June 17, 1982
I want to tell you, if I could just say one thing -- I know I have to be very careful, because you have primaries to go and so forth, and so I've got to stay neutral until the candidates are selected -- except for one: the first Republican woman candidate here in the history of our party. But I know you'll have a spirited convention, and you'll have a spirited primary. But remember one thing -- it came from the West, I know, but I'm still singing it -- the greatest thing that's happened for the Republican Party is, when the chips are down and the decisions are made as to who the candidates will be, then the 11th commandment prevails and everybody goes to work, and that is: Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.
George invited us to drop by here before we went home after being at the United Nations earlier today. I'm always delighted to speak to Republican delegates. I have sort of developed a taste for that in the summer of 1980. [Laughter] But I'll tell you what I like about my fellow Republicans -- their optimism and their dedication. And George is that kind of a Republican.
I remember back there when everyone told us to write off New York in 1980 and not to waste our time or effort here because there was no chance. And it was George Clark [New York State Republican chairman] who said, ``Not on your life, nothing doing,'' and he was right. And you know what happened.
But it will be activists like him and you, the folks who organize and vote, who'll determine what America's going to be like in the years ahead. It's our job to muster the forces of hope and to show the Nation that change is possible.
Today we're engaged in a fierce struggle with the proponents of negativism, the advocates of ``no.'' They offer the politics of no new ideas, no growth, no incentives to work, no incentives to save, and no firm security for the Nation. And we are and must remain the proponents of ``yes.''
Yes, we can have a brighter tomorrow. Yes, we can make government work. Yes, we can solve our problems. We can have a safe and strong America. We can live together in harmony no matter what our race or religion. And when it comes to our country, ``yes'' is the only word we understand, 'cause that's what we've grown up with as a country. The colonists said it, that they could seek a better world. The pioneers said, yes, we can open up the prairies and the frontiers. Heroes who've said, yes, we will defend freedom to the very end.
In 1982 we Republicans know what we stand for, unlike many of our opponents. After being in Washington for a year and a half there's one thing I know for sure; there are two sides to every question. [Laughter] And, come election year, the Democrats turn up on both sides. [Laughter]
We have an important job ahead, and it's getting our message across. It won't be easy. It's a tremendous job to do. But in spite of everything you hear, the issues really are with us. And it's up to us and to leaders like yourselves to become familiar, to know what the answers are and the arguments are when the battle gets underway. The issues are with us because we're trying to solve the problems that are facing this nation. And on November 2nd, we'll have to get that story across. And then, I think, they will confirm the mandate that we received in 1980.
But let me just say a word about those issues and the comparison with where our opponents stand. The liberal leadership of the other party is going to have to explain why they, for 2 years in a row, fought right down to the wire -- and have in the last few weeks -- against reducing spending as if that were some kind of a sin against the body politic. It's the liberal leadership of that same party who first of all didn't want to give you the tax cuts that are scheduled for the next 2 years, but now want to take them away from you on the grounds that somehow they're responsible for the recession. Well, the truth is we had the recession before we had the program.
And that same leadership has tried to protect every lord and fiefdom in the Federal bureaucracy, and we have reduced the size of the Federal Government by tens of thousands of people. George Bush is heading up a task force with regard to those regulations that I talked about during the campaign, all those unnecessary regulations. And do you know what he's accomplished with that task force so far in just eliminating unnecessary regulations? The savings to the people of America in manhours of work filling out papers for the Federal Government have been reduced by 200 million manhours.
I think we offer the people hope, hope that once again we have the chance and the answer to making America great again. We can set things right, and with people like yourselves here, I know we're going to do it.
Let me just -- a few of the buzzwords, and then Nancy and I are going to have to run for that helicopter out there. But you've heard the term over and over again -- ``budget cuts.'' And more and more you're seeing the sob-sister complaints about that we are throwing people out into the streets and there is no safety net and we're not doing what we should do for the people who must have our help. Well, in the first place, there have been no budget cuts. I wish there were. I wish we were in a situation where we could reduce the budget to less than it was the previous year, but we couldn't do that and preserve the safety net for those people who need help.
So, the '82 budget that we have now is bigger than the budget we inherited in '81. The '83 budget we're fighting for will be bigger than the '82 budget. But they won't be as much bigger. When we took office, the budgets were increasing in cost 17 percent a year. We cut that in half with the '82 budget, and we'll make another slice about that big in '83.
But let me just give you some things you might use in an argument about whether we are mistreating the people who need help. Oh, I know of 8,000 individuals whose social security checks have been eliminated -- 8,000 of them. We found out they'd been dead for an average of 7 years. [Laughter] They were still getting their check.
But government medical programs -- over the seventies, from 1970 to 1980, increased an average of 16.9 percent a year in cost. Well, next year in the budget that we're fighting for, it won't be that much, but it'll be almost 15 percent. Does that sound as if we're denying medical care to those people who need it?
The budget -- well, let me go back just 20 years, to 1962, to Camelot. [Laughter] John F. Kennedy -- 29 percent of his budget was for human needs. And in our budget, 51 percent is for human needs.
They tell us that we're wasting money on defense, that we shouldn't be spending all that money on defense. Well, I want to tell you, we had a few fellows out there with empty guns as a result of what had happened in the 4 years before we got here. We had airplanes that wouldn't fly for lack of spare parts and ships that couldn't leave harbor. Well, things are different now. And I want to tell you -- [applause] -- but did we, as they say, bankrupt the people for defense spending? In 1962, 46 percent of John F. Kennedy's budget was for defense. In 1983, less than 30 percent of our budget will be for defense.
Now, that's -- I just think a few figures -- we'll have more for you that you'll enjoy. [Laughter] I just found one yesterday -- no, sorry -- day before yesterday. Day before yesterday, we got the Inspector Generals, as they're known, from every department together. When we first got here, we appointed some people as a task force to help them and said they were a task force against fraud and waste and extravagance. They were to report to me every 6 months what they have found. And so the day before yesterday was their third 6-month report. And in just the 6 months that ended March 31st, they have saved the people of this country $5.8 billion that they found -- [applause] -- --
One little item that just might interest you, to show you what you can find if you look for it: They found out where we were paying $318 apiece for brackets in one department. And they found out they were available in a local store for $4 each. [Laughter]
Well, that's enough of that. It's great to see you here, and you carry on and don't get discouraged. I think that we're on the way.
I got the news this morning. In the month of May, housing starts in the building industry went up 22 percent over the previous -- [applause] -- --
All right, God bless you all, and, George, thank you for letting me be here.
Note: The President spoke at 6 p.m. in the Georgian Ballroom at the Sheraton Centre.
Following his appearance at the reception, the President returned to Washington, D.C.