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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 21, 1995
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

The Briefing Room

4:39 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. I am pleased to announce today my decision to appoint Dr. Laura Tyson, the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, to be the new Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and the Chair of the National Economic Council.

When I became President I believed that to have a sound economic policy, our economic policymakers had to work together as a solid and carefully coordinated team. To that end, I established the National Economic Council to play a coordinating role in economic policy-making, similar to the role the National Security Council has played in defense and foreign policy for 47 years. I believe that was clearly the right decision. It added discipline, direction and strength, as well as sweep to the administration's economic policymaking.

For two years, under the leadership of Robert Rubin, now the Secretary of the Treasury, we did work together as a team. We had talent, we had discipline, we had common vision, and we have produced results. We had an economic strategy that focused on the expansion of trade, technology and educational opportunities, and the reduction in the government deficit in the size and sweep of adverse governmental policies. We had $600 billion plus in deficit reduction to which we have proposed another over $80 billion in deficit reduction. We've done more to open the world's markets to our products and services than any administration in a generation.

We have reduced taxes on 15 million American working families and made tax cuts available to nine out of 10 small businesses that invest more in their business. The economy in the last two years has created about six million new jobs, with the lowest combination of inflation and unemployment in 25 years.

Reversing the economic policies of the previous 12 years did not come easily. It required tough choices. Many of them were unpopular in the short run, but the results have clearly been felt. We were able to make those choices and follow through on them, in the face of relentless predictions that they would produce recessions and produce disasters, because of the hard work of the outstanding members of our economic team.

One of the most important members of that team was Laura Tyson. She came to our administration from the University of California where she's a professor of economics and business administration. I found when I met her in the presidential campaign that she had an exceptionally analytic mind and an understanding of the underlying global economic and political realities affecting our ability to compete and our economic future. She has been a very credible voice for us on the economy, and I have appreciated
especially her unfailingly frank, direct and principled advice. She has been a consensus builder and an honest broker without in any way compromising her own view in the inner councils and when we discussed economic policy.

We'll miss her at the Council of Economic Advisers, and I will appoint a new chair in the near future. But I am confident she will be a worthy successor to Bob Rubin at the National Economic Council. I'm glad she's taking on this new job. I think it will help us to keep taking on the job of keeping the American Dream alive.

I also want to say again how important this is. I think when the history of this administration is written, one of the most significant organizational changes we will have made, and one that I predict all future administrations will follow, is the creation of the National Economic Council and the development of a coordinated, disciplined economic policy through global economy.

I'd like to now introduce Dr. Tyson and let her make a few remarks. Thank you for doing this. Congratulations -- no condolences. It's going to be a good change. Thank you.

DR. TYSON: Thank you very much. I certainly want to thank the President, first and foremost, for his leadership on economic policy. It has been stead; it's been principled. There have been a whole range of economic issues we've worked on. And as I said last week when I introduced the Economic Report of the President, for those who think we have not had a coherent and consistent strategy, I suggest simply reading this year's economic report and then reading last year's economic report, and you will see that, from the beginning, there's been a real vision and a set of principles and a real follow-through.

As a result of the vision and the strategy, the nation is enjoying the most salutary combination of unemployment, low unemployment, low inflation, strong output growth that's enjoyed in a generation. And that accomplishment is due to the vision and the principles of this President.

I want to begin, also, by thanking the staff of the Council of Economic Advisors. They've made a remarkable effort over the past two years and have accomplished much. The Council's role in the government is unique. It is a role providing economic analysis and information that undergirds -- it is the foundation for sound economic policy.

I want to particularly thank my colleague, Alan Blinder, who served as the macro-member of the Council during the first year and a half. He's now gone to serve as the Vice-Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. When I got to the Council, it was basically Alan and I trying to figure out what to do with a very talented, professional staff, and some of whom have been in places I've mentioned before since President Truman took charge of economic policy in this nation.

I also want to thank Joe Stiglitz, who is the microeconomic member of the Council, responsible for microeconomic policy issues. He has been remarkably effective in a whole range of issues, and continues to be remarkably effective in a whole range of issues -- regulatory issues, environmental issues, a whole host of microeconomic issues.

And I want to thank Martin Bailey, who has been nominated to succeed Alan Blinder as the macroeconomic member of the Council.

The Council will continue to play key role in the deliberations and decisions of the National Economic Council, and we'll continue to work with that outstanding professional staff that I mentioned, which consists partly of economists who come from outside the government to join with the administration for a year or two before they go back to their largely academic careers. But there also is a permanent professional staff which works tirelessly to make sure the analysis and the information is there for policy-making.

Now, let me turn to the National Economic Council. As President Clinton said, I think it's a major innovation of this administration which will persist. It was formed to coordinate and facilitate timely economic decision-making, and with Bob Rubin's outstanding leadership, it has been a great success. Of course, this is in no small measure the result of the collegial atmosphere which he created as a true honest broker.

But it's also the result of the collegiality and commitment of the other key members of the economic team, including the Vice President, Secretaries Bentsen, Brown and Reich, OMB Director Rivlin, USTR Ambassador Kantor, and, of course, Chief of Staff Leon Panetta. There are lots of other people who have worked here, but from the very beginning, those individuals stand out in my mind as key players in forming economic policy.

We got together from the very beginning, really before -- and I can remember in November and December of 1992 -- and worked to develop options, to weigh alternatives to present to the President various options so that he could make a decision on the most sensible way to guide the economic policy of the nation.

I want to also emphasize that in this complicated task, the economic team has been served very well by the highly-talented NEC professional staff, including Deputies Bo Cutter and Gene Sperling.

I'm honored, and I have to admit, a little unnerved by President Clinton's faith in my abilities to take on the task of managing his economic team. I'll do my best to serve him and to serve the nation in order to secure the American Dream for all Americans. Thank you.

Q Mr. President, tomorrow's day 50 of the Republican Contract with America. Do you find yourself in the position now, as you criticized the Republicans the first two years of simply saying no to many of your initiatives, that you are saying no, consistently threatening vetoes to many of the Republican initiatives? Is there a way around this so that there can be some bipartisanship in the next two years?

THE PRESIDENT: There can be a lot of bipartisanship. First of all, I have not said consistently no. I strongly supported applying to Congress the laws that apply to the private sector. I have supported limiting the ability of Congress impose unfunded mandates on state and local government. I support the line-item veto. I support significant reform in the federal regulatory process.

But where I do not agree with the extreme elements of the Contract -- and I might add, where also a number of Republican senators do not agree with it, and where, apparently, some Republican House members no longer agree with it -- Star Wars, eroding the 100,000 police commitment, cutting Medicare to pay for tax cuts. On those things, I think I'm obliged to say where I don't agree. And that's what I'm doing. I'm trying to be as clear as I can be, hoping we can work together, hoping we can get legislation out of this.

I have not done what was done frequently in the previous two years, which is to say "we're walking away from this no matter what it is, even if we have to change our position on it," which is what they did on the crime bill.

So I'm looking forward to this. We're still going to make some good things happen, and we can still do it. But I owe to the American people to protect them. They did not, in my judgment, ratify every extreme element of the Contract as defined in every piece of legislation there. I am not trying to thwart them. I am trying to give them an opportunity to know exactly where I stand, and to work with them.

This is Dr. Tyson's day, and I want to let her answer questions.

Thank you.

Q The markets don't seem to like --

Q To both of you, sir, Mexican markets to quite a tumble today on the news of the agreement reached here, which I think was probably considered surprising in some quarters. I wonder if both you and Dr. Tyson could comment on why you think that is, and any worries you may have that the cure here may turn out to be worse than the disease.

DR. TYSON: Well, I don't want to comment on specifics of the agreement, simply because there was a comment made by Secretary Rubin at luncheon, because, frankly, I just got off an airplane and haven't been fully briefed on the agreement. What I will say is that we believe that the path that we've gone down is the correct path, and that we've worked hard to reach an agreement which we believe to be a sensible agreement which will do the trick.

Q Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know; I don't have an opinion. I think it may have something to do with the other decision-makers than the United States and Mexico. We'll just have to see, but I would not overreact to it. We have done the right thing. Mexico is taking some very courageous steps, difficult steps for them. They have followed the proper economic path in general, and the United States has great interest there. There are many jobs tied up in it, our whole strategy of promoting democracy and free markets throughout Latin America. I think we did the right thing, and I believe it very strongly, and I think that time will bear us out. And if it doesn't, then we have very good collateral on this deal, so we have done the right thing by the American taxpayers and the American people as well.

Thank you.

Q When are you going to send Foster and Glickman to the Senate?

Q Why did it take you so long to announce this appointment, Mr. President?

Q Laura, what took him so long to find you?

DR. TYSON: Well, look, one of the things I want to say about this is that there is a process and the process has been working all this time. And one of the important things to realize is the team was created and the team has learned how to work with one another. And we have had a period of time where we have been working on the budget, we've been working on Mexico, we've been working on the minimum wage, we've been working on the economic report of the President. All of those things have gone on, and those are major tasks. So the process was working all of this time, and there are many other things that we had to attend to at the same time.

Q Have you recommended a successor?

DR. TYSON: We have not begun that discussion yet.

Q You don't have to be confirmed?

DR. TYSON: It's not confirmable, no.

Q What is your official title now?

DR. TYSON: I believe I am Chair of the National Economic Council and Special Assistant to the President.

Q Assistant.

DR. TYSON: Assistant to the President -- I'm sorry, I don't know my title. (Laughter.) I'm chairing the National Economic Council is what I think is my title.

Q Is this effective immediately?

Q The President said Special Assistant.

Q The President was wrong.

DR. TYSON: Yes, I was actually the Special Assistant because --

Q He meant to call Laura special and he just --

DR. TYSON: That's it, he was -- on the issue of is it effective immediately, look, as I said, there's a process ongoing. There are some things that the Council of Economic Advisors that are also ongoing that need to be finished up, so there will be some period of transition when I will presumably be doing some things that the Council of Economic Advisors in terms of finishing these things up, but also beginning to take on responsibility. So a gradual transition.

Q When did the President offer you the job?

DR. TYSON: Well, we've been talking about this for the last couple of weeks. We firmed up the -- an offer was about a week ago. I had to do a number of things related to my personal life, really, that had to do with my relationship with the University of California, my son's schooling -- very important in this decision to work out the details. So this has been about a week, but we had talked about it before.

Q Did you have to be talked into it?

DR. TYSON: As I said, this is a little unnerving. Bob Rubin has been a brilliant Chair of the National Economic Council. I enjoy very much being Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, but this is a great opportunity and challenge, and it's an important task for the President.

Q Will your academic background bring a change in operating styles compared to his Wall Street background?

DR. TYSON: You know, I actually don't think so. I think -- I hope to pattern myself after Bob in the sense that I think he was a brilliant chair of the National Economic Council. And he brought to it a honest broker attitude. He encouraged collegiality. He was always objective, and I hope to do all of those things.

Q Dr. Tyson, to revisit a question that I think was probably asked during the transition that probably bears repeating today, when one hears you thanking the staff of your Council of Economic Advisers and the NEC, some people might be tempted to ask, why does the President need both the traditional Council of Economic Advisers and the NEC?

DR. TYSON: Well, I think they do play distinctive roles. I think that the Council of Economic Advisers does provide analysis and it does provide information, and it is a participant in decision-making. But the decision-making process needs to be managed, and that is not a task the Council of Economic Advisers has ever really had. And I think that the managing of the process is critically important to its effectiveness.

So the National Economic Council relies on input from the Council of Economic Advisers, and that's appropriate. But the National Economic Council does deal with all of the other agencies and it does -- to the process, which is critical.

Thank you.

END4:55 P.M. EST