Remarks at the Republican Women's Leadership Forum in San Diego, California
August 26, 1983 Thank you, Betty, for those very kind and generous words. And I thank all of you for that warm welcome. And I don't mean to be critical, but 84? -- I'm not that old. [Laughter]
I'm especially delighted to be here today, Women's Equality Day, the 63d anniversary of women's suffrage and the date on which, in 1920, the 19th amendment was finally added to the Constitution. That was a great milestone for individual rights, but there is so much more. Republican women have a great deal to celebrate. Our party was at the forefront in seeing to it that women got the right to vote and has, our party has a great history of fighting for the rights of all Americans. We want to continue those traditions. And that's why today I want to urge women not only to vote, but to run for public office.
I know that many of you are interested in doing just that. In fact, many of you here hold office. I know women have felt excluded in the past. We're changing that. Now, more than ever, we need women like you -- Republican women -- to run for office, to serve in local, State, and Federal appointments, to work for the party. We need your leadership, your perspective, and your experience. We need your participation. And that's why I believe wholeheartedly in what you're doing at this forum. I applaud your efforts to recruit, train, finance, and elect Republican women. Nothing would make me happier than to hear that many of you have returned home ready to run.
And we do belong to a party that has pioneered women's rights. Republicans were the party that was primarily responsible for suffrage for women, as I said. Republicans were the first to elect a woman to the Congress. The GOP is the only party to elect women to the Senate who had not first filled unexpired terms. And today, the two women in the United States Senate are both Republicans -- Nancy Kassebaum and Paula Hawkins.
I'm still disappointed that Millicent Fenwick didn't make it to the Senate, and I regret that some who supposedly are women's advocates didn't support that distinguished legislator. Indeed, in last year's election, it was apparent that some who talk the loudest in behalf of women's equality only extend their advocacy to women candidates if they're Democrats. Now, we have outstanding Republican women serving in the House, including our own Bobbi Fiedler, who's with us here today. And all across the country in statehouses and city halls, Republican women are making significant contributions to our democracy.
Republicans have a proud history of supporting women in public office. And I'm proud that this administration has continued the tradition of political opportunity for women. And just look at the record: For the first time in history, three women serve in the Cabinet of the United States -- Secretary Dole, Secretary Heckler, and Ambassador Kirkpatrick. They bring a depth of experience with them.
And I think you should know that just as we did in California, the Cabinet isn't something that just gathers a few weeks for a kind of ceremonial visit, as has been rather traditional in the past. We operate the Cabinet like a board of directors. We meet regularly and often, and the problems that come up, we believe aren't really limited to one Cabinet office or agency. They do cross lines. And therefore it is a meeting of give and take, and I can tell you that in that Cabinet system the three women who are there are not observers, they are active participants, and their opinions carry great weight.
The only thing that I haven't been able to get done is, the Cabinet doesn't vote on issues like they would in a board of directors. I finally have to make the decision. [Laughter]
We've also appointed more women to top policymaking positions in our first 2 years than any previous administration has in a similar period. We've appointed more than 1,200 women to executive positions throughout the government. And while that record is better than our predecessors, it's only a beginning.
And of course in another beginning, I'm proud to say we appointed the first woman to the Supreme Court. There have been a few decisions in which I've been very happy that she was there. [Laughter] Well, what all this adds up to is clear: The greatest political opportunity for women in this country, real progress rather than words and promises, rests with the Republican Party.
What some cannot accept is that women are not a monolithic group. Women in the 1980's are a diverse majority with varied interests and varied futures. Some seek to start their own businesses. Some seek to advance in their chosen careers. Some seek to focus on the home and family. Some seek political office. And some women seek to do all of these things.
We must meet these needs, but we must meet these needs in different ways:
For women whose husbands are delinquent in child support payments, we have proposed strengthening the Federal child support enforcement system.
For women receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children, we've increased training opportunities that will help them secure permanent productive jobs. Our Job Training Partnership Act, which replaces the discredited CETA program, specifically targets these women as a group that must be served.
For women and men working in the Federal Government, I signed into law the bill extending flexible work hours, but this especially helps women who are holding down a job and raising a family.
For all women, we've provided various forms of tax relief. We've greatly reduced the income tax marriage penalty and increased, almost doubled, the maximum child care tax credit for working mothers. We've expanded participation in IRA accounts, benefiting women whether they work at home or in paid jobs, and we're acting to remedy the inequity some women suffer in pension programs. And of course, we have also virtually eliminated, and eventually will, what was known as the widow's tax -- the estate taxes levied on a surviving spouse. This has special benefit to those with family farms and small businesses, where women have been hardworking partners.
But I know that your interests range far beyond what are narrowly called ``women's issues.'' Women are interested in the very same issues that interest men -- those that affect the peace and prosperity of this nation. And I believe our record on these issues is an excellent one for women candidates to run on in 1984.
Just consider where the Nation was 3 years ago. Our leaders were throwing up their hands and throwing in the towel, suggesting that we were in a malaise -- that was their word -- and our problems were unsolvable. But the American people didn't buy the argument that America's best days were behind her, and they were right. It's taken patience and hard work, but I'm pleased to report to you today that America is moving forward again, and we're not turning back.
When we got to Washington, inflation was running at double-digit levels, and America had been living under that burden for 2 straight years. That was the worst such performance, with regard to inflation, in 60 years. Inflation was taking an especially serious toll on those on fixed incomes, a disproportionate number of whom are women. In the 2 years before we took office, inflation robbed the purchasing power of low-income men and women on a fixed income of $10,000 by over $2,000.
Well, we've reduced that inflation to 2.4 percent for the last 12 months, the lowest 12-month inflation rate in 17 years. You know, they had told us that it would take years, possibly decades, before we could bring down inflation; that it had become institutionalized. But they forgot about something that we brought with us to Washington: It's sometimes called determination. Or maybe it was just that we didn't know it couldn't be done, so we did it. [Laughter]
Today, a family of four on a fixed income of $20,000 has nearly $2,000 more in purchasing power this year alone than it would have had if we hadn't taken action against inflation. Now, if food prices had risen these last 2 years, as they did in the 2 years before we took office, a loaf of bread would cost 7 cents more, a half gallon of milk would cost 18 cents more, and a pound of hamburger would cost 60 cents more.
We cut the prime interest rate from 21\1/2\ percent to 11 percent. There will be a little jiggling up and down as we've just seen in the last week or two, but if the Congress acts responsibly, the rates will continue to decline. And I know that the three Representatives who are with us today from the Congress are going to act responsibly. [Laughter]
Incidentally, interest rates aren't all that fixed either, what someone says is the official rate. I got a call just a few days before I came on this trip. It was from the chairman of the board of directors of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Security Savings and Loan. And they told me, or he told me, that their financial institution has just made $100 million available for home mortgages at a 9.9-percent interest rate. Now they did something like this a year ago, a higher interest rate, but still several points below the going rate. And I made that public, as I'm doing now, because a number of other banks around the country got the idea and followed suit. So, spread the word.
When we took office, America was suffering from years of uncontrolled spending and taxing. Federal spending was growing at a rate of 17 percent a year. We've cut that by nearly 40 percent. And following 5 years in which the Federal tax take doubled, we came in and reduced personal income tax rates by 25 percent across the board. And soon they'll be indexed so that beginning in 1985, the Federal Government will never again profit from inflation at the people's expense.
The cumulative effect of all our economic efforts is now being felt. That's why they don't call it Reaganomics anymore. [Laughter] As they say down at Cape Canaveral, we have a lift-off. [Laughter] Our economy is lifting off, and it's because of the policies that we've been pursuing over the past 2\1/2\ years. Consumer confidence and spending are up. Productivity is up. Industrial production, retail sales, auto sales, housing and construction are all up since the beginning of the year.
Last quarter, the economy grew at an annual rate of 9.2 percent. It was a much bigger jump than anyone had predicted or expected. It was first announced as 8.7, and then they had to go back and correct themselves. It was 9.2.
You know, statistics are usually boring, but I kind of like these. [Laughter] And here are some later ones. As a matter of fact, they're so late, they were just made public at 10 a.m. this morning. The output for all businesses in the second quarter rose by 12\1/2\ percent. Now, that means that productivity is increasing at a rate of 5.7 percent and the unit labor cost, the cost of labor per unit of production, fell by 2.1 percent, which is a further pledge that we've got inflation under control.
Well, unemployment, of course, I should say, is the last of the major indicators to show improvement. The rate is still too high. But last month we achieved the biggest monthly drop in almost 24 years. Nearly 2 million jobs have been added to the economy since the first of the year. And I don't know why I included this one in here: The unemployment rate for adult women -- [laughter] -- has dropped from 9.2 percent in December to 7.9 percent today.
But what we're seeking for women is what we're seeking for all Americans: economic opportunity and economic security associated with a sustained recovery, the security to plan for the future. If we can prevent our country from being drawn back to tax, spend, and inflate policies of the past, we'll be on our way to a new era of growth and expansion, and women will share in this.
It's estimated that in the next decade, two out of three new workers will be women. And I'm very optimistic about women's business ownership. There are almost 3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, and their number is growing dramatically, several times the rate of man-owned businesses in recent years. These are businesswomen who share our philosophy. They know how tough it is to meet a payroll. They understand the importance of a sound economy. They appreciate the battle that we've been waging to reduce spending and regulation.
But a growing economy not only will help these women, it will help all women -- those who are looking for work, those who seek to advance up the career ladder and, yes, those who have families to feed. At this point in the pursuit of equality, economic opportunity provides the greatest, most immediate advance for women. It's economic recovery that will move women forward the fastest. It's economic recovery that will produce more options for women than anything else.
I believe the greatest contribution this administration can make to women is to get the economy moving and keep it moving. This will provide more opportunities for women than if all the promises of the Democratic Presidential candidates were enacted into law. You know, the truth of it is not any one of them could get all of them enacted, because they've made so many differing promises to differing groups that they conflict with each other.
But economic opportunity doesn't guarantee equal opportunity. There are laws already on the books to safeguard the rights of women. Those laws must be enforced; some must be strengthened. I think it's time to cut through the fog of demagoguery that surrounds this whole issue. All of us are interested in one goal -- ensuring legal equity for women.
At my direction, by Executive order, our administration is making a comprehensive review of Federal laws and regulations that unfairly differentiate on the basis of sex, and I initiated this because I believe it's important. And contrary to what you might have heard or read, that process is going forward. After receiving a preliminary report, we worked with Senator Dole on legislation that will make many of the necessary corrections recommended by the report. Recently, the third quarterly report was submitted for review to the Cabinet Council on Legal Policy. I have directed the Justice Department and the Cabinet Council to accelerate their review of Federal laws and to have specific recommendations on my desk for discussion immediately upon my return to Washington.
In addition to the review of Federal laws, I initiated a project to encourage the States to review their own laws. Now, I did it based on our successful experience here in California when I was Governor. And of course, the Federal Government could not and should not tell the States what they have to do or should do. But if the States are not moving fast enough, you who live in some of those States can help, because they did, every one of the 50 Governors appointed a representative to start that process in their own States. I understand that some of them are not moving as fast as others in that regard.
Americans, of course, are interested not only in the economy, they're interested in the safety and security of the Nation. They want peace. You want peace, lasting peace. And here, again, is a record that Republican women can run on. I know you'll recall when only a few years ago the United States had war planes that couldn't fly, ships that couldn't leave port, and military personnel that couldn't wait to get into civilian clothes. This was a situation that endangered America's security and the peace. And there was serious talk at the time that the volunteer military was a failure, and that we must return to the draft.
Well, we didn't return to the draft, and today our volunteer military is back on its feet and prouder than ever. We have a backlog of applicants. We have a higher intelligence and educational average than we've ever had in the history of the military. Maintenance backlogs are being reduced; training and retention are up; combat readiness rates have surged. We're recruiting very good men and women. Morale, discipline, and unit cohesion have improved dramatically. I've heard it from generals and I've heard it from privates that once again it's an honor to serve in our military. I'm sure that makes you as proud as it does me. And what this means is that all those sons and daughters who wear America's uniform are safer today than they were 3 years ago, and so are the people of this country.
Contrary to what some think, our men and women in uniform serve the cause of peace. Today, American marines serve in Lebanon, increasing the chances for a peaceful settlement there in that very troubled area. No one should think that our current efforts there mean that we're any less concerned about solving the broader problems of the Arab-Israeli conflict, particularly the search to reach a fair and practical resolution to the Palestinian problem.
The Middle East peace initiative which we announced just almost a year ago is definitely alive and available to those parties willing to sit down and talk. It's unfortunate that neither Israel nor its Arab neighbors have yet grasped the opportunities afforded. We remain committed to the positions we set forth, positions that remain sound, positions that thus far are the only realistic basis for a solution. We'll continue the pursuit for peace in the Middle East.
We're also pursuing arms control. We've undertaken the most sweeping proposals for arms reductions since nuclear weapons became a threat. In our search for peace, we have more negotiations underway with the Soviets than any administration in history. In strategic nuclear forces, in intermediate-range nuclear forces, in conventional forces, we want to lessen the danger to ourselves and our children. We remain flexible in our bargaining, but as Commander in Chief I have an obligation to protect this country, and I will not let political expediency influence these crucial negotiations.
The issues I've been discussing today and our solutions to them are the basis for a solid record on which all Republicans can run in 1984 with pride. The path we've followed is one that leads to prosperity and peace.
I came here today to urge Republican women to run for public office and to participate more actively in State and national Republican conventions, beginning with our Republican convention in 1984. You embody the goals that guide the Republican Party. You share the values that have made America the great nation she is. And you represent the future, a future of opportunity and equality.
Now is the time to become active. America's women have the right to the economic, political, and social power of this country. Exercise that right. And with the greatest encouragement I can summon, I urge you to declare your candidacy. I urge you to campaign on the issues that face us. I urge you to run, and run as Republicans, and win.
And now, for a very high spot in my vacation, I thank you. God bless all of you.
Note: The President spoke at 11:25 a.m. in the Mission Bay Room at the Bahia Hotel. He was introduced by Betty Heitman, cochairman of the Republican National Committee.