THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Saturday, May 3 1997
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RADIO ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT TO THE NATION
The Oval Office
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Yesterday, we took a
dramatic step to prepare America for the 21st century, and we got the
best evidence yet that the new economic policy we adopted in 1993 is
working for our people. Yesterday morning, we learned the
unemployment rate has dropped to 4.9 percent -- the lowest in 24
years. And yesterday afternoon, I reached an historic agreement with
the leaders of Congress to balance the budget by 2002, with a plan
that ensures we will balance the budget; invest in our future;
protect our values and our obligations to our children, our parents,
and those in need.
Four years ago, when I took office, the economy was
stagnating, job growth was sluggish, the budget deficit threatened to
drown our economy. I believed it was time to change course with a
new economic strategy: invest and grow, cut the budget deficit, sell
more products overseas through tough trade agreements, and invest in
the skills of our people. In 1993, we put our economic plan in
place. It wasn't easy, it required hard choices. But now, the
deficit has been cut for four years in a row, falling from $290
billion in 1992 to about $80 billion this year -- more than
two-thirds of the way home to our first balanced budget since the
1960s. All this has spurred lower interest rates, more investment,
and stronger growth.
And the good news goes beyond low unemployment.
Economic growth is at its highest in a decade; core inflation at its
lowest in three decades; the largest decline in income inequality
since the 1960s; and, thanks to the hard work of the American people,
12 million new jobs. It is now clear that our economy is the
strongest it's been in a generation.
Now we have to keep this economic growth going. We have
a great opportunity to build a world for our children better than any
America has ever known. But, my fellow Americans, we must prepare.
We have to give Americans the education and skills they need to
compete in the global economy. We have to invest in science and
technology. We have to continue to get and keep our economic house
To keep our economy growing, we must stay on the path of
fiscal responsibility. To make sure all our people can share in this
prosperity, we must make sure that a balanced budget also invests in
their future. Balancing the budget, investing in our people -- we
must do both these things. In 1993, many people doubted that it
could be done. We have shown that it can be done. And with this
budget agreement -- a bipartisan budget agreement -- we will prove
that we can actually balance the budget and continue to invest in our
It took weeks of intense negotiations to lead to an
agreement that protects our values. A balanced budget with
unbalanced values and priorities would not have been enough. There
were times when it seemed that we, perhaps, would never reach this
agreement; times when it appeared that we could not secure a balanced
budget true to the principles and priorities essential to our future,
and bringing Democrats and Republicans together across all their
differences. But everyone understood that the stakes were too great
and the cost of failure too severe to give up.
So, yesterday, we reached an agreement on just such a
plan. It is a significant breakthrough for our country. And it
proves that our political system can work when we put our partisan
differences aside and put the American people and their future first.
This budget plan honors our duty to our parents and to
those in need by securing Medicare and Medicaid, and extending the
life of the Medicare trust fund for a full decade. It honors our
duty to our children, expanding health coverage to children who don't
have it -- up to 5 million more of them. It keeps my pledge to
continue the job of welfare reform by providing tax incentives to
businesses to move people from welfare to work, and restoring some of
the unwise and excessive cuts included in last year's welfare bill.
It cleans up 500 toxic waste dumps and strengthens enforcement for a
clean environment. It gives the American people tax relief for
education, for help in raising their children, and to spur investment
in our future.
And perhaps most important of all, this bipartisan
agreement reflects our commitment to make education America's top
priority on the edge of a new century. Here are our goals: every
8-year-old can read, every 12-year-old can log on to the Internet,
every 18-year-old can go on to college, every adult can keep on
learning for a lifetime.
This balanced budget plan is a breakthrough toward those
goals. It's the best education budget in three decades. It will
give families tax cuts to pay for college, and it will include our
Hope Scholarship -- a tax credit for tuition for the first two years
of college to make those first two years as universal as a high
school diploma is today. The budget also includes the biggest
increase in Pell Grant scholarships for deserving students in 30
years. It funds our America Reads challenge, which will mobilize a
million volunteer reading tutors to make sure that all our
8-year-olds will be able to read independently. It will help to
connect all our classrooms and libraries to the Information
Superhighway. And it will support our move to develop genuine
national standards in education and, by 1999, to test every 4th
grader in reading and every 8th grader in math to make sure we can
compete in the world of tomorrow.
This balanced budget plan is in balance with our values.
It will help to prepare our people for a new century. It will help
to propel our country into that century stronger than ever. And I
urge members of Congress in both parties to pass it.
Yesterday morning, I had a chance to think about our
country, its history, and its destiny, when I was privileged to join
in the dedication of the new memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt
here in Washington. It is a tribute to him, to Eleanor Roosevelt,
and to the generation that changed America -- conquering Depression
at home, defeating tyranny abroad. We've come a long way since then,
and we can go much, much further if we work with the same faith,
commitment, and confidence that FDR's generation showed as they met
the challenges of their time.
In words from his last speech, which he wrote shortly
before he died, President Roosevelt said, "The only limit to our
realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move
forward with strong and active faith."
My fellow Americans, the news on the economy, the
balanced budget agreement -- they should give us confidence; they
should validate our faith; they should erase our doubts. Let us now
reach across party lines and seize our chance to balance the budget
and maintain that strong and active faith that will ensure that our
best days as a nation lie still before us.
Thanks for listening.