hung up for 7 years—we'll save a billion dollars a year in compliance costs; trucking reform legislation that will save billions of dollars a year. There are already 70,000 fewer people working for the National Government than there were on the day I became President, and we are reducing the overall size of the Government by 270,000, and all the money's going back to you to fight crime. That's how we're funding the crime bill.
Now, what are the results? The smallest Federal Government since President Kennedy; 3 years of deficit reduction for the first time since President Truman; 4.6 million new jobs; more than half the new jobs this year above average wage; more high-wage jobs this year in our economy than in the previous 5 years combined; the first time in 15 years this year American companies will sell more automobiles around the world than Japanese companies; the first time in 9 years in the annual vote of international economists, the United States was voted the most productive economy in the world. We are moving in the right direction, and you should be proud of that.
In the State of New York, the unemployment rate has dropped about 1 1/2 percent. There are over 100,000 more jobs. Two million New Yorkers are eligible for lower interest, longer repayment terms on their college loans; 3.1 million New Yorkers are protected by the family leave law. You'll get another 6,100 police in the crime bill; you've already gotten 108, within 2 weeks after the crime bill was signed, to New York. You've got 20 percent more funding in Head Start and $400 million for prisons. We are making a good beginning. We are moving forward, and we're doing it together. That's what partnerships are about.
Do we have more to do? Of course we do. And I want to mention just some of the things that were left undone by this Congress and some of the things we need to do in our own partnership. We walked away from some very important environmental legislation. And I'll just mention one: The Superfund bill was filibustered at the end of the Congress. The Superfund bill to clean up toxic waste dumps was supported by the chemical companies, the unions, and the Sierra Club. I never saw anything they were all for at the same time. There was no one in America against the Superfund bill except more than 40 Republican Senators who didn't want any Member of Congress who happened to be in the other party or the President to come to New York and say, "We're helping you to clean up toxic waste dumps." So the poison is in the ground because the filibuster poisoned the political atmosphere. And we have to change that. We have to change that.
We walked away from three bills that will help to change the culture of Washington: campaign finance reform, lobbying reform, and a bill to say—and the business people ought to like this—a bill to say that when Congress imposes a requirement on private employers, the Congress has to observe the same requirement, live under the laws you impose on the private sector. And we're going to do our best to pass all three of those next year.
And then—Governor Cuomo has already talked about health care. Let me say that it was interesting to me, the day after the health care legislation was declared over for this session, all the papers were all of a sudden filled with articles about how all the problems are still there: more and more Americans losing their right to choose their doctor; '93 census shows that another 1.1 million Americans in working families, in working families, lost their health insurance; the cost of health care is still going up at well over the rate of inflation. So this will not go away.
And I also want to say—and I don't think I've ever said this in public before, but I finally made a study of this. When I came to Washington, I came to Washington from a State that was both low in per capita income and had a high percentage of poor people. So I never had to worry about the problems of New York, which is high in per capita income but has a high percentage of poor people. I am convinced now that that Medicaid formula is unfair to you, and I think we should change it. And I think that's fair. [Applause] Thank you. You all—you need to sit down, or you'll increase my mail from someplace else. [Laughter]
But it is—I will work with Governor Cuomo, with Mayor Giuliani, with others. We will work through this. It's not going to be easy, but this is an error, I think, in policy that the Congress did not make on purpose. It was something that had not been fully accounted for. I mean, in the last couple of years when Charlie's been trying to get more for New York, there were people who were on purpose trying to get more for their States. I didn't mean it like that. Rangel's eyes nearly popped out when I said that. [Laughter] But I think it is very important, and we will work through it.
The other thing I want to say is something about welfare. Now welfare reform has become like God, motherhood, and apple pie; everybody's for it. And that's good. Franklin Roosevelt said in the Depression that to dole out relief in this way is a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. No one ever intended for it to work this way. And I think I would be fair in saying that no President has ever spent as much time as I have had the opportunity to spend, because I was a Governor, actually talking with people on welfare. I find that the people on welfare would rather us change the system than almost any other group of people in America; they're not very satisfied with it either.
So what we have to do is to find a way that rewards work, that requires work, but that also enables people who work to be responsible workers and good parents at the same time. That is very important. I sent a welfare reform bill to Congress last spring. The Congress did not act on it this year. I hope and believe they will act on it next year. It will work to reduce teen pregnancy, to toughen child support enforcement, to educate people more, and also to give them the support they need for their kids if they go to work. And we will ask Congress to pass that plan.
In the meanwhile, we have to keep granting these waivers. I saw when all of you were clapping before that you actually know what a waiver is. If you know what a waiver is, this is the largest group ever gathered in the history of the United States that knew what a waiver was—which is amazing to me, I mean, that's something which is truly laudable. A waiver means that the Federal Government has a bunch of rules and regulations it ought not to have to tell you not to do things you ought to be able to do, but we'll let you do it anyway. That's what a waiver is. And today I guess the most important thing I have to announce is that I'm going to give one of those waivers to New York for your welfare reform proposal.
I believe very strongly in this. Everybody talks about welfare reform, but some people do it, and some people just talk about it. I want you to have a chance to prove that Jobs First works. I want you to have a chance to prove that you can either move 21,000 families off of welfare or keep them from going on in the first place.
I want you to have a chance to prove what I know, that most people on welfare want to work if it will work for them in their family situation. And so that's what this welfare reform waiver will do. And I know you will make the most of it.
I want to say again, this administration is dedicated to partnership. I am a Democrat by heritage, instinct, and conviction, but I don't believe the National Government has all the answers. I believe that we need a smaller but more effective National Government. I think that we need more activism at the grassroots level. Tomorrow I'm going to Massachusetts to sign an education bill that clears away for all States a lot of the rules and regulations that kept people from educating our children, especially our poor children, as well as they are capable of doing. This is a direction we must continue.
The last thing I want to say is that this is not entirely a job for government, and attitude and personal conduct count. You know, those kids that beat up that New York City transit detective the other night, they should have been home. They shouldn't have been out on the street beating him up. There's nothing I can do as President to change that. But all of us together, if we talk about the responsibilities of parents and neighborhoods and community groups, if we take some of that crime money and use it to provide opportunities for kids to go someplace constructive late at night and to have role models that are positive role models, if they don't have a home to go home to, that will make a difference.
And that's something you have to do. That's something you have to do. We need more people who will do what those two men did on the Upper East Side yesterday when they put their own lives at risk to help that man who was stabbed at the automated teller machine and then go get the people who stabbed him. That's what America ought to be about. We ought to lift people like that up, we ought to follow them, and we ought to do what they do. That's the last point I want to make to you. None of this is going to work unless most of us have our heads on straight.
I've become a friend of Ken Burns, the wonderful filmmaker who did the series on the Civil War and did the baseball series. And so I watched it all. It's the only baseball I got this year. Reich is going to fix that for next year, or he'll need three boxes to get up here when he comes back. [Laughter]
But listen to this. Listen to what your Governor said in the baseball film. Baseball—Mario Cuomo is talking about why he always liked Joe DiMaggio. He said, "Always you look for heroes. Always the people look up to see something that represents them, to something that is larger than them, and if it's perfect, something they might become." Well, we can't all be Joe DiMaggio, but we could have all done what those guys did at the teller machine yesterday, every one of us. And we can all take one kid in trouble and give that boy or girl somebody to look up to. And we can all do less bellyaching and more visionary talk about the future. And every one of us, including me, every one of us could spend a little less time placing blame and a little more time assuming responsibility. That is what is great about your country.
And I just want to leave you with this thought: When President Aristide went back to Haiti this weekend, there were all these Haitian people in the street with these little signs with their messages on it. And the most frequent message was, in Creole, a simple "Thank you, America." And if you had seen just the eyes, the faces of our young men and women down there in uniform who brought them their freedom back, some of them Haitian-Americans, Americans of all different races and sizes and both genders, it would be impossible for you not to want to do whatever you could to make this country and this State what it ought to be.
So the Governor will try to do his part. I'll try to do mine. If you do yours, the 21st century will be the best time this country ever had.
Thank you, and God bless you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 3:45 p.m. in the Imperial Ballroom at the Sheraton New York Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Lt. Gov. Stan Lundine of New York.
William J. Clinton, Remarks to the Governor's Leadership Conference in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/218865