Remarks of Gov. Bill Clinton Wharton School of Business University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia -- April 16, 1992
As many of you know, I've spent the last few days back home in Little Rock, under doctor's orders not to speak. Imagine how much happier you would be if all the politicians in America lost their voices for a week every year.
Unfortunately, most Americans are struggling to make their voices heard every day. For the last seven months, I've traveled back and forth across this country, listening to the thousands of people I've met: Unemployed workers who've lost not only their jobs but their pensions, their health care, and even their homes. Laid-off defense workers who now make their living driving cabs. Elderly couples whose refrigerators are bare because so much of their monthly Social Security check has to go for prescription drugs. Middle-class families everywhere who've taken second jobs to make ends meet.
The determination and quiet courage of these brave Americans has kept me going through the toughest moments of this campaign. Every day, their struggles and their stories have reminded me what this election is really all about.
This campaign can't be just another shallow political quarrel between Republicans and Democrats in Washington. For more than a decade, both parties have failed us there. In 1992, the very future of the American Dream is at stake. Unless we decide we want a different kind of President with a very different economic policy -- unless we decide we're going to be more responsible as citizens for our common problems, we're in for more trouble.
For me, the American Dream is not a slogan. It has been a way of life. I was born in 1946, as America was entering the greatest economic boom the world has ever seen. I grew up in a state where almost half the people lived below the poverty line. My mother was widowed three months before I was born. I was raised by my grandparents until I was four. My grandmother was a nurse. My grandfather had a grade-school education and ran a small grocery store. We didn't have much money. But growing up, I and my generation always knew that if we worked hard and played by the rules, we'd be rewarded -- and I have been, beyond my wildest dreams.
Millions of young people growing up in this country today can't count on that dream. They look around and see that their hard work may not be rewarded. Most people are working harder for less these days, as they have been for well over a decade. The American Dream is slipping away along with the loss of our economic leadership.
For 11 years as Governor, I've fought against the loss of American jobs and industry. I got into this race for President when it became clear to me that without a change in Presidential leadership, we couldn't turn our country around.
In the weeks and months to come, I will spell out my plans to turn this country around -- reforming America's schools, radically changing government, making our streets safe again from drugs and crime, opening up world markets to expanded world trade. This campaign isn't about slogans and 30-second sound bites. It's time we offer real answers to the real problems of real people.
George Bush looks at America as it is today -- at the decline of the middle class and the explosion of poverty -- and he says, "Do nothing." A few weeks ago, the front page of the Boston Globe carried a headline that said, "Do Nothing on Economy, Bush Advises Lawmakers." Under that headline was a picture of President Bush meeting with the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl. Kohl was smiling. Maybe because his country is doing something; they have a national economic strategy that is beating our brains in. So does Japan. So do all of the major countries in the world.
But George Bush doesn't. His strategy is, do nothing.
The only time President Bush changes is when the polls change or the pressures mount. Last year, the opponent was David Duke, the issue was civil rights, and George Bush wrongly called the civil rights act a quota bill. Then came Pat Buchanan, and his assault on arts funding. So Bush fired the head of the National Endowment for the Arts. Then critics from Richard Nixon to me criticized him for dragging his feet on aid to the former Soviet Union. So he scheduled a speech within 15 minutes of mine to call for that aid.
Two days ago, the President traveled to Macomb County to talk about a major job training program which I have already proposed but which he has done nothing to enact after three years as President.
And today, after 11 years of an administration that has led an all-out assault on college aid to middle-class students -- one year after he proposed a budget which cut off Pell Grants to every family making more than $10,000 a year -- but just twelve days before the Pennsylvania primary, the President comes here to Pennsylvania to promise universal access to college loans.
And they say I'm slick.
A campaign conversion isn't the same as a lifetime of conviction and a commitment to change. Today I want to talk about real change -- about the fundamental problems of leadership and organization that are holding our economy back, and put forth a plan to address the long-term economic challenges we face. I have come here to Wharton, home to so much of America's economic potential, to talk about what went wrong with our economy in the '80s -- the excesses of business; the misjudgments of labor; the errors made by President Bush, his predecessor, and Congress -- and to challenge you to help make things right in the '90s.
I have come here to the Wharton School because Wharton is home to much of America's economic potential, and has produced many of our best corporate leaders, including my friend John Sculley. What you learn here will help shape not only the career you choose, but your country's economic future.
But Wharton is also a powerful symbol of where our country went wrong in the 1980s. It was here at Wharton that Michael Milken got the idea to use junk bonds to leverage corporate buyouts -- a quick-buck scheme that was supposed to shake up failed management but too often forced corporations to lay off workers in formerly profitable plants, reduce R&D, and ultimately to go bankrupt or sell out again under the crushing burden of unserviceable debt.
It was here at Wharton that by 1987, the year the stoc.htmlk market crashed, 25% of the graduating class was going into investment banking -- a quarter of the best graduates at one of America's top business schools pursuing high incomes in high finance rather than in the apparently less glamorous work of creating jobs, goods and services to make America richer.
It was here at Wharton in the 1980s that students nicknamed the investment banking club "The Unindicted," and the Wharton "Wall of Fame," which honors famous alumni chosen by the students, kept photos of Donald Trump, who glorified the art of the deal, and Michael Milken on display until Trump went bankrupt and Milken was on his way to jail.
And it is here at Wharton in 1992 that we must speak frankly about where we've been and what we've lost; where we're headed and what kind of nation we want to be. Together, we must bring an end to the something-for-nothing ethic of the '80s.
Last October, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a remarkable series called "America: What Went Wrong," which documented in statistics and stories what has happened to the country we love. The series, written by Donald Barlett and James Steele, is must reading for any student of politics, ethics, or business -- and it holds important lessons for politicians and voters alike.
Barlett and Steele found that for the forgotten middle class, the '80s were an economic disaster. The size of the middle class fell for the first time since the '30s. Middle-class people are spending more time on the job, less time with their children, and bringing home less money to pay more for health care, housing, and education -- while those at the top of the totem pole saw their taxes go down and their incomes go up.
People who make over $200,000 saw their incomes rise fifteen times faster than average Americans. The average middle- class person, by contrast, is working 158 hours a year more than in 1969 for about the same income -- an extra month of work without extra pay. A new social order is emerging, more unequal, more divided, more impenetrable to those who seek to get ahead.
The U.S. fell from 8th to 22nd in wage inequality in the 1980s. According to a recent study, one percent of the people in the '80s got 60 percent of the country's growth. America is evolving a new social order, more unequal, more divided, more impenetrable to those who seek to get ahead. And although America's rich got richer in the 1980s, the country did not. Ten years ago, America had the highest wages in the world. Now we're tenth, and falling. We went from being the world's largest creditor to being the world's largest debtor. The stoc.htmlk market tripled, but wages went down.
Our savings rate is half that of Japan; workers in America earn a quarter less than workers in Germany. Our investment rate is lower than all our major competitors. Our students rank near the bottom in international math and science tests. We spend a quarter of what our competitors do on training programs for our workers. Germany and Japan have productivity growth rates three and four times ours because they educate their people better, invest more in their future, and organize their economies to compete in the world, and we don't.
For 11 years, we've had no economic vision, no economic leadership, no national economic strategy. The single driving idea behind economic policy in the '80s has been to keep taxes low on corporations and upper-income individuals and keep government out of our way. This idea was evidenced most clearly in the President's recent veto of a tax bill crafted largely by Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, a pro-business Democrat, and Congressman Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois. The bill would have increased investment in new plant and equipment, homes and real estate, and small business. The President vetoed it because these incentives would have been paid for by increased taxes on the wealthy whose taxes were lowered in the '80s.
This policy hasn't worked. The current administration has compiled the worst economic record in 50 years. George Bush's Presidency has produced slower economic growth, slower job growth, and slower income growth than any administration since the Great Depression -- and the biggest deficits and highest middle-class tax burden of any administration in history.
This is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. It's America against the rest of the world. Every other advanced nation is governed by a body with a strategy for increasing growth, developing high-wage jobs through increasing investment, and enhancing cooperation among government, business, labor and education.
That's why even when the Bush recession ends -- and we all hope it ends soon -- most Americans will find themselves worse off than before it began. They may find jobs, but there will be fewer high-wage jobs. American companies will hire back fewer manufacturing workers and office workers, because in the meantime those jobs will have been automated or farmed out to factories abroad. Downward trends in wages and benefits, increasing costs for health care, and more job insecurity will be the order of the day.
THE NEW ECONOMY
If the Republicans' failed experiment in supply-side economics didn't produce growth, create upward mobility, or prepare millions of Americans to compete and win in the world economy, neither will the old Democratic theory that says we can just tax and spend our way out of any problem we face.
Since 1973, American productivity has grown a third as fast as it grew from 1948 until then. If Republican and Democratic administrations had been able to maintain the level of productivity growth over the last two decades that we enjoyed in the three decades before that, the median family income today would be over $47,000 instead of $35,000.
I believe we need a radical new approach to economics that will give new hope to our people and breathe new life into the American Dream. A new national strategy that will reward work, expand opportunity, and put people first, with more public and private investment, the world's best-educated workforce, and competitive strategies in health care, energy, and trade.
The answers I offer aren't liberal or conservative. They're both and they're different.
The world has changed dramatically in recent years, and we have to change with it. History has handed us an extraordinary opportunity in the 1990s. The rise of the new economy coincides with the triumph of democracy and the end of the Cold War. At the moment we most need to marshall and reorganize our resources, the greatest collection of high-value talent and assets has become available. With the right plan to convert defense spending to domestic growth, we can catapult America back to the forefront in world economic leadership.
The old economy of a generation ago rewarded countries whose firms had strong organizational hierarchies and strict work rules. In the new economy, our prosperity will depend instead on the capacities of our workers and our firms to change. As Peter Drucker wrote recently, "The factory of tomorrow will be organized around information rather than automation."
We need a new economic approach that provides every person and every firm the means to be more productive. In a world in which money and production are mobile, the skills of its workers and the ingenuity of its entrepreneurs are what can set any nation apart. To revitalize our economy, restore our competitiveness, and boost our productivity, we need a national economic strategy that will fundamentally change the way we do business at home and around the world:
* First, we need to grant every American the fundamental right to a good education, lifelong learning and training, in a world where what you can earn depends on what you can learn.
* Second, we need to invest the time, the patience, and the money to rebuild our economy and make it grow again.
* Finally, we need to demand change throughout our society -- from business, labor, and government -- and work together to forge a new social compact for economic growth.
THE LEARNING ECONOMY
If we're going to turn this country around, we've got to empower every American with the education and training essential to get ahead. We can only be a high-wage, high-growth country if we are a high-skills country.
I want to build a vibrant, innovating, learning economy in which government ensures opportunities, not results, and equips everyone to win by becoming more productive. That means preschool for every child who needs it, and fully funding Head Start. National standards and testing in elementary and secondary schools, and an annual report card for every state, school district, and school.
It means giving every young American who works hard and plays by the rules a chance to get ahead: A nationwide apprenticeship program for high school students who don't go to college, so they can learn valuable skills and get jobs with rising wages. A national trust fund out of which any American can borrow money for a college education, so long as they pay it back either as a small percentage of their income over time or with a couple of years of national service as teachers, police officers, or child care workers.
But schools alone cannot lead the change; we need help as well from the workplace to ensure that every working American has the opportunity to learn new skills every year. We need to teach every adult to read and give them a chance to get a GED in the next five years. Every working person today should have the chance to hone and upgrade their skills every year. In a Clinton Administration, we'll require firms to invest the equivalent of 1 to 1.5 percent of their payroll on training for everybody, not just top executives, or pay into a fund for training.
REBUILDING AMERICA FOR THE LONG TERM
To build a 21st-century economy, America must revive a 19th- century habit, by investing in the common, national economic resources that enable every person and every firm to create wealth and value. Our productivity and income have been growing so slowly because we've stopped investing in the economic infrastructure that binds our markets and businesses together, and in the research and development that can restore America to the cutting edge of the world economy. The only foundation for prospering in the global economy is investing in ourselves.
The Philadelphia Inquirer series compared the behavior of American companies today to what went on a few decades ago. By almost every measure, our companies are living more for today and investing less down the road.
In the 1950s, American companies invested $3 billion in new manufacturing plant and equipment for every $1 billion they paid in interest. By the 1980s, they were paying $1.6 billion in interest for every $1 billion in new plant and equipment.
In 1953, corporations paid $2.3 billion in corporate income taxes for every $1 billion they paid in executive salaries. In 1987, corporations paid $2.4 billion to their executives for every $1 billion they paid the government in taxes.
As a nation, we're spending more on the present and the past, and building less for the future. We need a President who will turn our country and our culture around so that we once again begin to take the long view. Elsewhere, I have spelled out my package of incentives to provide long-term economic growth:
* An investment tax credit, and a new enterprise tax cut that rewards those with the patience, the courage, and the determination to invest in new businesses that create new jobs. These ideas are better than a capital gains tax cut because they reward investment in jobs, goods, and services.
* Making the research and development tax credit permanent, so companies can begin to make long-term plans, along with changes to increase investment in real estate and energy conservation.
* And a separate "future budget" for the federal government to make investments that will enrich our country over the long term, to increase our investments in education, environmental technology, research and development, and infrastructure as we reduce the position of our budget going to defense and inflation in health costs.
We have opportunities to make investments in infrastructure, in civilian research and development, and in the transition from a defense to a domestic economy -- that will pay off handsomely down the line.
We can start by accelerating the renovation of the country's highways, bridges, water, and sewage systems. Japan has embarked on a $3.1 trillion infrastructure program that puts our highway bill to shame. Since we are already paying a gas tax for a six-year program, we should authorize states and cities to contract out all the funds over the next two years. That would create tens of thousands of jobs.
A Clinton Administration will use a portion of transportation funding and possibly funds transferred from defense to create a high-speed rail network between our nation's major cities. Bullet trains in five major corridors could serve 500,000 passengers a day at speeds up to 300 miles an hour.
In the new economy, infrastructure means information as well as transportation. More than half the U.S. workforce is employed in information-intensive industries, yet we have no national strategy to create a national information network. Just as the interstate highway system in the 1950s spurred two decades of economic growth, we need a door-to-door fiber optics system by the year 2015 to link every home, every lab, every classroom, and every business in America.
We should also change the way we create infrastructure for the next century. New sources of investment capital can be tapped from the private sector, in partnership with government. For example, we should consider creating a federal, self-financing, public-private corporation to support viable infrastructure projects that can attract some private capital.
At the same time, we need to sharply increase our national commitment to research and development. Japan and Germany spend half again as much on civilian R&D as we do, and have the productivity growth rates to show for it. Every dollar we take out of military R&D in the post-Cold War era should go to R&D for commercial technologies, until civilian R&D can match and eventually surpass our Cold War military R&D commitment.
If we want to help U.S. companies keep pace in the world economy, we need to restore America to the forefront, not just in inventing products but in bringing them to market. Too often, we have won the battle of the patents but lost the war of creating jobs and profits. American scientists invented the microwave, the VCR, the color TV, and the memory chip, and yet today the Koreans, the Japanese, and other nations make most of those products.
We should create a civilian research and development agency to support research in the few dozen strategic technologies that scientists have already identified as the basis for launching new growth industries over the next two decades, and revitalizing traditional ones. The civilian DARPA will coordinate R&D to help companies develop innovative technologies and bring new products to market. And without inhibiting the competition that drives innovation, we will encourage and promote collaborative efforts among firms and with research institutes for commercial development just as we have done with defense technologies for 40 years.
More than 25 million Americans lost their jobs at the end of World War II, and we made the most of their skills to launch the greatest boom in history. Now that the Cold War is over and victory is ours, we need a plan to transfer the talents of our people from defense abroad to progress and prosperity at home.
First, we must help the people whose lives will be turned upside down by defense cuts. In a Clinton Administration, we'll encourage early retirement with pro-rated pensions, and expand the GI Bill to give people educational leave before retiring. We'll provide displaced defense workers assistance in retraining, placement, and relocation. And we'll create a fund administered by the National Science Foundation to help defense scientists, engineers, and technicians master critical civilian technology fields, such as biotechnology, synthetic materials, and renewable energy resources.
For small defense manufacturers, the Small Business Administration will provide small conversion loans to help finance their transition, and launch a Technology Assistance Service -- modeled on the Agricultural Extension Service -- to provide easy access to the technical expertise it takes to convert to commercial production. The Economic Development Agency will help communities hit hard by defense cutbacks plan for closures and contract terminations.
Perhaps most important, at a time when only 17 percent of our work force is in manufacturing -- compared to 28 percent in Japan and 32 percent in Germany -- we need to seize the opportunity to spur the development of new infrastructure, efficient energy generation, and environmental technologies that could revitalize our dwindling manufacturing base.
A NEW COMPACT FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH
Finally, if we're going to overcome the old economic arrangements that are holding America back, American workers and American businesses are going to have to be open to change.
This country doesn't need a new program for every problem, and we won't get change simply by spending more on programs already on the books. We need to reinvent government to deliver new services in different ways, eliminate unnecessary layers of management, and offer people more choices. We also need to show the discipline to put our fiscal house in order.
In a Clinton Administration, government will no longer be able to grow faster than ordinary people's ability to pay for it can grow. I want to lead a government prepared to end spending that doesn't work and reinvent programs to make sure they will. I've proposed a 3 percent across the board cut in the federal bureaucracy. We should give the President a line-item veto, and elect a President with the resolve to use it.
Government isn't the only institution that has to change. To succeed in the global economy, we need a new spirit of cooperation between labor and management that will forge a new compact for economic growth.
As future managers, you have a responsibility to help overcome the old antagonisms between American management and labor. As Americans, you will have a duty to look beyond your company's short-term profits and narrow interests of the moment to the long-term interests of your company's workers and the nation as a whole.
We need a whole new organization of work, where workers at the front lines make decisions, not just follow orders, and entire layers of bureaucratic middle management become obsolete. We need a new style of management, where front-line workers and managers will have more responsibility to make decisions that improve quality and increase productivity. And we need to restore the link between pay and performance by encouraging companies to provide for employee ownership and profit-sharing, and recognize that we should all go up or down together. Where this is being done today, companies are enjoying high growth rates. Where workers embrace change, they often become more prosperous and secure.
In the new American economy, everyone will have to change, and everyone will get something in return. Workers will gain new prosperity and independence, including health care and training, but unions will have to give up non-productive work rules and rigid job classifications and be open to change. Managers will reap more profits but will have to manage for the long run, and not treat themselves better than their workers are treated. Corporations will reach new heights in productivity and profitability, but CEOs will have to put the long-term interests of their workers, their customers, and their companies first.
Now it is your turn to choose: Is that what brought you to business school? What kind of world do you want to build when you graduate from Wharton? What do you want from life, and what are you willing to give your country?
You are among the most talented and most privileged of your generation. And you owe a special responsibility not just to do the best you can for yourself, but to do right by your country.
Together, we can build a new American community that honors individual achievement, neighborhood security, economic growth, academic and corporate excellence, government efficiency, and national strength. The new American community will summon -- by example, encouragement, by exhortation, and sometimes by law -- a new spirit of service at every level of our society.
So that citizens will serve their families and their consciences; managers will serve their workers; corporations will serve their clients and their customers; executives will serve their shareholders; elected officials will serve the national interest; and government will once again serve our people.
And when we build this community, this mutually reinforcing fabric of rights and responsibilities, challenges and commitments, America will rise above the perils and uncertainties of this moment, and become most productive, most prosperous, most energetic, and most respected nation in the world again.
"I believe," in the words of Thomas Wolfe, "that (today) we are lost here in America, but I believe that we shall be found. And this belief ... is for me -- and I think for all of us -- not only our own hope, but America's everlasting, living dream."