November 3, 1987
The President. We're here today to welcome into the Cabinet the new Secretary of Labor, a woman of uncommon experience and competence, and a woman who will continue the tradition of strong leadership that the Department has known under Bill Brock, a woman who has won my full confidence and support, Ann McLaughlin.
Ann McLaughlin has had an outstanding career, both in private industry and government, where she's held senior positions in the Environmental Protection Agency, the Treasury Department, and the Department of the Interior. And she'll give the Labor Department decisive and forceful leadership. And besides, if she's handled John McLaughlin this long, she can handle anything. [Laughter]
You know, the Labor Department collects many of our statistics, and since coming to Washington I've found that statistics can be a little slippery. In case you're wondering, that's my way of sliding into a story. It's about a lemon-squeezing contest at a State fair. The first man got up, and he was strong. He picked up the lemon and squeezed and squeezed and got out 80 percent of the juice. The crowd applauded, and he pulled open his jacket, and on his shirt it read "Bodybuilders Club." The next man got up, and he looked even stronger. He squeezed and squeezed, and he got out 90 percent of the juice. The crowd cheered, and he pulled open his jacket, and his shirt said "Police Athletic League." The final contestant got up. He was thin and scrawny and slouched and a little weak-looking. He picked up the lemon and began to squeeze, and out came 150 percent of the juice. He pulled open his jacket, and his shirt said "State Association of Statisticians." [Laughter]
Since I've come here, though, I've found that some statistics aren't lemons. One I've been talking up lately has to do with America's economic growth. In just 3 days the employment figures will come out for October. Now, we don't know exactly what they'll be yet, but we have enough of an idea to know one thing: They'll make it official—59 months of uninterrupted expansion. On November 6th our expansion will enter the history books as the longest peacetime expansion on record. The Labor Department has been among those tracking what has meant to be America's families. After years on a falling roller coaster, family income has been rising sharply. We've created more jobs in this recovery than Europe and Japan combined—nearly 14 million jobs—and that's been almost a quarter of a million a month.
For a while we heard some saying that, well, yes, there are a lot of jobs, but they aren't good jobs. They called them McJobs. Everyone gets them, but there's not much to them. Well, then the Labor Department did some studies and found that nearly twothirds of the new jobs have been in higher paying occupations, only 10 percent in lower paying, low-skill, service occupations. Over 90 percent of the new jobs are full-time. In short, these are jobs that are better paying, more challenging, and more rewarding.
This has been an expansion for all seasons and all Americans. For example, in the last 5 years, black employment has shot forward twice as fast as white employment. Since 1982 the real income of black families has grown almost 40 percent faster than white income, and the share of black families in the highest bracket is up by over 70 percent. This August the percentage of blacks employed was the highest in our history, as was the percentage of whites. One authority on economic trends was written for this record: "On every front—jobs, income, even household wealth—1981 through 1986 were the 5 best economic years in black history."
From New York to Dayton to the west coast, we've heard stories of labor shortages as unemployment has fallen and the competition for workers has become more intense. Manufacturing has come back strong. In old industries like steel and new ones like computers and semiconductors, productivity and production have grown strongly in the past year, and this is in part because exports are on the rise. In fact, since I was sworn in for my second term, total real exports have been growing at a powerful annual rate of over 8 percent. America is doing business in every corner of the world, and more than 10 million American jobs depend on international trade.
Now, that's the good news. The bad news is that in the last few weeks the stock market has been telling us that unless we pay attention to some unfinished business it won't last. And while the market today is still more than twice what it was when it began its climb 5 years ago, higher even than it was at this time last year, this is one warning we can't afford to ignore.
There are times when partisan rivalries must be put on the shelf, and that's just what the leaders of Congress and I did last week. We began talks about how to reduce our nation's budget deficit. We'll be building on what we did last year when we cut the deficit by $73 billion, nearly one-third of what it was in 1986. This year the goals are less ambitious, but if we meet them deficit spending will have been knocked down by roughly 40 percent in just 2 years.
Many economists have been warning us to tread softly. Just last week, the New York Times ran a front-page story headlined, "Perilous Economic Cures." It noted that new taxation, for example, could, as the article said: "Chill the economy, reduce personal and business incomes, and thus lower tax receipts." Well, I've said that everything except Social Security is on the table in these talks. One way or another, we're going to put the public menace of deficit spending behind bars. It won't be easy, and like Sergeant Esterhaus of the old Hill Street Blues precinct, I send negotiators of both sides to their beats each morning with the warning: "Let's all be careful out there."
So, yes, there has been a lot said about the "twin deficits," budget and trade, and that the possible cure may be worse than the disease. On the trade front, there are those who feel now is the time to close the door and pull down the shade to our trading partners, to isolate ourselves in a darkness of protectionism. Well, the signs from Wall Street say just the opposite.
I'm pleased to announce today that 38 courageous men and women in the United States Senate have signed up to fight for America, to fight for jobs and continued growth; and to lend their support to our efforts to make sure our trade message remains one of openness, fairness, and, yes, productiveness.
As we move to solve the budget deficit and preparing America for the 21st century, one of those I'll be looking to for advice and help will be Ann McLaughlin. So, Aim, welcome to the team. And now it is your turn, you have a few words to say.
Mrs. McLaughlin. Thank you very much, Mr. President, for those kind words and for the trust that you have placed in me today. Now I look forward to working with the Senate on my confirmation process. Mr. President, when I left your administration earlier this year, I had no idea that I would be back so soon. I've heard a lot about the revolving door between government and the private sector, but this is a record-breaker. Let me illustrate: Congress first created the Bureau of Labor as part of the Department of Interior in 1884. The Department of Labor was then created in 1913. Now, that's 29 years. It took only 7 months for you to transfer me from Interior to Labor. [Laughter]
This is, indeed, a very special privilege which I cherish and which makes me feel both very proud and humble. Hardworking women and men built America. The Department of Labor was founded to protect and promote their welfare. To have the honor, if confirmed, to be Secretary of Labor will be to have a special bond with each of these American workers. To be able to assist them is a singular responsibility, because it is in our daily work that we find some of our greatest opportunities for good.
As the second woman to undertake this position, I'm indeed aware of the challenges. Now, doubtless, Mr. President, there will be comment about my being a woman. But one of my predecessors, Frances Perkins, the first woman to serve as Secretary of Labor and, in fact, the first woman to serve in a President's Cabinet, was once asked whether being a woman was a disadvantage in public life. "Only when I am climbing trees," she said. [Laughter] And that was before blue jeans. So, I have no reason to feel disadvantaged at all.
Mr. President, thank you again for asking me to join your Cabinet as Secretary of Labor. This is a great honor and an extraordinary opportunity for service. I will do my best to fulfill its obligations. Thank you.
Note: The President spoke at 1:30 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his opening remarks, he referred to William E. Brock III,