Bill Clinton photo

Remarks to Employees at the Chrysler Jeep Plant in Toledo

August 27, 1996

The President. Thank you. I'm glad to see you, and I'm glad to be here.

Audience member. Put the hat back on!

The President. I can't talk with a hat on. [Laughter] My brain's not working. It's only— it's early, you know. [Laughter] But you'll see me with this on again. I'll run in it, play golf in it.

I want to thank Dennis Pawley for what he said out here a few minutes ago and for the leadership that he's given to Chrysler and our partnership. I want to thank your plant manager for showing me around and bragging on you. I thank my old friend Rob Liberatore for coming from Washington for Chrysler, and Lloyd Mahaffey and Bruce Baumhower, and Ron Conrad and all the people from the UAW. And one of your members behind me gave me this very old UAW pin, and I'll collect it and it will have a prominent place in the White House in my collection. So I'm glad to have that.

I'll tell you, I was listening to the mayor talk, listening to Marcy talk, and I thought there's more energy in Toledo than any other place in America. I never heard such—[applause]. Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for what you said and for the partnerships we've had both in building up the economy and trying to tear down crime. And in both places you've worked hard when we've worked together, and I thank you for that. Thank you, Marcy Kaptur, for being perhaps the most ferocious defender of middle class economics and middle class values in the Congress of the United States. Thank you, John Glenn, for all you have done for this State and this country, for your partnership with me in helping to rebuild our economy and helping to make this a safer world.

You know, I've heard Senator Glenn introduced a lot, and two things I rarely ever hear— one I want to tell you is that he said we have downsized the Government. We had to. We wanted to put 100,000 more police on your streets, and we had a big Government, and we had a huge deficit. We had to find some way to pay for it. We couldn't just pay for it with a tax increase, so we reduced the size of Government. But you never hear about it in America, and I'm proud of that because we did it in a good way.

Of the 250,000 fewer people that are working for the Federal Government today, fewer than 1,800 were involuntarily separated. We gave those folks early retirement. We helped them find other jobs. They went on to other careers in dignity, so they could support their families and go forward into the future. And I'm proud of that. I'm proud of that. And John Glenn was one of the people who found ways for us to save money and to do things so we could do that and treat people humanely. He played a major role in that, especially in the first 2 years of my administration. And there are families out there who can thank God that he found ways to save money, for example, in the way the Pentagon bought their purchases and deal with the personnel systems. All that's real people, and it matters.

And speaking of real people, I hope you were proud of Todd last night. He was great at the Democratic Convention. I've been asked several times by the press, why do we have Todd Clancy? Why do we have Mike Robbins, the Chicago police officer who was riddled with bullets in an assault weapons hail on the street of Chicago after serving our country in Vietnam and Desert Storm and never being wounded? Why did we have that young Puerto Rican American woman who was an AmeriCorps volunteer and is now going to go on and be a doctor after being a high school dropout? Why do we have these people talk? Why do we have the superintendent of schools in Seattle, Washington, who is an Army General?

[At this point, an audience member required medical attention.]

The President. We need a doctor here. My doctor is here—can we get somebody over here?

And I want you to—we're okay; we've got somebody here now. I want you to know why we asked citizens to go to a political convention and kick it off. Why do we have Jim and Sarah Brady, lifelong Republicans, come and talk? Why do we ask Christopher Reeve, a man who's not particularly political but is a shining example of the kind of courage never to give up, to talk about the importance of Government research and the importance of continuing the Medicaid program so we don't cut off middle class families who don't have a lot of money to deal with disabled people in their family and keep guaranteeing them their health care so they can keep their good jobs? Why did we do all that? Because people lose the connection between what is done in Government and what happens in your daily lives. It's easy to lose that connection. It meant an awful lot to me when Dennis Pawley talked about how I asked to meet with the representatives of the auto industry soon after my election as President, and I said we'd put a premium on that. I knew that America could not lose its auto industry. I knew we could be number one again. And I think the best way to say that and to show the connection between what we do in Washington and what you do in Toledo is to have a person like Todd Clancy tell a personal story that shows how America's life can be changed if we work together and do the rights things. And I know you are proud of him, and so am I.

And I was proud to be here today to see the 2 millionth Jeep roll off the assembly line.

I love that. You proved one more time that whenever we're given a chance to compete, we can be the best in the world. We can be the best in the world. And you have made us proud. That was true in World War II when that old Jeep was made.

And I want to just tell you, I'm getting a little sensitive about my age. I just became eligible for my AARP card. [Laughter] But I am so old that when I was a little boy, 6 years old, the first time I ever crawled under a car, my stepfather owned a little Buick dealership in a little town in Arkansas where he came from, but we also owned a Henry J—an old Henry J Kaiser—and we owned a late 1940's model Jeep. And back then, the civilian Jeeps looked just like the military Jeeps. Just think how rich I'd be if I'd saved that thing. I wish we had never gotten rid of it.

But I feel real nostalgic here today, and I thank you. But I also want to thank you for what you're doing because I had the privilege to do something I wish every one of you could do. I went in to the showroom of an auto dealership in Japan where they were selling the Jeeps that you made here in Toledo. And I was swelling with pride. And I spoke to a Japanese family who told me how grateful they were that they had a chance to look around for what they thought was the very best vehicle for their family. And believe me, these people had looked around; they knew more about that Jeep than some of us do. [Laughter] It was amazing. And they said they were grateful to have a chance to buy the product of your hard, productive labor. I wish every one of you could have that experience. You would have been so proud. And I was swelling with pride for you and for our country because of what you did. And I thank you for that as well.

But you know, Marcy had it right, the purpose of politics and the purpose of work is to enable people to live out their dreams, to enable them to raise strong families and build strong communities and advance the cause of freedom. That's the purpose of all this. And that's what we're trying to do. We've had a pretty good week, and as I've been saying on this train, we're not only on the right track to Chicago, we're on the right track to the 21st century. And we need to stay right on it.

Before I got on this train, last week I signed a bill that raised the minimum wage for 10 million Americans, people that are working hard and deserve it. And while I'm at it, I'd like to pay another compliment to the labor movement, not just to the UAW but to the whole labor movement. Organized labor worked as hard as any group in America to raise the minimum wage. There are very few labor union members in any union that make the minimum wage or anything real close to it. But the laboring people of this country, through their organized leadership, labored for the minimum wage because they want all people who work for a living to have the dignity and the reward of work. And I think Americans should be grateful to the labor movement for standing up for the minimum wage.

That bill, by the way, also made it easier for people who work in small businesses to do something that you can do. We made it a lot easier for small businesses to take out a retirement plan and for people who work for small businesses to keep that retirement when they move from job to job. We made it easier for families to adopt children, offering a $5,000 tax credit to anybody who would adopt a child, an even bigger one if the child has a disability. We removed the barriers to cross-racial adoption. That bill was pro-business, pro-labor, and pro-family. It was a good day for America when it became the law of the land. And I thank Congresswoman Kaptur and Senator Glenn for their strong support of it.

I signed the Kennedy-Kassebaum health care bill, a bill that we've needed a long time, a bill that says to 25 million Americans who'll be affected by it, "Nobody can deny you insurance anymore if somebody in your family's been sick, and it can't be taken away from you if you have to change jobs." That is a very, very important advance for America.

So I feel good about what's been happening.

Audience member. We feel good, too!

The President. And I thank you.

This global market is a tough thing to operate in. When I became President, I decided that we didn't have an option to walk away from the trading world, and we got some benefits from it. But if we were going to have free trade, it had to be fair. It had to be fair to our workers, fair to our environment, fair to our children, fair to our future. I was prepared to have us compete on a fair and equal footing with anybody, anywhere. But it had to be that way. And we worked very, very hard to enable you to reap the benefits of becoming the most productive auto industry in the world again.

You know, just 4 years ago, this plant exported 17,500 Cherokees and, this year, 41,500. That's what you did. That means 700 more good middle class jobs and strong families, 700 more Americans with a success story to tell. And that's why Todd Clancy went to Chicago to talk to America, to remind America that there is a connection between what we do or fail to do in Washington and how you live in Toledo and all across the United States.

Now, let me say just one or two other things. John Glenn talked about what was said or not said by our friends in San Diego. Well, that's politics; you can't expect them to be out there promoting us. [Laughter] I mean, I didn't hold it against them. But on the other hand, it is a fact that today the unemployment rate in Ohio is under 5 percent. It is a fact that America has more than 10 million more jobs. It is a fact that we've got 900,000 new construction jobs. It's a fact that 4.4 million Americans have become homeowners for the first time and 10 million more have refinanced their mortgages at lower interest rates because of what has been done.

It is a fact that we have negotiated 200 new trade agreements to open new markets and give American workers a fair break. It is a fact that for the first time in history we're also exporting, in addition to autos and auto parts to Japan, things like rice—which I never thought I'd live to see, coming from the largest rice-producing State in the world—and cellular telephones, and all manner of other things. And in the 21 areas covered by our Japanese trade agreements, exports are up a total of 85 percent in just 4 years. America can compete.

And what has happened is that, thanks to you and people like you all over this country, and especially—it's already been noted we have Senator Riegle, Governor Blanchard, a lot of very distinguished citizens from Michigan here. They know a little something about cars, too. [Laughter] And thanks to the people of Ohio and Michigan and the other places where automobiles are produced, for the first time since the 1970's, America—America—is the number one producer and seller of automobiles again in the entire world.

Now, I want to say to you, we need to focus on what we're going to do to keep this going. We can't backslide; we have to go forward. It means that this trade work has got to continue. We have got—we have got—to do what brought you to this point. We have to keep opening more markets. We have to watch it that markets don't get closed. We do have to be prepared to impose sanctions if people don't treat our workers and their families fairly. We have to be prepared to be firm in this, to keep trying to build an open trading system that is both open and fair, not only to us but to other wealthier countries as well.

We want to lift countries up to our level. We don't want to see people dragged down to the lowest level in the global economy. We want it to lead to growth everywhere. The more other people do well, the more they will be able to buy our products, and other countries and their leaders need to know that. There is nothing in it for them to try to force down the American standard of living. They should be trying to lift the standard of living of the people in their own countries. And we will help if they will do that.

Let me say this is not a particularly stimulating issue, I know, but that's why it's so important that we keep bringing this deficit down to balance the budget. You need to know that its not just a question of the debt we would leave to your children; it's a question of how you live right now.

Why? Because from the moment I announced after I was elected President that we were going to have a serious attempt to get rid of this deficit after our national debt had gone up by 4 times in only 12 years, interest rates started to fall. In addition to the trade agreements and your efforts, it was those falling interest rates that have helped the American economy come back. When the interest rates go down, what does that mean? That means your home mortgage payment goes down. That means your credit card payment goes down. That means people's monthly car payment goes down. That means more people buy cars, more people buy homes, more people buy other things. And they are more stable. Their income goes further.

Most important, it means that interest rates for companies like Chrysler go down, and companies big and small can borrow money, invest it, build new businesses, hire new people, and keep this economy going. We've got average wages finally going up in this country for the first time in a decade in the last year or so.

We've got to keep it going. We can't turn that around. We can't turn that around.

Now, that's why every middle class American working family should care about financial responsibility. And that's why if we stay on a path and we balance this budget in the right way— I say the right way—we can have a growing economy. The right way is to do it without having crippling cuts in the things that are important to our future and important to our obligations. That means we have to balance the budget without cutting back on education, from college loans to Head Start, without eroding our protection for the environment, without eroding our obligations to people who need help, families with disabilities, poor children, the elderly in nursing homes through the Medicaid program, and without doing more to Medicare than is necessary to balance the budget and stabilize the Medicare program. I don't support those excessive cuts, and we don't have to have them.

It also means that we can have tax cuts for working families, but they need to be tax cuts we can afford. Because if you have one that's more than you can afford, your interest rates will go up and it will turn right back around and take away from you what you were going to get in a tax cut.

So, yes, we should give people tax relief, for children under 13 a tax credit. We should give people like you greater access to an IRA and let you withdraw from it with no penalty to buy that first home or educate your kids or deal with a medical emergency.

We should allow you—I have proposed a tax credit that will make community college as universal as a high school education is today, a $1,500 tax credit a family for the first 2 years of education after high school, a $10,000 deduction for the cost of all college tuition—$10,000 a year. That will help a lot of you send your kids to college. Now, we can afford that. We can afford that. But even though it's election year, I'm not going to stand up and tell you that you can have something that I don't think we can afford. You wouldn't go to the bank and borrow money to give yourself a tax cut, and you shouldn't ask me to do the same thing. [Laughter] I am going to do what I think is right to keep this economy going. I want more stories like Toledo. I want more stories like Toledo.

And let me say that for all of our talk about the role of Government and my administration and my personal commitment, the real credit for this today goes to you, to you and the American people who are supporting you. But you can have the best government policies in the world, but if the workers aren't productive, it doesn't work. You can have the best policies in the world, but if labor and management fight all the time instead of working together, it doesn't work.

You're sitting here in the oldest automobile plant in the world—I mean, in this country. More than one story, I noted. [Laughter] And the first question I asked your folks here in management, I said, "How in the wide world can you make this plant with"—what do you have, 4 1/2 million square feet in more than one floor—I said, "How can these people do this? How can you sell these Jeeps all over the world?" And they said, "The workers did it. They did it. They overcame the adversity. They did the production."

That's another thing. All that Government can do—and this is the role of the Government— the role of the Government is to create the conditions and give you the tools to make the most of your own life. Not a guarantee but a chance—there are no guarantees. That's what the Communist system found out. That's why it collapsed. Not a guarantee but a chance. You seized the chance. And the company deserves a lot of credit.

I have challenged other companies to follow this lead—70 percent of you in continuing education courses, a generous bonus program, sharing the profits. Every company ought to share the fruits of its progress with the workers who make that progress possible. And I honor that. I honor that. I want everyone in America today who works hard for a living to see the example of what happened in Toledo. Because if every company worked in partnership with its workers, if every company made it possible for its workers to continue their education and become more productive, if every company were committed to sharing a fair share of the profits with labor as well as management and shareholders, this country would be even stronger, we would be growing even faster, we would be going into the future in even better shape. I think that's what we have to do.

The last thing I want to say is, we have to face our common challenges together. Government can't solve a lot of these problems alone. We have had a remarkable partnership on the environment. I believe we can grow the economy and protect the environment. I think we've proved that. We've improved the quality of our drinking water. Fifty million people are breathing cleaner air. We have cleaned up more toxic waste dumps in 3 years than were cleaned up in the previous 12. We've revolutionized the meat standards so you can have safer meat. We just decided—we just overhauled the standards for pesticides going into your food so your children will have safer food.

We can do things to grow the economy and protect the environment, and we have to work together. And we can find ways, actually, to create jobs. One of the things that Marcy Kaptur said today that struck home with me the most was that we deserve—our people deserve in these city areas, with their ethnic diversity, their religious diversity, all their diversity, where so much industry has moved out, they deserve the chance to make a living. And we have got to find ways to give them that chance.

As hard-working Americans, I want to leave you with two thoughts about that. Number one, if we do it right, the environment gives us a chance to do that. The biggest new investment in manufacturing in New York City in the last several years is a company making recycled paper products in the Bronx. What did we do for that company? The main thing we did was just—I signed an Executive order directing the Federal Government to buy a certain percentage of its products in recycled paper. Now a lot of those urban folks are working on a way to help the environment, and they've got manufacturing jobs. That's an important thing.

The second thing I want to tell you is this. As hard-working people, I know that all of you support the idea that we ought to reform welfare in a way that enables poor folks to go to work and raise their kids, just like you're trying to do. Now, we have reduced the welfare rolls by a million and a half in 4 years—and I'm proud of that—by moving people from welfare to work and requiring people who can work to go to work.

Now, I just signed a bill that changes structurally the way welfare works. It says at the national level we're going to guarantee poor families the health care that they need. We're going to guarantee poor children the nutrition they need. We're going to guarantee that there will be more money put into child care for working poor people, because they can't afford to pay it. But we're going to take what used to be the welfare check itself, the Federal portion and the State portion, we're going to let the State decide how to spend that money to try to spend it in a way that will move more people from welfare to work and put strict time limits on the limit of time that able-bodied people can stay on welfare.

Now, that's good, but if they're going to do that, if you're going to require people to go to work, they have to have work. They have to have a job to go to. So I want you, just the way you fought for the minimum wage, to say what we want for poor families in this country is what we want for ourselves. We want people to have the dignity of work and the success of raising their kids, and we are committed to real welfare reform. Yes, require people to work, but make sure you require them to do work because the work is there.

If we will continue to work together to create an America where everybody has a chance to live up to their God-given capacities and live out their dreams, this country's best days are still ahead. If you ever doubt that this country's days are still ahead, think about your story. Think about your 2 millionth Jeep. Think about all the right-hand drive vehicles you're selling all over the world. Think about how far you've come. Think about the success stories that you represent. Any one of you could have done what Todd did last night, and we want every American to be able to tell that same story.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10 a.m. in the courtyard. In his remarks, he referred to Dennis Pawley, executive vice president, manufacturing, and Rob Liberatore, vice president, Washington affairs, Chrysler Corp.; Lloyd Mahaffey, region 2B assistant director, United Auto Workers; Bruce Baumhower, president, and Ron Conrad, chairman, Jeep unit, UAW Local 12; and James J. Blanchard, former Governor of Michigan.

William J. Clinton, Remarks to Employees at the Chrysler Jeep Plant in Toledo Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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