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Ross Perot, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, A Giant Job-Sucking Sound Going South, 1992 Trade with Mexico was the first topic discussed at the second presidential debate in 1992 with President George H. W. Bush, the incumbent Republican Party nominee, William J. Clinton, the Democratic Party nominee, and H. Ross Perot, a Texas business leader who was running as an independent. Carole Simpson, the weekend anchor for ABC World News Tonight served as the moderator.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Good evening and welcome to this second of three presidential debates between the major candidates for president of the U.S. The candidates are the Republican nominee, President George Bush, the independent Ross Perot and Governor Bill Clinton, the Democratic nominee. My name is Carole Simpson, and I will be the moderator for tonight’s 90-minute debate, which is coming to you from the campus of the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia. Now, tonight’s program is unlike any other presidential debate in history. We’re making history now and it’s pretty exciting. An independent polling firm has selected an audience of 209 uncommitted voters from this area. The candidates will be asked questions by these voters on a topic of their choosing – anything they want to ask about. My job as moderator is to, you know, take care of the questioning, ask questions myself if I think there needs to be continuity and balance, and sometimes I might ask the candidates to respond to what another candidate may have said. Now, the format has been agreed to by representatives of both the Republican and Democratic campaigns, and there is no subject matter that is restricted. Anything goes. We can ask anything. After the debate, the candidates will have an opportunity to make a closing statement. So, President Bush, I think you said it earlier – let’s get it on. PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: Let’s go. SIMPSON: And I think the first question is over here. AUDIENCE QUESTION: Yes. I’d like to direct my question to Mr. Perot. What will you do as president to open foreign markets to fair competition from American business and to stop unfair competition here at home from foreign countries so that we can bring jobs back to the U.S.? ROSS PEROT: That’s right at the top of my agenda. We’ve shipped millions of jobs overseas and we have a strange situation because we have a process in Washington where after you’ve served for a while you cash in, become a foreign lobbyist, make $30,000 a month, then take a leave, work on presidential campaigns, make sure you’ve got good contacts and then go back out. Now, if you just want to get down to brass tacks, first thing you ought to do is get all these folks who’ve got these one-way trade agreements that we’ve negotiated over the years and say fellas, we’ll take the same deal we gave you. And they’ll gridlock right at that point because for example, we’ve got international competitors who simply could not unload their cars off the ships if they had to comply – you see, if it was a two-way street, just couldn’t do it. We have got to stop sending jobs overseas. To those of you in the audience who are business people: pretty simple. If you’re paying $12, $13, $14 an hour for a factory worker, and you can move your factory south of the border, pay $1 an hour for labor,
hire a young – let’s assume you’ve been in business for a long time. You’ve got a mature workforce. Pay $1 an hour for your labor, have no health care – that’s the most expensive single element in making the car. Have no environmental controls, no pollution controls and no retirement. And you don’t care about anything but making money. There will be a giant job-sucking sound going south. If the people send me to Washington the first thing I’ll do is study that 2000-page agreement and make sure it’s a two-way street. One last point here. I decided I was dumb and didn’t understand it so I called a ‘Who’s Who’ of the folks that have been around it, and I said why won’t everybody go south; they said it will be disruptive; I said for how long. I finally got ‘em for 12 to 15 years. And I said, well, how does it stop being disruptive? And that is when their jobs come up from a dollar an hour to $6 an hour, and ours go down to $6 an hour; then it’s leveled again, but in the meantime you’ve wrecked the country with these kind of deals. We got to cut it out. SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Perot. I see that the president has stood up, so he must have something to say about this. BUSH: Carole, the thing that saved us in this global economic slowdown has been our exports, and what I’m trying to do is increase our exports. And if indeed all the jobs were going to move south because there are lower wages, there are lower wages now and they haven’t done that. And so I have just negotiated with the president of Mexico the North American Free Trade Agreement – and the prime minister of Canada, I might add – and I want to have more of these free trade agreements, because export jobs are increasing far faster than any jobs that may have moved overseas. That’s a scare tactic, because it’s not that many. But any one that’s here, we want to have more jobs here. And the way to do that is to increase our exports. Some believe in protection. I don’t; I believe in free and fair trade, and that’s the thing that saved us. So I will keep on as president trying to get a successful conclusion to the GATT Round, the big Uruguay Round of trade which will really open up markets for our agriculture particularly. I want to continue to work after we get this NAFTA agreement ratified this coming year. I want to get one with Eastern Europe; I want to get one with Chile. And free and fair trade is the answer, not protection. And, as I say, we’ve had tough economic times, and it’s exports that have saved us, exports that have built. SIMPSON: Governor Clinton. GOVERNOR CLINTON: I’d like to answer the question, because I’ve actually been a governor for 12 years, so I’ve known a lot of people who have lost their jobs because of jobs moving overseas, and I know a lot of people whose plants have been strengthened by increasing exports. The trick is to expand our export base and to expand trade on terms that are fair to us. It is true that our exports to Mexico, for example, have gone up and our trade deficit has gone down; it’s also true that just today a record high trade deficit was announced with Japan. So what is the answer? Let me just mention three things very quickly. Number one, make sure that other countries are as open to our markets as our markets are to them, and, if they’re not, have measures on the books that don’t take forever and a day to implement. Number two, change the tax code. There are more deductions in the tax code for shutting plants down and
moving overseas than there are for modernizing plant and equipment here. Our competitors don’t do that. Emphasize and subsidize modernizing plant and equipment here, not moving plants overseas. Number three, stop the federal government’s program that now gives low-interest loans and job training funds to companies that will actually shut down and move to other countries, but we won’t do the same thing for plants that stay here. So more trade but on fair terms – and favor investment in America. “Transcript: Second Bush-Clinton-Perot Presidential Debate,” October 15, 1992, Commission on Presidential Debates, Transcript (last accessed May 24, 2016, www.debates.org/index.php?page=october15-1992-first-half-debate-transcript). The official transcript does not include the word “giant” in Mr. Perot comments about the “sucking sound.” Review of video files indicates that he clearly used the word “giant,” which is reflected in the document included here.