4:38 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Please, sit down. Please. (Applause.) It is a great place, isn’t it? It’s the White House. It’s a great place.
And it’s my pleasure to welcome our nation’s mayors to the White House. We are here today to strengthen the bonds of cooperation between the federal and local governments so that we can deliver great jobs, excellent schools, affordable healthcare, and safe communities for all of our people.
We are honored to be joined by Secretary Alex Azar — Alex, thank you very much. Secretary Ben Carson, who’s done a wonderful job and deals with the mayors a lot. Right, Ben? Really great. Administrator Jovita Carranza — thank you very much. Thank you, Jovita.
And Acting Secretary Chad Wolf — and your numbers are great. I just looked at your numbers. They’re great, (inaudible). (Laughter.) We’re — thank you very much, Chad. It’s a lot of progress on the border. He — among many other things, including Coast Guard, he controls the border, and he’s doing a good job.
I also want to thank Mayor Bryan Barnett and — for helping to organize today’s meeting. It’s been a tremendous success that so many people accepted; few people didn’t accept, actually. And I want to thank you all very much.
All across America, cities are being lifted up by our booming economy. America is now the hottest economy anywhere in the world.
We’ve created over 7 million jobs since the election — a number that would be unthought of. If I ever said that during the campaign — you know the feeling — they would have gone after me very strongly, huh? Huh? (Laughter and applause.)
The unemployment rate is the lowest in more than half a century. African American, Hispanic American, Asian American unemployment have reached the lowest levels ever recorded in the history of our country. African American, Hispanic American poverty rates are at record lows. Great. (Applause.) That’s great. More than 2 million millennials have gotten jobs, and their wages have grown by nearly 5 percent every year — which is another record.
We doubled the child tax credit, benefitting 40 million American families. And we’ve lifted 650,000 single mothers and 1.4 million children out of poverty. (Applause.) True. Ten million people have been lifted off of welfare in less than three years.
Earnings for the bottom 10 percent are rising faster than earnings for the top 10 percent. You don’t hear that too often, but it’s been incredible, actually.
For the first time in nearly 30 years, every single metro area in the United States has seen incomes rise. Median household income is at the highest level ever recorded. And, speaking of that, in terms of dollars: Under President Bush, it was a $450 increase over eight years; under President Obama, it was a $975 increase over eight years; and under your favorite President, President Trump — (laughter) — it was almost a $10,000 increase over less than three years. So we did it, as of less than three. (Applause.) We’ve been here now just three, as of a few days ago. Time flies. But $10,000. So that’s — in a three-year period. So that’s something really special. And they’ve never seen growth like that.
We’re delivering for Americans and we’re doing it for every race and color, religion and creed, creating not only the most prosperous, but also the most inclusive economy anywhere in the world. I believe that. It’s the most inclusive economy anywhere in the world. That’s a great thing.
To create jobs and opportunity, we designated nearly 9,000 Opportunity Zones in distressed communities where capital gains on long-term investments are now taxed at zero. Opportunity Zones have been incredible. Tim Scott, the senator — great senator — from South Carolina, came to me two years ago, and he had this idea. And nobody knew it was going to work out the way it has, but billions and billions of dollars are pouring into the communities. Part of it also is the fact that we’re doing so well, as an economy, that people have the money to put in. But it’s — there’s probably never been anything like this.
Tremendous wealth is now pouring into areas that, for 100 years, saw nothing — no dollars, nothing. The 35 million Americans who live in these areas have already seen their home values rise by $25 billion over the country.
My administration also understands that, for our cities to thrive, our citizens must be safe and they must be secure. And that’s why we are working with state and local governments through the revitalized Project Safe Neighborhoods — you know that program: Project Safe Neighborhoods — to adopt the most proven and effective crime-fighting techniques.
We’re also enacting landmark criminal justice reform to improve reentry programs and reduce all of the things that we try and strive so hard to take care of. If you look at our prisons now, we have people coming out, and they’re able to get jobs more than at any time ever in the history of our country. That’s because the economy is so good, and we’ve given incentives, and it’s been an incredible success. Employers are really, really happy.
And people aren’t going back to jail at anywhere near the clip. It’s been something that’s been incredible — criminal justice reform. I was asked by a group of people that were on the very liberal side of things, and we got a group of people that were on the very conservative side of things, and we got it done. Nobody was able to get it done. We got it done. Criminal justice reform. And that’s something we’re very proud of. It’s really working fantastically well, as a lot of you — as a lot of you know. (Applause.)
Before my election, violent crime was on the rise, and America saw the steepest two-year consecutive increase in murders in nearly half a century. It was in bad, bad condition. In just a short time, we’ve reduced the number of murders in America’s major cities by more than 10 percent. And we’re getting tremendous numbers coming out now, much better than even that.
The nationwide violent crime rate has declined for two straight years. And, working with many leaders in this room, we have boldly tackled the opioid crisis. We’ve really made tremendous progress. In some cases, down 21 percent. Now, 21 percent is not much, when you think of the problem, but we have a lot of things happening.
And fentanyl — I spoke with President Xi of China, and they’re coming down very hard on fentanyl. We made our deal with China, as part of it — just in terms of relationship. I said, “Really, you have to do something.” And they’ve put in very strong penalties, and their penalties are really strong. You want to talk about penalties? Those are strict. (Laughter.) And their court cases go slightly quicker than ours. (Laughter.) Like — like one day. One day. They call them “quick trials.” They go quick. (Laughter.) They go so quick, you don’t know what happened. (Laughter.) Ours take 15 years; theirs takes one day. But he was — he’s been terrific on that. And we’re seeing a tremendous — a tremendous difference in the fentanyl.
Drug overdose deaths declined for the first time in nearly 30 years. The Department of Homeland Security is also working directly with many of the mayors in the cities, really, represented so brilliantly in this room, to remove dangerous criminals from your communities.
We have — ICE is taking out MS-13 gang members by the thousands — by the thousands. And we’re bringing them back to where they came from. And we’ve had great cooperation from those countries — Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico. Mexico has been terrific. Mexico has given us 27,000 soldiers at our southern border. And we’re working really well with Mexico — best we’ve ever worked with Mexico.
When local police arrest a criminal, they run them through a federal database. If the criminal is found to be here illegally, ICE issues a detainer request. Honoring these detainers is vital to public safety, and we work with the mayors on that.
And we have some sanctuary cities represented also in the room. But it’s been — it’s been a very tough thing, working with the sanctuary cities. But sanctuary city policies that order police to ignore these federal detainers and release criminal aliens to the public — that’s really a tremendous risk. The public is — you see the statistics; you see the numbers. And it’s just —
One recent example: New York City arrested a criminal alien on assault charges. But, under city policy, they defied ICE’s detainer request and released the violent criminal. After being freed by the city, the same criminal alien allegedly raped, brutalized, and murdered a 92-year-old woman on the streets of New York. This horrible crime — and there’s so many others — was 100 percent preventable. They wanted to take this person — I’m being nice — take this person and bring them out and couldn’t get them.
I urge all of you here today to cooperate fully with the federal enforcement. We’re all on the same team. I think that’s the biggest point is we’re all on the same team. We want to have safety. And you — some have sanctuary cities, but even if you have sanctuary cities, we want to be able to work together because tremendous differences in crime numbers can happen. And it’s been happening. And with some of the mayors in the room — and I’m friends with a lot of you; I know a lot of you — we’ve had incredible success.
To further ensure that every child can access the American Dream, we’ve made education a top priority. That’s why we strongly support charter schools and the right of parents to send their kids to the school of their choice. We want choice.
At the same time — and again, you’re going to have to do what’s good for your community, and we work with you. But we found that choice is something that’s so popular — the people love it. The — so many different groups of people from different areas, they love choice. We want to ensure that the students and workers alike are able to take advantage of every opportunity in our soaring economy — and soaring it is. In the history of our country, we now have the best economy.
Through our Pledge to the American Workers, more than 400 companies have committed to providing nearly 15 million new job and training opportunities. All Americans, no matter their age or background, should have access to cutting-edge programs that prepare them for the exciting jobs of tomorrow.
We have many, many companies moving into the United States. They want to be where the action is. They’re coming back — car companies; many, many forms of companies. And we’re making it a priority to have those companies train people. And they’re doing that now. We’re up to 15 million people. It’s really been incredible. My daughter Ivanka has worked very hard on that program. She wanted to do 500,000, two years ago, and we’re going to be hitting, very shortly, 15 million. So, she did a great job. (Applause.) Great job.
But families are at the center of our national agenda. We’ve made charitable — and child- — really, looking at it — looking it, we’ve made such progress with childcare, and more affordable and increased childcare funding for low-income parents. And we enacted paid family leave for government employees — a model for the entire community. Millions of families are benefitting from our ambitious campaign to lower the cost of prescription drugs — which is something you’re all working on — and to hold big pharma accountable.
One of things we’re doing with Ron DeSantis in Florida is we’re going to — we’re very close to getting it done, I believe. Right, Mr. Secretary? Because of, really, some terrible laws that, if we worked together, if we were able to get the Democrats to go along, we could lower prescription prices tremendously. But what we’re doing is we’re going to allow our mayors, our governors to go out and make deals to buy it from Canada and, it could be, some other countries where the prices are much lower. In fact, I think you’ll probably save 50 percent — “five-oh.” That’ll be a number that nobody has ever even heard of. Can you imagine that? (Applause.)
So, you’ll end up saving — you’ll end up saving 50 percent by buying it. Same pills, same box, same manufacturer in the manufacturing plant, and you save 50 percent, which tells you that we can do a lot of great things here. Why should that happen?
But we’re going to be buying a lot of things from Canada. Canada is very happy and they have much lower drug prices. Can you imagine if you went back and your programs — your prescription drugs were 50 percent lower? And we’re going to be able to do that. So we have that in a number of states. And Ron is one of the leaders of it.
As city leaders, you also know firsthand the vital importance of infrastructure and the painful delays imposed by meddlesome bureaucracy. Earlier this month, we issued a proposed new rule to reduce the permitting time by over 50 percent for building new roads, highways, bridges, and all of the different things that you have to build — infrastructure — in your communities.
We have highways that were taking 21 years to get approved. And by the time they got there, they cost 20 times more. They cost millions — hundreds of millions of dollars. And we had one in a certain state — it took 17 years and it cost, I think, 41 times more expensive than they originally had approved. And it was — instead of a straight line, it was like this. In other words, not even a small drink if you were going to be a driver on that road because it was — (laughter) — what a mess. And 21 years it took, and it cost many, many times. And the road was a lot longer than it should have been, too, because of the twists and turns, which creates danger.
And we have that down to two years now. And we think we’ll have it down to one year. And you may get rejected, but it’s going to go quickly. It’s going to go quickly. (Applause.)
And you know, we have — we have things out there for 20 years — highways –- that should not be complicated and they can’t get them approved. And in many cases, they go 20 years and then they get rejected. How would you like to work on that? You work half of your adult life –- half of your working life on one road or highway — and at the end of it, they raise it and you lose three to two, and that’s the end of the project. So for 20 years, you wasted half of your life.
My administration stands ready to work with each one of you to make our cities safer and stronger and more vibrant than ever before. As part of this commitment, last year my administration launched an initiative to cut federal, state, and local regulations to reduce the cost of housing. We also hosted a White House summit last month on mental health — a really critical issue confronting many cities and states.
Finally, in the face of attacks on synagogues, mosques, and churches in our community — something that is just so horrible — we must work together to reject the monstrous evils of anti-Semitism and anti-religious bigotry. (Applause.)
And in a few moments, it’s –- thank you for that. That’s — that’s incredible enthusiasm for that. Incredible, because it’s just –- it’s crazy; what’s going on is crazy.
In a few moments, I will sign legislation authorizing $375 million for federal grants to help houses of worship and other faith-based and non-profit organizations defend against violence. (Applause.)
We are committed to building a nation where every community is secure, every family is safe, and every child can grow up in dignity and in peace.
I want to again thank all of these mayors –- they’re such great mayors, at least some of you. I know a couple — (laughter). But that’s okay. You’re here. Maybe –- maybe I’m wrong about that, right? (Laughter.) But I do, I know so many that have done such a great job in this room. Friends of mine. They love their job, they love what they’re doing, and there’s nobody in the world that can do it better. So I really appreciate you being here.
Working together, we’re making our cities into thriving and dynamic centers of culture and creativity, innovation, and commerce. And we’re building a future where all of our citizens can achieve their own beautiful American Dream. And I just tell you, our country has never done better than it’s doing right now. We’re the envy of the world. Our economy is the strongest. We are doing deals like the great China deal. We’ll be taking in $250 billion. That’s tremendous. They’ll be buying $250 [billion] — $50 billion from the farmers. And it could even go more. I mean, it could go higher. I don’t know that they can even produce that much.
The fact is: We love our farmers, but they were doing — the maximum they ever did was $16 billion in one year to China. And they had a deal that was done. It was at $20 [billion]. And I said, “Make it $50 [billion].” And everyone said, “Well, you can’t.” I said, “Make it $50 [billion].” They said, “You can’t make that much.” I said, “That’s okay, right. We’ll buy larger tractors.” (Laughter.) Guess you have to buy a little more land too, but they’ll do it. You know, the farmers never let you down. The farmers are going to do it. It’s to their benefit.
But — so we’re going really right in the other direction. We are going to have numbers. We’ve made a deal with Japan — $40 billion. A lot of that goes to farmers and manufacturers. And we’ve created 700,000 manufacturing jobs, which we were told by past administrations — but one, in particular — that you would never have manufacturing jobs. I would say, you have to be — I mean, how can you not have manufacturing jobs?
So we’re at 700,000 manufacturing jobs. I’d like to — (applause). Yeah. And these are great jobs, too. These are great jobs, skilled jobs, high-paying jobs. I’d like to now invite the mayors, community leaders, and members of my administration to join me on stage as I sign this incredible piece of legislation. It took a long time to get it here, but this is something that’s very, very special and very, very great for you, as mayors.
And again, keep up the good work. You’ve done an incredible job. Thank you. (Applause.)
(The legislation is signed.)
4:55 P.M. EST