Press Briefing by the Vice President
The Briefing Room
12:10 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm here to talk about some more great economic news for our country. The facts that have just been released make it clear that the economy is growing very strongly, with historically low inflation -- the best of all possible worlds where economic facts and figures are concerned.
Today, the third quarter growth number was 3.4 percent, significantly stronger than had been predicted, but let me hasten to add what makes the news even better is that the inflation number is very low; and the internal numbers within the inflation calculation make it plain that important parts of what makes up inflation went down.
So, strong economic growth with historically low inflation. This comes on the heels of the other great news this week about the deficit coming down more rapidly than had been predicted. Now, I went back, in preparation for giving you this news and these statements today, and looked at the prediction by the Republican Leader, Newt Gingrich, about what would happen if the President's economic blueprint passed by this time.
The Republican Leader said that President Clinton's economic plan will kill jobs and lead to a recession, and the recession will force people off of work and onto unemployment and will actually increase the deficit.
Well, he predicted it would kill jobs; he was wrong. Strike one. He predicted it would cause a recession; he was wrong again. Strike two. He predicted that it would increase the deficit; he was wrong again. Strike three, you're out.
I'd be glad to take any questions.
Q: You mentioned the Republican Whip. You're now about a week away from the election and, yet, you're inching up in the polls Democrats; but it's still, given your good economic figures, you see a dichotomy there that you still haven't captured the imagination?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Mr. Gingrich announced this past week that he is hard at work on his transition plan to become Speaker; so was Tom Dewey at a comparable stage in the 1948 election. I think that the momentum now evident all across the country for Democrats is growing steadily. I think the tide shifted about three and a half weeks ago, and I think the wind is now at the backs of Democratic candidates. And the reason is very simple: Continued, terrific economic news, like today's news, demonstrates even to those who have been skeptical that when you focus on working men and women, set your priorities correctly, bring the deficit down and manage the government well, things work well. There are 4.5 million more jobs with good wages, historically low inflation, the deficit's coming down. Now, we have this very strong, continued economic growth without any increase in inflation.
The Republicans predicted an utter disaster. This news has been produced without a single Republican vote. They fought against it. They argued against it. They made dire predictions about what would happen. They were dead wrong.
And now, they have the audacity to promise us their alternative -- this Contract on America -- to take a radical, rightwing U-turn and go back to trickle-down Reaganomics. It is a breathtakingly absurd proposal.
Q: Could I just follow up just a little bit? You're still a week ahead of the elections and the polls had you go up just slightly, and there are also some concerns that you may not get a big turn-out on election day. Are you fearful about your --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No. As the President said last Friday, we didn't want to peak too soon, and we were successful in that strategy.
Q: Mr. Vice President, notwithstanding what you've said here today, there is a --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, I hate questions that start that way.
Q: I'm conceding what you've said --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, go ahead. I'm sorry.
Q: but there have never been economic numbers like this at a time when the President's popularity was like this before. And there is a professor at Duke named Wendy -- who studied it, and her theory is that people are not basing -- they're basing their confidence level not on current economic standards, but for the first time on their future expectations. And that what people are worried about, really, is the future, and the reason you guys aren't getting more credit is because people see small raises, they're still worried about health care, they have worries about their economic futures.
Now, I'm asking: Is that a reasonable expectation? Why should people be more confident --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't think it's quite that complicated. I think there is a simpler explanation for it. But, first, let me say that we're very pleased at the strong momentum in the public opinion polls where Democratic candidates are concerned, where the President's concerned, and everything is moving in the right direction at just the right time. We've got a lot of hard work ahead of us the next 10, 11 days, but we're very -- very encouraged.
Now, you ask another version of a question that many of us have had. How come there is this gap between the outstanding record of success here -- in the economy, with the deficit, Reinventing Government, the Crime Bill, the passage of a very ambitious and productive legislative agenda, a string of virtuoso performances in foreign policy -- how come there's a gap between this incredibly good record of performance and the public opinion polls?
I think that, for 25 years in our country, we've had a series of body blows, if you will -- the assassinations, Watergate, Vietnam, the hostage crisis, 21 percent interest rates back when that occurred, stagflation, Iran-Contra, the growing conviction that the government was lying to people -- and I don't think we have had a steady, uninterrupted stretch of good, solid progress during which we can kind of regain our natural American optimism and self-confidence.
And, so, consequently, I think there is still a tendency on the part of some people to say, well, it sounds good, but can we allow ourselves to believe that it's going to continue to be moving in this good direction? And what today's announcement demonstrates is that the answer to that question is, yes, we are making slow, steady, strong progress. We're moving in the right direction. We're adding 30,000 jobs a week, with the average wages much higher than the average wage of jobs in the economy in general. The deficit's coming down, still, dramatically.
We're downsizing the federal government and creating the smallest federal bureaucracy since John Kennedy was elected President in 1960. We're fighting crime. We're making student loans more available. We're addressing the problems that affect ordinary Americans, because with tighter management of the government, decreased spending, smaller deficits and economic growth without inflation, we're able to set our priorities in a better way and focus on the problems that working families experience. And I think that it takes time for our country to see this progress continue. But we're going to continue it.
Q: Mr. Vice President, there is also an elite group in this country that seems to worry about the future, and that's the Federal Reserve Board. They look at these kinds of numbers and they say, oh, my God, things are just too good. We need to raise interest rates. (Laughter.) In a sense, what would you like to say to them before they meet again?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we've adopted a policy of respecting the appropriate distance between the White House and the Federal Reserve Board, and we have been speaking with performance, not with rhetoric.
In the past two administrations, they would jawbone the Fed while exploding the budget deficit. And there is often a relationship between how much -- how poor the economic policy is and how much noise is directed at the Fed. We have taken a different approach because we think it's in the best interest of the country. We've concentrated on doing our job right -- getting the deficit down, managing the government well, creating jobs, creating a strong, sustainable recovery, keeping inflation down with the components that we can have an effect on, and then letting those results speak for themselves. I think that's by far a better way to go about it.
Q: Well, even so, in a sense, you say you've concentrated on doing your job; now, the Fed is going to, in a sense slap you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You don't know that. (Laughter.)
Q: Well, I don't want to say -- even economists say it's kind of ridiculous.
Q: Mr. Vice President, will you be surprised if the Federal Reserve Board, within a week or two weeks, raises interest rates?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm just not going to comment on that.
Q: Can you tell us where you will be campaigning in the next week and a half --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's tempting to just make a terrible mistake right here and let you write about it, but I'll refrain from it. I'm sorry. (Laughter.)
Q: Can you tell us for whom you will be campaigning in the next week and a half before the election? Do you know your schedule?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't have my schedule with me, but I'll be all over the country. I was in Texas and Florida yesterday; I'll be in Illinois today.
Q: For whom?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'll be in Chicago at the Hispanic dinner, and I'll be meeting with a number of people. I'll be glad to get you a schedule, if you like. It would be great to have some national correspondents traveling with me. (Laughter.) Okay.
Q: Mr. Vice President, consumer spending, or consumer installment credit, is up 17.6 percent. Wages are up 2.6 percent, and prices through August are up 2.9 percent. Now, aren't people supplementing their income with their credit cards, and aren't we headed for a crisis here, a bubble that must burst at some point, a time bomb waiting to happen? (Laughter.) Is that dire enough?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I knew that if you just used a sufficient amount of imagination, you could find some way to interpret this as troubling news. But, really, it's not. It's great news. It's the best of all possible worlds in economic policy. This is what you shoot for.
Now, traditionally, a lot of times Democrats have been in a position of reacting even to news like this by saying it's got to be much faster and much stronger. And there are a lot of people who are still hurting economically. We understand that. That's why we're focusing on our community empowerment strategy. That's why we're focusing on community development banking. That's why we fought so hard for the earned income tax credit and a series of other measures to focus in on those who have often been left behind in a national recovery.
But where the macro numbers are concerned, this kind of strong and steady growth without increasing inflation is really the best thing our country could hope for.
Now, we need patience and we need continued strong leadership, the kind President Clinton is providing, to stay on this course, build on the good start we've made, continue moving forward. The worst thing we could do -- it's hard to take the proposal seriously, but it's being put forward in this election -- the worst thing we could do is to stop the progress and take a radical, rightwing U-turn and pretend that we can give the wealthy a big tax cut, have a big increase in defense spending, and pretend that'll balance the budget. We tried that once before, for 12 years, and the debt quadrupled. This time, I suppose they're going to recommend again the Tinkerbell approach -- close your eyes and wish real hard, and somehow it'll work out. But when they promise to make all streets run downhill, I think the American people have a little more skepticism about that.
Now, in specific response to consumer behavior, we think that it is natural and good for the economy to be reacting to this good, strong performance with an increase in consumer confidence; you're seeing that all over the country. And growing consumer confidence sometimes, in the short term, leads to people going out and using a credit card as well as buying in cash. But that is a normal and natural phenomenon that does not create a disaster in the making. There is nothing bad about this news. This is great news. And it is another validation in spades of the economic policy being pursued by President Clinton, and endorsed by the Congress without a single Republican vote.
Q: Mr. Vice President, on Ollie North, last night Mrs. Reagan said that -- he lied to my husband, he lied about my husband, he kept things from him that should not have been kept from him. Would you like to comment on that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, Lorraine said no more. Oh, okay. (Laughter.)
Q: But you wouldn't comment -- you wouldn't talk to the Fed? (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, no. (Laughter.) Ollie North is like the job applicant who shines his shoes and develops a smoothtalking presentation, and comes in and makes a real strong bid to be hired. And then, the person who is tempted to hire him calls his previous employers, and the previous employer say, oh, my goodness, he is a pathological liar. He disgraced himself in his previous job. He cannot help but tell one lie right after another.
He broke the law, a jury convicted him, he misappropriated public funds for his own personal use. He lied about his superiors, he went contrary to what the people giving him orders told him to do. He disgraced the uniform of the United States Marine Corps by putting it on in order to make his lies more convincing under oath. And then he lied about his lies.
And he is banking on the fact that he can raise enough money from the extreme right wing, the extra chromosome right wing, to come in and buy enough advertising to just overwhelm the truth with blatant falsehoods. He wants the voters of Virginia to go to the polls and say, Ollie North is a man of strong character. Because he can't -- anybody who knows him, who he worked for in the past, says no, he doesn't have character, he lies, he should never be let close to a position of trust. And so he wants to try to con the voters into saying what people who really know him won't say.
Q: Are you surprised that Nancy Reagan said that, though? Are you surprised that --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, I'm not surprised. I'm not surprised that Nancy Reagan would say that, because Ronald Reagan said that, and Bud McFarlane said that, and Normal Schwarzkopf said that, and Colin Powell said that. And people who you would think would be his political allies who actually know what a serious problem he has in telling lies all say that.
So Nancy Reagan -- what she has said is consistent with what others who have worked with him say.
Q: Do you want to make any predictions about Democratic losses in the Senate or the House? New predictions?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that the prediction by Newt Gingrich that he is going to be speaker and his decision to go to work on his transition plan may be a little bit premature. Tom Dewey was working on his transition plan at a time when many predicted a disaster for Democrats, and the Republicans tried to seize what they thought was an opportunity by obstructing progress in the Congress, and the American people took a close look in the weeks preceding the election, and they said, wait a minute, what the Republicans are offering is nonsense, and what the Democrats are producing is good, steady progress that helps working people.
And we have that situation again, and so I'll make a flat-out prediction that when the voters go to the polls, they're going to deliver a rude surprise to Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole, and they're going to say, we want to build on the good start we've made, we want to continue moving forward, we don't want to go back to trickle-down Reaganomics.
Q: So what is your prediction?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We're going to do extremely well.
Q: What's an "extra chromosome Republican"?
Q: Right wing.
Q: Extra Y chromosome?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, no, no. (Laughter.) That's the extreme right wing I'm talking about.
Q: It wasn't anything to do with mental deficiency? I mean, an extra chromosome -- was that a reference -- to mongoloid?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Are we having a bit of political correctness here? No, it wasn't. No, you remember -- oh, for goodness sakes -- what I meant was the extreme right wing, the ones that support Ollie North.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 12:34 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by the Vice President Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269767