Remarks on Signing the Job Training Partnership Act

October 13, 1982

The President. Well, hello and welcome to all of you. It's wonderful to have you here and to see you joining in this important step forward for America.

Twenty-one months ago this country was in the grip of not one, but five severe problems: runaway government spending, double-digit inflation, record high interest rates -- they'd just hit 21\1/2\ percent -- the worst tax burden in peacetime history, and high unemployment. With support from the American people we put in place a program that was designed to cure this raging economic disease which had been ignored for too many years. Little more than a year's passed since our program went on the books, but already we've made solid progress against four of the five problems that we inherited.

We have cut the growth of spending somewhere around in half, and we've reduced high inflation, high interest rates, and taxation. But let me just say something here about interest rates, which I'll expand on in my speech to the Nation tonight.

The very sharp and heartening decline that we've seen in interest rates brings us one step closer to the dream every American shares, which is lasting recovery. But let's understand that what brought, for example, Government-backed home mortgages down to 12\1/2\ percent, the lowest level in 25 months, was not a quick fix, but our progress against inflation. The decline in inflation led directly to the fall in interest rates during the last several months. The Federal Reserve Bank announced last week that it was lowering its discount level to 9\1/2\ percent. That's the first time this key interest rate has been a single digit since 1979 and the fifth reduction in the rate in 4 months.

The Fed's lower rate shows its confidence that inflation and market interest rates are continuing to fall. The Federal Reserve has been pursuing a steady policy of trying to reduce inflation, and we've been supporting the Fed in that policy. And the Fed will continue to aim its policy at bringing inflation down further in the future. And that will continue to mean lower and lower interest rates as well.

As I said, we're solving four of the five worst problems that we inherited. But unemployment, always the lagging indicator, remains too high, and clearly, our most urgent priority today is to create lasting, private sector jobs. I'm not going to rest until every American who wants a job can find a job.

Unemployment is a tragedy for all Americans in every region, every city, and every line of work. We need the strength of every back and the power of every mind to lift our nation from the economic swamp to higher ground. We must not waste the energy of one citizen who wants to work.

All of us are moved by the plight of millions of our people who can't find jobs or provide for their families. Perhaps the cruelest trap of all has caught the legions of our youth. As they stand on the threshold of the American dream, far too many find the door of opportunity slammed in their face. Two out of every five people out of work -- two out of every five -- are between the ages of 16 and 24.

We continue to push for enterprise zones in our inner cities, a program to attract new businesses and jobs to areas of highest unemployment. It's tragic that this enterprise zone proposal has been bottled up in committee by the leadership of the House.

I remember what it was like to be 21 years old and looking for a job in 1932. And I know how it feels when your future has been mortgaged by the generation before you. And that's a tragic mistake we must never allow our leaders to make again. Today's young people must never be held hostage to the mistakes of the past.

The only way to avoid making these mistakes again is to learn from them. It's estimated, for example, that at least 20 million American workers now rely on skills that won't be needed within 20 years. The government has trained thousands more in skills that already aren't needed in their communities. Still others have been steered into make-work government for our young people. And that's why I'm proud today to sign into law the Job Training Partnership Act, a program that looks to the future instead of the past.

This is not another make-work, deadend, bureaucratic boondoggle. This program will train more than one million Americans every year in skills they can market where they live. It'll make a difference on Main Street. It'll provide help, bring hope, and encourage self-reliance and personal initiative. And here's how it'll work.

State and local government officials, business and labor leaders, and other members of the private sector will plan area programs in private industry councils. Local people will decide at the grassroots level what opportunities are available in their communities, and then match real jobs with needed skills.

And here's something else that makes this program different from many past failures. At least 70 percent of the program funds will go to actual job training. We're eliminating the bureaucratic and administrative waste that has marked so many so-called job bills in the past.

There's another reason for confidence in this measure. It's based on a tried and tested concept. The young people that are with me here today have already benefited from local programs very similar to the one we're about to enact nationwide. And I'm going to give some examples.

Emmanuel Clark -- here a high school student from Richmond. He learned clerical skills and found a part-time job in a law firm because of New Horizons, a training program in this area.

Bienvenido Martinez, who came to the United States from the Dominican Republic, received on-the-job training sponsored by the Washington, D.C., Private Industry Council and now works part-time as a computer operator while attending college. A little while ago I told him what a change this was between generations, because I worked my way through college washing dishes in the girls' dormitory. [Laughter]

And Paige Davis, who once supported three children on unemployment benefits, enrolled in the Urban League Word-Processing Training Program. She graduated in 1979, began work for the Booker T. Washington Foundation, and did so well that -- she told me a little earlier -- she's starting a business of her own as a consultant in word-processing.

Now, these are just three examples of the opportunity this approach holds for millions of Americans. Long-time workers who've lost their jobs because of new technology, women who can't find work because their home-making skills aren't marketable, young people who aren't hired because they have no experience -- all will be helped by this program.

And let me just add a special word of thanks to Senators Hatch and Quayle and Kennedy and Congressmen Jeffords, Erlenborn, and Hawkins for their leadership in getting this legislation passed.

And now, if you young people will just pay attention -- or gather around close, I'm going to sign the bill. That's the bill. I only sign the last page.

[At this point, the President signed the bill.]

Reporter. Well, you know the Democrats are calling this blatant election-year politics, Mr. President.

The President. That doesn't surprise me a bit. [Laughter] But it doesn't make it any more true.

Q. Is it true, Mr. President?

The President. What?

Q. Is it true?

The President. No.

Q. Why not?

The President. Because this is the type of program that we've been talking about that's really going to accomplish something.

Deputy Press Secretary Speakes. That's enough. It's not a press conference. I'm sorry.

The President. Isn't he mean? [Laughter] I was enjoying it.

Q. But you're free to continue, sir. [Laughter]

Q. You're the President.

The President. No, I can't do that. But I want you to know though, as I say, all these young people are an example of what these kind of programs can do, and out there government has a legitimate function. But that legitimate function, I think, in this area means cooperating and working with the private sector, where the jobs with a future really are.

And thank you all for being here.

Note: The President spoke at 12:07 p.m. at the signing ceremony in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building.

Present at the ceremony was a group of people who were recipients of job training or had received job training similar to that proposed in the Job Training Partnership Act. Earlier, the President had met with the group in the Cabinet Room at the White House.

As enacted, S. 2036 is Public Law 97 - 300, approved October 13.