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Public Papers - 1992 - August

Remarks at Lincoln Technical Institute in Union, New Jersey

1992-08-24

The President. Thank you very much, Secretary Martin. Let me just salute our great Secretary of Labor and thank her very much for her introduction. Salute the former Governor of this State, Tom Kean. The working man and woman never had a better friend than Tom Kean. Mattie Rinaldo, he and I go back a long time. He's the Congressman from this area, doing a superb job. If we had more like him, we wouldn't have a gridlocked Congress. And I want to thank Pat Santangelo for the tour, and also Senator Don DiFrancesco and all the students and faculty here. This has been an inspiring visit.

Now, let me tell you why I've come to Lincoln Tech. I'm here today because of what will take place 71 days from now, because of the decision you're going to be making on November 3d. And that's going to set the course of this Nation. The defining challenge of the 1990's is to win the economic competition and to win the peace.

America's got to be -- and is, a military superpower -- an economic superpower, though, and an export superpower. Now, in this election you're going to hear two very different versions of how we go about this. Theirs is to look inward and protect what we've got. And ours is to look forward to open new markets, to create incentives, to restore our social fabric, and to prepare our people to compete so that we can win. And that's what this is all about here today.

I want to talk about the last of those challenges, the new ways to prepare our American workers to compete. We know the world economy is changing. And America must change with it. As President, we worked to create new jobs, open new markets all the way from Moscow to Mexico. And that means new American jobs from Union, New Jersey, all the way out to California.

Right now, one in every six Americans' manufacturing job is tied directly to exports. And that doesn't count the economic ripple effect created when those workers pay the mortgage, buy a car, or feed the kids. Since 1988, three-fifths of all of our economic growth has come from people in other countries buying what's made in the United States of America, the good products made right here in New Jersey.

Now, the jobs in these new export industries demand workers with higher skills than the old economy. And workers must realize what you know here at Lincoln: During the course of a career you may develop as many as five or six skills or proficiencies, putting a premium on flexibility, long-life learning. Now, these principles are reflected in a new commitment to job training. This is a new national commitment to job training that I'm unveiling today, a program that is bold. It is innovative, and it is loyal only to the future and to the needs of the American workers.

Now, earlier this year we introduced a program called Job Training 2000, a comprehensive program to streamline this crazy quilt of over 100 different Federal jobs programs. Now that we've designed that effective structure for delivering job training, I want to expand on our efforts. If our Nation is to succeed in this world economy, we cannot afford to waste the talent of one single worker. And that means we need better training for young people first coming into the work force, better retraining for workers that are changing careers, and better training and assistance for workers who lose their jobs.

You start with this new initiative. We call it the Youth Training Corps. The program is aimed at young people, primarily in our inner cities, kids with talent, kids with ambition, but with no outlets for their abilities other than a life of drugs and crime. Right now we have a great program called the conservation centers, which takes these kids to job training centers, often in rural areas, puts them to work, for example, helping rebuild the parks or recreation and community facilities. But at the same time these kids learn a skill, find out how to manage their finances, and get counseling about how to break away from the temptations of the mean streets that they once hung out on.

Now, we're going to build on those conservation centers, add 25 new centers with positions for 43,000 new trainees. And to staff these centers we will give hiring priority to former members of our Armed Forces, people with the proven leadership skills -- these people, they've demonstrated that they can lead -- proven leadership skills, the drive, and the discipline that breeds success.

Now, we need to expand our existing efforts to teach high school kids about their opportunities in life, provide them strong role models, and encourage a sense of personal responsibility and discipline. And so also today I am also doubling the size of our Junior ROTC program. It is in almost 1,500 schools today; we're going to expand it to 2,900 schools. And with million a year in new funding, another 150,000 kids will get the benefit of what has been a great program that boosts high school competition, high school completion rates, reduces drug use, raises self-esteem, and gets these kids firmly on the right track.

Now, I will also urge the Congress to expand my youth apprenticeship program. This one's aimed at high school juniors and seniors who may be in danger of dropping out. And the program combines classroom instruction with structured work programs. And when students finish, they not only have a diploma, they have a certificate saying they've developed a skill and can get a job. Right now this program is working as a demonstration project in six States. It ought to be expanded. If I have my way, it will be expanded to all 50 States.

Another part of this: We'll also do more for troubled kids, and we'll connect our efforts to get the young people off of drugs with the skills that help them get a clean start. We are going to expand drug treatment to reach an additional 28,000 kids a year. We're going to tie successful drug treatment to job training. I call it Treat and Train. It will guarantee these kids a place in our job training program the moment they finish rehabilitation.

So helping young people is a part of the picture. But if we want to compete, we've got to help older workers obtain new skills. These are people caught in the transition of our economy, eager to earn new skills so they can get new jobs and protect their standard of living. And that's why I'm announcing today a dramatic new departure in job training for Americans in the middle of their careers.

The key concept here is something I call skill grants. These are vouchers worth up to ,000 per person that can be used toward training programs of their choice. And these vouchers can go not simply to those that are unemployed but to those who worry the next pink slip may be coming their way, to help defense workers retool, to help workers in declining industries sharpen the skills that they'll need to stay one step ahead. What Pell grants have done to open up opportunities for our younger kids, skill grants will do for experienced workers in need of new skills.

The program will focus on the needs of what we call dislocated workers, people in industries that are changing because of global competition. Twelve days ago I announced the North American free trade agreement to open new economic opportunities for American products from the Yukon to Yucatan. In the 1990's that agreement will create millions of new American jobs, but near-term may also mean dislocations in some industries. And thus, I've assured the Congress that I'd work with them to ease the transition for the workers in the NAFTA. Today's plan will meet that commitment.

My plan sets aside up to, I think it's 0 million per year for the Secretary of Labor to pump into areas that might be negatively affected by NAFTA. This funding is more than enough to ensure that any and every affected worker gets the kind of training he or she needs. And more important, they'll have a choice, get them into programs that they want to be in, not shoehorned into some training program that just happens to have openings.

Now, that's our approach to job training. And it rests on the proposition that we should empower people with skills instead of empowering bureaucracies with people. Just a quick political word here: My opponent agrees with this in principle, but when you get to the details we really do have a vast philosophical difference. I believe we can pay for this new job training offensive without raising taxes on people or increasing overall Government spending.

We've got to make the tough calls. This is a priority. We've got to make the tough calls, set the budget priorities. This entire proposal, and yes, it's going to cost money, but it will be funded under the budget caps. And I will project these in more detail as we move into the next budget cycle.

My opponent is different. He sees job training as a tax raiser, and he wants to tax workers to pay for their own training and tax small businesses -- this is the one that's the worst -- --

Audience members. Boo-o-o!

The President. -- -- taxing small businesses around the country 1.5 percent. That is 1.5 that will come out of your paycheck, and it's on top of the new income and other payroll taxes he's proposing. Think of what this is going to do to small business, which has created over two-thirds of the new jobs in the past decade. So let me say this to my opponent: There is no point in training people for jobs if your plan is going to be in the process of destroying jobs.

And there's another difference between our two approaches. My opponent says he'll do more to help defense workers coping with the post-cold-war economic realities. What he won't tell you, though, is this: We sent forward a prudent defense budget. Because of what we've accomplished around the world, because the world is more peaceful, we are able to reduce spending. But he sent forward a program that plans billion in additional cuts in defense beyond what the experts say is responsible. And that not only will damage the national defense, it will throw one million more defense-related industry employees out of work and on to the unemployment rolls. And I'm not going to have it, on two counts: adding to the unemployment, but fundamentally I must protect the national security of the United States.

Once these workers have lost those jobs, high-paid, high-tech jobs, the other side will step in with some, you know, kind of a make-work program. Someone ought to ask the workers whether they would rather have their high-tech jobs and good training for another high-tech industry, or some short-term Government make-work job. I vote for the former. We can do it. We can get everybody engaged in high-tech jobs with this retraining approach.

Now, the big point I want to make here in this working State is higher spending and higher taxes will not do any favors to the American worker. According to one congressional analysis, it could cost America almost 3 million jobs, this tax-and-spend approach. And my opponent's whole approach reminds me of the guy with the head cold. The doctor wants to amputate his leg. And to the patient it sounds a little odd, you know, a little radical. To the doctor it's logical: If your cold settles in your lungs, you'll get pneumonia; if you get pneumonia, your circulation will go; if your circulation goes, you'll get gangrene. So just to be safe, better take off the leg. [Laughter]

Well, that ain't it. That's not going to get the job done. We need a new approach and one that doesn't cripple the economy and then offer workers a crutch, one that helps people keep the jobs they have, creates the new jobs that they demand, and one that helps America retool for the challenges of a new century, for the challenges of your lifetime.

I like the spirit here at Lincoln. The people at Lincoln, students and faculty, seem to understand that training for jobs that exist and moving people up the ladder is the goal that we all ought to share. It's certainly one I do. And I appreciate this visit very much.

You know, I put forward this approach. I'm going to fight for it in the campaign, fight for it with what I hope is a new, nongridlocked Congress -- that is fouling up everything in this country. And so I appreciate very much what you all have shown me here today. I wish each and every student at this wonderful institution Godspeed and good luck. And I'll tell you, I will do my level-best to hold the line on the taxes and to hold the line on the spending and create new jobs through this kind of new job training approach.

Thank you all, and God bless you. May God bless you all. And let me say this: I know things have been tough, but we are the United States of America. We can overcome our problems and continue to lead in the world. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:05 a.m. in the main automotive shop area. In his remarks, he referred to P.J. Santangelo, Lincoln Technical Institute president and chief executive officer, and Donald T. DiFrancesco, New Jersey State Senate president.

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