Many working parents spend up to a quarter -- a quarter -- of their income on child care. Last year, we helped parents provide child care for about 2 million children. My child care initiative, before you now, along with funds already secured in welfare reform, would make child care better, safer and more affordable for another 400,000 children. I ask you to pass that. They need it out there -- (applause.)
For hard-pressed middle-income families, we should also expand the child care tax credit. And I believe strongly we should take the next big step and make that tax credit refundable for low-income families. (Applause.) For people making under $30,000 a year, that could mean up to $2,400 for child care costs. You know, we all say we're pro-work and pro-family. Passing this proposal would prove it. (Applause.)
Tens of millions of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. As hard as they work, they still don't have the opportunity to save. Too few can make use of IRAs and 401-K plans. We should do more to help all working families save and accumulate wealth. That's the idea behind the Individual Development Accounts, the IDAs. I ask you to take that idea to a new level, with new Retirement Savings Accounts that enable every low- and moderate-income family in America to save for retirement, a first home, a medical emergency, or a college education. I propose to match their contributions, however small, dollar for dollar, every year they save. And I propose to give a major new tax credit to any small business that will provide a meaningful pension to its workers. Those people ought to have retirement as well as the rest of us. (Applause.)
Nearly one in three American children grows up without a father. These children are five times more likely to live in poverty than children with both parents at home. Clearly, demanding and supporting responsible fatherhood is critical to lifting all children out of poverty. We've doubled child support collections since 1992. And I'm proposing to you tough new measures to hold still more fathers responsible.
But we should recognize that a lot of fathers want to do right by their children, but need help to do it. Carlos Rosas of St. Paul, Minnesota, wanted to do right by his son, and he got the help to do it. Now he's got a good job and he supports his little boy. My budget will help 40,000 more fathers make the same choices Carlos Rosas did. I thank him for being here tonight. (Applause.) Stand up, Carlos. Thank you. (Applause.)
If there is any single issue on which we should be able to reach across party lines, it is in our common commitment to reward work and strengthen families, similar to what we did last year. We came together to help people with disabilities keep their health insurance when they go to work. And I thank you for that. Thanks to overwhelming bipartisan support from this Congress, we have improved foster care. We've helped those young people who leave it when they turn 18, and we have dramatically increased the number of foster care children going into adoptive homes. I thank all of you for all of that. (Applause.)
Of course, I am forever grateful to the person who has led our efforts from the beginning, and who's worked so tirelessly for children and families for 30 years now: my wife, Hillary. And I thank her. (Applause.)
If we take the steps I've just discussed, we can go a long, long way toward empowering parents to succeed at home and at work, and ensuring that no child is raised in poverty. We can make these vital investments in health care, education, support for working families, and still offer tax cuts to help pay for college, for retirement, to care for aging parents, to reduce the marriage penalty. We can do these things without forsaking the path of fiscal discipline that got us to this point here tonight.
Indeed, we must make these investments and these tax cuts in the context of a balanced budget that strengthens and extends the life of Social Security and Medicare and pays down the national debt. (Applause.)
Crime in America has dropped for the past seven years -- that's the longest decline on record -- thanks to a national consensus we helped to forge on community police, sensible gun safety laws, and effective prevention. But nobody -- nobody here, nobody in America -- believes we're safe enough. So again, I ask you to set a higher goal. Let's make this country the safest big country in the world. (Applause.)
Last fall, Congress supported my plan to hire, in addition to the 100,000 community police we've already funded, 50,000 more, concentrated in high-crime neighborhoods. I ask your continued support for that.
Soon after the Columbine tragedy, Congress considered common-sense gun legislation, to require Brady background checks at the gun shows, child safety locks for new handguns, and a ban on the importation of large-capacity ammunition clips. With courage -- and a tie-breaking vote by the Vice President -- (applause) -- the Senate faced down the gun lobby, stood up for the American people, and passed this legislation. But the House failed to follow suit.
Now, we have all seen what happens when guns fall into the wrong hands. Daniel Mauser was only 15 years old when he was gunned down at Columbine. He was an amazing kid -- a straight-A student, a good skier. Like all parents who lose their children, his father Tom has borne unimaginable grief. Somehow he has found the strength to honor his son by transforming his grief into action. Earlier this month, he took a leave of absence from his job to fight for tougher gun safety laws. I pray that his courage and wisdom will at long last move this Congress to make common-sense gun legislation the very next order of business. (Applause.)
Tom Mauser, stand up. We thank you for being here tonight. (Applause.) Tom. Thank you, Tom. (Applause.)
We must strengthen our gun laws and enforce those already on the books better. (Applause.) Federal gun crime prosecutions are up 16 percent since I took office. But we must do more. I propose to hire more federal and local gun prosecutors and more ATF agents to crack down on illegal gun traffickers and bad-apple dealers. And we must give them the enforcement tools that they need, tools to trace every gun and every bullet used in every gun crime in the United States. I ask you to help us do that. (Applause.)
Every state in this country already requires hunters and automobile drivers to have a license. I think they ought to do the same thing for handgun purchases. (Applause.) Now, specifically, I propose a plan to ensure that all new handgun buyers must first have a photo license from their state showing they passed the Brady background check and a gun safety course, before they get the gun. I hope you'll help me pass that in this Congress. (Applause.)
Listen to this -- listen to this. The accidental gun rate -- the accidental gun death rate of children under 15 in the United States is nine times higher than in the other 25 industrialized countries combined. Now, technologies now exist that could lead to guns that can only be fired by the adults who own them. I ask Congress to fund research into smart gun technology, to save these children's lives. (Applause.) I ask responsible leaders in the gun industry to work with us on smart guns, and other steps to keep guns out of the wrong hands, to keep our children safe.
You know, every parent I know worries about the impact of violence in the media on their children. I want to begin by thanking the entertainment industry for accepting my challenge to put voluntary ratings on TV programs and video and Internet games. But, frankly, the ratings are too numerous, diverse and confusing to be really useful to parents. So tonight, I ask the industry to accept the First Lady's challenge to develop a single voluntary rating system for all children's entertainment that is easier for parents to understand and enforce. (Applause.) The steps I outline will take us well on our way to making America the safest big country in the world.
Now, to keep our historic economic expansion going -- the subject of a lot of discussion in this community and others -- I believe we need a 21st century revolution to open new markets, start new businesses, hire new workers right here in America -- in our inner cities, poor rural areas, and Native American reservations. (Applause.)
Our nation's prosperity hasn't yet reached these places. Over the last six months, I've traveled to a lot of them, joined by many of you, and many far-sighted business people, to shine a spotlight on the enormous potential in communities from Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta, from Watts to the Pine Ridge Reservation. Everywhere I go, I meet talented people eager for opportunity, and able to work. Tonight I ask you, let's put them to work. (Applause.) For business, it's the smart thing to do.
For America, it's the right thing to do. And let me ask you something -- if we don't do this now, when in the wide world will we ever get around to it? (Applause.)
So I ask Congress to give businesses the same incentives to invest in America's new markets they now have to invest in markets overseas. (Applause.) Tonight, I propose a large New Markets tax credit and other incentives to spur $22 billion in private-sector capital to create new businesses and new investments in our inner cities and rural areas.
Read Part IV here.