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Public Papers - 1992 - May

Teleconference Remarks to the American Newspaper Publishers Association


The President. Thank you, Bob, and thank all of you for that warm welcome. And I'd like to say hello to Cathy Black there, the ANPA CEO and president. I want to congratulate your incoming chairman, an old friend, Frank Bennack, who takes the gavel for the ANPA and the new NAA. And it's good to be with all of you again, this time via satellite.

Please excuse the slight delay here. I've just come from a longer than expected press conference with President Kravchuk of Ukraine. And incidentally, that was an important meeting we had, and I think it went very well indeed. The relationship between the United States and Ukraine is a developing one, and it is a very important one. And I will be seeing him again in a couple of hours. But that's why I was a little late here.

Before taking your questions, let me just give you a brief update on events in Los Angeles. As I think back today to when I spoke with the American people last Friday evening, I think of the oath that I took as President, the Constitution's charge to ensure domestic tranquility. This I know: We cannot and can never condone violence because without peace there can be no hope.

All of us are grateful that our actions have brought calm to Los Angeles. The kids are back in school; city buses are running; the curfew is lifted. After last week's shock and spectacle, we take heart at the willpower of the people of Los Angeles to join hands and hearts to mend their community.

Let me focus for a minute on what we're doing at the Federal level, working in cooperation with the Governor and the Mayor to help in the rebuilding. Through my Presidential disaster declaration, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will make assistance available to individuals and families and the city and county of Los Angeles. We've got a preliminary estimate of this assistance, and the preliminary estimate is approximately 0 million.

Now, we will make grants directly to people hit the hardest by the violence, personal grants up to ,500 to meet urgent needs like food, clothing, and medicine. These grants will also help with temporary housing, money to provide shelter for up to 18 months for families who have lost their homes or money for repairs to minimally damaged homes. And we're also helping with crisis counseling and disaster unemployment assistance for those who are now without jobs as a result of the disaster.

A disaster field office is already up and running in Los Angeles. And FEMA's 800 assistance number is ready to receive calls in English, Spanish, Chinese, Thai, Korean, and Laotian. In addition, FEMA will assist State and local governments to repair and restore public utilities, like water and electricity, essential to everyday life. This is a cooperation program, a program of cooperation with State and Federal and local governments.

Beyond these emergency grants, we will provide low-interest Small Business Administration disaster loans up to 0,000 for business losses that exceed insurance coverage and up to 0,000 to homeowners and renters for damage not covered by insurance. Preliminary estimates indicate that roughly 0 million in loans will be made in the Los Angeles area.

Finally, the Department of Agriculture has arranged for delivery of over 2,000 cases of rice cereal, over 2,000 cases of infant formula, nearly 250 cases of nonfat dry milk, and continues to assess emergency food needs in the city of Los Angeles. So all told, Federal aid to speed the recovery process in Los Angeles is estimated at approximately 0 million.

Now tonight, I'll be traveling to California to get a firsthand look at the situation in Los Angeles. There I'll be meeting with members of the community to discuss how we can continue the work of building a future of hope, understanding, and tolerance, a future where there's no room for hatred. That's a story I know every one of us wants to see in print.

Let me say this about the desire that all Americans share to see that what happened in Los Angeles never happens again: We all want to solve the problems. This is no time to play the blame game. It is time for honest talk. And the fact is, in the past decades spending is up, the number of programs are up, and yet, let's face it, that has not solved many of the fundamental problems that plague our cities. We need an honest, open national discussion about family, about values, about public policy, and about race. That's the only way forward. And that's what I intend to do in the days ahead.

I'll never forget when Mayor Bradley of Los Angeles came with some other mayors to see me a few months ago. And he pointed out, as did all of them -- small city mayors, big city mayors -- that the decline in the family, the dissolution of the American family is at the core of the problems the cities face. And we've got to find ways to strengthen the American family. Barbara does it by encouraging parents to read to their kids, and we're trying to do it through our own education program and through revising the welfare system that in the past has encouraged families to live apart.

But the family is important in all of this. And I might add, lastly, so is the private sector. Peter Ueberroth talked to me in very optimistic tones the other day of how the private sector can now get involved in some of these areas in job-creating ways that will offer them hope for the future, not just a repair mechanism but real hope for the future.

So, I approach this with optimism. I know we've got to do better. The whole country has to do better. And I'm looking forward to going out there and then making some recommendations to the country about what we should do.

But anyway, thank you all very much for letting me be a part of your 106th convention. And now I'll be delighted to take some questions, Bob.

Q. All right. Thank you, Mr. President. There is a podium with a microphone here from which questions can be asked.

Women's Issues

Q. Mr. President, last night seven women who know each other only through this convention, for the most part -- and we're from all over the country, ranged in age from 21 to over 70 -- had dinner together. During the course of the evening we found that we agreed almost 100 percent on the problems that are facing not just professional women but all women in this country over the next few years. I'd like to give you those problems.

The first one was physical violence, just the garden variety of crime that we see, random crime resulting from the rage in this country. The second was sexual violence, including rape, sexual harassment, and job discrimination particularly. The third is financial violence, including things like not only just getting along in our struggling economy and making ends meet but things that are gender-specific like years of pay discrimination and the fact that more women are supporting families alone and living longer than men in a time when services are declining and expenses are going up. And finally, the abortion issue and the question of whether women will, in private consultation with their God, have the right to choose how to manage their own body or whether our U.S. Government is going to tell us that.

Mr. President, we'd like to know what your agenda is for dealing with these issues facing American women.

The President. I think we've got a good agenda for dealing with these problems. First, on physical violence, and secondly, on rape and job discrimination, there are strong laws on the book. We're trying to make them even stronger by passing a meaningful crime bill that will, in my view, inhibit crime. I've had difficulty with that, but we're going to keep on trying to get such legislation through the United States Congress.

And I think you're absolutely correct in the underlying point that this kind of violence must end. I am not overly happy with some of the violence I see in the public media, and I've spoken out against that. I saw a film the other day, and I'll spare you its name, a rather prominent new one that almost glorified the use of narcotics, cocaine in this instance. And we have tried very hard, working with some of the media people to eliminate that. There's a great private sector effort going on under the leadership of Jim Burke to try to use the media to speak out against the narcotics and against the underlying things that lead to the kind of violence that both you and I decry.

Financial violence: The answer is to get this economy going. I'm a little more optimistic about that one right now. I believe that most people feel that the economy is starting to move. I was wrong last year. I thought the economy was starting in a recovery about this time and that by the end of August the recovery would be, if not robust, pretty steady; and it wasn't. And I think 49 of the 50 blue-chip indicating economists, who are leading economists, felt the same way.

But I think the answer to financial violence is equal opportunity. And I hope that the recovery -- and it would have been stimulated, I think, if we could have passed these very laserlike growth initiatives that I have proposed and am still proposing. I hope that will take care of a lot of the financial violence that we've suffered through as a result of longer than normal recession.

On abortion, you and I just have different views on that one, and I am appalled at the numbers of abortions. I know that others view it very, very differently. I have confidence in the court system and, of course, as President will uphold the Constitution of the United States. But when I see a 13-year-old -- some of the groups are fighting legislation that would say to a 13-year-old, you've got to notify your parents; they're challenging that law in Pennsylvania. I'm sorry, I just disagree with it.

And I think that contributes to a weakening of the family, too. So, I have a difference. I come down on the side of the sanctity of life, and others look at it quite differently. But the matter is in the courts, and then we'll see what happens. I don't know how broad the Supreme Court decision will be, but at some point it will go back out to the States again.

Urban Aid

Q. The New York Times today asserts in its lead editorial that spending on direct aid for cities has fallen by more than 60 percent, after adjusting for inflation, since 1981. First, how will you explain that statistic to the people of Los Angeles whom you will soon be visiting? And second, if many of them have, in fact, suffered dramatic declines in economic opportunity in the last decade, they will, of course, want to know if recent events have convinced you to reconsider your strategies on Federal aid to cities.

The President. Well, first place, I'd like to look at the New York Times editorial. I have asked the Director of OMB to give me the amounts by which Federal spending has increased, and it's increased dramatically. We may be being judged by whether you should put money into these hopeless projects of bricks and mortar that we saw rot in St. Louis, for example, and deny everybody dignity.

If you can pick out a program like that one and say spending is down, you're correct. What we've tried to do is bring it to bear in different ways. We've tried for block grants that leave the individual communities to have a better shot. But overall, I can certify to you that spending is up. So, I'd have to see exactly what it is that the New York Times is talking about.

What was the second part of your question? Is she gone?

Q. She's back. [Laughter] The second part was, many of the people in L.A. have, in fact, suffered dramatic declines in economic opportunity in the last decade. They will, of course, want to know if recent events have convinced you to reconsider your strategies on Federal aid to cities.

The President. I think we should certainly reconsider the status quo in terms of Federal aid to cities. And that's one of the things we've been trying to do by offering people HOPE, Home Ownership for People Everywhere, for offering them enterprise zones that would actually bring businesses into the communities. You see, I don't think this is a time for blame, as I said in my remarks. I think it is a time to rethink and to try some new ideas as to how we cope with the problems of the cities. I think we would all agree that it hasn't worked. It hasn't worked in the last 10 years; it hasn't worked in the last 30. And so we've got to do what we can.

All the time I have to bear in mind, however, because of my concern about the Federal deficit that's appalling, exactly how many dollars can be brought to bear in the community. And this is one of the reasons I like what Peter Ueberroth is talking -- what we've tried to be talking about in terms of Points of Light, people, neighbors helping neighbors, in terms of block grants and fewer mandated programs.

One of the places that I may have a difference with the New York Times editorial page, and there may be others, relates to the concept of mandated programs. You see, every Governor, every Governor comes to Washington and says, ``Do not mandate any more programs. Please do not pass programs that tell me as Governor or my mayors as mayors how they have to spend the money.'' So, we have a proposal for a substantial block grant that has been pending in the United States Congress, and maybe that time has come to think new thoughts and to try that one.

So I would tell them: Look, I'm not happy with the status quo, and clearly you're not happy with the status quo, so let's try some new ideas. Let's try some change. And this isn't any time for demagoguery or blame. In my view, it's a time to go out and sensibly and sensitively survey the situation, do what I have suggested here, which is to bring the Federal resources to bear on the problem, and then say: Look, let's turn over a new leaf, and let's see what will heal. And all the time remembering that we cannot condone lawlessness and violence. And so we can separate that out. I will do what the Federal Government can do to support the local police, to support the mayors, to support the Governors in their requests for support for keeping the peace. So, that's one.

And then the other: What do you do about the problems? How do you bring hope where there has been hopelessness? And I think my challenge now is to find a package of answers that will at least give these people that you're talking about a shot at something new. And I am not pessimistic about it. I really believe that in our country sometimes out of despair or out of gloom comes real opportunity. That's the way I'm going to approach it, with no rancor in my heart, and do what we can to help.

And I must tell you, I am very pleased at the reaction from both the Governor and the Mayor about the Federal response. It is not easy when you want the Federal Government to be a partner, but you don't want it to dominate. I think we've handled it right in terms of putting down the violence. And I hope we're handling it right in terms of compassionate help to people that desperately need it.

Q. Mr. President, if we have time for one more question -- --

Welfare Reform

Q. My question is, you have indicated that there are some basic flaws with our current welfare system, and that they are related to the crisis in Los Angeles. What are your specific ideas for welfare reform, and how will they relate to that crisis?

The President. The best answer on welfare reform is to give the States the flexibility through the waiver process to innovate. And that's exactly what we've done now with the State of Wisconsin. We have invited other States to send in requests for waivers so that we can let them innovate.

In the Wisconsin program, for example, there was Learnfare, there was Workfare, as a part of their reform program. Some were upset because in the program it suggests that if you curtail payments after so many children that that would be cruel. Others are saying that that'll be a disincentive for families that are going to just be on welfare and be there for decades. But let's see it work. This was passed by the Wisconsin Legislature. Let's see it work.

So, the Federal role predominantly is to provide the flexibility to the States that are required. But underlying my own philosophy is this concept of work incentive, learning incentive. And I'd like to see us really go forward on this program because therein, I think, lies the answer. I do not think that you're going to design one-size-fits-all welfare legislation out of Washington, DC. We've got to get past this view. And it's tough in an election year when you hear all the promises of these grand designs, which means just more Federal spending. I'm sorry, but I don't think the highly centralized Federal answers work, and I don't think that they need the support of people that are hurting, in the future.

So, this one on welfare, we're trying this diffused, decentralized approach, underpinning it as the kind of philosophy I've outlined for you. But I think it'll be well-received by the American people, and I wish those in Wisconsin who are starting with this waiver the greatest success with their approach.

Q. Mr. President, we thank you very much for taking time out of your schedule to join us, and we wish you well on your trip to Los Angeles.

The President. Thank you, Bob. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:50 p.m. via satellite from Room 459 of the Old Executive Office Building to the American Newspaper Publishers Association convention in New York City. In his remarks, he referred to Robert F. Erburu, association chairman; Peter Ueberroth, chairman of the Rebuild L.A. Committee; and Jim Burke, chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

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