Remarks at a Forum for State Government Officials and Business Leaders in Somerset, New Jersey

 

October 13, 1987

 

Thank you very much. You know, Governor, I have to tell you that, with regard to your favorite President, I learned a little anecdote about him when I moved into the White House. You know, the Oval Office is not a part of the actual White House -- or the beginning; there is now a thing called the West Wing that is connected to the White House and has all the offices and places for the staff of the President and so forth. But once upon a time, and back in Roosevelt's time -- Teddy Roosevelt -- the White House was it. That's where the Cabinet met, that's where the offices were, as well as the dwelling. Until one day Mrs. Roosevelt said to her husband, ``If I'm going to raise six kids in this house, you're going to get your people out of here.'' [Laughter] And it was a fine change -- [laughter] -- that he brought about.

 

I don't suppose I should tell this a little out of school -- you know our Armed Services is now -- in view of our last speaker here, I would like to point out now you do not just say gentlemen to them; you say men and women -- because they're there. And this summer on a day that was in excess of 100 degrees and about 100-percent moisture in the air, there was a great military ceremony for a certain occasion down there. And the military -- the marines in this case -- were all in full dress uniform, parading. Seven collapsed from the heat -- all male. [Laughter]

 

Well, it's a pleasure to be in the district of Congressman Jim Courter and in the State of Governor Tom Kean. From the first, Tom Kean has been, as you all know, a progrowth Governor. And, Tom, looking around here today, I get the feeling you must be doing something right. I'm especially happy to be back here, because I know the roots of this company go back to the 1860's, and I'm always glad to be addressing something that's older than I am. [Laughter]

 

But now after listening to all of you, I appreciate it, but I'd like to respond with a few words of my own. And if I may, I'd like to speak as well to the audience that is here today. Don't worry, I'll keep it short. The last thing in the world I want to do is to hold up a whole workday at companies as remarkable as this one and those that you panelists represent. And by the way, Jim Burke, you're chairman of Johnson and Johnson, and Daria Finn, you're president of Finishing Touches -- with the two of you here today, who's minding the store? [Laughter]

 

But you know, back before I got my present job, I worked on a television program called GE Theater, General Electric Theater, and I would spend between 12 and 16 weeks every year traveling the country, visiting the workers in GE plants. And I have to confess that when I took that job I had a view of business that was fashionable in some circles in those days -- an unflattering view. But when I visited the plants and met the employees face-to-face, I learned something. I learned that I was seeing then, as I've seen here today, the real source of this nation's economic growth and productivity -- not government or bureaucracy. America's workers and entrepreneurs were making it happen back then, and people like you are making it happen today.

 

And is it happening? Well, in October the American economic expansion is in its 59th straight month. Fifty-nine months -- that will make this the longest peacetime economic expansion on record. Inflation and interest rates are down. Productivity is up. America's manufacturing productivity is shooting ahead at the fastest rate in 20 years. Investment in capital equipment like that made by Somerset Technologies is up more than 50 percent. Net business formations have increased by about 20 percent. All around us we see a proliferation of new technology. But most heartening of all is what this means in human terms. The poverty and unemployment rates, as you've been told, are down. Coupled with our tax cuts, this solid economic growth means rising take-home pay, as has been mentioned here today, for America's families. And during these 59 months we've seen the creation of nearly 14 million new jobs. That's an average of about 240,000 jobs a month, including some 500,000 new jobs right here in New Jersey.

 

Indeed, the Europeans talk of what they call the American miracle. Well, if anybody wants to see miracles, they should be here today. You of Somerset Technologies have worked together as a team to increase your sales by more than $10 million since 1948 [1984], and while too many people see nothing but trade barriers when they look at Japan, you see opportunities. I understand that over the next year or so your Japanese affiliate is expected to do some $12 million worth of business -- and that's selling American goods to the Japanese, not the other way around.

 

Throughout New Jersey as throughout the Nation, we're seeing what can truly be called an economic renaissance. Well, the reason is simple, if you ask why, really. America has become a better place to work, invest, and do business. Our administration cut regulations, supported a sound monetary policy, held back the growth of government spending, and -- perhaps most important of all, and it's been mentioned here today -- cut taxes. As we did so, the value of your paycheck went up, the return on investment went up, and the American marketplace became freer, more energetic, more open to innovation and to the future itself.

 

But it's my duty to tell you that this miracle -- all you've worked so hard to accomplish, all that America itself has worked so hard to accomplish -- all of this is now in danger. You see, some down in Washington seem determined to destroy our economic expansion and send us right back into the malaise and stagflation of the seventies. I'll be saying more about this later today, but for now, let me tell you about a serious threat that is facing our country. It's the constant threat of protectionist, antitrade legislation. We're working with Congress now to fix the proposed trade bill so that it won't be antijobs, antigrowth, and anticonsumer; so that it won't be a bill that closes us off from foreign markets; and so that it won't be a bill that would hinder your affiliate in Japan.

 

I will not sign any bill that will hurt the American worker. With your support, I will insist that Congress go the positive route, opening markets, not shutting them down. But your support, and the support of all working Americans, will be crucial. So, to the panelists and those in the audience: I hope I can count on all of you.

 

We've also got to keep Federal spending down and stop those who would raise your taxes to pay for Federal extravagance. Congress has to hold to the spending limits under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings bill. It's important to put permanent reforms in place, reforms that will ensure economic growth even after our administration leaves office. With the line-item veto and the balanced budget amendment, we can give the American people an Economic Bill of Rights so that congressional taxing and spending can never again endanger our livelihoods. So, together, let's make sure that economic miracles never cease. Let's ensure the Nation's right to a free economy, an economy of growth and opportunity for you, your children, and your children's children.

 

You know, I can't stop without telling you about a little habit I've picked up now. I've got a new hobby. I have been collecting stories that can be told -- or are being told by the people in that other great power that depends totally on government and has nothing to do with free enterprise: the Soviet Union. It seems there that there is a 10-year waiting period for buying an automobile. You have to go through departments and sign up papers and so forth and then you have to put up your money. And then they tell you to come back in 10 years and get your car. And this one young fellow had finally reached the point he could do that and finally did it. And the man said to him, taking the money, ``All right, come back in 10 years and get your automobile.'' And he said, ``Morning or afternoon?'' [Laughter] And the fellow said, ``Well, we're talking 10 years from now. What difference does it make?'' ``Well,'' he said, ``the plumber's coming in the morning.'' [Laughter]

 

But that's enough from me. And I tell you honestly, that is a story being told by the Soviets among themselves. So, it shows they've got a sense of humor, but they've also got a pretty good idea of what their system is all about.

 

But I do thank all of you. God bless all of you. And it's been a real treat to be here with you.

 

Note: The President spoke at 12:26 p.m. in the main building at Somerset Technologies.