October 8, 1984
The President. Thank you all very much.
Audience. Reagan! Reagan! Reagan!
The President. Thank you very much, and, Jesse, thank you for that introduction. And, Eddie Knox, I am more proud than I can say of what you have just committed to here this morning. And I thank all of you very much. You have honored me greatly, and it's so great to be here.
You know, last night we had a little sparring in the political arena. But whether I won them or not, I know now that I have won the fruits of victory, because I get to be with all of you. And I can truthfully say, nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning.
Well, it's wonderful to see your enthusiasm. It's heartening, because this election is not a contest between Republicans and Democrats or between left and right; it's a contest between the future and the past. I have said on occasion that age is going to be an issue in this campaign -- their ideas are just too darn old. [Laughter]
But this contest is being waged for the soul of our country and the will of its people. And it's good to know where you stand, and I'm proud to stand with you. I'm a great admirer of your State -- not just because the sky is Carolina blue -- I was a little worried that I might not be able to say that if the clouds didn't clear, but they did; the soil is fertile; your mountains are majestic; and it's not also because I feel a special affinity for one of your main industries -- you cure tobacco and I'm trying to cure economics -- [laughter] -- but I admire your State because I admire your people. You were the first to vote for independence. And not too many years ago, when some people were burning our flag, you were waving it. Well, like the rest of the country, I'm impressed by your independence, and because of it, I truly treasure your support.
Now, we could begin today talking about how the economy is recovering and expanding, about how we've created 6 million new jobs, and 600,000 businesses were incorporated last year alone -- that's a record in our nation's history. But those are national statistics. Here in North Carolina, the unemployment rate 4 years ago was over 8 percent; it's now 6\1/2\. Now, that's not low enough, but it's a big improvement.
Here in Charlotte, construction is up; take-home pay is up; sales are up. In other words, I'm in a city that I would characterize as part of the national renewal. My opponents, of course, would say it's a pocket of despair. Well, I don't know about them. They go around insisting the economy is in a shambles and people are worse off than they ever were, and they've got to come back and raise our taxes to get things good again.
The President. Well, now, I understand their attempts to convince you that things aren't better -- that's what opponents do. And faced with the irrefutable fact of our national renewal, it hasn't been very easy for them. But let's stop for a moment and remember the mess they left us and what all of us have done -- all of us -- to turn our nation around.
In the past 3 1/2 years we've cut the growth of government spending by nearly two-thirds. We have lowered personal tax rates by 25 percent for every taxpayer in the country. We cut inflation from 12.4 percent to 4.2, and we cut interest rates from 21\1/2\ to 12\3/4\ and, in some banks, 12\1/2\.
Now, our opponents say the tax cuts were for millionaires. They say they weren't compassionate. But look at the record. Two-thirds of the income tax was being paid by two-thirds of the people, those under $50,000 a year. And two-thirds of the tax cut went to those same people. A typical family of four will have paid about $2,000 less in total income taxes during our administration. Our opponents would raise taxes the equivalent of almost $2,000 -- $1,890 per household, and that's a $157 more in taxes every month of the year. And they call that compassion.
Well, let's look at what their inflation did to us. When our opponents were in charge from 1976 to 1980 -- or through 1980 -- grocery bills increased by 50 percent. The price of a gallon of gas more than doubled. And in 1979 and '80, the weekly earnings of working Americans declined in real dollars, in real terms, by 8.8 percent, which was the first -- or the worst drop since World War II. And the poor were hit hardest of all.
People on fixed incomes saw double-digit inflation kill their purchasing power. Families saw inflation make a joke out of their savings. And the truly needy who depend on government aid saw their benefits eroded by the destructive force of inflation. As a matter of fact, there were three increases during their time in the Aid for Dependent Children grant, and they still couldn't keep up. After the three increases, the people were worse off by several hundred dollars than they had been before.
And do you call that compassion?
The President. Well, we cut inflation, and I'll tell you what it means: that 8.8 percent weekly -- or decline in weekly earnings -- within the last 2 years, weekly earnings have increased by 3.2 percent. Four years ago the weekly food bill for a family of four was almost $87. If my opponents' inflation rates had continued, that food bill would now be almost $128. Well, instead, we've kept the family's food bill down to $98.50, roughly one-fourth the rise that their inflation would have created.
Their interest rates were at 21\1/2\ percent the day they left office. Soaring mortgage rates meant 10 million families could no longer afford to buy homes. We cut those interest rates, and it helped reduce the average cost of home mortgages by $143 a month. It's brought home ownership within reach of 5 million more Americans, and it's made car purchases more affordable, too -- but still not good enough, but far better than the mess that they left us.
And as we freed up the economy to grow, we created over 6 million new jobs in the last 21 months. More people are working this year than ever before in our history, and a job is the surest escape from poverty.
I want to stop for just a moment and say one of the things that makes us different from our opponents. We understand the need for jobs, real jobs, not make-work jobs. We don't want to keep people on welfare, keep them in bondage as wards of the state. We know that people want to work. They want to contribute. They want to be a part of society. And we don't patronize them with handouts. We give them a chance through economic growth. And that's why I will fight his tax increase proposals, and I will fight to bring everybody's tax rates further down, not up. And I'll fight so that every American who wants a job can find a job, from the Carolina shore to San Francisco Bay.
They favor busing that takes innocent children out of the neighborhood school and makes them pawns in a social experiment that nobody wants. We've found out it failed. I don't call that compassion. My opponent helped impose a grain embargo that punished the American farmer for his administration's foreign policy defeats. And I don't call that compassion. The other side continued heavy estate taxes on the family farm. And that is not compassion. Well, we have practically eliminated that tax so that you can keep the farm in the family, and we have eliminated the inheritance tax for a surviving spouse. And that is compassion.
Now, they say they're going to bring their kind of compassion back. Should we let them?
The President. You've answered already. Yes, we should keep giving a fair break to every citizen in our country.
The truth is, we're on the right track. But our national renewal isn't confined to the economy. More than prosperity, we have peace. I believe that we've made the world a more stable place. We're making quiet progress toward arms control, because we've not been mislead by empty talk and false promises. We've put America in a position of sufficient strength to achieve real and meaningful reductions in nuclear arms. And we did this knowing, as Teddy Roosevelt did, that the cry of the weakling counts for a little in the move toward peace, but the call of the just man, armed, is potent.
But there's another peace, the peace of the family, the peace that we're given through faith, through tradition, through fidelity to ideals. Our administration has tried these past few years to softly encourage the values by which our nation has flourished. And that's why we've tried to restore the right of voluntary prayer to our schoolchildren, to give tuition tax credits for parents who want to send their children to independent schools, and to foster legislation that recognizes that the family is the prime generator of the good things young people bring to this society as a whole.
We haven't always succeeded, but we'll never stop trying. And the truth is we have a philosophy and a spirit of renewal whose time has come. The columnists and pundits say that in 1980 the American voters took a turn to the right. Well, I think they missed the point. The fact is that quietly, unseen, and unheard, from Maine to California, a new understanding of the word ``freedom'' has swept this continent -- freedom from heavy taxation, freedom from the Big Brother mentality that says that Big Brother knows best how to run your lives, that you're not bright enough to run your own lives.
America turned away from politicians who patronize, and it wasn't just a shift or a turn; it was a sea change. And we'll keep the new freedoms born of that change, and we will continue to make America stronger with them. The other day I was asked, ``How do you want your administration to be remembered?'' Well, the first thing I thought was, well, I'd rather that you not have to remember it anytime too soon -- [laughter] -- but I thought about it, and I said then -- because I never thought about it before -- I'd like my Presidency to be remembered as the one that gave the Government back to the people.
And because -- --
Audience. 4 more years! 4 more years! 4 more years!
The President. That's a good idea. I wish I'd thought of it. Oh, I don't fear the judgment of my fellow citizens on November 6th, but a fellow once told me that you can't count on victory until all the votes are counted. And I thanked President Dewey for that advice. [Laughter]
In 4 weeks we must all take part in the simplest but most essential of the democratic acts -- we must make time and get to the polling place and vote. A vote is an expression of will, and the leaders of the opposition have got to start to understand the breadth and depth of the will of the people.
And so I say to all of you who see things as we do, don't take this election for granted. Don't pay any attention to the polls. Get out there and vote and see that your neighbor and your friend on either side votes.
And let me say to people of all political persuasions, from Independents to disenchanted Democrats, the welcome mat is out. I know that in a crowd, in this place, of this size, there have to be many Democrats who are here because they no longer can look with approval upon the way their leaders, the leaders of their party, have been taking them and this country. Well, I was one of you. I, too, was a Democrat for much of my adult life and, let me tell you, the welcome mat is out. We hope that you can join us this year because we need you, we want your help, and we know that we can do the things we're trying to do in a bipartisan way, together, as Americans, not just members of one party or the other.
Now, I hope to win reelection -- --
Audience. You will!
The President. [Laughing] -- but if our great renewal is to take root, I'll need the help and support of good men and women in the Congress, and that's why we need people like Senator Jesse Helms. I wonder if you appreciate how hard he works for your State. He's one of my greatest supporters, too, and we need him back in Washington. What do you say? Will you send Jess back to help us? [Applause] All right. All right.
North Carolina couldn't have a more valuable export this year than Jesse Helms being sent to Washington. And let me say that we need Alex McMillen to join Jim Broyhill in Washington.
Now, I'm going to show you we're unselfish. Jim Martin -- now Jim you can keep, but send him to Raleigh. We need him there, too.
Now, I know that I must go. You've been very patient. But can I come back?
Audience. Yes! Reagan! Reagan! Reagan!
The President. Thank you. You know, 30 years ago President Eisenhower came here to Charlotte. And he said that sometimes he found his job difficult, but what inspired him was the encouragement he got from the people in places like this. And he said, looking out at you, the people of Charlotte, ``. . . the heart of America is always sound, and America's judgment . . . is always correct.'' And if a President knows that, he said, and hews to the wisdom of the people, then he can be certain that in the long run he will have done his job well.
Well, I look at all of you, and I feel the same way Ike did. And I thank you for continuing your traditions of inspiring Presidents, and thank you for your warmth and your kindness. And I particularly thank the young people of Matthews Elementary School who came here. They'd invited me to go there, and the schedule wouldn't permit that, so they came here. And I'm glad they did, and it's wonderful to see them.
But let me also say -- and to those of you who back there can't be quite as conscious of it -- down here in front are massed so many young people.
Audience. Reagan! Reagan! Reagan!
The President. All right.
Audience. Reagan! Reagan! Reagan!
The President. Thank you.
Audience. Reagan! Reagan! Reagan!
The President. They are what this election is all about. Something happened in the years between when I was that age and where I am now. And some of what we had prided in -- taken pride in having in America seemed to disappear, and that was the opportunity, the freedom, the belief that we the people are the most powerful element in our country, not any level of government. And there became in recent years a feeling that, well, there wasn't opportunity, that we had to resign ourselves to a lesser standard of life than we had known in the past.
Well, I want to say to all these young people, those who were saying that were blowing smoke. They didn't know what they were talking about. There is opportunity, unlimited opportunity. And that's what we're about to restore for all of you.
So, all of you, thank you again. You have really started my day right. And God bless you all. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 12:26 p.m. at the Park. In his opening remarks, he referred to Senator Jesse Helms and Eddie Knox, the former Democratic mayor of Charlotte, who endorsed the President's bid for reelection.
Following his remarks, the President attended a reception for local Republican leaders. He then traveled to Baltimore, MD.