October 13, 1987
The President. Well, thank you all, and thank you, Governor Kean, Congressmen Courter and Gallo, Chairman Frank Holman, Congresswoman Roukema, and Speaker Hardwick and Minority Leader Jim Hurley, Noel Gross and Bernard Stanley and Bo Sullivan and Larry Bathgate. Oh, I could go on and name all of you. I should. It's such a pleasure to be here and a pleasure to be with all of you in support of New Jersey's great Republican team. And before I go any further, let me just join the many people all over the State and all over the Nation who are singing the praises of your terrific Governor, Tom Kean.
Tom and the rest of you who are on his team have shown the entire country that ours is the party of responsible government, economic progress, and a better life for every citizen. Our opposition has tried their best to paint another picture, but what you've proven here, under Governor Kean's dynamic leadership, is that it is the Republican Party that represents the interests of working people.
The other side still hasn't realized that what we Republicans have been accomplishing has been something marvelous. It reminds me a bit of a story of an agent that I heard about once in my old career. You know, back in the days of vaudeville, somebody aspiring to a vaudeville engagement or a career in vaudeville would find themselves on a stage in an empty theater except for one lone, cynical agent who'd be sitting down there in the front rows. And he'd usually be smoking a cigar and telling them, well, okay, what do you do?
And this young fellow came out and stood there, and he says, ``What do you do, kid?'' And the kid stood there for just a couple of minutes, and then he just took off and flew up toward the balcony and then flew around the theater a couple of times and sailed back in and landed on the stage. The agent took the cigar out of his mouth and says, ``What else do you do besides bird imitations?'' [Laughter] Well, I'll tell you, I don't think the American people are as blase about our accomplishments as our detractors. That was never more apparent than 2 years ago when Tom Kean won the greatest reelection victory in this State's history.
I just spoke to the Chamber of Commerce, and I won't repeat all of that, but it is sufficient to say that this month marks the 59th straight month of economic growth, the longest peacetime expansion in the postwar era. Our policies have dramatically improved the well-being of the people of the United States. We can begin with the fact that had we not done something to turn the situation around, well, what you paid for lunch today would be the normal price for a meal. [Laughter] Seriously though, inflation was public enemy number one in 1980, you'll remember, running at double digits for 2 consecutive years. But, we've put that monster in a cage and instead of seeing their income being eaten away, the American people have enjoyed stable prices and secure savings.
Inflation, of course, wasn't the only thing attacking our citizens' income back in the bad old days. Inflation was pushing everyone into higher and higher tax brackets. You'd get a raise in pay to match the inflation rate, but then the income tax, which is based on the number of dollars -- not their value -- would raise you into a higher tax bracket, and you'd wind up with less purchasing power than you had before you got the raise. Working people ended up paying at rates that at one time had been reserved for the truly affluent. Well, we've brought the rates down, reformed the system, got rid of many of the loopholes, and indexed the brackets so government won't profit from inflation at the working people's expense.
Now, Tom, I know that under your leadership this State has cut six separate taxes, saving New Jersey taxpayers over $1 billion in just the last 3 years. We've proven by our actions -- at the Federal, State, and local levels -- that the GOP is the party of low inflation, low taxes, new jobs, high take-home pay, and robust growth. I can't think of a better platform than that. But here in New Jersey, Governor Kean has put these Republican principles to work, and that's one of the reasons the people of this State have benefited from one of the highest growth rates and lowest unemployment rates in the Nation. The other party talks about helping the less fortunate with handouts and bureaucratic programs; we offer them jobs and opportunity.
I believe one of the proudest achievements of our administration is that we've been able to turn around a dramatic rise in poverty that began in 1979. It took a few years to do it, but since the expansion the proportion of persons living below the poverty level has declined by 9 percent, real family income is up 11 percent overall, and unemployment is down 4.8 percent. Here in New Jersey, Tom Kean has been in the forefront of this crusade to turn economic growth into a vehicle for social mobility for all Americans, and that's been especially true for our minority citizens. In 1982, for example, black unemployment in New Jersey was almost 20 percent. Today, it's just over 10. While overall employment has increased by about 12 percent, black employment has jumped by almost 40 percent. Let the other party talk about compassion, but in reality their policies cost the poor and minorities jobs. And while they're talking, we're doing something to change people's lives for the better.
I know Governor Kean would never have been able to do what he has without the support of a Republican assembly and a strong Republican minority in the State senate. So, today I want to thank all of you for being part of this effort to keep New Jersey on the right track. Believe me, as a former Governor, I fully appreciate the importance of your commitment to a responsible State legislature; and that means a Republican State legislature. I might add that whatever success we've had in Washington was due, in no small part, to the fact that we Republicans controlled the United States Senate for 6 years. Now we've lost that edge, and we're back with the Democrats holding both Houses of the Congress. With outstanding candidates like Pete Dawkins, I predict we'll be winning back the United States Senate in 1988. Now, the other party has a basketball player in the Senate but, with Pete Dawkins, New Jersey will outplay them in every game in town. [Laughter]
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank other members of your New Jersey team who've been invaluable to our success, Congressmen -- as I've said before -- Courter and Gallo and Congresswoman Roukema. I ask this favor: Keep up your fight for a Republican State legislature so that after redistricting in 1991, New Jersey can send more prosecurity, proprosperity Congressmen to Washington, just like Jim and Dean.
One fact just about says it all: In 1984 Republicans received 51 percent of the vote in contested congressional seats, but we only won 42 percent of the seats in Congress. How can that be? It's because for 50 years now, every 10 years when the reapportionment takes place and the redistricting, they have been in charge. They have been gerrymandering, and until we can get more States with a Republican State legislature for the redistricting, we'll continue having more votes than they have for Congressmen, but electing fewer Congressmen than they do.
Many people aren't aware, in the 50 years, 1931 to 1980, they have held both Houses of the Congress. For 46 of those 50 years, all the Democratic Presidents had Democratic Congresses with them except for one 2-year period when Harry Truman had a Republican Congress. All the Republican Presidents, until I took office, have had Democratic Congresses except for one 2-year period when Ike Eisenhower had a Republican Congress, just for those 2 years. Now, since 1980, for 6 years we had the Senate -- I had a Republican Senate, but they had the House of Representatives, and now they have both Houses again. We have to get back and redistrict to the place where there is a fairness in the voting, that Republicans all aren't bunched up in little districts, so that it doesn't matter how many of them there are. Sure, they elect a Congressman there, but there'll always be a minority until we can turn this around.
Well, it's high time for us to start fighting back, time for us to set priorities and concentrate on just how and where those congressional district lines are drawn. This year you can begin, as I said, by electing more Republican State senators. If Republicans have greater statehouse strength, then we can play a major role in ensuring a fair redistricting process.
It was just 2 years ago that I met with you right across the road. We talked then about making Chuck Hardwick not just a member of the New Jersey Assembly but speaker of the assembly. And Chuck, the next time we meet I know you'll still be the speaker, only I think we should make certain that Jim Hurley becomes the president, instead of the minority leader of the State senate. So, please get out there and get more Republicans elected to the legislature. With just 3 weeks to go before election day, your money, your time, and your talents can make the difference. And I know I'm counting on you, and I know your Governor's counting on you also.
Well, with the enthusiasm and commitment that I found here today, I'm certain that we're going to do just that, and that the people of New Jersey and this country will be better off for it. All you have to do is just remind the people of New Jersey of the difference in this New Jersey you have here now, with your Governor and those other Republicans that we've mentioned there in the legislature, and compare it to what it was not too many years ago. So, we'll all be better off, and I'll probably be back on the mashed-potato circuit. [Laughter]
But it's been a wonderful thing to see you all here today. I've been speaking a couple of times here in New Jersey, and I've tried to finish each speech with a display of my latest hobby, which is collecting stories that I can guarantee are told by the people of the Soviet Union about their system. And they tell them -- the jokes -- and it shows they've got a great sense of humor, but they're also pretty cynical about the way they live. And I've told two of them already. I think I ought to be able to come up with one more here because we know that our system is absolutely the opposite to theirs. And so, one I can think of -- they tell this among themselves -- they tell about a man that was walking down the street in Moscow one night, and a soldier yelled, ``Halt!'' And he started to run, and the soldier shot him. And another citizen said, ``Why did you do that?'' ``Well,'' he said, ``curfew.'' But he said, ``It isn't curfew yet.'' He says, ``I know, he's a friend of mine. I know where he lives; he couldn't have made it.'' [Laughter] I did not tell that one to Gorbachev. [Laughter]
Well, listen, it's been wonderful to be here with you. God bless you all for what you've done just by being here today.
Audience member. We want Bork, too!
The President. You want Bork, too!
The President. So do I. You brought this on yourself, so I'm -- [laughter] -- I'm going to tell you. Yes, Bork is staying in, and we know the odds are against getting enough people to turn around their vote. But, as he pointed out in his statement the other day, what's at issue here is not one man and what happened to him. What's at issue is that we make sure that the process of appointing and confirming judges never again is turned into such a political joke. And if I have to appoint another one, I'll try to find one that they'll object to just as much as they did for this one. [Laughter] All right.
Thank you all. God bless you all.
[At this point, Gov. Tom Kean and Joseph A. (Bo) Sullivan, chairman of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, gave the President a bushel of tomatoes.]
Thank you very much. In the business I used to be in, you worried about them throwing these at you. [Laughter]
Note: The President spoke at 3:11 p.m. in Ballroom F at the Hanover Marriott Hotel. Following his remarks, the President returned to Washington, DC.