THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||July 31, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON THE ECONOMY
The Rose Garden
11:57 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I want to thank the VicePresident, Mr. Bowles, and our economic team for joining us today totalk about the continuing strength of our economy and what we have todo to make it stronger as we move toward a new century.
Five and a half years ago, we set a new strategy for thenew economy, founded on fiscal discipline, expanded trade, andinvestment in our people. Today our economy is the strongest in ageneration. While the latest economic report shows that growth inthe second quarter of 1998 was more moderate than the trulyremarkable first quarter, it shows that our economy continues toenjoy steady growth. So far this year, economic growth has averaged3.5 percent. This is growth the right way, led by businessinvestment and built on a firm foundation of fiscal discipline.
We've also learned today that since I took office theprivate sector of our economy has grown by nearly 4 percent, while wehave reduced the federal government to its smallest size in 35 years.Wages are rising. Investment and consumer confidence remain high.Unemployment and inflation remain low. Prosperity and opportunityabound for the American people.
In the long run, we can keep our economy on its strongand prosperous course. Our economic foundation is solid, ourstrategy is sound. Still, we know from events that, more than ever,the challenges of the global marketplace demand that we press forwardwith the comprehensive strategy we began six years ago.
First, we have to maintain our fiscal discipline. Thisweek marks the fifth anniversary of the 1993 economic plan thatcharted our course to a balanced budget and reduced the deficit byover 90 percent by the time we signed the Balanced Budget Act in1997. This fiscal discipline has had a powerful, positive impact,driving interest rates down, pushing investment to historic levels,creating a virtuous cycle of economic activity that has helped cutthe deficit even further. We must hold a steady course, and weshould not spend a penny of the surplus until we have saved SocialSecurity first. Fiscal discipline helped to build this strongeconomy; fiscal recklessness could undermine it dramatically. Wemust use these good times to honor our parents and the nextgeneration by saving Social Security first.
Second, we must continue to investment in the Americanpeople. Five years ago I said we had to close two gaps, one in thebudget and the other in the skills of our people. Now, as we hear ofa shortage of highly skilled workers all across our country, we havemore confirmation that America simply must do more in education andtraining. To fill those high-wage jobs, we must have a trainingsystem that works.
In 1995 I put forward a comprehensive proposal tomodernize, overhaul, and streamline our job training programs. Icalled it a G.I. Bill for America's Workers. With bipartisan
support, Congress is now poised to finish the job. I was so pleasedby the bipartisan overwhelming vote in the Senate last night for theG.I. Bill. And I look forward to prompt House action and to signingthe bill into law soon. Congress must continue this path to progresswithout partisanship. They should abandon plans to make drastic cutsin our nation's education budget. An investment in education isclearly the most important long-term economic investment we can makein our future.
The third thing we have to do is to lead the world inthis age of economic interdependence, and we have to do more there.More than a quarter of our economic growth during the past five yearshas come from exports. One of the reasons that growth moderated inthe second quarter is because we are feeling the direct, discernibleeffects of the Asian economic downturn. Simply put, the health ofthe Asian economy affects the health of our own. Just with our graincrops, about half of that crop is exported, and about 40 percent ofthe exports go to Asia.
We have seen, therefore, this impact already in ourrural communities. And I've talked about that quite a bit in thelast couple of weeks. The Asian financial crisis has literally ledto a 30 percent decline in farm exports to Asia.
The International Monetary Fund is designed to supportnecessary reforms in those economies, to help them help themselves,and to restore growth and confidence in their economies.
Now, I also want to say something that you all know --it is especially important for Asia and for our economy that the newJapanese government move forward quickly and effectively tostrengthen its financial system and stimulate and open its economy.It is going to be very, very difficult for Asia to recover unless itsleading economy, Japan, leads the way. I welcome the election of thenew Prime Minister, as well as a former Prime Minister with whom Ihave worked, Mr. Miyazawa, as the new Finance Minister. I am lookingforward to talking with the new Prime Minister tomorrow.
And again, I remind the American people of our longfriendship and partnership in so many ways -- political, security,and economics -- with Japan. We want to work with them and we hopethat this new government can find the keys to restore to the Japanesepeople, who have a great economy and a great society, the growth thatthey deserve.
Finally, let me say, we must do our part. That is why acommitment to the International Monetary Fund is an investment notsimply in other countries and their reform, but in our own economy.We have to grow this economy by selling things to other people. Theyneed the money to buy our products. That is why Congress should stepup to its responsibility, put, again, progress ahead of partisanship,and renew our commitment and pay our fair share to the IMF. I urgeCongress to do this quickly and not to put at risk our prosperity.
Open and fair trade, a balanced budget, saving SocialSecurity, better education, and higher skills -- the strategy thathas boosted our economy for five and a half years will boost itfurther as we boldly move into a new century. I will continue to doeverything in my power and to work as hard as I can with Congress tostrengthen an economy that offers opportunity to all, a societyrooted in responsibility, and a nation that lives as a community witheach other and with the rest of the world.
Again, I want to say to all the economic team how much Iappreciate the special and the difficult work we have done these lastmonths as our country has coped with the General Motors strike --which, thank goodness, has now concluded on successful terms -- andwith the problems in Asia and elsewhere.
Thank you very much.
Q Mr. President --
Q Mr. President --
THE PRESIDENT: Wait, wait, wait. Everybody has got aquestion. Let me give you answer to all of them.
Q You didn't hear --
THE PRESIDENT: I know -- yes, I did, I heard of all youshouting about it.
No one wants to get this matter behind us more than I do-- except maybe all the rest of the American people. I am lookingforward to the opportunity in the next few days of testifying. Iwill do so completely and truthfully. I am anxious to do it. But Ihope you can understand why, in the interim, I can and should have nofurther comment on these matters.
Thank you very much.