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Town Hall
En Espanol

Remarks As Prepared For Delivery By Vice President Al Gore
Training Americans For Prosperity and Progress

Friday, June 23, 2000

It’s wonderful to be here at the Adult School – to see how new skills in the hands of hard-working people are letting working families craft new lives throughout the Bay Area.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been talking about the big choices we have to make to secure continued prosperity and even greater progress all across this nation.

This is a time of great hope for America. People are working again. As you well know, the future is so much brighter than it was a mere decade ago.

I’m here today to tell you: you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Together, we can build even higher and stronger on the foundation of the Clinton years.

One of the most important elements in our winning economic formula has been investment; we’ve invested in the best venture of all: the American people. Give Americans the tools and skills they deserve, and watch them unleash their own excellence, and improve their own lives.

Every hard-working American should have the chance to use their best talents, from the factory floor to the floor of the stock exchange – wherever they work right now.

That’s why I’m announcing a major new commitment to training and re-training -- so that every worker, at every level, in every business, in every industry, has the skills and training to turn a job into a career.

We’ve learned three new rules for prosperity – a time-tested economic formula that has built so much abundance in this new economy. The fact is, good folks from all across the political spectrum, and from every walk of life, now agree with what common-sense has shown us: observe these rules and prosperity flows. Break even one of them, and our well-being is derailed.

The first is that balancing the budget lowers interest rates – so couples like Laverne and Alfredo can get to square one in the game, and get the capital they need to start their businesses.

The second rule is that paying down the debt frees businesses – even small businesses like theirs -- to build future profits, instead of forcing a couple like this to pay the price for someone else’s bad choices in the past.

The third rule of prosperity is investment in the human face of success: education. This is the key that unlocks the door to a family’s dream.

Eight years ago, when we first set out to give this nation the tools to transform itself, President Clinton and I talked a great deal about something that seemed very new at the time. We said that our economy was changing, and that workers needed more than muscle – they needed trained minds for a new economy. Well, that future is now. We were right to make that case, and the people were right to take a leap of faith with us. Today, because we saw every worker as a potential leader and made policy accordingly, America itself is the leader in the job-creating technology that is remaking the world.

Remember the bad old days when labor and management were at each others’ throats, fighting over smaller slices of a shrinking pie? Well, those days are gone – and good riddance to them.

Here’s the best news of all: we’ve learned that in this time of plenty, more training and education is a win-win scenario for workers and employers alike, turning them into a real team.

Businesses led the way in seeing that treating workers as leaders is plain good capitalism. Because of this new approach, and a highly-skilled team on the factory floor using their minds as skillfully as their hands, a Ford Taurus today has more computing power than the Apollo 11 that took us to the moon. And every Ford employee can be proud of that fact. No wonder the Big Three auto makers are training their employees in computers and computer-driven manufacturing.

It’s been predicted that within the coming years, a single strand of fiber-optic cable, about the thickness of a human hair, will be able to transmit every phone call that’s made on mother’s day. No wonder the major telecommunications companies – including SBC here in California -- are making a major commitment to train their workers to be ahead of the curve, so their people can keep pioneering the networks of the future.

In Silicon Valley, where companies like Cisco are teaming up with the Communications Workers of America to invest in worker training as well, we see the same third rule of prosperity at work. Workers should no longer expect to be cogs in a wheel; their excellence is the fuel of the new win-win economy.

Business leaders tell me everywhere I go that they have high-paying jobs that they can’t even fill. That’s good news for workers, as long as we keep steering the course of our nation straight. In our manufacturing sector, one in five companies say they want to expand their businesses but need to expand their workers skills to do it. Think about that testimony from America’s own CEO’s to the effectiveness of the third rule of prosperity: they say that lack of worker skills risks slowing the rapid growth of the economy in the future. Let’s stay the course.

Adults with higher levels of education are not only good for business, they’re good for families: they earn more, have greater job security, are less likely to be unemployed, and are more likely to find new jobs quickly if they are displaced. Kids benefit from all of this. In fact, displaced workers with an associate’s degree or higher are finding new jobs that pay even more than the jobs they lost.

As President, on behalf of the gifted workers of America, I will stand firm against anyone who wants to break our rules for prosperity. As President, I’m going to defend the third rule: I’m going to make sure you have all the education and training you need, so that the American people can continue to power this economy as fast and as far as your skills and ingenuity will take you.

I will not let you be dragged back to broken policies of the past. I will not let your family suffer for it. I will not let this country go back to the days when people worked just as hard – but with the clouds of profligate decision-making hanging over them.

As President, I am determined, on your behalf, to defend our three-part, tried-and-tested economic formula: balancing the budget, completely eliminating the debt for our children, and investing in the American people.

I’ll fight to open the doors to higher education wider than ever in our history. On your kids’ behalf, I’ll make college tuition tax deductible – to give working families a break, rather than an extra burden, when they take the initiative to learn even more. On your family’s behalf, I want to create new 401(j) accounts – lifelong learning accounts -- so you can save tax-free if you decide to go back to school. The gap in wages between those with and without college education has doubled in the past 20 years. With the surplus we now have – because of our discipline in sticking to the rules – this is a great moment to close that gap. A great nation sets itself to great achievements – and this is the time for big decisions and big dreams.

And today, I’m announcing three additional new steps to give your families and your businesses the skills you need to continue to master the new economy:

First, people who are already working deserve to upgrade their skills – and I will help them. I propose to fund partnerships of employers, colleges, unions, and others -- to prospect for skills opportunities in their own communities, and then connect workers to the training they need. I urge all the nation’s employers to join in this effort as well – to make this a win-win situation for everybody.

Second, good employers deserve credit and help when they give good workers job training. I propose new tax credits for employers, of up to $6,000 per person, specially targeted so that front-line workers -- those who do the hard, day-in, day-out, hands-on labor -- can get the skills that are so important in the new economy. For instance, we’ll make it easier for factory floor workers to master the computer skills that are fueling prosperity all the way from Pennsylvania’s steel mills to Silicon Valley’s software markets.

Finally, let’s have the courage to face the tough realities, too: even in the midst of a booming economy, some workers – maybe even people that you know, or maybe you yourself at some point – hit rocky patches, lose their jobs in mid-life, and just plain don’t have the skills they need to get another job, let alone a better job. Everyone in this room knows how tough that can be on a good hard-working family. Let’s leave those days behind forever.

On behalf of those families, here is my commitment to ease their steps to getting the skills and training they need to go for that job listed in the want ads that they had thought they had to cross off their list. The fact is, there is no shortage of new jobs in this new economy. There are 22 million new jobs in America today.

I will not tolerate on my watch a single hard-working American being shut out, or left behind. I will create new “training allowances” – which will help extend unemployment insurance for those who need time to finish their training courses. I won’t let the clock run out on any family’s dream.

This is about more than a paycheck. It’s really about a family’s pride: pride in knowing that you can reach out for your dreams, with nothing to hold you back. Pride at opening up your own new business venture – making a payroll, and giving other people a chance to get ahead. Pride at being more than a mere spectator in this new time of prosperity – but being at the very heart of our economic success as a nation.

Together, in this election, that’s the kind of prosperity and progress we can bring across America.



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