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THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release July 26, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN STATEMENT ON FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY
The Roosevelt Room
2:10 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: For more than seven years now, our nation has stuck to
a course of fiscal discipline, making tough choices that has resulted in
the elimination of record deficits, investing in our people and paying down
Clearly, the strategy is paying off. It has given us the longest
economic expansion in our history, over 22 million new jobs and the largest
budget surplus in history. Now, we have the chance to pass responsible tax
cuts, continue to pay off the national debt and keep our prosperity going.
Instead of following the path that got us here, congressional
Republicans want America to take a U-turn. Over the past two weeks, they
have pushed through a series of expensive tax bills, one after another.
They've been in a rush to get these bills passed before their convention;
but they've been in no rush to get them to my desk, because they fear what
will happen when the American people have a chance to add them all up and
do the math.
Taken together, Republican tax bills now stacking up from this
Congress would cost nearly $2 trillion over 10 years. By our accounting,
that would put America back into deficits. Even by their own rosy
scenario, the Republican tax bills consume every dime of the surplus the
American people have worked so hard to create. That's what this chart
However you add it up, a $2 trillion tax plan is too big, too
reckless, too irresponsible. It leaves nothing for lengthening the life of
Social Security and Medicare, to make provision for the baby boomers'
retirement. It leaves nothing for adding a prescription drug benefit to
Medicare. It leaves nothing for greater investment in education or the
environment or science and technology or health. It would make it
impossible for us to get America out of debt by 2012.
Now, if the congressional Republicans truly think these tax cuts are
good policy, instead of just good politics, they should put them together
and send them down to me right now, before they break for their convention.
Then the American people can add up the costs and draw their own
conclusions. But if they adjourn for the summer and the bills aren't on my
desk, the American people will know that they're playing politics with our
Remember something else -- and this is very important -- these are
projected surpluses. It's not money we have now, but money we might have
over the next 10 years. Think about it: if you got one of those
sweepstakes envelopes from Ed McMahon in the mail saying you may have won
$10 million, would you go out and spend it? Well, if you would, you should
support their tax plan; but if you wouldn't, you should think again.
Because that's what the congressional Republicans want us to do -- commit
right now to spend all the money that we might get over the next 10 years.
In good conscience, I cannot sign one of these tax breaks after
another without any coherent strategy for safeguarding our future and
meeting our other national priorities. At this rate, there will be no
resources left for extending the life of Social Security and Medicare, for
adding a real prescription drug benefit to Medicare, for investing in
education or for getting us out of debt. And getting us out of debt will
keep interest rates low and keep our economy growing. That could give the
American people the biggest tax cut of all.
Lower interest rates, in a way, are the biggest tax cut we can give to
most Americans. Because of the deficit and debt reduction already
achieved, the average American family -- listen to this -- the average
American family is already paying $2,000 less a year in mortgage payments,
$200 less a year in car payments, and $200 less a year in student loan
If we keep interest rates just 1 percent lower over 10 years, which is
about what my Council of Economic Advisors thinks we'll do if we keep
paying down the debt instead of giving it all away in tax cuts, homeowners
-- listen to this -- homeowners will save $250 billion over the next 10
years in lower home mortgage rates alone. That's $850 a family a year in
lower mortgage payments.
And then to see what people are getting you would have to add
proportionally lower car payments, lower college loan payments; and, of
course, with lower interest rates businesses will be able to borrow more
easily and invest more, creating more jobs to sustain our prosperity. The
more you do the math the less sense the Republican tax plan makes.
Consider this: the typical middle-class family will get $220 a year
from the tax cuts the Republicans have passed this year -- just the ones
they've passed this year, not in this Congress. If interest rates went up
because of the Republican plan one-third of 1 percent, just one-third of 1
percent, then that average family's mortgage payments would go up by $270,
completely wiping out the tax cut and leaving the average family worse off
than they were before.
It does not have to be that way. I have proposed tax cuts to give
middle-class Americans more benefits than the tax bills the Republicans
have passed at less than half the cost. Two-thirds of the relief of our
proposal will go to the middle 60 percent of Americans, including our
targeted marriage penalty tax relief.
Our tax cuts would also help send our children to college, with a tax
deduction for up to $10,000 in college tuition a year; help to care for
sick family members with a $3,000 long-term care tax credit; help to pay
for child care and to ease the burden on working families with three or
more children; to pay for desperately needed school construction.
And because our plan will cost substantially less than the tax cuts
passed by the Congress, we'll still have enough money -- and this is
critical -- we'll still have enough money left to provide a Medicare
prescription drug benefit, to extend the life of Social Security and
Medicare, to pay for the baby boomers' retirement, and to stay on track to
be debt-free by 2012. And, I might add, to keep interest rates lower so
that we'll have billions of dollars in lower home mortgages, car payments
and college loan payments.
We should have tax cuts this year. But they should be the right ones,
targeted to working families, to help our economy grow, not tax bills so
big they put our prosperity at risk. Now we've tried it our way for eight
years, and we've tried it their way for several years before then. I say
to Congress, stop passing tax bills you know I'll have to veto; start
working together with us on a balanced budget that cuts taxes for middle
class families, continues to pay off the national debt, and invests in
Over the last seven years, our country has overcome tremendous odds to
create a moment of unprecedented prosperity and promise. But how we
respond to good fortune is a stern test of our values, our judgment and our
character as a nation as how we deal with adversity. I think we'll meet
the challenge; and when we do, we'll ensure that America's best years are
still to come. Thank you.
Q Are you still going to veto each of the bills if the Republicans
did send them down here?
THE PRESIDENT: That is my plan. You know, a lot of these bills,
individually, have a lot of appeal; I'm sure they do. And maybe,
collectively, they have a lot of appeal until you know what they cost. But
it's obvious that if you look at the income tax bill they passed last year
and all these bills they're passing this year, together, they just eat up
the projected surplus.
And let me say, the projected surplus is based on not only -- let me
just make a few more points to you. The projected surplus is based not
only on, I believe, a very rosy scenario by them, a somewhat less
optimistic scenario from us, it's also based on an assumption of spending
which assumes that federal spending will grow less than the economy will
grow over the next 10 years, which is -- at least if you look at the record
of even the Republican Congress over the last four years, a highly
So keep in mind, this is before they spend money for anything. Before
they pay for their proposed national missile defense, before they pay for
the promises being made in this national campaign on the domestic side,
before they may decide that at least for the things they like to spend
money on, like highways and things, they want the spending to grow as fast
as the economy grows.
This is a prescription, make no mistake about it, for going back to
the economic policy of the past and going back to higher interest rates --
and higher interests rates which will take away the benefit of the tax cut
to the vast majority of Americans, an undermine the long-term economic
strength of the country. I know that it's not as appealing in election
year, maybe, but we're right to pay the debt down. We need to keep getting
America out of debt. We need to get rid of it. It's the right thing to
do for the young people of the country.
Q Do the increased projected surpluses make it harder for you to
make this case with every headline saying we're going to see this much more
than we thought? Does that make it more difficult for you to argue that
there is no room for these tax cuts?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, again, I think in the beginning it does. That's
why I"m here making the argument. But it doesn't change the reality. If
you look at the projected surplus, just look at the spending levels alone,
the projected surplus is based on by the Congressional Budget Office and
then just -- but the main thing I want to say is, once you put these tax
cuts in, they're in. They're not like spending bills. You know, if
Congress wants to spend money they come in next year and they spend money
So if the money turns out to be -- let's suppose they spend money in
2001 and they've got a five-year program, but in 2002 the revenues tail
off, well they don't have to appropriate as much money. They can always
cut back on spending. But once you put the tax cuts in they're in. It's a
lot harder to say, well, I made a mistake I think I'll raise taxes.
So there should be a tax cut. No one questions that there should be a
tax cut. The question is, how big should it be and who should be helped by
it, and what are the other interests the country has. We shouldn't mislead
the American people about our obligations to keep interest rates low,
because almost Americans will be hurt more by higher interest rates than
they can possibly be helped by any of these proposed tax cuts. And we
shouldn't mislead the American people about the money we think the Congress
is really going to have to spend.
This takes into account -- what if we have in the next 10 years a
bunch of farm emergencies, like we've had for the last three? Let's go
back and look at the extra money we've poured into spending on agriculture
alone in the last three. And if you were in Congress, wouldn't you want to
at least see education spending grow at the rate of the economy growing?
And look at the commitments they've made there. And so I'd just tell
you, the idea that we would say, okay, here's the surplus, now let's pass
tax cuts which take it all away -- and never mind what might happen to the
revenues, and never mind what new investments we might have to make as a
country that we don't even know about now for the next 10 years -- I think
it's very troubling.
Q Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes?
Q Do you think Governor Bush played it safe in choosing Dick Cheney
as a running mate? And would you advise Vice President Gore to similarly
play it safe in choosing his running mate? And would you advise Vice
President Gore to similarly play it safe in choosing his running mate?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I don't know -- I think the most
important thing about that decision is that it will -- and everything I
know about Mr. Cheney, personally, I like. I actually was kind of pleased
by the decision, because there's no question that he has many years of
experience in the Congress and in the previous Bush administration.
But the thing I liked about it was, it further clarified the choices
for the American people, and I think that's important. I think the most
important thing you want out of any election is that the voters understand
what they're doing when they vote, and they understand that there are
consequences to their vote. And it further clarifies that there are
significant choices here to be made. There are big differences on the
environment, on gun safety, on the woman's right to choose, on civil rights
enforcement and on economic policy.
That's what I think the election ought to be about. I think this ought
to be a positive election where people say good things about their
opponents personally and say they have honest differences. And I think
having Mr. Cheney coming on the ticket will help to clarify that there are
big, profound differences between the two leaders and the tickets, and that
those differences will have real consequences for the country. And I think
because he's a good man, we can further dispense with the 20 years of
politics of personal destruction and focus on the differences between the
people that are running and the parties, and how it will change life in
So I think anything that clarifies the debate, lifts it up, focuses it
on the issue differences is positive. And there are real, huge
differences, and I think this will help to clarify them and I think that's
Q Mr. President, you've complained that Congress has been slow to
act on your appointments for judgeships and ambassadorial posts. If they
don't act, do you feel in a mood to do this by recess appointments?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first, I have made no decision on this. I
haven't made any kind of -- I haven't had a meeting about it; as you know,
I've been otherwise occupied the last couple of weeks. I'd like to begin
by just citing the record here.
I have bent over backwards to respect the constitutional senatorial
appointment process. The record will reflect that I have made less use of
recess appointments than either President Bush or President Reagan, even
when I had a Republican Senate the way they had Democratic Senates.
I think the record will reflect that I have shown more restraint in
that, even when I've had a little more partisan differences with the Senate
than they did on the appointments process -- my predecessors.
So I have shown a reluctance to make robust use of that option. And I
just have -- to be perfectly candid, I've been so absorbed with other
things, I have not -- I don't even know for sure what my options are,
what's out there, what irrevocable consequences could result if I don't use
it during this session, in terms of unfairness to particular individuals or
to the public interest. So I've just go to look at the facts and make a
judgment. But I have not made a decision yet.
Q It does sound like your patience is running out it, though.
THE PRESIDENT: No, but I really haven't made a judgment on this.
I've never been -- if you just look at the record here, I have not been a
big user of recess appointments, because I respect the whole process by
which the Senate reviews these things, even when I think it's been
strained. But I honestly haven't made a decision yet. I just have to look
and see what the options are.
Q On the Middle East, Mr. President, the Palestinians are saying
the deal on the table on Jerusalem is just not doable. If that's the case
how can there ever be a compromise?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, let me try to frame this in a way
that I think that the Palestinians and the Israelis, and I would hope other
friends of peace around the world would think about it. We all know how
hard Jerusalem is because it goes to the sense of identity of both the
Palestinian and the Israeli people. And in a larger sense the adherence of
Islam, Judaism and Christianity all around the world.
In a sense, therefore, the City of Jerusalem is not just Yerushalaim
for the Israelis and Al Quds for the Palestinians. It is a holy place that
reaches beyond even the geographical boundaries of the city.
If there is to be an agreement here it must be one which meets the
legitimate interests of both parties. And that requires a certain
imagination and flexibility of defining those interests and then figuring
out an institutional and legal framework for them that, frankly, just takes
more time and more reflection and probably less pressure than was available
in our 15 days at Camp David.
But in any negotiation, it must be possible for both sides to say they
got most of what they wanted and needed, that they were not routed from the
field, that there was honorable compromise; and, so, therefore, the issues
cannot be framed in a "you have to lose in order for me to win, and in
order for you to win, I have to lose" framework. If they are like that,
you're correct, then we can never reach an agreement.
But I have spent a great deal of time, obviously not only studying
about this, but listening to the two sides talk about it, think about it,
and looking at all the options available for a potential resolution of it.
And all I can tell you is, I'm convinced that if the issue is preserving
the fundamental interests of the Palestinians and the Israelis, and the
genuine sanctity of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish interest in the Holy
City, then I think we can do that. I just do. But we couldn't do it in
the 15 days we were there.
The decision that will have to be made is whether there is a way --
for example, in this case, you mentioned the Palestinians -- for the
Palestinians to win their fundamental interest without also winning the
right to say they have routed the Israelis, or whether there's a way for
the Israelis to protect their fundamental interests without also winning
the right to say they have stuck it to the Palestinians. I believe there
is, and we're going to explore how we might persuade them, all of them,
that there is and where we go from here.
And I hope that just this kind of thing I've been talking about will
spark a whole range of, oh, articles in the press, commentators on the TV
programs, other people talking and thinking this way, trying to be
innovative and open and -- you know, I realize the incredible pressure
these people are under in even having this discussion. That is, in the
end, why I realized we couldn't get it done in two weeks. You've got to
get used to talking about something for a little bit before you can then
entertain how you can create an edifice that you hadn't previously
imagined. And I think we'll be able to do it.
Q How long are you going to wait before you give it another shot?
THE PRESIDENT: I can't answer that. I've tried to make the judgments
here for eight years based on what I thought would aid the process, and I
can't yet tell, Mark, what would be most in aid of the process; I just
can't tell yet.
END 2:34 P.M. EDT
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