In the past six years, we have cut the welfare rolls nearly in half. Two years ago, from this podium, I asked five companies to lead a national effort to hire people off welfare. Tonight, our Welfare to Work Partnership includes 10,000 companies who have hired hundreds of thousands of people. Our balanced budget will help another 200,000 people move to the dignity and pride of work.
We must bring the spark of private enterprise to every community in America _ to inner cities and remote rural areas _ with more support for community development banks, empowerment zones and 100,000 vouchers for affordable housing. And I ask Congress to support our bold plan to help businesses raise up to $15 billion of private sector capital to bring jobs and opportunity to our inner cities and rural areas _ with tax credits and loan guarantees, including new American Private Investment Companies modeled on our Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Our greatest untapped markets are not overseas _ they are right here at home.
We must bring prosperity back to the family farm. Dropping prices and the loss of foreign markets have devastated too many family farmers. I am ready to work with lawmakers of both parties to create a farm safety net including crop insurance reform and farm income assistance.
We must strengthen our lead in technology.
Government investment led to the creation of the Internet. I propose a nearly 30 percent increase in long-term computing research.
We must be ready for the 21st century from its very first moment, by solving the ``Y2K″ computer problem. If we work hard with state and local governments and businesses large and small, the ``Y2K problem″ can be remembered as the last headache of the 20th century, not the first crisis of the 21st.
For our own prosperity, we must support economic growth abroad.
Until recently, one-third of our economic growth came from exports. But over the past year and a half, financial turmoil overseas has put that growth at risk. Today, much of the world is in recession, with Asia hit especially hard.
This is the most serious financial crisis in a half century. To meet it, the U.S. and other nations have reduced interest rates and strengthened the International Monetary Fund. While the turmoil is not over, we are working with other industrial nations to contain it.
At the same time, we will continue to work on a global basis to build a financial system for the 21st century that promotes prosperity and tames the cycles of boom and bust. This June I will meet with other world leaders to advance this historic purpose.
We must also create a freer and fairer trading system for the 21st century. Trade has divided Americans for too long. We must find the common ground on which business, workers, environmentalists, farmers and government can stand together.
We must tear down barriers, open markets, and expand trade. At the same time, we must ensure that ordinary citizens in all countries benefit from trade _ trade that promotes the dignity of work, the rights of workers, the protection of the environment. And we must insist that international trade organizations be open to public scrutiny.
We must enforce our trade laws when imports unlawfully flood our nation. I have already informed the government of Japan that if that nation’s sudden surge of steel imports into our country is not reversed, America will respond.
And we must act to help all American manufacturers hit hard by the present crisis _ with loan guarantees and other incentives to increase U.S. exports by nearly $2 billion.
We can achieve a new consensus on trade, based on these principles. I ask Congress to join me in this common approach and give the president the trade authority long used to advance our prosperity.
This year, we should expand trade with our neighbors in Central America and the Caribbean. And because trade and investment are the keys to African development _ we must finally pass the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
And tonight, I also issue a call to the nations of the world to join the United States in a new round of global negotiations to expand exports of services, of manufactures, and most of all, farm products.
We will work with the International Labor Organization on a new initiative to lift up labor standards around the world. And this year, we will lead the international community to conclude a treaty to ban abusive child labor everywhere in the world.
If we do these things _ invest in our people, our communities, and our technology, and lead in the global economy _ then we will begin to meet the historic responsibility of our generation to build a 21st century prosperity for America.
A Strong America in a New World
No nation in history has had the opportunity and the responsibility we now have to shape a world more peaceful, secure and free.
All Americans can be proud that our leadership helped to bring peace in Northern Ireland.
All Americans can be proud that our leadership has put Bosnia on the path to peace. And with our NATO allies, we are pressing the Serbian government to stop its brutal repression in Kosovo, to bring those responsible to justice, and give the people of Kosovo the self-government they deserve.