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pd01fe99 Remarks at a Memorial Service for Governor Lawton Chiles...

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on January 26.

[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents]

[Page 126-127]
Monday, February 1, 1999
Volume 35--Number 4
Pages 109-155
Week Ending Friday, January 29, 1999
Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for Pope John Paul II in St. 
Louis, Missouri

January 26, 1999

    Your Holiness; Archbishop Rigali; Archbishop Montalvo; Governor 
Carnahan; Mayor Harmon; County Executive Westfall; Ambassador Boggs; 
Members of Congress; members of the Cabinet; our visitors from the 
Vatican; my fellow Americans:
    Your Holiness, on behalf of all of us gathered here today, indeed, 
on behalf of all the people of our beloved Nation, we welcome you back 
to America. Your return brings joy not only to the Catholic faithful but 
to every American who has heard your message of peace and charity toward 
all God's children. And we thank you for first going to Mexico and for 
reaching out to all the people of the Americas.
    We greet you, and we thank you. For 20 years, you have lifted our 
spirits and touched our hearts. For 20 years, you have challenged us to 
think of life not in terms of what we acquire for ourselves but in terms 
of what we give of ourselves.
    This is your seventh visit to the United States, your 85th visit 
abroad as the Bishop of Rome. Through it all, you have given of yourself 
with a boundless physical energy which can only find its source in 
limitless faith. You have come in the final year of a century that has 
seen much suffering but which ends with great hope for freedom and 
reconciliation. It is a moment anticipated by countless prayers, brought 
forward by countless hands, and shaped very much by you, Holy Father, 
and your 20-year pilgrimage.
    We honor you for helping to lead a revolution of values and spirit 
in central Europe and the former Soviet Union, freeing millions to live 
by conscience, not coercion, and freeing all of us from the constant 
fear of nuclear war. We honor you for standing for human dignity, human 
rights, and religious freedom and for helping people to find the courage 
to stand up for themselves, from Africa to Asia to the Western 
    We honor you for your work to bring peace to nations and peoples 
divided by old hatreds and suspicions, from Bosnia and Kosovo, to 
central Africa, to Indonesia, to the Middle East, even to our own 
communities. People still need to hear your message that all are God's 
children, all have fallen short of His glory, all the injustices of 
yesterday cannot excuse a single injustice today.
    Holy Father, we are moved by your desire to mark the new millennium 
with a journey to Jerusalem, to bring mercy and reconciliation to all 
those who believe in one God, in the holy place where all our faiths 
    Your Holiness, we honor you, too, because you have never let those 
of us who enjoy the blessings of prosperity, freedom, and peace forget 
our responsibilities. On your last visit to the United States you called 
on us to build a society truly worthy of the human person, a society in 
which none are so poor they have nothing to give and none are so rich 
they have nothing to receive. Today you visit an America that is 
thriving but also striving, striving to include those who do not yet 
share in our prosperity at home and striving to put a human face on the 
global economy by advancing the dignity of work, the rights of women, 
the well-being of children, and the help of our common environment.
    You will see an America that is not simply living for today but 
working for future generations, an America working harder to be what you 
have asked us to be, an example of justice and civic virtues, freedom 
fulfilled, and goodness at home and abroad.
    The Catholic Church in America is helping all of us to realize that 
vision. Here in St. Louis, Catholic charities are helping families 
conquer violence and drug abuse, helping people in need to find work and 
to finance their first homes, helping refugees from war-torn lands to 
build new lives, building housing for the elderly, including the new 
Pope John Paul II Apartments, and leading countless other efforts that 
lift our people's lives.
    All over our country, the Catholic faithful do this work for the 
sake of all Americans,

[[Page 127]]

and they are joined in their work by Americans of all faiths.
    Your Holiness, every American welcomes you and hopes that you will 
come to see us again. I am nowhere near as gifted a linguist as you are, 
Holy Father, but as they say in your native Poland: Sto lat i wiecej--
may you live 100 years and more. And may you keep working and teaching 
and lighting the way, for all of us and all the world.
    Welcome to the United States.

Note: The President spoke at 1:50 p.m. at the Missouri Air National 
Guard Hangar. In his remarks, he referred to Archbishop Justine Rigali 
of St. Louis; Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo of the Holy See; Governor Mel 
Carnahan of Missouri; Mayor Clarence Harmon of St. Louis; St. Louis 
County Executive George Westfall; U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See/
Vatican City Corinne Claiborne Boggs. The transcript made available by 
the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of Pope John 
Paul II.

[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents]

[Page 127]
Monday, February 1, 1999
Volume 35--Number 4
Pages 109-155
Week Ending Friday, January 29, 1999
Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With Pope John Paul II in 
St. Louis

January 26, 1999

    Q. Mr. President, are there any thoughts you'd care to share with 
us, now, as you sit down with the Holy Father?
    The President. Well, we have a lot of things to discuss, so I'm 
looking forward to it. We're going to talk about many places in the 
world, and I'm anxious to hear his thoughts on his recent trip to 
Mexico. And then I expect we'll go through a lot of other hot spots in 
the world.
    Q. How has his advice affected your decisions so far in your 
    The President. He reminds us to think of the people, not just the 
governments of other countries but the people of other countries. And 
that's an important thing for an American President to keep in mind.
    Press aide. Thank you, pool. To your left, please. We have another 

[At this point, one group of reporters left the room, and another group 

    The President. I think the Church should buy the company producing 
the film, and you could fund all the Catholic charities all over the 
world with it. We could sell all the film the photographers use. 

Note: The exchange began at 2:28 p.m. at the Air National Guard Base. A 
tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.

[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents]

[Page 127-134]
Monday, February 1, 1999
Volume 35--Number 4
Pages 109-155
Week Ending Friday, January 29, 1999
Remarks in a Roundtable Discussion on Social Security and Medicare

January 27, 1999

    The President. Thank you, and good morning. The Vice President and I 
are delighted to welcome you here. We have an unusually large delegation 
from the United States Congress here today, and I believe I have all 
their names, and I would like to acknowledge Senator Thomas and 
Representatives Becerra, Bliley, Borski, Cardin, Hill, Nadler, 
Pickering, Portman, Pomeroy, Markey, Smith, and Tauscher. I think I have 
got them all. And give them a hand. [Applause] I think that's amazing 
that they're here.
    I would like to thank Secretary Shalala, Social Security 
Commissioner Apfel, and Gene Sperling for their work on this meeting 
today. I'd like to thank our panelists Laura Tyson, Uwe Reinhardt, 
Martha McSteen, Hans Riemer, and Stuart Altman for their presence. And 
they will be introduced in a few moments.
    In my State of the Union Address last week, I challenged Congress 
and the American people to meet the long-term challenges our country 
faces for the 21st century. Today you all know we are here to talk about 
perhaps the largest of those, the aging of America.
    The number of elderly Americans will double by 2030. Thanks to 
medical advances, by the middle of the next century, the average 
American will live to be 82--6 years longer than today. These extra 
years of life are a great gift, but they do present a problem for Social 
Security, for Medicare, for how we will manage the whole nature of our 
    As I have said repeatedly, this is a high-class problem, and the 
older I get the better it looks. [Laughter] But it is one, nonetheless, 
that we have to face. Fortunately, we are in a strong position to act 
because of our prosperity and our budget surplus.

[[Page 128]]

    It is well to remember that the current prosperity of this country 
was created not by rash actions in Washington, but by facing boldly the 
challenge forced by the budget deficits, by getting the deficit down, 
getting into balance, bringing the interest rates down, and bringing the 
economy back. We also should face the challenge of the aging of America 
in the same way.
    In the State of the Union, I laid out a three-part plan and asked 
Congress to consider it, to invest our surplus in ways that will both 
strengthen our economy today and in the future, and meet the needs of 
the aging of America. First, I proposed that we devote 62 percent of the 
surplus for the next 15 years to saving Social Security, investing a 
small portion in the private sector, as private, State, and local 
government pensions do. The average position of the retirement fund in 
the stock market, of Social Security, would be under 2 percent of the 
market for the next 15 years, under 3 percent for the next 20 years, and 
always under 4 for the next 50 years.
    Over the course of the last week, I have been gratified to see 
discussions of this proposal, and obviously differences about the whole 
market investment issue, but substantial agreement in the idea of 
dedicating a large portion of the surplus to saving Social Security 
across partisan lines. And for that I am very grateful. I think we 
should build on this to extend the life of the Social Security Trust 
Fund further. If we do what I suggested, it will add 55--take us to 
    I think we should have a 75-year life for the Social Security Trust 
Fund. We should also make some changes to reduce the poverty rate among 
elderly women who have a poverty rate at twice--almost twice the general 
poverty rate among seniors in our country. And I believe we should 
eliminate the limits on what seniors on Social Security can earn.
    To make the changes necessary to go to 75 years on the Trust Fund 
and deal with these other challenges, we will simply have to have a 
bipartisan process. There is no way to avoid it. But I'm confident that 
the changes, while somewhat difficult, are fully achievable. And if we 
work together, we can make them.
    To prepare America for the senior boom will require more than saving 
Social Security. We also have to deal with the challenge to Medicare and 
our obligation to make sure that our seniors have access to quality 
health care. I want to say very clearly that we need to set aside enough 
of the surplus for Medicare and Social Security before we address new 
initiatives like tax cuts. That's why the second part of our proposal 
calls for devoting 15 percent of the surplus for 15 years to the 
Medicare Trust Fund. If we do this and nothing else, we can secure the 
Trust Fund until after the year 2020.
    But I want to make something else clear. I believe that--some have 
suggested that by dedicating the surplus to Medicare, we won't need to 
make any decisions to reform the program. I disagree with that. Medicare 
needs revenues to increase its solvency, but it also needs reform to 
make sure that it is modern and competitive and to gain additional 
savings to help finance a long overdue prescription drug benefit. So, 
for me, reforming Medicare and committing the surplus go hand-in-hand.
    I'd also like to say that, for me, there could be no better use of 
our surplus in assuring a secure retirement and health care to older 
Americans. And I believe that it is good not only for older Americans 
but for their children and grandchildren as well, and for the larger 
    Why is that? Well, first of all, if we dedicate this portion of the 
surplus to Social Security and Medicare over the next 15 years, 
obviously, in most of those years that money will not be needed. In all 
those years we will, in effect, be buying back the national debt. As we 
do that, we will bring the percent of our debt--I mean, our publicly 
held debt as a percentage of our economy--down to its lowest point since 
1917, since before World War I. What will that do? That will drive 
interest rates down, and it will free private capital up to invest in 
the United States, to create jobs, to raise incomes. So I think that 
it's very important.
    If you look around the world today at the troubles these countries 
are facing, when their budget deficits get out of hand, when their 
interest rates go through the roof and they can't get any money from 

[[Page 129]]

when we worry constantly about our trading partners, trying to keep them 
in good shape and help them to not only preserve our economic markets, 
to preserve partners for peace and democracy and freedom--if we in the 
United States could actually be doing something to pay down our debt 
while saving Social Security and Medicare, we would keep these interest 
rates down. And it would be an enormous hedge against whatever 
unforeseen future volatility occurs in the global economy.
    So this is a strategy that will actually grow the American economy 
while preparing for the future. Of course, in an even more direct way 
it's good for the rest of America because, when the baby boomers retire, 
as I said in the State of the Union, none of us want our children to be 
burdened with the costs of our retirement, nor do we want our 
grandchildren's childhoods to be lessened because our kids are having to 
pay so much for our retirement or our medical care. So, from my point of 
view, this is a very good thing for Americans of all ages, without 
regard to their political party, their income, their section of the 
country. I think this will benefit the country and help to bring us 
together and strengthen us over the next several decades.
    Let me just say very briefly that the third part of our proposal is 
to dedicate $500 billion of the surplus to give tax relief to working 
families through USA accounts, Universal Savings Accounts. Under my 
plan, working Americans would receive a tax credit to contribute to 
their own savings account and an additional tax credit to match a 
portion of their savings, with the choice theirs about how to invest the 
funds, and more help for those who are working harder on lower incomes 
and, therefore, would have a harder time saving.
    This new tax credit would make it easier for Americans to save for 
their own retirement and long-term care needs. And obviously, this would 
be further helped by something that is already in our balanced budget, 

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