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'The State of Our Union Is Strong'

January 28, 1998| From Associated Press

Excerpts from President Clinton's State of the Union address:

Because of the hard work and high purpose of the American people, these are good times for America. We have more than 14 million new jobs, the lowest unemployment in 24 years, the lowest core inflation in 30 years. Incomes are rising, and we have the highest home ownership in history. Crime has dropped for a record five years in a row, and the welfare rolls are at their lowest levels in 27 years.

Our leadership in the world is unrivaled. Ladies and gentlemen, the state of our union is strong.

ECONOMIC ISSUES: When I took office, the deficit for 1998 was projected to be $357 billion and heading higher. This year, our deficit is projected to be $10 billion and heading lower.

For three decades, six presidents have come before you to warn of the damage deficits pose to our nation. Tonight, I come before you to announce that the federal deficit, once so incomprehensibly large that it had 11 zeros, will be simply zero.

I will submit to Congress for 1999 the first balanced budget in 32 years. And if we hold fast to fiscal discipline, we may balance the budget this year, four years ahead of schedule. . . . I ask all of you to meet this test: Approve only those priorities that can actually be accomplished without adding a dime to the deficit.

Now, if we balance the budget for next year, it is projected that we'll then have a sizable surplus in the years that immediately follow. . . . Tonight I propose that we reserve 100% of the surplus--that's every penny of any surplus--until we have taken all the measures necessary to strengthen the Social Security system for the 21st century. . . .

Because these times are good, we can afford to take one simple, sensible step to help millions of workers struggling to provide for their families. We should raise the minimum wage.

EDUCATION: Tonight I propose the first ever national effort to reduce class size in the early grades. My balanced budget will help to hire 100,000 new teachers who have passed the state competency test. . . . We must also demand accountability. When we promote a child from grade to grade who hasn't mastered the work, we do that child no favors. It is time to end social promotion in America's schools.

IMPORTANCE OF TRADE: As we enter the 21st century, the global economy requires us to seek opportunity not just at home, but in all the markets of the world. We must shape this global economy, not shrink from it. In the last five years, we have led the way in opening new markets, with 240 trade agreements that remove foreign barriers to products bearing the proud stamp, "Made in the U.S.A." . . . We will forge new partnerships with Latin America, Asia and Europe. We should pass the new African Trade Act. . . .

If [Asian countries] sink in a recession, they won't be able to buy the goods we'd like to sell them. Second, they're also our competitors. So if their currencies lose their value and go down, then the price of their goods will drop, flooding our market and others with much cheaper goods, which makes it a lot tougher for our people to compete.

HEALTH CARE: A hundred and sixty million of our fellow citizens are in managed care plans. These plans can save money and can improve care. But medical decisions ought to be made by medical doctors, not insurance company accountants.

I urge this Congress to reach across the aisle and write into law a consumer bill of rights that says this:

You have the right to know all your medical options, not just the cheapest.

You have the right to choose the doctor you want for the care you need. You have the right to emergency room care, wherever and whenever you need it. You have the right to keep your medical records confidential. . . .

Millions of Americans between the ages of 55 and 65 are losing their health insurance. . . . Let these hard-working Americans buy into the Medicare system.

FOREIGN POLICY: Within days, I will ask the Senate for its advice and consent to make Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic the newest members of NATO. For 50 years, NATO contained communism and kept America and Europe secure. Now these three formerly Communist countries have said yes to democracy. I ask the Senate to say yes to them, our new allies. . . .

Next, I will ask Congress to continue its support for our troops and their mission in Bosnia. . . .

The United Nations' weapons inspectors have done a remarkable job, finding and destroying more of Iraq's arsenal than was destroyed during the entire Gulf War. Now, Saddam Hussein wants to stop them from completing their mission.

I speak for everyone in this chamber, Republicans and Democrats, when I say to Saddam Hussein: You cannot defy the will of the world.

RACE ISSUES: Finally, community means living by the defining American value, the ideal heard round the world: that we're all created equal. . . .

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