Public Papers

Remarks to Community and Business Leaders in Knoxville, Tennessee


Thank you for such a warm welcome back. And thank you, Senator Baker, my esteemed friend, for that overly generous introduction.

May I extend my greetings to another longtime friend, Mayor Victor Ashe, who is doing a great job here in this community, and to thank all of the other Knoxville community leaders here today. And I'm not sure that that description includes the marvelous music we've had, but my thanks to those from the Vols over here who provided some upbeat sounds. And I also want to single out with great pride two Cabinet members who are with me here today: First, our Secretary of Energy, Jim Watkins, doing a superb job, with us over here, Jim; and then, of course, one that you all know so well, Lamar Alexander, our Secretary of Education.

You may know that Lamar, as part of his mission to promote lifetime learning in keeping with one of our education goals, one is never too old to learn, convinced me to learn how to use a computer. It's really paid off. I can now make typographical errors twice as fast as I used to on the typewriter.

And may I also single out three Members of the Tennessee congressional delegation, Jimmy Duncan, Jimmy Quillen, and Don Sundquist, all three doing a fantastic job for us in Washington. And a very heartfelt thanks, quick thanks, to the people at the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce who helped pull this magnificent event together, Larry Martin and Jack Hammontree and Susan Shay. And I'm pleased that John Waters of the TVA could join us here today.

I feel very much at home, and I'm delighted to be here. Tennessee is a State with a special significance for me. After all, it's the Volunteer State. And during Operation Desert Storm you proved it all over again. So let me take this opportunity, thinking back a year just almost from this minute, when the ground war started, let me take this opportunity to thank the 6,700 Tennessee reservists and National Guard who were called up for Desert Storm and who served this State and served this country with such distinction.

It's a pleasure to be here in Knoxville, for what you've done here is a model for the Nation. This city combines in one place the enthusiasm of cutting-edge research, the resources of Government, and then the energy, the dynamic energy of the private enterprise. You are pointing our country toward the next American century.

We stand today at what I think most people would agree is a pivot point in history, at the end of one era and the beginning of another. As imperial communism died and as the clouds of the cold war part, America stands alone, the undisputed leader of the world. The old era demanded great sacrifices of our country; we met them, each and every one of them. But the new era opens up to us limitless possibilities, fresh challenges of the kind that have always brought out the best in America.

For the short term, of course, our challenge is to fire up the economy. I've put together a two-part plan, starting with a short-term package, seven commonsense steps to spur investment and create jobs. With inflation down and interest rates lower than they've been in 20 years, our plan offers incentives to business to buy equipment, upgrade their plants, and start hiring again. It offers a real boost to the housing market, often at the forefront of economic recovery, with a ,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers.

I have asked the Congress to pass this plan by March 20th. You may have heard about other tax plans floated up on Capitol Hill. The House Democrats are offering 25 cents a day, literally, in income tax relief in exchange for cuts in Medicare, student loans, farm payments, and true to form, a large permanent tax increase. That plan will deepen the deficit by billion and cost jobs as well. That is a lose-lose proposition if ever there was one. Here in Knoxville, let me again remind the United States Congress: We are a month and a day away from the deadline. Help your country. Put politics aside for just those 31 days that it takes. No more games. Pass our plan and get this economy moving again all across the country.

But then we must look forward, beyond the short-term into the next century. Believe it or not, looking forward has become a more radical notion than it sounds. For some quarters, we hear the dim voice of defeatism, that tin trumpet sounding retreat. We're told that our future lies in turning away from the world, pulling down the shades, and hoping that the rest of the world just goes away. Well, don't be fooled by the tough talk and the patriotic bluster. Protectionism comes from fear, fear that American workers can't compete, fear that American ingenuity is spent, fear that we must turn away from the world because we can no longer lead the world. That's not the future that I see for the United States of America. The America of the future must embrace challenges, not cut and run. It must put back the frontiers of knowledge and technology and use our great strengths of individual initiative and determination. If we do, the America of the future will compete, and it will win.

This century has taught us many lessons. But above them all stands an overarching truth: If America is to succeed economically at home, we must lead economically abroad. Now, our leadership ensures markets for American products and jobs for American workers. And it gives us room to spread our wings and show the world what we can do. Let us never forget: Our national symbol is the eagle; it is not the ostrich.

Each generation of Americans makes an implicit compact with the generations that follow. We pledge that their opportunities will be greater than ours. Our generation will make good on that pledge but only if we continue to lead the world.

So for the last 3 years, my administration has been laying the foundation for America's continued leadership. We've approached this pivot point in history, this moment of unparalleled opportunity, with a positive strategy to build on the enduring strengths of the American people, our capacity for hard work, our cutting-edge technology, our willingness to take risks. To continue as the world's economic leader we must excel in two vital areas: education and technology. That's where our future lies. Our strategy must target both, and it does.

American science is the best in the world. We've got to make sure that the same is true of American science education. Tomorrow's marketplace will demand workers highly skilled in math and science. Tennesseans know the importance of that, and I thank you for lending me your Governor and U.T. president, Lamar Alexander. He's on the cutting edge. He's out front in trying to revolutionize the schools in this country. Through our America 2000 education strategy, we're getting that education message to the rest of the country.

Working with the Nation's Governors, Secretary Alexander and I set six ambitious education goals, done on a bipartisan basis, wasn't Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative. The Governors came together under Lamar's leadership, and we came up with these goals. And one of the most important ones was this: By the year 2000, American students will be first in the world in math and science. The budget that I've recently submitted to Congress calls for more than billion in math and science education programs. That's more than a 120-percent increase over the past 3 years for programs at the precollege level.

Just 2 years ago, when I was last here in your wonderful city, I mentioned that our Energy Secretary, Jim Watkins, had joined up with U.T. and Oak Ridge to start a new math and science academy for America's teachers. Once again, Tennessee set the pace for our country. To better train teachers, we plan to double the number of math and science instructors receiving federally assisted in-depth instruction in their field. This year, almost half the Nation's precollege math and science teachers will receive some federally funded training.

In the old era now ending, many of our best scientists helped America win the cold war. The new era will free up those priceless talents to transform the arsenal of democracy into the engine of economic growth. That is the mission, that is the challenge of the nineties.

It will take the right kind of investments, the kind we've been making for years, for 3 years. And these have been tough decisions. This year, I've asked for a freeze on discretionary domestic spending -- got to do that for the overall budget -- which means that any increases have to be the result of hard thinking about priorities. Well, we've done the hard thinking, and we've made a fundamental decision. Our future economic competitiveness demands that we invest today in one of our greatest strengths, research and development. And I've asked for a record investment in R D, billion next year alone.

Now, let me give you just a few examples of what this means. This year we're investing 3 million to assist private enterprise in the development of a high-performance computing system 1,000 times more powerful than today's computer. And such a system will forecast droughts and hurricanes, design better aircraft, unlock the riddle of the genome.

We're investing more than billion for research in energy technologies to improve energy efficiency, nuclear fusion, clean coal technologies, and alternatives to petroleum.

We're investing almost .5 billion in transportation R D. To relieve our overburdened highways and airports, we're stimulating research in new transportation technologies such as intelligent vehicle-highway systems and high-speed rail. Some of you unintelligent drivers beware; you may be replaced.

We're increasing investment in biotechnology research for a total of more than billion, so that we continue to lead the world in conquering disease and relieving world hunger. Now, this research can pay dividends undreamed of just a few years ago, not only in health care but in manufacturing, energy, and in environmental protection. One recent development: microorganisms that emit light signals when they encounter pollution in the environment.

And there's much more, substantial increases for the superconducting super collider, agricultural research, and the development of advanced materials. We will double the budget for the National Science Foundation, home to some of our most fantastic scientific and technological advances.

And for a generation, when Americans have looked to the future, they have looked to the stars. Well, we're intensifying our efforts to explore the Moon and the planets, a quest that not only lifts our spirits but brings tangible benefits in new technology and economic growth.

These incredible technologies can't just sit in the science books; they need to work for America. And so, we're moving them out of the laboratory and into the marketplace. We've been busy sweeping away the obstacles that block the transfer of technology from the Government to private enterprise. And just over, I think it was 2 years ago, I signed a bill that allows private industry to take competitive advantage of Government research.

There are 675 public-private agreements active today. In fact, I had a great morning. I just witnessed another one out at Oak Ridge this morning. The Coors Structural Ceramics Company and Oak Ridge will be perfecting a new ceramic material that's tougher than steel. In fact, Coors has decided to locate in this area to be near the scientists and facilities at Oak Ridge. And in doing that, Coors joins more than 20 other companies that have moved to your area for the same reason. And that's the bottom line of these agreements: jobs for Knoxville, jobs for America.

Our national technology initiative brings Government officials together with private businesses to let them know what Government can offer in new technology. This initiative will take advantage of the irreplaceable resources at our national labs, including Oak Ridge, to foster technological excellence.

But make no mistake, Government has no business setting what's known as an industrial policy, where you pick winners and losers and protect favorite industries from market forces, no business doing that. The lightning pace of today's economy is too quick. It's too vital for the deadening hand of the bureaucrat. We will continue to lead only if we give the marketplace full play. A competitive market cuts fat, it encourages efficiency, and it rewards innovation.

That's why for 3 years we've tried to encourage private venture capital. You know, America taxes capital gains at a rate higher than any of our world competitors. And yet the same pessimists who complain we can't compete still stand in the way of lower capital gains taxes. So, let's put an end to that self-defeating nonsense. Congress must lower that capital gains tax to create jobs, and the time to lower it is right now.

Finally, we've asked Congress to make the R E tax credit a permanent part of the Tax Code. For private companies, this credit reduces the cost of research and development by as much as 20 percent. American businesses must be able to plan for the future knowing those savings are secure.

Each one of these measures has world-shaping implications. There is a strategy for a competitive, vigorous America, and it springs from a vision of what our future should be. The great blessing of our country is that we Americans have the power to create our own future. We have that extraordinary opportunity, once again, to guarantee that when our children attend school, they receive the best education in the world and that when they leave school, they enter a growing economy with good jobs of their choosing. Let us never forget, the future we plan for today belongs to them.

I am fortunate, very, very fortunate to be President of the United States at an exciting time in our country's marvelous history. The world still looks to this great country for leadership. And we have so much to be grateful for, and I am proud to serve as your President.

May God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. at the Knoxville Auditorium-Coliseum. In his remarks, he referred to former Senator Howard Baker; Jack Hammontree, president, Larry Martin, chairman, and Susan Shay, member of the board of directors, Knoxville Chamber of Commerce; and John B. Waters, member of the Board of Directors, Tennessee Valley Authority.