Bush Vs. Clinton Vs. Perot -- The Second Presidential Debate -- Excerpts From Last Night's Debate Among President Bush, Gov. Bill Clinton And Ross Perot
JOBS, FOREIGN TRADE
Perot: If you're paying $12, $13, $14 an hour for factory workers, and you can move your factory south of the border, pay $1 an hour for labor, hire young, 25 - that's assumed you've been in business for a long time, you've got a mature workforce - pay $1 an hour for your labor, have no health care - that's the most expensive single element in making a car - have no environmental controls, no pollutions controls and now retirement and you don't care about anything but making money, there will be a giant sucking sound going south.
So, if the people send me to Washington, the first thing I'll do is study that 2,000-page agreement and make sure it's a two-way street.
Bush: The thing that's saved us in this global economic slowdown has been our exports. And what I'm trying to do is increase our exports. And if, indeed, all the jobs were going to move south because they're lower wages, they're lower wages now, and they haven't done that.
And so I have just negotiated with the president of Mexico, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the prime minister of Canada, I might add. And I want to have more of these free-trade agreements, because export jobs are increasing far faster than any jobs that may have moved overseas.
Clinton: I've known a lot of people who have lost their jobs because of jobs moving overseas. And I know a lot of people whose plants have been strengthened by increasing exports.
The trick is to expand out export base and to expand trade on terms that are fair to us.
It is true that our exports to Mexico, for example, have gone up and our trade deficit has gone down. It's also true that just today a record-high trade deficit was announced with Japan.
So what is the answer? Let me just mention three things very quickly.
Number one, make sure that other countries are as open to our markets as our markets are to them. And if they're not, have measures on the books that don't take forever and a day to implement.
Number two, change the tax code. There are more deductions in the tax code for shutting plants down and moving them overseas than there are for modernizing plant and equipment here. Our competitors don't do that. Emphasize and subsidize modernizing plant and equipment here, not moving plants overseas.
Number three, stop the federal government's program that now gives low-interest loans and job-training funds to companies that will actually shut down and move to other countries, but we won't do the same thing for plants that stay here.
Perot: . . . I have said again and again and again, let's get off mud wrestling, let's get off personalities, and let's talk about jobs, health care, crime, the things that concern the American people.
Bush: Well, first place, I believe that character is a part of being president. Think you have to look at it. I think that has to be a part candidate for president or being president. . . .
You know, nobody likes who shot John, but I think the first negative campaign run in this election was by Gov. Clinton. And I'm not going to sit there and be a punching bag. I'm going to stand up and say, "Hey, listen, here's my side of it." But character is an important part of the equation.
The other night, Gov. Clinton raised . . . the question of my father. Was a good line. Well rehearsed and well delivered. But he raised a question of my father, and said, "Well, your father, Prescott Bush, was against McCarthy. You should be ashamed of yourself" - McCarthyism.
I remember something my dad told me. I was 18 years old, going to Penn Station to go into the Navy. And he said, "Write your mother," which I faithfully did. He said, "Serve your country" . . .
My argument with Gov. Clinton - you can call it "mud wrestling," but I think it's fair to put it in focus - I am deeply troubled by someone who demonstrates and organizes demonstration in a foreign land when his country is at war. . . .
The big argument I have with the governor on this is this taking different positions on different issues, trying to be one thing to one person here who is opposing the NAFTA agreement and then for it - what we call waffling. And I do think that you can't turn the White House into the "Waffle House" - you've got to say what you're for."
Clinton: Let me just say this: We'll have a debate in four days, and we can talk about this character thing again. But the Washington Post ran a long editorial today saying they couldn't believe Mr. Bush was making character an issue - and they said he was the greatest, quote, "political chameleon," for changing his positions, of all time. . . .
Bush: The Washington Post? God.
Clinton: Here's my point: I'm not interested in his character. I want to change the character of the presidency.
Bush: We passed this year the most farthest-looking transportation bill in the history of this country since Eisenhower started the interstate highways - $150 billion for improving the infrastructure. That happened when I was president. . . .
Like Mr. Perot, I am concerned about the deficit. And $150 billion is a lot of money, but it's awful hard to say we're going to go out and spend more money when we're trying to get the deficit down.
Our home initiative, our home ownership initiative, HOPE, that passed the Congress, is a good start for having people own their own homes instead of living in these deadly tenements. Our enterprise zones that we hear a lot of lip service about in Congress would bring jobs into the inner city. . . .
When we went out to South Central in Los Angeles, some of you may remember the riots there. I went out there. I went to a Boys Club, and every one of them - the boys-club leaders, the ministers, all of them - were saying, "Pass enterprise zones."
Clinton: That bill pays for these urban enterprise zones by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more, and that's why he wants to veto it, just like he vetoed an earlier bill this year. This is not mudslinging; this is fact-slinging. . . .
My plan would dedicate $20 billion a year in each of the next four years for investments in new transportation, communications and environmental cleanup and new technologies for the 21st century, and we would target it especially in areas that have been either depressed or which have lost a lot of defense-related jobs.
There are 200,000 people in California, for example, who've lost their defense-related jobs. They ought to be engaged in making high-speed rail. They ought to be engaged in breaking ground in other technologies, doing waste recycling, clean water technology and things of that kind.
Perot: First you've got to have money to pay for these things. So you've got to create jobs. There are all kinds of ways to create jobs in the inner city.
Now, I am not a politician, but I think I could go to Washington in a week and get everybody holding hands and get this bill signed, because I talked to the Democratic leaders, and they want it; I talked to the Republican leaders, and they want it.
Bush: I strongly support term limits for members of the United States Congress. I believe it would return the government closer to the people, the way that Ross Perot is talking about.
The president's terms are limited to two, a total of eight years. What's wrong with limiting the terms of members of Congress to 12? Congress has gotten kind of institutionalized. . . .
And how to get them passed? Send us some people that'll pass the idea. . . . Actually, you'd have to have some amendments to the Constitution because of the way the Constitution reads.
Clinton: I know they're popular, but I'm against them. I'll tell you why. I believe, number one, it would pose a real problem for a lot of smaller states who have enough trouble now making sure their interests are heard.
Number two, I think it would increase the influence of unelected staff members in the Congress who have too much influence already. I want to cut the size of the congressional staffs, but I think you're going to have too much influence there with people who were never elected who have lots of expertise.
Number three, if the people really have a mind to change, they can. You're going to have 120 to 150 new members of Congress.
Now, let me tell you what I favor instead. I favor strict controls on how much you can spend running for Congress, strict limits on political-action committees, requirements that people running for Congress appear in open, public debates like we're doing now.
If you did that, you could take away the incumbent's advantage, because challengers like me would have a chance to run against incumbents like him for House races and Senate races. And then the voters could make up their own mind without being subject to an unfair fight.
Perot: Yes. Let me do it first on a personal level. If the American people send me up to do this job, I intend to do be there one term. I do not intend to spend one minute of one day thinking about re-election.
And as a matter of principle - and my situation is unique, and I understand it - I would take absolutely no compensation. I go as their servant. . . .
But we have got to reform government. If you put term limits in and don't reform government, you won't get the benefit you thought. It takes both. . . .
Good people will go serve and then go back to their homes and not become foreign lobbyists and cash in at 30,000 bucks a month and then take time off to run some president's campaign.
Clinton: We spend 30 percent more of our income than any nation on Earth on health care, and yet we insure fewer people. We have 35 million people without any insurance at all, and I see them all the time. A hundred thousand Americans a month have lost their health insurance just in the last four years.
If you analyze where we're out of line with other countries, you come up with the following conclusions.
Number one, we spend at least $60 billion a year on insurance, administrative costs, bureaucracy, and government regulation that wouldn't be spent in any other nation. So, we have to have, in my judgment, a drastic simplification of the basic health insurance policies of this country and be very comprehensive for everybody.
Employers would cover their employees, government would cover the unemployed.
Number two, I think you have to take on, specifically, the insurance companies and require them to make some significant change in the way they rate people into big community pools. I think you have to tell the pharmaceutical companies they can't keep raising drug prices at three times the rate of inflation. I think you have to take on medical fraud. I think you have to help doctors stop practicing defensive medicine.
I've recommended that our doctors be given a set of national practice guidelines, and that if they follow those guidelines, that raises the presumption that they didn't do anything wrong. I think you have to have a system of primary and preventive clinics in our inner cities and our rural areas so people can have access to health care.
The key is to control the costs and maintain the quality. To do that, you need a system of managed competition where all of us are covered in big groups and we can choose our doctors and our hospitals from a wide range, but there is an incentive to control costs. . . .
There has to be a national commission of health care providers and health care consumers that sets ceilings to keep health costs in line with inflation plus population growth.
Bush: One thing to blame is these malpractice lawsuits. They are breaking the system. It cost $20 to $25 billion a year, and I want to see those outrageous claims capped. Doctors don't dare to deliver babies sometimes, because they're afraid that somebody's going to sue them.
. . . My program is this: Keep the government as far out of it as possible.
Make insurance available to the poorest of the poor through vouchers. Next, range in the income bracket through tax credits, and get on about the business of pooling insurance.
A great big company can buy . . . insurance cheaper than the mom-and-pop store on the corner. But if those mom-and-pop stores all get together and pool, they, too, can bring the cost of insurance down.
I think medical care should go with the person. If you leave a business, I think your insurance should go with you to some other business. You shouldn't be worrying if you get a new job as to whether that's going to - and part of our plan is to make it what they call "portable" - a big word, but that means if you're working for the Jones Company, you go to the Smith Company, your insurance goes with you.
Perot: We have the most expensive health care system in the world. Twelve percent of our gross national product goes to health care. Our industrial competitors, who are beating us in competition, spend less and have better health care.
Now, there are all kinds of good ideas, brilliant ideas, terrific ideas on health care. None of them ever get implemented because - let me give you an example.
A senator runs every six years. He's got to raise 20,000 bucks a week to have enough money to run. Who's he going to listen to? Us or the folks running up and down the aisles with money, the lobbyists, the PAC money. He listens to them. Who do they represent? Health-care industry.
Bush: The Social Security system was fixed about five years, and I think it's projected out to be sound beyond that. So at least we have time to work with it.
But on all of these things, a sound economy is the only way to get it going.
Perot: Anybody that's ever built a successful business will tell you, you optimize, optimize, optimize after you put something into effect. The reason Medicare and Medicaid are a mess is we froze them.
Now back over here. See, we've got a $4 trillion debt, and only in America would you have $2.8 trillion of it or 70 percent of it financed five years or less. Now that's another thing for you to think about when you go home tonight. You don't finance long-term debt with short-term money. Why did our government do it? To get the interest rates down.
Clinton: . . . You cannot control the costs of Medicare until you control the cost of private health care and public health care with managed competition, ceiling on cost, and radical reorganization of the insurance markets. . . .
Number two, with regard to Social Security, that program, a lot of you may not know this, it produces a $70 billion surplus a year. . . .
Six increases in the payroll tax, that means people with incomes of $51,000 a year or less pay a disproportionately high share of the federal tax burden, which is why I want some middle-class tax relief.
What do we have to do? By the time the century turns, we have got to have our deficit under control, we have to work out of so that surplus is building up so when the baby boomers like me retire we're okay.
Number three, on the pension funds, I don't know as much about it, but I will say this: What I would do is to bring in the pension experts of the country, take a look at it and strengthen the pension requirements further, because it's not just enough to have the guarantee. We had a guarantee on the S & Ls, right? We had a guarantee and what happened? You picked up a $500 billion bill because of the dumb way the federal government deregulated it.
Bush: You can't do it the old way. You can't do it with the school bureaucracy controlling everything, and that's why we have a new program that I hope people have heard about.
It's being worked now in 1,700 communities - bypassed Congress on this one, Ross - 1,700 communities across the country. It's called America 2000. And it literally says to the communities, "Reinvent the schools."
. . . We have got to get the power in the hands of the teachers, not the teachers' union. And so our America 2000 program also says this. It says let's give parents the choice of a . . . public, private or religious school. . . .
And the schools that are not chosen are improved - competition does that.
Clinton: First of all, let me say that I spent more of my time and life on this in the last 12 years than any other issue.
Seventy percent of my state's money goes to public schools. And I was really honored when Time magazine said that our schools had shown more improvement than any other state in the country except one other - they named two states showing real strides forward in the 80s.
So what should we do? . . . Number one, under my program we would provide matching funds to states to teach everybody with a job to read in the next five years, and give everybody with a job a chance to get a high school diploma - in big places on the job.
Number two, we would provide two-year apprenticeship programs to high school graduates who don't go to college - in community colleges or on the job.
Number three, we'd open the doors to college education to high-school graduates without regard to income. They could borrow the money and pay it back as a percentage of their income or with a couple of years of service to our nation here at home.
Number four, we would fully fund the Head Start program to get little kids off to a good start.
And five, I would have an aggressive program of school reform - more choices in the - I favor public school or these new charter schools. We can't talk about that if you want. I don't think we should spend tax money on private schools, but I favor public school choice, and I favor radical decentralization in giving more power to better trained principals and teachers, with parent councils to control their schools.
Perot: . . . In 1960, when our schools were the envy of the world, we were spending $16 billion on them. Now we spend more than any other nation in the world, $199 billion a year, and rank at the bottom of the industrialized world in terms of education achievement. One more time, you bought a front-row box seat and got a third-rate performance. It's the government that's not serving you.
By and large, it should be local. . . .
Interesting phenomenon: Small towns have good schools; big cities have terrible schools. The best people in a small town will serve on the school board. You get in the big cities, it's political patronage, stepping stones. You get the job, give your relatives the janitor's job at $57,000 a year, more than the teachers make, and with luck they clean the cafeteria once a week. . . .
Next thing: You need small schools, not big schools. At the little school, everybody's somebody. Individualism is very important. These big factories, everybody told me they were cost-effective. I did a study on it. They're cost ineffective. Five thousand students - why is a high school that big? One reason: Sooner or later, we get 11 or more boys that can run like the devil that weigh 250 pounds and they might win district. Now, that has nothing to do with learning. . . .
If we don't fix this, you're right; we can't have the industries of tomorrow unless we have the best-educated work force.
Bush: I do not want to raise taxes. I differ with the two here on that. I'm just not going to do that. I do believe that we need to control mandatory spending. I think we need to invest and save more.
I believe that we need to educate better and retrain better. I believe that we need to export more, so I'll keep working for export agreements where we can sell more abroad. And I believe that we must strengthen the family. . . .
Now, let me pose this question to America. If in the next five minutes, a television announcer came on and said, there is a major international crisis. . . . Or, in this country, a major threat. My question is, who - if you were appointed to name one of the three of us, who would you choose?
Who has the perseverance, the character, the integrity, the maturity, to get the job done? I hope I'm that person.
Perot: If the American people want to do it and not talk about it, then they ought to, you know, I'm one person they ought to consider.
If they just want to keep slow-dancing and talk about it and not do it, I'm not your man. I am results-oriented, I am action-oriented. I've built my businesses getting things done in three months that my competitors took 18 months to do.
Everybody says you can't do that with Congress. Sure you can do that with Congress.
Congress is - they're all good people, they're all patriots. But you've got to link arms and work with them. Sure you'll have arguments, sure you'll have fights. We have them all day every day. But we get the job done.
Clinton: First of all, the people of my state have let me be their governor for 12 years because I made commitments to two things: more jobs and better schools. Our schools are now better, our children get off to a better start - from preschool programs and smaller classes in the early grades and we have one of the most aggressive adult education programs in the country. . . .
This year my state ranks first in the country in job growth, fourth in manufacturing job growth, fourth in income growth, fourth in the decline of poverty. . . .
It happened because I could work with people - Republicans and Democrats.
I'm the only person here who's ever balanced a government budget, and I've presented 12 of them and cut spending repeatedly. But you cannot just get there by balancing the budget. We've got to grow the economy by putting people first - real people like you.
I got into this race because I did not want my child to grow up to be part of the first generations of Americans to do worse than her parents. We're better than that. We can do better than that.
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