E X E C U T I V E O F F I C E O F T H E P R E S I D E N T
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
9:20 A.M. EST
MS MYERS: Okay, I have a few details on Sunday, Monday. We will leave here at roughly 9:00 a.m., 9:15 a.m. Sunday morning. He will fly to Los Angeles and do an event at Santa Monica College, followed by a couple of private events; then fly up to the Silicon Valley, where he'll do some evening events, a reception, something --the details aren't quite clear.
In the morning, Monday morning, he'll tour a high-tech facility somewhere in the Silicon Valley, and then fly up to Seattle for an early afternoon event -- probably somewhere between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time. And then he'll fly back, and we expect to be back in Washington by early evening -- 7:30 p.m., 8:00 p.m.
Very reasonable schedule.
Q He's overnighting in San Francisco?
MS MYERS: Overnighting in the Silicon Valley area, Santa Clara.
Q Are these key places that he's picked for the selling job? Do they have any --
MS MYERS: Well, partly California's been, as you know, hard hit by the recession; it's been slower to recover. There's been tremendous job loss there, particularly in the defense industry. The President's talked a lot about converting the defense research and development dollars into civilian research dollars and having a defense conversion plan. Those are things, among other things, that are particularly of interest to the West Coast.
But I think he wanted to take -- he hasn't been to the West Coast yet as President. I think he wanted to go out there and continue to talk about his economic plan.
Q You're talking about -- events each day?
MS MYERS: One public event on Sunday, one Monday morning in California, and one Monday afternoon in Washington.
Q Do you have specific companies he's going to meet with, aerospace companies?
MS MYERS: He won't be meeting probably with aerospace
companies, it'll probably be other high-tech -- one high-tech company that he'll probably tour on Monday morning.
Q who that is?
MS MYERS: Don't know yet.
Q The Sunday night events then are not public events?
MS. MYERS: Probably not -- probably a reception, perhaps with Silicon Valley business leaders.
Q What is the reaction to the -- I mean, this is not a softball -- do you have any kind of figures or -- that will tell on the speech?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the only sort of quantitative data is what has been in public polls. I think the CNN poll showed 79 percent of people supported the President's plan; ABC News had a poll that showed roughly three to one that thought the plan was fair. The overnight reaction has been terrific. People are ready for straight talk. The President outlined a series of very specific cuts -- 150 cuts. We'll have all the details of those today in the book; plus revenue increases, plus an investment package that will get the economy moving again and create jobs. And I think the American people are ready for a new direction in economic policy.
Q Your meetings this morning, did you guys take away kind of -- get any follow-up from last night that you realize we need to focus more on this, let people know more about -- the middle class is only going to be hit by the gas tax or -- what is your strategy to make sure that this thing is sold right?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think there's a lot of information out there. This is a complicated plan. It's a detailed plan. And I think it's up to us to continue to explain to people how it will affect them; to remind people that it's a very fair plan; that the majority of new taxes will fall on the people who are best able to pay, people who make over $100,000 a year; that the energy tax will be broad-based; that there will be long-term effects, such as lower interest rates, which will help people; more jobs; more competitive economy; lower deficit --all those things that will have a general good impact on middle class and upper middle class people.
Q When does the legislation for all these different things go to the Hill?
MS. MYERS: Well, the stimulus package, the spending portions of the stimulus package, we expect to pass quickly -- probably next month.
Q When is he going to the Hill? Are you going to send it up in the form of legislation?
MS. MYERS: Yes, we'll be working with Congress on that starting today. But as you know, both Director Panetta and Secretary Bentsen will testifying, and I believe Secretary Reich, and starting to hammer out the details of the package. And it will start with a stimulus package -- stimulus package. The spending portions of the stimulus package will go to Congress first. As you know, the tax portions of the stimulus package are retroactive to December of '91. Those won't get passed until reconciliation in the summer of '93.
The rough time schedule is that the President will announce the budget sometime at the end of March. We expect to have a budget package by the 1st of May -- just a traditional date. Then it goes to committee and comes back to reconciliation sometime in the summer; so probably August.
Q You say the taxes are retroactive to --
MS. MYERS: That will be the investment tax credits --retroactive to December of '92.
Q What would you say -- the Vice President artfully dodged answering this question on all the morning shows this morning -- but one big concern of people across party lines, including Ross Perot, without having had a chance to examine the details on the spending cuts, is that Congress will do as it always does: enact the tax increases and then forget about the spending cuts or water them down. Is there any guarantee from the President in his program that that will not happen, that the tax increases will not take effect until the spending cuts are enacted?
MS. MYERS: Well, I don't know if there's any guarantees, but the President is committed to passing the entire package, working with Congress to get it through. He is very serious about deficit reduction, and that's why he has outlined 150 specific cuts. He has gone directly to the American people with those cuts, and he has said to the critics, if you don't like these specific cuts, then give me some different specific cuts. But let's talk about specifics.
Q I mean, we're not talking specifics, but we're talking about the enforcement of it. Now, he has the power to do that, because he can simply hold off on signing a tax bill, put pressure on the people. I mean, what kind of effort is he going to make to ensure that both halves of the package get passed?
MS. MYERS: He's going to work very hard with Congress to get it passed, to enact equal -- basically, this budget contains an equal number of spending cuts, an equal amount of spending cuts, and new revenues. The President is committed to that. He believes that you have to do both in order to show the American people that you're serious about long-term deficit reduction, that you can't just raise taxes, you also have to reduce spending. He has gone out of his way to do that starting with government: $9 billion in administrative cuts, freezing cost of living increases for federal employees for a year, and then increasing their salaries below inflation. And then about $30 billion total -- over $30 billion total in government cuts. Those are important, as are $100 billion in discretionary spending cuts.
Q Would it be fair to say the President is committed to not raising taxes without spending cuts?
MS. MYERS: Absolutely, that's why he outlined 150 specific cuts. He could have just called on Congress to make the cuts. He didn't do that. He took the much more difficult approach by outlining exactly where he's proposing the cuts. Previous presidents have said, we're going to cut $250 billion in spending, and I'm going to leave it to Congress to do it. The President didn't do that. He came back and said here's where the cuts are going to come; some of these are very painful, some of these are painful to programs I care about. He pointed to the Rural Electrification Administration as one, things that affect his home region of the country, things that affect programs he cares about. But I think what he wanted people to know is that he's serious about it; everyone's going to contribute, including him; and he's willing to go forward with it.
Q Is he going to include in the initial package he sends up the enhanced recision authority that Panetta said yesterday that he was interested in having as well as sequestration if the goals can't be met?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if that'll be in the package. I'll have to get back to you on that.
Q Well, is it something he still supports and wants Congress to pass as soon as possible?
MS. MYERS: Absolutely.
Q So why wouldn't it be included in his package?
MS. MYERS: I just don't know the specifics.
Q I just want to follow up on the previous question. Is he going to do, though, what he's done in his past political history, and that is, promise not to sign a tax increase until the spending cuts get made? Is there going to be a guarantee? Is he going to verbally guarantee, I will not raise your taxes unless some -- there are an equal number of spending cuts?
MS. MYERS: He's outlined specific spending cuts. He hasn't made any verbal pledge like that. But he's outlined the spending cuts and tax increases --
Q So there is a possibility that there could be tax increases and not the accompanying spending?
MS. MYERS: The President is committed to doing both. He doesn't believe he can achieve his long-term objectives unless spending is cut. That's why he outlined, again, 150 specific cuts totaling over $250 billion. He's very committed to that. He doesn't believe that that program will work unless it includes both new revenues and cuts. And he's going to challenge his critics again to be specific. If they don't like the cuts he's outlined, be specific, give us different ones.
Q Why do you think no guarantee is necessary? You imply that there's no guarantee necessary other than --
MS. MYERS: I think that the guarantee -- the commitment is in the document. He didn't -- again, he didn't leave it to Congress to cut $250 billion; he went and did it. I think his commitment is clear. No president has done that before. He's going to work with Congress to try to get the package passed. He's going to work with the American people. He's going to take this package and work as hard to get it through as he did to put together a package that was fair.
Q What's his reaction -- how does the President read the reaction so far to his plan, the program that he announced last night? And part two, what does he hope to accomplish on this two-day campaign swing?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think he feels very good about --both about the speech. He said what he wanted to say. He outlined his package. It was specific, it was detailed. The overall reaction has been very good, both from members of Congress and in anecdotal form from the American people. Clearly, the overnight polls, what there is of them, is very encouraging. What he hopes to do on this trip is to go out into the Midwest and the Northeast and to talk to people directly about what's in the plan.
His message is going to be: Don't ask what's in it for me, ask what's in it for us. This is, don't look at one specific portion of the plan, look at the plan in its entirety. If we're going to be serious, if we're going to turn this country around, which is what he believes the American people elected him to do, then we need to make some serious, dramatic changes. He has put forward a bold plan that requires everybody to contribute, but at the same time, people will all benefit. And I think he wants to make the specific elements of that plan clear.
Q Can you give us a count of your phone calls last night?
MS. MYERS: I haven't seen them yet.
Q Is he going to be totally consumed for the next six months with this -- with the selling or does he have --
MS. MYERS: It's certainly going to be high on his agenda. He spent a significant amount of time, as you know, putting this package together. He feels it's fair, it's comprehensive, it's bold, it will achieve its desired effects. He is now going to work --
Q Why does he feel he has to barnstorm the country if he thinks everybody's on board?
MS. MYERS: I don't think he thinks everybody's on board. I don't think he has any illusions about how difficult this is going to be to sell. There are --
Q What's difficult?
MS. MYERS: It requires everybody to contribute something. It's complicated. It requires serious spending cuts. It asks people to give up things that they've had. It asks them to pay more. It asks everybody to put aside their own personal self-interest and look at the national interest. He knows that that's not an easy plan. He's always said that he's not taking the easy path, he's taking the right path. And I think he wants the American people to know how committed he is to turning this economy around.
Q So you think this initial reaction is simply in the euphoria of the moment, that when reality sets in, he may find some opposition?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that the initial reaction is that the President outlined a bold plan, he talked straight to the American people, he didn't use rosy scenarios or magic asterisks. He gave them an honest accounting of the budget and of the problems that this country faces. I think the American people appreciate that. And when they're asked to pull together for the national interest -- which they haven't been done, which hasn't happened in about three decades --they're willing to do it.
But there are going to be a lot of people, a lot of lobbyists and others, who are going to oppose specific portions of the plan, who are going to say that it can't be done; who are going to say that the President's goals can't be met; that we can't turn the economy around this way; either the President's not cutting enough spending or he's cutting too much spending; he's not raising enough new revenues; he's raising too much new revenue. And there's going to be a cacophony of different objections. And I think the President's going to take his case directly to the American people so that he can continue to call on them to work together to turn this economy around.
Q On a lighter moment. Can you tell us how many donations he's had for the track so far? How you're going about --
MS. MYERS: None that I know of.
Q How are you soliciting? I mean, could we all contribute a dollar and then give the --
MS. MYERS: You are welcome to contribute a dollar. We'll pass the hat at the end of the briefing. (Laughter.)
Q I wonder what is the approach to getting $20,000 to build a track?
MS. MYERS: I don't know what the specific approach is.
Q But there is no money in the kitty yet?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of -- other than the building materials, which again are worth about $10,000.
Q Why do you need a track? And why can't he just run on the grass?
Q solicitation? Do you know who it is yet?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't. I know that counsel is making sure that it's structured in a way that's advisable. And I will let you know as soon as the other details are clear --
Q two unrelated questions -- one on the jogging track. Can you assure us that the decision to solicit voluntary contributions was made before the existence of the track was discovered by the press?
MS. MYERS: The President always intended for the track to be paid for with private donations when he approved the project.
Q You didn't get a date, though, of when this whole thing germinated?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Okay, and the second question is on the economic plan. There was a feeling left after his speech Monday night that I give you a chance to clear up. The President didn't mean to imply that if you disagree with the economics of his plan -- not that something needs to be done -- but with the specifics of his plan, you're unpatriotic?
MS. MYERS: No, the President meant to imply that patriotism is a sense that this country can pull together in the interest of its collective goodwill, if you will; and that it's been a long time since a President has called on the nation to put aside narrow self-interest and to act in the broader national interest. That's what he meant to imply by that.
Q Dee Dee, do you think that tone of that Monday night speech was misinterpreted by people?
MS. MYERS: I don't think so. I think the American people knew that the President was preparing them for a bold plan and asking them to evaluate it in its totality, not to look at too many details. I think it's unfortunate there was more emphasis on the tax portion of the plan. Some of those details came forward first. And I think a lot of the spending cuts were lost for a day. But I think now that the American people have had a chance to see the total plan, to hear about the spending cuts, as well as the revenue increases and the investments, that they basically support us. Seventy-nine percent of people said that after hearing the President's speech they support the plan. I think that's a very encouraging sign.
Q But don't you think -- I mean, he seemed to switch from sacrifice to contribution to -- it almost seemed like last night was a little more of a reassuring tone, perhaps particularly after Wall Street reacted so negatively.
MS. MYERS: I don't think so. I think the President's objective on Monday night was to tell people there is a high price if we don't change. What I'm going to tell you on Wednesday -- I'm going to give a plan for bold change. It's not going to be easy, and it's not going to be without its downsides. But if we don't change, then we have a declining economy, a declining standard of living, higher interest
rates, and a loss of competitiveness to look forward to. I think he wanted people to know that this was going to be a bold plan, but that the price of not doing it was higher than the price of doing it. And he reemphasized that last night.
Q Dee Dee, what are you going to tell the federal workers who think they're being singled out for extra sacrifice?
MS. MYERS: Everybody has to contribute, and I think the President, in order to reassure the American people that he is serious, has to start with government. He did that last week, as you know, a 25 percent cut in the White House staff, $9 billion in administrative cuts. Now he's asking federal employees to give up their cost of living adjustments for a year. But I think it all goes to how serious he is about cutting, starting with government, asking business and the wealthy to pay their fair share before he goes to the middle class.
Q But Dee Dee, presumably federal employees, being Americans along with everyone else, are going to pay the same share of higher energy taxes or higher income taxes that everyone else will pay. But where the rest of the country is not going to be having their wages frozen for a year, federal employees are. Why them?
MS. MYERS: Well, I don't think that the rest of the country is necessarily guaranteed wage increases every year. When times are good people's wages go up, when times are not as good people's wages don't necessarily go up. And I think that is true of the federal government as well. When you work for a company who is having a good year, sometimes you get more benefits. When you work for a company that has to change the way it does business, sometimes you have to tighten your belt. That's the way it is in the private sector, that's the way it is in the public sector.
Q Dee Dee, on that, though -- I mean, one of the concerns has been that the private sector had been stealing the good people from the federal government, that it offers much more money. Is there any concern that there will be a loss of skilled people?
MS. MYERS: No. I think if you can restore the integrity of government, make people believe in government again, that you can continue to attract good people. I think the President's has been able to attract good people at every level. I think that will continue to be true.
Q Does the President regret that he didn't work a little harder, maybe, on bipartisan support for this package in advance of its unveiling? Because it looks already like, you know, a lot of the Republicans are just writing it off and -- I mean, by way of example, 12 years ago after Reagan's speech there was a lot of support on both sides of the aisle for what he was proposing.
MS. MYERS: Well, it's a lot easier to support tax cuts and increased defense spending and to tell people that they're not going to have an increased deficit to go along with it. But that's just pie in the sky. It's a lot easier to support something that sounds good, that doesn't ask anybody to contribute anything. I think the President did work hard to try to enlist some bipartisan support. Obviously, again, he worked harder with the Democrats to tell them specifically what was in the plan and to enlist their support. But I think that the reaction from the Republicans, particularly this morning, after they've had a chance to ascertain public reaction, has been tempered. And I think that this is not going to be easy, but there is an opportunity here for collective work on this project.
Q You guys had indicated that we're going to see travel about once a week in the next however many weeks. Does the West Coast trip take care of next week, or is there something else --
MS. MYERS: There is nothing else scheduled for next week.
Q I want to thank you for taking the gravel off the driveway for the helicopter that will sweep into us when we're waiting to see him --
MS. MYERS: We didn't want you guys to be pelted with gravel.
Q Aren't these trips away pressuring Congress to vote for the plan? I mean, if the President goes out there, and assuming he gets good reaction, just makes it that much harder for, especially Democrats, to defect and vote against this plan.
MS. MYERS: Well, clearly the President believes that if people know what's in the plan, if they believe it's fair, if they believe that it couples spending cuts with revenue increases and that it invests to create a stronger economy, that they will support it. And certainly, members of Congress will listen to their constituents. But he's going to appeal directly to the American people and ask them to work with him to get this package through Congress.
Q What do you think of what Perot said last night?
MS. MYERS: Well, I thought his initial reaction was quite supportive. He said he thought it was a good first step, that it took good steps toward reducing the deficit, and that he wanted to see the details, which we'll be happy to provide.
Q Do you disagree that a balanced budget amendment is necessary?
MS. MYERS: Clearly, the President has said a number of times that it's just another budget gimmick, that it won't solve the problem. What he believes will solve the problem is specific spending cuts and revenue increases and a plan, which he has put forth.
Q Do you think Perot's reaction was more important than the Republicans?
MS. MYERS: The Republicans are going to have to work with the Democrats to get the plan through Congress. And certainly, Mr. Perot has a constituency out there, people who care about reducing the deficit and getting the economy back on track. We think this plan will appeal to them. Obviously, we'll have to work with the Republicans to get this package through Congress, and we'll do that as well.
Q To what extent is the White House involved in the DNC's efforts to put together both volunteer and paid phone banks to get out the support for this package?
MS. MYERS: Well, the DNC is obviously separate, and they make their own decisions about how to structure their different programs. Clearly, their mission is to create support for Democratic initiatives. What the President did last night was outline a program that is a clear change in direction, is a dramatic reversal of 12 years of trickle-down economics; and I think it's an excellent organizing tool for Democrats, and I would expect the DNC to try to organize around it. But in terms of the specifics of their plan, that's something that they decide on their own.
Q I want to ask you -- and I don't know if you can answer this -- but one specific question about the spending cuts. The President said in his speech last night that he wants to build more prisons to help alleviate the crime problem. And in the documents we were given yesterday, it shows a significant cut over the next four years in the money being spent to build prisons. And I was wondering
how you can reconcile those?
MS. MYERS: Well, you can continue to build prisons. It's a question of how fast -- there's been a doubling in the number of prisons in recent years in this country. Though there are a number of projects that are still in the pipeline that will be completed, the President supports ongoing prison construction. But there will be some reduction in the overall spending on prison -- or the money that was allocated for prison construction. But the projects currently under construction will be completed, and there will be ongoing prison construction.
Q Dee Dee, is the administration considering airlifts to get supplies into Bosnia right now?
MS. MYERS: I can't comment on that right now. I'll get back to you.
Q Dee Dee, when we talked to you last night about the jogging track you were unable to identify the company that donated the $10,000 worth of materials. Do you have an identification yet?
MS. MYERS: I don't. I'll have to -- I didn't have a chance to follow up on that.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
MS. MYERS: The plans will be -- if the plans aren't available before we leave, for people that are going on the trip, we will bring them on Air Force One and get them to you in St. Louis.
MR. SELDIN: They are also going to be available some time between 10:00 a.m and 11:00 a.m. We're going to move it on U.S. Newswire. So that's going to be the quickest way to get it.
END9:45 A.M. EST