Remarks at a Nebraska Republican Party Rally in Omaha
October 21, 1982
The President. Thank you very much. I can't tell you how pleased I am to be here at this nonpartisan gathering. [Laughter] No, it's great to be back here and to see so many friendly faces. I feel like I'm coming home to old friends and neighbors. As a matter of fact, the Governor just informed me a little while ago that he used to listen to me when I was Dutch Reagan on WHO - Des Moines. Of course, he then added he only listened to me when the Cards were playing the Cubs, because he was a Card fan. So, he's a very happy fellow today.
But, you know, there's one big difference between Nebraska and Washington -- you've got your priorities straight. Now, in Washington, too many in the Congress vote against balanced budgets so they can run up big, red-ink deficits. Here in Nebraska, a balanced budget is an article of faith between you and your leaders, and the only Big Red in your State is a football team. Back in those broadcasting days, I have described that team a number of times when I was a sports announcer doing play-by-play football broadcasts.
But let me just say a few words about your Governor, and I'm mighty proud to stand here with him today. He doesn't just believe in your Nebraska bedrock values -- values like self-reliance, love of family, patriotism, and faith in God. I've known Charlie Thone and valued his friendship for a long time. I've seen the job he's done, and no one works harder or has done more to increase Nebraska's farm and industrial exports. He doesn't play both sides of an issue; he's a man who says what he means, means what he says, and does what he promises. Charlie Thone has stood by Nebraska through sun and storm. He's earned your support. And if you give it to him -- and I mean all of it -- he'll stay right where he belongs, doing his great job as your Governor.
Now, we gave him a problem in Washington. I understand how your tax system is geared to the Federal income tax. And then when we changed the Federal income tax and reduced it, he was faced with having to make a rate change in order to not change your tax. But those who said that he raised your taxes in doing that are lying in their teeth. He had a hard decision to make, and he made it. And now I understand that he is faced, as we're faced in Washington, with having in these hard times to make some adjustments in State budgeting and in cutting government spending. And that's the approach that he's taking. And I'd like to know who in America -- well, I do know who in America, but I don't like them -- [laughter] -- thinks that's wrong. The right way to change is to reduce government spending.
We need your excellent Representatives that he named up here -- Doug Bereuter, Hal Daub, Virginia Smith -- back in Washington. And wouldn't it be great if we had an outstanding Senate candidate, Jim Keck, be the outstanding Senator that I know he could be?
Let me, if I could, because there is some mystery to many people about the way things work there in Washington and what that means -- as he told you, the first time we've had a Republican Senate in 26 years. As a matter of fact, all the past Republican Presidents, all the way back to the war, only for one 2-year period, has a Republican President served with a Republican legislature, a Republican Congress.
And here's what it means to have -- we only have a slight majority in that Senate. But that slight majority is so important, because having that majority means our party names the committee chairmen; our party names the majority to the committees. And look at the difference in this last session that we've just been through. The balanced budget amendment, which 80 percent of the people in this country said they wanted, passed out of the Senate with a two-thirds majority. For a year, it was held in the House in committee and not allowed to come to the floor for a vote, because they control the majorities and the chairmen of the committees in that other House. Finally it came out when 218 signed a petition to bring it to the floor. And it got a majority vote, but it fell short of the two-thirds it needs. But I've got news for them: They're going to have another chance to vote on that balanced budget amendment, because we're going to keep presenting it.
Your train here today -- and I might add with a very lovely cargo -- represents a great success story -- an industry of new growth, of jobs, and progress, carrying your people and their goods toward brighter horizons and a better life. It wasn't long ago that people were saying that rail industry couldn't make it without government subsidies. Well, we're seeing proof of how wrong they were. This industry has turned around; it's getting stronger. The payoff is more jobs and opportunities, and that's darn good news for Nebraska. And part of the reason that it can do that is because we've been lifting the stultifying hand of government regulations that's been hindering business and industry in this country for too many years.
Let me speak a moment about another turnaround, another comeback story: Our economy is turning around. Our critics are saying our economy is on its knees. Well, you know something, if the economy is back on its knees, that's quite an improvement because 2 years ago it was flat on its back.
A little less than 2 years ago when we went to Washington, all those years of government living beyond its means had come to roost with a terrible vengeance. Today's Monday morning quarterbacks have already forgotten the monster they left us: spending shooting up at an annual rate of 17 percent; double-digit inflation, 2 years in a row of that; high unemployment; a 21\1/2\-percent interest rate, the highest in more than a century; and nearly a trillion-dollar debt, which if we don't correct things soon is going to be handed as a heritage from us to these wonderful young people who are here today. And I'm determined that must not happen. And we were having the highest tax burden, peacetime tax burden, that the people of this country had ever known.
Now, I don't want it reported that I'm being partisan here, so let me quote a source from the other side -- way on the other side. [Laughter] It happens to be the senior Democratic Senator from the State of Massachusetts. In May of 1980 Ted Kennedy warned that under his party's leadership America was sliding into the worst recession since the Great Depression. So you see, it isn't true that he and I don't agree on everything.
In 1980 government was growing like toadstools after a rainstorm, spinning out of control like a washing machine that was out of cycle. Washington and the bureaucracy were growing fatter and fatter while they were making everyone else poorer and poorer. Think about that trillion-dollar debt. This year, the Government will have to spend $110 million just to pay the interest on that debt. That is much greater than the total Federal budget was just 20 years ago. That's about $3,500 for every time your heart beats.
We wouldn't be worrying about a deficit today if big spenders hadn't wallowed in red ink for 21 of the last 22 years. And we wonder why it's so hard to bring down interest rates, make more money available to your consumers and small businessmen and family farmers. But those in the Congress who have spent your hard-earned dollars with such glee still resist the medicine of a balanced budget amendment. They claim it would be a dangerous risk. Well, there is no more dangerous risk to America or the loved ones that we'll leave behind us than deliberate, planned inflation that would destroy our country, and we're not going to permit that.
Here in America's heartland, farmers are still paying dearly for the mistakes of the past. The sky-high inflation and interest rates of the late seventies and that mistaken Soviet grain embargo led to a vicious cost-price squeeze and lost markets. Confidence in America as a reliable supplier was shattered. Those in Washington forgot what Dwight Eisenhower once warned: ``Without a prosperous agriculture there can be no prosperity in America.'' Well, we're remembering, and with your help, we're going to put the pieces back together.
As I told the people of this country in my television address last week, I didn't go to Washington to play politics as usual, to spend other people's money, to sweep long-neglected problems under the rug. I went there to face up to those problems and, with your support and prayers from wonderful Americans like yourself, to begin to solve them.
Together we have pulled America back from the edge of disaster. We are solving those problems. No, we haven't been able, in 21 months, to clear away the wreckage that had built up for more than 20 years. Bob Dole kind of described that the other day in a speech out in Kansas another way. He kind of likened it to a stable that you couldn't unpile what -- well -- [laughter] -- --
Much of the legislation that we need still hasn't been enacted, but we're taking action. And of those five critical problems I mentioned -- runaway spending, runaway taxing, double-digit inflation, record interest rates, and high unemployment -- we've already made solid progress on four. And in anybody's league, four out of five's not bad.
First, we cut that bankrupt government spending growth by nearly two-thirds. Second, despite tremendous resistance from the big spenders, we passed the first real tax reduction for all American taxpayers in nearly 20 years. And that tax bill was not a giveaway to the rich; that was an across-the-board tax cut that benefited everyone in this country and today is benefiting those at the bottom of the scale probably even better than it is those at higher earnings and at the upper level of the scale.
Here's what it means for your families: When next July 1st comes and the third installment of the income tax cut is put in place, it'll be a total of a 25-percent personal rate cut. Then indexing will follow in 1985, to protect you from being pushed into higher tax brackets when you get a cost-of-living pay raise. And that's what's been happening. Inflation has been one of the finest tax increases -- the highest tax increases -- that our government has managed for all these inflationary years.
A reduction in the marriage penalty -- the unfairness of the fact that a working husband and wife were cheated in the amount that they had to pay, it being greater than if they weren't married. A reduction -- or an increase in the child care credit for working mothers -- does that sound like it's a benefit for the rich? New incentives for retirement savings -- again, hardly something that benefits the rich. And a major benefit for family farmers and family businesses. We're raising the estate tax exemption, in installments, to $600,000. And of even greater help, there will no longer be any estate tax for a surviving spouse. It's not right for widows and children to lose a business, to have to give up a business or a farm that generations of love and toil had created, just in order to pay the Government a tax because of death in the family. And now they won't have to do that.
Third, that double-digit inflation rate hit 18 percent in January of 1980. It is now down for the first 8 months of this year to 5.1 percent and has been even lower in the most recent of those months. The experts said that it couldn't be done. They said that it was institutionalized inflation in our system; no way to get rid of it. Well, we've got news for them. We did it, and we're going to do even better. It's going to come below where it is.
And fourth, we don't have a 21\1/2\-percent prime rate anymore; we have a 12-percent prime rate, and that's not finished going down yet, and I predict it'll go down more before this year is over.
Now, that leaves unemployment, which everyone knows is far too high. But just as surely as single-digit inflation started the interest rates tumbling, getting interest rates down will drive unemployment back down to single digits, too. And then we will have delivered the knockout blow to the recession once and for all.
We are on course to recovery, but not another counterfeit recovery like all those other seven in the past that sent inflation and interest rates shooting right back through the roof. I wish you could see some of the charts that we have of what has been happening in recent years: to see this peak and then drop into recession, and then this artificial stimulant of the money supply and so forth, the quick fixes that they employed, and things would go back up, only 2 years later to go back down into a recession. But each time the recovery came we have noted that the unemployment rate stayed higher than it was before the recession, so that each time we started increasing unemployment from a higher base, and now we have the present rate of unemployment.
But we're on course to recovery, not, as I say, another counterfeit recovery. Unlike some before us, this administration is determined to get the job done and to get the job done right. You hear so much in Washington, of course, with all of this, about fairness and compassion. Well, we're providing compassion that never existed under the policies of the past. It's easy for all of us, because we're the most generous people on Earth, to feel sorry for that person who through no fault of their own must have help from the rest of us. And nothing is ever going to change that in this country. We're going to continue doing that. But under the policies of the past, in the empire building that goes on in government, there was only one way to go in enlarging those programs and enlarging the bureaucracy. They had to keep raising the levels at which people became eligible for those helpful programs until people who had no moral right to be receiving benefits from their fellow taxpayers were getting them.
But, yes, we've cut back on some programs, trying to correct that and be able to continue helping the people of real need. But what we've done without any expensive government programs is bring them help of a different kind. You know, a family at the poverty-income level today is about $500 better off because of the drop in inflation. Their purchasing power has increased that much. The average family of four on a fixed income of about $20,000 is about $1,500 better off than if inflation and taxes had stayed at their 1980 rates. And none of these called for any bureaucracy or none of them called for any high administrative overhead on presenting some kind of a grant. We've just made their money buy more than it was buying. Inflation is the tax they were having to pay, because those at the bottom level didn't have any income upon which to pay a tax.
There's an example that has to do with the Aid for Dependent Children. During the decade of the seventies, their grants were increased by a full one-third. In that same decade, their ability to purchase declined by almost a third. So that now, even the people on those benefit grants, because of their need, are better off and have more purchasing power than they did before.
For farmers trapped in that vicious cost-price squeeze, our progress against inflation and interest rates spells R-E-L-I-E-F, if a well-known football player in a commercial will forgive me for saying that. It can make a life and death difference. The price of fuel, so important to farmers, has actually dropped in real terms. And each decline of 1 percentage point in the interest rate on the farm debt will translate into a $2 billion reduction in interest costs to farmers in America. And that's not all.
We didn't put that Soviet grain embargo on your farmers, but, as the Governor told you, we took it off. And as you heard last Friday, we want to sell the Soviets a lot more grain, a total of 23 million metric tons, and we will guarantee -- give assurances of reliable delivery. And we share Governor Thone's determination to increase your exports throughout the world.
From the first moment we took office we've been working to cure our terrible economic disease and make America well again. Oh, yes, I hear those who say that we haven't done enough. And there's a double standard there. Why won't they accept responsibility for what they did during the last 25 years when they controlled both Houses of the Congress? But they insist on demanding that we take full blame for not producing a miracle in less than 25 months.
But I've listened and I've listened to their criticism, and I've waited to see if they'd propose an alternative. And they don't. All they have to offer is a blind return to big spending, big taxing, more regulations, meddling, and make-work, more government coming through the windows, under the doors, and down the chimney. And I don't think that's an alternative for the American people.
And if you don't believe that the big spenders will go back to their old ways, then you believe that J. R. Ewing [Character on the TV program ``Dallas''] when he promises that he'll never be unfaithful again. [Laughter]
Let me ask you: Do you want to return to their policies of compassion that gave you 21\1/2\-percent interest rates?
The President. Do you want to return to their policies of leadership that gave you back-to-back years of double-digit inflation?
The President. Do you want to return to their policies of fairness that taxed working families into higher brackets that were once reserved for people up in the millionaire class.
The President. Or is there a better way?
The President. Do you think the program we all worked together to pass, the program that is still just a toddler, just beginning, but that has already brought down spending, brought down taxes, brought down inflation, and brought down interest rates -- do you think that program deserves a little more time to clear our one remaining obstacle of high unemployment so we can put people back on the job and get America back on her feet? [Applause]
You all get A-plus. [Laughter]
Let me make one request. Go out and mobilize an army of commonsense Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all across Nebraska. Ask them to support Charlie Thone, Jim Keck, Doug Bereuter, and Hal Daub, and Virginia Smith. They are leaders determined to lighten the burden of that terrible trillion-dollar debt on Nebraska's children and grandchildren.
You know, there's a passage in the Psalms which says, ``Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.'' Well, America has endured a long, terrible night of economic hardship, but now we are seeing the first welcome bursts of sunshine, the dawning of a new day for our country. We know the momentum for recovery is building, and we know that confidence is returning and that America is on the move again.
But you know, there's something I can't understand, election year or not. With all the hopeful signs we now see -- inflation and interest rates down sharply, real wages, savings, retail buying, housing starts, and investment up again -- why do our critics seem so down in the mouth? Why do they seem so ready to stir up more fear and anxiety which can only hold back recovery? There is a psychological element to a recession -- if people just start hunkering down and saying it's going to get worse, but if people say, ``Wait a minute. You know we've done it before, we can do it again.'' You have to ask, do those critics in this election year, do they really want a recovery? Or would they be smiling broadly if things were getting worse, simply because it might be politically advantageous to them?
Franklin Roosevelt warned that fear can paralyze us. Let us turn away from voices of fear and doom, and move forward together to embrace recovery with confidence and courage. Those who made our country sick, however their intentions, must not keep her from getting well now. Partisan politics must not delay the healing of America. If others cannot encourage, pitch in, and help the rest of us, then let them stand aside and get out of the way. This nation wants to move forward.
I thank you for keeping up the struggle. With your faith, we can put strong wings on weary hearts. We can make America stronger, not just economically and militarily, but also morally and spiritually. We can make our beloved country the source of all the dreams and the opportunities that she was -- --
[At this point, a balloon popped in the arena, sounding like a gunshot.]
Missed me. [Applause]
And we can do it by, as I said, you keep Charlie Thone right here in that Governor's chair. You send Doug and Hal and Virginia and Jim back to Washington with us, and we will get these things done. We only need to believe in each other and believe in the God who so blessed this land of ours.
I thank you all very much, and God bless all of you.
Note: The President spoke at 12:20 p.m. at the Civic Auditorium Arena of the Omaha Civic Center, following remarks by James Keck, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Nebraska, and Charles Thone, running for reelection as Governor.
Prior to the rally, the President attended two fundraising receptions for Governor Thone at the civic center. Following the rally, the President returned to Washington, D.C.