Remarks As Prepared For Delivery By Vice President Al Gore
Retirement Savings Plus
Tuesday, June 20, 2000
For the past week, I’ve been traveling across this country, talking about the big choices we have to make to secure prosperity and progress for a new American century.
You can see, right here in Lexington, what prosperity has done for our people. New jobs have fueled new hope -- and a new sense of possibility -- here, and all across this land.
Today, I want to talk about how we can build prosperity and progress not just for the present -- not just for the next four years -- but far into the future.
I have good news to share with the American people. In fact, the news is better than good: if we do things right, we can make it far easier for families to save and invest for the future, with even greater confidence and security.
Private savings and investment are about something more than an IRA or a bank balance; they form the threshold of hope for the American dream. Cross that threshold and the future belongs to you and your family.
Your savings account can open the door to your first house. It’s the way a young couple can make that first, tough down payment on a first home together.
Your savings account can swing open for your child wrought-iron gates that may have been closed to you and your parents and grandparents.
Your savings can help you dream, as they grow week by week, about sending your child to college -- even if your father or mother never went to college; even if you yourself never had that chance.
Savings accounts can let your parents build a haven on the bedrock of Social Security – so they can not only make ends meet, but also live an old age of peace and plenty.
Every hard-working American family deserves to open the door to their dream.
When I was a kid, I had lots of really good friends in two different places. The ones I went to school with in Washington, D.C., came mostly from well-to-do families with enough money to send them to college and stake them to a good start. And most of them have done well in life.
The ones I spent my summers with in a small town in Tennessee were at least as smart, but their families weren't nearly as well-off. And I saw the opportunity gap open, and widen, and there were times when it broke my heart. They deserve more than they got. And I'll be damned if I'm going to let that injustice continue.
Everyone in this room knows how hard it can be to save. It is hard enough to save even if you are well-off; expenses have a way of catching up with even high-earning families.
But so many families who live month to month know how desperately hard it can be to protect that bank account for the dream -- how easily one car repair, one doctor’s bill, one unexpected sweep of bad luck can wipe it all out, so you have to start all over again.
When that happens, sometimes the dream can feel like it's fading -- like you’ll never catch up with it. Sometimes, for too many families, it slips away -- and then they stop looking up to imagine anymore. They try to accept that their bright child just won’t get to college; that that new home with enough room for the baby just won’t get bought.
Well I am here to tell you: that is just not right. Never again should a hard-working family see the door slowly closing on their dream.
On behalf of those people -- not just the ones who think comfortably about their savings over scotch in the club looking out at the golf links, but also the ones who carefully try to make it all add up to the dream over a pressured half-hour lunch break on the factory floor -- we will take the White House in November.
On behalf of those people -- not just the ones whose families have taken for granted for generations that college awaits their children, but the ones whose parents were just as bright, whose kids are just as beautiful and filled with promise, who fear that they’ll never have the financial strength to pull open those ivied gates for the ones they love -- we will take the White House in November.
And I give those families fresh hope and concrete help today. For them, today, because of their grit and dignity in trying so hard to save and be faithful to the dream, I’m announcing one of the largest programs of tax-free, private savings ever proposed.
Together, let’s put an end to the days when savings are a scramble – if not an unthinkable luxury -- for too many families. Together, we will make saving one of the easiest things a family can ever do.
Hear me well: my dream is an America in which your family's dream can come true. And in can. Here's how:
I propose that we create new "Retirement Savings Plus" accounts -- tax-free, voluntary accounts that let you save, invest, and build on top of the guaranteed foundation of Social Security.
Here’s how Retirement Savings Plus will work: we will give people tax credits to match their own savings. The hardest-pressed working families will get even bigger tax credits.
And here is what this will mean to you and your loved ones: for a married couple making $30,000 a year -- say, a bus driver and a home maker -- we’ll match every dollar you save with three dollars, deposited right into your account.
If a young couple saves just $20 a week, together with our tax credits and the returns on their savings, they could reasonably expect to have as much as $400,000 extra when they retire.
This new way to build wealth will mean a bigger nest egg for retirement. It will also help with three of the biggest hurdles any family faces: buying that first home, sending your kids to college, and paying for major medical expenses.
And we’ll make saving for the future as easy as checking a box on your tax return. You will be able to deposit your full tax refund – along with a matching tax credit -- directly into your own personal account.
This new initiative will ensure that millions more families can open the door to their dreams.
I want to be clear on another point as well: my plan for private savings and investment is very different from what others have proposed in this election. It doesn’t come at the expense of Social Security – it comes in addition to Social Security.
I have always supported private savings and investment -- and I've always supported additional incentives for middle-income and low-middle-income families to save and invest more. After all, high-income families already have generous tax incentives.
But I have never supported plans that would steer the money you pay into Social Security into the stock market. That would undermine America's trust in the trust fund, and take the "security" out of Social Security.
I will oppose the effort to privatize Social Security -- which could drain at least a trillion dollars out of the trust fund, and drive our entire budget back into deficit.
Apart from that harm to our nation's prosperity formula, it would harm individual elderly folks. People have the common sense to know that in the stock marker there are good years and bad years, winners and losers. We won't, on my watch, become a nation that penalizes the elderly people who happen to retire in a bad year; that penalizes the elderly people who happen to be on the losing end of the roll of the dice.
We won't become a nation that tells the 65-year-old waitress, the 65-year-old janitor or factory worker: too bad if you've worked hard for a lifetime -- you need to keep going somehow for two or three or even more years.
My plan is Social Security plus, not Social Security minus. It is the best of both worlds – not the worst of both. You get the freedom, and the incentive, to save more and invest more -- but it will not come out of your Social Security. Your Social Security benefits will be guaranteed, and the trust fund will be protected, no matter how those investments perform.
Under my plan, Social Security will be just the beginning of a family’s retirement savings. Let me give you some examples:
I met a woman from Seattle who works all day caring for the elderly and for people with disabilities. She loves her job – but it offers no pension. She’s counting on Social Security to be a major part of her retirement. And she’s worried that it may not be all she’ll need.
With Retirement Savings Plus, she'll not only get the guarantee of her Social Security, she'll be able to save tens of thousands more for her retirement.
I meet young people all the time who are excited about the possibilities of investment in this booming economy. My plan lets them seize those opportunities without jeopardizing their Social Security.
I met a couple in Minnesota who are struggling to help their parents through the infirmities of old age. Because their parents have little besides Social Security, that hard-working couple now has to choose between saving for their children’s education, and paying for their parents’ care.
With the steps I’m proposing today, good people like them won’t have to be in the position of that old country song: "Making the Best of a Bad Situation." Together, we can help them change their situation.
Finally, let me say something that is fundamental to everything I am proposing today: I’m committed to continuing the economic strategy that has given us record prosperity. If America doesn’t keep making the right choices, we will never be able to give our families the help they need.
I’m committed to the economic strategy that has unlocked the skill, the creativity, the ingenuity of the American people and turned it into wealth for them -- and economic abundance for our nation.
The American people have a right to be proud of the past eight years. We set our hands to a time of recession and doubt, and built it into a time of pride and plenty: the longest period of economic growth in all of American history.
The credit for that boom truly does belong to the hard work of the American people.
But let’s remember: the American people have always been hard-working. They were certainly working hard in 1991. They were certainly creative and innovative in 1991. But they were hampered by bad choices at the top and worn down by looking at a burdened future.
I will not be dragged back to the days when people worked just as hard -- with far less to show for it.
Out of respect for Americans’ ingenuity and effort, let’s stick with our three-part, tried-and-tested, winning economic formula: balancing the budget, so we never again spend money we don’t have; paying down and then completely eliminating the debt for our children; and taking part of the surplus and investing it back in the best enterprise of all -- Americans themselves. That’s what this new savings plan is all about.
This debate has more to do with the values of our nation than the values of anyone's investments. As President, I’ll have an economic plan that’s rooted in our values: Discipline in the choices our government makes about spending. Conscience for the future -- to pay off the debt that no generation of children should inherit. Decency in meeting the needs of our mothers and fathers. And boldness in taking on the new challenges of a new century.
Those are the values that guide my plan for Retirement Savings Plus. Discipline. Conscience. Decency. Boldness. And they are the values that can open a whole new era of prosperity and progress for our people.
This is a time of great hope for America. People are working again. The future is brighter than at any time in our history.
I’m here today to tell you: you ain’t seen nothing yet.
And I'm here to tell working Americans that if you ain't saved nothing yet -- with your help, I'll make January 20, 2001 the time to start.
And so I say to you today: on behalf of every newlywed couple dreaming of a better future; on behalf of every senior citizen who wants to be self-reliant in retirement, and not a burden on his or her children -- I intend to win this election.
If you believe we can build even higher on the economic foundation of the past eight years – then join with me, and we will win this fight.
If you believe that you shouldn’t have to choose between the Social Security you have earned, and the savings and investments you deserve, then join with me, and we will win this fight.
If you believe in an America that honors and protects our mothers and fathers – and makes it easier for them to thrive in retirement – then I ask for your vote, your support, and your enthusiasm. Join with me -- and let’s take the White House in November.
If you believe America can be better off still – in terms of our affluence, and in terms of our spirit – four years from this day, then I want your vote.
Join with me. Let’s win this fight, for the future we deserve.
If you allow yourselves to believe, without reservation, that we can do what’s right, then we will accomplish what we set our minds to do.
Come with me, and we will do the right thing – and we will do it well. Thank you.