George Bush photo

Remarks at a Bush-Quayle Fundraising Dinner in Los Angeles, California

February 25, 1992

Thank you all very, very much. And what a pleasure it is to be here with Pete Wilson, to be introduced by this man who is doing so much for the State. And thank you for heading our campaign and being at our side today. It is a pleasure to see you and Gayle. May I thank our master of ceremonies, Johnny Grant; say to the next team, Rabbi Greenbaum and Cheryl Ladd, who did a great job on the pledge without missing a beat; and Bobby Britt who did the national anthem. And thanks to everyone who has organized this extraordinary gathering. What did you do? Tell these folks that they had moved the Academy Awards to tonight, I think, when we look around back here. And I'm very grateful.

And let me just say it's also a great pleasure to see Don Bren, who is one of our national cochairmen, and Lod Cook, another one. And thanks to both of you for making this a highly successful event. Greetings also to Bobby Holt, who is our national finance chairman; former Secretary Bob Mosbacher, who did a superb job as our Secretary of Commerce, who is the chairman of our campaign; and all the other Bush-Quayle vice chairmen here tonight.

What an amazing crowd and what enthusiasm. And you all make me feel so young, especially Bob Hope. [Laughter] You know, Bob told you only half the story. That story he told was true about Desert Storm. He went over there, but what he forgot to tell you because of his modesty is, I got more reports back from Norm Schwarzkopf and from Powell and from all of them about the lift that gave to those kids, many of whom had been months sitting out in the desert. And we're very, very grateful to him.

And I'm touched, to paraphrase John Kennedy, I'm touched by your warm response, but not half as touched as all of you have been. This has been a big success.

Let me start tonight by sharing my concern for all the many southern Californians who have been ravaged by the record floods here. And I'm pleased to say that today, on Air Force One, I signed a declaration to provide much-needed disaster relief to flood victims. You're hurting, and we'll get you help. And the Governor promptly moved on that for the State.

I want to talk tonight about some of the challenges that we face, about the decisions that will make this election year, that really are going to chart this country's history for the next 5 years. And let me say it straight: What Government can do and what it can't do, and what I will do as President, and then where I'll need your help.

Let's start with the number one issue on everyone's mind, and that is the economy. One month ago, as Pete said, in that State of the Union, I laid out a two-part economic action plan: for the short term, a plan to get this economy moving as early as this spring, and then a longer term plan to keep America competitive in the next century. And I asked the Democrats who control the Congress to act for the good of the country, to lay politics aside. And I gave Congress those 52 days to pass my plan.

And since then, some Democrats have been wrestling with their consciences. It's still too early to predict who will win. But instead of working on my plan, the House Democrats surfaced their own. And true to form, it is a temporary tax cut in exchange for a permanent tax hike. And that tax cut works out to 25 cents per person. Sounds big in a package for the consumption in the political arena, but that's what it makes, 25 cents per person. And to make it permanent the Democrats would have to jack up the income tax rate for every American making more than $35,000 a year, $35,000. For a plan that is supposed to help the middle class, that's going to come as real news to a lot of factory workers and schoolteachers and everyday Americans struggling to make ends meet.

So let's face it, the Democrats are going to tax the middle class for the same reason that Willie Sutton robbed banks, because that's where the money is. They say they're going to hit the rich, and they end up hitting the small guy.

Now, my economic plan is built on seven specific proposals to stimulate this tired economy. And if you want to give American companies a reason to expand, then give them -- and this can be done in the remaining days -- my investment tax allowance. Speed up depreciation. And if you really want to do something about boosting the sagging housing market and if you want to give American families a shot at the American dream, then give those first-time homebuyers what my plan does, a $5,000 tax credit toward that first home. Give those young families a chance.

And finally, let me say this to the Congress: If you are serious about competitiveness and if you are serious about creating the jobs, then cut the tax on capital gains and stimulate investment.

That's not the only fight I've got with the Capitol Hill crowd. Take a look at national defense. And it is important to remind ourselves that 365 days ago to this very minute we were starting that flanking movement around the Iraqi army in the sands. And a few months before that, nobody dreamed we'd be faced with that kind of aggression. For decades, we faced a dangerous enemy abroad. And we fought those at home who would have stripped this Nation of the strength that it needed to defend itself, those that always wanted to cut defense. Republicans fought hard on both fronts. And winning the defense battle on Capitol Hill helped us win the cold war. And no one understood that better than my predecessor, Ronald Reagan. He stood for a strong defense and stood up for our principles.

And now, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, imperial communism as we know it gone, we can reduce defense spending substantially. I sat down with the Joint Chiefs and Chairman Powell and the Secretary of Defense, and we worked out a sensible defense build-down. We're talking about $50 billion more cut, one that will recognize post-cold-war realities, but still leave this country with the muscle that we need to meet whatever danger comes our way.

I know that's a concern here in southern California, with its proud tradition of pushing the frontier in aerospace and producing weapon systems that redefined state-of-the-art. We have a number of Federal programs aimed now, as we cut down on defense spending, at helping those workers, those good workers, those defense industry workers as they seek new careers. And we're taking steps to ease the transition that many firms will face as they shift from defense-related work to the commercial economy. And that's what my technology transfer initiative is all about, getting research done in Government labs out into the private economy. And in May we're going to bring that message to Cal Tech through our national technology initiative. Our approach is the sensible way to go, the right way to keep the economy sound and at the same time keep our Nation strong and safe.

But there are Democrats with a very different plan in mind. And they want to use the end of the cold war to open a bidding war to see who can gut defense the fastest. And one scheme would cut defense by an additional $200 billion. And nationwide, cuts on that scale would wipe out hundreds of thousands of jobs, to say nothing about rendering us incapable of responding to aggression overseas.

Right now, $1 out of every $5 spent on defense is spent right here in California. And think of the shockwaves that reckless defense cuts would touch off in the construction and in the electronics and aerospace industries and the aftershock for the real estate markets. Think of the workers, the welders to the engineers, thrown out of work and onto welfare. For the sake of national security and for the sake of just plain economic common sense and for the sake of this State and the country, I ask you to draw the line and say no to those who want to recklessly gut the national defense of this country.

We can turn this economy around provided we deal in economic reality. And it all comes down to this: To succeed economically at home, we've got to lead economically abroad. And there's no better case in point than California. This State accounts for $1 in every $7 of American exports. In 1990 alone, two-way trade reached nearly $166 billion. Statewide, that means 725,000 jobs, close to three-quarters of a million jobs tied to trade.

And it's more true than ever before today that America's future lies in opening markets. But our opponents aren't about to let fact intrude on fantasy. Their prescription for the nineties is to sound an economic retreat and raise the trade barriers and build new barricades to keep imports out and take this country back to the dangerous pre-World War II isolationism. I am not going to let that happen as long as I am President of the United States. We are going to stay engaged and lead the world.

That is not the American way. We don't cut and run; we compete. And I'll put my faith in the American worker. So clear away the trade barriers, go head-to-head, and the American worker will outthink and outperform and outproduce anybody, anyplace, anytime.

People here want to know that increased trade doesn't mean a tradeoff when it comes to concerns about our environment. And earlier this afternoon we had a wonderful meeting. I announced the new initiative to ensure that the promise of free trade includes protection for the environment. And we're working with the Government of Mexico. And we will commit well over $1 billion in new resources over the next 3 years to protect drinking water, pay for cleanups, and enforce hazardous waste laws along the U.S.-Mexican border. And I can say to the people of this great State: Here's proof that we can sustain a strong economy and a sound environment.

Whether it's the environment, the economy, or any other issue, there's a new reality now in the way people live and work and look at Government. People don't really buy the old "big Government" rhetoric. They've seen enough social engineering. And they know America's greatness doesn't spring from Government. Our strengths are in our people, in our families, in our communities. And Government can't raise your kids to know right from wrong. It can't legislate happy endings. Government isn't why people work hard, raise a family, save for retirement.

Year after year, the folks who control the Congress have pushed spending higher and higher. In 1993, the Federal Government will spend $1.5 trillion of taxpayers' money. And people are entitled to ask, "Am I getting my $1.5 trillion's worth?" We need to get back to the basics. Government is too big, and it spends too much. So give me the line-item veto, and let the executive branch try to cut some of the fat out of the budget. Forty-three Governors have it, and 43 Governors do a good job utilizing it. We need for Government to do less but do better and to focus on what people want and deserve: safe streets, good schools, a strong economy, and a strong country.

And today we see the return of responsibility, an old idea that never really went out of style. People have had it with the no-fault lifestyle. In their private lives they know actions have consequences. And what they want is a Government whose policies and programs recognize that people are responsible for their actions and that Government is responsible to the people. And if you think about it, that's nothing more than a working definition of freedom.

Because we believe in responsibility, we believe in education reform. And we've laid out a strategy called America 2000. It literally revolutionizes our schools. Doing it the old way isn't good enough anymore. And we need to hold our kids and our teachers to a higher standard. And here's a radical notion, as our national education plan calls for: Let's test our kids to see where we're doing well and where we need more work. And our schools need a dose of competition with each other. Right now in public schools in Los Angeles and across the country, kids are a captive audience. Now, give parents a chance to choose their children's schools, and you'll see our schools start doing their homework. School choice is right, and it is working in many States. School choice will work across this Nation.

And because we believe in responsibility, we back legal reform. Sorry to say this in "L.A. Law" country, but here's the plain fact: America has become the land of the lawsuit. And we put forward a plan to cut down the number of frivolous suits. They sap our economy, and they strain our patience. And when a father can't coach Little League because he's worried about getting sued, something's wrong. And when your neighbor becomes a plaintiff, something's wrong. Our country would be a lot better off if we spent as much time helping each other as we do suing each other. And so I will challenge the Congress again and again to do something about the reforms that we have pending up there on Capitol Hill right now.

Because we believe in responsibility, we take a hard line on crime and drugs. Tomorrow Barbara and I fly down to San Antonio, and there I'll meet with five Presidents of Latin American countries, Latin American leaders, work with them to sharpen our strategy to beat this scourge. And yes, we're waging a war to cut the supply lines that funnel drugs into the crack houses that plague good neighborhoods across L.A. County. Interception of drugs coming in is way, way up. But we're battling, also, on the demand side. And we set a goal to drive down current adolescent cocaine use by 30 percent. And we've seen a dramatic 60-percent decrease. Now, that's good news.

But we all know we can't claim victory yet. We must show that here, too, actions have consequences. And that's why we need stiffer sentences for drug dealers. We need courts that punish criminals, not honest cops out there trying to do their jobs. We need laws that make life tougher on the criminals than on the victims of crime. And we need to get that House of Representatives to pass my crime bill and pass it now.

Because we believe in responsibility, we believe in welfare reform. And people are willing to support benefits. Look, we care. We're Americans. We care about the other guy. But Americans want to see some connection between welfare and work. They want to see governments at every level work together to track down the deadbeat fathers, those who can't be bothered to pay child support. And they want to see us break the cycle of dependency that destroys dignity and passes down poverty from one generation to the next. That's wrong to do that, and we're going to do something to change it.

Right here in California, your able Governor Pete Wilson's got a plan that will encourage people on welfare to take work when they can find it; for pregnant teens or parents to stay in school, get the education they'll need to make a better future, a future where they won't need that next welfare check. And we support him. You say, what can we do to help California? Simple, we can start by getting Washington out of the way. And I'll tell you, we will do all that we can to remove the burdensome Federal regulations, to help you cut through the web of redtape to real reform.

The reforms I've spoken about tonight can spark a revolution to bring this country home to the bedrock beliefs that have made us great: Faith and family, responsibility and respect, community and country. Simple words, certain truths that hold a world of meaning for every American.

And I might say parenthetically, if I could be prideful in my comment, I am very, very proud of what Barbara does to demonstrate strength of family and the caring that we all feel in our hearts.

But here's what I know about this country's future: No matter how tough times are right now, no matter what trials we face, America's best day always lies ahead. And I believed that when I was a little boy. I believe it now. I believe it every day I live because that is the great glory of the United States of America.

Thank you all, and may God bless our great country.

Note: The President spoke at 8:58 p.m. at the Century Plaza Hotel. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

George Bush, Remarks at a Bush-Quayle Fundraising Dinner in Los Angeles, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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