March 03, 2001
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. As I begin, I want to say a few words about the people of Washington state. Earlier this week, that state was rocked by a powerful earthquake, which affected countless lives and caused billion dollars of damage. The Director of the Federal Emergency Management Association, Joe Allbaugh, went immediately to Seattle. And my administration is providing help. Our prayers are with the people of Washington state.
A few days ago, I had the honor of addressing a joint session of Congress. I hope you had a chance to tune in and hear my plans for the federal budget and my priorities for the country. After making my case to Congress, I headed out early the next morning on a swing through five states, to bring my case directly to you, the American people.
I approach our budget as American families do. First, we set priorities, and funded them. My top priority is education reform. And I have asked that the Department of Education receive the largest percentage increase of any federal agency. We increase funding for our reading programs and character education and recruiting good teachers. This time around, however, we won't be just spending more money. We will be setting higher standards, and expecting real results for all our children.
We're going to keep the promise of Social Security and keep the government from raiding the Social Security surplus. And to safeguard the system against long-term threats, I will form a Presidential commission to reform Social Security, and place it on firm financial ground.
We will spend more on Medicare, as well, nearly doubling its budget in 10 years. But just as important, we will modernize Medicare, to provide a prescription drug benefit for senior citizens. We will also support and strengthen America's military, starting with a pay increase, and better housing for our troops.
After meeting these national priorities, my budget pays down a record amount of national debt. We will pay off $2 trillion of debt over the next decade. That will be the largest debt reduction of any country, ever. Future generations shouldn't be forced to pay back money that we have borrowed. We owe this kind of responsibility to our children and grandchildren.
And in addition to funding our priorities, and reducing debt by a record amount, we set up a contingency fund of nearly $1 trillion, and we still have money left over. The surplus money that remains will be used for a broad, fair tax relief. A surplus, after all, is an over-charge of American tax payers. And on your behalf, I am asking for a refund.
My tax plan reduces income tax rates across the board, giving the largest percentage reductions to working families who need the most help. My plan reduces the marriage penalty, and gets rid of the death tax. It will boost the economy, and help create new businesses, new jobs and new growth, at a time when we need all three.
When the tax cut takes effect, the typical family of four will save $1,600 every year. Some say that's not much. But they ought to talk to people like Steven and Josefina Aramos, young parents trying to build a better life for their family. Right now they pay about $8,000 a year in federal income taxes. My plan will save this hard working family more than $2,000. Steven says, "Two thousand dollars is a lot to my family. If we had this money, it would help us reach our goal of paying off our personal debt in two years time."
Well, I want the Aramos family and millions of others like them to meet their goals, and to live out their best hopes for themselves and their children. Our federal budget must be good for the family budget.
That was my message to Congress on Tuesday. And now, I hope you'll send a message in favor of tax relief to your congressman or your senator. After all, the surplus is your money.
Thank you for listening.