Public Papers - 1991 - December
Remarks to the Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs in Ontario, California
Thank you, Nancy DeDeimar, and thank you for that introduction and thank you for indulgence of all the detail that has to go into a visit of this nature. But I am delighted to be with you all here.
I've been to several Kiwanis events over quite a few years, so as an outsider, let me start by saying: I'm George Bush, from Washington, DC, President of the United States of America.
And Nancy graciously introduced my friend, our Senator, Senator Seymour, who is with us today. And she also introduced Pat Saiki. Pat is now the head of the SBA, the Small Business Administration, was a Member of Congress and now the head of SBA. And she is doing a superb job in very difficult circumstances. And she and I and Barbara and a group of others are on our way out to her home State for what I know will be a very memorable salutation of history tomorrow. It's going to be a very emotional time out there, but I'm just privileged to represent the United States of America at Pearl Harbor Day at that wonderful place.
Let me just say that Jim Brulte, down here, who is your State rep, he and I have served together, and he was on the receiving end of one of these introductions a few minutes ago, the announcements. And he said, well, I think I'd rather be out there doing the advance work, which he did so ably and many other things for the White House. But anyway, you've got a very good man representing you in the assembly.
And I might say to the Kiwanians here that just a couple of days ago -- several days ago; I believe it was 3 -- I received a thorough briefing in the Oval Office from Gayle Beyers of Kiwanis International, who filled me in -- he's the international president -- filled me in on the inspiring worldwide efforts that you have undertaken. I also listened as the heads of Circle K and the Key Club, bright young people who were with him, told me about the next generation of Kiwanis. So it was good Kiwanis day there in the historic Oval Office 3 days ago.
As I mentioned, I go on to Pearl Harbor to take part in these commemorations tomorrow. And right now I want to salute a man who was there, Jay Holmes. I don't know if he's here today or not. Jay, right there. You know him as the former general manager of the Daily Report, but history knows him and says that 50 years ago he was a 19-year-old Marine aboard the U.S.S. West Virginia. And we know the history, and men like Jay know the human terms. What it meant to stand for a moment at the very center of history; what it meant to pick up and then battle back from that shattering moment on the morning of December 7th to victory, come back from that moment to victory 4 years later.
Let me just say to Jim Brulte, as a Rotarian who helped the Kiwanis Club put together today's event -- [laughter] -- Jim is going to be fined for fraternizing with the enemy, but nevertheless -- [laughter].
Surrounded by so many Points of Light, and your president referred to that, I can't let this opportunity go by without recognizing you for your good works. First, on behalf of Barbara, let me salute the Kiwanis Club for its leading role in that Reading Is Fundamental program. Going into that classroom, sharing a child's first experience learning how to read, is as simple as it is rewarding. If you're concerned about our future, then you care about our kids, and certainly Kiwanis does.
With the holidays fast upon us, I want to recognize Rotary Santa Claus Incorporated for its work repairing and recycling used toys. Thanks to you, children who far too often have to go without can look forward to finding something special under the Christmas tree. And then I also want to salute the Ontario Police Department -- led by Lowell Stark, the police chief here, but even more important, Rotarian -- for their award-winning gang control program. Your slogan says it all, ``Gangs plus dope equal no hope.'' Your success has won admirers not just statewide but wherever communities are plagued by gang violence.
We can help in Washington. I want to get our national drug-fighting program fully implemented. And they're going pretty well. There are some encouraging notes there. I want to get our crime bill passed by the Congress. And one of my big regrets was they didn't pass a strong crime bill that has a little more sympathy for the people out there on patrol and a little less for the victims [perpetrators] of crime. I want that passed. And we're going to keep working to get it done, but I just want to salute those who are going forward with this good work for fighting against these gangs and offering alternatives to the young people in this country.
To prove just how far Ontario has come in promoting peace among the warring factions we do, indeed, have the Kiwanians and the Rotarians sitting together in this room. [Laughter]
I thank you for inviting us here, giving me this opportunity to spend time in the community. And great things are happening -- today's guest, and giving me this opportunity to spend some time in your community. Great things are happening. I wish all -- maybe some of you have been there; I'm sure you have -- but just a few minutes ago I toured the Mag Instrument plant here in Ontario. Yes, I've seen the light. [Laughter] And I met the people who have turned a one-man, one-room operation into an industry leader, worldwide, 10 short years. And I came away proud, impressed once more with this American energy and American ingenuity.
I have visited since I've been President 48 States in 3 years, a little less than 3 years. And everyplace I visit gives you a chance to talk to people and to listen and, as was true of today, to learn.
And Ontario's a long way from Washington. You're not caught up in the beltway blame game that dominates so much of the coverage that I'm sure you see every night. You're not so much caught up in the finger-pointing and the posturing, the battle for the 9-second sound bite out there on the evening news that all of us politicians compete so vigorously for. What matters to you are real-world concerns: The quality of our schools, a good job with a future, safe streets, clean air, neighborhoods where people look out for one another. And all the squabbling in Washington is background noise as you pay the bills and raise your kids with a sense of right and wrong, and plan for the future.
Each community faces these real-world challenges in its own way. Take the way your community has coped with change. Not long ago, Ontario and the area around it was little more than a point on the map from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. And today, your city is part of California's Inland Empire, the fastest growing region in one of America's fastest growing States.
The Inland Empire stands alone in California as the only region to report uninterrupted job growth every month during the national economic downturn. And yet, because the population grew faster than the jobs, even here you've seen an increase in unemployment. And even your enviable growth record offers cold comfort to those people that are out there that are caught in the downturn. And I know this, that for a person out of a job, the unemployment rate is 100 percent.
Yes, times are tough across this country. The local construction industry lost 10,000 jobs in the past year alone. The manufacturing sector and aerospace industry have been hard hit. The pressure to sustain growth won't let up. According to projections, the population of San Bernardino County will more than double from 1980 just to the year 2000.
Today, the single largest export from the Inland Empire remains commuters: 300,000 to 400,000 make the trip each day to jobs in greater Los Angeles. And yet, increasingly, Ontario finds itself pulled into the global marketplace by virtue of its place on the Pacific Rim. Warehousing jobs are up nearly 20 percent in 2 years due to increased exports. UPS has made Ontario one of its three domestic airline hubs, well-positioned to serve the western United States and in the international markets across the Pacific. This new addition to Ontario's corporate community will pump 0,000 a year into this county's economy.
The people of the Inland Empire are building this future for themselves, and the growth that results will be the sweat of your hard work, not the gift of Government. And what you want from Government is the good sense to know when to step in and help, and then when to step out of the way.
But we can help, and we're going to help. Government can help by fighting to open new markets to American goods. When trade is free and fair, I am absolutely convinced that American workers can outthink, outproduce, and outdistance any foreign competitor. Our administration has made free trade a key element in our foreign policy, from Fast Track authority with Mexico -- and that is going to mean more jobs here -- to the talks we're going to hold not long from now when I travel to Korea and Japan.
Here at home, we have pushed for the kind of economic growth initiatives that will encourage growth, that will create jobs. And from day one as President, I've argued that we can never stand pat and simply assume endless economic prosperity. In 1989, in the midst of the longest peacetime expansion in American history, I called on the Congress to pass a series of growth initiatives, 1989 incentives to spur saving and investment, to support aggressive R D, research and development, to reduce the cost of capital. You all know the story: 3 years later, we're still waiting for Congress to lay aside the politics and pick up the challenge.
I am not about to let Congress off the hook. Next month, in my State of the Union Message, I'll challenge Congress to work with me at long last to get the job done, to take action to get this economy growing again, generating good jobs for working men and women all across this country.
For all the economic dislocations, for all the real hurt people are suffering through today, I am confident, confident that here in California and across this country our recovery will gain speed. And I look back to the early eighties, when the economy went through a tough period of wheel-spinning before it set out on the path of sustained growth. Back then I think unemployment reached up in the double-digit range, 10-point-something percent. A recovery now that, as we look back on it, meant better lives for millions of American families. Years from now, we may well look back on the early nineties the same way, as the moment the American economy moved forward toward a new century, confident, certain, and full of hope.
I will be glad to respond to questions on this subject or anything else. But I want to make another point. There has been some suggestion that you should lay aside interest in foreign affairs and concentrate solely on domestic. It's not easy. The world is small. Our future here in this -- in Ontario, California, is interacting with world markets abroad, and well it should. And so when I go to Japan, is that foreign or domestic? As I go there to try to get them to do more about opening up their markets to goods from California and my State of Texas and from the East and wherever, they interact.
When we do something that works for peace in the world, whether it's a Middle East peace conference or whether it's whipping aggression halfway around the world in Kuwait by a brutal dictator, Saddam Hussein, trying to take over another country by force, is that purely foreign policy or does it relate to the national security of the United States and the safety and tranquility of society here and the fact that your kids and my grandkids can grow up in a more peaceful world? It's interacting, is my point.
And so, I'm not going to let these political critics keep me from doing my job as President of the United States when it comes to the national security and the economic interests of the United States of America.
It's a great pleasure to be with you today. And I don't know how this -- I'll turn to the boss here and see. Oh, here he is. [Laughter] Rotary takes over. [Laughter] And let him go. Let's proceed with a few questions.
Mr. Brulte. Thank you, Mr. President. Before we proceed with a few questions, to my Rotary brothers and sisters, I'm sorry this is a Kiwanis meeting, but I want you to notice the President is sitting on the Rotary side of the table. [Laughter]
In the interest of fairness, we decided that the first four questions would come from Rotary and the first four questions would come from Kiwanis. We would combine them, intersperse them, allowing the presidents and the leadership of the organizations to choose the method of selecting those questioners. The Kiwanis Club called all their members, invited them to ask questions. They then selected the names of those individuals, and we have those questions up here.
George Chalfant, the Rotary president, was a little more creative. He took a computer list of all the members of Rotary, pinned it to his wall, and threw his red felt pen at it -- [laughter] -- I think five times. The first one missed, and we have those. Those have been submitted. And if we get through those, we'll then take some that were written by the audience.
Q. You have stated that education is a major priority in your administration, but it seems there's difficulty in funding it in light of many other priorities.
The President. Education, is that the question? I was listening to Marlin Fitzwater over here, the household word on television that you sometimes see.
Well, education is a major priority. Six percent of education money is Federal; 94 percent of it comes from other sources. Federal money has gone up for education in our administration and will probably do the same next year. I don't think it's a question of funding alone; certainly it's not a question of funding alone at the Federal level.
We have a new education program called America 2000. And what we did was, we went down and we met with the Governors, Republican and Democrat alike, in Charlottesville a couple of years ago, came together setting out six national education goals. Then we've got a Secretary of Education, Lamar Alexander, who is taking this America 2000 program all across the country.
It encompasses things like choice. It encompasses like revolutionizing schools where you go to the communities and have a contest or have rewards for who prevails on this to come out with a whole new concept of schools. Maybe some will want a longer school year; maybe some will want to radically alter the curriculum. But instead of letting the bureaucracy in Washington mandate to the schools how Federal money -- that's yours, incidentally -- gets spent, this is a whole new approach that puts the control, the innovation, the revolution, right into the communities itself. And that isn't a function of money.
We're spending more per capita on kids than almost any other country in the world, and we still rank 13th in math and science. So our education goals that include things like ready to learn, that means more for Head Start, which we can help at the Federal level -- more in math and science. ``You're never too old to learn'' is one of the goals. And we're talking there, of course, about adult education. All of these goals can be implemented without seriously raising taxes, raising taxes at all, or seriously increasing spending for a specific program.
So my answer to you is we will continue. We will be able at the Federal level to continue to increase the Federal role. But I would say to the communities -- and if there ever was a group that understands this, that I'm singing to the choir about and that understands this, it is this one because you know. You serve on the school boards. You know how control should stay close to the community. We need more parental involvement.
And very candidly, and I say this not just because she's here, but the work that the Points of Light, one of the brightest one of which is a Barbara Bush function, has a lot to do with it. She spends almost all her time out there, extracurricular time, helping people, inspiring people to read, teaching parents to read to their kids. The Federal Government can't do that.
So we've got a good education program. Whoever sent the question up, Frank, you're right on target that we've got to do better. But I believe we can, and I believe this is one area that we're on the way to radical change, and it's change for the better for the American society.
Q. The rapid increase in medical knowledge has been fantastic, but people are unhappy with the delivery of medical care. Redtape, bureaucracy, regulations, and costs are of great concern. Millions of people are unable to obtain even basic medical care. What studies or programs are you setting up to improve this?
The President. I will have a proposal in the State of the Union Message. There are about 31 programs on Capitol Hill for medical care. So far we've been concentrating on prevention, we've been concentrating with limited success, I would say, on cost control which is a part of Dr. Malone's question.
But I do think the time has come for the administration to come forward with a comprehensive program. I hope it's one, and I'm confident that it will be, at least the way it comes from us to the Congress, that does not call for increasing taxes on the working men and women of this country. I think it will be a good program. We will capitalize on and learn from some of these programs that are floating around up there.
When I hear people say what we ought to do is put the Canadian system into effect, I think they're wrong. I think we've got the best quality health care in the world, and I don't want to see that diluted by going to socializing our medical treatment and diminishing the choice for individuals about going to their own doctor. We'll have a good program. I believe the country by then will be receptive. I will have the benefit of a study that Dr. Louis Sullivan, the head of HHS, will have completed before the end of this month, actually before Christmas. And I hope it's one that you can give your full support to.
The Grace Commission
Q. What's being done about the rest of the Grace commission reports? Can we not still eliminate much, much waste in Government?
The President. Fortunately, many of the Grace recommendations have been implemented. There is plenty more to do. The Vice President's Competitiveness Council has the ball on some of the major regulatory deficiencies that the Grace commission very properly put up. So I believe the answer is, we will continue to work on that problem. It is extraordinarily complicated.
Part of it is that you have Congress -- I don't say it to be bashing them -- but you have a tendency there to put a lot of mandates, a lot of detail on these programs, and that makes for much less efficiency. So we'll continue it. And I think the vehicle for that right now is the Vice President's Competitiveness Council, which does consider these efficiency recommendations, many of which, as I say, have been implemented; more of which must be.
Nuclear Weapons Proliferation
Q. Are you concerned about the independent Republics of the Soviet Union regarding their possession of nuclear weapons and conventional weapons and troops? And what steps are you taking to allay those concerns, if you have any?
The President. Well, I certainly do have concerns. One of the hallmarks of our administration in this whole area of foreign policy is to guard against nuclear proliferation. We don't need any more nuclear powers. And as the Soviet Union, as these independent Republics come forward -- and we salute those who decide on their own, exercising their right of self-determination to be free, to be independents -- this problem of nuclear proliferation must concern us.
For example, in the Ukraine the other day there was an overwhelming vote of support for Kravchuk and an even more overwhelming vote of support for independence. But the United States has a key role now in seeing that as that new state emerges, that it safely disposes of its nuclear weapons. Here's a case where I talked to President Kravchuk right after he was elected, and we both agreed that this is a priority.
We've been in very close touch with Boris Yeltsin of the Russian Republic, and he shares our concern, the concern of everybody in this room, about nuclear proliferation. It's much more complicated now. You can't just work out an arms control agreement as we have done on START or CFE with the center. You have to also be sure that the Republics are involved. But it is a problem. It is not going to go away. And it's one more reason why we must use everything at our disposal to see that these weapons are not only accounted for but that they are also safely, and I use that word advisedly, destroyed.
There's a lot of high technology that goes into the destruction of nuclear weapons. So far, I can tell you, we're getting good soundings of support from Gorbachev, from Yeltsin, from Kravchuk, and from others as well. So it is a problem that we're going to stay on top of; it is one where I can assert with some optimism that we will succeed.
I worry more, in this field of nuclear proliferation, about renegade transfers of technology. And that's something that's very hard to guard against. It's something where intelligence is less than perfect. But again, we have as a major instruction to our new Director of Central Intelligence, Bob Gates, nuclear weapon proliferation. It would be a shame to win the peace, having beaten back aggression, and then have this insidious threat of nuclear weapons crop up in the hands of some renegade dictator around the world.
So, it again is one that you finger as a very, very important problem. It's one where we will stay fully and actively involved. And so far, though, with the Soviet Union and Republics, I'm a little optimistic, because they're saying and doing the right things.
And incidentally, when I made that sweeping proposal on nuclear weapons a while back that was so well-received around the world, that one, Gorbachev came back, accepted that fully, and is prepared to go further. And along with him, the Republics weigh in, Kravchuk in the Ukraine, Nazarbayev, Yeltsin. And so the mood in that part of the world now is for cooperating fully with us in this terribly important area of arms control, as well as guarding against nuclear proliferation.
Q. I understand you and Barbara were married on the same date in 1945 that Helen and I were married. Will you join us in our backyard on our mutual anniversary? [Laughter] We'll fix shish kebab. [Laughter]
The President. Were you married January 2d? Well, if I can remember it. I'm the guy that couldn't remember when Pearl Harbor is. [Laughter] Jerry, that's a wonderful invitation, and I'll leave that one to Barbara. [Laughter] But thank you for the thought.
And you know, let me tell something to you newlyweds out there. And let me be sure I get the number of years right. [Laughter] It doesn't hurt a bit. I'll just make this one serious observation. Barbara and I do talk about this because we're blessed with a lot of grandkids and sons and a daughter. I've got to tell you I worry about the diminution of family in this country. And I know Barbara worries about it. I know everybody out here worries about it. I hope that while I'm President I will continue to be able to find ways to strengthen family, guard against legislation that might encourage families to live apart so they can get a little more Federal largesse out of the benefit system. And I worry about it. And yet when you get out around the country and away from some of the most troubled areas, I am inclined to feel that this concept of family values and faith and this kind of thing is still pretty darn strong in our country. And we want to do the best to help keep it that way.
Q. One of Rotary's main thrusts is world peace and understanding for all nations. With the release of the hostages are we now closer to that goal, or is that threat still with us?
The President. Well, I'm afraid the terrorist threat is still with us. We, of course, rejoice in the release of these hostages. Incidentally, I don't consider that chapter closed. Mr. Buckley, who allegedly was tortured until his death, his remains have not been returned. There are some rumors that that might be taken care of. I hope so. Colonel Higgins, you remember the Marine colonel that was serving in the southern part of Lebanon under the Blue Flag, under the United Nations flag, he was killed. He was murdered. And his remains have not been returned. So as far as this President is concerned, the chapter is not closed.
I rejoice in the release of the last hostage, Terry Anderson, and those that preceded him. And I'm proud that I can represent to the American people that our policy -- although certainly this release took far too long in terms of strains on family -- was implemented; that there was no quid pro quo. Because in staying with that policy it seems to me we diminish the chance that others, seeing rewards having been granted for taking people prisoner, would do the same thing.
But having said that, there are a lot of weird people around the world who think they can use terrorism or hostage holding as a way to implement their political agenda or to facilitate political change.
We are stepping up -- and have since I've been there, and certainly President Reagan was very concerned about that -- our intelligence, our counterintelligence, that would lead us to be able to abort some of these terrorist acts. But it is not an easy problem, and I wish I could tell you it was behind us. And while I rejoice in the release of these hostages, it is something that still concerns us very, very much. And we will be as alert as we possibly can to safeguard the lives of American citizens wherever they may be.
Financing of College Education
Q. As a parent of college-age children, how do you see families meeting the rising expense of a college education? Do you favor the use of IRA money for college expenses?
The President. We'll take a look at that in terms of change to policy. We have this scholarship program now, college savings program, that is in a sense an IRA program. It isn't as widely used as it might be. But Government scholarships are important; we have some of those. Private scholarships are far more important; we have many of those. And cost containment really lies -- the problem of cost containment to guard against further increases really is not in the hands of the Federal Government, except as it relates to the overall inflation rate in the country.
While I bemoan the slowness of the economy and worry about people that are out of work, I think it is fair to say that inflation that has been so devastating in terms of families -- you can't say it's under control, but it's far better. It's far less of a threat to people that are saving under these college programs to get their kids educated.
Incidentally, what this big secret message was from Marlin Fitzwater, I think you would be interested if you haven't seen it. And that is that the Federal Reserve took the constructive step of easing the Federal funds rate by a quarter of a point today, to 4.5 percent. And, you see, this is still going on. They're still lowering these rates. And lower rates are among the factors that eventually will be of strong help to the recovery. And even now, this percentage drop in the Fed funds rates, I think, will help the economy along.
So I can present this to you as pretty good news, and I hope that it will mean that we'll facilitate the lending that is so essential to get this part of the country moving and growing strongly again.
Q. As small business people, what can we do to help this country regain economic and educational status in the world?
The President. Well, in the educational status, I would strongly urge you to take a look at what we're doing in terms of America 2000. There's a role for small businesses in there. There's a role for every community in there. I would urge that approach on the economy. I would urge you to contact the legislators in terms of less regulation. I think one thing that's inhibiting small business is too much regulation. I would urge small business people, if they agree with what I'm about to say, to weigh in strongly.
The Democrats, liberal Democrats, in the Congress -- not all of them, but the liberal ones -- accuse me in supporting capital gains as being a tax for the rich, a tax break for the rich. It is a jobs bill. It would immediately result in more investment and more jobs. So I'll take that political heat from the demagogs on Capitol Hill, but help me get a capital gains cut so that entrepreneurs and small business people can profit by what they do and thus do more of it. We want a capital gains tax cut, and it's about time.
And I might add, though I don't spend a lot of time watching what's happening on the other side of the aisle in terms of Presidential hopefuls, that several Democrats are now embracing support for capital gains. So we'll take the support wherever we can get it. It's long overdue, and it will stimulate this economy, and it will get right to the crux of your question: What can small business people do? You can have a much better life, much more entrepreneurship, much more investment, many more job creation possibilities if we can lower the rates on capital gains.
You know what Japan's capital gains rate -- Japan and Germany -- one of them is one percent and the other is zero percent. And we're competing on what they call an unlevel playing field. So please help us on that one. And there are other things as well that I think in the tax proposals I've been making in terms of economic growth will benefit small business. But there are a couple of the areas where we could use your help, I'll tell you.
Peace and Freedom
Q. This will have to be the last question. The students at that school want to know what your wish is for the future of our children.
The President. Biggest wish would be that they grow up in a world at peace where they don't have to go to bed afraid of the threat of nuclear warfare and that they grow up in a country who retains its basic values and in a country where opportunity knows no limits.
And if I could look back over my shoulder and say what would I like to do while I'm President, I would like to make a contribution in both areas: One, in world peace; and the other, in terms of an America, whose freedom having been secured and guaranteed, knows no limits to its opportunities.
Thank you all very, very much.
Note: The President spoke at 12:40 p.m. at the Red Lion Inn in Ontario, CA. In his remarks, the President referred to Nancy DeDeimar, president of the Ontario Kiwanis, and Jay Holmes, a Rotarian and Pearl Harbor survivor. James Brulte served as emcee for the luncehon. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.