Remarks at a Senate Campaign Fundraiser for Former Governor Christopher S. (Kit) Bond in St. Louis, Missouri
February 12, 1986
The President. Governor Ashcroft, Representative Bill Emerson, Carolyn and Kit Bond, and ladies and gentlemen, it's great to be back in Missouri, and it's great to be in America's heartland. I've come here to ask Missouri for a favor: We need to borrow one of your best and brightest. We need you to send an individual to the United States Senate who will be a strong voice for a prosperous, free, and secure America. Can I count on you to send Kit Bond to Washington? [Applause] Thank you. You just made my day. [Laughter] Some of you may be aware that I met Kit when he was just a youngster, and of course it was during his first term as Governor. [Laughter] Seriously, though, Kit is still a young man, but he's also a man with a proven track record of leadership and responsibility -- a Missourian of whom you are rightly proud.
And in 1986, as never before, we Republicans need to put forth our top-of-the-line candidates like Kit Bond. This election will determine whether or not our country keeps moving forward with economic growth, expanding opportunity, and freedom for all our citizens or slips back into the morass of tax and tax and spend and spend. The bad old days of runaway inflation, economic decline, and national despair are long gone, but the crowd of big spenders and big taxers who created that mess are still lurking in the wings. They held out the dream that big government could solve every problem, that Federal money was somehow free money, that the American economy was a horn of plenty which could be taken for granted. Usually when people grow up, they quit believing in the tooth fairy. [Laughter]
Predictably, the liberal dream turned into our country's economic nightmare. Putting America back on the right track has been a team effort, and I want to point out that your Senator, Jack Danforth, has been an indispensable member of the team. Missouri, you've got a great Senator. In 1986 let's make it two for two. Speaking of two for two, it's great to hear the Globe-Democrat will be keeping St. Louis a two-newspaper town. And two fine newspapers they are.
Together, with outstanding individuals like Kit Bond at the State and local level and with active support of the American people, much has been accomplished. America has enjoyed 38 months of growth and confidence. Almost 10 million new jobs have been created -- 9,800,000 of them in just over 3 years. We've got a higher percentage of the total potential work pool working today than has ever been true in our history. Our formula for success has been trust in the people, and we have an entirely different set of goals than our liberal friends in the Democratic Party. Instead of bigger government and higher taxes, we're looking for higher growth and more take-home pay. Instead of welfare and handouts, we'd rather people have jobs and opportunity.
I think Kit Bond said it well in his second inaugural address: ``We have learned in the last two decades that greater government encroachment in our lives has not provided the answers we expected. The people have sensed this failure. Across this nation and in Missouri, they have presented a mandate for better government, not bigger government.'' So said Kit Bond. Missouri is the ``Show Me'' State. So, after making that speech, Kit went out and proved to you that he meant what he said. Under his leadership, Missouri was one of the first States to establish enterprise zones. He fostered a progrowth environment, and by the time he was done, well over 100,000 more Missourians had jobs than when he started. He broke out of old molds and established patterns to find new ways of making State government leaner and more efficient. He had the courage to say no to the multitude of special interests that pound on every elected official's door. And in the process, as Governor Ashcroft just told us, he did take a $270 million budget deficit that he'd inherited and turned it into an almost $300 million surplus.
I don't know whether you had the same reaction, Kit, that I had once in California. We had had to raise taxes because we had inherited a massive deficit, and our constitution said we couldn't have a deficit. But I promised that as soon as we could, we'd give that money back, and we did. And the first time we were out of the deficit and showed a surplus and somebody said to me, ``Well, now what are we going to do with it?'' I said, ``Let's give it back.'' And we did. We told them when they figured out their State income tax to just deduct 10 percent and keep that and send us the 90 percent, and the surplus would take care of the rest. Well, that went on until we got up to an $850 million surplus, and we gave that back. But before we did, to show you what the difference is between the two parties, a leading Democratic Senator stomped into my office and he said, ``Giving that money back to the people was an unnecessary expenditure of public funds.'' [Laughter] But Kit did it without raising taxes. Kit, we really need you in Washington.
The issues we face in the Nation's Capital and the answers we come up with will determine our country's future for decades to come. We're literally charting America's course into the 21st century. Now, I know that even as far away as Missouri you've been hearing the howls coming from Washington about Gramm-Rudman-Hollings. The gloom and doomers are talking as though it'll close down the entire Federal Government. Hmmm. [Laughter] You know, at times that doesn't seem like a bad idea. [Laughter]
Seriously, though, Gramm-Rudman-Hollings is not a threat. It's a tremendous opportunity for all of us to finally get rid of unnecessary Federal programs and dramatically reduce the level of deficit spending. And don't let anyone tell you it can't be done. It already has been done. We've submitted to the Congress a budget that meets the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings targets without touching Social Security, damaging essential programs for the less fortunate, or gutting defense. It is a fair and reasonable alternative. Whatever happens in the courts, Congress has made a commitment to reduce the deficit. And the Congress should adopt our budget and meet the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings targets.
Our criteria should be the same as that expressed by Abe Lincoln, whose birthday we celebrate today. He said that ``in all that the people can individually do as well for themselves, government ought not to interfere.'' The Great Emancipator also said, ``To each laborer the whole product of his labor, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government.'' Working people keeping the product of their labor is not what some politicians have in mind. Our opponents would rather raise your taxes than reduce spending. They'd rather take money out of your family budget than out of the Federal budget. They claim you're undertaxed. Let me ask you: Are you undertaxed? Do you want your taxes raised?
The President. I hope they can hear you in Washington. During the last election, the people of every State but one said the same thing, and it is about time the Congress got the message. One way you can help them understand is by sending them Kit Bond. He'll deliver your message. Like your fellow Missourian, Mark Twain, once wrote, ``Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work.'' [Laughter]
America doesn't need higher taxes; it needs less deficit spending. Raising taxes would knock the legs out from under economic growth, leaving us with higher taxes and higher spending. Those Members of Congress who are pushing for higher taxes had better take their eyes off the special interests in the gallery and start looking to the folks back home. There's a step Members of Congress can take right now that will make a contribution, and as I said in the State of the Union Message, if they can't say no to the special interests, well, then, let somebody else -- let me take the heat, as you've just been told. And as Governor Ashcroft said, give me what I once had in California and what your Governors have had here -- a line-item veto. Forty-three Governors in the Nation have the line-item veto and have used it effectively to protect the taxpayers.
You know, here in Missouri Kit tells me that with impoundment of the line-item veto, he saved you hundreds of millions of dollars in his last term. We need this same tool for responsible government at the Federal level. Why should we be saddled with spending measures that are sneaked into other legislative bills because they can't stand on their own merit? I, with the line-item veto, vetoed 943 such bills, and not once was the veto overridden. The difference was, because in California it takes a two-thirds vote to pass the budget -- the difference was that they didn't mind voting for them when they were hidden in the entire budget, but when they had to vote on them standing out there all on their own, they couldn't get the two-thirds vote to override my veto. That's why we need it at the Federal level.
There's also a crowd in Washington who, as usual, is suggesting that the easy way to reduce deficit spending is to slash the defense budget. Well, we're still making up for the folly of a decade ago when our defensive strength was permitted to erode. When we got to Washington on any given day half of our military planes could not fly for lack of spare parts or fuel. Half of our naval vessels could not leave port for lack of either crew or spare parts. We must never permit that to happen again. Strength is the greatest guarantor of peace, and keeping our country secure and at peace is the highest responsibility of the Federal Government.
Now, I know that you have been treated for the last several years to a drumbeat of propaganda that would picture the Defense Department as a bloated four-star general sitting on a bag of money. Let me tell you that is pure propaganda. The Defense Department has instituted initiatives and improvements in management to the point that most of our weapons systems now are coming in ahead of schedule and under the original asking price instead of coming in with a cost override. The young men and women in our military -- more than 90 percent of them high school graduates, the highest percentage we've ever known in the history of American military.
But all those stories you've heard about $400 hammers and $6,000 -- or $3,000 coffeepots -- they just aren't true. First of all, the $400 hammer: We'd bought 22,000 hammers for between $6.75 and $7.50, and this one hammer was in an invoice submitted to the Navy with a whole list of things. And a bright-eyed Navy fellow saw that $400 hammer, and it was never bought. They adjusted the invoice. And this is the type of thing you've been hearing. And about that $3,000 coffeepot, no. That's an entire hot-food system for those transport planes of ours that will be carrying in time of emergency 365 military personnel, and it's the same kind of thing that is in all of the commercial planes that we ride in today. And we're getting them for about a hundred dollars less than the commercial airlines are paying for them. So, if you've been listening to the propaganda, believe us when we say we need to keep on doing what we're doing.
There are no easy ways to meet the challenges we face. I know, for example, of the rugged times that many of America's farmers are having. Those farmers who are in trouble are, by and large, the victims of the inflation that the rest of us have managed to escape. They bought land and equipment during those times when prices were rising, often encouraged by government to do so. When inflation stopped, they were left holding the bag -- the bag was full of grain, and the price of grain had gone down. Well, the farm bill I signed recently was about the best thing we could get through the Congress. Tom Coleman and Bill Emerson worked closely with me on this one. Now, all of us are going to have to work together to straighten the situation out. We have to maintain those responsible policies that helped bring down the prime interest rate from 21\1/2\ percent that we inherited to less than half of that -- 9\1/2\ percent now.
Low interest rates help the farmer and so does the drop in the price of fuel, bringing down the cost of doing business and spurring growth in a wide range of basic industries. And there's one tax especially harmful to men and women of the land. In 1987, however, the Federal estate tax exemption will increase to $600,000, which will prevent children from losing farms that have been in their families for generations. They won't have to sell them to pay the inheritance tax. Even better, there will be no estate tax for surviving spouses. And in case the big spenders have any ideas about taking this away under the guise of budget balancing, just like any other tax increase, my answer is, ``No way.'' No way -- that's spelled V - E - T - O. [Laughter]
Finally, let me say, the most effective thing we can now do for the American farmer is to fight against so-called domestic protectionism. It isn't really protecting anything. It's the number-one threat faced by American agriculture. Protectionist measures would only raise the price of what farmers and all of us buy and would likely result in retaliatory trade barriers against the export of our farm products overseas.
And the way to correct the trade imbalance is not to decrease imports but to increase exports. Rather than erect trade barriers of our own, let's go to work dismantling those obstacles in other countries. Let's balance up and not down. And that way everyone is better off. I know that Kit Bond is a leader in this area. Our administration has honored him for his promotion of American exports. What we must do is nurture that bold spirit of enterprise that has always been so much a part of the American character. I have little doubt that if the rules are fair, we Americans can outproduce and outcompete anyone, anywhere in the world.
St. Louis was the departure point for those who conquered the American frontier. Today we're at the jumping-off point for the 21st century. Americans, we must be as bold as those who went before us. One thing that amazed the pundits during the last election was the large number of young people who flocked to our cause. Well, it shouldn't have surprised anyone. We are making tough decisions. We are building a better tomorrow; we're building an America as filled with opportunity and the freedom that was once passed on to us. And that is our sacred responsibility to those younger people. And I think that they've recognized now that that is taking place, and they're going to step out and into the ranks and help us in the future with that.
I have just one last thing I want to say. I know that it's very easy for people to think in our system of checks and balances, well, we have two Senators for each State, why shouldn't we have one for each party? That might look good on the surface, but analyze something: If you support and believe in the things that we're trying to do, shouldn't you have two Senators there voting to make this happen instead of having one Senator there to cancel out the vote of your other Senator?
All of the things that I've told you about, and more -- that we've accomplished in the few years we've been there -- I tell you, frankly, could not have been accomplished if we did not have, for the first time in years and years, a majority, a small majority, but a majority in the one House, the Senate. If the both Houses were, as they've been most of the last 50 years, in the hands of the other party, none of the things that have been accomplished would be taking place. So, you send Bill Emerson back to Washington. And, please, you send us Kit Bond, that we can maintain that majority we have in the United States Senate and make more of these good things happen.
Thank you, and God bless you all.
Note: The President spoke at 12:21 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the Omni International Hotel.