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Remarks to Ford Motor Company Employees in Dearborn, Michigan

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Ford Motor Company

Remarks to Ford Motor Company Employees in Dearborn, Michigan

President Bill Clinton
October 11, 1994


Thank you very much, Alex, for your introduction and for your work. And especially, thank you for not giving up on the Mustang.

I'm delighted to be here with Alex Trotman and Owen Bieber. And I want to thank all the people from Ford and from the UAW who made it possible for me to be the first President ever to visit this plant and to take the tour and to see the new Mustangs and to sort of regret I couldn't drive out of here with one. [Laughter]

Mayor Archer, it's good to see you. Mr. McNamara, ladies and gentlemen, thank you all so much for coming here today.

I guess it's not much of a secret to you that I own a 1967 Mustang, so I have been out of the market for a while. When I left Arkansas 20 months ago, I think it was the thing I most regretted leaving behind. Of course, all the drivers in my State were elated, but I miss it anyway. [Laughter]

I want to tell you how very proud I am of Ford, of the UAW, the American auto industry generally for what you have done to put America on the move again, to rebuild our position globally in auto manufacturing, to strengthen manufacturing in America, and to give us a better chance to move into the 21st century. Ten years ago, a lot of people were willing to throw in the towel on the auto industry. But you fought back, labor and management, together. And now for the first time in a good long while, you are number one again, not only here but in the entire world, and you ought to be proud of yourselves.

I want to say to you that the fight you have fought is the fight I am fighting for America. I want us to be number one again. I want us to be able to compete and win in the 21st century. I don't want our children to be the first generation of Americans to do worse than their parents. And I believe the future can be the best time America has ever had if we have the discipline and the courage and the vision to stick with it and go forward and do what we know we ought to do.

I've been in a lot of tough fights in my life and none so tough as the one I've been in in Washington for the last 20 months. But it's been a good fight. It's a fight to give Americans the power to compete and win and to empower all Americans to live up to their God-given potential, and we have made a good start.

No one would want to go back to the days when we exported jobs, not products. No one would want us to go back to the days when our deficit was exploding and our economy was going downhill. That is exactly the decision that all of you are going to have to make on November 8th, whether we keep going in the right direction or go back to the 1980's trickle-down economics.

You remember the folks in the other party; they talked a good game. But trickle-down economics gave us an economy stuck in reverse: tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, higher taxes on the middle class, a quadrupled deficit, jobs going overseas. Most manufacturing jobs that were ever lost in this country were lost in that period. And in their last 4 years, we had the worst job growth since the Great Depression. Michigan alone lost almost 70,000 manufacturing jobs during that time. Well, I don't think we want to go back to that, where families struggle longer and harder for less, where we come apart when we ought to be coming together.

The American people really hired me to try to change all that. It wasn't easy, and I knew it wouldn't be. But I ask you to remember this: We've had 30 years in which we've been developing serious social problems with our families, our communities, the crime problem, the gang problem, the drug problem. We've had 20 years when most working people have worked harder for stagnant wages. And we tried 12 years of trickle-down economics. After 20 months, I think it's plain that we've made a beginning in turning this country around. And I hope you'll say it's plain that you don't want to go back, you want to go forward into the 21st century.

I ask every American in the next 4 weeks not just to think of their discontents with the political system, although there's plenty of good reason to be discontented, but remember the problems we found 20 months ago. Remember the progress we're making. Remember how many of them fought us every step of the way. And remember now what they want to do to take us back, when we have so much to do to keep going forward.

We cannot turn back again. We're headed in a new direction, with a new idea about what our National Government ought to do: not a Government that ignores our problems but not one that promises to solve all the problems for us either, but instead, a Government that empowers citizens to build good lives of their own; not more Government but less Government that works better for ordinary Americans. Look at the start that's been made:

The family leave law, which in Michigan alone provides extra protection for 1.5 million working people so they can succeed as parents and workers; it's a very important thing. Nobody should lose their job when a baby is born or a parent's sick.

Immunization for all American children under the age of 2 by 1996, 2 million kids that are going to have a better chance at a better life. That's something that ordinary American families ought to be able to expect of their Government.

Apprenticeships for young people who don't go to college but want good jobs. Every young American ought to have a chance to train for a good job in a 21st century economy.

College loans affordable for 20 million people, almost 600,000 right here in Michigan, eligible for lower interest, longer term, better repayment college loans so that now no young person should ever decline to go to college because of the cost of a college education, the burden on the student, the burden on the parents. It's the most important thing that's been done for middle class Americans in a very long time by the National Government, and we ought to stick with it.

We sent a welfare reform plan to Congress to end welfare as we know it, to move people from welfare to work. And while it hasn't passed yet, it will. And we've already given 17 States permission to get rid of all Federal regulations that undermine their ability to move people from welfare to work.

For the first time in a generation, we've also begun a serious assault on crime, passing the Brady bill and the crime bill with "three strikes and you're out," a 20 percent increase in the number of police officers on the beat in America—already in Taylor, nearby here, they're getting more police officers, and you will see it in every community in this country—100,000 more prison cells to hold serious offenders, and prevention programs to give young people a chance to avoid a life of crime.

We've begun, finally, to put our economic house in order. When I took office, we had had 12 years of exploding deficits and declining incomes; we had quadrupled the national debt. Before I could do anything else, folks, I had to get our economic house in order, and we had to do something about this terrible deficit. It was choking the economy and robbing our children of their future. So we fought for historic deficit reductions, $255 billion in Federal spending cuts. We did raise tax rates on the top 1.2 percent of Americans, but we cut taxes for 15 million working Americans. In Michigan alone, that means 41,000 families had higher income tax rates and 390,000 families had lower income tax rates to encourage those people to work instead of going on welfare.

Now, when I proposed this economic program, the same folks that exploded our deficit in the eighties said if this passes, the sky would fall; the deficit would go up more; the economy would collapse; it would be the end of the world. And so every last member of the Republican Party in the Congress voted against that program, every single one, against the deficit reduction, against the college loan program, every single one.

So what happened when they said the world would come to an end? Well, for the first time since Harry Truman, we're bringing the deficit down 3 years in a row. We had more jobs created in high-wage industries this year than in the previous 5 years combined. We've had 9 months now of growth in manufacturing jobs in a row for the first time in 10 years. America was voted the most productive country in the world by the annual panel of international economists for the first time in 9 years. And we have 4.6 million new jobs in America in the last 20 months.

Our exports are up around the world. We're selling all kind of things we never sold before, not just automobiles; we're selling rice to Japan for the first time, something I'm very proud of—and Mustangs to Japan, I might add. Exports to Mexico are up 19 percent; exports of cars and trucks are up 500 percent, 500 percent. If we pass the world trade agreement, it will enable us to get more high-wage jobs tied to exports. We are doing that.

So what are we doing? Putting our economic house in order, making a serious assault on crime, making Government work for ordinary people again. The other thing we're trying to do is to do it with less Government, not more. Republicans talked forever about how much they dislike the Federal Government and how they wanted to cut bureaucracy and inefficiency, and they're saying it again this year. I just want to remind you that it was our Democratic administration that passed laws to reduce the size of the Federal bureaucracy by 272,000, to make it the smallest it's been since John Kennedy was President, and to give every last dollar of the savings to you in your local community to fight crime. That is the record that we have made in reducing the Federal Government.

Now, you may say, "Well, that's all fine, Mr. President, but my life is still pretty tough," or "My neighbor still doesn't have a job," or "I'm still not sure what the future holds." Well, no one can promise you to repeal the laws of change that are sweeping through the world today. What we have to do is to make change our friend.

What are the problems we still have in America? Too many people still haven't gotten a raise in a long time. A million Americans lost their health insurance last year. We have too many people who are trapped in the cycle of welfare. We have social problems that are profound. These are legitimate problems. The political system needs some internal reforms. That's right, we have problems. What you have to say to yourself is, "Who is more likely to meet these problems? Who is more likely to seize these challenges?"

Look at what the strategy of our administration is. It's to create more high-wage American jobs, train more Americans to do those jobs, bring free enterprise to poor inner-city areas and rural areas that have been ignored for too long, continue to fight for political reforms, and meet the challenges of America that have not yet been faced in health care, in welfare, and in so many other areas. That is our strategy, fighting for the future.

Now, consider instead what their strategy is. Look what they've done just in the last year. Whenever they were faced with an idea that created jobs or educated students or fight crime or reform the political system, no matter how good it was, no matter even if they had already supported it, what did they do? You remember what they did, just in the last couple of weeks. They tried to stop it, slow it, kill it, or just talk it to death.

Congress should have passed a bipartisan health care reform bill with private insurance, consumer choice, cost constraints, and universal coverage. Instead, we watched another year go by where health care costs rose faster than inflation, over a million Americans lost their coverage, the cost of health care exploded the Federal deficit. Why? Because the other guys walked away from every attempt we had to compromise this issue.

Congress should have passed a lobbying reform and a campaign finance reform bill and made all the laws that they apply to private employers and employees apply to themselves. And they passed both Houses. Why did those laws fail? Because in the end the Republican congressional leadership delayed them to death. It is wrong when a Senator of the other party can filibuster lobbying reform, which Senator Levin has worked so hard for for so long, and then walk off the floor of the United States Senate and be cheered by a crowd of lobbyists for killing it. But it happened. Well, the lobbyists may be cheering, but I don't imagine you are.

The Republican leadership blocks change in Washington, and then they go home and tell you how hard they're fighting the Democrats to change the way things are. They say one thing in one place and another in another.

Look what else they blocked that affects Michigan. In the 11th hour they blocked the passage of the Superfund legislation to clean up toxic waste dumps. You know who was for that? Every industry group, the labor groups, and the Sierra Club. It's the only time in history the chemical companies and the Sierra Club have agreed on anything. There was nobody in America against passing Superfund except the Republican leadership. Why? So we wouldn't be able to stand up here and celebrate the passage of Superfund.

There's a bill you care a lot about in Michigan that was blocked that would give local folks some control over the interstate transportation of solid waste. Not very many people were against it, but it was blocked. Why? For political reasons. The same can be said for a lot of other bills.

Well, now the same folks that blocked these bills have come forward with what they'll do if you give them control of Congress. They call it their Contract With America. Three hundred and fifty Republicans stood on the steps of the Nation's Capitol with the leadership and one by one signed this contract. I'll give them credit for at least doing that. For 2 years, I couldn't get them to say anything they were for. [Laughter]

But if you read this contract, it's not a contract with America, it's really a contract on America. It takes us back to the 1980's, to trickle-down economics. Look at what they do: They promise everybody a tax cut, although 70 percent of it goes to the wealthiest Americans; they promise to increase defense and to start up Star Wars; they promise a trillion dollars' worth of things. I wish I could come here and do that today, just tell you exactly what you want to hear. "Here's a trillion dollars. Go spend it."

You give me a trillion dollars, and I'll show you a good time, too. [Laughter]

But since it's just a bunch of promises, what does it mean? Same thing it meant in the 1980's. It means exploding the deficit, shipping our jobs overseas, cutting Medicare and veterans benefits, not funding the crime bill. It means a lot of terrible things, because you simply cannot go around this country making idle promises to people that you cannot keep. We must not go back to that sort of politics.

So I hope the American people will have a simple answer to this contract. We've been there. We've seen that. We've tried it. And we will not be fooled again. I offer you a difficult and more challenging contract, but the only one that can work. It's the contract that had always worked for America. It is fighting for the future, making the most of the potential of every American. It is doing whatever it takes to compete and win in the global economy of the 21st century. It is doing with our Nation what you have done here at this Mustang plant. That is what I offer you: more jobs, a lower deficit, more education for our kids, competing in the global economy, doing the things that will make America work again so that these fine young people in their musicians' uniforms will be able to grow old, when they're like me and they have to give up their horns, and they'll still have a life they'll be proud of.

Look, I read all these stories about how angry the voters are and how fed up. Well, let me tell you something: I showed up in Washington to work 20 months ago, and since then I have been amazed and often angered at some of the stuff I see. I have been bewildered at the resistance to change from time to time. And I know that both parties bear some burden, and I know that even the President is not perfect. But remember this: When it came to change, we were on the side of the future.

When we offered a plan to cut the deficit and provide college loans to the middle class, they all voted against it. When campaign finance reform and lobbying reform came up to change the way the political system worked, most of our party voted for it. Most of them voted against it. On the crime bill, which had always been a bipartisan effort, where over 90 percent of both parties' representatives voted for it last year when there were no politics, most of our folks were still for it, just where they were last year. But they changed and voted against it for politics.

So you have a choice. We are fighting for a 21st century in which America goes forward, competes, wins, every American lives up to the fullest of his God-given potential. We refuse, even though it's tempting, I guess, from time to time, to take the easy way out and give you a trillion dollars' worth of unfunded promises. That is their contract.

We have a covenant for the future. They put out a contract on the future. I think the choice is clear. I want to ask you to help ensure America, through all the frustration and anger, does not inadvertently vote for what you're against and against what you're for.

Look to the future. Think of your children. Stand up for tomorrow. And remember, it's not so different building a country than it is building a car. You have to think about the tasks, you have to face the hard jobs as well as the easy ones, you've got to work together, and you've got to always be thinking about tomorrow.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:45 a.m. at the assembly plant. In his remarks, he referred to Alex Trotman, chief executive officer, Ford Motor Co.; Owen Bieber, president, United Auto Workers; Mayor Dennis W. Archer of Detroit, MI; and Edward McNamara, county executive, Wayne County.

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