PRESIDENTIAL DEBATEOctober 6, 1996
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole, the president said in his opening statement, ``We are better off today than we were four years ago.'' Do you agree?
MR. DOLE: Well, he's better off than he was four years ago.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I agree with that. That's right.
MR. DOLE: And I may be better off four years from now, but -- I don't know, I look at the slowest growth in this century.
He inherited a growth of 4.7, 4.8 percent; now it's down to about 2.4 percent.
We're going to pass a million bankruptcies this year for the first time in history. We've got stagnant wages; in fact, women's wages have dropped 2.2 percent. Men's wages haven't gone up; gone down. So we have stagnation.
We have the highest foreign debt in history, and it seems to me if you take a look, are you better off? Well, I guess some may be better off. Saddam Hussein is probably better off than he was four years ago. Rene Preval is probably better off than he was four years ago, but are the American people? They're working harder and paying more taxes. For the first time in history you pay about 40 percent of what you earn -- more than you spend for food, clothing and shelter combined for taxes under this administration. So some may be better off.
They talk about family income being up. That's not true in Connecticut. Family income is down. And it's up in some cases because both parents are working. One works for the family and one works to pay taxes for the government. We're going to give them a tax cut so they can spend more time with their children, maybe even take a vacation. That's what America's all about.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, one minute.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, let me say first of all, in February, Senator Dole acknowledged that the American economy was in the best shape it's been in in 30 years.
We have 10-1/2 million more jobs, a faster job growth rate than under any Republican administration since the 1920s. Wages are going up for the first time in a decade. We have record numbers of new small businesses. We had the biggest drop in the number of people in poverty in 27 years. All groups of people are growing. We had the biggest drop in income inequality in 27 years in 1995. The average family's income has gone up over $1,600 just since our economic plan passed.
So I think it's clear that we're better off than we were four years ago. Now we need to focus on what do we need to do to be better off still? How can we help people -- as we are -- to get their retirements when they work for small businesses, to be able to afford health insurance, to be able to educate their children? That's what I want to focus on.
But we're clearly better off than we were four years ago, as Senator Dole acknowledged this year.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole?
MR. DOLE: I doubt that I acknowledged that this year. But in any event, I think we just look at the facts.
We ask the people who are viewing tonight: Are you better off than you were four years ago? It's not whether we're better off, it's whether they're better off. Are you working harder to put food on the table, feed your children? Are your children getting a better education?
Drug use has doubled the past 44 months all across America. Crime has gone down, but it's because the mayors like Rudy Guiliani where one-third of the drop happened in one city: New York City.
So yes, some may be better off. But of the people listening tonight, the working families who will benefit from our economic package, they'll be better off when Bob Dole is president and Jack Kemp is vice president.