E X E C U T I V E O F F I C E O F T H E P R E S I D E N T
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
9:40 A.M. EST
MS. MYERS: Schedule update. No real changes. The bipartisan congressional meeting is at 2:00 p.m. The meeting with Secretary Christopher at 3:00 p.m. will be a pool opportunity.
Then, the President will leave for Capitol Hill about 8:25 p.m. and he'll come back immediately following the speech.
Q There's a report in today's Wall Street Journal that has different numbers than we were briefed on by a backgrounder yesterday in terms of when the 36 percent top rate would kick in. Instead of it being one in $80,000 for a family and $140,000 for individuals, it's at $140,00 for family and $115,000 for individuals.
MS. MYERS: That's taxable income.
Q Taxable income.
Q So the difference is adjusted gross versus tax?
MS. MYERS: Adjusted gross income versus taxable income.
Q Thank you.
Q Those are the numbers we used --
Q When will we get the speech?
MS. MYERS: I hope to get the speech to you relatively early. By that, I mean late afternoon, early evening.
Q And is it done?
MS. MYERS: It's fairly close. The President is working on it now.
Q All the decisions have been made?
Q Can we get a picture of him doing that?
MS. MYERS: I'll check into it. I don't think that's an unreasonable request.
Q All the decisions have been made?
MS. MYERS: Basically. And what he's working on now is fine-tuning the language. But the decisions have been made. I believe all of them, although there may be a few exceptions.
Q Dee Dee, there seems to be a real opposition growing to this package as presented, that it seems so tax-oriented.
MS. MYERS: It's not tax-oriented.
Q People seem to be very unhappy with it.
MS. MYERS: Well, I think first of all --
Q That's a generalization, but --
MS. MYERS: And it's based, first of all, that the complete details of the package aren't out there. I think that there's been more attention paid to tax increases -- that was particularly the focus of this morning's papers, in many ways. But the full details of the package are not out there. I don't think that people have had a chance to focus on the deficit reduction portion. There is a significant deficit reduction, it's a very disciplined budget. It's a return to honest budgeting. I think we haven't seen that in quite a while.
There is an equal amount of spending cuts and tax increases. This is, again, a plan that will take equally from everybody. Everybody will be asked to contribute. I think once people have a chance to evaluate the full plan, to see what the intended effects are, that there is new investment here, that there is a change in investment priorities in this budget, I think people will have a much different attitude towards it.
Q One more follow-up here. Why isn't the Defense Department briefing?
MS. MYERS: Many of the individual departments are briefing on how their departments will be affected.
Q Right. But why isn't Defense?
MS. MYERS: Oh, why isn't defense?
MS. MYERS: I think Secretary Aspin chose not to. They're in the process of deciding their budget now.
Q You mean, there will be no figure on cuts in the defense budget?
MS. MYERS: There will be figures on cuts. I don't think the specifics will be outlined yet.
Q Dee Dee, has the President been making phone calls or in any way trying to work with these Republicans who have been coming out very much against it in the past day or two?
MS. MYERS: He's meeting with the bipartisan leaders today. He hasn't had any other meetings with them, and I don't know of any phone calls that he's made to Republican leaders. But they are coming to the White House this afternoon, and the President will have an opportunity to talk with them directly about the package.
Q What will he ask them to do?
MS. MYERS: He'll ask them to work with him to pass it. I think he'll make clear that this economic plan does three things: It will create jobs and help the economy to grow; it'll make a serious, serious effort at deficit reduction; it will reduce the deficit significantly over the next four and five years, and that it will be fair. And that before the Republicans start taking apart individual components, that he's going to ask them to look at the total package.
Q Paul Tsongas praised the package this morning and said that if he had to criticize anything it would be that the President hasn't brought Bob Dole into the process enough.
MS. MYERS: Senator Dole is coming to the White House this afternoon and the President will have a chance to speak with him directly.
Q There is a feeling on the Hill among Republicans that they should have been brought in earlier, particularly Dole who has shown in the past a willingness to fight for deficit reduction even against George Bush and against Ronald Reagan.
MS. MYERS: I think, again, the President is going to talk to Senator Dole today and I think he will go through the numbers with him and talk about the honest numbers that were used in calculating this plan, and the serious commitment the President is making to reducing the deficit while investing in things that will help the economy grow.
I think the President would like to work with the Republican leaders over the course of the next several months to pass this package. He's met with the Republican leadership regularly. He's going up again to meet with the policy lunch the first week in March, and I think that there will be a serious effort by this administration to work with both Republican and Democratic leaders.
Q Dee Dee, is he going to talk --
Q Was this based on a calculation that he could pass it with Democrats and that he didn't trust the Republicans enough to help him?
MS. MYERS: Clearly, the Democrats have had a stronger hand in creating this plan than the Republicans have. And the President is a Democrat. But he does want bipartisan support, and he will continue to work with Republican leaders on this.
Q Is he going to tell them everything today at 2:00 p.m. -- everything that's in the plan?
MS. MYERS: I think he'll be quite candid, talk about many of the details in the package. I don't know how specific, I don't know how specific Senator Dole will want to get. But he's, I think, ready to talk about it.
Q Will the President talk to Ross Perot today, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: I believe he will. I'm not sure. There's no specific time. But I think it's our intention to talk to Perot and his people about this plan. The President may, in fact, call him.
Q And brief him on the details of the plan?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q You're saying he will come to the White House today?
MS. MYERS: I don't think he's -- I'm not sure that he's coming here.
Q Is it possible that he's coming here?
MS. MYERS: I'll have to get back to you on that.
Q Will there be a photo op at that meeting?
MS. MYERS: Again, I have not heard any plans of Ross Perot coming to the White House.
Q Why is he briefing him?
MS. MYERS: He might speak to him on the phone.
MS. MYERS: Why not come here?
MS. MYERS: Oh, why is he briefing him? I'm sorry. Because I think a lot of the things that the President has addressed in this economic plan are things that Mr. Perot agrees with, things that he supported during the campaign, like a serious commitment to deficit reduction, like honest budgeting, like investment in things that matter: changing our investment priorities as a nation.
Q You keep saying "honest budgeting." Are you saying that previous administrations all lied?
MS. MYERS: I think that there has been a trend toward rosy growth figures, toward unrealistic deficit calculations. I think magic asterisk, things like that -- there will be none of that budget gimmickry in this plan. This is a plan that's based on the most conservative growth figures, it's based on a very conservative baseline. I think if the economy exceeds our growth expectations that will be good, but we chose to use conservative numbers.
Q Can you give us an idea what the next -- tomorrow and the next couple of days will look like? Are you going to have administration people fanning out over the country to sell this? Is the President himself going someplace? What's in the works?
MS. MYERS: The President, as you know, will leave tomorrow around 1:00 p.m. and head to St. Louis where he'll do a rally at Union Station. Other members of the Cabinet will travel mostly to their home states, although not exclusively, to talk to people there about what's in the plan and why people should support it.
For example, Secretary Espy will address a joint session of the Mississippi legislature and make another stop, I believe, in Biloxi. Secretary Bentsen will testify on the Hill and then go to San Antonio. There will be a number of -- almost all of the Cabinet officials, except perhaps Reich and Panetta who need to testify here on Thursday and Friday will be going out somewhere to talk about this plan; meeting with editorial boards. Pardon me?
Q What's the plan for Sunday and Monday?
MS. MYERS: It's a trip to the West Coast; I still don't have all the details. We're --
Q Do you have any details at all on what cities?
MS. MYERS: No, not yet. We should have those probably by the end of the day.
Q Dee Dee, why is the President unconcerned about reopening the 1986 tax agreement and starting the process of using the tax code for social engineering?
MS. MYERS: Well, I'm not sure that -- I mean, I think that the President has a different approach; believes that the priorities of the 1980s were wrong; that what we saw was a decrease in investment and an increase in the deficit, and that he plans to change that. And one of the ways he's going to address the basic inequities of the 1980's is through the tax code. There is just no question that the tax burden is borne now more than ever by middle and working class Americans. The President believes that's unacceptable. It's both unfair and it's not in the long-term economic interest of the country, and so he plans to change it.
Q But beyond just the tax rate increases, the idea of using tax credits, using investment credits, things like that to finetune the economy was what the Democratic Congress and the Republican administrations agreed was a bad policy and through great pain and suffering throughout the middle '80s --
MS. MYERS: But the President simply believes that you cannot address our long-term economic problems unless you address the basic inequities that were exacerbated over the course of the last 12 years. That you have to have both fairness and discipline if you're going to turn this economy around and make long-term improvements.
Q So he feels that the tax code is an effective weapon for the federal government to use in achieving policy ends?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that will all become clear when you look at the document or the overall economic plan tonight. But I think there will be a definite change in direction over the past 10 years.
Q The tax simplification is gone?
MS. MYERS: I mean, wait until you see the total package before you make comments. But he believes that you have to address the inequities of the previous years, and one of the ways to do that is through the tax system. And, clearly, if you look at the way -- not to get back into the $100,000 figure, but seven out of every ten dollars in new revenues will come from people who make over $100,000 a year. He believes that that will help redress some of the inequities, some of the income disparities that were exacerbated over the last 12 years.
Q Will the energy tax be able to take its natural course and have greatest on impact on coal, or will there be some kind of adjustment to balance out between coal and natural gas --
MS. MYERS: I'll let Director Panetta and others address the specifics of the energy tax.
Q Is there anything else in the speech tonight besides the economy?
MS. MYERS: No, no, it really focuses exclusively on the economic plan.
Q He won't mention Haiti?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Will he recognize people in the audience, as some Presidents have done in previous speeches?
MS. MYERS: Like regular citizens?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Will he have charts and graphs?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I don't know.
Q What other briefings is the White House giving today?
MS. MYERS: How many briefings? Well, we'll do our --
Q I don't mean press briefings, I mean briefings for other people -- lobbyists or others.
MS. MYERS: I don't know how many groups might be coming in. But as you know or may have read this morning, there have been a series of people that have come in representing different constituencies that we've tried to explain the parameters and the values and the principles that underlie the plan, to try to enlist their support. I think the main message is that we want everybody to look at the total package, to look at the objectives of the package, look at the way the burdens will be borne and the benefits will be distributed before they make judgments about the specific elements.
Q Are these the same people the President referred to?
Q Dee Dee, are there groups coming in today for that kind of a briefing? That was the question.
MS. MYERS: And the answer is, none to meet with the President, and I don't know specifically who might be coming in, but it is something we've been doing regularly over the course of the last few days.
Q Is it safe to say these are the defenders of decline that he talked about Monday?
MS. MYERS: These aren't lobbyists, necessarily.
Q They're not lobbyists that are coming in?
MS. MYERS: There not the defenders of decline. They are people that we hope will help us sell the package --
Q So they've been screened for support before they're invited?
MS. MYERS: -- out across America. No, they haven't been screened for support.
Q Well, how do you know they don't -- they agree?
MS. MYERS: We're asking them to agree. We don't know that they agree. We're bringing them in to talk to them --
Q How were they selected? Who --
MS. MYERS: The political and public liaison offices within the White House have gone out and -- that's what they do; they communicate with different groups.
Q From around the country?
MS. MYERS: From around the country? I don't know exactly the specific -- we don't have any specific list of who's coming, other than that there have been groups coming in that represent a broad variety of interests.
Q Can you give a few examples?
Q Three or four examples.
MS. MYERS: I'd have to -- I'll have to get back to you on that.
Q Dee Dee, how surprised or concerned was the President at the reaction of Wall Street -- the negative reaction of Wall Street?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think he was encouraged by the reaction of the bond market.
Q Even though 30-year bonds were down?
MS. MYERS: Very small. The bond markets have been very consistent and I think the President's -- first of all, we're monitoring the situation with the markets very closely. And we think that once the markets have a chance to review the total package, to look at the long-term investments and long-term commitment to deficit reduction, they'll have a positive review.
Q Was he surprised though by the large drop in stocks?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if anybody can ever say exactly what causes the market to do what they do. As you know, we have some serious experts on the markets among our financial team. I don't know if they were surprised. They are monitoring it.
Q Yesterday, you maintained, or at least George did, that the market drop had nothing to do with the Clinton plan. Do you still --
MS. MYERS: I think what our experts tell us is that you can never predict exactly what causes the market to do what it does, and these are people who are quite familiar with the financial markets. However, we are monitoring it and once the entire package is revealed and people have a chance to look at it and again to evaluate its long-term commitments to both new investments and deficit reductions that they'll have a favorable opinion.
Q Are you building a jogging track out here?
MS. MYERS: I'm looking into that, and we'll have an answer for you on that later.
Q What is the problem? Two days?
Q either a yes or a no?
Q Twenty-four hours.
MS. MYERS: Well, I'm looking into it. And we'll get back to you as soon as --
Q What does that mean, looking into it? You mean, you cannot pick up a phone and find out what that is?
MS. MYERS: We're looking into it and as soon as I can tell you with some specificity --
Q Are you trying to keep it a secret?
MS. MYERS: No, but as soon as I can tell you with some specificity what the details are, I will let you know. I can't do that right now.
Q Well, how about a simple yes or no answer to the question, are you building a jogging a track out there?
Q What is the problem?
MS. MYERS: I will get back to you.
Q See, people have been telling us that for a day now, Dee Dee.
Q What is the problem, Dee Dee? This is a very incredible approach.
MS. MYERS: We will happy to answer it and to give you guys an answer as soon as I have it.
Q You had 48 hours to find out.
MS. MYERS: No, that's not true.
Q Well --
Q It looks about the right size for a jogging track, about five feet wide. It looks as though it's been excavated so that some other surface material can be placed on top of it. Couldn't cost too, but it probably will cost something and one wonders how much. Perhaps you're looking into that as well.
MS. MYERS: I'm sure you journalists will agree that things are not always as they appear. I will let you know.
Q You mean it's not a jogging --
Q We'll actually accept that if you will tell us.
MS. MYERS: As soon as I can tell you, I will.
Q Why is it a secret?
MS. MYERS: It's not a secret, Helen. As soon as I have an answer, I will be happy to share it with you.
Q Bush built a horseshoe pit.
Q If Perot comes, you're saying you're open to have a photo op that you will tell us if --
MS. MYERS: If he comes we'll tell you. We'll consider a photo op. I can't say for sure whether we'll do one. I don't believe he's coming. I have not heard that. It's never been discussed to my knowledge.
Q I hope you'll have a picture of him working on his speech.
MS. MYERS: I'll certainly take that.
Q And certainly a picture of him inspecting his new jogging track, while working on the speech. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: That's right.
Q Did the President not want us on his jogging trip today?
MS. MYERS: No. That was a mistake on behalf of the press office. I take full responsibility and I'm sorry. It won't happen again, I hope.
Q Are we getting the full schedule of briefings here?
Q Read your lips?
MS. MYERS: You want a full schedule of briefings here?
Q I didn't say I want it, I'm just asking -- what's your plan?
Q For us.
MS. MYERS: For you -- 11:30 a.m. in 450, Panetta, Tyson and Gene Sperling will brief on the specifics. It will be embargoed until 9:00 p.m. tonight.
Q And do we have George today, too?
MS. MYERS: George will brief at 1:30 p.m. and there are other briefings at Treasury and other departments I think you're probably less interested in. The 11:30 a.m. briefing, I think Director Panetta is prepared to answer any specific questions you have about dollar figures and --
Q And the jogging track?
MS. MYERS: He'll be fully briefed on the jogging track if we have the answer.
Q Are you afraid of the price? Are you afraid of the perception?
MS. MYERS: As soon as I have an answer, I promise.
Q I cannot believe you can't have an answer.
MS. MYERS: I'll get back to you.
Q There's some reason you're keeping it secret.
MS. MYERS: No, there's not. Again, as soon as we have an answer, I will get back to you.
Q We might think it's budget gimmickry.
Q David Wofford's office said yesterday that they gave information to the press office.
MS. MYERS: That's just not right.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END9:56 A.M. EST