September 6, 1985

The President. Why weren't you all in North Carolina? [Laughter]

Q. We were.

The President. I know.

Well, I was delighted to learn the exciting news this morning that our unemployment rate has dropped to 6.9 percent, the lowest level in over 5 years. 332,000 more Americans were working last month, and today employment in the United States stands at an all-time high. And I believe that's not only in the amount of numbers but also in the percentage of the overall labor pool. It's interesting to note that this nation which believes in lower taxes and free and fair trade has created more than 8 million jobs now in 33 months. We're seeing the proof that America's economy is packing new power. We can keep driving our unemployment rate down; we can keep opening up opportunities for our future if all of us unite in working for an America where government doesn't grow, prosperity does.

In the days ahead, I urge the Congress to join with me with renewed energy in our shared responsibilities: to control all unnecessary spending; to work for a freer and fairer trading system; and to pass a new tax plan for America, a fair-share tax plan for all.

Now, let me add that we're still discussing the subjects of trade and South Africa. Let me direct your questions on the economy to Beryl Sprinkel, because I have to be getting back to the office. The schedule was planned before we knew that I would be coming in here.

South Africa

Q. We thought you were going to announce some trade sanctions, Mr. President.

The President. No. As I say, those things are still under discussion, and as quickly as we have something to report on those discussions, we will.

Q. What do you intend to do -- --

Q. Today?

Q. -- -- about South Africa?

The President. I can't say that it will be today. I doubt that it would be.

Q. Have you changed your mind, sir, about sanctions against South Africa? There's some indication that you want to try and head off a bruising battle with Congress on -- --

The President. I said both those subjects, trade and South Africa, we're in consultations now on both of those. And when we can, and I know it won't be too long, we'll be -- --

Q. Why did you say, sir -- --

Farm Credit

Q. Will you do something about farm credit? You've got to do something right away on that, haven't you?

The President. That's what we're meeting on. As I say -- --

South Africa

Q. Are you having any second thoughts, Mr. President, about your policy of constructive engagement?

The President. I think it's the only thing that's shown any signs of improvement in that whole situation as yet.

Q. Do you really believe that all segregation has been eliminated in South Africa, Mr. President? You said that in your radio interview.

The President. No, and I didn't intend to say that. I did know that all the people that have been coming back here have been reporting to me on how widespread was this, and I'm sorry that I carelessly gave the impression that I believed that it had been totally eliminated. There are areas where it hasn't.

Q. Well, what do you believe is the case in South Africa regarding people's ability to live, to move about freely, to vote?

The President. You'll hear about all of this as soon as we finish these consultations.

Q. Are you still against the sanctions, Mr. President? Still against sanctions?

The President. Beryl is waiting impatiently here to take your questions.

Q. Why do you think you were so misinformed about the state of the situation in South Africa in terms of whites and blacks?

The President. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International], I will answer that one question, and then I'm going to walk out of here, and Beryl's going to take over.

Q. Don't you have a lot of briefers?

The President. I was not nearly as ill-informed as many of you have made it out that I was. I may have been careless in my language in that one thing, but I was talking about improvements that actually do exist there and have been made. But, as I say, I know that segregation has not been eliminated totally and in some areas there's been no improvement. But there has been a great improvement over what has ever existed before.

Q. Well, there's no vote there. No participation as citizens.

The President. No, no, no. I was talking about the specific things of segregation, of labor, and the new things that have taken place with regard to labor and things of that kind.

Tax Reform

Q. What about the tax reform plan in the House Ways and Means Committee, sir?

Q. Will you get tax reform this year?

The President. You've been hearing me talk about tax reform. You'll hear me some more.

Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev

Q. What about Gorbachev, Mr. President? Do you have a reaction to the interview in Time magazine? We haven't heard from you on that yet.

The President. I know. [Laughter]

Q. How about a press conference next week?

The President. I'll take it up with him in November.

Americans Missing in Lebanon

Q. Mr. President, can you tell us if there's anything new about the Americans still missing in Lebanon?

The President. We're working just as hard as we can in every channel that we can about that. It's a far different situation than the hostages. And the fact that there isn't anything out there every day, as there was on the hostage situation, doesn't mean that that is not the most important thing for us. And we are doing everything -- --

Q. But you see no progress at all in that?

The President. We don't know.

The President's Health

Q. How are you feeling, sir? Any aches or pains?

The President. No. You all should have seen me -- no, I feel fine. As a matter of fact, my biggest problem's with the doctors that are still trying to shorten down the riding time.

Q. When are you going back out to Bethesda, Mr. President, for the checkups? Do you know?

The President. I don't know, but pretty soon. I know that's a routine thing that has to be done.

Note: The President spoke at 10:34 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House. Following the President's remarks, Beryl W. Sprinkel, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, continued to answer reporters' questions.