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Public Papers - 1992

Remarks to Holland American Wafer Employees in Wyoming, Michigan


Thank you very, very much. Governor, John, thank you, sir. The problem with Governor Engler is you're never quite sure where he stands. [Laughter] Thank you so much for that warm introduction, my friend, and let me just say I am very, very proud to be at Governor Engler's side.

I want to say to John and Stuart Vander Heide, I am very pleased to be here, and I've had a good day. And I appreciate those who ended up having to go through sitting with us under the arcs at lunch. But they made me understand the heartbeat of this wonderful company. I want to thank all of you at our table and everybody else that's made us feel so welcome here.

I'm pleased that Congressman Henry and Mayor Voorhees could be with us today. And I want to single out another one who is from this area, but who has served our country with great distinction. He shed -- nobody thought this was possible -- his partisan politics, where he's helped me enormously over the years, to go over to Italy and serve with great distinction as our Ambassador: Pete Secchia over here, from Grand Rapids.

Let me just kind of put a Surgeon General's note on this speech. I have not shifted gears yet from trying to make some good things happen for this country, including yesterday making some decisions about standing up to be sure that Saddam Hussein lives up to these U.N. resolutions. He's going to do it. He may not know it, but he is going to live up to those resolutions.

But the warning label is that I haven't quite shifted gears yet to get into this mode that I'm looking forward to, which is the 4-year dance that American politicians go through where you really take your case strongly, not only about yourself and why you want to be reelected but about the others, to the American people. That will happen right after our convention, Republican Convention, in August of this year. But for now I want to talk to you on some broader principles.

Americans may not realize it when they reach for the cereal on the shelves, but this industry, our food industry, provides more food for less than any other nation in the entire world. The company, this one, is one reason we are the world's leader. So I'm pleased to announce that Stu and John have recruited me for a national crusade. Starting today, I will not only argue passionately that broccoli's benefits are overblown -- [laughter] -- but that sugar wafers should be one of the four essential ingredients in a healthy diet.

I'm told that this company was the originator of something called the survival biscuit. Well, it was one of the tokens of the cold war, a bit of nourishment to fill your stomach as you huddled somewhere in a bomb shelter in case the unthinkable became tragically real. While it may not be great for survival biscuit sales, the cold war is, thankfully, over. Survival biscuits have gone the way of the doomsday clock, ``Fail-Safe'' movies, duck-and-cover drills.

Today, America is safer than ever before, safer than we were a decade ago, safer than we were a year ago, and safer than we were just a few weeks ago, when I sat down with Boris Yeltsin and agreed to eliminate the world's most dangerous and destabilizing nuclear weapons, those great big ICBM's. This is good for your kids, and it's good for my grandkids. We all should take great pride in it.

Now that we have changed the world, the taxpayers and the leaders working together, it's time, high time, that we change America, time to turn our attention to pressing challenges like how to give a pink slip to our slow-growth economy -- it's growing but far too slow -- how to make our families more like the Waltons and a little bit less like the Simpsons, and how to take back our streets from the crack dealers and the criminals.

This election year, we're told, is about how we can change to meet these challenges. But this election is not just about change because change has a flip side. That flip side is called trust. When you get down to it, this election will be like every other. When you go into that voting booth and pull the curtain behind you, trust matters.

That's the way it should be. Many times in the White House late at night, the phone rings. Usually it's some young aide doublechecking on the next day's schedule. But occasionally it's another voice, more serious, more solemn, carrying news of a coup in a powerful country or asking how we should stand up to a bully halfway around the world. The American people need to know that the man who answers that phone has the experience, the seasoning, the guts to do the right thing.

That's trust in the traditional sense. But people who've spent their lives in government forget that trust is more even than that. I'm a Texan. I raised my children there. I built my businesses there. I voted there in every Presidential election since my first, including that one, that 1948 election, the year the press and the pundits counted Harry Truman out before the fight began. We remember that one, and I remember it. So wait until August.

I believe our heartbeat can be felt in places like Wyoming, Michigan, not Washington, DC. So I stake my claim in a simple philosophy: To lead a great Nation, you must first trust the people you lead. If you look at almost every important issue we face, you see a clearer choice, a choice between those who put their faith in average Americans and those who put their faith in Government. Let me explain what I mean, starting with the basics, home and family.

The most difficult question many parents face is, who will care for the kids while we're working? A few years ago, Washington wanted to help, but their idea was to rock the cradle with the heavy hand of bureaucracy. All the plans boiled down to creating some new kind of Government apparatus, like a ``Pentagon'' for child care.

I fought for a different approach and won. Our landmark legislation allows parents, not the Government, to decide whether your children are cared for in a school, a relative's home, or a church. When it comes to raising our children, I say, why not trust the people? It is better than having the Government try to do something like child care out of Washington, DC.

What about our education system? To renew America we must renew our schools. We all know this. But money alone won't do it. We already spend more money per student than almost any other country, and our kids still rank near the bottom in crucial subjects like math and science. Again, a lot of ideas floating around, most of them to pump more tax money, that's your money, into the system, the same old system. I say, try something different: Open up schools to competition, and trust you to decide whether your kids, whether you want them to learn in a public school, a private school, or a religious school.

When it comes to education I say, why not trust the people? Why not give the people the same choice that I had when I had the GI bill coming out of World War II -- they didn't say you can only go to one kind of school -- public, private, religious. And we ought to try that, and then watch these schools improve. I believe it's the time to put the trust in the people.

What about Government regulation? Sure, some of it is absolutely necessary, even essential. If you believe that there is a Government solution to every problem, an alphabet agency for every issue, then you look at regulation not as a necessary evil but as a necessary way to rein in people's evil tendencies. Well, the result can be crazy, as this story proves.

The time had come recently for a Government agency to update its rules on hardhats. That's right, hardhats. Someone in that agency stumbled upon a potential national crisis, workers being infected from putting someone else's hardhat on their head. The alarms went off. The bureaucratic blood boiled. One small fact was overlooked. There wasn't a single documented case anywhere in the United States of anyone getting infected from wearing someone else's hardhat. That didn't deter the bureaucrat. So with the best of intentions, the rule was written: Every hardhat must be disinfected before one worker passed it on to another. Estimated cost to the business: million a year. Measurable benefit: slightly less than zero.

Luckily, this story has a happy ending, but only because we were there to give it one. We found the regulation before it hit the books and said America can survive without this particular hardhat regulation. We may have done you hairnetters a great service by beating back the hardhat regulation; try to pass one of those along and say that germs are being passed. But anyway, can you imagine what might have happened if these enterprising regulators had made their way into the vast, unregulated territory of lunch pails and thermos bottles?

Some believe the solution to our problems is more Government regulation. I take a very different view. I've put a moratorium on new Federal regulation, to give businesses like this one room to breathe and grow and create jobs. It's a matter of trust, of putting people ahead of Government. When it comes to the most pressing issue of the election year, revving up our economy, forgetting this idea is not just a nuisance; it can be downright dangerous.

The revolutions of the past few years herald a new era of global economic competition, with free markets from Siberia to Santiago. Can the U.S. compete now that everyone is playing our game? Despite all the criticism you've heard lately, keep in mind a few facts. We are the largest, most envied economy in the entire world.

Inflation, that Jesse James who robs the middle class of dreams, as John has said, as our Governor has said, has been put safely behind bars. The last time interest rates stayed this low, ``The Brady Bunch'' wasn't even in reruns yet. Despite all the stories about our problems, our workers are still the most productive in the entire world, more productive than the English, the Germans, the Japanese, much more productive.

So there are some good, sound things out there. But while our economy is growing, it's growing too slow; it's got to grow faster. The question is how. The other side suggests a simple two-part solution, Governor Engler talked about that: First, raise Government spending, and then, raise taxes.

Now, as you evaluate their idea, keep this in mind. Here in Michigan, you already work 128 days just to pay your taxes before you earn a single dime to spend on your family. Now, I don't think anyone wants to go for 129 days. All this talk of spending and taxes causes me to wonder if the other side is a little hard of hearing. Abraham Lincoln spoke of government ``of the people, by the people, for the people.'' But they seem to keep saying, ``of the Government, by the Government, for the Government.''

They're hard to dissuade. I'll give you a great example. In January I proposed a commonsense, comprehensive plan to get this economy moving faster, right now. The plan includes tax incentives to encourage businesses to hire new workers, breaks for young families who want to buy that first home, a tax break for them so they can participate in the American dream. Half a million jobs would have been created if the Congress had acted right away.

But they didn't. Instead Congress sent back what you might call an anti-trust program: new Government spending and new taxes. And I vetoed it and said, ``I am not going to increase taxes on the American people at this time.'' We're not going to do that. So I sent their plan back, and I'm still waiting almost 200 days later. This economic recovery plan is being held hostage, and the ransom note reads, ``Wait till after the election.'' Today I say to the Congress, House of Representatives and the Senate, especially: Release the economy. Approve this jobs program, and put America back to work, now.

So you see, it all does come down to a question of trust. I trust you to spend and save your money more wisely than a budget planner in Washington.

You'll say this is common sense, and I agree. But there's a certain type of person attracted to Government for whom the word ``trust'' has strange meaning. Most of them have spent their lives in Government and don't have much experience in the real world. They say they want to put people first. But if you look real close at what they're proposing, the people they put first are all on the Government payroll.

A leader of a free people must understand that Government can not only help, it can hinder. He must have the confidence to say, ``I trust you. I trust the people.'' Ultimately you must decide who you trust, who has the experience, the ideals, and the ideas to find the appropriate balance.

Of course, America will change, just as we've changed the world. The question now is who will change America for the better? It won't be people whose only enthusiasm is for Government, who measure progress by programs enacted and special interests satisfied.

If you want to know who's going to change America, look at who is sitting right next to you. Look around you. It's going to be the guy who works an extra shift every week so his son can go to the school of his choice. It's going to be the small businessman who takes a risk on a new product, the computer hacker working in a lonely garage, that merit scholar from south central L.A., the entrepreneur with a future as big as his dreams.

There's your answer: The American people are going to change America. But only if they have a Government, particularly a Congress, with the wisdom to know its own limits and with a leadership who knows where the true American imagination lies. Countries around the world have at long last understood the power of trusting the people. America will change by reaffirming the lesson it has taught the world, by trusting a leader who trusts you.

I am delighted to have been here. Thank you very, very much. May God bless you, and may God bless our great, free, wonderful country, the United States of America. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:13 p.m. at the plant. In his remarks, he referred to John S. Vander Heide, chairman of the board, and Stuart Vander Heide, president, Holland American Wafer Co.

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