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Public Papers - 1989 - September

Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters During a Meeting With Small Business Leaders

1989-09-26

The President. As we meet with these small business owners and representatives of small business owners, it gives me an opportunity to make another appeal for the capital gains differential. It is not, as these folks know, a tax break for the rich. It is a job-creating tax measure that will put more Americans to work. And so, I think we have to stand up to the understandable political rhetoric on the other side, rhetoric that we heard all last year and are now hearing once again, and fight for this principle that will be good for the American people.

And when I look back at some of the statistics -- that in 1987 over 14 million people reported capital gain and 70 percent of the tax returns with long-term gains had incomes of less than ,000. So, this argument that we hear from the political opponents that this is a tax break for the rich -- they simply are wrong about it. The American people had a chance to hear this debate in last year's political process, and now I'm trying to follow through and do what I said I would do. It's a tough fight, but I obviously would welcome all of your support, which I hope I have.

Q. You certainly have ours.

The President. But in fairness now, we can take a quick question and then I'll have to go to work here.

Capital Gains Taxes

Q. What do you think the outcome is going to be at this point? They're going to vote the rule today.

The President. I don't know, but it's close, very close. I think some had predicted it would never get this far, given the political breakdown up there. But I'm confident that we do have a strong bipartisan support, and I'm hopeful that we will prevail.

Q. Are you suggesting you might get both the capital gains tax cut and an IRA cut -- both? --

The President. I don't see how we can do that. I have to have some final -- I have to be the final arbiter, I think, on the overall budget. And that is unacceptable to me as President.

Chemical Weapons

Q. Did you get everything you wanted from Mr. Shevardnadze today at the Soviet -- or at the United Nations on chemical weapons?

The President. Well, you never get everything you want, but I'm very pleased with the way things are going. The reaction from the Soviets to our proposals yesterday has been positive, and so now the goal is to get moving and try to work out these agreements. But we got some good common ground, Terry [Terry Hunt, Associated Press], that I don't think we had before the Foreign Minister came here. I know he's accurately reflecting Mr. Gorbachev's view.

Education Summit

Q. Mr. President, this being the eve of your education summit, do you care to make a comment on what you hope to gain of substance at the 2-day meeting -- how you expect to improve America's schools?

The President. Well, I think that we're going to come together with the Governors on major objectives for this country in terms of education -- something that's never been done before. And I know what my agenda is and what I believe in, but I'm going down there to listen and to work with the Governors, not try to impose an agenda from here. But I want to see us come up with some suggestions that will dramatically change things.

I was just reminded by a group of business leaders that on a per capita basis we spend far more than Germany or far more than Japan, and yet we're not achieving the way they are. So we've got to see what it is that we're doing wrong, how can we be more accountable. And it's in those areas of goals -- national goals, but coming up through the Governors -- that I think we can make a real contribution here.

Q. How would goals make a difference? If you did have goals, how would that make a difference in the classroom?

The President. Well, if we all agree on them, if we can get the Nation to agree on them, then the President can push from here. But the beauty of having the Governors is, they're the ones that are on the cutting edge. And we want them to go back actively engaged in working for excellence. And besides that, I think there will be an interesting exchange of ideas -- one Governor saying to another, ``Here's what's worked in my State.'' And to the degree the Federal Government does have a role in many of these educational programs, we will be listening intently, and our people will be saying what we think works and what doesn't. It's a good way to do it. It's a good way to have it, at this Governor's level.

Capital Gains Taxes

One more capital gains question?

Q. Dick Darman [Director, Office of Management and Budget] said yesterday that the Democrats want to shut down the government in order to force you to raise taxes, rather than go along with this capital gains. Are you willing to see an extensive sequestration and a -- --

The President. I don't want that, but I'm not ruling out anything. I mean, we know what the law is, and the President has to abide by the law. But if they would go forward and do what we've suggested, why, we could avoid sequestration. But I'm not ruling it out. Can't rule it out. It's the law of the land. And I've got certain convictions. I was elected to do certain things, and I'm going to keep on trying to do them. And a President has to use the tools at his disposal to accomplish the ends for which he was elected, and I plan to do exactly that.

Note: The President spoke at 2:07 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House.

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