Remarks by the President on New Surplus and Debt Estimates (9/27/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release              September 27, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                                    The Rose Garden

9:55 A.M. EDT

          THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  Yesterday I announced that
household income has reached an all-time high, and the poverty rate has
fallen to its lowest level in 20 years.  Today there's more good economic

          Eight years ago, our future was at risk.  Economic growth was
low, unemployment was high, interest rates were high, the federal debt had
quadrupled in the previous 12 years.  When Vice President Gore and I took
office, the budget deficit was $290 billion, and it was projected this year
the budget deficit would be $455 billion.

          The American people, thankfully, chose a better future.  They put
their support behind a new economic direction of fiscal discipline, greater
investment in our people, expanded trade in our products.  It's given us
the longest economic expansion in history and the strongest fiscal
turnaround in memory.  Record budget deficits have given way to record
surpluses.  And this has enabled us to do something that would have been
impossible just eight years ago -- we've actually begun to pay down the

          Today we received more good news that our strategy is working.
According to the Office of Management and Budget, this year's budget
surplus will be at least $230 billion.  With this surplus, we've been able
to cut the debt over the last three years by this figure -- (writes the
number on a chart) -- $360 billion in debt reduction over the last three

          This year alone we've cut the debt by at least $223 billion, the
largest one-year debt reduction in the history of the United States.  Like
our Olympic athletes in Sydney, the American people are breaking all kinds
of records these days.  This is the first year we've balanced the budget
without using the Medicare trust fund since Medicare was created in 1965.
I think we should follow Al Gore's advice and lock those trust funds away
for the future.

          We've come a long way since then, and a long way since 1993.  But
we can go further still.  If we stay on the path we're on, we can pay this
debt off entirely by 2012, for the first time since Andrew Jackson was
President, in 1835.  Paying off the debt will benefit America, just as
paying off credit cards benefits the average family.  It frees up money for
the things that matter, and it keeps interest rates lower.  That will mean
more investment, more jobs, lower mortgage payments, car payments, and
student loan payments.  This is all terribly important.

          Already the benefits of debt reduction have meant about $2,000 a
year -- or deficit reduction, and then debt reduction -- has been about
$2,000 a year in lower interest payments for home mortgages, about $200 a
year in lower interest payments for cars, about $200 a year for lower
interest payments on college loans.  And if we stay on this path, rather
than go back and spend all the surplus and get back into the Social
Security funds, it will keep interest rates about a point lower over the
next decade.  That will be worth in home mortgages alone over $300 billion.

          So this is a very important thing to do.  And I hope that we will
see a continuation of this trend in this year's final end-game budget
negotiations.  However, the fiscal year is almost over and Congress still
has sent me only two of the 13 spending bills.  We need to put our
priorities in order and put the broad national interest above special

          The key to fiscal discipline, to these kinds of results, is
maintaining it each year, year after year.  If you look at what's happened
in the last eight years, federal spending today as a percentage of the
economy is the lowest it has been since 1966.  The federal civilian work
force is the smallest it's been since 1960, down 377,000 from the day I
took office.

          I am concerned, frankly, about the size and last-minute nature of
this year's congressional spending spree, where they seem to be loading up
the spending bills with special projects for special interests, but can't
seem to find the time to raise the minimum wage, or pass a patients' bill
of rights, or drug benefits for our seniors through Medicare, or tax cuts
for long-term care, child care, or college education.

          And first and foremost, they haven't found the funds for
education, for continuing to hire 100,000 qualified teachers to reduce
class size, to build and modernize schools, to provide after-school for
children who need it, and have real accountability for failing schools,
requiring them to turn around or shut down or be put under new management.

          These are the things that need to be done, and I certainly hope
they will be.  We can finish this year in good shape.  We can maintain our
fiscal discipline.  We can get this country out of debt and still make the
right investments and have the right kind of tax cuts, but we have to work
together to do it and avoid just throwing money away simply because we're
close to an election.

          These results today -- paying off $360 billion of the national
debt, something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago;
continuing the longest economic expansion in history; knowing that we can
get this done, that we can actually get the country out of debt, ought to
be an inspiration for all of us to stay on the path that got us here, now
and in the years ahead.

          Thank you very much.

          Q    Mr. President, do you think there will be a final peace
settlement in the Middle East before you leave office?

          THE PRESIDENT:  I don't know.  We're working on it.

          Q    Any progress --

          THE PRESIDENT:  I don't know.  They're working and they're
working hard and they're trying.  And we're working as hard as we know how.
But I can't say there will be; I can't say there won't.  We can do it, but
it will require what these difficult things always require -- a remarkable
convergence of both sides willing to make difficult decisions and kind of
leap off into the future together.  I hope we can do it.

          Q    Mr. President, on hate crimes, Republican leaders have
indicated there really isn't much of a chance of a bill passing this year.
If that's the case, do you intend to make the issue one of your
non-negotiable priorities in the final budget talks with the GOP?  And how
much is your speech later in Texas designed to put pressure on Republicans
on this issue before the elections?

          THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think there should be hate crimes
legislation.  I think they made a mistake in Texas not to pass it, and I
think it's a mistake for Congress not to pass it.  But we all know what the
deal is here.  This is not complicated.  The Republican majority does not
want a bill that explicitly provides hate crimes protections for gay
Americans.  And I think they think it will split their base, or something.

          All the surveys show that over two-thirds of the American people
believe that no one should be subject to a crime because of who they are.
And I just hope and pray we can do it.  If we can't do it, what does that
Senate vote mean?  Was it just some stunt?  I mean, they voted for it
57-42.  It's not a complicated piece of legislation; it could be put on

          So I wouldn't give up yet.  I think a majority of the House and a
majority of the Senate are for it.  So if it doesn't get on it will require
an effort of the leaders to keep it off.  In other words, a minority rule,
not majority rule in the Congress.  I believe there's -- there are
Republicans in the Senate and the House who genuinely support this.  I
don't know how many, but enough, as you saw in the Senate vote, to get a
majority, unless the leaders keep it from happening.  They'll have to
actually keep it from happening.

          Q    Mr. President, is it realistic for the American public to
expect a book on race from you before you leave office?  And also, what are
your thoughts about Joe Lieberman expecting to meet with Minister Louis
Farrakhan to heal the racial divide between the Jewish American community
and the African American community?

          THE PRESIDENT:  I didn't understand -- what did you say about Joe
Lieberman and Louis Farrakhan?

          Q    Joe Lieberman told me yesterday that he wanted to meet with
Minister Louis Farrakhan to help ease the tensions between the Jewish
American community and the African American community, and also to try to
change what he said, the misguided statements that he made at the beginning
of Joe Lieberman being announced as the Democratic Vice Presidential
running mate.

          THE PRESIDENT:  Well, if anybody has got the standing to do it,
he certainly does.  That's my -- I don't know about the other question.

          Go ahead.

          Q    What about the race book, though?

          THE PRESIDENT:  I don't know.  I'm working hard.

          Q    Mr. President, how do you assess the situation in Yugoslavia
and the likelihood of a run-off election?

          THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Mr Kostunica and his forces apparently have
said at the present time they don't plan to participate in a run-off
because they're confident they got a majority.  The government's official
election commission has no credibility, whatever.  There are no opposition
party members on it; there are no independent observers that have monitored
its work.  And the opposition believes it clearly got over 50 percent, and
at least another NGO and other independent observers believe it did, too.

          So they have to decide how to respond to this.  And I think what
Europe and the United States should do is to support the express will of
the Serbian people, and it's certainly appears from a distance that they
had a free election and somebody is trying to take it away from them.  And
so we'll just have to see what happens.  But whatever we do I think should
be consistent with the wishes of the majority of the people there.

          Q    Mr. President, given what you've said today, why not just
tell Congress that you won't sign appropriations measures that grant you
more funding than you even requested, as they seem prepared to do?

          THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, the President should never be
in a position of, in effect, usurping the Congress's authority.  They
always add something to what I spend.  I have consistently shown more
fiscal discipline.  But this is a question of the dimensions of it.  And
the Supreme Court said that I didn't have the authority for the line-item
veto, and so I have -- the only option I have is a meat axe option now.
And we'll just have to see whether I will be able to sustain those and what
the consequences would be.

          I would -- and my main concern here is all the things that are
left undone, all this money they're spending, but they still have an
inadequate commitment, in my judgment, to education -- at least based on
what I've seen so far -- and all these other things.  The priorities of the
Congress strike me as strange.  I mean, look at what their -- their first
priority for tax cuts was something for the wealthiest 2 percent of
Americans and they still haven't done anything for long-term care or
college tuition tax credits or child care for average Americans, and they
still haven't done anything to raise the minimum wage.

          So this is a question of priorities and balance.  In terms of
whether I would veto one, it depends on how much extra money they spend in
the end and what it looks like.  So I can't say that.  I'd have to study
the bills first.

          Q    Mr. President, eight months ago, Vice President Gore said he
thought it was a bad idea to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  You
spoke with him last week, before announcing your plans in that regard.
What's your take on his change in position?

          THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think the circumstances are quite
different.  I didn't tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve eight months ago
either.  And as you know, I think it's been reported in the press, we had a
very long and serious discussion about this, and we discussed all the pros
and cons and decided that after OPEC had set a target range of $22 to $28 a
barrel -- which most of us, certainly me and the producing countries,
thought was a reasonable range; that is, we didn't want to go back down to
$13 or $12 or $10 again because that was also disruptive -- that the
accumulated decisions were not going to come near that target, and that
there seemed to be a trend line going quite high.

          And so Secretary Richardson and his experts at the Energy
Department argued for a couple of weeks, based on their experience and
their understanding of the supply situation, that among the various options
we considered -- and there were three or four of them, including doing
nothing right now, and others -- but the most prudent thing to do is what
we did.

          So I essentially took the advice of Secretary Richardson and the
experts at the Energy Department, after discussing it extensively with our
whole economic team, including the Vice President.

          Thank you.

                         END        10:13 A.M. EDT

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