THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT FROM THE ROSE GARDEN
9:50 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Today we have been given fresh evidence that the American economy is growing steady and strong. What the job report today shows is that when we make tough choices, there is absolutely no limit to what the American people can do to create jobs and opportunity.
This report says that in the past two months the American economy has created half a million jobs, and that for 21 months in a row now, the unemployment rate has been under six percent; that real wages for hard-working Americans are finally on the rise because of their growing productivity.
When I took office our nation faced a very different economic picture. Four years ago unemployment was 7.6 percent and rising, the deficit was skyrocketing, job growth was very, very slow. We put into place a comprehensive and tough economic package to create growth and to generate jobs. We cut the deficit in half, expanded trade to record levels, and invested in our people and their future. The result has been sustained economic growth, based on sound principles. Inflation is low, investment is up, a higher percentage of new jobs are private sector jobs than at any time since the 1920s.
When we put this strategy into place it was bitterly opposed by many people. They warned it would hurt the economy. They did everything they could to derail it, and it survived by the barest of margins in the Congress. Well, three and a half years later, it is now clear that the tough choices produced good results for the American people.
I said we would cut the deficit in half; the deficit will be cut by more than half in four years. I said this plan would create 8 million jobs; the latest job figures, including the annual revision of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, indicate that the economy in three and a half years has produced 9.7 million new jobs for the American people. That is growth, and growth without inflation.
We should not turn from an economic strategy that is working. We should finish the job of balancing the budget, of reforming welfare, and of extending the benefits of economic growth to all Americans by passing the Kassebaum-Kennedy bill, by raising the minimum wage, by providing for the portability of pensions, and by extending guaranteed education to the 13th and 14th years. These are the things we should do -- building on the strategy, not departing from it.
Q Mr. President --
Q Mr. President, Willie Brown said you shouldn't come to --
Q The markets are already dropping --
THE PRESIDENT: Wait, wait. One at a time, one at a time. What?
Q The markets are already dropping because of this news. What do you say to that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me remind you that the stock market is a lot better than it was when I took office. It was -- it's up about 2,000 points, I think -- more than 2,000. Whenever we have really robust job numbers -- and we had 348,000 this month and then I think about 160,000 last month -- there is the fear of inflation and that always has an impact in the market.
But if you look at the conditions, I think as the market has a chance to go through this day and the days ahead, there is no evidence of inflation in this economy. These jobs are being created by the productivity of American businesses and the American work force. That's why we're finally seeing some real wage gains now for American workers.
And keep in mind, the manufacturing sector has been arguing for years that we can grow more rapidly, we can create more jobs without inflation because of productivity and because of the competition to which we're subject from other countries.
So I think that this thing will work itself out. Over the long period, the market follows the strength of the economy, and that's why the market today is so much higher than it was three and a half years ago.
Q Aren't you concerned that higher interest rates will drive --
Q Mr. President, Willie Brown says you should not come to San Francisco because of gay protests against your stand on same-sex marriage and so forth. Are you going? What do you think of that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that Willie Brown is a great mayor, but I believe that I should not cancel my trip to San Francisco. I promised Senator Feinstein and her husband I would come to their home. I have a long-standing commitment to go by and see the Presidio and see what we have been trying to do there to help the people of California.
And on the issue, let me just say I believe the record is clear. I don't think any President has ever been more sensitive to the fundamental human concerns or the legitimate interests of gay Americans than I have. And I have been roundly criticized for it in many quarters.
But from the time I ran for office in 1992, I expressed my position on the whole concept of marriage in the law. That is -- it's been my position all along. I can't change that position. I have no intention of changing it. I have also said I have no intention of being a party to letting this legislation moving through Congress become an excuse for diverting and dividing the American people and getting into a round of gay-bashing. I am bitterly opposed to that. I will not participate in it. But I have no intention of canceling my travel plans.
Q Mr. President, do you think -- what do you think of Senator Dole's latest effort to finesse the Republican Party platform on the issue of abortion rights? And do you think -- as a follow-up, do you think it would be right for you and Senator Dole to sit down during these final days of his in the Senate?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I would be happy to do that. As I said, there is this one issue, this Kassebaum-Kennedy bill that we both agree on, and I would do anything I could to work with him on it and to let him leave his many years in the Senate with a good, positive memory that this was something that was done for the American people.
I have always said that elections would be decided based on the honest differences between candidates, but we should not waste one single day preventing something from being done when we have areas of common agreement. And if I could do anything to work with Senator Dole to help achieve that and to leave him with a good, positive, lasting accomplishment for the American people as he leaves the Senate, I would be more than happy to do it.
Q What about the abortion rights platform position of Senator Dole?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I'm sorry. Well, I think it is a good thing for anyone to urge that we lower the rhetoric and stop lobbing these verbal bombs at one another. But when you lower the rhetoric, the stark difference in our policies remains there. He is in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, and I am not. So there is a real difference there that I don't think can be papered over. But I think anything that restores civility to this debate is a positive thing, and I applaud him for saying that.
Q Do you believe that today's unemployment and employment report is a sign or a signal that economic growth can be higher and faster than the Federal Reserve seems to think it should be?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I believe it is a sign that we can grow the economy without inflation if our workers and our businesses are productive. But I would remind you that what Chairman Greenspan has said in the past is that at least he has no preconceived notions of how fast the economy can grow. And the Fed will now have a month to evaluate this -- they don't meet until next month some time. And if they see that we are producing this level of job growth with no inflation, then I would think the interests rate should stay down --not only the Fed rates, but the rates that the market set.
This is a terrific commentary not only on the actions we took early to get the interest rates down and opening markets which helps to create higher-wage jobs for Americans, but also in the increasing productivity of the American work force, which will only be accelerated if we can increase the education level of our workers.
Q Mr. President, you've been briefed, we know, on the circumstances that led up to the plane crash that killed Commerce Secretary Brown. What are your personal reflections on what you were told, and what assurances have you been given that steps are being taken to prevent this from happening again on future VIP trips?
THE PRESIDENT: Let me say, first of all, I had an extensive briefing yesterday by the Commanding General of the Air Force and by the general whom he put in charge of the review. And as you might imagine, for me it was a very painful personal experience because of my relationship with Secretary Brown and because of the other -- the people that were on that plane that I knew and those business leaders that we relied on and that relied on us.
But I have to tell you, I felt a great sense of respect for General Fogleman that the Air Force was completely thorough and prompt and brutally honest in its evaluation of what went on. And some steps have already been taken to avert the possibility that any of these errors could be made again. And I am convinced -- absolutely convinced -- that others will be taken.
I also would tell you that if you had sat through the briefing as I did -- I kept thinking that this peculiar mix of circumstances, if only one or two little things had happened the crash might not have occurred. That whole unit over there was working so hard to do so much different kind of work, but that this is why -- because the risks are always there, this is why the procedures, the rules that the Air Force puts in place, are so important to be followed.
And so I would say that the American people should feel reassured that the top leadership of the Air Force got to the bottom of this, did it in a hurry, and was completely honest, with no back-covering at all in its straightforward report on this accident.
Q Sir, there was another fire at a Black southern church last night, sir. Do you think there is a national conspiracy or a resurgence in racism in America?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm going to have more to say about that tomorrow at my radio address. All I can tell you right now is we are working very hard to get to the bottom of this. When I was in Louisiana last week, where several of these bombings -- these burnings have occurred, I spoke personally to the United States Attorney about it to get a personal report on what the status was in Louisiana of those cases and to reaffirm my determination to do everything we could to get to the bottom of it. So I'll have some more to say about it tomorrow. We will be doing everything we can.
Q Mr. President, to follow up on Wolf's question, you have just a few days left before Senator Dole leaves the Senate. Would you like to invite him here at this moment?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I -- we have had some indirect communication back and forth about how we ought to proceed from here on out. I don't think we should discuss it in a press conference.
I do want to say again how much I feel, along with all Americans, that I thank him for his years of service in the Senate. I do believe he is trying to pass this Kennedy-Kassebaum bill. I would like to try to help him do it. And I would like for him to feel that he is leaving the Senate on a positive note.
I can't say that I have the same good wishes about the next five months, but I would like to do that. And so I hope we can work it out.
END 10:04 A.M. EDT