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Remarks to Ford Motor Company Employees in Edison

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Ford Motor Company

Remarks to Ford Motor Company Employees in Edison

President Bill Clinton
June 22, 1995


The President. Thank you very much. I like your spirit.

Audience member. Give 'em hell, Bill!

The President. You help, and I will. [Laughter]

I want to thank Denton and Earl and Peter for being here with me today. I want to say a special word of thanks to Ford Motor Company for being a good partner with the United States of America to build our economy and to get a fair trade policy and to do a lot of things we need to do in this country. Ford has been a good citizen of this Nation and has helped immeasurably to further the aims of this administration. I thank you, Peter, and I thank all of you for the contribution you have made to that.

Some of you may know that my main claim to your affection is that I own a car that's older than some of the people who work here. I own a 1967 Mustang, and Mustangs were made here in this plant from '65 to '70, here and in San Jose, California. And I own one of them. And I enjoy having it.

I want to talk to you today very briefly about two things: one of them has already been discussed, trade; the other is what we can do here at home to build up our economy and strengthen our people.

I ran for the job that I now hold because I was really concerned that we were going to raise the first generation of Americans who wouldn't do as well as their parents. It bothered me that more than half of our people were working a longer workweek for the same or lower wages they were making 15 years earlier. It bothered me that we were coming apart with all of the social problems and tensions we had in this country when we need to be working together.

You've proved in this plant that if you work together you can compete and win and do well. And that's what America has to do. And I have done everything I could for 2 1/2 years to try to restore the American dream—not only to create jobs, but to raise incomes and to give working families some security, that if they do work hard and play by the rules they're going to be all right and our children are going to be all right. That, it seems to me, is the most important thing we can do.

There are a lot of things we can talk about, but I just want to talk about two today that are very important. The first is, what do we do about the economy here at home? The second is, how do we relate to the rest of the world?

And let me talk a little about the economy here at home. When I became President, we had just finished 12 years in which we had quadrupled—increased by fourfold—the national debt—by fourfold. But we were reducing our commitment to the things that make us rich, to education, to technology, to building the skills and the technology and the kind of partnerships that really generate jobs and incomes in the world today. So what I tried to do was to flip that around. I tried to bring the deficit down but to increase our investment in education, technology, basic research and to form a real partnership with the private sector to help to sell American products.

Now, we have reduced the deficit by about $1 trillion over a 7-year period. We have increased our investments in education, research, and technology. We are working more closely with business than ever before. And we have to show for it a lower unemployment rate and over 6.7 million new jobs. I am proud of that. But we have to remember that we've been getting into the rut we've been in for 20 years. And I'll just give you two examples. We created 6.7 million new jobs, the unemployment rate went down, but the average income of the American people didn't go up. We have to keep working on that. People have to be rewarded for their work. We can't expect working people to make a profit for their companies unless they can also make a profit for themselves.

Now, you've got a unique situation in Washington where the leaders of Congress want to balance the budget, and that's a good thing. And I do, too, and that's a good thing. Why is that important? I'll tell you why it's important. Because if it were not for the interest we have to pay—I want you all to listen to this—if it weren't for the interest we have to pay on the debt this country ran up in just the 12 years before I became President—forget about the other 200 years—just those 12 years, our budget would be in balance today, and we would have more money to spend on your children's education, more money to spend on the health care of elderly people through Medicare and Medicaid, more money to spend on new technologies to guarantee Americans good jobs in the future. So we need to get rid of this deficit.

But the question is, how should we do it? Keep in mind, every day my objective is more jobs, higher income, more security for people who are working hard. That's what I go to work and try to guarantee. So there's a big difference between my budget and the one the leaders of Congress have proposed because I think mine will do more for jobs, incomes, and security of families.

Here's what the differences are. First, we cut spending, except for defense, Social Security, and medical costs, about 20 percent across the board, except for education; we increase spending on education. I think your children should be able to go to college. They should be able to get good training programs. They should be able to be in good preschool programs. I think that's important.

Second, we want to slow the rate of growth in the medical costs the Federal Government pays; that's Medicare and Medicaid, which is mostly for elderly people and disabled people. But I don't want to charge middle and lower middle income elderly people on Medicare more money for the same health care, and I don't want to see them have to give up their health care. So we cut medical costs less than the Congress does because I think it's important to protect Medicare and to protect the people who are on it who have paid into it and who don't have enough money to live on as it is.

Third, we have a much smaller tax cut than they do, and ours is targeted not to upper income people but to middle class people and focused on education and childrearing. I think everybody ought to get a tax deduction for the cost of sending their kids to college. I am for that.

The fourth thing we do is to save money on welfare spending. But I want to be honest with you, we don't save as much money as the Congress does because I think we should hold some money back to give to the purpose of education and training and child care for people on welfare so you can actually get them to work.

We don't want to cut these kids off and put them in the street. We want people to go to work and be good parents and good workers. So we ought to invest enough in child care and education to get that done. So we do that.

And the fifth thing that my plan does is to balance the budget over 10 years. They balance the budget over 7 years. If you go to 10 instead of 7, you can increase education, not cut it; you can protect elderly people on Medicare; you can invest enough in welfare to get real welfare reform to put people to work; and you don't have to risk a recession.

The Wharton Business School over in Philadelphia, not far from here, did an analysis of the congressional budget and estimated that they're cutting so much out of the economy so fast it would drive unemployment up and slow the economy down. We want to lower interest rates, free up money, balance the budget in ways that grow the economy.

So when you hear these debates—I want to work with the Congress. I don't want a partisan fight. I want to put America first. I want you to know, if somebody tells you that we don't need to balance the budget, that's not true, because every year we don't balance the budget, we're spending more and more of your tax money on interest payments and less money on things that we all want. We do need to do it, but the aim is your jobs, your incomes, your family security. And the test of every decision we make should be, is it going to increase those? And I think my budget does that.

Now, the second point I want to make is we can't grow the American economy alone if we don't have the right kind of relationship with the rest of the world. We know—you sell these trucks here all over the world, don't you? And we know that your earnings are above the national average, aren't they? And we know generally that jobs related to trade in America pay better than jobs that have no relationship to the global economy. We also know that because of all the changes you and others have been through, millions of people like you in America in the last 15 years, we are the high quality, low cost producer of many, many, many products that can be sold all over the world.

So I have done my best to negotiate agreements that would open markets around the world and make everybody else's market as open as ours. We're opening markets to the south of us in Latin America, and you're selling some trucks down there. We're opening markets with Europe and other countries. We have had all kinds of new trade agreements.

Even with Japan, we have had 15 new trade agreements, so that we're selling rice and apples and cellular telephones over there for the first time. This movement toward open trade now that America is competitive is a good thing for us. Why? Because we have open markets. So we can't stop some people from being at risk from low cost competition if it's generally low cost and good quality. We can't stop that. But if we don't get a fair deal going the other way, then we get it coming and going. We don't have a chance to create the high-wage jobs from trade to replace the low-wage jobs that we lose. And we don't have the chance to give people the security they deserve if they are competitive in the world market. That is what is at stake.

Now, here's the problem. Our relationship with Japan has simply been different than that with everybody else. And their system of protecting their products and their markets is different from the things you can normally reach with a trade agreement. They're not necessarily tariffs; they're not necessarily quotas. It's a highly complicated system of doing business that works to freeze us out.

You know, your leader has said he didn't know the exact numbers. I'll tell you what the exact numbers are over the last 20 years. Twenty years ago we had less than one percent of the Japanese market in automobiles. You know what it is today: 1.5 percent. Big deal. Since we have been trading cars both ways, we have shipped a total, cars and trucks, of 400,000 vehicles to them. They have shipped a total of 40 million to us.

Audience members. Boo-o-o!

The President. Now, that's a hundred to one. Now, if all this were fair and they didn't want to buy anything we had produced and we were buying what they had to produce, it would be fine. In auto parts—forget about what you do here; let's just talk about auto parts—with the whole rest of the world, we have a $5.8 billion surplus. That's a huge number of jobs. Every billion dollars is about 17,000 more jobs; it's a lot of jobs. With them, we have a deficit in auto parts of over $12 billion a year.

Now, you say, well, if it were fair it would be all right. These luxury cars that are at issue here in our trade dispute, you can buy some of them for $9,000—they're made in Japan, right—you can buy some of them for $9,000 less here in America than they pay in Japan for them. A carburetor made in Japan costs 3 times as much there as it does here. I am for free trade, but I am for fair trade, and that's not fair. And you know it's not fair.

And guess what? It's not good for them. They're rolling in dough, but their economy is not growing. Their people look like they're making more money than you are, but they're paying 40 percent more for all of their consumer products. So the average working stiff in Japan is not doing much better than a lot of people in other countries, not doing as well as many American workers, and would be doing much better if they had free and open competition and it drove down the prices that their consumers are paying, because as you well know, when you pay the bills every month, every worker is also a consumer.

What I am trying to do is not just good for us; it's good for them. They're a great democracy. We work together on a lot of things. But you know we had to change; all of us did. A lot of you went through gut-wrenching changes in the last 20 years to make sure this plant would be recognized for its low error rate and its high quality production. We all have to change. Their system is not fair. And that is what we are trying to get done. We're trying to open it so that you will have free access to their markets like they have to ours. And it's a fight worth making.

Now today and tomorrow, in Switzerland, the representatives of our Government and the Japanese are talking, and they're trying to avoid what's going to happen next week. But on the 28th, if we don't have an agreement that will take us toward opening their markets and fair treatment for American products and American workers, then I have ordered the U.S. Trade Representative to put tariffs of 100 percent on 13 of their luxury cars.

I want to say again, I think you can compete with anybody where you get a fair shot. If people don't want what we produce, that's a different story. But I think it is wrong for America to be leading the way in opening our markets and putting our workers at risk in competition and not have the same rights in every other major market, in countries that are as rich as we are. That is not right. You deserve a fair chance.

So I want you to think about this. Every time you wonder what we're doing up there or you see a fight going on in Washington, you just remember my test is: Will it create jobs; will it raise incomes; will it make working people more secure if they're doing their part? That's what I think about every day. If everybody in this country had a job, if every job paid enough to support children, we wouldn't have a lot of the problems we have today.

You know, there's a lot of talk about how angry voters are—or angry men are. Well, you know, one reason is that 60 percent of the hourly wage earners in this country are working a longer workweek for about 15 percent less than they were making 10 years ago. If that wouldn't make you mad, I don't know what would.

Now, you can lead the way. The auto companies now can lead the world. And they can lead America back toward a high-wage, high-growth economy. I don't want any special breaks, but I do want a fair deal. If you get a fair deal, if you have a Government that works for you, that invests in your education, that gets rid of this deficit, that looks toward the future, I think you can take care of your families and your communities and the future of our country. But I'm going to be in there plugging for you. You stay with us, and we'll get the job done together.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:19 p.m. In his remarks, he referred to Denton Grenke, plant manager, and Peter J. Pestillo, executive vice president, Ford Motor Co.; and Earl Nail, bargaining unit chairman, UAW Local 980.



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