National Association of Home Builders
June 6, 2002
The Vice Presidents Delivers Remarks to the National Association of Home Builders
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I'm delighted to be here today with home builders from across America, and with my good friend Mel Martinez, who is doing an excellent job as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
On the way over this afternoon I thought back to 1991, when I was serving at the Pentagon and had planned to speak at your annual convention and builder's show in Atlanta. Pressing business intervened, and I had to postpone the appearance. So I guess I should thank you for giving such a warm welcome to a guy who shows up eleven years late.
I also have the honor of bringing good wishes from the commander in chief, and a true friend of America's home builders, President George W. Bush.
The President regrets that the change in his schedule kept him from being here today. But on his behalf, let me welcome you to Washington, and to this spring meeting of your board of directors. Housing and related industries account for about 14 percent of this nation's economy. And by its very nature, the work of home builders - putting up new houses, improving neighborhoods - is a sign of the American people's belief in ourselves, and in a better tomorrow. A healthy economy and a confident nation depend on a vigorous, growing housing sector - and this is one of the goals of our administration.
From our nation's earliest days, home ownership has embodied our core values of freedom and self-reliance. For low and middle-income Americans, owning a house is one of the keys to upward mobility. Home ownership is an anchor for families and a source of stability for communities. It serves as the foundation for many people's financial security. And it is a source of pride for people who have worked hard to provide for their families.
Our Administration is committed to broadening homeownership, in particular for minorities. The homeownership rate for minority families has increased to nearly 50 percent - yet it remains significantly lower than the rate for non-Hispanic whites in America. President Bush has advanced a range of proposals to help many thousands of American families to better their lives, gaining that extra measure of economic security and pride that come from owning a house. He has also directed Secretary Martinez to streamline and clarify the process of buying a home, to eliminate needless barriers and bring down transaction costs.
As all of you well know, however, the best thing government can do to extend home ownership and spread opportunity is to keep this economy strong and growing.
Government can do this in many ways - none more important that exercising restraint in the rate of taxation we impose, and in the kind of spending choices we make here in Washington.
On taxes, tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the tax relief that President Bush promised to the American people, and delivered in full - the largest tax reduction in a generation.
More help is on the way with increases in the child credit ... a reduction in the marriage penalty ... more chances to build tax-free retirement savings ... and an end to the federal death tax. And now that we've passed tax relief, Congress should not take it away. Under current law, the tax cuts are set to expire in 2011. To keep this economy on the path to recovery - and for the good of hardworking Americans - it's time to make the Bush tax cut permanent.
We can leave taxpayers with more of their own earnings, and still fund every responsibility of the federal government - just so long as Washington practices fiscal discipline. Since budget surpluses arrived in 1998, domestic spending has gone up 36 percent, way above the rate of inflation, and more than our budget can bear in a time of war.
President Bush has set budget priorities to fit the times. He's proposed major investments in homeland security and national defense, while holding most other domestic spending to an increase of two percent. If followed, this plan could return us to a balanced budget as early as 2005. But we cannot hope to reach that goal if the federal government spends as freely as it has in the last several years. Were we to permit Congress to continue increasing discretionary spending by seven percent or more every year, we'd be looking at deficits totaling two trillion dollars over the next decade. Out-of-control government spending is a threat to long-term prosperity, and we must not allow it.
There's always a temptation on Capitol Hill to spend without discipline. We're seeing it again just this week. In response to the President's request for emergency spending to defend the homeland, the United States Senate is attempting to add an extra four billion dollars in lower-priority, often nonessential measures - and calling it emergency spending.
I hope Congress will act responsibly on emergency spending, and throughout the appropriations process. And I know this: President Bush came to Washington pledging fiscal responsibility - careful stewardship of tax dollars. And he's a man of his word. If the final emergency spending bill looks like the Senate version, the President will protect the American taxpayer with his veto pen.
As our administration pursues a full agenda in Washington - on everything from fiscal restraint to better public schools - never for a moment do we lose sight of the most important responsibility we have: to win the war that began on September 11, 2001.
This nation is alert to dangers, and prepared to defend itself. Our homeland security efforts include better security in the airports ... a closer watch on the border ... and essential reforms in agencies such as the FBI and the CIA, making them better able to act quickly against danger.
Later this evening, the President will speak to the nation from the White House about some major reforms in government - reforms that are both historic and essential to the security of this nation.
As we go forward with significant improvements in homeland defense, we also realize that wars are not won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy - and, where necessary, preempt grave threats to our country before they materialize. As President Bush said the other day at West Point, "In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act."
From the very beginning, the President has also made clear that there is no neutral ground in the fight against terror. Those who harbor and support terrorists are themselves guilty of terrorism, and they can expect to be held accountable.
This lesson has already been learned in Afghanistan, where the terror camps have been destroyed, and the Taliban regime is out of business, permanently.
Afghanistan, however, is only the beginning of a long and unrelenting effort. For the same reason we are vigilant at home, we must be resolute abroad. It is not fast or easy work to confront a terror network that has cells in 60 or more countries. We have to do this job with the tools of diplomacy, finance, intelligence, law enforcement, and military power. But we are going to shut down terrorist camps wherever they are ... and disrupt terrorist plans ... and find the terrorists one by one, and bring them to justice.
In Afghanistan we found confirmation that bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network were seriously interested in nuclear and radiological weapons, and in biological and chemical agents.
We are especially concerned about any possible linkup between terrorists and regimes that have or seek weapons of mass destruction. In the case of Saddam Hussein, we have a dictator who is clearly pursuing these deadly capabilities - defying the U.N. resolutions he agreed to, and kicking U.N. weapons inspectors out of his country. Saddam has also shown that he is willing to use weapons of mass destruction. He used them in his war against Iran, and has used them against his own people.
This gathering danger requires the most careful, deliberate, and decisive response by America and our allies. A regime that has gassed thousands of its own citizens ... a regime that hates America and our friends must never be permitted to threaten America with weapons of mass destruction.
The most visible successes in the war have been achieved by our military. As a former secretary of defense, I have never been more proud of the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America.
As we saw in Afghanistan, our superb technology gives us a consistent upper hand in the fighting - enabling us to protect our troops, to make their job easier, and to spare the lives of innocent civilians. That technology is also expensive, and takes a long time to develop. The forces that will defend us 10 or 20 years down the road must be planned and built today.
The fight against terror is a long-term effort, and it requires us to maintain every possible material advantage. For that reason, President Bush has asked Congress for the largest increase in defense spending since the days of President Ronald Reagan.
This is a case of federal spending for the most essential purposes. If we're going to ask young men and women to defend our country, our allies, and our freedom ... if we're going to send them on dangerous missions to fight determined enemies - they deserve the best equipment, training, and support we can give them. And for the good of all our military families, the President's budget gives every man and woman in uniform a raise in pay - and they have earned it.
In the days after the attack on our country, so many people showed the true character of America in their deep concern and their incredible generosity. The members of this organization did your part, and more. Your fund for victim relief set a goal of raising five million dollars in pledges within six weeks. Instead, you raised seven million within the first week, and several million more after that.
I congratulate you for that example of good citizenship. I commend you for the hard work you do every day, in every community of our nation. And for your support over the years, and your hospitality today, I thank you all very much.