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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 17, 2002
Radio Address by the President to the Nation
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week, I hosted an economic forum at Baylor University in Texas. Participants shared their concerns about the economic challenges we face, and their ideas for making the economy stronger.
A common theme among many panelists was that we must leave every dollar we can in the hands of the people who have earned it. We must be disciplined with our taxpayers' money, which requires Congress to focus on funding our nation's priorities.
Winning the war on terror is our top priority. The men and women fighting the war must have every tool and all the training they need to fight and win. That is why my budget includes the largest increase in defense spending in a generation. And that is why I urge the Congress to pass a final defense appropriations bill as soon as they return to Washington.
Keeping our homeland secure is another high priority. My budget would nearly double funding for homeland security to almost $38 billion -- money to train and equip firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical personnel; money for the Coast Guard, to protect our ports and coasts; money to keep our water treatment plants and nuclear facilities safe.
A few weeks ago, Congress passed an emergency funding bill that provides more than $13 billion in immediate funding for the war on terror, more than $4 billion for homeland security, and completes our $20 billion commitment to the people of New York. I was pleased to sign it.
But Congress also sent along more than $5 billion in extra spending I did not ask for. Some of that $5 billion I have endorsed and will work to secure, but a lot of that money has nothing to do with a national emergency. Those who wrote the bill designed it so either I have to spend all the money, or none of it. At the economic forum on Tuesday, I made my position clear: I will spend none of the $5 billion.
We must remember the lessons of the past. In the 1960s, increased spending required by war was not balanced by slower spending in the rest of the government. As a result, in the 1970s we faced unemployment and growing deficits and spiraling inflation.
We cannot go down the path of soaring budget deficits. We must meet our defense and homeland security needs, and hold the line on other spending. My budget raises defense spending by more than 14 percent. It nearly doubles homeland security funding. In all other areas, it increases spending by two percent. Many families are living with raises like that, and so should the government.
The House of Representatives has done well by staying within these limits. Unfortunately, the Senate has not even passed a budget framework, and so far it has been ignoring fiscal discipline. I requested $2.4 billion for public housing; the bill moving through the Senate includes $300 million more. I requested $2.2 billion for agricultural research; again, the Senate wants to spend $300 million more.
I requested $3.1 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the Senate wants to spend $200 million more. And these levels could go higher. I challenge Congress to respect the taxpayers and show restraint with their money. It is very important they do so in order for our economy to continue to grow.
If Congress will not show spending restraint, I will enforce spending restraint. For the good of our economy, for the good of the people who pay taxes, my administration will spend what is truly needed, and not a dollar more.
Thank you for listening.