Q. Mr. President, I was at the Punch Bowl Cemetery a week ago, covering your speech there. And I was struck, sir, as you talked to the veterans about how America got behind the Gulf war effort as we did the World War II effort. Is it possible in this day and age, sir, to get behind this economic problem we're having in this country? Is there any way you can fire up the troops in this country, so to speak, so that that same sort of enthusiasm moves into that area?
The President. I hope so, and I am certainly going to keep on trying. We're going to have a renewed focal point of an effort at the State of the Union Message.
Without sounding defensive, Harold, 3 straight years we've sent growth programs to the Congress in the State of the Union Message. And very candidly, I've not been able to get a partisan Congress to move on these initiatives. They have other ideas.
But I think it is time to set aside, as your question implies, these partisan differences and say, ``Look, people are hurting out there in this economy. Let's get this country moving again.''
The war and domestic are different. I didn't have to get permission from the Democrats to move troops, to say, ``We're going into battle tonight. We're going to give the command to General so-and-so.'' I didn't have to do that; I have that authority as President. To enact programs, I do have to do that. But your answer is, I've got to succeed in this. I have got to get this country moving again as best we can from the Federal level. And we have good programs, and I think I can do it.
Q. President Bush, you have called, of course, for a cut in the capital gains tax. Can you be more specific? What other ideas do you have to jump-start the economy?
The President. Well, when you use the word ``jump-start,'' let me say that the signing of the transportation bill tomorrow, which will be one of the successes for jump-starting, will be effective. In addition, we've accelerated .7 billion worth of Federal spending. Now, we've got a several-trillion-dollar economy, but .7 billion that would have been spent later is going to be spent sooner because of this trying to jump-start the economy.
There may be a couple of other things of substance that I'll be able to do before the State of the Union. But the big one is to say to the country, ``Look, let's set politics aside. Let's get together and now go forward on a growth package.'' And some of it will have a short-term benefit. For example, IRA's, you know, these IRA's, these savings accounts to stimulate first-time homebuyers, I think once we pass something like that, that will have a psychological effect on the home-buying business.
So, there are other things we can do. We're trying hard to eliminate the excess of regulation. That doesn't require legislation, and we're making some progress there. Financial reform would help enormously. But we didn't get it through Congress. I'm going to try again.
So, these are some of the ideas that I think can have enormous benefit to those people that are really hurting because they don't have a job.
Q. Mr. President, there was a statistic that was released last month by the Government that said that the number of people who have given up looking for jobs has risen. People who have given up looking for a job, sir, I don't know many people here in southern California who fit that description. What do you say to these people? They haven't given up looking for a job, they've just perhaps given up hope that there are no jobs available.
The President. I'd say let's get the economy stimulated. You know, Californians seem to understand the capital gains argument better than most. Japan pays 1 percent, when you sell out of a business, of capital gains. Germany pays no capital gains. And we are up in the astrosphere, whatever, stratosphere with capital gains.
So, the Democrats, mainly the liberal ones, accuse this of being a tax cut for the rich. Those businesses in California that started with incentive when -- know that capital gains differential is important. And so, there is one area that I think would have a stimulation on new jobs.
The guys get thrown out of work because we're cutting back on defense spending. Now, he's entitled to job retraining, and we've got good programs for that. But he also is entitled to the hope, not the hopelessness of the guy that gives up; he's entitled to the hope that new jobs will be created. And we ought to move all these barriers to creating jobs out of the way, and that's what I'm trying to do.
Foreign vs. Domestic Policy
So, I would tell them, ``Don't give up. Don't despair.''
Q. Mr. President, you've heard the criticism: You're more interested in international problems than domestic problems, more interested in what's happening in the Soviet Union than you are here in southern California. How do you respond to that, sir?
The President. I say it's not true. And I touched on that one out at Pearl Harbor. In the first place, it is the growth in exports that have saved a struggling economy. And if you pull back into some isolationistic sphere and neglect foreign markets, why, you're crazy. So, I've spent a lot of time on trying to get a trade agreement through in the GATT round with Europe, and a lot of time recently on that.
I also believe that -- I don't know if you have kids, but I know about my grandkids, and I think they've got a chance now to grow up in a lot safer world. I think there is less chance of nuclear confrontation than there was before we started trying to handle things with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the Middle East the way we're handling them.
I guess my bottom line on this thing, Harold, is you can't separate foreign policy from domestic. We have a stake in whether these nuclear weapons are handled safely in the Soviet Union. So, I'm not going to neglect that responsibility, but I believe I can do both and should do both: be fully engaged in trying to help this economy and, secondly, not neglect my responsibilities for world peace. This goes with the territory. This is my pay grade.
Q. I do have children, sir. I'm concerned about their education, as you are concerned about education. Another criticism, sir, that you'll bail out the S L's, but you won't take money and bail out our educational systems.
The President. Well, let me address myself to that one. We have the best Federal approach to education that the country has ever seen. It's called America 2000. We started with Democratic and Republican Governors at Charlottesville. It was a couple of years ago. We adopted for the first time six national goals. And now what we've done is enlist the help in States, not just at the Governor level but in the State commissioners of education, in the teacher level, in the district superintendent level, in the principal level, to literally revolutionize our schools.
On the defensive side of the equation, Federal spending for education is up. But the Federal part of education is 6 or 7 percent of the total education bill. Why? Because it is correct that the local communities and the States do what has historically been done. American parents want their kids' education control closest to them. But we're doing a good job on education. And I can understand the frustration of some: ``Please give us more money. Please give us money.'' That is not the way we're going to revolutionize these schools and give our kids a better chance in math or science or history, or whatever it is.
President's Approval Rating
Q. Mr. President, I would like to say Merry Christmas to you and your family, and I hope you won't let the polls that were released today, those figures, spoil your holiday season, sir. You deserve -- --
The President. They don't help any, but I don't live and die by polls.
You know one thing, Harold? When they were sky-high, thank God I said, hey, don't worry about these polls. And I've learned to take it. And it's not a good time for our country. And of course the President should share his part of the responsibility. And all I can say is we are going to whip this sluggishness in this economy and make things better. I don't care what it means I have to do, but we're going to do it. So I go into Christmas feeling pretty good. But thank you for your thoughts.
Q. Thank you, sir.
Note: The interview began at 2:12 p.m. The President spoke via satellite from Room 459 of the Old Executive Office Building.