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Public Papers - 1992

Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Employees of Uniform Tubes in Collegeville, Pennsylvania


The President. Listen, it's a pleasure to be here. Thank you all very much. Welcome to the Phil Donahue Show. [Laughter] I feel like that, sitting out here. But let me just thank Bruce, all that greeted us, all of you involved in this wonderful company, and all who, particularly, have participated in this education approach. As I look at the country and look at the problems facing us, we're in a transition period. We've been through economic hell in this country. We're poised in my view for a decent and strong recovery, but always at the bottom of this is education for the future.

One of the reasons we are so strongly in support of America 2000 is it trains people for the future. They have this thing: No one is too old to learn. Well, so to demonstrate that, Lamar Alexander, our Secretary of Education who is with me, suggested about a year ago that I learn to run a computer. I'm trying to kill him for that, but nevertheless I use it all the time. I think it does help demonstrate that nobody's too darn old to learn.

Similarly, we're in a mobile economy, and our whole health care reform proposal talks about people being able to move, take their health care with them if they move into another challenging area.

So I just wanted to salute you. I'm pleased to be at this company that's taken the lead in education. It offers everything for the future. We're got to do new ways. We can't go back to the same old ways that the schools have been run forever. And I'm going to keep pushing for the America 2000 education program, meeting these six educational goals. They're not Democrat or Republican. The Governor of this State has been terribly supportive of this program, and it's one that I don't have to go to Congress for a lot of it. I've got to go to Congress for some of it, but a lot can be done right at the company level or the school level.

So I'm glad to be here for that reason and many others. And I see this guy's T-shirt: ``I'll do it tomorrow. I'd rather be fishing.'' He's right. He's on to something. [Laughter] But for 55 days they won't let me do anything like that. No more fishing. I've got to get to work here. And I'm looking forward to the next few days to take this kind of message to the country.

Now, I don't know how we proceed, but fire away on questions. Shoot.

Legislative Agenda

Q. Good morning, Mr. President. What assurances can you give the American people that you'll be more effective working with Congress in your next term?

The President. Good question. I have been criticizing Congress as the gridlocked Congress. People on the other side are talking about change. The one institution that hasn't changed in 38 years is this Congress that can't run a two-bit bank or a two-bit post office. So I've had my battles with them.

We've gotten some things done. We've got a good program on the child care, for example, on the ADA which is bringing the disabled into the mainstream. And it's a very important question. People don't want gridlock. The assurance comes from the fact there are going to be at least 100, maybe as many as 150, new Members of Congress that have to do what I have to do: go out into the neighborhoods, go out into companies like this, take your case to the people, and listen to the people. And I think the kind of changes that people want are the kind that I stand for.

So what I've said I'll do is take these new Members when they get here -- heck with the party -- bring them into the White House and say, ``Let's get these things done: health care reform, Education 2000,'' whatever the priorities are that come out of this election and education and health care.

I also happen to think -- I see these police officers on the line -- I'm fighting for a stronger anticrime bill. It's been literally, now, this is not making excuses, it's been bottled up in Congress ever since I've become President. And my case now is, take it to the people. Then if the people support my approach to tougher law enforcement for the neighborhoods, remind the Members of Congress when they come there, and say, ``Look, this is what the people want.'' That's the good thing about a 4-year election cycle. So, sit with the new Members, try to get it done. And I think we can.

Come on, you guys. Here we are. Sir?

Overseas Private Investment Corporation

Q. Being a -- [inaudible] -- to and a proponent of the American worker, what steps has your administration taken to not -- [inaudible] -- the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, OPIC?

The President. We're taking steps to fund it. Because I think when you create more export market, OPIC -- and that's exactly what it does -- you create more jobs in this country. In this sick and anemic economy, which incidentally, has grown for the last five -- hey, just a minute, I haven't finished yet. [Laughter] But no, really, what it does, OPIC secures American -- [inaudible] -- that are selling abroad. And that is what we need. It creates more domestic jobs. So I'm strongly for OPIC. It's done a very good job. More and more American products are being sold because of investments like that.

The Economy

Q. Mr. President, my question is: What personal message would you like to deliver to the former employees of companies like Allied Tank and Anchor Glass, local people who have lost their jobs due to plant closings during your tenure in office?

The President. I'd say we've been caught in a very tough economic time, and we've got to move forward now with incentives to stimulate the economy. If we had had this investment tax allowance, I believe a lot of companies that aren't in business would be in business. I believe it would have stimulated investment.

I happen to believe that the credit for first-time homebuyers that's hung up in this gridlocked Congress would have helped the housing industry. I don't know whether any of these companies sell to that. Some of them are talking about change. We're actually an outmoded process being replaced by something new. There, you've got to do what this company is doing, and what I'm proposing on better education. So it's a combination of all three of these areas.

But let me say this on the economy: It is lousy. We know that. We've been trying to stimulate it. And we're in a global recession. It's not just the United States. Take a look at Canada. Take a look at England and France and Germany. It has been too long.

I do think, with interest rates down, with inflation down, with a ``misery index'' which reached 21.9 percent under the last time we had a Democrat President and a Democrat House, Congress, down now to around 10 percent, we should be able to recover and recover well. But you've got to do these things we're talking about.

Yes, sir, in the back.


Q. My question, Mr. President, is also referencing to Education Secretary Alexander, and I'm glad he's here. He refers to the many educational entrepreneurships as ``sort of defense contractors of the school industry.'' If there are successes with these programs, what incentives will our communities have to accept them?

The President. I'm not sure -- where's Lamar? Do you want to comment on what you've said and then let me try to fill in on the rest of it? Because I'm not sure I've heard him use that expression.

Secretary Alexander. He asks about the -- I made a reference to the design teams for the New American Schools Development Corporation that you created. There were 700 applications for that, and 11 were selected. They're going into the business of helping communities create very different schools. The question was, what are the incentives for them?

The incentives for them are the same incentives, Mr. President, that the defense contractors have. What we spend on elementary and secondary education is about exactly the same amount of money in America that we spend on national defense. And defense is going down, and education is going up. So those businesses have the opportunity if they wish to be for-profit -- most of them are not, but if they wish to be -- of helping school districts in States improve the management of their schools. Now, that would be -- --

The President. Thank you very much.

What we're talking about here, for those not familiar, is this whole concept of literally revolutionizing the schools. Lots has changed in this country. Employees -- work on the floor has changed; a lot of things has changed. Defense has changed. But the schools, elementary and secondary, schools literally have not had fundamental change. So when we talk about the new American schools, we're talking about letting the communities come together, private end of it, teachers and all, and reinvent the schools. Some are going to want year-round schools; some are going to want to have smaller classes, some larger; some different plant and equipment. And we're just challenging the whole system to radically think anew about education.

We spend more on education per capita than any country except Switzerland, and I don't believe a single parent can say that they're happy with the total results. We're grateful to the teachers, but we're not happy with the total results coming out of these schools. And so we've got to do what we're talking about in this whole concept of new American schools. We need some support from Congress. Fortunately, much of it can be done as Pennsylvania 2000 is doing. Again, I cite your Governor, I cite the chamber of commerce, I thank companies like this who are literally saying well, we're going to get the job done. So they go out and invent and innovate, and from that we're going to -- other places will learn.

This side's been very quiet over here. Yes, ma'am?

Family Values

Q. Mr. President, in your campaign you talk of the importance of family values, which I agree with. My question is what role, if any, the Government is planning to take in assisting and/or encouraging the country to get back to these values that we've lost sight of?

The President. You know, the opposition wants me to get off talking about family values. We had the mayors of the largest cities in the country, you know, Mayor Bradley of Los Angeles, and some of the smallest, mayors of the League of Cities. They came in; they said, ``The largest concern we have for the cities, the problems of the cities, stems from the decline of the American family.''

What we're trying to do is change the welfare system, for example, so people have to work if they're going to get a welfare check, or, as in Wisconsin, have to learn; try to get learning and work involved in that. What we're trying to do is give choice in child care or in education so people can choose where their children want to go to school.

But when we talk about family values, it isn't all what the Federal Government can do. A lot of it is things like Barbara tries to do when she holds a little kid and shows compassion or when she works for the volunteer reading program to show that parents ought to read to their kids.

I think we've gotten away from some of these fundamentals. I think discipline is one. I think respect for the police officers that are out there risking their lives for us every single day is a family value. And so, you know -- and that leads to the kind of crime legislation we're supporting.

So it is not demagoguery. It is not suggesting -- I was on a thing with Tom Brokaw the other night. Bill Clinton was on there before me. He said, ``Are you trying to say you think you and Barbara's family is better than the Clinton family?'' I said, ``Absolutely not.'' That's not what we're talking about at all. We're talking about the fabric of our society. We're talking about something that we've taken for granted for years, and that is that it's the family around which everything good happens in the community.

We're not criticizing single mothers. As I told him on that same show, my daughter was one until she got married; she's now married again, very happy. But it isn't trying to be critical of someone else. It's simply trying to identify with what the strength of our country is and then, instead of tearing it down, build it up and find ways to improve it.

So we're going to stay on it. The liberals hate it. They are all over me in these editorials. And I'm going to keep right on it because it is right to try to find ways to help the family, whether it's financial help or whether it's just the moral backing of the President of the United States.

Foreign Policy and Domestic Agenda

Q. I'd like to know what your point of view is, if you're planning to focus more on domestic issues and keep more of our money at home so you support this?

The President. The answer is -- you don't want us to give you a long speech on it. I don't know how long ago you were in grade school, but maybe you had to, as everybody else did, my kids did, go under, climb under the desks to worry about some drill against nuclear war. That has dramatically changed. Because we kicked Saddam Hussein, the United States is the sole leader around the world. We are now a military superpower. We've got to stay one. We're an economic superpower, in spite of the lousiness of our economy, and we've got to be an export superpower.

So as I see it now, with freedom and democracy on the march -- and I would like to get some credit for that; give plenty of credit to my predecessor, I might add -- with Germany reunited, democracy moving in South America, Eastern Europe, these great ethnic areas free, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, that's done. So we can do what I mentioned back here, sell more abroad, but now we've got to use this same energy to change things at home. I believe that we can get the job done because of what I answered this, on the new Congress.

But the answer is not to turn inward. I may have a difference with you on this. I believe the freer trade we've got, the more jobs that means for America. Some are opposing me on the North American free trade agreement, saying it will cost auto jobs. Not so. It will increase the amount of auto jobs we have because we have the most productive workers in the world. Interest rates go into a decision as to whether you put plants abroad or have them here. They are at an all-time low.

So I really don't want to see us turn in. But I do want to see us solve these domestic problems of education, of jobs, of crime and whatever it is. So that's the philosophy that I'm bringing to it and that I'll be talking about out in Detroit tomorrow in a rather long but, I hope, comprehensive speech.

Yes, sir.

Racism, Abortion, and War on Drugs

Q. Good afternoon, Mr. President. I would like to ask you, is there any more that you could do about the moral issues that's messing with our country? I'm talking about racism, as in the Rodney King incident. And I'm talking about abortion, and as you see that that's getting out of hand. And I'm talking about the drug situation, the war.

The President. Very good question. In the first place, racism, anti-Semitism have no place in this country. And I think a President must continue to speak out on it. And I've done that, and I'm going to continue to do it.

Secondly, the answer I gave on the family is very important to the second part of your question.

And thirdly -- the third one is on crime? What was the third part you mentioned?

Q. Drugs.

The President. On the drugs. Yes, drugs. We have a strong antidrug strategy. The good news is that use of cocaine has gone down by 60 percent in the last 3 years. The bad news is that it's still pouring in here, these drugs are, mainly from South America, and that the addictive group, the group from about 35 years old, the hard users, have gotten a little worse. It hasn't moved in the right direction. So the answer lies, prevention and treatment. We're spending a lot more money than any administration, and I'm not suggesting that alone can get the job done, and then redoubling our efforts on interdiction. We have some good people that are working with us in Latin America. Gaviria in Colombia has done a good job on it. We're trying to work with Peru and Bolivia on this. But that's a major part of it. And we're using the military much more than we did to try to interdict the flow of narcotics coming into this country.

But once again, here's an area where we really do have to back up those that are out on the streets, our people out on the streets helping, DEA and FBI and local police. And that argues for a strong crime bill. I mean, you've got to put away these hardened criminals. We've got to be tougher on the criminal, and a little more sensitivity for the victims of crime. And that's what our crime bill will do.

So those are the ways that we're trying to approach that problem.

Yes, in the back, sir.

Monetary Policy and Legislative Agenda

Q. I wonder what you have envisioned, once you become elected for the next 4 years, with the building trade industry, and also, back to basics where we start pulling ourself up by the bootstraps and make a good country such as our forefathers have started? And also, the monetary situation, how do you think the dollar will fare, like, strong dollar or whatever?

The President. Let me answer the last part first. One thing a President shouldn't do is say what the level of the dollar is. With the dollar at these levels, most people would agree, we're going to sell a hell of a lot more abroad, and that's good. You can export a lot more. But I don't want my answer to be interpreted as suggesting at what level the dollar should be. That should be set by markets and not by the United States. We can't set our currency like that. It has to respond to international markets.

In terms of the values, I've tried to respond to that one. In terms of the building trades, that gets to the heart of what we're going to be talking about here and trying to do, and that is jobs. I mean, building, I have a proposal in. Again, my opponent will jump on me for saying I'm blaming Congress. On January 20th, we had a State of the Union Message, and in it I suggested an investment tax allowance and that first-time homebuyers credit. It is still sitting there in the United States Congress. And I have to take that case to the people because, in my view, that would have stimulated the building trades and stimulated this kind of employment around the country. I just have to insist on that and try to make the people understand that I haven't just been sitting there. We've been trying to get it done.

Clinton says we're blaming the Congress. Well, as a matter of fact, I am because they're not getting the job done. As I said, I'll work with a new Congress. I've held my hand out to them, but now I've got to define the differences. I want to see a balanced budget amendment. I want to see less taxes and less spending. I've got to contrast that in terms of a vigorous economy with my opponent. And we'll have a debate, and that will all be out there for people to see. I want a balanced budget amendment. I want a line-item veto. If the Congress can't cut spending, give me what 43 Governors have and let me try to cut the excess and save more money for the private sector or for the families that are working. I don't think you're taxed too little. I think we're spending too much.

So I've got to get that philosophy out there and back it up with specifics enough so people will see that we're very serious about this. I believe that will help building trades and everything else. I don't know about city government.

Campaign Strategy

Q. What can we do to help you fulfill your goals?

The President. Vote often. [Laughter] No, but seriously, I've never seen a political year like this. I think most people looking at the political process, no matter what party you're on, whether you agree with some of the things I've said here or not, think that this is a weird political year, strange kind of time.

But you see, I am optimistic about this country. I do look around the world, and I see, compared to any other economy or any other country, we're not in decline. We're on the rise. I've got to take that sense of optimism and get enough backing to get done the kinds of programs that I've been advocating and will continue to advocate.

Then the final analysis, and I'll put it this way: I hope, I hope I have earned the trust of the American people in terms of the way I've tried to conduct myself as President. I know there's a big difference. I know there's a lot of differences on issue. But in the final analysis, I'm going to say to the American people: Here's my position on the issue. Here it is on job training; here it is on skills; here it is on education; here it is on accomplishments in foreign policy. Here's the things we haven't done; here's the mistakes I've made. But now I ask for your vote because I think I've been the kind of President in whom you can place your trust. And I'll do that, and I think it will resonate.

Assistance for Displaced Workers

Q. My question to you is, what can you offer the middle- and the older-aged people that have been displaced in the job market?

The President. The program that I talked about in New Jersey the other day of skills training, retraining. We've got a tremendous problem in the defense industry. One of the penalties, you might say, of success is that because we've been successful in reducing the threat to the United States abroad, we've been able to reduce our defense. But as you do that people are thrown out of work. So that argues for the job retraining programs, some of which we have in effect, others of which I have proposed. So I think that is the major answer, that plus education, to those who are older and still able to be in the workplace.

The other thing is that when we go for our health care program, which is going to keep it in the private sector, provide insurance to those poorest of the poor, that those health benefits will go with the person. In other words, if they leave company X, they don't lose those benefits. I think that, then, gives a certain mobility to the kind of people you're talking about, those that want to move over next door to a new job and still be able to get it.

But the fundamental thing is, get the economy stimulated so young and old will be able to have jobs in the private sector.

Yes, ma'am. Excuse me. Am I out of here? [Laughter]

Health Care Reform

Q. I'd like to know what your proposed plan is for, especially for the people who do not qualify for Medicaid and are unable to -- --

The President. The plan I favor provides, through tax credits and through pooling of insurance and through more managed care, insurance for all.

People come tearing down into our country from Canada and other places because of the quality of U.S. medicine. I do not want to see the quality diminished. People come down to get bypasses in Cleveland because they've got to wait 6 months to get a coronary bypass next door, where they have a nationalized program. I think it would be a big mistake to nationalize it. Our program calls for what I've said, pooling insurance, more use of managed care.

It also calls for something else, and here's one where I have a clear difference from my opponent. It calls for getting rid of some of these frivolous malpractice suits. You cannot coach the Little League without some guy, three and two and doesn't like the call, trying to sue you these days. Neighbor is suing neighbor, and we're suing each other too much. We've got to put some caps on the outrageous limits. Doctors sometimes don't practice delivering babies because they're afraid they're going to be sued, and we've got to get away from that. That is over billion -- different figures -- billion to billion a year in terms of your added health costs. I don't know how many have been in the hospital recently, but hospitals are scared. So they say, give the guy three tests instead of one. Make him have test A because we're not sure that we won't be sued if we only give him test B.

So, along with pooling the insurance and making that transportable so people can take it with them wherever they go, we've got to have this concept of malpractice reform which, incidentally, helps pay for the thing without raising people's taxes. So I really think we've got the best idea on health care reform.

Congress is all over me. It was raised by the Senate race here last year. Take a look at the guy. What's happened? They control the Senate. Where's their education bill? Mine's sitting up there languishing. So again, blaming the Congress, well, in this instance, they control both Houses of the Congress. You want health care reform? Where is one? In 3/2\ years none have come my way.

We've got a good program. And again, one of the good things about this election year is you say to the American people: Here's what I stand for. Let him say what he's for. Here's what I want to get done, regardless of whether you're Democrat or Republican, try to make your voice loud enough so that when we first come in, sit down with those Members of Congress and get this done for the American people. So there we are, and that's the approach I take.

Listen, thank you all very, very much. I appreciate it.

Note: The President spoke at 12:55 p.m. in the model room at Uniform Tubes, Inc. In his remarks, he referred to A. Bruce Mainwaring, chairman of the company, and President Cesar Gaviria of Colombia.

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