Remarks by the President at Economic Event (9/26/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release           September 26, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                             AT ECONOMIC EVENT

                             Presidential Hall
                        Dwight D. Eisenhower Building

11:45 A.M. EDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Ladies and gentlemen, we're here
to talk about some good news for our economy and what it means for
hardworking Americans.  I want to thank those on our administration team
who had a lot to do with the results that I will be announcing today.

     I thank John Podesta and I thank Gene Sperling, our Council of
Economic Chair Martin Baily, and the other members of the Council of
Economic Advisors; Jack Lew and Sylvia Mathews at OMB; and all the people
at OMB and the staff at the Council of Economic Advisors; all the folks who
work in the White House and those who have been part of the groups that
have helped us and our economic team and the government to achieve the
results that the American people have worked for and earned.

     As John Podesta just described, when we took office the deficit was
$290 billion and rising.  It was projected to be about $450 billion this
year.  Twelve years of irresponsible fiscal policies had quadrupled the
debt of the United States, giving us low growth and very high interest
rates.  Unemployment was high, confidence was low.

     Al Gore and I worked hard to change that, with a strategy of fiscal
discipline, investment in our people and expanded trade.  A big part of our
strategy was to make sure that all the American people could participate in
the growth of our nation.  We expanded the earned income tax credit, nearly
doubling it to make sure that work pays for people who work on modest

     We raised the minimum wage, passed the Family and Medical Leave law,
enacted a $500 child tax credit, passed the Kennedy-Kassebaum bill to make
sure people could carry their health insurance with them when they changed
jobs, created the HOPE Scholarship tax credit and other increases in
college aid for the biggest expansion in college opportunity since the G.I.
Bill over 50 years ago.

     Now, we all know that the American people have done a lot with these
changes.  We have the lowest unemployment in 30 years, the lowest female
unemployment in 40 years, the lowest Hispanic and African American
unemployment ever recorded.  So the 22 million jobs and the longest
economic expansion in history have truly had a broad base of benefits --
the rising tide has been lifting all boats.

     Today, I'm pleased to announce that we have reached another economic
milestone.  In its annual study on income and poverty, the Census Bureau
reports that last year typical household income rose $1,072, to the highest
level ever recorded, breaking $40,000 for the first time.

     American incomes have been on the rise for five years running now.
Since 1993, when we launched our economic strategy, median family income
has risen by 15 percent.  That means, for the typical family, after
inflation, $6,300 more a year in real purchasing power for the things that
matter most -- sending their children to college, covering critical health
care costs, saving for a secure retirement.

     And the poverty rate has fallen to 11.8 percent, the lowest in 20
years.  Since 1993, 7 million Americans have moved out of poverty, 2.2
million in the last year alone.  The equality part of this recovery is
picking up steam.  Last year, African American and Hispanic poverty rates
took their largest drop ever.  Child poverty dropped more than any year
since 1966.  And elderly poverty fell below 10 percent for the first time
in history.

     The rising tide of the economy is lifting all boats.  Every income
group is seeing economic growth, with the greatest gains, in percentage
terms, being made by the hardest-pressed Americans.  In 1999, as the report
shows, African American and Hispanic households experienced the biggest
boosts in their incomes ever.

     Today, the most important thing we can say about our economy is that
it works for working families, and its success belongs to all the American
people.  If we stay on the path that got us here, the path of fiscal
discipline, we can reach even greater heights of prosperity.  If we add the
New Markets     initiative, and an expansion of the empowerment zone
program the Vice President has led so ably these last years, we can extend
it even further, to people and places still left behind, so that the gains
we are seeing in the cities reach as far as our rural communities and
Native American reservations.  We can also achieve something once
unthinkable.  We can make our country debt free for the first time since
the presidency of Andrew Jackson in 1835.

     Months ago, I presented a budget that sticks to the path of fiscal
discipline and makes critical investments in America's future, that saves
Social Security, strengthens Medicare, and includes a voluntary
prescription drug benefit, invests in education, and increases
accountability, and pays down the debt by 2012.

     Now there's less than a week left in this fiscal year, and Congress
still has not passed 11 of the 13 appropriation bills.  Congress still has
not raised the minimum wage, or taken other initiatives to keep all
Americans' lives improving, along with the economy, including a strong,
enforceable patients' bill of rights, voluntary Medicare prescription drug
benefits, or tax cuts for college tuition, child care and long-term care.

     I was, however, encouraged this week that the Republican leadership
said that they will work with me and the Congressional Democrats in the
face of the drug company's opposition, to give Americans access to
prescription drugs that are cheaper in other countries.  I think it's wrong
when drug companies sell the same drugs for a much higher price at home
than they do overseas, even when those drugs are manufactured right here in

    Some of the most vulnerable Americans -- seniors and people with
disabilities -- are paying the highest prices for prescription drugs made
in America, in the entire world.

     I support the legislation the Senate has passed to right this wrong.
If fully funded, the Senate bill meets my condition that the prescription
drugs we import here are every bit as safe as the ones already on the
shelves of America's pharmacies.  With this protection in place, we can
preserve the safety of our prescription drug supply and cut prices for the
pharmaceuticals Americans need.

     The idea has potential, as long as the leadership in Congress sees it
as part of a real solution, not part of a campaign strategy.  Of course,
again I say, it's only part of a solution.  A discount doesn't help you
much if you've got more than $10,000 in catastrophic drug costs.  What you
need, what all seniors need, is something that makes drugs cheaper, but
helps you pay for them, as well.  What you need is a Medicare prescription
drug benefit that is optional, affordable and dependable.

     I'm disappointed by the congressional leadership's suggestion that
there's not time enough to pass such a benefit, and I disagree.  Every day
Congress is still in session is another day it could be working overtime to
provide a Medicare prescription drug benefit and to meet our other pressing
national priorities.

     There is still time for Congress to raise the minimum wage, to pass
the bipartisan New Markets legislation; to help close the growing digital
divide; to give our American children more opportunities in education; to
reduce class size with more highly trained teachers; to fix crumbling, old
schools and to build new ones; to support after-school programs for all the
children in this country who need it; and to increase accountability by
requiring states not only to identify failing schools, but to turn them
around or put them under new management.

     The remarkable success of our economy, the rising incomes, the falling
poverty rates, show again how much we can achieve when we work hard, make
the right choices and work together.  The American people do that every day
of the year.  So for just a few days, the days left in this legislative
session, I hope the Congress will work with me in that same spirit and with
the same eye toward achievement.

     This is a good day for America.  We have proved that we can lift all
boats in a modern, global, information-based economy.  But we have a lot to
do.  The success and the progress should urge us on.

     Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

                     END          11:53 A.M. EDT

President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House | White House for Kids
White House History | White House Tours | Help
Privacy Statement


Site Map

Graphic Version

T H E   W H I T E   H O U S E