THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT REINVENTING GOVERNMENT EVENT
Old Post Office Washington, D.C.
12:40 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Mr. Vice President, Chairman Hundt, Secretary Babbitt; to Phil Lader, and Dan Goldin and James Lee Witt, ladies and gentlemen: I'm glad to be here. I'd go nearly anywhere to get a check that size. (Laughter.)
And I have now -- and with all of you as my witnesses -- the Vice President publicly thanking me for asking him to take over this reinventing government effort. (Laughter.) That is enough to wipe away all the private reservations that we have had to go through over the last year and a half. I want to thank him and Elaine Kamarck and all the staff of the reinventing government effort, because they have worked so very hard to give our country the government that it deserves; the government for the future, one that costs less and works better and reflects the real values of our people.
You know, in Washington, we're engaged today in a great debate over what the role of the government here ought to be. Just about everybody has rejected the past view that there is a big-onesize -fits-all government that can solve all the big problems of America. Now the rage in Washington is to argue that the government is the source of all of our problems and if just there simply weren't one, we'd have no problems. Sooner or later, the American people will come to agree -- and I think they are quickly coming to agree -- that the old one-size-fits-all view was wrong, but the new rage of no government is wrong as well; that we need a government that can be a partner to our people, to help them to compete and prosper in a global economy which is changing very rapidly and which presents great opportunity, but also real challenges as well.
I believe we need a government that shrinks bureaucracy and increases opportunity; one that empowers people to make the most of their own lives instead of pretending that they can solve people's problems for them; and a government that enhances security around the world, but here on our streets, as well. The key to our future is to, therefore, create more opportunity, but also to have all of us, each in our own ways, assume more responsibility. That's what I have called the New Covenant. It's basically an old-fashioned social compact about citizenship -- citizenship for the 21st century -- that requires us to get rid of yesterday's government and replace it with a new government.
A lot of the things that we have to do don't have a necessary partisan tinge to them, and I hope that we can keep this reinventing government effort a broad-based bipartisan one. In that regard, I thank Congressman Boehlert for coming today, in spite of the results of the NCAA basketball tournament. I thank you, sir. We had a bet on the Syracuse-Arkansas game, and he paid his $5. And I told him that since God determined the outcome, he should give it to a church instead. (Laughter.) But I thank you, sir.
Since we have been here, we have worked very, very hard to try to show discipline and order and direction. We've got the deficit down by $600 billion. We've reduced the size of the government. It's on its way to being fewer than two million, for the first time since President Kennedy was here.
But we know we have to go beyond cutting, and even beyond restructuring, to literally reevaluate what we're doing. Are we doing it well? Should be doing it at all? Should somebody else be doing it? Are we being as innovative and flexible as the most creative private organizations in this country? We should never --we should never be less creative or less entrepreneurial simply because we have a public, as opposed to a private, mission.
Today, we seen again the good that can come when we discard the old ways. The FCC didn't used to have auctions. In the past a company that wanted the right to broadcast on certain frequencies filled out a stack of government forms, then hired lawyers and lobbyists to shepherd the case through the process year after year. When all was said and done, the company had, in fact, paid a lot for the privilege of broadcasting, but only the lawyers and the lobbyists had collected, and the government simply gave away the goods. More recently, the FCC did auction off the broadcast rights, but they did it for free. And the winners held auctions and profited -- pocketed the profits.
When I say we want government that works like the best private business, the first rule is, taxpayers don't want the government to give any of their property away for free when it ought to be paid for. And last year the reinvented FCC started holding auctions of its own. We had hoped they'd be a success, but, frankly, this $7.7 billion check for the American taxpayers by selling off parts of the wireless spectrum exceeds every expectation which was put out there, including our optimistic projections.
When we said this is what we're going to do, and this is how we're going to help get the deficit down, a lot of my colleagues on Capitol Hill sort of rolled their eyes and said, yeah, sure. Well, they were wrong. We didn't raise just a few billion dollars. We raised a few billion dollars and then a few billion dollars more from this. And I want to compliment all those who had anything to do with organizing and carrying out these auctions. I'd also like to thank those who won the bids -- (laughter) -- and those who bid them up. (Laughter and applause.)
This money goes straight to reducing the deficit, and there will be more such auctions in the future. So, Chairman Hundt, on behalf of the American taxpayers, I thank you for that $7.7 billion. The dividend will go a good ways toward paying down our government's deficit.
We have other things that we're working on as well. And, again, I would say it's important not just to cut, not just to generate income for the American people, but to do it in the right way. Yes, the United States Department of Agriculture must be shrunk. We think the right way to do it is to close agricultural field offices and to reduce subsidies after worldwide negotiations; not to cut school lunches.
We don't need to take summer jobs away from young people who will be idle in some of the most difficult areas of our country if we take more full-time jobs away from federal employees which we don't need anymore. We don't have to shut down national service or stop training our teachers if we trim the government's overhead. We don't have to give up on making our children's schools safe and drug- free if we simply stop giving away commercial treasures, like these broadcast bands.
We have to do a lot more. We have to do a lot more. We still have to continue to get the deficit down and to free up the money we need to invest in our people and their future. So today, we're announcing further changes in four agencies that are here with me today that will save over $13 billion and enable us to reduce the number of federal bureaucrats by over 5,000 more.
At NASA, we have streamlined operations to take account of what the needs of today's space program are. It used to be that 42 senior managers supervised the space station program, NASA has reduce that number to four. Now, we're going to build on this momentum by making the management of our most forward-looking agency our most modern as well.
At the Small Business Administration they're closing offices all around the country, even as they open partnerships with banks and retired businesspeople to work to help small businesses. Once, when the SBA made a loan, a public employee did all the paperwork. Now, they're working with 7,000 banks so that they bear the overhead cost of making the loans. That's more money for private investment, and fewer taxpayer costs.
At the Department of the Interior, they're reducing the work force by 2,000 people, and making this far-flung department work more like a business. We're allowing companies who have, for example, offshore oil leases to prepay the taxpayers. Believe it or not, a lot of them really want to do it. That brings in billions of dollars and means we don't need battalions of auditors to make sure we're getting our money's worth.
As I said on many occasions, under the leadership of James Lee Witt, we have transformed FEMA from being a disaster into being a model disaster relief agency. Now, we're going to build new partnerships with our states to reduce the federal micromanagement and help them prepare for emergencies at the local level.
All of these changes -- indeed, the entire reinvention effort -- has one overall goal: a government that does only what it needs to do, but everything it must do, it does it well, efficiently, and at the lowest-possible cost to the taxpayers.
Just consider this fact: Today, we talked about the SBA. The entire budget of the SBA is less than the taxes paid last year by three companies that got their starts with SBA loans. Listen to the three: Apple, Intel, and Federal Express. I think an SBA that stays in business and helps more people get started is in the interest of the United States of America. (Applause.)
I should also say, as Chairman Hundt never tires of telling us, that there's a chart in the other room which documents the fact that these auctions generated more than three times the total budget of the Federal Communications Commission from its inception during the Great Depression to last year, which I also think is a pretty good bargain for the American taxpayers.
What this should remind us of is that you can reinvent government, cut costs to the taxpayers without a mean spirit or a meat ax. We can do this in a way that brings the American people together instead of divides them. We can do this in a way that lifts the incomes and the job prospects of the American people instead of diminishes them. We can do it in a way that is humane and decent to our federal employees, too.
And I thank the Vice President and the REGO team for their work on the buyout package because it was the right and fair and decent thing to do. We can do this, but it takes hard work; it takes a good, open mind; it takes consistent determination. And I hope we will continue to have broad, bipartisan support for the kind of thing we're celebrating today. If we do, we're going to get rid of the deficit and build America for the 21st century.
Thank you very much, and bless you all. (Applause.)
END12:51 P.M. EST