October 5, 1983
Well, I thank you all very much for a most warm welcome. Secretary Donovan, Ray, Assistant Secretary Al Angrisani -- and I understand that maybe we wouldn't be celebrating this particular event today, Ray tells me, Al, if it hadn't been for your devotion to this cause and all that you've put in -- our other guests here on the top shelf -- [laughter] -- I thank you for inviting me over today to be a part of this ceremony for the Job Training Partnership Act.
You know, so much of what we're trying to do, so much of this depended on real communications. And I can't resist. I've told this story before, and if some of you've heard it before -- it illustrates communications -- you'll have to forgive me. But life not only begins -- or lumbago, I should say, not only begins at 40 but so does the tendency to tell the same story over and over again. [Laughter] But I've always thought of the importance of communication and how much a part it plays in what you and I, what all of us are trying to do. And one day a former placekicker with the Los Angeles Rams, who later became a sports announcer, Danny Villanueva told me about communications.
He said he'd been having dinner over at the home of a young ballplayer with the Dodgers. The young wife was bustling about getting the dinner ready. They were talking sports and the baby started to cry. And over her shoulder, his busy wife said to the ballplayer, ``Change the baby.'' And he was a young fellow, and he was embarrassed in front of Danny, and he said, ``What do you mean change the baby? I'm a ballplayer. That's not my line of work.'' And she turned around, put her hands on her hips, and she communicated. [Laughter] She said, ``Look buster, you lay the diaper out like a diamond. You put second base on home plate. You put the baby's bottom on the pitcher's mound. You hook up first and third, slide home underneath, and if it starts to rain, the game ain't called, you start all over.'' [Laughter]
But we really do have a lot to celebrate, because this act, which went into effect a couple of days ago, initiates a new, more effective way of helping our unemployed, as you've been told. The people up here on the dais, other people in the administration and the Congress, and many of you in the audience, especially you in the Employment and Training Administration, played a role in making this positive program happen.
From a personal perspective, this act represents the change of direction that I hoped to bring to Washington when I came here. I had seen many Federal programs out there from another vantage point as Governor of a State, and I want to thank all of you for bringing this particular program about. I'm very proud of your work. This program will train, as you've been told, more than a million people a year for permanent, self-sustaining employment. And you know what is different about this program is, the primary goal is real, results-oriented job training, training that leads to jobs people can build lives and futures on.
It represents genuine opportunity, not temporary balm to a liberal conscience. It focuses on the long-term needs of the unemployed, not on short-term political quackery. Its moneys go to real training, not simply to income transfer, welfare-type programs or into administrative overhead. Another thing different about this program is that it meets the local needs, which is where the jobs are and where the unemployed live.
This program, as Secretary Donovan said, is a partnership between Federal, State, and local government and the private sector. The government has trained too many individuals in skills that aren't needed in their communities. Still other unemployed people have been steered into make-work government jobs. This program will make a difference on Main Street. It'll provide help; it'll bring hope and encourage self-reliance.
Private enterprise will be participating in a very meaningful way. Business and labor will be working together in organizations called private industry councils, designed to provide training skills needed right in the community. And unlike a great many other programs in the past, at least 70 cents of every Job Training Partnership Act dollar must go to actual training.
On Monday, the first day of the program that it became effective, the Indianapolis Private Industry Council started sponsoring training at ITT to place low-income youth and adults in existing jobs. In Wilmington, welfare women will soon be trained for skilled, entry-level jobs. Now, these are just two examples, among many, of hope that is being reborn across America. I think this is the start of something big. In fact, it could be much bigger than many people realize.
This act provides the possibility of a fundamental change, not only in job-training practices but in welfare, vocational education, and economic development. State legislatures and Federal agencies are looking into the State and local councils set up as a result of this act as a funnel for other programs. This could be a great step forward for other programs, for federalism, and for meeting the needs of our communities, and that's a pretty exciting prospect.
Now, there are some people who currently have plenty of time to run for office, but they don't seem to have any time for new ideas. Most of them are younger than I am. Everybody is. [Laughter] But I just have to call some of those young people I've been describing as the ``old men of Washington,'' because their ideas are so old and threadbare. You'd think they'd been asleep for a hundred years. They're like political Rip Van Winkles, still dozing along on the programs of the past, not realizing we must change with the times and try new ways of solving the problems that face us.
You see them peddling the same old economic nostrums that got us into our economic difficulties in the first place. Well, I can assure you, we're not going backward. We're heading forward toward the future.
Not only in terms of this job training act but in other areas as well, we've begun to turn things around a little bit here in town. Inflation, which had been running at those horrendous double digits, has for the last 12 months been running 2.6 percent. That's the lowest 12-month average in 17 years. Now, of course, they said it couldn't be done. And we said it could. And we did it. It's nice sometimes not to know how many things you can't do -- [laughter] -- because usually you can.
The prime interest rate was 21\1/2\ percent. It's now 11 percent. And I think we're going to -- it's still too high; it's about half of what is was -- but I think we're going very shortly to see interest rates coming down some more.
The tax take doubled in the 5 years before we had a chance to do anything about it. Well, we cut personal tax rates 25 percent across the board. And beginning in 1985 taxes will be indexed so that never again will inflation push you into higher and higher tax brackets just because you got a cost-of-living pay raise.
The economy's been growing at a good clip. There have been increases in housing, construction, retail and auto sales -- all those things that show that the economy is recovering nicely. And that brings me to the place where America's nest eggs, billions of dollars, workers' pension funds are invested. The gains in the stock market have met a higher return for all of America's workers and their retirement savings. And that's very good news for retirees and workers.
These are some of the good things that have been happening. Unemployment is going down, but it's usually the last of the major indicators to turn around. And, yet, a month ago we had a drop that was the biggest 1-month drop in unemployment in 24 years.
The turnaround in the economy is what is getting the people back to work. The Job Training Partnership Act is directed toward those who would have trouble in getting jobs even if the unemployment rate was not at the level it is. It's targeted toward those who face significant barriers to employment. These are the people that government can help through training. This money is much more effectively spent than all-purpose, politically motivated jobs bills that you see working their way through the Congress.
So, I'm very proud of the work that you've accomplished with this new legislation. America is regaining her confidence. We're headed in a new and a better direction. I'm very optimistic about the accomplishments to come.
Since I'm here at the Department of Labor, I'd like to take a moment this afternoon to send a message of warmest congratulations to one of the world's greatest labor leaders, Lech Walesa.
Just a few hours ago, the world was thrilled to learn Lech Walesa has been named to receive the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize. Now, this award represents the triumph of moral force over brute force. It's a victory for those who seek to enlarge the human spirit over those who seek to crush it. And surely it's a victory, too, for peace.
For too long, the Polish Government has tried to make Lech Walesa a nonperson and destroy the free trade union movement that he helped to create in Poland. But no government can destroy the hopes that burn in the hearts of a people.
The people of Poland have shown in their support of Solidarity, just as they showed in their support for His Holiness Pope John Paul II during his visit to Poland, that the government of that nation cannot make Lech Walesa a nonperson, and they can't turn his ideas into nonideas.
This award demonstrates that the world will always remember and will honor the commitment to freedom and the commitment to free trade unions that Lech Walesa and millions of brave Polish people share. This award also underlines the need for the Polish Government to turn away from a policy of confrontation toward one of reconciliation with all of the Polish people. And I earnestly hope they will seize this opportunity.
Now, my congratulations are not just for Mr. Walesa but for all of you here today and this new job training and partnership act. And I just wanted to come over and stop by and tell you thanks and, then, unless you think you're going to get off scot-free, keep up the good work. [Laughter]
And God bless you all.
Note: The President spoke at 1:29 p.m. in the Great Hall at the Department of Labor.