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pd01fe99 Remarks at a Memorial Service for Governor Lawton Chiles...
on January 26. <DOC> [Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents] [frwais.access.gpo.gov] [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 Hemisphere. 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 began. 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. <DOC> [Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents] [frwais.access.gpo.gov] [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 Presidency? 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 wave. [At this point, one group of reporters left the room, and another group entered.] 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. [Laughter] 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. <DOC> [Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents] [frwais.access.gpo.gov] [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 society. 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 2055. 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 economy. 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 anywhere, [[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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