Public Papers - 1992
Remarks to the Community in Enid, Oklahoma
Thank you. Please be seated. Good morning, everyone, and thank -- [applause] -- hey, let me tell you something. There's something about Enid. You really make a guy feel at home.
May I thank Don Nickles. I'll have more to say about him in just a minute. And while I'm on the subject of thanks, let me compliment Mark McCord on his introduction of Senator Nickles and getting this whole event together, all the civic clubs. And I want to thank all the leaders here on the dais joining me this morning and bring attention to several guests here. In particular, I want two to join me in the United States Congress this fall: Bob Anthony right here, you see him behind us, and Ernest Istook, running in the Fifth District; and Charles Ford for the State senate. And may I salute Mr. Grey and Mr. Divelbliss and Mr. Key and Mary Rumph, our leaders; Neva Hill; and thank you very much for your leadership, all of you back there and all of you out here, on your efforts on behalf of the Republican Party here in Oklahoma.
Let me just say a word about your Senator. I work with him closely. He has taken the lead in changing this alternative minimum tax that will help stimulate the domestic drilling business. We don't need to depend on foreign oil so much. He understands the importance of a strong defense, and I thought of that when he and I flew in on Air Force One to Vance. We must keep our country strong. Yes, we've made progress, but we've got to stay strong. He understands American agriculture and the need to sell abroad. Oklahoma sets the pace in agricultural exports. And Don Nickles is with you every inch of the way.
Now, I've come here today to the Bright Star of the Great Plains to discuss perhaps the most serious issue that Americans face this fall. This is a wonderful turnout, and politics is in the air. But today I approach this opportunity you've given me not as a rally but as a chance to discuss for the whole Nation our economic future and of the very real choices that my opponent and I offer for shaping that future. It's a serious talk, not a rally speech, and I hope you'll bear with me.
Enid is the perfect place for this discussion, for in many ways your community is a metaphor for America. Here in your history we can find the forces that have made us the world's greatest economic power.
Yesterday, as Don was reminding you, you marked the 99th anniversary of the Land Race, a peculiarly American experiment. The Government set up the competition in 1893 but then got out of the way, stood back, to let free people work, work their miracles. And 99 years later, we see the results all around us: hard-working ranchers, some of the world's best oilmen. Enid has become a thriving center of commerce, a hub of transportation, a producer of goods sold in every corner of the Earth. A Government planner might conjure up this miracle, but only a free people could have produced it. The lesson it teaches should guide us as we look to the challenges ahead.
We stand today at the edge of a new era. At the close of a long and costly war, democracy now is sweeping the globe. The fear of nuclear holocaust that gripped us for 45 years is receding. Our kids no longer go to bed at night worried about nuclear war. That is dramatic change. These are world-shaping changes, and I am proud of the role that my administration has taken in bringing them about.
Now we have an opportunity to refocus our attention to the problems at home. Americans recognize the world is in transition. We feel it in our homes and in our neighborhoods.
In Detroit last week at the Detroit Economic Club, I presented my Agenda for American Renewal, a look at what's wrong in America and what's right. I offered a comprehensive, integrated approach to win the new global economic competition, to create the world's first trillion economy by early in the next century. My agenda includes 13 actions that I will pursue in the first year of my second term, and I will fight for every one of them.
I want to be specific about what I have to offer America because I want a mandate to change things and to govern. I built a mandate in the Persian Gulf, and look what we got done. I want to do the same thing here at home, because just as America has achieved a lasting political and military security, we can and will forge an economic security, right here in Oklahoma, right here in all the rest of the States in the United States of America.
Yes, change is underway because change is the nature of America. Oklahomans know that. Yet change must be a tool for us, not against us. So we must never grasp change blindly, without considering seriously where these changes will lead us or what they will mean in our daily lives.
That's why this afternoon -- or this, yes, almost afternoon -- I want to lay out the differences between my agenda and my opponent's plan. These distinctions are fundamental. They shape our approach to every major issue in this election from education to health care to the renewal of the American economy.
The first difference is the most profound, for it goes to the heart of the matter: What makes our economy grow? Or more precisely, who makes an economy grow? My answer is individual working men and women make it grow. My opponent puts his faith in different people, the Government planners. He believes that Washington, the Government, will produce economic growth through, quote, and here's his word, ``investing,'' unquote, your money more wisely than you can. To understand where these differences come from, you have to look at the differences in who we are and what we believe.
I came out west, like a number of you. Let's see, in 1948 Barbara and I moved over across the way to Midland and Odessa to work in the oil field supply business and then to become an independent producer and a drilling contractor. I spent half my adult life in business, and I have the ulcers to prove it. [Laughter] With a lot of help, a lot of help from the tool pushers and the roughnecks and the drilling superintendents and everybody else, and then some strong Oklahoma partners, I built a company from the ground up, created jobs, and paid my taxes.
By contrast, my opponent chose to run for office at an exceptionally early age. He wanted to determine how the people's taxes should be spent, how to shape people's lives through more government programs.
I never forgot, nor will I, my days in the Texas oil fields: some successes; yes, some dry holes; some twist-offs; some flawless completions. I never forgot the economic philosophy that I learned there in the field, to unleash the aspirations of the ordinary person with the extraordinary dream. Aspirations lead to enterprise. Enterprise creates jobs and wealth and the opportunity that knows no difference among color, creed, or social class.
You look at the differences. My opponent and his advisers propose something quite different. Their writings refer to European models and industrial policy, and that's an academic term for letting the Government pick economic winners and losers. Their ideal is not the entrepreneur but the Government planner, the lawyer, or the policy professor who flatters himself that he understands the American economy better than the workers and the entrepreneurs who have their sleeves up and really make it work.
My opponent and his advisers can trace their intellectual roots to the social engineering ideas popular at the turn of the century. Those old social -- some of you historians remember this -- those old social engineers advocated large-scale Government ownership to give the State the leading role in society and economy. Today, European governments are still selling off the inefficient industrial monstrosities that were born from those ideas, and Mexico and Argentina to our south are soaring because they're also ridding themselves of government-owned enterprises.
Over the years those early social engineers became interventionist liberals who wanted to create a welfare state. They sought to level the differences, to tax success, to redistribute wealth. They ended up paralyzing the private sector. That's one reason that some European countries today are stuck with unemployment rates around, if not higher than 10 percent. It's why ordinary Europeans are rebelling against anything that even smacks of the elite central government.
Now, my opponent is drawn to these views. He and a number of his advisers studied them at Oxford in the 1960's. But they are shrewd enough to know that the welfare state doesn't sell in America. So my opponent labels his latest technique for Government management ``investment.'' Those are his words. No matter what you call it, it's still big-time Government spending directed by Washington planners who want to reorder social and economic priorities. We cannot have that.
I ask you to look at the plans. My opponent's approach exploits the market but fundamentally distrusts it. Where the market can be rough-edged, they prefer academic tidiness. Where the market is often unpredictable, they prefer the false certitude of social engineering, fashioned by a new economic elite of the so-called best and brightest. The best and the brightest are right out here in middle America where you know what's going on. From Santa Monica to Cambridge, my opponents are cranking up their models, ready to test them on you.
So at a decisive moment in history comes your choice about who should lead the American economy, the Government planner or the entrepreneur, the risktaker. I stand with the private sector and with the risktaker. From Mexico to Eastern Europe, from Russia to South China, command-and-control economies have been dismissed as failures. The individual is being set free, private enterprise unleashed, bureaucracies shut down. At the exact moment that the rest of the world is going our way, why should we ever want to go their way? What are we supposed to say to a world suddenly copying our ideas about free enterprise? Just kidding? [Laughter]
This is the most fundamental disagreement between us: whether the driving engine of growth is Government interventionism or entrepreneurial capitalism. But from this one disagreement flow many, many others with important practical consequences for our economy, our Nation, and yes, for your family.
Take our second disagreement over the issue of taxes. He wants to raise taxes. I want to cut taxes. You see, I believe our tax system is fundamentally the product of a wartime economy. The cost of fighting two World Wars and a cold war vastly expanded the number of people who had to pay taxes and raised marginal tax rates.
High tax rates created pressure for exceptions, tax loopholes. The discovery and enlarging of loopholes has, in turn, created a vast industry of accountants and lawyers and tax specialists, all paid by special interests seeking favored treatment.
During the 1980's -- and I think you all will remember this -- we slashed the tax on labor, increasing incentives for work and creating 21 million jobs. Now we need to lower the tax on capital, encouraging more investment that will create more jobs. My opponent calls for raising marginal rates again. His approach will cut the demand for labor, unless you happen to be a lawyer or an accountant or a lobbyist.
There's a motive to his madness. My opponent needs the money to pay for his social engineering, and he says it will come from the rich. He neglects to mention that two-thirds of the, quote, ``rich'' he's targeting are family farmers and small-business owners. His theory is that you may not live the lifestyle of the rich and famous, but you can be taxed like you do.
This leads me to our third major˙20difference: Government spending. Again, the contrast couldn't be more plain. He wants to raise Government spending. I want to cut it.
The Federal Government today -- now listen to this one -- spends almost a quarter of every dollar of our national income. When you add State and local spending, your local taxes, your State taxes, the figure is about 35 cents out of every dollar going to some level of government.
My opponent thinks Government should be bigger. He's already called for 0 billion in new spending, on top of today's .5 trillion, so Government can lead our economy with new, quote, ``investments.'' Newsweek suggests that the actual cost could be 3 times that.
My proposal to reduce the growth of spending has three parts: a cap on the growth of mandatory spending, excluding Social Security; a freeze on domestic spending; and the elimination of 246 programs and more than 4,000 projects that we don't need and that we cannot afford.
I want this discipline, and so does Don Nickles, I might add. I want this discipline backed up with a balanced budget amendment and a line-item veto. I want to give you the right to take up to 10 percent of your tax payment and dedicate it solely to cut spending and the deficit.
My opponent says he would like to cut a Government program, too, one program in the entire Federal budget, the honeybee subsidy, worth million. Incidentally, on that subject, that worldwide important subject of the honeybee, Senator Gore has voted two times to save the honeybee subsidy.
My opponent ducks the subject of serious spending cuts. He's proposed only about billion in cuts in mandatory spending over 5 years. That amounts to about 2 percent of what we've proposed to cut the growth of mandatory spending, excluding Social Security. What I proposed cut it by 0 billion. The trends are clear. He wants to increase Government's share of the national wealth, and I want to decrease it.
Now, the fourth defining difference: opening foreign markets for American goods. Again, there's two contrasting approaches. Oklahoma is one of the Nation's leading grain exporters; 65,000 Oklahoma jobs are supported by trade. That number will grow if we open more foreign markets. That's why I've negotiated the North American free trade agreement, or they call it NAFTA, and why I want a network of free trade agreements with other countries.
I want lower priced goods for American consumers. I know that, given the chance, the American worker can outthink, outcompete, outcreate any worker in the entire world. That's true of the Oklahoma farmer, and that's true of the Oklahoma manufacturer.
Now there was a time when my opponent said he favored open trade. Other times, usually after meeting with the big union leaders, the bosses up there in Washington, he has no opinion at all. In fact, the labor bosses have let him off the hook, saying they won't press him on this issue until after the election. Now, asked about the free trade pact with Mexico, he now says and here's an exact quote, ``When I have a definitive opinion, I'll say so.'' You cannot be on all sides of every issue if you want to be President of the United States of America.
That indecision could have disastrous consequences. Make no mistake: An indecisive President will produce a protectionist trade policy. Over the past 20 years, Congress has become much more protectionist. Changes in the way Congress operates have significantly increased the power of individual Members. The established special interests have targeted each one with a great deal of success. These local interest groups will conspire with their clients in Congress to keep out competition altogether. Only the President can speak for the national interest.
The marriage of convenience between the special interests and powerful Congressmen poses particular dangers to free trade. Entrepreneurs are very good at taking advantage of foreign markets. They are not good at taking these lobbyists out to lunch. So if you feel that Oklahoma is right in exporting as much of its wheat as it does, then you must have a President who is firmly committed to opening markets, at home and abroad.
You know, frankly, I believe that when Americans shop we should give the first look to products marked ``Made in the U.S.A.'' Our quality revolution has made American products the best in the world, but they will only remain the best if American business opens itself to competition. Competition gave American business its competitive edge, and competition will keep it sharp.
Then there's a fifth difference between my opponent and me: our attitudes toward Government regulation, mandates, and monopolies. I want to minimize Federal intrusion in the workings of the marketplace. My opponent sees regulation as he sees taxes and spending, as a chance to reorder society according to the planner's blueprint.
Of course, I believe firmly in Government's obligation to protect the health and safety and rights of its citizens, of course. I fought for both the Clean Air Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act. Both will require new regulations, but we're proceeding to implement them in the most efficient and least burdensome way possible.
Last year, Americans expended 5.3 billion hours just to keep up with Federal regulations. That's like watching every pro-football game on television back-to-back for the next 12,268,000 years. [Laughter] That's not including playoffs.
That's why I have ordered a top-to-bottom review of Government regulations to assess each new rule's impact on economic growth. In this agenda I am outlining, I have called for adding ``sunset'' provisions to all new regulation.
Look at health care, a case study of our different attitudes toward Government regulation. I believe everybody should have health care. My health care reform will bring health care to those without it by giving them the means to choose the kind of care they want. It will harness the forces of competition to control costs. In keeping the Government out, it keeps the quality of our health care up. Our health care is the finest in the world, and I want to keep it that way.
My opponent, by contrast, says that Government will simply issue an edict: Costs shall not rise. He will order businesses to provide health care or pay for it, though he never quite says how. It sounds simple, sounds even seductive.
But that's not the way the world works. My opponent's new dictates and taxes won't cure the health care problem; they will just make the economy sicker. From Warsaw to Prague to Moscow, Government price controls have led to one thing: rationing of service. In health care, that will mean longer lines, inefficient service, and lower quality.
Our difference in approach to Government's role shows up across the board.
In child care, I fought to empower parents to choose from a public agency, a relative, or a church. Give the parents the choice. My opponent wanted a Government-knows-best policy.
In education, I am fighting to give parents scholarships to choose the best schools for their kids: public, private, or religious. My opponent bows to the special interests who say parents should only choose Government schools.
Now, lastly, my opponent and I disagree on an issue crucial, absolutely crucial, to small businesses and also to small communities. I believe that our legal system is out of control, heading for an accident. The litigation explosion has discouraged risktaking and innovation, the life's blood of entrepreneurial capitalism. Today Americans spend up to 0 billion in direct costs to lawyers, far more than our competitors in Asia and Europe.
Again, when it comes to legal reform, the difference is clear: I'm for it, and my opponent and the trial lawyers want to kill it. In fact, one trial lawyer from Arkansas solicited funds for my opponent by writing, ``I can never remember an occasion when he failed to do the right thing where we trial lawyers were concerned.''
A truly competitive America cannot afford a President who worries about doing the right thing for the trial lawyers. You see, I believe we need to sue each other less and care for each other more. These, then, are the six core differences between my agenda and my opponent's plan. There are others, but all relate to America's central challenge: the challenge of securing peace and prosperity in a totally new era.
We may talk about the same issues, but the similarity ends there. My opponent and I both hope to take America off in very different directions.
He would unite the Presidency and the Congress to achieve one end above all others: more Government; a Government that taxes more and spends more and regulates more, encourages more lawsuits and shuts off more products from the markets that Americans create.
Those aren't new ideas. They're bad ideas, and they've been tried before.
Buying my opponent's prescription for the economy would be like going out to the used car lot down the road and buying the lemon that you got rid of 12 years ago. Only this time, there would be higher taxes, higher interest rates, and higher inflation. This is not a good deal for America.
Now, on July 20th, 1988, my opponent nominated Michael Dukakis for President. It was a rather lengthy speech; makes this one look like the Gettysburg Address. [Laughter] He praised Michael Dukakis then as a master of innovation, the architect of the Massachusetts Miracle. [Laughter] Six months later the miracle was a curse, and Massachusetts teetered toward bankruptcy.
I think America can do without that kind of innovation. There are some kind of changes America simply cannot afford.
I look to a different kind of future. We can build on our strengths. With inflation kept safely behind bars, our entrepreneurs can turn to the challenges they love to face, transforming their dreams into wealth, their risktaking into jobs for all Americans.
The result won't be the mirage of innovation conjured up by Government planners. It will be a wave of genuine innovation and prosperity, created by free men and women, exploiting opportunities unprecedented in our history.
If you get the feeling I'm optimistic about the future of the country, you are right. We're the United States of America. So this is the choice we face. This is the choice we face in November. So I ask when you make that choice, please consider carefully which candidate's agenda best fits your beliefs, our national heritage, and our hope for a lasting peace.
Thank you so much for listening. And may God bless the United States of America. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 10:15 a.m. in the Enid Convention Hall. In his remarks, he referred to Mark McCord, president, Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce; Norman L. Grey, Mayor of Enid; Charles Divelbliss, Garfield County Republican chairman; Clinton Key, Republican State chairman and chairman, Oklahoma Victory '92; and Mary Rumph, Oklahoma Republican national committeewoman.