[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1993, Book I)]
[February 5, 1993]
[Pages 57-59]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 57]]

Remarks to the National Conference of Mayors
February 5, 1993

    Let me say, first of all, welcome to the White House.
    Mayor Jackson, I saw your brother earlier today at the signing of 
the Family and Medical Leave Act, and he was bragging on you, said 
you're now as thin as he is. I assured him I would still be able to 
recognize you when I saw you. [Laughter]
    This has been a wonderful day here at the White House. Congress 
adjourned--[laughter]--but only after passing the Family and Medical 
Leave Act. We had a great signing this morning. It was a great 
bipartisan effort; about a third of the Republicans in the Senate voted 
for it. And it was a really good, good way to start the day.
    I'm glad you're here. I know you've been meeting with Secretary 
Cisneros, who's one of your own. There are times when we meet when I 
can't tell whether he's changed positions or not--[laughter]--which I 
suppose from your point of view is a good thing.
    Most of you in this room I know well. I've spent a lot of time in 
your communities, and you have played a major role in my political 
education. I assure you that I think every day about many of the places 
we've been and the things we've seen and the things that I have learned 
from you. I think that the time I spent in our country's cities in this 
last election, that was in many ways the most instructive time that I 
spent. And one of the things that impressed me so much is that so many 
things, against all the odds, are being done that work. And I want you 
to help me now figure out how to make those things that work the rule 
rather than the exception in American life.
    I told the Governors when they came in here and spent some time with 
me earlier this week on the subject of health care that if somebody 
asked me to name my greatest failing as a Governor after 12 years, it 
was that I never could quite figure out a way to make the exception the 
rule, to take those things that worked and make them work everywhere.
    In that connection, I have been working with Secretary Cisneros and 
have sent, after working it out with him, a directive to him today to 
deal with a number of specific things that I know are important to all 
of you:
    First, to establish a weekly mechanism for communication with the 
State and local leaders of our country on issues of housing and urban 
development. And I hope we'll have a chance to talk about both of them 
because they are related, but they aren't the same.
    Second, to try to expedite the programs that are already there now, 
to unclog some $6 billion that have been inexplicably tied up in the 
pipeline of the Federal Government that have already been appropriated; 
to speed up by 3 to 4 months the processing of the over $3 billion in 
public housing funds that are available and to try to accelerate the 
real implementation of the HOME Program where there's $2.5 billion in 
largely unmoved funds because the administrative system of this 
Department has been largely paralyzed.
    I told Henry when I asked him to take this position that there was 
some risk because of the pall which had been cast over HUD and the 
problems of past years and because there had been a lot of rhetoric but 
not enough action out of the Department in recent years. We're going to 
do what we can to marry rhetoric and action. We don't promise to shut 
up, but we promise to try to do some things.
    I also want to tell you that I'm going to do the best I can in this 
upcoming stimulus and economic package to do what I said I would do: to 
bring down the deficit but to increase investment at the same time in 
ways that will make available more funds for the cities.
    I remember, Mayor White, when we were in Cleveland with Congressman 
Stokes, you said you thought we ought to increase the community 
development block grant funds because you could move those more quickly 
to create jobs. And there will be a fairly sizable increase in that in 
the proposed stimulus package to try to help you create jobs.
    Let me just make a couple of general remarks about where we are on 
this whole economic approach, and then I'd like to hear from you, and 
I'd like to just be as informal and conversational as possible.
    The economic news is good but mixed and incomplete. That is, 
starting in the last quarter

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we have begun to have two pieces of good economic news. One is that 
productivity is increasing, and that's good. Companies are making more 
money. They're figuring out how to compete in a tough international 
environment. Two is that there's a lot more economic activity around 
housing as low interest rates finally are letting millions of Americans 
refinance their home mortgages, others get into buying homes, and that's 
all been good.
    Then since the election, there have been two good pieces of economic 
news that I think the election can fairly claim some credit for. One is 
that consumer confidence started going up in November and exploded in 
December, and it's going to be strong in January. The second is that the 
financial markets generally are upbeat about the direction that our 
administration has outlined, which means they take us seriously that 
we're going to try to do what many say is impossible, which is to 
increase investment and reduce the debt at the same time.
    So, that's the good news. The bad news is that in this economy, the 
downsizing of big firms is continuing apace. It started in the 1980's, 
when every year of the 1980's the Fortune 500 together reduced 
employment in the United States by about 400,000 people per year, big, 
big reductions in employment. In most years, that was offset by job 
increases in small and medium-sized companies. Now that is not 
happening, even though this recovery is in place. So you have this 
strange thing where the economic indicators are going up in the last 
quarter like crazy, but the unemployment rate is higher than it was at 
the depth of the recession. And for 14 months we've had a national 
unemployment rate over 7 percent. Why is that?
    I think there are several reasons, but let me just say there are 
plainly three. One is that small business cannot afford to hire new 
workers and make up the slack from big business cuts because of the 
exploding costs of health care. Two is that the small businesses that 
want to hire workers can't get credit because of the credit crunch, 
which is more heavily concentrated in some places than others and 
particularly in California and southern Florida--Mayor Lanier, still in 
Texas--but generally across the country. The third is that the defense 
cutbacks have accelerated the loss of high-wage manufacturing jobs 
without any offsetting industrial strategy or conversion strategy in 
America, which has been particularly devastating for southern 
California, for Connecticut, and for one or two other places, but has 
been generally felt across the country.
    So the first thing I've got to try to figure out how to do is how to 
keep this economic recovery with all these big numbers going but to 
actually help real people out of it. How are we going to generate some 
more jobs? One way is to put some more money into basic construction, 
which would affect you. We're going to try to accelerate the funding of 
ISTEA, which would help you. We're going to try to put some money into 
this stimulus package. It will be modest because we don't want to be 
accused of ignoring the economic indicators, but it will be substantial 
to several areas.
    And the other is to outline a 5-year investment plan which will 
increase our investment in infrastructure, which will have a defense 
conversion plan, and which will attempt to address these very serious 
problems that are killing small business, namely controlling health 
costs and providing basic health care to all Americans and trying to 
break open the credit crunch.
    If you think about it, two best things I could do for you are both 
indirect. If we could bring health costs in line with inflation and get 
banks to lending again, economic activity would pick up among people who 
would then pay taxes to your local government, and you could take that 
money and do what you need to do.
    The best thing I could do for the private sector, if we could bring 
health costs in line with inflation between now and the year 2000, we 
would save the private sector 2\1/2\ times as much as the public purse, 
freeing hundreds of billions of dollars a year to be reinvested in the 
economies of this country.
    So, what I'm going to try to do is just that. It's never been done 
before in this country, having to bring down the deficit and increase 
investment at the same time. It's going to require some very tough 
choices. I spent 2 hours yesterday trying to cut the budget in areas 
that I thought were inessential in order to free up monies that would be 
invested. And obviously most of our investment money goes directly back 
to State and local government.
    I'm sure that a lot of you will wish we were spending more. But let 
me say that it is critical, I'm convinced, that we show some discipline 
in bringing down this deficit, because every point we drop long-term 
interest rates frees up $50 billion for new investment in this economy.

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    So I'm going to try to spend more in terms of investment and reduce 
the deficit, which means I'm going to have to cut consumption even more. 
And we're working on it. And I hope that we can work together closely, 
and we can do a very good job together.
    One of the things that I've been impressed with--Secretary Cisneros' 
work over at the Department--is he came back saying what a lot of our 
Secretaries have said. He said, ``This thing's not working very well 
when we've got all this money out there that's not even being spent.'' 
We've got $6 billion in the pipeline. We got $3.1 billion that's been 
approved that's going to take 4 months too long to get out there. We've 
got this HOME Program; nobody can access the money because of the 
administrative problems. So, we can keep you busy for a year or so if we 
just run the Department right. And we're going to do our best to do 
    I think the floor is now yours. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 3:26 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the 
White House. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Maynard Jackson of 
Atlanta, GA, and Mayor Bob Lanier of Houston, TX.