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Public Papers - 1990 - October

Remarks to White House Interns

1990-10-18

I understand what we're going to do here in just a second is: I retreat, we divide up into two groups -- given the weather -- and get some pictures taken. But really I'm glad to have this opportunity to come over here and meet with you all today because I do know what a contribution you've made to the workings of this White House. Sometimes the chores assigned might seem a little ordinary, might seem somewhat removed from the weighty processes of government that you may be studying in school or are more interested in, but I'm sure that you've learned that little things do add up to the greatness of this whole system of our democracy. And so, I really did want to come over and say thank you very much for these internships.

And I also want to take a moment just to share a few ideas with you about the issues that you're hearing so much about today, and mainly I'm talking about the big budget debate that's going on on Capitol Hill. Now, let me venture a guess that you've learned a great deal about how Washington works here in what we lovingly call ``inside the beltway.'' And you've learned some of the jargon: continuing resolutions and sequestration and conference committees. And it's a good thing. But many people hear this technical talk, and they think that it's all so complicated that it couldn't mean anything to them. Well, when you return home, maybe you can let these folks know that decisions in Washington do make a difference in the lives of everyday Americans for better or for worse.

You've also recently heard a lot coming out of Capitol Hill about soaking the rich. And let me translate this bit of Washington doublespeak for you. When some Members of the Congress talk about ``soaking the rich,'' they really do mean raising taxes on everybody. Their talk about progressivity and regressivity is just a smokescreen, in my view, to try and hide their effort to raise the income taxes of ordinary working Americans.

Let me tell you about another word, and this one's a little complex. But again, I expect many people here do understand it. I'm talking about indexing. You were all perhaps kids -- I don't want to put you in a time warp here -- but when indexing was established, that was back in 1981. And you may not know that there was a time when inflation simply pushed the middle-class Americans into higher and higher tax brackets. Inflation was so rapid that people were moving fast into higher brackets, brackets that were once designed to soak the rich.

In other words, the Federal Government really was a silent partner in inflation, profiting from higher prices even as families suffered. I say profiting because more and more money came in under inflation and under no indexing. Elimination of indexing does not affect the rich because they are already in the top bracket. Indexing is a protective shield for the middle class. And tell your parents and families that I am not going to permit this shield, this protective shield for working Americans, to be pierced, to be broken.

We must reduce this deficit so that interest rates can come down. Many of you have heard what Alan Greenspan said: If we get a good package, they will come down. We have got to enable people, then, to buy homes and cars so that business can invest in new jobs. And that's what lower interest rates will do. And they won't come down unless we get this deficit under control.

Now, let me tell you about another word I'm sure you're hearing about: incentive. When tax rates get too high, and they did this before indexing came in, then people didn't save because the Government tax takes so much that there is no incentive to save or to invest. And that's the reason why, as I look at what's going on up on Capitol Hill today, I prefer the Senate version of the budget because it keeps the 28-percent rate and it doesn't raise the income tax on any middle class or lower income Americans -- not because I want to help the rich but because I want to help everyone.

And once they start changing anybody's income tax rates, they cannot resist changing everyone's tax rates. And you don't have to be an expert in Federal fiscal policy to understand the real issue here. As I said, I am determined to reduce this deficit, but I'm even more determined to continue economic growth so that all of you can enjoy a better future. And I'm talking here about jobs, willingness to invest in new businesses and to employ more people. And I'm not going to let the politicians who speak so passionately about soaking the rich get away with killing the indexing, the very indexing which preserves incentives and protects the family budget from the attack of a Federal Government which spends so much that it simply cannot balance its own budget.

So, I will hold everyone's feet to the fire and make them up there, to the best of my ability, do the right thing. I really do believe in what I'm doing, and I believe that the national interest is more important than my own personal interest and certainly more important than the special interest. And I'm going to fight the taxers and the spenders because it is right.

And in the coming weeks, I plan to take this message to the American people. And I really believe in my heart that as the voters learn more about what the real issues are, issues like indexing -- and again, what that does to the working men and women in this country when you tamper with it -- incentive -- what that means in terms of creating new jobs and growth to get this economy moving. It's sluggish, and I want to see it move forward so more people have hope and opportunity. And when people understand this, I think they're going to join me in demanding that Congress be responsible and that it reduce the deficit by controlling taxes and spending.

And when I look at all of you, I'm reminded of the young men and women of my generation who had the opportunity to live the American dream. And I firmly believe that it's still alive, but that we all must always work to preserve it and to protect it in a way. And I feel I have an obligation to my own kids and to my own grandchildren in this regard and to all of you.

And so, that's what this battle is about up there -- getting the deficit under control; having a firm 5-year program that has real reductions, not phony reductions, real reductions that result in 0 billion real reduction deficit, but do it in a way that you don't sock it to the middle class or the working people of this country. And that's where the battle is. And the opposition is trying to say favoring the rich. And I'm saying I'm favoring jobs, incentive, investment; and through battling against what the House has done on indexing, protecting the working men and women of this country.

I really didn't mean to unload on you like this, but -- [laughter] -- we're getting down to the wire here, and I feel very, very strongly about it. And I am grateful to the leaders up there in the Congress -- and I'd say both Democrat and Republican -- for the way they're working as we go down to tomorrow night's deadline. We're getting good cooperation from the leadership there. And now I just want to see that what I've spelled out for you here is what prevails, so when Congress adjourns we can start to see this economy recover and every single American will have more hope and better opportunity.

Now, with no further ado, let me simply say, once again, thank you, each and every one of you. And I will go until the cruise director gets in here and figures out how we can get at least two pictures that we'll send over your way as soon as we get them done. And thank you all very, very much for what you're doing. Appreciate it.

Note: The President spoke at 3:20 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

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