Remarks at a White House Briefing for Members of Business Partners

 

November 19, 1987

 

The President. Well, thank you, and Dr. Gerry Cox, your president of the Business Partners, and your president-elect Joan Whalen, and all of you. It's a very great pleasure to be here with you in a group that so exemplifies the spirit of enterprise. Now, I think that's a combination the foreign competition is never going to be able to beat. [Laughter] I know that your organization, Business Partners, is a dynamic group of Americans on the move, representing a growing force, economically and politically.

 

Now, I realize there are a number of people I should be recognizing here today, but let me just single out one. It's a Presidential appointee of whom I am exceptionally proud, a hard-working member of the Federal Reserve Board, Dr. Martha Seger. [Applause]

 

Earlier in my administration there was a lot of talk about a so-called gender gap and a supposed shortfall in support of me by the women of America. Well, as much as was said about that phenomenon, I'm proud that in 1984 our ticket was reelected and that 57 percent of the women who voted supported our cause. [Applause] Now, that did include some of you, didn't it? [Laughter] I don't think there's any doubt as to why we got the support we did. Americans want a strong, free, and prosperous America. We all have a common goal. We want to keep the economy growing and opportunity for all citizens expanding. We want to keep -- well, we want safe streets and security for our families.

 

Now, I know you've been briefed on all the latest figures, so it will suffice for me to say that we inherited a battered and teetering economy back in 1981. We promised the American people, not business as usual but a dramatic change of direction. Together, and that includes many of you, we worked and struggled to put in place growth-oriented tax, regulation, and spending policies. And did it work? I think all of us can be proud that last month our country enjoyed the 59th month of uninterrupted expansion, which is the longest peacetime expansion on record in our history. [Applause] Now, that is something to crow about.

 

I was just over at the Chamber of Commerce this morning, and I mentioned that one thing about which I'm most proud is the all-inclusive nature of the economic progress that we've been enjoying. A wide spectrum of our fellow citizens have seen their lives and those of their families improve. Since the start of the expansion, women have created one out of every four new businesses. Today, more than three million businesses are owned by women, and that number is growing two times as fast as the number of businesses men own. In the last 5 years, employment for American women has jumped nearly 17 percent, which is much faster than the overall increase. At the same time, unemployment for women has dropped 4.1 percentage points. And the ratio between the weekly earnings of women and men has risen from 62.5 percent in 1979 to 69.2 percent in 1986 -- still aways to go, but it's coming in the right direction.

 

There's a myth that many of the jobs being created by our recovery are poorer paying. Well, the facts tell a far different story, and women are rapidly moving into an expanding number of professional jobs. Since 1979 the percentage of women employed in the higher-paying occupations has escalated dramatically. The percentage of women accountants and auditors rose from 34 to 45 percent; women computer programmers rose from 28 to 40 percent; computer systems analysts rose from 20 to 30 percent; lawyers from 10 to 15 percent; and managers and administrators from 22 to 29 percent. Now, I think the record will show this to have been one of the greatest periods of expanding opportunity for American women in the history of our Republic. And I'm proud that it's been our economic reforms that laid the foundation for this dramatic social progress.

 

It was, of course, President Kennedy who said: A rising tide lifts all boats. And in the last 59 months, the American people have enjoyed a rising tide of economic growth and expansion. Together, our task now is to ensure that our country moves forward from here. And considering the powerful forces still trying to pull America back to the failed policies of the past, ours is no easy responsibility. The volatility all too evident in the stock market suggests that we must proceed with care in meeting the challenges ahead, especially in coming to grips with the dual deficit problems -- the trade and Federal budget deficits.

 

Well, there's reason, however, for hope about both deficits. On the trade deficit, even as the stock market was falling a few weeks ago, the latest figures tell us progress is being made in narrowing the trade gap. In fact, the September figures released last week show an $800-million drop in imports and an $800-million increase in exports. Progress on the trade deficit is being made on a wide front. Now, this is no reason to let up. We must continue to narrow the gap. But it's reason to be suspicious of any draconian protectionist measures that could well knock the legs out from under the world trading system and send our economy reeling at the same time. I recently received a letter of support, cosigned by 38 Members of the Senate, pledging to oppose enactment of any economy-killing protectionist legislation. And since it only takes 34 of them to uphold a veto, I can pledge to you now: Ain't going to happen!

 

The second challenge is the continued high level of Federal deficit spending. And here, too, progress has been made. Most people have failed to realize that this year the Federal red ink was reduced by one-third, a drop of $73 billion in the level of deficit spending from 1986 to 1987. And I think there's evidence of a new commitment, a bipartisan spirit of cooperation in tackling the remaining deficit.

 

One thing I can tell you is that everyone knows now that the problem will not be solved simply by raising the taxes of the American people. The tax rate reductions, for example, that we fought so hard to get in last year's reform bill, will not be touched; of that you can be certain. We've been working with the leadership of both Houses of Congress, and I can report to you I'm hopeful that this problem is going to be solved and solved in the right way.

 

I just came across some figures that I was wondering about. Having looked for my first job back in the days of the Great Depression, I was a little interested because then they had had the great stock market crash. And then President Hoover went before the people and said we had to make things right. So, among the things they did was the Smoot-Hawley tariff, which just made the Depression worldwide -- a protectionist measure. But then our Congress raised the income taxes. One and a half percent was the bottom bracket; they raised it to 9 percent. They raised the 25 percent top rate to 63 percent, and the result was a 21-percent drop in Federal revenues. So, when people talk about taxes as an answer to deficit spending, it's an answer all right: It'll just make the deficit greater.

 

Well, I also see evidence of bipartisan cooperation in meeting the responsibility we share in bringing the Supreme Court up to strength. After the travails and wrangling of the past months, I think a consensus is emerging behind an individual who'll serve our country with honor and distinction, Judge Anthony Kennedy. Many of you may be aware that I've known Judge Kennedy for some 15 years. He's a jurist who believes in our constitutional system of enumerated powers and can be trusted to move forward within the spirit of the Founding Fathers. He realizes the importance his decisions will have on each of us and on the safety of our families. He has a wonderful family of his own, and I couldn't help but admire them when I announced his nomination last week.

 

As a member of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Kennedy has proven himself to be a tough and fair jurist. He's the kind of jurist of whom all Americans can be proud, and I hope he'll have your support as he moves through the confirmation process. [Applause] God bless you. Thank you. I would also hope that the Senate acts expeditiously so that the highest court in the land is able to conduct its business with a full complement of nine justices.

 

We're about to enter into an election year, and during the next 12 months we'll again demonstrate to the world that, in a free and democratic society, competition and good will can go hand in hand. And whoever is elected and takes my post, all Americans will wish that President the very best of luck. And I hope you agree there's ample reason for every American to look ahead with confidence. This period of growth, 59 months of it, was just a prolog to the great advances ahead. America's leading mankind into a new age of peace, freedom, and prosperity -- an age of opportunities beyond our imagination. And many of you are part of the entrepreneurial revolution that is keeping America out front.

 

I want to thank all of you for the support you've been to me over these last 7 years. And now I'm going to do something I've been doing recently. I have a new hobby, and, so, I try to share it. That hobby is, I've been collecting stories that I can find are told by the Soviet citizens among themselves. And those stories reveal they have a great sense of humor, but also they've got a certain amount of cynicism about their system. And I just thought I'd close by telling you one of the more recent ones I've heard.

 

They came into General Secretary Gorbachev, and they told him that there was an elderly lady there in the Kremlin who said she would not leave until she had had a chance to speak to him. ``Well,'' he said, ``send her in.'' So they did. And he said, ``Well, old mother, what is it?'' She said, ``Was communism invented by a scientist or a politician?'' ``Oh,'' he said, ``I guess politician.'' She said, ``That explains it. A scientist would have tried it on mice first.'' [Laughter] Well, thank you all again for all that you're doing, and God bless all of you.

 

Q. How's Nancy?

 

The President. Nancy, she's getting along just fine. The hardest thing to get over is her recent loss. The question was ``How's Nancy?'' There was a relationship there between daughter and mother that was very beautiful to behold. And even though we have known this had to happen sooner rather than later, it still was a great blow and a great loss to her. But her mother was a remarkable woman. After we honeymooned with her mother and father -- [laughter] -- I found out that much as I loved jokes, I could never again tell a mother-in-law joke. [Laughter] Thank you all very much.

 

Note: The President spoke at 1:35 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. Business Partners was a women's professional organization.