THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT BILL SIGNING The Oval Office
10:40 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. As you know, the bill I have just signed is the Aviation Commission legislation. It enables us to start planning the revitalization of one of our country's most important industries -- one of our most important exporters; one of our most important employers: the aircraft manufacturers and carriers that have been the pride of the United States and the world's leaders since the beginning of aviation.
But we're also here because our national government has failed to create the economic climate necessary for this leading edge industry to thrive at home and in an increasingly competitive global economy. The condition of the domestic aviation industry has been spiraling downward for some time. Unemployment in the industry has reached record levels over the past few years. Recent layoffs have been severe. New orders for aircraft have shrunk, along with the demand for airline service, leading to unemployment in the aircraft manufacturing industry as well.
When I visited with managers and employees at the Boeing Corporation in Everett, Washington, they described for me in very personal terms the devastating impact of these developments in their lives and the lives of their coworkers. The legislation I sign today, providing for the creation of a national commission to ensure a strong competitive airline industry, commits us, on behalf of the industry and the workers whose livelihoods depend on its health, to search for real answers.
Some of the answers may lie in a more aggressive trade policy, others may come from keeping the global marketplace freer from unfair competition. More may stem from the supporting role of aviation in preserving our national security. In any case, I want to commend the strong bipartisan effort that was shown in passing this legislation on such a fast track. This bill creates the commission that will enable me and the House and the Senate leadership to appoint a knowledgeable and diverse group of people to review these complex issues and make recommendations back to the President and the Congress within 90 days of the appointment of the commission. This is a fast-track operation.
I've been working closely with both parties in the House and the Senate, and I anticipate that the commission will be appointed very soon after Congress returns from its recess. As I think all of you know, the Minority Leader, Bob Michel, is in Russia now on a mission. He has two voting and two ex-officio members who he must appoint. We are, for our part, ready to go here in the White House, and I think the commission will be appointed very soon.
I also want to make it clear that I will detail whatever staff is necessary from the National Economic Council, from the Council of Economic Advisers, from Commerce, from the Trade Representative's office, wherever we need it.
The problems facing this industry are quite complex, and it's important that we build a consensus as quickly as possible. I assure you that when that is done, I will move rapidly with Congress to take whatever action is appropriate based on the recommendations of the commission. But ultimately, no industry in our country flourishes in isolation. The health of each sector depends at least in some measure on the overall health of the American economy. And no one can look at this economy and say that we are satisfied with things just the way they are. We are in the midst of the weakest recovery since World War II. The March unemployment report failed to show any improvement in the labor market, unemployment is stuck at seven percent of the labor force. While the economy supposedly has been in recovery for a year now, manufacturing employment has continued to decline.
This recovery is like a fire starving for oxygen. Jobs and the incomes, profits and consumer spending jobs produce are the oxygen this recovery needs. Investment and deficit reduction are long-term ingredients for making the recovery durable, and we've gone a long way toward doing that over the long run. Our economic plan addresses these objectives and addresses them very well. Long-term help is on the way. The Congress has agreed to provide the broad outlines of our budget package, paving the way for real deficit reduction and a high-investment, high-productivity, high-wage economy.
The plan also increases investment by the federal government in our physical infrastructure and the human capital of our citizens. This shift in the spending priorities of the government will help make us competitive again in the global economy. While the budget plan will provide long-term benefits for the economy, the jobs plan now is needed to ensure a sustained recovery. As it is written the job stimulus package will provide about 500,000 full-time jobs this year and next year. Real jobs -- repairing and rebuilding highways and bridges, creating new mass transit and clean water projects, rebuilding our communities.
Passage of the bill will mean use in our cities, and rural communities can make their passage from idleness to a meaningful work experience, boosting their incomes and educational achievements, learning as they earn. The jobs plan is carefully targeted and will be followed by real and enforceable budget cuts, now more than 200 specific budget cuts contained in the investment and deficit reduction package Congress has approved.
In my view, the message of the last election was to break the gridlock and grow the economy, because Americans are tired of a system that doesn't work and a recovery that doesn't produce new jobs. We know what works. We'll only be able to reduce the deficit and increase investment in the long-term if we guarantee the strength of the recovery by building jobs in the short run. Passing the jobs plan following the adoption of deficit reduction and increased investment by Congress is the best way to accomplish those objectives. This will strengthen not only the aviation industry, but every industry at a time when workers, firms, and average citizens are looking to us here in Washington for leadership.
I want to commend Secretary Pena, the House and Senate leadership, and all the others who have supported this legislation. I look forward to announcing the commission membership. I also hope very much that we can break this deadlock and create some jobs for this economy beginning immediately.
Q Mr. President, -- the Republicans have legitimate concerns about your stimulus package, and what would they be?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the only legitimate concerns I cited were the ones that were cited by the Democrats, too. What they did -- and you can see this in the amendment that the House decided not to adopt and the amendment Mr. Brown offered in the Senate -- was to take hypotheticals from what could be funded through the community development block grant program and in the economic development administration, and come up in a multi-billion dollar jobs package with a couple of hundred million dollars of things that they thought were wrong. I had assured them that I would take executive steps to stop that. That is not what is going on here. The kinds of cuts the Republican Senators are talking about are cuts designed to keep people out of the work force. And so that was a tempest in a teapot. That's the only point I was making.
And I will say again, a lot of the things that were cited amaze me. It was the Republicans and the Democrats at the state and local level all these years who came out for greater flexibility for the states and the localities. Now the Republican Senators are saying they don't trust Republican governors to spend the money in a way that will create jobs in their own states. I find that an amazing argument and a 20-year departure from their stated position.
Q Mr. President, you just named an airline commission. You've asked for a timber report. You've got the health care commission, you've got the budget coming out tomorrow. Have you too much on your plate? Some critics are saying that you're spreading yourself too thin and missing what happened to Jimmy Carter.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, if you look at what we're doing, though, it all relates to the economy. It all comes back to the economy. The health care issue is an issue of personal security to Americans and American families who've been badly battered by the economic developments of the last decade or more. But it also is critical to the long-term deficit reduction, to balancing the federal budget, and to strengthening the health of the American economy.
The timber issue is not just an environmental issue, it's an economic issue. We have to resolve the deadlock out there so people can get on with their lives. Every other issue you've mentioned is an economic issue. We may not get 100 percent of everything we're trying to do in every area. But I do think the American people will see that the focus of all of this is to guarantee a healthy economy and a growing jobs market to try to turn this around. There are so many things which need attention in the economic area, I think we have to be active in all of them. I don't want to spread myself personally too thin, but we have, after all, a large number of people working in this government and a lot of work to do. And I think I have to keep pushing on the economic front.
Q Cuomo decided not -- not to being a justice?
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me?
Q Has Governor Cuomo decided not to be a Supreme Court Justice?
Q And are you disappointed about it?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, I think he's terrific. I think you need to talk to him for anything on that.
Q Did he pull out?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not going to discuss the appointments until I make them. Justice White was kind enough to give me a considerable amount of time. And, given the economic issues before the Congress and the summit I had with President Yeltsin, I appreciated that because I couldn't devote immediate time to it. But I don't think I should comment on any individuals. You know about my regard for Governor Cuomo. He would have to say anything that would be said on this.
Q But you want someone like Governor Cuomo, now that he has withdrawn.
THE PRESIDENT: I didn't say he had. You'll have to ask him about that.
Q Mr. President, during your administration the American people seem to be really engaged. There were telephone calls flooding Washington on various issues, yet they seem to be largely silent on the deadlock over the jobs program. To what do you attribute the gridlock in that case?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think first of all, I don't think they've tuned out but there is -- to go back to Andrea's question -- there's a lot going on here. And I think that one of the things that I hope will happen during the break here is that we can somehow bring all these disparate activities back into sharp focus. I also, to be fair, have not been out in the country much in the last few weeks discussing this. I've been here working at the job.
And one of the toughest decisions, when you talk about spreading myself too thin, one of the toughest decisions I have to make every week is to balance between staying here and meeting with the Congress and doing the job that I have to do here and going out into the country and continuing to engage the people.
I think they know that the broad outlines of the economic program have passed, and I think there was an enormous amount of support for that. I think a lot of people thought that the whole thing passed when the economic program passed, and I have to just try to bring this jobs program into sharp focus and explain to everybody why I think we need to create some jobs now and bring the unemployment rate down now.
And as I have pointed out again and again, this is not a uniquely American problem. Every major economic power is facing this. The Japanese are about to adopt a much bigger stimulus package than we have to drive their unemployment rate down and generate domestic economic development. And I think we ought to do the same thing. It is going to be critical, in my view, to try and keep faith with the American people especially during the upcoming summer.
Q How much are you willing to cut on the stimulus?
THE PRESIDENT: All I can tell you is I'm going to try to get action here. I think it is a shame to rob anybody of the right to have a job. And a lot of the objections which have been raised, I think, are somewhat spurious. I mean, the attack on building swimming pools -- lets just take that one, for example. You know, if you put people to work in a city or a suburb or a small town building a city park which gives people, kids a chance to have recreational opportunities in the summertime and you create jobs doing it, is that a waste of money? I don't really think it is. I mean, the Senate's got a swimming pool doesn't it? (Laughter.) Doesn't it? And it was built with taxpayers money, and somebody worked, somebody had a job building it. And so, you know, --
Q How much are you going to cut?
THE PRESIDENT: No more than I have to to get the thing passed. I just -- I want some action. I want those kids in this country to have jobs this summer. I want them to have the first summer jobs program that includes a strong educational component. I want these places where they have not seen any jobs in years to have a chance to have them. And I'm going to create as many as I can, but I want to get some action. I want to do something and I'll do the very best I can.
Q Are you going to go the country?
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me?
Q Are you going to the country during the recession on this issue?
THE PRESIDENT: I haven't made a decision what to do yet, about how to do it. I just -- I'm going to reassess all that today. As you pointed out, I've been dealing with a lot of different issues and I -- this morning I've got to try to put it into focus. Again, I think -- let me say, I think some of this is politics. It's, you know, just pure gridlock politics. Some of it is the continuing debate over what is the best economic policy. But in terms of the minor objections that have been raised to things in this bill, those can be taken care of rather easily.
The real thing we've got to decide is whether the United States government has a responsibility to try to help start the jobs machine again, and I believe we do. There is obviously a difference in the United States and every other wealthy country in the world between what looks like an economic recovery and creating jobs. That is the big idea we've got to come to grips with. It goes way beyond, sort of, traditional politics. There is a difference now. This is a problem that all these countries are having. I do not want to see the United States go the way of the European countries that are now living with ten percent unemployment. And by the way, we can't afford to do it, because we don't provide health care; we don't provide the supports they do; it's tougher for people in this country when they're unemployed than it is in Europe or Japan.
So we don't provide that kind of support services. And the Japanese unemployment rate, I might say, is still about half what our is, actually slightly less than half. We have got to do something to create the jobs. And I'm just going to do the very best job I can and in terms of how to spend my time and how to do it, I'm going to have to assess that over the next couple of days. Thank you.
Q Speaking of cuts, what kind of razor are you using?
THE PRESIDENT: I got this playing with my daughter, I'm ashamed to say. Rolling around acting like a child again. I reaffirm that I'm not a kid anymore. Thank you.
END10:59 A.M. EDT