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President Clinton Discusses The Earned Income Tax Credit

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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 4, 1998


The Roosevelt Room

10:12 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Amy's children are over there. And we also haveBernadette Hockaday and her children, and Rhonda Clarke and her childrenhere.They're all here, and we thank them all for coming because they all havebenefitted from the Earned Income Tax Credit.

I'd like to thank Gene Sperling, who believed passionately in thiswhenI first met him, well over six years ago now; Janet Yellen, the Council ofEconomic Advisors; Secretary Herman, who was here in the White Househelping usto implement the Earned Income Tax Credit in '93. I thank Congressman JohnLewis and Congressman Bob Matsui, who are here who have been passionateadvocates; and all the other advocates in the room here -- Bob Greenstein,Justin Dart, the others who are here -- we thank you for your support.

One of the main reasons that I ran for President in 1992 was that Ibelieved that people like Amy could achieve real success if we couldunstack thedeck against them. I knew that when our nation was taxing working families intopoverty, that was wrong. I knew that when a mother rises at dawn, puttingin anhonest day's work and still can't afford to buy the children's clothes,that'swrong. And I was determined to try to do something about it.

I also knew that there was a little-known provision in the tax codewhich had been in for several years called the Earned Income Tax Creditthat hadthe potential if it were actually expanded at an appropriate level to liftallworking families out of poverty. And that's how all this started.

Again, let me say, I'm very grateful for everybody who hassupportedthis. I think the important -- one important thing I'd like to point outisthat we have representatives here from the AFL-CIO, from AFSCME, from otherunions, most of whose members do not get the Earned Income Tax Credit, andtheylobbied for it, too, because they thought it was right. And so, for all of you,I just say I'm very grateful.

What we tried to do in 1993 was two things. First of all, we hadto getthe economy moving again, and secondly, we had to focus on the specialneeds ofpeople who were working hard at lower wage levels. But first things first-- wehad to get the whole economy moving again. Middle-class incomes have beenstagnant for 20 years, and we could never have given lower-income workingpeoplethe chance to raise their incomes if it hadn't been for a policy promotingoverall economic growth.

Just this morning, we received more good news for America'sfamilies onour overall economic policies. Secretary Herman's Department reports that, lastmonth, unemployment fell to 4.4 percent, while inflation remains low andstable.But fora year and a half, the unemployment rate has remained below 5 percent, forthefirst time in 28 years. And in November, the economy added more than aquarterof a million jobs, which means now America has created about 17.3 millionjobsin the last six years. That is a very good record, of which the Americanpeoplecan be very proud.

But let's go back to the main point. Even with all those new jobs,under the present circumstances, the way the economy works, millions andmillions of those people would be working full-time and still be living inpoverty. So what I wanted to do in 1993 was to create new incentives tohelppeople climb the economic ladder and reach true independence; to enablepeopleto succeed at work and at home, in raising their children.

So we got the dramatic increase in the Earned Income Tax Creditinto thebudget in 1993. And two years ago we fought for and won a substantialincreasein the minimum wage, which I still believe we ought to increase again.Unemployment and inflation are low, and it still has not recovered itslevels of20 or 25 years ago, in real-dollar terms.

Today, we release a report prepared by the Council of EconomicAdvisors.It shows that the Earned Income Tax Credit, as a family tax cut, has been amajor factor in encouraging work among single mothers, which you heard Amytalkabout. It has also been responsible for much of our strong progress inreducingchild poverty. In fact, the report shows that, of the 4.3 million peoplewhohave been lifted out of poverty since 1993 by the Earned Income Tax Credit, overhalf of them -- well over half of them -- have been lifted out because webasically doubled the program in 1993.

And, again, I want to say to Bob Matsui and John Lewis, we had --it washard to raise the money to pay for that doubling and there were a lot ofpeople,even in our party, who were afraid to do it -- and with some good reason,as itturned out. But it was the right thing to do, and I hope it is somethingthatall of you will always be proud of.

Now, since 1993, families with two children and one parent workingfull-time at the minimum wage, therefore, have seen their incomes rise bymorethan $2,700 because of the increase in the minimum wage and the EarnedIncomeTax Credit. This has strengthened families, it strengthened communities.It'shelped to restore our compact of mutual responsibility that people who work hardand play by the rules ought to have a chance to be rewarded for it. And,again,it helps us to promote both the values of family and work.

So I feel very, very good about this. And I feel great about theoverall economic news this morning. But let me also say to all of you,this isnot a time for self-congratulation or a time to rest. We have more to dohereat home and more to do to stabilize the global economy, if we expecteconomicgrowth to continue.

We all know about the economic troubles in Asia; we all see sectors ofAmerica's steel industry being overwhelmed by imports at fire-sale prices. Wehave all read the headlines about Boeing's layoffs because of the inability ofAsian airlines to pay for planes which they have already ordered. We seeotherproblems in the global economy as well, and we are working hard to reversetheproblems in Asia, to limit their reach, to stabilize the long-term systemunderwhich so many Americans and so many hundreds of millions of people aroundtheworld have benefitted. But it is a sobering thought to remind us that wehave to continue to work on this.

Finally, let me say, we have to continue to work on theconditions of working families here at home. Many people still cannot getaffordable child care. The minimum wage should still be raised. We stillhavea great deal to do to stabilize the conditions of working families and togenuinely reward work in this country.

In the last session of Congress we passed an expansion of ourempowerment agenda to try to bring more jobs, more incomes, moreinvestmentsinto poor inner-city and rural areas: we still have a great deal to dothere.

So as you leave here today and you think about Amy and these othertwofine mothers and these beautiful children who are here, and the millionsandmillions of people whom they represent all across America, I hope you willalways be proud of what you have done. But remember, this economy still is notworking for everyone, and it is still living in a very turbulentinternationalenvironment. So I ask you also to continue to support our efforts to dealwiththe challenges that still have to be met to keep the growth going, and tomakesure that what we do here, so far from the lives of most Americans,actuallyhelps them to make those lives better.

Thank you very much and God bless you all. Thank you, CongressmanRangel. It's good to see you. (Applause.)

CEA Report on Expansions in the EITC and the Minimum Wage

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