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Interview With Bill Beutel of WABC - TV in New York City

December 17, 1991

The Economy

Q. Mr. President, I know you don't address polls, but you are aware of the one that came out today saying that your popularity, your approval rating, is lower than it has been since you've been President. It blames the low approval rating on the recession which the White House admits now is continuing. As you probably know, in New York City nothing is more important than the economy right now. Has the time come, sir, for the administration to jump-start, to try at least to jump-start the economy?

The President. Absolutely. And we've been trying, but the time has come to try again. And the economy is in trouble. It's sluggish. It has not responded the way all the experts felt it would, all the economists last summer. And so the answer is to try again, and I would call it try again for our growth package plus additions.

So one of the things we've done already is to free up some $9.7 billion worth of spending that would have come later in the year, try to use that to jump-start it. We'll have some other new ideas for the State of the Union Message. But absolutely, people are hurting, and I am trying to help. What I'm going to try to do, Bill, is to get up and over the heads of the Congress, if you will, and take my case to the American people in the State of the Union. And I think there's some things we can do before that. But we are trying very, very hard.

Q. Mr. President, you talk about the State of the Union. Here in New York City there is a feeling of greater urgency. The State of the Union does not come for something on the order of a month. People have asked me what would the President say to a man here in New York City who is out of a job, who has been out of a job, maybe a middle income job, maybe making $50,000 or $60,000 a year, and he's been out of work for many months. Christmastime is coming, and he is told by the experts that his job has disappeared. This is not a temporary layoff, but a permanent layoff, a restructuring of the economy. What do you say to a man like that?

The President. I say we've got to do better in job training. We've got some very good programs so you can retrain people who get into other lines of work. But the big thing is we've got to get growth restored. I have been pushing for certain growth incentives: IRA's, for example, to stimulate the homebuying industry; capital gains to stimulate new jobs. Some call it a break for the rich. It is a jobs bill. And so, what I've got to do is redouble my efforts to try to get these things through the Congress; that will help stimulate the economy and give that man a job in a new business.

And we're not going to do it by just kind of propping up old businesses. We've got to go for new businesses. And we've got to continue to try to expand our markets abroad. Fortunately, exports have had a big, had a salvation effect on the economy. But we need more exports. So, there's a wide array of things we can do to show that individual we care.

U.S. Manufacturing

Q. Mr. President, the other night, Sunday night, the Democrats, one of whom may be your opponent next year, Paul Tsongas, said that the only way that we will get the economy going is if the engine of the manufacturing sector gets going again. And we do not have a manufacturing sector, do we, anymore?

The President. Yes, we do. We've got a good one. But he's right in some ways. I mean, we want to stimulate the manufacturing sector of the economy. And some of the proposals that I've just made here, that we're for, I think would do that. No, but I believe we've got to do better in manufacturing. Frankly, we've got some good manufacturing. And one of the reasons for not pulling back into some isolationistic sphere is our manufacturing goods can compete with foreign manufacturers if we get free and fair access to their markets. So, we've got to do better in that regard.

But look, I'm not arguing with his point. We've got to do better in manufacturing.

The Homeless

Q. Mr. President, that same man who sits in New York out of a job, and many other people who look at the homeless on our streets and the situation here, ask why is it, how is it that the administration can be so concerned about giving money to the Soviet Union, or what was the Soviet Union, when so many things are wrong in our society?

The President. Well, take the homeless, for example. This administration is spending more money on the homeless than any previous administration. We have fully funded what's known as the McKinney Act. This is not simply a Federal problem, however, Bill. As you know, this is a problem that normally is handled by the cities. But the Federal Government is trying to help, and we've done better. I don't think we get much credit for it.

Incidentally, on the question of the homeless, we're also working hard to see if we don't have a better way to help those people who are mentally sick, estimated to be at about a third of the homeless nationally. And, as you know, the law was changed several years ago where you couldn't compel medical treatment for some of these people, and they were turned loose. And I think that's one that's plagued people in New York, and it's one that needs more compassionate handling. So, we're looking carefully to see if we can't do a little better job on getting treatment and compelling treatment for those who are homeless because of mental illness.

President's Dog

Q. Mr. President, a very young person in our newsroom wants to know how Millie is.

The President. Millie's doing pretty good. She's got a little lupus disease, but when her medicine is right you wouldn't -- she's in a kind of a remission, and she can hunt and run and jump around. But she's doing fine, and at this time of year it's kind of nice.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President, very much. Happy Christmas to you and your family.

The President. Well same to you and yours. And thank you for this opportunity.

Q. Thank you, sir.

Note: The interview began at 1:47 p.m. The President spoke via satellite from Room 459 in the Old Executive Office Building.

George Bush, Interview With Bill Beutel of WABC - TV in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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