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Public Papers - 1991 - December

Remarks to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in Chicago, Illinois


Thank you all very much. And Jack, thank you, sir, for that more-than-generous introduction. To Bill Brodsky, my thanks to you, sir, for arranging all of this, coming from Wall Street to Chicago, as you have. I'm delighted to be with you. To Leo, Leo Melamed, the Babe Ruth of the exchange, I want to thank him. And, of course, salute two others with me, your great Governor, my friend Jim Edgar, and Ed Madigan, who is our new -- former Illinois Congressman, and now our able Secretary of Agriculture, who is up to his eyeballs in working with us to try to make a successful conclusion to this GATT round. And he's knocking himself out, crossing the Atlantic Ocean back and forth, but we couldn't have a better Secretary of Agriculture trying to open up these foreign markets to our agricultural products. Ed, thank you.

And I thought Jim Thompson was going to be with us, but maybe he's not that brave, a member of the Board of Trade and a lawyer. [Laughter] But he was here, and I salute him, a longtime friend.

Jack mentioned the visit to the trading floor, and I do want to thank everyone involved in that trip through that melee for their warmth of the reception and the -- I thought it would be pretty hard to match the emotion of last weekend out there in Pearl Harbor, but I'll tell you, this was a little different. Younger kids, all -- there were a few old guys down there -- [laughter] -- but I'm talking about enthusiasm and the future. And it was a wonderfully inspiring trip through that floor, and I want to thank those of you who were here that participated in that and everybody else responsible for that visit. Thank you very, very much.

It's great to be back here and to have a chance to visit briefly with the leaders of the business community and leaders of this exchange. As you know, we've had a staff change at the White House, a new Chief of Staff coming there. And when John Sununu resigned, I looked to Chicago, I looked to the Windy City for help, for another sound manager, communicator, and consummate politician. Well, Mike Ditka was busy with other responsibilities -- [laughter] -- and Sam Skinner, though, rose to the fore. And I think we're going to have a very good operation with your friend and mine, Sam, who did a great job as Secretary of Transportation, now in this new, key place as we move into a new year.

I've really enjoyed my visits here to both exchanges today, the board and then here. I've seen the future. It uses hand signals, at least for now. [Laughter] But then, I've also glimpsed at the fact that that's also changing. Speaking of hand signals, I saw a few riding in here. [Laughter] They have a nice way here of making one feel at home. [Laughter] No, actually it's been very, very friendly.

But I really enjoyed the tour downstairs, and I also have been looking forward to this part of the program, here on the upper floor, the futures market of the future, I think we really can peek into the next century. Soon, probably sooner than you expect, this area will be as packed and busy as the trading pits below.

The Merc has become a bellwether of the future because it never, ever lost the inventive spirit of its founders. You defied the doomsayers when you pioneered that risk-pool management through the Exchange Trust. You established the first financial futures market, the International Monetary Market. You saw an international marketplace and established overseas offices before most exchanges even thought of setting up domestic branches. And you created Eurodollar Futures a decade ago, and I know you celebrated its 10th anniversary yesterday. And you should be very, very proud of this world leadership.

In challenging times, you've thrived. And this year, you trimmed expenses to improve efficiency, and your business grew by more than 4 percent, I'm told. Through the ups and downs of the business cycle, you've operated without requiring a dime's worth of assistance from the American taxpayer. And you've taken care of your own without losing your momentum for a single minute.

It's great to be here -- I mentioned him earlier -- with Leo Melamed whom, I suppose, you call the father of the future. And now, you all know of his professional accomplishments, but he never left his imagination at the office. As many of you know, he has also written prodigiously. His greatest triumph was the science fiction thriller ``The Tenth Planet.'' It's not about Capitol Hill; it is another science fiction thriller.

Sometimes, though, debates on Capitol Hill about the economy sound as if they were about life on another planet. And you know, an economy does not run just on money. An economy lives and breathes on ideas and information.

Entrepreneurs like the men and women who trade in the Merc's pits, the farmers who work the fields by day and the computers by night, arbitrageurs in London, and investors the world over, these people swap ideas, information, dreams, and dares, and they fire an economy. Their energy drives our Nation forward. They chart the course through the international marketplace.

A government that does not understand the gritty fundamentals of business cannot understand how to help an economy grow. Ten years ago, many of you stood with us as the Reagan-Bush administration took on the old wisdom that government could solve everything and that business could flourish regardless of what burdens Washington heaped upon it. We cut the taxes and peeled away regulations, restrained spending, promoted free trade. And out of that came the longest peacetime economic expansion in the history of this country. While others may have sat back to enjoy their new prosperity, you were a driving dynamic here. You moved forward.

You've stood with my administration as we work to create the conditions for a more vibrant economy. I've asked Congress for 3 years to pass a series of growth initiatives, job-creating initiatives. And the economy has turned sluggish. People want action. And I want action, action to help people, action to make things better now and in the future.

And our administration believes as you do that the solution lies in free markets for free people. We've promoted straightforward measures to invigorate the economy, such as cuts in the capital gains tax; banking reform, inclusive banking reform legislation; letting first-time homebuyers use these IRA's for purchasing homes; a permanent tax credit for R D, for research and development, and so on.

We pushed other initiatives to make the most of our human capital now and in the future: A revolution, for example, in American education; a tough crime package to back up the police officers that we are supported by every single day of our lives; a tort reform bill up there that will put some caps on some of these mindlessly high settlements that are driving much of the industry to its knees; and recently, a transportation bill that will create jobs and provide much needed repair for our roads and bridges and infrastructure.

And, again, I salute Sam Skinner for his leadership as our Secretary of Transportation on this important job-creating legislation.

Although both political parties will feel tempted to engage in partisan warfare when Congress comes back in January, reconvenes, I will be calling upon the Democrats and the Republicans to lay partisanship aside long enough to pass a clear, strong growth package. We owe it to the taxpayer; we owe it to those who have jobs, and we owe it to those who don't have jobs to get that done regardless of politics. And I'm going to do that, no matter that 1992 is a Presidential election year.

And I might say, being in his hometown, I can work with Dan Rostenkowski, your friend and mine, who is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. And if we had more like him I believe we could have gotten these problems solved long, long ago.

In the post-cold war world -- and you've set the example on this one -- we must thrive in the international marketplace. I am going to be meeting this weekend with President Salinas. And I know he was up visiting you all earlier this year. And the two of us are going to discuss trade matters in detail. And later this month I will promote free and fair trade -- read that, jobs -- with our allies in Japan and South Korea and Singapore, and also going down to Australia. Free and fair trade means more jobs for Americans.

And we must not pull back into some isolationistic sphere listening to the siren's call of ``America first.'' I learned that lesson as a young kid just at the beginning of World War II, and I don't want to see this country go back to ``America first'' and protection. That will shrink markets and throw people out of work. And we need to stand together against that call from the left and against that call from the right to stay within ourselves. We owe the world leadership, and they're going to get it from this President.

You know, the allegation is that I spend a lot of time on foreign affairs. I take great pride in some of the accomplishments we've made. I think America came together at Desert Storm, and we found a new sense of confidence, a new spirit as a Nation. And I'm not going to back away from that. I am proud that we're bringing parties that have stood at each other's throats for years, bringing them together in the Middle East to talk some peace. I'm proud of the way we've handled the evolution in the Soviet Union. And right today it is extraordinarily complicated.

But my point is, we cannot withdraw, we can't pull back. You can't do it. You're engaged in the markets, and well you should be, because that offers prosperity to the American people as well as to others. And I don't think a President should pull back in the face of domestic criticism by some partisans suggesting that we don't have to worry about our national security and that we don't see that jobs stem from being engaged with foreign countries, instead of being pulled back from engagement with foreign countries.

So, I can do both. We can stay involved, work for world peace, enhance our national security, and now drive forward to get this economy moving by bipartisan action for growth, economic growth that means jobs for the American people.

Years ago, Carl Sandburg described this city as ``the hog butcher for the world.'' That was the Chicago of another era, another world. And today, Chicago serves the pork belly's future, the currency's future, the future, period, of an international marketplace. And the one message I'd like to come out of this meeting here today and the other meetings I've had is that we are the hub of the international market. And countries that are emerging into democracy are looking to us for leadership in terms of making world markets. And nobody does it any better than the people right here in this room.

Thank you very, very much. And now get back to work and help us shape another American century. Thank you all. I'm glad to be with you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:05 p.m. following a tour of the trading floor. In his remarks, he referred to John F. Sandner, chairman of the board of governors of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange; William J. Brodsky, president and chief executive officer of the exchange; and Leo Melamed, chairman emeritus of the exchange and chairman of the Globex Corp. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

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