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Time is money

National | Economic crunch is taking time from parents and children

Issue: "Castro’s license to kill?," Aug. 3, 1996

Ladies and gentlemen: no one but Bill Clinton could claim this is the best economy we've had in 30 years. The truth is, we had a better economy in 22 of the past 30 years.

Under President Clinton, the economy has grown at a 2.3 percent annual rate. This is down from 3.2 percent for the previous decade. This year-President Clinton's best year-the economy has performed worse than in the worst of the Reagan expansion years. And those aren't just numbers that fascinate economists like me.

This is the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression and it can only be attributed to President Clinton's record-setting 1993 tax hike. That translates into stagnant family incomes. That means the typical family has seen no increase in its income since President Clinton took office.

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But it's not just Americans' pocketbooks that are being squeezed by Clinton's weak economy. As a result of the Clinton Economic Crunch, Americans are feeling the squeeze on their families, on their communities, and on their values. A squeeze that comes from not having enough time, money, or energy to commit to those values we hold most dear.

We already know that most Americans do not work just to make money. We know, whether we work for ourselves or work for someone else, that we are really working for our dreams-our dreams of better lives for ourselves, for our children, and for our communities. And when our incomes are down and our taxes are up, those dreams cannot come true.

Record numbers of Americans-7.9 million at last count-have been forced to take second jobs and record numbers of women now work full time. When parents are forced to spend more time away from their homes working, and families are struggling to make ends meet, that means a value squeeze; less time spent with our children; less time for helping them with their schoolwork; less time for going to their ball games and recitals; and less time for teaching them values.

Taxes as a share of the economy are higher under Bill Clinton than ever before in the peace-time history of our nation. And when families must work harder to pay their taxes, that means less money is available for the charities that are important to us.

When the typical family pays 38 percent of its income for federal, state, and local taxes, that makes it less likely that they have money to tithe to their churches, less money to give to their communities, less money to spend supporting their values.

It's easy to measure the numbers that tell us we have a hollow economy. But now we're beginning to see the numbers that tell us the effect that hollow economy has on American families. Credit card delinquencies are at a 15-year high, and Americans are expected to file a record number of personal bankruptcies this year.

That's what happens when Americans are struggling in a stagnant economy.

A recent study of 20,000 American teenagers and their families found that nearly one-third of parents feel "seriously disengaged" from their teenagers' lives. One in three students say their parents have no idea how they are doing in school. Only about one-fifth of parents consistently attend school programs.

That's what happens when Americans struggling to make ends meet no longer have the time to spend with their children. That is the squeeze Americans are suffering. That is the very real result of the liberal high-taxes, big-government, slow-growth economic policies of the Clinton administration.

We've had three-and-a-half years of Clinton economics now. We know what that feels like.

We also know what the American economy will look like with tax cuts and tax reforms to stimulate growth; more jobs and higher take-home pay; families earn more, and keeping more of what they earn; and families able to do more for their children and their communities.

That's our vision of America: strong economic growth that once again puts the American Dream within reach, and a responsible government that knows that importance of economic growth and prosperity for the working men and women of America.

When all is said and done, that's what a strong and growing economy is all about: it's not about the numbers or the statistics or the reports. It's about people. It's about job security; it's about families; and it's about children.

Mr. Armey is Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. This article is adapted from remarks he made at the July 23 Leadership Forum on Economic Growth.

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