Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session During a United States Chamber of Commerce Teleconference on Job Training Programs

November 19, 1982

The President. I appreciate this fine effort by your United States Chamber and the National Alliance of Business. Both your organizations have made major contributions to increasing private sector training and job opportunities for all Americans—especially for those in need.

I understand this program will be beamed to some 37 locations around the country and viewed by corporate and community leaders anxious to make the Job Training Partnership Act a success. Well, that's great news, because I know there's one concern all of us share. While we've made solid progress against the disease that crippled our economy—the runaway inflation, taxes, and interest rates—unemployment remains far too high. It is unacceptable. Our administration's most urgent priority is to see that we have enough jobs for all the people who want to work. We need the strength of every back and the power of every mind if we're to lift our country up again to greatness.

As lower inflation and interest rates began sparking a rebound in bedrock industries, something that's now begun in housing, we will see the job market expanding again. Recovery will come gradually, because we're determined not to repeat the quick-fix mistakes of the past. Our administration intends to build a new kind of recovery, a recovery that will last. But as our program takes hold, we can take action to bring unemployment down faster without igniting the bonfires of high inflation and interest rates.

We can take action to lower structural unemployment and to promote more savings and investment—the keys to stronger growth, more jobs, and a higher standard of living. These initiatives can be taken at the national level, but their success depends on your leadership and support at the grass roots.

When we talk about structural unemployment, we mean the kind of unemployment that is not always cured by a general economic recovery. Our goal is a full-employment economy. So, we must design policies to solve structural unemployment.

For example, 40 percent of the unemployed in America are less than 25 years old, and almost one-half of that group are teenagers. They are unemployed because our labor market is not matching people with jobs. We must find ways to strengthen their skills and to provide new opportunities for prospective workers of all ages as America works to get the investment—or to meet the investment challenge, I should say, of the eighties.

Now, one such initiative, the Job Training Partnership Act, is the subject of this meeting today. I believe this program looks to the future rather than the past. When I signed the legislation last month, I pledged it would not be another bureaucratic boondoggle but would provide help and bring hope. Our aim is training for up to a million unemployed Americans each year in skills they can use in the private sector.

Now, why are we confident this program can succeed when so many others before have failed? Well, the difference is you. This time, you, the private employers of America, will lead, not the Federal Government. The whole idea behind the job-training act is the spirit of new federalism. Private employers will work with Governors and locally elected officials to ensure a proper balance of activity within the States. With your leadership, the States can plan and carry out a training program that spends our resources the way they should be spent—on training our people. Too often in the past, the bulk of funds set aside for Government job-training programs has been used to pay bureaucrats, not to help the needy. By embarking [earmarking] at least 70 cents of every program dollar for job training, we can eliminate the bureaucratic waste of the past.

No one knows better than private employers the skills today's employees need or how to train them for the sunrise industries that will pioneer products and technologies for tomorrow. Never have we had a greater need for job training in America. So, I'm making an appeal: Please do what you do best—be leaders and help us make this program work.

The Job Training Partnership Act provides you with the opportunity to work locally to explore targeted policies to reduce high youth unemployment. This can include working on ways to improve the transition from school to work, to help those who do not go on to college but who often lack the requisite skills to handle available jobs. Here again, the answer is better training. Not only will this training help the individual, it can reduce the cost to employers of hiring young workers and the long-term unemployed.

We must move forward together on other fronts. In September I signed the Export Trading Company Act, which I know the U.S. Chamber strongly supports. This legislation will increase exports and create trade-related jobs by encouraging formation of trading companies. The idea is already being used against us by our principal competitors. With your help, we'll even up those odds. We'll win back America's reputation as the great Yankee trader.

Our administration will also push in the lame-duck session for passage of our enterprise zones initiative. This bill can revive the most impoverished areas of America, provide new incentives to develop business and create jobs. In a time of high unemployment, there is no excuse for further delay on enterprise zones. We must not slam shut the doors of opportunity on those who look to us for help.

None of these actions would take us back to the inflationary, make-work programs of the past. But they would help us lower structural unemployment. Still, let's remember the other solution we need, the long-term cure that will make America more competitive, more productive, better equipped to provide good jobs and a higher standard of living for our people. That's the power of investment. Savings finance investment and investment creates growth. But during the last decade in America, we saved and invested at less than half the rate of our major competitors. The investment challenge is America's challenge for the eighties.

Our program of tax incentives has begun to correct the savings and investment gap. But the program represents a mere down payments on what needs to be done. America can and must do better. So, let me make something plain: We don't need fewer incentives for people and more spending by government; we need less spending by government and more opportunity for the American people. And that's the direction I intend to go.

Practically all the talk in Washington is about what government will do to the taxpayers. Well, it's time we got back to a dialog about what government can do for the taxpayers. We cannot create jobs and reduce projected deficits on the backs of hard-working American families. We must have an agenda of incentives for growth. Growth is the answer for America.

You know, the spirit of the American Revolution was born in an idea that remains true for all time. If freedom and opportunity are to flourish, limits must be placed on the size and authority of government. But no limit must be placed on the ability of any man or woman to reach for the stars, to go as far as their God-given talents will take them.

We came to Washington to revive the spirit of the American Revolution. Some are saying our work is already done. Well, I would answer, "We have barely begun." With your help, we will put the age of inflation behind us and bring a new age of opportunity and progress to America's doorstep.

And now, Meryl, I'll quit talking long enough to field some questions from your listeners.

Ms. Comer. Thank you, Mr. President. Let's move to Charlotte, North Carolina, where our first caller is Wally Jorgenson. Mr. Jorgenson, you're on the line.

Mr. Jorgenson. Thank you. Mr. President, the unemployment rate is presently 10.4 percent. There are over 11,600,000 people out of work. What can a training program do to reduce unemployment when there are so few jobs available?

The President. Well, Wally, maybe there are more jobs available than we realize. You know, when I was talking about structural unemployment, I think you should know that in the last couple of years, just 2 years, 3 million of those 11 million unemployed were newcomers into the job market, and there were no jobs available for them. But take a look on any given Sunday to a metropolitan newspaper. I've been doing it here with the Washington papers. I've been doing it with my hometown paper, the Los Angeles Times. And just a couple of weeks ago, the Washington paper had 34 full pages of help wanted ads, and the Los Angeles paper had 52 such pages. This is true in most metropolitan areas on any given Sunday.

Now, these are employers advertising for employees. And the reason those jobs are open is because there aren't people with the training or experience to fill those jobs. This is why our program is aimed at being implemented at the local level with your help, with business people out there and local officials aiming the jobs or the job training at the jobs that are open in those communities.

Ms. Comer. Mr. President, we're now going to go to your home State, go out to Los Angeles, California. We have on the line Willard G. Carr, Jr.

Mr. Carr, go ahead, please.

Mr. Carr. Mr. President, Willard Carr, chairman of the board and CEO of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and a partner in Gibson, Dunning, Krutcher law firm.

Mr. President, the Job Training Partnership Act calls for a much greater involvement of the private sector in employment programs. Do you believe that the private sector will step up to this challenge?

The President. Yes, I do, because, as a matter of fact, over a period of time, the private sector has been spending about $30 billion on job training, on-the-job training, as well as other programs of that kind. I know that a number of communities across the country, the private sector has—and with, we think, some encouragement from our private initiative sector—has started such programs themselves. And what we want to do is simply help.

We want to spread the word about successful programs to other communities. And I am convinced that from what I've seen so far the private sector out there is just simply waiting for someone to point a finger in a direction that they can go to further improve things.

Ms. Comer. Mr. President, our next caller is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is Donald Clay.-Mr. Clay?

Mr. Clay. Good morning, Mr. President. This act has been called a first step in the new federalism, because it gives Governors substantially greater authority. Based on your experience as Governor of California, do you believe States are prepared for this increased responsibility?

The President. Yes, I do. And let me tell you why I do. When I was Governor, many of the Federal programs that were sent to us came so encumbered with red tape and specific declarations of how we had to implement those programs that we found there was an ignoring on the part of the Federal Government of what our priorities might be. This is a great, diverse country, and we found that if we had had more say in directing that Federal aid, we not only could have saved money, we could have been more efficient, more effective.

I have talked to a mayor not too long ago who was telling about a Federal program that had to do with the handicapped and the buses in his city. And he said the program that was dictated to him by the Federal Government was so expensive that for less money than that, with regard to what he had to do with his buses, he could have afforded to send every handicapped person any place they wanted to go in taxicabs.

Yes, we have tried over the years. When I say "we," let me change that. The Federal Government over the years, in the past, has tried to reduce the States to mere administrative districts of the Federal Government. But we're a federation of sovereign States, and I am fully confident that at the local and the State level they are better equipped to know what their priorities are and how best to approach them, and that's why we have been changing as rapidly as we can persuade Congress to do it—specific grants from the Federal Government to block grants, giving the States that leeway.

Ms. Comer. Mr. President, let's now move to Louisville, Kentucky, where your caller is Miss Elaine Musselman.

Ms. Musselman. This is Cissy Musselman, president of the Louisville Area Chamber of Commerce and managing director of Harrison Company, insurance agency.

Mr. President, this law provides for training unemployed people. The enterprise zone plan calls for developing jobs in areas where unemployment is highest. Do you expect the enterprise zone legislation to pass the new Congress?

The President. Yes, but I could use all your help, Cissy—all of you there—to let the Congress-know. This has been a long time now, about a year, before the Congress, and it needs to be acted upon. As a matter of fact—and this partly answers the previous question also—the Governor of Louisiana has stooped waiting for the Federal Government and at the State level has instituted an enterprise zone act or program down there that's working just fine.

And this program is one that there is no cost. There are tax incentives involved for both individuals and for business, businesses that will come into those enterprise zones. But those tax incentives aren't costing anything either, because right now we're not getting tax from those zones. The local government isn't getting property tax, because most of the property there has been taken over by the government for nonpayment of taxes. It's been abandoned. The individuals are not only not paying tax, but most of them are already wards of the government by way of our very many social welfare programs.

So, it benefits us to offer these incentives while those people stop being wards of the government, become useful employees and while businesses start up there that otherwise would not come in to take advantage of the available labor and those tax advantages.

Ms. Comer. Mr. President, let's move on to New Orleans, Louisiana, where we have on the line Harry McCall. Mr. McCall?

Mr. McCall. Good morning, Mr. President, I am chairman-elect of the Chamber of Commerce of New Orleans and the River Region, and I would like to ask you, if I may, whether spending this money on public service employment would not create more jobs and be a better investment of public funds.

The President. Mr. McCall, as a former Governor, let me tell you that while there were some programs—some of the CETA programs and so forth—that served a useful purpose, at a much higher cost I might say, a higher percentage of the dollars in administrative overhead than will be devoted to that in this program. Those programs that I speak of as having served a useful purpose were for the most part the programs that did involve training for the private sector. We found in California, in our experience, that too many of these jobs creating public employment became boondoggles. They just simply padded the rolls of the various levels of government with excess employees. And then if the program came to an end, it was either the local government and the taxpayers who had to then carry, keep on these excess employees, or they had to be dismissed. And they had not been trained, again, for the real jobs with a future that are out there in the private sector.

So, no, I don't believe that taking on added employees or training for public service is equal to training people for the jobs that are open and waiting out there for skilled and experienced employees.

Ms. Comer. Mr. President, waiting out there in Bloomington, Minnesota—I don't know if they're snowed in yet—is Bill Queenan.

Mr. Queenan?

Mr. Queenan. Mr. President, this is Bill Queenan, president of the Northwestern National Bank in Bloomington, Minnesota, and a vice president of the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. President, this act has a program for training displaced workers, those workers who, in many instances, have been laid off because of foreign competition. Do you see this program helping American workers become more productive and better able to compete with workers from other countries?

The President. Yes, I do. And incidentally, I can't resist saying that my first time to ever visit your State was to broadcast an Iowa-Minnesota football game. But, I do believe this, because part of the structural employment problem has to do also with jobs that won't exist for those who have been laid off anymore, that there have been changes in the makeup of work here in our country—modernization in certain plants in which the jobs will no longer be necessary. And these workers must be retrained for the other kind of jobs that are coming on line in this changing economy of ours. And, so, that is very definitely an important part of the program and an important responsibility.

When I keep saying "structural," what I really mean is that if the recession ended tomorrow, there would still be a higher unemployment problem than we've been used to in the past because of the increased influx into the job market of workers, or the percentage of adults who are seeking work, and because of these people whose jobs have just been technologically wiped out. And we must meet that problem, too.

Ms. Comer. Mr. President, you've been very generous with your time. That's all the time we have for calls. I'd like to extend a thank you from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Alliance of Business for taking the time to join us today for this 2-hour program.

Note: The President spoke at 11:40 a.m. from the Washington, D.C, studios of the Teleconference Center of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Ms. Comer was moderator of the program, which was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the National Alliance of Business.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session During a United States Chamber of Commerce Teleconference on Job Training Programs Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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