Public Papers

Remarks to Stryker Corporation Employees in Kalamazoo, Michigan


Thank you, John Brown, for those kind words and that warm welcome. And may I just say to you how inspirational my little tour through this plant has been for me, seeing not only the spirit of this wonderful work force but getting to kick the tires on some of the most advanced technology in the health care field and to begin to understand it better. And so, I would like to take this opportunity to thank each of the people along the line that were so hospitable, welcoming me and our associates here today.

May I single out the Mayor who is graciously here today, Mayor Beverly Moore, and thank her for being here; and thank John, of course, and David Simpson and Si Johnson, Harry Carmitchel for the tour. And I'm pleased to, of course, be with my old friend John Engler, the Governor of this great State, and another man doing a fine job, and that's Congressman Fred Upton, all here with us today. And may I salute also the CEO council, who I understand has been introduced. And I said, ``Who do I thank for the music?'' And they said, ``Don't, it's played on tape.'' So, nevertheless, here I am.

But really what we wanted to do was to come here today and salute an outstanding group of competitors in one of our leading-edge industries. Stryker is celebrated across the Nation and around the world for the quality of your work and the excellence of the management, the way it's handled. You're leaders in an innovative industry that makes our country proud.

And so let me offer a personal note. I'm a grandfather, yes, and time after time in recent years I've seen modern medical devices work miracles for other grandparents. I've seen grandparents who had been hobbled for years with arthritis. Now they're running and playing again, and those miracles are results of advances that your industry has made with these artificial joints.

I'm proud of how you at Stryker have gone abroad and captured new markets, John referred to this, but you've captured new markets for these high-quality American products. Exports as a portion of your sales, as the Governor mentioned, have risen steadily. They now account for almost one-third of your total sales. You have increased numbers of customers in Canada and Mexico and Europe, and you are the number one seller, I am told, the number one seller of artificial hips in Japan. Don't tell me the American worker can't compete with the Japanese.

And the bottom line is this industry is growing and creating good jobs for Americans because you give as good as you get. The health care technology industry, which is made up mostly of smaller companies like Stryker, invests an average of 6.3 percent of revenues in R D, in research and development. That is nearly double, nearly double the national manufacturing average.

Your industry alone provides our great country with a favorable balance of foreign trade of almost billion. You're solid proof that when that playing field is level, when you have access to the other guy's market, American workers can outthink, outperform, and outproduce anyone, anyplace in the world.

Some people simply don't get it. They see the challenges of the global economy and they say, ``Let's draw the blinds, bolt the doors; maybe the whole world will go away.'' They push protectionism, which really means surrendering, surrendering our growth and surrendering our excellence.

The defeatists may carp, but over time they're going to become irrelevant. The future belongs to those who have the will to compete. And for my part, I will continue working with you to open up new markets wherever they are, Mexico, South America, all around the globe.

I'm also working urgently for a climate more favorable for prosperity at home. I know that people are hurting out there. People that have jobs are worried about them. But later today I'm going to be talking to the Economic Club there at Detroit, and I'll go into greater detail about an economic growth plan that I've challenged Congress to pass by March 20th, one week from now. We need new incentives; we need new incentives to get this economy moving. And I'm talking about an investment tax allowance. It sounds complicated, but what that means is speeding up depreciation on new equipment so people can go out and buy new capital items for their plants.

We need to get real estate up and running, and that means Congress should pass my ,000 tax credit for those first-time homebuyers, the young family that wants to buy a home. Five thousand dollars would help, and it would stimulate the homebuilding industry. And they ought to pass that. That's not a political thing. It's something that will help the economy right now.

We need to reward the risktakers, those who create new jobs. And I still feel the way to create new jobs is to cut the tax on capital gains and stimulate new investment. And you're seeing this. We're competing with Japan; Japan taxes capital gains at 1 percent. Germany, I believe, is zero. And we're up there in the stratosphere. It's simply not right to people out there thinking, ``How do I start a new business?''

I'd like to spend the rest of this brief time here today talking about another battle, and that's the battle against excessive regulation. A level playing field, I mentioned, outside the United States, that's fine; that's well and good. But you'll never reach it if you have to run yourselves to exhaustion right here at home on an uphill treadmill of overzealous regulators.

In my State of the Union, we put on a 90-day freeze on all proposed and existing Federal regulations, the ones that can affect economic growth. As much as possible, we're now speeding up rules that will help growth and halting rules that would harm the economy, set back this fragile economy.

I'm very concerned about the health technology business, the well-being of that business. Our whole future, as I look at it and what it's going to take to move briskly into the next century, is the high innovative tech industries like yours. The Commerce Department recently reported that America's health technology industry is the strongest in the entire world, but that if current political and economic trends continue, it would slip behind European and Asian competitors by the end of this decade. And need I say what one of those negative trends is? That is Government regulation.

Overregulation here in the United States can give foreign corporations an advantage over American firms. It also can drive U.S. businesses to move factories and jobs overseas. Recently, because of heavy regulation, the number of approvals of new medical devices has dropped dramatically.

Let me assure you: I am determined to roll back the tide of overregulation. After the 90-day freeze, I'm going to introduce what legislation it takes to change this, reform legislation to correct unreasonable rules we can't change simply through Executive action. And I will have to go to that Congress and challenge them to undo some of this regulatory knot that they've tied across the American economy. And I'll fight those liberals in the Congress who try to impose new and unreasonable burdens on America's livelihood. You know, if Congress sends me any more legislation with excessive regulation in it, I am going to have to veto it, and I will veto it as soon as it hits my desk. We need to free up businesses like this, not tie their hands anymore.

As long as I'm the President, I'm going to work to cut needless redtape. We've got to get the lifesaving drugs and devices to those who need them. Regulation of the healing arts and health technologies have got to respond to patients' needs and must be based on sound science, not on ideological politics or scare tactics.

And we need to heal something else, a legal system that is emptying our wallets and tearing our society apart. That's why I'd love to have your support for proposals to reform the liability system and the civil justice system. You know how the epidemic of lawsuits has become, neighbor suing neighbor, guys coaching Little League afraid to coach because of a lawsuit being filed at them: ``You don't put the kid at first base, I'm going to sue you.'' I mean, it's not right; it's not fair. And we've overdone it, saying nothing of doctors who are pulling back because of malpractice suits filed against them. I want to be the President of a country where people spend more time helping each other than they do suing each other.

And the very last point: Our economy is going to be strong as long as it's free. That's the lesson that I've taken away from this, that I'll be taking away from this plant here at Stryker. You have learned that in the markets at home and around the world. It's a principle that we've got to redouble the efforts in fighting for. In my go-rounds with Congress and as Chief Executive of the Departments and Agencies that regulate American business, I'm going to try to do just that.

Let me say in conclusion, it's a joy to be here, not just simply a joy to be outside of what we call the beltway, Washington, DC. It really is. And when I come to a place like this and I see what you all are doing, I have a reaffirmation in my heart that this country is still the freest, the greatest, the fairest country on the face of the Earth.

We are the leader of the free world. We are the leader. Your kids and my grandkids don't go to bed today worrying as much as they used to about nuclear weapons. They have a feeling that we've done something big, and we've done it by leading, standing up to aggression and leading the world. And now let's take that same talent, bring it to bear on this economy, get it moving again, and reestablish our economy as the number one in the world.

Thank you all very, very much. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:24 a.m. in the medical division of Stryker Corp. In his remarks, he referred to the following corporation officers: John W. Brown, chairman, president, and chief executive officer; David J. Simpson, vice president and chief financial officer; Stephen (Si) Johnson, executive vice president; and Harry E. Carmitchel, president of the medical division.