Public Papers - 1992
Remarks at the Job Corps Center in Excelsior Springs, Missouri
Thank you so much. And may I say to Booker T. Jones, I am just delighted to be here. He's the president, as you know, and CEO of the company that runs this Job Corps Center. Thank you for the introduction, the information, and this warm welcome. And may I also salute one of the Nation's truly great Governors, John Ashcroft. That man has done so much for his country. And two members from the Department of Labor, John Douglas and Wayne Jenkins, are here. And John Thomas is the president of the student body. Thank you, sir, glad you're here.
Just before I got here, I met out at the airport today with a hometown hero, Derrick Thomas. He said something ugly to me about beating the Washington Redskins. But, nevertheless, he runs this Third and Long Foundation, when he's not running down the opposing quarterbacks. On Sundays you know him as number 58, but today he's the number 832, that's the 832d daily Point of Light. And it is a wonderful thing he does. I just wanted to salute him here. Actually, when I got up right next to Derrick I didn't know whether he was a Point of Light or whether he ought to be called a lighthouse. But nevertheless, big guy.
And I know Derrick will agree when I say it's great to see the team spirit here at this Job Corps Center. I read about it, heard about it, and now I get to see it firsthand.
We're in a political season so tough that it makes what goes on in Arrowhead Stadium seem like two-hand touch. So when you're all done with your training, I would like to invite all the carpenters here back to Washington. You see there's a certain House on Capitol Hill that's in need of a little cleaning and a little renovation. You know Bob Vila's show, ``This Old House.'' Well, there's an old House of Representatives right there in Washington that hasn't been cleaned out for 38 years. Let's do something about it.
Let me tell you why I'm here at the Job Corps cutting into your lunch hour. I've just seen firsthand the fruits of your labor, the skills that you will use to succeed in an economy that seems to change, literally, day by day. Today, I want to talk to you about your world and tell you how America as a nation is ready to move forward to a future of peace and prosperity, if we but make the right choices.
As we gather today, I am proud to be the very first President who can say, the cold war is over, and freedom finished first. But with change comes new challenges. The defining challenge of the nineties is to win the peace, to win the competition of this new global economy. In the 21st century, America must be not only a military superpower but an export superpower and an economic superpower. And we start with an honest appraisal of our weaknesses and our strengths. My opponent talks about an America in decline, but just remember, if you want to talk to the most productive workers in the world you don't fly to Japan, you don't have to fly to Germany. You can look right here in the United States of America because the American worker is the most productive worker in the world.
Now, how do we guarantee that our workers will still be the world's most productive and that there will be plenty of high-wage jobs in your future? Yesterday in Detroit, Cobo Hall there, I set out a strategy, what I call my Agenda for American Renewal: six challenges we must meet to move America forward. And I set a goal. Today our national economy is nearing trillion. My agenda will make America the world's first trillion economy by the first years of the 21st century. We can do that.
The Agenda for American Renewal starts with these facts. Right now in our factories one of every six manufacturing jobs is tied to foreign trade. On our farms, produce from 1 in every 3 acres that we harvest will be sold abroad. And in the century ahead and in your lifetimes, the percentage of your paycheck that comes from what America sells abroad is only going to grow. And so, the bottom line in our new world economy is this: exports equal jobs. And I have faith that if we open foreign markets, our workers will satisfy the demand for our products. And so, my agenda starts with a global trade strategy, a network of new free trade agreements from Chile to Hungary, from the Pacific nations to Poland. Give America the opportunity, and I know that we can respond to the needs of any customer anywhere.
But as Booker here knows, developed economies need developing minds. And that's why this Agenda for American Renewal takes aim at the critical challenge: preparing our kids, our children, for the new century ahead. And that literally has to mean a revolution in American education. Competition works in our economy. It's time to bring that same competition to the classroom. I offer a ``GI bill'' for kids which would give ,000 scholarships to every parent, so they can choose where their kid should go to school, whether it's public school across town or the private or religious school across the street. You see, I firmly believe that the parents, not the Government, should decide which school is best for the kids.
Now, the third key component of my Agenda for American Renewal: helping America's businesses sharpen their competitive edge. You see, small businesses create two-thirds of all new American jobs, and they're the first to turn change to an advantage in a fast-moving economy. And when you finish this program, a small business is where you'll most likely end up to find a job. We must ease the burden on small business. Small businesses need relief, relief from tight credit, overregulation, taxation, and certainly, litigation. Let me expand on that last point. America has become the land of the lawsuit. Each year we spend, get this one, 0 billion on direct costs to lawyers. I think that is crazy, and I have a plan to put an end to these crazy lawsuits. America won't work until we start suing each other less and caring for one another more. Yesterday the Trial Lawyers Association threw another curve ball to the American people when the majority will in the Senate did the will of the trial lawyers and beat back a chance to do something about liability reform. A sad day in the United States Senate.
Now fourth, my Agenda for American Renewal means promoting economic security for working Americans. That means, it's got to mean health care reform, to make health insurance affordable to all Americans, and make sure you're never locked into the job you want to leave because you're worried that you've got to lose your health care coverage. We're going to make it transferrable. And it also means a pension or a retirement plan that you can take with you throughout your career.
Fifth, the agenda must mean an America that leaves no one behind. That means programs that break the cycle of dependency, that help public housing tenants become homeowners, that help people on welfare find work, that help people without hope take heart. We don't owe every American a living, but we do owe every American an opportunity.
And finally, my agenda won't be complete until we bring change to one of the most change-resistant institutions in America, the Government. I call my idea ``rightsizing'' Government. But whatever we call it, I know you'll agree, Government is too big, and it spends too much. Here's where I have a major difference with the Governor of Arkansas. He wants to make big Government even bigger. To be precise, he's already on record for at least 0 billion in new spending and 0 billion in new taxes, just for openers. Now, my opponent likes to tell you he'll only raise taxes on the rich. But I'll tell you this, his taxes, he's going to end up taxing all working Americans for the same reason outlaw Willie Sutton robbed banks: because that's where the money is. I don't think people are undertaxed; I think Government spends too much. That's why my agenda includes a new idea to drive down the deficit by giving you, the American taxpayer, if you want to do it, power to earmark a full 10 percent of your Federal dollars for one purpose and one purpose only: to pay down the national debt. If the Congress won't cut that deficit, let the voters do it.
My new plan is comprehensive, filled with specific answers to questions Americans are asking around their dining room tables these days. One of those questions is how will we stay ahead of the changes in the world economy.
According to some studies, just 2 percent of you will work the same job from now until retirement. The average worker can expect to change jobs 10 times during the course of his career. You need real-world security, skills you can put to work now and 10 years from now. But just as you can't drive a nail without a hammer, you can't build a dream without a job. You're here at Job Corps because you know that it takes more and better skills to earn good jobs, and you decided you were going to do something about that. Well, America has work to do, and we can't let your drive go to waste. Maybe 50 years ago, a strong back might have been enough to get a good job. In our changing economy, it's not enough anymore. What you earned yesterday with sweat you've got to earn tomorrow with skills. That's why last month, I announced new initiatives to focus Federal job training on the kind of real-world skills Americans like you and Americans of all ages need in this new world economy.
To help young people find that first job we have a program called the Youth Training Corps, modeled after Job Corps programs like this one. We want to get these inner-city kids off the mean streets and give them a second chance to build the skills they need to succeed. For older workers who've lost their job or worry that that next pay envelope might bring a pink slip, we've developed a new idea called skill grants. We want to give workers vouchers worth ,000 to be used towards the training program of their choice. And let me say this: Choice is critical. I don't see job training as an excuse to shoehorn you into whatever program has an open slot or the next box on some bureaucratic checklist. I want to give you the power to go where you want to get training in the kind of career that you choose.
These are some of the ideas I'm talking about to renew America. Many are underway, others just beginning. You see, I am committed in this campaign to providing serious answers to the questions Americans are asking about our future. I have diagnosed the problem; I've offered serious solutions, not all of which are popular -- can't do that when you're President. And I'm asking for a mandate to put these solutions into action and get this country moving.
I firmly believe that my opponent, at least for now, has chosen a different strategy. He has chosen a different strategy: Rather than talk about what he wants for America, he spends his time belittling my ideas and playing on fears. One example: I want to talk about limiting the growth of Government spending, which my opponent says he agrees with. But instead of offering any ideas of his own, he simply says, ``Watch out, seniors. Watch out, veterans. Watch out, disabled Americans.'' This fear campaign must not work.
Our administration has strengthened Social Security. I have said time and again I will not mess with Social Security, and we haven't; we've left it sacrosanct. You look at the budgets, and we have stood, not just because I am one, but we have stood beside the Nation's veterans. And we're going to keep on doing that. And he tries to scare the disabled. I signed the most original legislation that brought the disabled into our economic mainstream and gave them a shot at the American dream. And that's what we've been doing, and we ought to deserve some support from the American people for that and not let him scare us. It seems to me Governor Clinton is running a Freddie Krueger candidacy. [Laughter] He's more interested in playing on people's fears than in dealing with this country's problems.
You know, I know times are tough and that Americans have real concerns. But I hope America will reject who plays on your fears. You need to hear leaders talking about these ideas, real ideas that are right for our country. You see, we stand on the cusp of a new age in our Nation. We've changed the world -- just look back into history -- we have literally changed the world. And our children, these children right here, sleep safer because of our actions. They don't worry as kids before them did about the fear of nuclear war. That is significant. That is a major contribution to the world. And now, now we can devote that same energy, that same determination we used to win the cold war to building a safer and more secure America right here at home. With this agenda that I've outlined today, I believe we can renew America and build a better and brighter future.
Thank you all for this wonderfully warm welcome. And may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very, very much. Thank you.
Note: The President spoke at 11:47 a.m. at the Excelsior Springs Job Corps Center. In his remarks, he referred to Wayne Jenkins, Job Corps Project Manager; John I. Douglas, Job Corps Regional Manager; and Derrick Thomas, Kansas City Chiefs football player.