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Catfish and Cod
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Operation Fisk the President!
(Link path: The White House)

The president says he's now paying attention to the loss of manufacturing jobs in America. But is he?

I would like to remind people that a culture of responsibility is coming in America. One of the reasons why is that we see every day people who are willing to serve something greater than themself in life. Our children see heroes again, because they see policemen and women and firefighters and emergency teams and military personnel who sacrifice for something greater than themselves in life. And for all the officers who are with us today, I thank you for your line of service for America. (Applause.)

The President, and his Democratic opponents, should take it into their minds that companies and executives and managers are part of America too. A true culture of responsibility, if there is to be one in America (and the works of Strauss and Howe suggest that there will be), must necessarily include everyone. The Second World War evoked the same strong sense of community and mutual support, and the President is obviously trying to renew that version of the Spirit of '76.

Today, I want to talk about our economy. I want people to understand that when somebody wants to work and can't find a job, it says we've got a problem in America that we're going to deal with.

Recognition is always the hardest part, George. Jobs have been disappearing at a record pace for two years, and only now do you notice. To be fair, most of America just now noticed, too. But do you really want a president with only average foresight?

We want everybody in this country working.

Pure hyperbole, of course; anyone who's taken Econ 101 knows there's a natural rate of unemployment. Only Communist countries employ everyone, and we all know where that leads.

We want people to be able to realize their personal dreams -- (applause) -- by finding a job.

The flip side of that, of course, is when economic policies make personal dreams impossible, people get really upset. Despite what the President has been led to believe, 9/11 hasn't yet destroyed the 50/50 nation. It won't take too terribly much to knock Bush off his pedestal. He had better deliver on job promises, or he'll be in deep trouble.

We've got a lot of strengths in this economy. One of the greatest strengths, of course, is the work force. We've got the best workers in the world. (Applause.) We're the most productive workers in the entire world. (Applause.)

True, but only because Europeans are too lazy -- er, unmotivated -- to work harder. They're more productive hour-to-hour.

Productivity is up. What productivity means is that we've got a lot of hard work and we're using new technologies to make people more effective when it comes to the job, and that's important.

Doesn't mean a thing when the jobs are fleeing the country. In fact, part of the productivity effect may be powered by the job flight -- eliminating the less productive workers, y'see.

You see, in 1979, it took more than 40 hours of labor to make a car, and now it takes 18 hours.

Primarily due to automation, knocking workers out of jobs.

We're productive. Our workers are really productive in America. Higher productivity not only means we can produce better products, but it means our people are better off. The more productive you are, the better off our workers are.

True -- for the ones who still have jobs. It does jack for anyone unemployed.

You see, it's better to operate a backhoe than it is a shovel. (Applause.)

Unless the choices are WPA or starvation.

That's what we mean by productivity. Higher productivity means that workers earn more. And it means it takes less time for workers to earn the money to buy the things they need.

But what happens when there are fewer jobs than households?

In 1908, the average factory worker had to labor for more than two years to buy a Model-T -- more than two years of work to buy a car. Today, you can buy a family vehicle for about seven months of salary. The higher the productivity rates, the better it is for American workers. We're a productive nation because of the good, hardworking Americans. And that's what we're here to celebrate today.

Comparing this nation to 1908, or even the fifties, is a strawman. Of course we're better off compared to our ancestors. The real question, as shown in election after election, is: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

You know, I also want you to focus on what we have overcome. I mean, we're a strong nation. We've got great foundations for growth, and we've overcome a lot as a country over the last couple of years. In early 2000, the stock market started to decline. That affects you. It affects your savings, it affects your pension accounts.

Due to a stock market bubble (economists and venture capitalists' overeagerness to blame), followed by inevitable scandal, and pumped by a sham California energy crisis that's directly traceable to energy deregulation. Yeah, the Republicans are totally blameless.

It was a forerunner of the recession that came. The first quarter of 2001, we were in recession. But we acted to come out of that recession. We acted with tax relief. And it created big noise and big debate in Washington. But here's what I believe and here is what I know. When you've got more money in your pocket, it means you're going to spend or save and invest. And when you spend and save or invest, somebody is going to produce a product for you to be able to spend your money on. When somebody produces a product, it's more likely somebody is going to be able to find a job. Tax relief was needed to stem the recession. (Applause.)

Tax relief was proposed when the Republicans were still in denial that a recession was even possible, much less coming, much less here. To suggest that tax relief ended the recession is a big fat lie. It especially won't float when many Americans don't believe the recession has ended, no matter what the economists say.

They tell me it was a shallow recession. It was a shallow recession because of the tax relief.

Don't believe everything people tell you.

Some say, well, maybe the recession should have been deeper. That bothers me when people say that. You see, a deeper recession would have meant more families would have been out of work. I'm interested in solving problems quickly. I want more people working.

"Slow and steady wins the race." Which would you prefer, Mr. President? Ten million people out of work for one year, or five million people out of work for five years? Think carefully.

Oh, but that question implies that your tax cuts had an effect on the economy, doesn't it? Never mind.

And so we began to recover from the terrorist attacks, and then we found out some of the citizens, some of the corporate CEOs forgot what it means to be a responsible American. They forgot to do their duty. They didn't tell the truth to their shareholders and their employees. So we acted. We passed two new tough laws. And now the message is clear: if you don't tell the truth, there is going to be serious consequences. We expect the best out of corporate America. (Applause.)

The best, of course, is more donations to the President's campaign. It's no accident that he's been able to fundraise better than any President in history... because he has been more friendly to corporate America than any President since before Theodore Roosevelt broke the trusts.

And yet the economy was still bumping along. We hadn't recovered from all the challenges, and so we passed tax relief again.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

I called upon Congress to pass the jobs and growth package, and we lowered taxes once again to create jobs.

Since when does lowering taxes create jobs? Increased spending, I thought, was the way to do that. Or did I miss something in Econ 101?

When you reduce taxes, people have more money. And I'm going to remind you of what we did. If you're a mom or a dad, we increased the child credit to $1,000 per child, and we put the checks in the mail -- $400 additional per child for American families, so you get to decide to do with the money. It's your choice. You see, after all, in Washington we don't spend the government's money; we spend your money. (Applause.)

This is very true, and indeed is something that should be kept in mind. But I don't begrudge sending Washington money, as long as it's spent properly. If we spent more on the Forest and Park Services, and space research, and the occupation, and less on corporate welfare, I would be happy to refuse the extra tax rebate I didn't get.

We reduced the marriage penalty. What kind of tax code is it that discourages marriage? (Laughter.) We want to encourage marriage. We gave incentives to small businesses so that they can hire more people. We reduced taxes on capital gains and dividends to protect your savings accounts. We want the pension plans strong. We want the 401k's doing well. We reduced all taxes. We thought it was fairer not to try to pick and choose winners. If you pay taxes, you deserve relief. Three million people are now off the tax rolls; 3.9 million households received tax relief.

In the long run, these policies are probably correct; the Federal budget should be restrained and incintives to marriage, small business, and personal investment will be good, long term, for the country. (They'll encourage a higher savings rate by the general population, for instance, and continue the process of drawing the general population into the stockholding class, a necessity for eventual transparency and democracy in the corporate world.) But during a recession and a war, these policies are a disaster -- the debt is shooting for the moon, right before all the baby boomers retire and Federal entitlements explode. The Full Faith and Credit of the United States isn't looking too good...

No, we're making a difference.

Yes, you are. But not in the economy.

And the economy is beginning to grow, and that's what i'm interested in. I come with an optimistic message. I believe there are better days ahead for people who are working and looking for work.

Glad to hear it. You have some reason for saying so?

Economic output is rising faster than expected.

That's not saying very much.

Low interest rates mean that families can save billions by refinancing their homes.

Since when is a massive move for people to go further into debt a good idea?

I bet some of you have refinanced your homes. Put a little extra money into your pocket. Consumer spending is on the rise. Companies are seeing more orders, especially orders for heavy equipment.

If it's all built on debt and cheap credit, it's all a sham. One day, either the interest rates have to rise, or we become Japan. And believe you me, we don't want to become Japan.

No, things are getting better. But there are some things we've got to do to make sure the economy continues to grow. I want you to understand that I understand that Ohio manufactures are hurting, that there's a problem with the manufacturing sector. And I understand for a full recovery, to make sure people can find work, that manufacturing must do better. And we've lost thousands of jobs in manufacturing, some of it because of productivity gains -- in other words, people can have the same output with fewer people -- but some of it because production moved overseas.

So I told Secretary Don Evans of the Commerce Department, I want him to appoint an assistant secretary to focus on the needs of manufacturers, to make sure our manufacturing job base is strong and vibrant.

Oh, wow, just what we need, another public official. I'm sure that'll fix everything.

In other words, any part of a good recovery for the state of Ohio and other manufacturing states has got to be for the manufacturing sector to come around. One way to make sure that we -- the manufacturing sector does well is to send a message overseas -- say, look, we expect there to be a fair playing field when it comes to trade. See, we in America believe we can compete with anybody, just so long as the rules are fair, and we intend to keep the rules fair. (Applause.)

Yes. And part of "keeping the rules fair" is seeing to it that other people get benefits, just like in America. One of the big reasons that American jobs are losing out is that companies don't want to have to pay health insurance, and worker's comp, and all the wonderful things that Americans fought hard to win over a century. That's why, despite our high productivity, companies are moving their operations elsewhere. (It isn't, as the Administration contends, solely due to price manipulations by China and Japan. That doesn't account for, say, the flight of customer service and computer engineering jobs to India.) Corporate America considers its own workers overpriced. That can only be fixed by lowering prices here, i.e., cutting benefits, or by raising prices there, i.e., adding benefits. Guess which one will be easier to affect.

We have a responsibility that when somebody hurts, government has got to move.

Not necessarily in the right direction, though.

And that's why we've signed extensions to the unemployment insurance, so people can get their feet back on the ground.

So that they don't mob the polls.

Elaine's department, the Department of Labor, passes out emergency grants for people who are hurting to cover health care costs and child care costs and other critical needs. And that's a useful role for the government.

True, but if you did your job, it wouldn't be as necessary.

I proposed to Congress a new idea to help people get back to work, particularly those that had the hardest time finding work. We call them reemployment accounts. I proposed spending $3.6 billion to help a million Americans find work. We'd write -- put some money aside for somebody to use for day care or retraining, to be able to move. If they're able to find a job in a prescribed period of time, they'd be able to keep the difference between what we gave them to begin with and what was unspent. In other words, a reemployment bonus. It's a novel approach to help a million Americans who are having a tough time finding work to find work. Reemployment accounts make sense. Congress needs to act.

Only works if there are jobs to be had in the first place.

(More later.)