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 Home > News & Policies > September 2001

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 3, 2001

President Discusses the Economy in Green Bay, Wisconsin
Austin Straubel International Airport
Green Bay, Wisconsin

11:01 A.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Happy Labor Day.  (Applause.)  Thank you all for coming out to say hello.  Every time I've come to Wisconsin, I've been greeted by the friendliest folks that I've ever met.  I'm so honored that you would take time out of your Labor Day celebrations to come and say hello to Laura and me.  I look forward to saying hello to you after I give you a couple of remarks.

First, let me say something about your governor.  I appreciate so very much his hospitality.  I know you appreciate his leadership.  You've got a good one as Governor of Wisconsin and make sure you send him back here in two years' time.  (Applause.)  And like me, he married well.  (Laughter.)

We're honored to be here with the First Lady of Wisconsin and, of course, I'm honored to be traveling with the First Lady of the United States.  (Applause.)

I'm really proud of the job that Laura is doing.  She's spending a lot of time heralding literacy all across America.  And she's also working on making sure we convince folks to spend time in the classroom.  We need more teachers in America.  We need to herald those who teach.  We need to welcome new folks into the classrooms all across the country.  And Laura's doing a great job of promoting the noble profession of teaching.

I'm also here with your fantastic United States Congressman.  I can't tell you what a great job Mark Green is doing on behalf -- (applause). We're also traveling today with Congressman Tom Petri, who is right south of here.  I appreciate you reducing your immigration standards and letting him in.  (Laughter.)

I put together a fabulous Cabinet.  A President can't do the job alone.  It requires putting together a good team.  And I brought one of my Cabinet officials with me.  After all, today, we're celebrating Labor Day. And so the Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao, is traveling with me.  Please welcome Elaine Chao.  (Applause.)

By the way, my Cabinet has got a good man from Wisconsin in it. (Applause.)  Your former governor is doing a fabulous job, and that's Tommy Thompson.  (Applause.)

Today is Labor Day.  We had the honor of going down the road to meet with some carpenters and joiners, to thank them for their hard work, to remind our fellow Americans that the strength of our country is the fact that we've got hardworking people all across our land, people who aren't afraid of labor, people who work hard to enhance their communities.

Traveling with me today is a good, solid leader.  He's the President of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, a man named Doug McCarron, I'm proud to call him friend.  The carpenters are proud to call him boss.  And he's a good American.  Doug, thank you for coming. (Applause.)

I hope Coach Sherman noticed what kind of jacket I was wearing. (Applause.)  A while ago, I had the honor of meeting Coach Sherman and members of the mighty Green Bay Packer team as they were working out at the stadium.  (Applause.)  He asked me if I was old enough to remember the Ice Bowl.  I told him, just barely.  (Laughter.)

But, Coach, I can't thank you enough for being here and I want to thank Bob Harlan as well.  I wish you all the best this season.  You've got a good man as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers.  (Applause.)

And I want to thank the Bishop for being here as well.  I'm so honored you're here, sir.  Thank you very much for coming.  And I want to thank my fellow Americans for giving me the opportunity to serve as President of the greatest nation on the face of the earth.  (Applause.)

We've been there eight months.  It has been a fantastic eight months to represent our country.  And I believe we're making a difference.  I told the American people if you gave me a chance to be President, I would work hard to get some things accomplished.  I would work hard to try to change the tone in Washington, D.C., to get rid of all the bitterness and all the ugliness and finger pointing and name calling.  I felt that it wasn't serving our nation well, that people would rather tear each other down than lift our nation up.

And so I believe we're making progress on changing the tone in Washington, D.C.  It's going to require a lot of work.  Old habits are hard to break.  But one way to do it is to focus on getting things done.  It's to say to the people up there in Washington, let's get some things done on behalf of the American people.  And I'm proud to report we're making progress.

I had the honor of signing the first major tax relief in a generation. (Applause.)  When I came to Wisconsin all those times during the campaign, I said, give me a chance and I'll take your message of tax relief to Washington, D.C., and guess what?  It worked.  (Applause.)  They heard your voice.  Mark Green didn't require much convincing.  Evidently some of the members of the Senate didn't hear too well.  (Laughter.)

But nevertheless, we did the right thing.  Tax relief was the right thing for our country.  Our economy is not clicking on all cylinders.  As some of you all know, for the past 12 months, our economic growth has been anemic at best.  We haven't achieved the kind of growth levels necessary to keep our folks working.

There's people in Wisconsin who hurt because they laid off their -- they've been laid off their job.  There are families who are hurting.  And I understood that was taking place.

And one thing the federal government can do is to stimulate the economy, and we believe the best stimulus package is to give people their own money back.  So tax relief was important for economic growth and economic vitality.  (Applause.)

But it's also an important philosophical statement.  You see, we said loud and clear that once the federal government meets its needs, we ought to trust the people with their own money.  It's a fundamental question of who do you trust.  Do you trust the government or do you trust the people with their own money?  I'd rather have the Wisconsin families -- (applause).

So those checks are hitting home.  I saw a sign coming in that said, Mr. President, thanks for the $600.  I felt like stopping the limo -- (laughter) -- and giving her a big hug.  But reminding her, it wasn't the government's money to begin with.  It's not the government's money; it's your money.  (Applause.)

I'm proud of the tax relief package.  It's going to make sense for our economy.  It says loud and clear, we trust you with your own money.  And, by the way, there's a good feature in the tax relief plan that makes a lot of sense for Wisconsin farmers, and that is we're finally getting rid of the death tax so people can pass their farm from one generation to the next without getting taxed twice.  (Applause.)

We have been working hard to fulfill another promise, and that's the promise of making sure every child in America gets a good education.  A domestic priority of mine is to make sure every child -- I mean every child -- learns to read.  I fully understand a literate child is one more likely to be able to learn.  And yet we've got to admit, there's too many children that can't read in America.

Now, lest you think I forgot where I came from, inherent in the education bill that I proposed is this solid principle:  I trust local people to run their schools.  I would rather the people of Green Bay, Wisconsin, make the decisions on the public education than people in Washington, D.C.  (Applause.)

So we passed legislation that has bills -- has power coming out of Washington to empower local people to run the schools.  But inherent also in the education bill, as passed the House and passed the Senate, not only says we're going to spend more money, we're going to spend it more wisely. And in return for more money, we're going to ask the question, can our children read and write and add and subtract?

We expect there to be accountability.  Because by measuring, we will know.  By measuring, we will make sure we correct problems early before it's too late.  By measuring, we will make sure that no child gets simply shuffled through the system.  And so we've got a plan that makes sense. And I call upon the House and I call upon the Senate conferees to get together and get that education bill on my desk so I can sign it, so that public education fulfills its hope and promise for every child in America. (Applause.)

Dick Cheney and I made this promise.  And, by the way, he's doing just fine.  I couldn't have picked a better man as Vice President of the United States than Dick Cheney.  (Applause.)

We say this.  We say we'll have a foreign policy that's clear-eyed and steady and realistic.  And good foreign policy starts with making sure our military is well funded and that there's high morale amongst those who wear the uniform.  And we're making good on that promise.  (Applause.)

It starts with making sure our troops get paid well and are housed better.  Morale begins with the understanding that those who wear the uniform deserve the utmost respect and the utmost help by their federal government.  I signed an appropriations bill that does just that.

I also requested the highest increase in defense spending since Ronald Reagan was the President.  A strong defense means we'll have a more peaceful world.  (Applause.)

And I call upon the appropriators in Washington, D.C., to let the country know the level of defense appropriations and the level of education appropriations early in the process rather than late.  These are national priorities and they ought to be priorities of our appropriators in the halls of Congress as well.

And finally, we're making good progress.  I want to thank Congressman Green for his work on what I call a faith-based initiative.  (Applause.) It's an initiative that recognizes there are still people who hurt in America.  There are people who suffer.  There are people who are trapped in addiction, in neighborhoods without hope.

And yet, this nation doesn't believe in leaving people behind.  And so I proposed to the United States Congress that we capture the true strength of the country, and the strength of the country lies in the hearts and the souls of our citizens.  We are a compassionate nation because we are a compassionate people.  And there are faith-based programs and community-based programs all across our country that asked the question, what can I do to make my neighborhood a better place, what can I do to love a child who needs love, what can I do to help a citizen who needs help.

And the federal government ought not to fear faith-based programs.  We ought to welcome faith-based programs.  (Applause.)  We ought not to discriminate against those programs based upon a universal call to love a neighbor just like we'd like to be loved ourselves.

We passed a good bill out of the House.  I call upon the United States Senate to get the faith-based initiative moving, to make sure that no person in America is left out of the great American experience.

No, we're making good progress, I believe, in Washington, D.C.  It's because I'm listening to the people.  I understand the strength of the country lies not in the halls of our government but lies in the hearts and souls of our people all across America, and that's why it's such a huge honor to be your President.  It's an honor to be a President of a nation that's been blessed by great values and blessed with wonderful people.

Laura and I love the challenge.  We respect the process, but we also understand we have responsibilities.  And the responsibilities inherent in our job are to call upon the best of every American.  And that begins by making sure that we set the right example for young and old alike.  It's a challenge I accept.  It's a challenge I welcome.  And it's a challenge that -- I am bolstered because of the prayers and thoughts of people such as yourselves.

Thank you all for coming.  May God bless you and may God bless America.  (Applause.)

END  11:15 A.M. CDT