Audio/Video: Remarks By The President in Meeting with High-Tech Leaders

March 30, 2001

THE PRESIDENT:  Thanks for coming.  I appreciate that warm

welcome.  And welcome to the people’s house.  It’s a nice

place to live. (Laughter.)  And I’m glad I’m living here.

I want to thank Lezlee for all her hard work in putting together this group

of leaders from around the country.  I want to thank the members of

the Cabinet who are here, some of whom you’ll hear from in a little bit — Elaine

Chao and Spence Abraham and Paul O’Neill and Don Evans really represent the

best of the country and I really appreciate the fact that they’ve left their

— left the private sector to serve the country.  We’ve got a really

good Cabinet.


One of the lessons I learned in the private sector was it’s important to set

an agenda and to delegate to good, honest people.  And I have done


I was going to say, thanks for all the members of the Congress who are here,

but I see members of the Senate who are here.  Thank you all for coming.  Senator

Hatch, Burns, and Allen are some of the very best public servants our country

has got to offer, and I want to thank you all for coming.  I’m looking

forward to working with you on the budget. (Laughter.)

I first want you all to know that this administration has great confidence

in the future of our technology industry.  We recognize, like you

do, that the stock market may be sending a little different message right now;

that people have suffered losses and there are some difficult times for some

of the companies in the high-tech world.  But the accomplishments

of the industry are rock-solid.  The future is incredibly bright.

You’ve changed the way we work and communicate, and you’ve changed the way

we learn.  You’ve done for America — economic leadership in the 21st

century what heavy industry did for America in the 20th century.  And

all the difficulties you face today really don’t cloud a future that is so optimistic

and bright.

The social benefits from the tech industry are as sweeping as the economic

potential — telemedicine for the sick, distance learning and assistive technology

for individuals with disabilities, for example.  Your companies symbolize

the innovation and optimism of this great nation.  Your success fills

us all with confidence in the continued growth of our economy.

You make us all a little prouder to be Americans.  You’ve done so

much for your country, it’s time for your country to do something for you. I

oftentimes say that the role of government is not to create wealth, it’s to

create an environment which the entrepreneurial spirit can continue to flourish.


First things first:  We’ve got to restore consumer confidence. We

can help in Washington by returning tax money to the people who pay the bills

this year.  We can restore investor confidence by building a better

business environment for years to come, starting with having a realistic, sound

energy policy — a policy that says, of course, we can conserve better, but

we need new supplies.  We need to aggressively seek new supplies.  And

not only do we need new supplies of natural gas, for example, we need new pipelines

to move natural gas.  We need new power plants.  We need

an aggressive, forward-thinking energy policy that balances the needs of our

environment with the needs of the people of the country.

We can also help by having a world of free trade.  One of the concerns

is if the economy were to slow down like ours, the protectionist sentiments

around America might start bubbling to the surface.  Ours is an administration

dedicated to free trade.  I hope the Congress gives me trade promotion

authority, as soon as possible, so I can negotiate free trade agreements.  We

should not try to build walls around our nation and encourage others to do so.  We

ought to be tearing them down.  Free trade is good for America.  And

it will be good for your industry, as well.

And, finally, we need to have lower taxes, instead of bigger government.  We’re

having a big debate here.  But one thing you can’t debate is, this

is an administration that has put together a pro-growth tax relief agenda, the

first one in a long period of time.  I mean, not only do we need to

get money in consumers’ hands as quickly as possible, we need to reduce all

rates so that entrepreneurs can plan.  I can’t think of anything worse

than to say we’ll get money into consumers hands quickly, and then kind of change

the rate structure.

And so I want to reduce all rates — the bottom rate from 15 percent to 10

percent; the top rate from 39.6 to 33 percent.  People say, why would

you want to drop the top rate?  Well, let’s start with this simple

fact, that thousands of small businesses pay taxes at the highest rate.  The

businesses who are unincorporated, the sole proprietorships, the companies that

have started in somebody’s garage pay at the 39.6 percent tax rate.  And

by dropping the top rate from 39.6 to 33 percent, we will send a clear message

that the role of government is to create an environment in which the entrepreneur

can flourish.  By cutting the top rate, we’ll provide more cash flow

for small businesses to provide more employment.

You know, I’ve heard all the rhetoric, but the truth is, dropping all rates

will be good for our economy, good for planners, good for those who want to

think long-term.  And we can afford it.  That’s the thing

that Congress and the people must hear, we can afford it.

There’s a lot of issues with the budget, starting with this — that you now

have a President who believes in fiscal sanity when it comes to the people’s

money; that we’ve increased discretionary spending by 4 percent in our budget.  Now,

that may sound like a lot to a lot of you all who are now managing your cash

accounts and managing your cash flow.  After all, a 4 percent increase

is greater than the rate of inflation.  A 4 percent increase in a

budget is greater than most working — the raises working people have gotten

this year.

Except the problem is, here in Washington, it’s half of — exactly half of

what was increased — how the discretionary accounts increased last time.  You

see, they had a bidding contest, a bidding war last time.  It was

like, the person who bid the highest got to go home. And, therefore, the discretionary

accounts increased by 8 percent.  And we can’t afford that kind of

spending in Washington, D.C.

So a President and an administration has come along and says, let’s set priorities

and let’s focus, and let’s always remember whose money we’re spending.  It

is not the government’s money, it’s the people’s money. And for those who say

we can’t afford meaningful, real tax relief that will stimulate the economy,

they’re the ones who want to increase the size and scope of the federal government.  They

trust the government to spend people’s money.  And that’s not the

philosophy of this administration.

Once we’ve set priorities, we trust the people to spend their money.  We

trust the entrepreneurs with enhanced cash flow.  We trust the working

people to manage their own accounts.  And that’s the debate here in

Washington, and I’m asking for your help.  I would like for you to

e-mail your senators.  You don’t have to worry about the members of

the House. And, by the way, you don’t have to worry about — don’t e-mail these

three. They’re solid.  (Laughter and applause.)

I’m optimistic.  I’m very optimistic.  The terms of the

debate have somewhat shifted.  I can remember campaigning in your

neighborhoods, and people would say, well, he’s just talking about tax relief

and he really might not mean it; people don’t want tax relief.  The

debate is no longer whether or not we’re going to have tax relief, the debate

is how quickly and how big.  And I’m optimistic we can get a good


Today, the House is voting on the budget.  Next week, the Senate

will vote on the budget; it’s going to be a tough vote.  But all of

us are working hard on behalf of the working people of the country and the entrepreneurs

and small business people of the country, to get a good budget out of the Senate.

Today, as well, I’d like to announce that — a cochairman of the President’s

Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.  He is here with us

— his name is Floyd Kvamme.  And I’m honored, Floyd, that you take

on the position.  (Applause.)

Science and technology have never been more essential to the defense of the

nation and the health of our economy.  I will hear the best scientific

and technological advice from leaders in your field.  And I can think

of no better coordinator than Floyd.  He is an entrepreneur, he is

a risk-taker, he understands risk and reward.  But, more importantly,

he knows the players, the people that can bring good, sound advice to this administration.  And

I’m honored to have you on board.

As well, I’ve got some good news and you may have been watching the Senate

Banking Committee.  But after a lot of work with industry leaders

and the administration and members of the Senate, the Export Administration

Act — a good bill — passed the Banking Committee 19-1.

The technology that you all have helped develop obviously gives us an incredible

military advantage, and that’s going to be important.  And it’s an

advantage, by the way, that we tend — want to develop, to make sure we can

keep the peace, not just tomorrow, but 30 years from now. We’ve got to safeguard

our advantages, but we’ve got to do so in ways that are relevant to today’s

technology, not that of 20 years ago.

The existing export controls forbid the sales abroad of computers with more

than a certain amount of computing power.  With computing power doubling

every 18 months, these controls had the shelf life of sliced bread.  They

don’t work.

 So in working with the Senate, we’re working to tighten the control

of sensitive technology products with unique military applications, and to give

our industry an equal chance in world markets.  And I believe we’ve

got a good bill.  It’s a bill that I heard from you all during the

course of the campaign.  The principles we discussed are now a part

of this bill.  I want to thank Senator Phil Gramm for his hard work

in working with us and industry and some members of the Senate to make sure

the bill that has been crafted is a good bill.  And I urge the Senate

to pass it quickly.

Likewise, we want the R&D credit to be permanent, and we’re working with members

of the Senate to do so.  A lot of us in this administration have been

in the world of taking risk.  We understand that one of the most important

parts about government policy is that there will be certainty in the policy.  And

I think making the R&D credit a permanent part of the tax code is part of creating

certainty, so people can more wisely make investments with cash flow in their

capital accounts.

And finally, we have a word about education.  We’re making great

progress in education.  I know it’s a subject dear to you all’s hearts.  It

should be.  Your industry thrives on not only capital, dollars and

cents, but it also thrives on human capital.  And our nation must

do a better job of educating all children.

The principles inherent in the reform package that we’re moving through the

Senate and the House are these.  One, we expect there to be high standards

in public education.  To put it this way, every child can learn, and

systems that don’t believe so need to be changed.

 Secondly, I strongly believe in aligning authority and responsibility

at the local level.  I know full well when you disassociate the two,

it provides convenient excuses for failure.  A school district will

say, oh, gosh, I would have done it differently, but the centralized authority

made me do it this way.  It’s time to get rid of all the excuses for

failure inherent in our school systems.

And one way to do so is to pass power out of Washington, to trust local folks

to set the path for excellence for the children in the districts in which they

live, in which the local folks live.  What I’m trying to say is, the

government closest to the people is that which works best.

 And finally, we need to have a results-oriented system all around the

country.  Here’s the way I’m doing it.  I’m saying if you

receive federal money, you’ve got to measure.  If you receive help

at the federal level, you, the local district or the state, must measure third

through eighth grade.  And Sandy Kress will describe what we’re trying

to do.

 But the point is pretty simple.  How do you know if children

are learning unless you test?  The accountability systems are not

designed to punish folks.  It’s designed to make sure children just

simply are — are not simply shuffled through the system.  We’ve got

to end that practice of giving up on children early.

And so we start early, we measure early, we provide money for remedial education.  Every

child counts, and every child can learn.  And the whole crux of reform

is accountability.  And when we measure and find success, we’ll praise

it.  But by measuring, you also — one can also detect failure, and

that becomes the catalyst for reforms at the local level.  We’re going

to make good progress on education.

And, finally, I believe we’re making progress in Washington about changing

the culture up here.  There is now a — people are beginning to be

able to debate in a respectful tone.  The country isn’t interested

in the old-style — at least, the politics of the past, where the person who

screamed the loudest or had the cutest sound byte was the one that appeared

to be the most effective.  The country wants there to be a level of

respect in our debate.  And this is an administration that is working

hard to provide that.

We’re not always going to agree, but we’ll agree to be — we’ll disagree in

an agreeable way, in a way that brings pride to the system. There is also becoming

a culture of accomplishment in Washington.  Things are getting done.  I

signed some legislation that had been incredibly onerous for small businesses

and large business, alike.  When the Congress moved quickly to get

rid of an ergonomics regulation that just — the cost far outweighed the benefits.  It

would have been harmful to the private sector.  It would have been

harmful to those who want to employ people. And they got the people’s work down

quickly, and got it through.

 Slowly, but surely, we’re beginning to get people to focus on results.  You

see, I know there’s a time for politics and there’s a time for policy, and now

is the time for good public policy on behalf of the citizenry of the country.

And, finally, I hope we’ll be able to start a culture of responsibility; that

all of us in this country must be responsible for the communities in which we

live.  I see Barksdale sitting over here.  He is a person

who sent a clear signal about what it means to be a responsible citizen by supporting

public education.  And I know many of you all in the audience feel

the same way.

The responsibility is not only sharing the wealth that has been generated

in important programs, but it’s also being responsible as a mom or dad.  Responsible

for activities that say to a child, somebody loves you.  Responsible

for encouraging mentoring programs in your companies or in your neighborhoods

or in your churches or synagogues or mosques.  And we’re making good

progress in the country.

 And the reason why is because this is a fabulous country.  That’s

why.  This is a country that has got great heart, great spirit, great

vision and great compassion.  And I’m proud to be the President.  God

bless you all.  (Applause.)