Address to the Nation
April 7, 1995
Good evening. I want to thank you for joining me tonight andfor this chance to give you, the American people, a report on the new Congress--what we've been doing, what we hope to do and how we're working to keep faith with what you sent us here to do.
But first let me thank the hundreds of thousands of Americans who've written me over the past few months. Your letters are full of good ideas and often moving words of encouragement. This letter, addressed to "Dear Mr. Newt" included a portrait of George Washington. It was sent to me by first grader Steven Franzkowiak from Georgia. And I thank each and every one of you.
Last September the House Republicans signed a Contract with America. We signed this contract and made some promises to you and to ourselves. You elected, us and for the last 93 days we have been keeping our word. With your help we're bringing about real change. We made Congress subject to the same laws as everyone else, we cut congressional committee staffs and budgets by 30%, and we voted on every item in the Contract. And I can tell you tonight we are going to sell one Congressional building and privatize a Congressional parking lot.
While we've done a lot, this contract has never been about curing all the ills of the nation. 100 days cannot overturn the neglect of decades. The contract's purpose has been to show that change is possible, that even in Washington you can do what you say you're going to do . In short, we've wanted to prove to you that democracy still has the vitality and the will to do something about the problems facing our nation. And it seems to me, whether you are conservative or liberal, that is a very positive thing.
And so I want to talk about the Contract tonight--our successes and our failures, but I also want to talk about something much larger. Because although I've spent the last six months of my life living and breathing and fighting for what's written in this Contract, I know the American people want more than these ten things.
So what I want to talk with you about tonight is not just what a new political majority on Capitol Hill has accomplished in 100 days, but how all of us together--Republicans and Democrats alike--must totally remake the federal government--to change the very way it thinks, the way it does business, the way it treats its citizens. After all, the purpose of changing government is to improve the lives of our citizens, strengthen the future of our children, make our neighborhoods safe and build a better country. Government is not the end it is the means.
We Americans wake up every morning, go to work, take our kids to school, fix dinner, do all the things we expect of ourselves and yet something isn't quite right. There is no confidence that government understands the values and realities of our lives. The government is out of touch and out of control. It is in need of deep and deliberate change. Now when that change is accomplished, then perhaps Americans will be able to sleep a little better at night and wake up feeling less anxious about their futures.
I represented the people who worked at the Ford plant in Hapeville, Georgia. The Ford Motor Company, like all of the domestic auto industry, faced the need to change in order to keep up with tougher competition. Today, they produce twice as many cars per employee at three times the quality. General Motors and Chrysler are doing the same thing. So are America's small businesses. They're all rethinking the way they operate. Should government be any different?...Of course not.
We sincerely believe we can reduce spending and at the same time make government better. Virtually every institution in America, except government, has reengineered themselves to become
more efficient over the last decade. They cut spending, provided
better products, better education and better service for less.
But I believe we must remake government for reasons much
larger than saving money or improving services. No civilization
can survive with 12-year-olds having babies, with 15-year-olds
killing each other, with 17-year-olds dying of AIDS, with 18-year
olds getting diplomas they can't read. Every night on every local
news we see the human tragedies that have grown out of the
current welfare state.
And as a father of two daughters, I cannot ignore the terror
and worry parents in our inner cities must feel for their
children. Within a half mile of this capital, drugs, violence &
despair threaten the lives of our citizens. We cannot ignore our
fellow Americans in such desperate straits by thinking that huge
amounts of tax dollars release us from our moral responsibility
to help these parents and children. There is no reason the
federal government must keep an allegiance to failure. With
goodwill, with common sense, with the courage to change, we can
do better for all Americans.
Another fact we cannot turn our head away from is this, no
truly moral civilization would burden its children with the
economic excesses of the parents and grandparents. This talk of
burdening future generations is not just rhetoric; we're talking
about hard, economic consequences that will limit our children's
and grandchildren's standard of living. Yet that is what we are
doing. For the children trapped in poverty, for the children
whose futures are trapped by a government debt they're going to
have to pay, we have an obligation tonight to talk about the
legacy we're leaving our children and grandchildren, an
obligation to talk about the deliberate remaking of our
government. This change will not be accomplished in the next 100
days, but we must start by recognizing the moral and economic
failure of the current methods of government.
In these last 100 days, we have begun to change these failed
methods. We outlined 10 major proposals in the Contract that
would begin to break the logjam of the past; the House passed
nine of them. First, we passed the Shays Act which makes the
Congress obey all the laws that other Americans have to obey.
The House passed it, the Senate passed it and the President
signed it. So that's one law signed, sealed and delivered.
We passed a balanced budget amendment in the House with
bipartisan support; it has been temporarily defeated in the
Senate by one vote. Although constitutional amendments are harder
to get through Congress because they require two-thirds vote
rather than a simple majority, don't be discouraged. Senator
Dole has said he will call it up for another vote. The momentum
is with us and with you help and your voice I believe it is
possible this amendment will pass later this Congress.
As promised, we introduced a constitutional amendment on term
limits, but we failed even though 85% of House Republicans voted
for it. Again, that two-thirds vote. There have been 180 bills
introduced to limit congressional terms over America's history,
but not one of them ever made it to the House floor...until last
week. I pledge to you that term limits will be the first vote of
the next Congress, so keep the pressure on, keep your hopes up.
In both the House and the Senate we passed a line item veto,
just as you asked. It's remarkable that a Republican House and a
Republican Senate are giving such a strong tool to a president of
the other party. I believe it shows our good faith and
determination to cut spending.
Other Contract proposals have passed the House and are being
worked on in the Senate. We passed regulatory reform, legal
reform and welfare reform. We passed a $500 tax credit per
child. We passed an increase in the earning limit for senior
citizens, so they won't have their social security checks cut if
they earn extra money. We passed a capital gains tax cut and
indexed these gains to spur the savings and investments that
Even with all these successes and others, the Contract with
America is only a beginning. It is the preliminary skirmish to
the big battles yet to come.
The big battles will deal with how we remake the Government
of the United States. The measure of everything we do will be
whether we are creating a better future with more opportunities
for our children.
New ideas, new ways and old-fashioned common sense can improv
government while reducing its costs. Let me give you an example.
The United States Government is the largest purchaser of vacuum
tubes in the Western world. This is a Federal Aviation
Administration vacuum tube. Good solid 1895 technology. This is
the updated mid-1950s version. When you fly in America, vacuum
tubes in the air traffic control system keep you safe. Our
purchasing rules are so complicated and so wasteful that our
government has notbeen able in seven years to figure out how to
replace vacuum tubes with this. This is a microchip that has the
computing power of 3 million vacuum tubes. So today's government
operates this way; after we remake it, the government of the
future will operate this way.
My point is this: this same reliance on the obsolete pervades
most of the federal government--not just in regard to computers
but in regard to its thinking, its attitudes, its approaches to
It's one thing if we're talking about vacuum tubes, but this
backward thinking is entirely something else if we're talking
about human lives. The purpose of all this change is not simply
a better government; it is a better America.
A truly compassionate government would replace the welfare
state with opportunity. The welfare system's greatest cost is the
human cost to the poor. In the name of "compassion" we have
funded a system that is cruel and destroys families. Its failure
is reflected by the violence, brutality, child abuse and drug
addiction in every local TV news broadcast.
Poor Americans are trapped in unsafe government housing,
saddled with rules that are anti-work, anti-family and
antiproperty. Let me give you some statistics on this failure.
Welfare spending now exceeds $300 billion a year. Yet despite
all the trillions that have been spent since 1970, the number of
children in poverty has increased 40%.
On this chart, you'll notice that welfare spending goes up,
and so does children born outside marriage. Year by year they
track each other. The more tax money we spend on welfare, the
more children who are born without benefit of family and without
strong bonds of love and nurturing. If money alone were the
answer, this would be a paradise.
Since money is not the answer, it should be clear we have a
moral imperative to remake the welfare system so every American
can lead a full life. After all, we believe that all men and
women are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights
among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We
are determined to remake this government until every child of
every racial background, in every neighborhood in America, knows
that he or she has all the opportunities of an American.
I believe we have to do a number of things to become an
opportunity society. We must restore freedom by ending
bureaucratic micromanagement here in Washington. As any good
business leader will tell you, decisions should be made as
closely as possible to the source of the problem. This country
is too big and too diverse for Washington to have the knowledge
to make the right decision on local matters; we've got to return
power back to you -- to your families, your neighborhoods, your
local and state governments. We need to promote economic growth
by reducing regulation, taxation and frivolous lawsuits.
Everywhere I, go Americans complain about an overly
complicated tax code and an arrogant, unpredictable and unfair
Internal Revenue Service. This summer we will begin hearings on
bold, decisive reform of the income tax system. We're looking at
a simplified flat tax and other ways to bring some sense to the
disorder and inequity of our tax system. Another reason for
optimism is the tremendous opportunities being created by the
Tremendous is a big word so let me show you an example. This
is a traditional telephone cable. This is a fiber optic cable.
You can barely see it. This almost invisible fiber optic cable
is equal to 64 of these big bulky traditional cables. Now that
is a tremendous opportunity. With these breakthroughs the most
rural parts of America can be connected electronically to the
best learning, the best health care and the best work
opportunities in the world. Distance learning can offer new hope
to the present inner city neighborhood, the poorest Indian
reservation and the smallest rural community. Distance medicine
can bring the best specialist in the world to your health clinic,
Furthermore, the breakthroughs in molecular medicine may cure
Alzheimer's, eliminate many genetic defects and offer new cures
for diabetes, cancer and heart disease. These breakthroughs
combined with preventive care and medical innovations can create
better health for all Americans. And we will pass a reform so
that when you change jobs you can't be denied insurance even if
you or your family have health problems.
We will improve Medicare by offering a series of new Medicare
options that will increase senior citizens control over their own
health care and guarantee them access to the best and most modern
systems of health research and health innovation. My father, my
mother, and my mother-in-law all rely on Medicare. I know how
crucial the Medicare system is to senior Americans, and we will
insure that it continues to provide the care our seniors need
with more choices at less cost to the elderly.
All around us opportunities for a better life are being
developed but our government all too often ignores or even blocks
them. We need those breakthroughs which create new jobs, new
health, and new learning, to give us the opportunity and growth
to deal with our budgetary problems. We must get our national
finances in order. The time has come to balance the federal
budget and to free our children from the burdens upon their
prosperity and their lives.
This is a Congressional voting card. This card goes into a
box on the House floor and the computer records the members vote.
The Congressional voting card is the most expensive credit card
in the world. For two generations it has been used to pile up
trillions in debt that our children and grandchildren will
eventually have to repay.
Now a big debt has a big impact. To make such numbers real,
let me give you an example. If you have a child or grandchild
born this year, that child is going to pay $187,000 in taxes in
their lifetime to pay their share of the interest on the debt.
Yes, you heard me right, $187,000 in taxes, in their lifetimes--
that's over $3,500 in taxes every year of their working lives
just to pay interest on the debt we are leaving them. That's
before they are taxed to pay for Social Security or Medicare,
education or highways or police or the national defense. You know
and I know, that's just not fair. It was once an American
tradition to pay off the mortgage and leave the children the
farm. Now we seem to be selling the farm and leaving our
children the mortgage. By 1997, we will pay more for interest on
the debt than for the national defense. That's right, more of our
tax money will be spent to pay interest on government bonds than
we'll pay for the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine
Corps, the intelligence agencies and the defense bureaucracy
Okay, Social Security. I want to reassure all of you who are
on Social Security, or will soon retire, that your Social
Security is fine. No one will touch your Social Security,
period. But we must make sure that the baby boomers'
retirements, which are coming up in the next century, are as
secure as their parents'. Because the money the government
supposedly has been putting aside from the baby boomers Social
Security taxes is not there. The government has been borrowing
that money to pay for the budget deficit. The Social Security
trust fund is simply I.O.U.s from the U.S. Treasury. So when the
baby boomers get set to retire, where's the money to pay them
going to come from? Well, can't the government just borrow more
money? The honest answer is no. No system, no country is
wealthy enough to have unlimited borrowing.
But the answer is clear. The key to protecting the baby
boomers Social Security is to balance the budget. That way by
the time the baby boomers retire the government will be
financially sound enough to pay them. The problem is not Social
Security. After all, Social Security would be fine if the
federal government would stop borrowing the money. The
government can stop borrowing the money when we balance the
budget. It is just that simple.
Our goals are simple. We don't want our children to drown in
debt. We want baby boomers to be able to retire with the same
security as their parents. We want our senior Americans to be
able to rely on Medicare without fear.
These are the reasons why, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt
said, "Our generation has a rendezvous with destiny." This is
the year we rendezvous with our destiny to establish a clear plan
to balance the budget. It can no longer be put off. That is why I
am speaking to you so frankly.
Next month we will propose a budget that is balanced over
seven years. The budget can be balanced even with the problems of
the federal government. It can be balanced without touching a
penny of Social Security and without raising taxes. In fact,
spending overall can go up every year. We simply must limit
annual spending increases to about 3% between now and 2002.
The key is the willingness to change, to set priorities, to
redesign the government, to recognize that this is not the 1960s
or '70s but the l990s and we need a government to match the
times. As I've said, Social Security is off the table. But that
leaves a lot on the table--corporate welfare, subsidies of every
special interest. Defense is on the table. I'm a hawk, but a
cheap hawk. As the budget battle rages over the coming months,
you will hear screams from the special interest groups. I'm sure
you've already heard the dire cries that we were going to take
food out of the mouths of schoolchildren. That we were going to
feed them ketchup. The fact of the matter is that all we did was
vote to increase school lunch money four and a half percent every
year for five years and give the money to the states to spend,
because we thought they would do a better job than the federal
government of ensuring that the children's meals were
We believe that if local parents, local school boards and
local state legislators visit their children's local schools,
they will know firsthand about their children's lunches. Our
critics believe that if the school hires a clerk, who doesn't
cook anything, to fill out a report to go to the state clerk, who
doesn't cook anything but fills out a report so that the national
clerk in Washington, who doesn't cook anything, can write you a
letter about the school they didn't visit in the county they 've
never been able to reassure you about the lunch they've never
seen. That is the difference in our two approaches.
All I ask is that as we work to balance the budget that you
verify the facts on both sides. And then you decide which
approach is best.
Whatever the arguments this remains a country of unparalleled
possibilities. I was talking the other day to a fellow who does
business in Europe. He said what impresses people overseas is
that the U.S. can change faster than anybody. That's why we're
competitive once again in the world. We as a people have the
natural ability to respond to change. That is what we do best
when the government is not in the way. Our potential is as great
and prosperous as it's ever been in our history. From now on all
roads lead forward.
This job can't be done in Washington. We need your
participation in a new dialogue. I hope every high school and
college student will spend some class time in April or early May
looking at the impact of the deficit on their young lives. We
are making this speech and our briefing on the budget available
through the Library of Congress at Thomas on the Internet. Both
are also available from your congressman or congresswoman s
office. We want every American to have the facts and participate
in the new dialogue.
If I had one message for this country on this day when we
celebrate the act of keeping our word, it would be a simple
message: Idealism is American. To be romantic is American.
It's okay to be a skeptic, but don't be a cynic. It's okay to
raise good questions, but don't assume the worst. It's okay to
report difficulties, but it's equally good to report victories.
Yes, we have problems, and of course it's going to be
difficult to enact these things. That's the American way. And
of course, we're going to have to work hard, and of course we're
going to have to negotiate with the President, and of course the
American people are going to have to let their will be known.
But why should we be afraid of that? That is freedom.
I am here tonight to say that we're going to open a dialogue,
because we want to create a new partnership with the American
people, a plan to remake the government and balance the budget
that is the American peoples' plan--not the House Republican
plan, not the Gingrich plan, but the plan of the American people.
And it is in that spirit of committing ourselves idealistically,
committing ourselves romantically, believing in America, that we
celebrate having kept our word. And we promise to begin a new
partnership, so that together we and the American people can give
our children and our country a new birth of freedom.
Thank you, and good night.