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The President's Radio Address

December 17, 1994

The President. Good morning. Today I'm speaking from the Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Virginia, where I'm joined by 50 students and the Secretary of Education, Dick Riley, who will speak with you in a moment.

In this holiday season, families come together to reflect on the past year and plan for the year ahead. It's a time to be with our children and think about their futures. For students near the end of high school, it's a time to think about continuing their education after graduation.

Our people face greater challenges than ever to get ahead. For too long, too many Americans have worked harder for less. I ran for President to change that, to help ordinary people compete and win in the new American economy, to restore the American dream for middle class families.

For 2 years, we've pursued an economic strategy that has helped to produce over 5 million new jobs. But this growth has not produced higher incomes for most Americans, especially those without more than a high school education, at the very time it's more important than ever to get a good education after high school and then to keep learning throughout adult life.

It's more expensive than ever before. In the decade before I took office, the cost of college tripled. Too many people are being priced out of a fair shot at high-quality education. If we can't change that, we're at risk of losing our great American middle class and of becoming a two-tiered society with a few successful people at the top and everyone else struggling below.

Fifty years ago, an American President proposed the GI bill of rights. It helped World War II veterans go to college, buy a home, raise their children; it built this country. Last Thursday night, I proposed a middle class bill of rights, four new ideas to help middle class Americans get ahead. Here's how it will work.

The first proposal is especially important to people at this community college. If your family makes less than $120,000, the tuition you pay for college, community college, graduate school, professional school, vocational education, or worker training will be fully deductible from your taxable income, phased up to $10,000 a year. Nothing like this has ever been done before.

Second, if your family makes $75,000 a year or less, you'll receive a tax cut phased up to $500 for every child under the age of 13.

Third, if your family makes less than $100,000 a year, you'll be able to put $2,000 a year, tax-free, into an individual retirement account, but you'll also be able to withdraw the money, tax-free, for education, a first home, or the care of an elderly parent.

Finally, the middle class bill of rights will take the billions of dollars that Government spends on job training and make that money directly available to American workers so that you can spend it as you decide, when you need to learn new skills to get a new job or a better job.

Of course, we have to pay for all this. On Thursday night I proposed dramatic reductions in three more Cabinet departments. And Monday morning Vice President Gore and I will outline these cuts in more detail. But today I want to ask Secretary Riley to talk about why education is a top priority in the middle class bill of rights.

Secretary Riley.

[At this point, Secretary Riley made brief remarks.]

The President. Thank you, Secretary Riley.

My fellow Americans, this middle class bill of rights will further the agenda of this administration and, more importantly, our common mission as Americans: to expand middle class incomes and opportunities; to promote the values of work and family, responsibility and community; and to help Americans compete and win in the new American economy of the future.

With all the challenges we face today, ours is still the greatest country in the world. Let's keep it that way for our children and for future generations. I thank Secretary Riley for joining me and wish you all a very happy holiday season.

Thanks for listening.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:06 a.m. from at Northern Virginia Community College in the Richard J. Ernst Community Cultural Center Annandale, VA.

William J. Clinton, The President's Radio Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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