Here are excerpts of President Bill Clinton's interview with
members of the Post-Dispatch editorial staff on Friday afternoon:
Q.: IF THERE'S one thing that you might say as a result of
this that you could leave behind for the cities, what would it be?
Clinton: A legacy of commitment to their economic
revitalization and to empowering them to solve their social
problems. Obviously it is not an easy thing to do. The economic
issue is made more difficult by the size of the federal deficit
which we are trying to address, and I'll come back to that.
The social problems are just because they've been a generation
in building. You can't turn them around overnight. If I might, I
think that I made a decision which I think was the right decision.
The first thing I had to do was get the overall health of the
American economy back in order. And to try to concentrate on
revitalizing some of our most basic parts of our economy.
We now know that we're going to have three years of deficit
reduction, baring some totally unforeseen development, in a row for
the first time since Truman was president. Our job growth is
proceeding along quite well.
. . .In terms of other economic initiatives, I have done
everything I could working with the Congress to make the cities
more attractive as places for investment with the empowerment zone
legislation, and we'll have the first empowerment zones designated
in the not too distant future. As you know, St. Louis has entered
an application and they've worked very hard on it here. The mayor
talked to me about it today.
What I'm hoping will happen is that the quality and the number
of those applications will be so great that it will persuade the
Congress that we have to increase the number of them. . . . We
also have tried to strengthen the Community Reinvestment Act, the
community development banks, and increase the availability of
educational training . . .
Dealing with the social problems, we've increased Head Start,
we've increased investment in the WIC (Women, Infants and Children)
program, we've passed the unearned income tax credit, which will
make work more attractive than welfare and reward low-wage workers.
We're working on health care, welfare reform, and the crime
bill makes it a large amount of money - about $8 billion - for
prevention programs which will overwhelmingly flow into the urban
areas. We'll try to help deal with a lot of the problems that
afflict our young people and I think all these things will be quite
helpful. So I think we're moving in the right direction.
. . . The cities still are in many ways the economic and
cultural life blood of our country. They also have most of our
diversity which will either be the source of our undoing or our
secret to continued prosperity in the 21st century, depending on
how we handle it. Another reason I've been so concerned by the
attempt to sort of transform our politics from the debate over how
to make the most of our potential and how to get this country
together and who can most successfully divide the American people
based on cultural or racial or ethnic lines.
Q.: You spoke of wanting to revitalize the cities. When you
say that, would your policy be aimed at restoring the cities to
what they were, say, in the 1950s, or do you perceive some
different economic role for cities in the context of metropolitan
Clinton: I think the cities will be different from what they
were in the 1950s. First of all, the country is simply much more
diverse than it was then. But what I want to do is try to find a
way for the cities to be places where there will be beacons of
opportunity. Our urban areas have always had a significant number
of our poor people, particularly new Americans. But they have also
been viewed traditionally as beacons of opportunity. I want to make
sure that we can restore the conditions of civilized life and
strong communities to our cities, and I want people who live in our
cities to have a sense that they all matter and that their problems
can be solved. …