66th Annual Conference and Exposition
July 16, 2001
Remarks by the Vice President and Lynne Cheney at the 66th Annual Conference and Exposition
PARTICIPANT: Welcome back to a very special session with the Vice President of our United States and his wife, Mrs. Cheney. (Applause.)
MRS. CHENEY: Thank you, very much. Now, I'm up here with Dick today because laryngitis is going around Washington, D.C. (Laughter.)
Now, I suspect that the fact that a number of people in our nation's capital are suddenly afflicted with silence is not going to cause great consternation among the American people. (Laughter.) Quite the opposite, I would suspect.
But it did cause Dick concern because he was committed to speak to you today and he woke up this morning sort of croaking and making some noises. But you couldn't really call it talking. And so he asked me if I would come along and deliver his speech.
Well, now, I was a little surprised -- but not entirely surprised because he once did the same favor for me. When I was chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and lost my voice, Dick agreed to give my speech. And I would like to tell you that he gave a very fine speech on the humanities, even though these were not among his strongest subjects in college. (Laughter.)
Dick, you have to remind me, were there any strong subjects you had in college?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MRS. CHENEY: That's not fair, is it? Not when a man has lost his voice. But, Dick, they did give you a chair. And I'm happy to deliver your remarks. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Fair enough. (Applause.)
MRS. CHENEY: I've got to tell you, he is a great husband. And, ladies and gentlemen, isn't he just the best vice president ever? (Applause.)
Well, George and Laura Bush and my husband and I left this city a year ago with high hopes. And Dick's object in returning here today is to report to you on how things stand -- the progress that's been made and what he and President Bush hope to achieve in the coming months.
As county officials you are all well aware that every day you're expected to show results. And if you don't, you're likely to hear about it from the next person you see on the street. Just as the founders intended, many of the most important and practical decisions of government are made at the local level.
And you've seen, as well, how slowly things can move in Washington. And undoubtedly it's caused you some frustration -- not just as government officials but as citizens. What should take months sometimes ends up taking years. Long term problems have a way of being put off to future administrations and future congresses. Responsibilities belonging to the federal government are sometimes neglected, while the prerogatives of states, counties, and cities are sometimes intruded upon. It is often that way.
But there have been some important changes over the first since months of this presidency. We now have a president who understands and respects the authority of local governments. (Applause.) Problems years in the making -- such as the long term threat to Social Security -- are no longer being left to another day. And there's a new tone in Washington, as well. The President is reaching out and working with members of both parties in a spirit of cooperation and good will. In a welcome contrast to times we all remember, in Washington today the debate is over ideas and issues.
Things are also moving a little faster, especially on matters affecting our nation's economy. And it's a good thing, too, because there is no time to waste. The economy began slowing down in the summer of 2000. Last fall and into this year, President Bush and the Vice President made the case that a major tax reduction was not only right and fair for the taxpayers, but urgent.
Building bipartisan support was the first major challenge. An even tougher job was getting the bill passed in time to make a difference. Only rarely in history can you find a tax cut that was introduced, debated, passed and carried out all in a single year and that is exactly what happened in 2001. (Applause.)
In January the conventional wisdom in Washington was that tax relief was out of the question. Conventional wisdom said that the votes simply weren't there. Conventional wisdom advised the administration to drop the subject and move on, but the President set a clear course and here we are six months into the administration with the first major tax relief in a generation now starting to flow back to the American people. (Applause.)
Reductions in tax withholding took effect two weeks ago. And the first checks will be mailed starting next week. These refunds will be the break families have needed after so many years of overpaying the government. And the $300 to $600 that most will receive is only a start. Their tax bills will continue to go down for the next 10 years, leaving them with thousands of dollars of their own money to spend or save or invest as they see fit. (Applause.)
The benefit of individual tax relief multiplied by millions can have a powerful effect on the economy in greater capital formation, higher productivity and more jobs. And because the President and Congress acted without delay, the current downturn is far less likely to drag on. This will be a credit to members of both parties as we see the results in new growth throughout the country.
There are still risks to be avoided. The main one is the temptation to cite a declining surplus as a reason to scale back the tax cut. As the economy slows, of course, revenues will increase at a slower rate and the surplus will be smaller. This has been understood from the start.
But that is not a case against tax relief. It is a case for it. There are two ways to keep the budget in surplus and both are necessary. The first is to control spending. The Congress can do that by following the responsible guidelines in the President's budget.
And the second way to keep the government in the black is to increase -- to raise -- to make economic growth ever larger. Lower tax rates are critical to that goal and so is the assurance that the tax cuts are permanent.
Tax payers, entrepreneurs, all who are making plans for the future need to know they can count on the administration's pro-growth strategy to continue. And that is why the tax cut must be implemented in full.
The President is in a good position to caution against uncontrolled spending because where spending is clearly needed, he has supported it. For example, in education. The highest percentage increase of any area in the budget goes to education -- a little over 11 percent. (Applause.)
For that among other reasons his education reforms have gained broad support all across this nation and bipartisan support in the Congress. We are today on the verge of the most significant school reform in the last 35 years. And that is a very good thing. When the President's plan becomes law, schools will have less dictation from Washington and more cooperation. There will be greater accountability, but also more flexibility for schools and meeting high standards.
But particularly with an audience of county officials, one point needs to be stressed, this administration believes in local control. (Applause.)
Authority for the nation's schools ultimately does not belong in Washington, D.C. but in the cities where you work. The school year begins soon, and even before then the House and Senate will adjourn for the summer. The clearest responsibility they have now is to produce a final education bill for the President's signature and to do it soon.
When Congress comes back in September, everyone in Washington will be facing problems that have been with us for a while. But here, too, there is important progress to show in the last six months.
Social Security reform was one of the largest issues in last year's campaign. It has been a contentious matter in many elections and often used to stir up fear and division. And for a generation or so very little seemed to change.
It seemed almost no one had the political courage to step forward and propose even the most obvious common sense reforms. Among those who did was Senator Pat Moynihan, a Democrat. Over the years he warned repeatedly about the threats facing Social Security and the consequences of failing to address them. Senator Moynihan, I'm happy to report, is now co-chairing the Social Security Commission. He has been appointed to that position by President Bush.
We now have serious people from both parties preparing recommendations for bipartisan reform that will allow Americans to build personal retirement savings. (Applause.) Though few would have thought it possible, the days of using Social Security as a political weapon have ended.
The President is also providing leadership on energy, setting a new policy that covers an entire range of energy concerns facing the American people -- from our need for greater efficiency to better stewardship of the environment.
One of these concerns is the country's aging power grid and the growing problem we have in getting electricity from the power plant to the switch. It's clear that we must upgrade and expand the power grid. If we put more connections in place, we'll have gone a long way toward avoiding future blackouts.
Another broad aim is to increase energy supplies from diverse sources. This kind of balanced approach is essential if we're going to meet the country's energy needs down the road. And it can be done with respect for the environment. Good stewardship is a public value in 21st Century America.
Out in Wyoming where Dick and I grew up, good stewardship is something you learn early on. People rely on the land not only for the livelihood it yields but for the life it offers. The quickest way to lose respect in our part of the country is to act harshly or selfishly toward the natural world and its inhabitants. We love our snow-capped mountains and our clear skies and our clean streams. And we want future generations to be able to enjoy them and to draw sustenance from them.
Most Americans believe in showing consideration for the land and life around us. President Bush and this Vice President do not accept the false choice between more energy and a safer environment. Indeed, an energy shortage is bad for the environment -- as we've seen in California, where dirtier plants have been running harder in order to keep the lights on.
It is possible to have more energy and a better environment as we've already seen with incredible advances in the technology employed in locating and producing energy. This is one of guiding principles of the President's energy policy: making better use of energy through conservation and the latest technology. (Applause.)
On the production side it's everything from clean coal technology to alternative clean energy supplies. It also includes the highly effective new methods that allow much oil production to go literally unnoticed and to leave the habitat virtually undisturbed. But it's not just a matter of cleaner use. We must become more efficient in energy use, as well. For a family or business energy efficiency can mean lower energy bills. For the country, efficiency helps us make the most of our resources, softens the impact of high prices and reduces pollution. Every step we take toward wiser use of energy and more diverse supplies at home will make us that much less dependent on overseas suppliers and less vulnerable to the supply shocks imposed on us from abroad.
For the country as a whole, our progress in energy efficiency has been nothing short of remarkable. Over the last three decades our economy has grown by 126 percent; our use of energy has grown only 26 percent.
Under the President's plan our country will continue to build on this very successful history. We can and will make even greater strides in energy efficiency.
While such advances cannot alone solve America's energy problems, they are a very important part of our energy future. New technologies are proving that we can save energy without sacrificing our standard of living. And we're going to encourage these technologies in every way possible. Conservation is a must.
And this very week Congress will be putting the final touches on legislation enacting the President's recommendations on conservation. This is an excellent beginning, a great start on a comprehensive plan.
The President's energy plan will also help us to address the problem of global climate change. The progress our country has already made on conservation and energy has significantly reduced the amount of carbon emissions per unit of GDP. Technology will be critical to our progress going forward.
There is still a great deal to be learned about climate change. The United States Senate, you'll remember, rejected the Kyoto Agreement by a vote of 95 to 0. And President Bush agreed that the approach of Kyoto was flawed and unworkable. It would have produced little or no net benefit to the global environment while imposing massive job losses on the American people.
Under President Bush, the United States is taking a leadership role on the issue of climate change. The United States has put forth more effort than any other country on climate change research and we will continue leading that scientific effort.
The solutions are to be found in technology. And there is no doubt that ours will be the country to find the answers and master the technology. After all this country has met many great tests over its history. Some have involved great difficulty and major sacrifice. Others have demanded resolve, ingenuity and clarity of purpose. And that's really the case with the energy today.
We have it within our power to make great strides and reap great rewards, a healthier environment, new jobs, a stronger economy and a brighter future. These are some of the key points that President Bush and the Vice President will be addressing in the coming months.
I know Dick has been looking forward to joining you today because there is a lot of influence in this room. Our entire home state has fewer people in it that do some of the counties represented here today. But I know that Dick learned an important lesson when he was campaigning through and representing Wyoming's 23 counties -- he learned this important lesson, never underestimate the influence and talent to be found in county officers. (Applause.)
Let me also add that the lesson was reinforced for him by my mother who was a county officer, the deputy sheriff of Natrona County, Wyoming, where Dick and I grew up. (Applause.)
I also know that President Bush and this Vice President hope you'll support their work whenever possible. In return, you can be sure they will always use with care the authority that is theirs and treat with respect the authority that is yours. Thank you, very, very much. (Applause.)