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President Bush Addresses Hispanic Chamber of CommerceAired March 19, 2001 - 1:15 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: And, Jeanne, while they do that, the president is speaking before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. We'll listen in to his comments for just a few moments.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... because this is what America's all about, the idea of somebody having their dream. It doesn't matter what your background is, where you're from. If you work hard and dream big, you can realize your dream.
And that's what good public policy is all about, too. It firmly recognizes that the role of government is not to create wealth, but an environment in which the entrepreneurial spirit can flourish.
And I want to talk to you about that today, in terms of the U.S. budget. But first, I want to confirm our commitment to free trade in this administration. I believe free trade is an incredibly important part of making sure the environment is hospitable to the formation of small businesses.
And trade with Mexico is an integral part of making sure that our hemisphere is safe, secure and prosperous.
BUSH: I had a chance to reiterate that face-to-face with Vicente Fox, who is going to provide good, strong leadership for Mexico. And I told him that a strong Mexico is in our nation's best interests. It's in our nation's best interests that Mexico be prosperous and vibrant, and the best way to do so is for there to be free and fair trade between our countries.
This is a message I hope the Congress hears, because it is -- our hemisphere by the way is not going to be an afterthought for this administration. It's -- one of the most important parts of our foreign policy will be to promote prosperity and peace and freedom throughout this hemisphere. You can't have...
And so part of making sure the environment is hospitable to capital formation and the entrepreneurial spirit is trade. But another part is to make sure the federal government does not squash opportunity by overspending taxpayer money. It's important that we budget wisely.
And I want to talk a little bit about our budget. And I want to thank you all for paying attention to the debate and the budget, because it directly affects your lives.
First, the fundamental question a lot of people ask is, "Are we spending enough money to meet the needs of the government?" And the answer is, "Yes, we are."
The budget I submitted to Congress increases discretionary spending by 4 percent. Now keep in mind, that's greater than the rate of inflation, it's greater than generally the pay raises that the people who are paying the bills have received. In other words, we're spending quite a bit of money. And that 4 percent, when you look at the budget in terms of trillions, is a lot of money. It's a lot of money.
It allows us to set priorities. I mean, I have set priorities which allows us to be fiscally responsible with your money.
Education is a priority. Funding the defense budget, making sure our folks are paid better who were the uniform, is a priority. Medicare and Social Security are priorities. We double the Medicare budget and we say to the Congress that the payroll taxes for Social Security will be only spent on Social Security.
We've set priorities. We made it clear that education is important. We made it clear that health care is important. We made it clear that retirement systems are important and we grew the discretionary spending by 4 percent. Now the reason there's some hollering up here is because last year they grew the discretionary budget by 8 percent. It's unbelievable how much money they spent on the way out of town. And we're saying, "Let's be realistic with the people's money."
On the Medicare and Social Security issue, these are more than just spending issues. These two are issues that are important for the future of the country and require the Congress and the president working together.
Today the trustees issued their reports on the financial status of Social Security and Medicare. These nonpartisan reports underline and add an exclamation point to the need to reform and strengthen both. Social Security and Medicare are vital programs and they need major reforms. We must act and do so courageously, and that's part of my message to the Congress. These are issues that we need to work together on.
Today's reports show health care costs are rising at a faster rate than was previously estimated. By 2016 expenses in both Medicare Part A and Social Security will be greater than the payroll taxes coming in to support them, and 2016 isn't very far down the road. The financing deficit for the entire Medicare program, including Parts A and B, is larger than ever. We must respond and act with courage to keep Medicare and Social Security benefits secure.
In the words of the board of trustees, "Both Social Security and Medicare need to be reformed and strengthened at the earliest opportunity," and that's what I'm going to ask both Republicans and Democrats to do on the Hill.
It's one thing to double the Medicare budget over 10 years. We need to work together to make sure the Medicare system responds to the needs of the elderly, to give the elderly more choices, including prescription drug benefits, so we can firmly say, "We're going to keep our promises to the elderly in America."
This requires a sense of urgency. We have only so many years to get the systems back on track. It's time to quit the posturing and time to reform the systems. And I'm prepared to spend the political capital, along with both Republicans and Democrats, to do so. We have long-term commitments...
ALLEN: President George Bush before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce -- they're in Washington today -- just now talking about his plan. He plans to press on with Congress to reform both Social Security and Medicare, as he lays out budget priorities before that group today.
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