WASHINGTON (PAI)-- President Clinton's agenda for his last year in office includes securing funding for Social Security and Medicare, especially prescription drug coverage, and rebuilding public schools.
But the GOP-run Congress, he said, has a do-nothing mentality during his last year in office, which historically has been a "lame duck" year for outgoing presidents.
"There is no reason why the prescription drug bill and funding for the nation's deteriorating public schools shouldn't be passed by Congress this year," he said, speaking at the annual AFL-CIO Building Trades Department Legislative Conference last week. "If Republicans want to take the year off they should relinquish their annual salary."
Clinton stressed the biggest question facing the nation today is: "What are we going to do in this prosperity?"
He sounded very much like a president who would like part of his legacy to have Vice President Al Gore as his replacement, and to continue that prosperity.
"I've worked as hard as I could for the last seven years to try to first turn this country around," Clinton said. "Just remember what it was like when Al Gore and I showed up here. We had high deficits, we had high interest rates, we had no job growth, we had social divisions, we had political gridlock. I've worked hard to try to turn it around. The country is moving in the right direction. What are we going to do with it? And that is the real issue."
Clinton said Americans have "a solemn responsibility" in this election season to avoid "self-indulgence" and to "concentrate on our unique ability to meet the big, long-term challenges of America."
The president pointed to a bill about to become a law which removes the Social Security earnings limit for older people, so they can work in their later years with no reduction to their Social Security benefit. And he continues to push for strengthening Social Security and Medicare
"We've got the money now, let's dedicate it now to saving Social Security and taking it out beyond the life of the baby boom generation," he said. "The other thing we have to do is to modernize Medicare and add a prescription drug benefit for our seniors on Medicare." Clinton said when he took office, Medicare was scheduled to go broke in 1999 - "we have now taken it out to 2023, and I'm very proud of that," he said.
The improved numbers on the nation's economy speak for themselves. Since Clinton took office in 1991, the nation has created 21 million new jobs with the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years. The nation has the highest home ownership rate in history, the lowest welfare rolls in 30 years, the lowest poverty in 20 years, and the lowest crime rates in 25 years.
"This didn't happen by accident. It happened because we believed you could be pro-business and pro-labor, pro-work and pro-family; you could grow the economy and improve the environment; you could balance the budget and run a surplus and still invest more in education and give tax relief to middle income families.
"It happened because we worked together and we had the right ideas and we were moving in the right direction. Al Gore and I came along and said, we want to put people first. It happened because we believed in uniting our people and lifting them up, and not in divide and conquer."