Remarks to the Employees of United States Precision Lens, Inc., in Cincinnati, Ohio

 

August 8, 1988

 

Thank you very much, and thank you, Roger Howe and David Hinchman. And I brought a couple of Washingtonians along with me here, Congressman Gradison and Congressman McEwen. And I thank all of you very much.

 

You know, I can't tell you how good it feels to come here to the heartland, where America's work gets done, and to get away from that puzzle palace on the Potomac. [Laughter] Every time I leave Washington to travel around the country, as I get out of the plane I half expect to see a sign waiting for me saying, ``Welcome to America.'' You know, if I didn't get out of Washington often, it would be easy to lose touch with what's really going on. Back at the airport someone asked me my impressions of the Reds' manager. I told him, but I still don't know if he meant Pete Rose or Gorbachev. [Laughter]

 

Well, I came here today to tell you something really that you already know: that you're a part of a remarkable American success story. Around the country, companies like U.S. Precision Lens are leading America's economic expansion and manufacturing boom. In fact, more good news came out last week: U.S. factory orders have grown at their highest rate in 18 years, and production levels are pushing factories to near capacity. Not surprisingly, employment is at its highest level in history. Just last month, America created another 283,000 new jobs -- that makes it over 17 million jobs since our expansion began. And like yours, these are high-wage jobs, jobs with a future.

 

America is in the longest peacetime economic expansion on record, and it's our exports and our manufacturing that are now driving it. In many ways, all of you already know this, because you've been part of it right here. Since 1980, as if you didn't know, your company has tripled sales, doubled employment, and your exports have exploded into world markets. And talk about beating the pants off the competition: You sell over a third of what you make to companies from Japan.

 

You're not alone. Americans today are selling shoes to Italy, medical equipment to Japan, and machine tools to West Germany. A furniture company in St. Louis now exports to Europe, its owner having discovered, in his words, ``that my products were a lot better and a helluva lot cheaper.'' [Laughter] One company up the road in Columbus has even figured out a way to sell sand to Egypt. [Laughter] It mines and refines a high-tech silica sand that is used as a cleansing agent in furnaces. From software to sand, from jumbo jets to precision lenses, American products are the finest in the world, and we can outcompete any country on Earth.

 

I've heard some people bad-mouthing our economy recently. I think they must have stopped reading the newspaper that day in 1981 when they handed over the lease to the White House. Yes, things were bad back then. But today unemployment is at its lowest level in 14 years. Inflation is low and under control. America's manufacturing productivity has soared 4.3 percent a year -- that's the highest rate since World War II. Real family income is up. Exports are at an all-time high. And America has created, on the average, a quarter of a million private sector jobs each month for 68 consecutive months. Any way you slice it, America has taken the pennant and is sweeping the World Series.

 

You know, I have to interrupt right here to say something on this employment. I had to go to Washington to discover a certain statistic: those statistics about employment. Do you know what the potential employment pool of the United States is? It is everybody, male and female, from age 16 and up. And today the highest percentage of that potential pool is employed than ever in our history -- 62.6 percent have jobs in this country, of everyone, male and female, above the age of 16.

 

Now, some people are telling you to take for granted the economic growth of today and of the last 7 years. Their message is: You can take prosperity for granted. It's time for a change; take a chance on us. Well, that's sort of like someone telling you that you've stored up all the cold beer you could want, so now you can unplug the refrigerator. [Laughter] But, no more than with a refrigerator, you can't unplug our progrowth economic policies and expect things to stay the same.

 

Well, the fact is the whole world is learning from our example and turning away from decades-old policies of government-mandated economic failure and turning toward the type of economic policies that Vice President Bush and I have put into practice over the last 7 years. The policies that pulled America out of economic stagnation, rising unemployment, declining family income, and double-digit inflation have made America's economy a global success story. These policies are the wave of the future. Country after country is reducing taxes, cutting regulation, reducing the role of government, and letting entrepreneurs and working people build new factories, new jobs, and new futures for themselves and their families. It's sweeping the world, but like hamburgers and baseball, it all began right here in the United States.

 

You know, I have to tell you, there is a thing called the economic summit every year -- seven of us, seven countries. And we go from one country to the other, and the country where you're meeting is -- their head of state is the chairman. And so, I was a new kid in school when I went to my first one up in Canada, and for a little while, why, I kind of stayed there and stayed silent and so forth at these meetings. And then our economic reforms began to take hold, and what a thrill it was! The new kid walked into the meeting -- it was in Europe someplace -- and there the other six of the seven sat facing me. And finally one of them said, ``Tell us about the American miracle.'' Well, I was very pleased to do that.

 

There's a story about a fellow who was always asking Abraham Lincoln to give him a government job. And one day the news was that the Customs chief had died, and sure enough, this fellow shows up and asks President Lincoln if he could take that fellow's place. And Lincoln says, ``It's fine with me if the undertaker doesn't mind.'' [Laughter]

 

Well, no bureaucrat, politician, government expert, or certified genius sitting in a Federal office in Washington has ever been able to replace the economic miracle of free men and women working with their hands, their hearts, and their heads to build a better future for their families and a stronger economy for America. I have said this again and again, and I'm going to keep on saying it: It's not the Government, it is the American people who have made our nation the greatest country on Earth. Basically what our program did was get out of your way and let you do what you can do so well.

 

I can't think of any part of America where that's truer than here in the heartland, the Midwest. You know, I get a little tired of hearing Cincinnati and other Midwestern cities called the Rust Belt when the Midwest is the heartland of America's industrial renaissance. The Midwest isn't the Rust Belt; it's the Boom Belt. I can't help wondering if maybe Precision Lens can help out some of our critics. I think they could use a pair of high-quality lenses because they've been looking at the world through mud-colored glasses for much too long.

 

Well, there's another area where the example set by Precision Lens is crystal clear. I'm talking about your important efforts toward a drug-free workplace. Through preemployment testing, employment counseling, and treatment, you've really made a difference. Here and around the country, workplace drug programs have brought dramatic improvements in worker safety. There is no place for illegal drugs in the workplace or anyplace else in this land. I believe that programs like yours make a positive impact throughout the community. In addition to making this plant safer and more productive, you can also be proud that you're sending a message to our children to be drug-free because illegal drug use will not be tolerated.

 

Well, before I go, I want to let you know that I'm delighted you were all able to get in to work today. [Laughter] They weren't going to let me in at first, but luckily someone recognized me. [Laughter] Of course, it's always nice to be recognized.

 

You know, years ago, after a quarter of a century in the picture business and a number of years then on television and the General Electric Theatre and so forth, you're used to being recognized, and it's nice. And I was walking down Fifth Avenue in New York one afternoon, and suddenly a fellow about 30 feet ahead of me, coming my way, stopped. And he pointed, and he said, ``I know you. I know you. I see you in those pictures and on that television screen all the time.''

 

Well, you know New Yorkers. They all stopped, and everybody in the street kind of lined up, made an alley. And here he came, down the middle of the alley, and he was fumbling in his pocket up here, coming toward me. And he keeps on talking about how well he's known me and how much he's seen me on the screen and everything. Gets right to me and sticks out a pad and a pencil and said, ``Ray Milland.'' [Laughter] So, I signed ``Ray Milland.'' There was no sense in disappointing him.

 

Well, it's been a real joy for me to be here with you and to see the work that you do and the tremendous pride with which you do it. And I think that's enough for me. I just thank you all, and God bless you all.

 

[At this point, Mr. Howe gave the President a magnifying glass.]

 

Thank you all. Thank you very much. And to the two Congressmen over here, now I can read the fine print in those things you send me. [Laughter]

 

Note: The President spoke at 11:10 a.m. on the warehouse floor at the company. In his opening remarks, he referred to Roger Howe and David Hinchman, chief executive officer and president, of the company. Prior to his remarks, the President toured the facility's manufacturing and production areas.