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Interview With Linda Yu of WLS - TV in Chicago, Illinois

December 17, 1991

The Economy

Q. My name's Linda Yu. You've acknowledged that as President you've got to take the heat for this economy, and people are blaming you for not doing something about it. Besides speeding up the spending of $1.9 billion in Federal money for programs, what specifically are you going to suggest can be done for the economy, that the President can do without concurrence by the Congress?

The President. Well, $9.7 billion is the figure and I think that will help certainly in some areas. I'll be signing a transportation bill tomorrow that's going to free up a bunch of money for construction projects. And then we may have one or two other things that are of significant size before the State of the Union. But a lot of what can be done in Washington relies on congressional action. And so, what I'm going to be doing is taking a package -- some new elements, some sound old elements that we have not gotten Congress to pass, and say to the American people, "Look, I need your help now. I want to lay aside partisan politics and pass this job-creating package to help the economy". So, that's the game plan, Linda.

Q. A lot of people are going to say: We hear about all those old elements all the time; they don't seem to be working. What are some of the new elements you're going to propose?

The President. I wouldn't tell you about that because we're still formulating the package. But stay tuned for the State of the Union and, as I say, possibly before then. But they shouldn't say old elements that haven't worked. They should say old elements that have not been enacted. Because some of the things we're proposing, such as IRA's that would help the first-time home-buyer, and stimulate the home industry, or capital gains that would stimulate and create jobs: these things are good ideas that we simply haven't gotten Congress to enact yet. But we're going to keep on trying. We've got to help the economy and help the people that are hurting.

Q. I talked to four Chicagoans who wanted to pose questions to you, and I'm going to tell you about them and tell you their questions.

One is a man from the Chicago suburbs. A veteran of Desert Storm, served in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, laid off when he got back from the Persian Gulf. And he says, "It was almost better when I was in the Persian Gulf. At least I knew where the next check was coming from. My wife and son would receive some money every month. I wonder what the next year's going to hold for me. Mr. President, is it going to be better for me?"

The President. I think it is going to be better. I certainly hope so. And I can say that because I really believe that we'll come out of this sluggish economy, some places clearly are in real decline. And so, to him I'd say, "One, we're grateful for the service. Two, the country hasn't forgotten that service because of the urgency of the economy here. And three, yes, I think times will be better, and I can guarantee you they'll be better if I am effective in getting through the Congress the proposals that I will pose to them at the State of the Union."

We've had some. We've not been able to get them through the Congress. Three straight years I've proposed growth packages. But I've got to do better. I have got to get the Congress to see that we must help these people you're talking about.


Q. Another woman from Chicago who gave up a career for her children. She's a volunteer in the Chicago public schools for the last 10 years. She says, "President Bush, I'm one of your Points of Light. I'm wondering, though, how can we improve math and science in our schools when we don't even have the money in Chicago to buy toilet paper and soap for schools, for our children. Why do you feel money for our children is less important than bailing out the savings and loan industry?"

The President. I don't think money for the children is less important. Federal spending for education is up. But I would remind her, tactfully because she does sound like she's an unselfish person who is out there trying to help as a volunteer and that is an enormous part of the success in education, I would remind her that the Federal Government spends 6 to 7 percent of the total money on education. Educational spending in the last 10 years is up from, oh, by a couple of hundred billion dollars from $115 billion, or something like this, to well over up around $300 billion.

So, it isn't always a function of money. Our America 2000 education program offers the best hope from the Federal level. It's not going to replace the State level or the level she's talking about, or what the communities can do for the toilet paper or for the classrooms, but it offers the best hope from the Federal level of getting our kids better educated. I'm excited about it. I believe America 2000 can really fulfill the Federal Government's responsibility.

Q. We also have a woman, a mother, who raises her children in the housing projects of Chicago. One's been accused of gang murder. Her children have been shot at. And she says, "Mr. Bush, my family's really no different from your family. I have the same struggles trying to raise my children that you faced raising yours, but my community is very unsafe. I go outside there are drug dealers on every corner. I look around, the drug dealers have a lot of resources, but I don't have any. What are you going to do about it?"

The President. What I think she ought to do is support our anticrime legislation that's hung up in Congress. It's awful hard to ask a person who's struggling at that level. But if more Americans will get in and say we want a tough crime bill, one that supports the police officers more and tougher on the criminals, I believe that would help her. In addition, we've got a National Drug Strategy that is doing better in terms of the interdiction of narcotics. But I really believe the short-term answer is more support for the law enforcement officials. the local police there in Chicago, they do a first-class job, and they need more support through Federal law, and I think sometimes through State and local law enforcement.

So, that's the advice I would give.

Chicago's Billy Goat Restaurant

Q. You were here in Chicago last week, and everybody wants to know when you went to Billy Goat's, did you really like the "cheezboygers, cheezboygers"? [Laughter]

The President. It's your pronunciation I like. Yes, I did. I did. And I got a bum rap. Somebody said I asked for french fries; I didn't. That was the guy that owns the place sitting next to me saying, "chips only," before I even got my mouth open. But, boy, I loved it. I had two "cheezboygers."

Q. Cheezboygers.

The President. Oh, yes. They were great. And the people, the people were nice that I sat with. And, you know, let me tell you something, Linda, when you do something like that, everybody says show business. It isn't. A couple of those guys were sheet metal workers that had just gotten to work. One was an unemployed writer, a woman who told me of what it felt like to not have a job. Another had a job at a company called Hill and Knolton. Another was a guy struggling but doing, I think, reasonably well in the computer business.

So, I talked to them. And although they had those mics, that you people love, looking over my shoulder, at least I learned something. And I could tell them, hey, we care and we want to help. And I think they know it. I think they know that's what I feel in my heart. So, it was a great visit. A great visit.

Q. We hope so, Mr. President. We were glad you visited here. And thanks for talking to us today. Merry Christmas.

The President. Thank you, Linda Yu. And have a Merry Christmas to you and your family and all in the area.

Q. Thanks.

Note: The interview began at 2 p.m. The President spoke via satellite from Room 459 of the Old Executive Office Building.

George Bush, Interview With Linda Yu of WLS - TV in Chicago, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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