Remarks at a New Mexico Republican Party Rally in Roswell
October 29, 1982
The President. Thank you very much. I thank you very much, and I thank the Senator for his very kind words, the Governor for his -- [laughing] -- and I may be a little previous with that, although I'm sure -- for his words of greeting. And in all the things that Senator Domenici said about the State here, he kind of left out the fact that you must be kind of a crosswords, because someone just held up a sign over there, ``Ex-Iowans,'' greeting me. When I got out of school, I became a sports announcer in Iowa, and I have just found out that over here is a lady that was in first grade in Galesburg, Illinois, when I started to school.
Well, I am happy to be here on behalf of New Mexico's Republican Party and all of its fine candidates for office. And right off, let me pay special thanks to Corky Morris and all the campaign workers who are going to bring us the Republican results that we need next Tuesday.
It feels good to be here in the land of enchantment and far away from a place of disenchantment on the banks of the Potomac. Jack, are you sure you want to go back there? [Laughter] Of course, having once been an astronaut, Jack Schmitt is probably the only one who feels at home there, because Washington is in orbit most of the time about one thing or another. [Laughter]
You know, when he was first elected to the Senate, he probably thought that, like E.T., [A character in the movie ``E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.''] he had landed on another planet. He was one of the few among those alien big spenders, big taxers, who was working to bring economic order to our nation. If the entire Congress had voted like Jack, we wouldn't be in a recession now. Think of it. If only half the Members of the Congress had voted with his integrity and foresight, there wouldn't be 11 million people in our country unemployed. There wouldn't have been the double-digit inflation or crippling interest rates that caused recession. And there would have been prosperity. It seems to me that a man with that kind of perceptiveness is the kind that you want in the United States Senate.
And you know, as Jack could tell us, there is something out in space that is called a black hole. And that's what this economy was falling into until we got a Republican Senate majority and turned things around. Now, Jack is one of the Senators who brought logic, common sense, and strong character to the task of making government work again. He has shown the grit and the honesty it takes to make the hard choices, to cast the tough votes. I came here to tell the people of New Mexico I need Jack Schmitt in the Senate. And I need Manuel Lujan, Joe Skeen, and Marjorie Bell Chambers in the House just as much.
And let me add a word about John Irick. As you know, we're working on something back there called federalism, in which we intend to restore the 10th article [amendment] of the Constitution, which means giving back to the States, to the local communities, and to the people, the powers that have been seized over the years by the Federal Government. And to do that, you need someone in charge here who knows about accepting those responsibilities. And incidentally, our plan is not one of dumping those responsibilities on the States. We intend to also provide the means to support them that have also been taken and usurped by the Federal Government. So I know that I can count on John Irick as an individual, just as the people of New Mexico can count on him.
But with Jack's, Manuel's, and Pete Domenici's and Joe's help, we've been cleaning away the economic wreckage that was dumped in our laps. Now, of course, you'd never believe that if you listened to our critics. They say this economy is on its knees. Well, if that's true, that's quite an improvement, because 2 years ago it was flat on its back.
But I realize there is still hardship among our people. And if I thought that what we were seeking to accomplish would be only temporary, I wouldn't ask for the American people's patience. But for the first time in our postwar history, we're trying to build a recovery that will last, not just a quick fix to see us through the next election. There have been seven previous recessions since World War II. All of those in the 26 years in which the Democrats controlled the Congress, both Houses -- all of them have been treated with a quick fix. Yes, temporarily they seemed to bring an answer and then, a couple of years later, there was another recession.
When we took office in '81, the American economy was being cannibalized. It was being devoured by runaway Federal taxes, Federal spending, and Federal borrowing. And the result was double-digit inflation for 2 years in a row, high unemployment, a 21\1/2\-percent interest rate -- the highest in more than a century -- nearly a trillion-dollar debt, the largest peacetime tax burden the Americans had ever known, and government spending shooting up at an annual rate of 17 percent a year. And still the big spenders wonder why the American people want what a stubborn minority in the House of Representatives denied them -- a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. Well, they're going to get another chance to vote on that, because we're just going to keep pounding on the door with it until we finally get it.
You know, from our very first day there, we've been working to undo the economic mistakes of the past. When I finished taking the oath of office on that January Inaugural day, the first thing I did was go right back into the Capitol Building -- I didn't even take off my topcoat -- I sat down and signed a memorandum freezing the size of the Federal Government, that it would not increase in size.
You know, at my age, I didn't go to Washington to play politics as usual. [Laughter] I went there to face up to our problems, and with the support and the prayers from wonderful Americans like yourselves, we are beginning to solve them.
Now, I don't pretend that in 21 months we've been able to undo the damage of more than 20 years. Twenty-one months ago, we faced five immediate problems: runaway spending, double-digit inflation, catastrophic interest rates, the highest peacetime tax burden ever, and high unemployment.
Well, we've made dramatic gains on four of those five problems. The inflation rate that reached a high of 18 percent in January of 1980 has been cut to 4.8 percent for the first 9 months of 1982. And you know, there's something interesting about that 4.8-percent figure. The last time inflation was down to 4.8 percent was when the last Republican President was leaving office, Jerry Ford. The prime interest rate that was 21\1/2\ the month I was sworn in is now down to 12 percent, and we're not finished with it yet. We've cut the growth in Federal spending by nearly two-thirds, from 17 down to 6 percent. And we will have cut your tax rates by the first of next July by 25 percent.
Now, that leaves unemployment, which is much too high. In homes across this country, including a home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, unemployment is the problem on everyone's mind. Getting Americans back to work is an urgent priority for all of us, and other than keeping the peace, I have no higher priority. And just as surely as lower inflation has started the interest rates tumbling, lower interest rates will reduce unemployment.
Unfortunately, unemployment is always just about the last to feel a recovery. It has been in all the other seven recessions. The interest rates have to come down. People have to be able to afford mortgages again and installment payments on cars and so forth. And then as that takes place, more and more people go back to work. Well, the big difference now is that we're going to do it right. We're building a lasting, inflation-proof recovery instead of a quick political fix.
And make no mistake about it, America's future is a future of hope, and it grows brighter each day as more people respond to the drop in inflation, tax rates, and interest rates. That's where the trends are pointing.
Just today in the East -- I don't know whether the news has reached here yet, but it was announced this morning in the East that again the economic indicators, that indicate whether we're dipping deeper or whether we're coming up out of it, for the fifth out of 6 months was up, continuing the climb toward prosperity. And also, interesting enough, that 1 out of 6 months, which was August, when they said that the indicators were down nine-tenths of 1 percent, they corrected that this morning and said, no, they were only down two-tenths of 1 percent in August. So, it's been a pretty good show for the whole 6 months.
But look at the other indicators that the opponents of these candidates are denying or refusing to recognize. Real wages are up. Retail sales are up. Housing starts are up. The value of the dollar is up higher than it has been in the last 10 years. It's the highest priced money in the world. The stock market is up -- about 220 - odd points in the last 10 weeks. Research and development spending is up. Business starts are near a record. Personal savings rates are at a 6-year high. And new IRA accounts are pumping some $30 to 35 billion into savings and investments that will be able to help provide jobs. Confidence is returning to America.
This great nation of ours is on the move again. And I say to our opponents, if they aren't ready to get on aboard and help, then tell them to get out of the way. But all we can read in what they say is they want us to return to the policies of the past. Well, I don't think the American people want to return to the policies of failure.
The President. The policies of the past have burned to the ground; they failed. And those who would turn America back have nothing to offer except more of the same old programs that got us into this mess. So, I say let's stay the course and finish the job.
We've worked for a better alternative, an alternative that offers hope for the future and is already making real progress. We're on a new road now, a road that's leading America to better times. And I want you to know that we intend to stick with it and turn this economy around.
In Illinois the other day, I met a young lady named Stacy Hodgkins. Now, don't jump to conclusions, Stacy is only in the sixth grade. [Laughter] And Stacy had just won a statewide essay contest, and she was pretty imaginative, because her essay was a letter to our country. And it started, ``Dear America, I just thought I should write you a letter to let you know how great I think you are.'' I'm not going to read the entire essay, but she closed her letter to America saying, ``It really doesn't matter whether we're black or white, atheist or Christian, your doors of opportunity are always open. So knock, knock, America, here I come.''
Well, Stacy Hodgkins and all our young people -- they're what this election is all about. What kind of an America are we going to leave them? I pray that I will see the day when we will have made some payments to reduce that trillion-dollar debt that is hanging over that young generation, and that they will know that at least we tried and we didn't want to leave it all to them.
Now, when you go into that voting booth next Tuesday, vote for your children. Vote for the men and women who are looking to the future and to your children's future, not to those who look to the failed policies of the past. Jack Schmitt is a man who understands the future. He's seen it out there in space, and he's seen it in your children's faces. Jack, along with all of these fine candidates -- John Irick for Governor, Manuel Lujan, Joe Skeen, Marjorie Bell Chambers, all of them in the House -- all of them will bring to government the responsible principles that will serve future generations.
Together we can make our country the source of all the dreams and opportunities that we wish for our children. And it's only fair enough, because some generations that preceded ours left us a pretty good deal to take over. We can make America what she was placed on this good Earth to provide.
And I can't close here, in this place of all, without saying something else -- that with all of these economic problems we face and that we're trying to solve, I was asked a question many times during the campaign of 1980 -- because I had said that it was going to be necessary to, once again, restore the defensive capability of this country, our security in a very dangerous world -- and I would be asked the question, ``Well, if it comes to a question of balancing the budget or rebuilding our defenses, which will you choose?'' And every time I said, without fail, I would have to come down on the side of the defenses of this country, because that is the prime responsibility of this nation.
And you know, with all those uniform caps that I saw waved there, I want to tell you something about this all-volunteer service of ours. There were people that were pessimistic and said that it couldn't work, that we'd have to use compulsion. Well, it's working. And the morale, the quality of your men and women in uniform should make every one of you proud. And that's not because we're warlike; that's because, more than anything else, we want peace. And with them we have a far better chance of keeping the peace than when we were looking helpless and unilaterally disarmed in the eyes of the world.
I'd like to just tell you one little last thing about this. And it isn't meant to sound warlike because, as I say, I believe that it is in this way, it's this that has brought the Soviet Union into negotiations with two of our negotiating teams in Geneva, Switzerland, to try and reduce down -- and hopefully to zero -- the number of strategic weapons, nuclear weapons in the world. But I received a letter from our Ambassador to Luxembourg one day, and he said that he'd been up on the East German frontier and visiting the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment. And he said a young trooper followed him over to his helicopter and asked him if he thought he could get a message to me. And the Ambassador allowed as how he could, and the young fellow said, ``Will you tell him we're proud to be here, and we ain't scared o' nothin'.''
So, God bless you all, thank you for being here, and thank you. Go out there and get your fellow New Mexicans to send all of these people, all of these candidates who are up here to the statewide jobs they are seeking, to the House of Representatives. And please don't send a Senator up there who would cancel out Pete Domenici's vote. You send Jack Schmitt.
Note: The President spoke at 2:58 p.m. at the Roswell Industrial Air Center following remarks and an introduction by Senator Harrison (Jack) Schmitt. Following the rally, the President flew to Camp David, Md., for a weekend stay.