Remarks at a White House Luncheon for Elected Republican Women Officials

September 13, 1985

Thank you, and good afternoon, and welcome to the White House. It's always good to see some old friends and have a chance to make new ones. And it's always a pleasure to be joined by two of the most important women in my life, Nancy and Maureen.

Well, it may be September, but here in Washington it's been plenty warm until just a couple of days ago. We turned this off just for this particular -- [laughter] -- gathering. And these past few weeks, I guess we broke the record here for the length of a hot spell just a few days ago, before the reduction in temperature, and it reminded me when I was a kid of our minister one hot summer Sunday morning. And he said that he was going to keep his sermon short, and he did -- just seven words. He said: ``If you think it's hot now, wait.'' [Laughter] Well, today I'll follow his example, though I may slip a few more in than seven.

But I'm sure you've heard of our plan to overhaul the Federal tax program. This is the most burning issue that's facing the American people, I think, in this decade. I'm going to be out on the stump all fall bringing our case for tax fairness and economic growth to the American people and rallying their support. I'll be in many of your States; indeed, in many of your communities. And I'll be looking for your help, because it's the grassroots level that our tax proposal will find the energy, determination, and willpower needed to topple the status quo. Status quo -- that's Latin for the mess we're in. [Laughter] And the present system is a mess.

As State legislators, you don't need to hear about the pleadings of lobbyists, and the siren songs of special interests are heard in every legislative hall from Capitol Hill out through all the 50 States. But this time we can work for the special interests of all the American people to create a fair and equitable tax system, one which will be a double boon to the economy because it'll both close wasteful loopholes and, at the same time, cut tax rates. It's time for Americans to take their money out of tax shelters and invest the money in America's future. Every day we live with the present tax code, we're slowing down economic growth, sacrificing jobs that would have been created, unfairly burdening families, and perpetuating an unjust system that only breeds cynicism and resentment in the American people.

You know, last week I spoke about tax reform at North Carolina State University. And talking to those college students brought home to me the urgency of this issue. The room was electrified with their hope and energy and enthusiasm. Believe me, having served as a Governor during the time of the Vietnam riots and all, when, if I went to a campus, they'd burn down a building -- to see these young people today has just made me sure -- and I'm glad to tell you -- the 21st century's going to be in good hands. And one of our proudest accomplishments as Republicans is the way we've been able to draw more and more young people into our ranks.

We've swept aside the pessimism and resignation that gripped the elected leadership of this country not too long ago, and we've opened our doors to the future. Like the American people themselves, we Republicans believe that America is still young, still vital, and still strong. What we've accomplished together goes beyond words. We've backed our words with decisive and dramatic action. Our 25-percent across-the-board tax reduction gave new life and sustenance to a spirit of optimism. An entrepreneurial renaissance is spreading across our land. A powerful economic expansion is lifting America out of the devastation of a decade of high tax policies and enabling us to build on a solid base of noninflationary growth.

Here's a piece of especially good news. The Democratically controlled House Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families rated all the different tax plans that are presently floating around up there on the Hill and found that ours was by far the most profamily of all of the tax proposals. By raising the standard deduction to $4,000 for a married couple filing jointly and nearly doubling the personal exemption to $2,000, we'll make it so that a family of four doesn't pay one penny in Federal income tax on the first $12,000 of earnings. We're also giving nonwage-earning spouses equal access to IRA's, those tax deductible savings accounts. Someone's got to be very brave to suggest that a homemaker is not working. But alongside the pension reform passed in the last Congress, this will go a long way toward alleviating poverty by allowing women the means to care for themselves in retirement years.

Another report may be of special interest to you as State legislators. Our proposal to eliminate the State and local tax deduction has been getting a lot of flack from some quarters. Well, it turns out that the New York State government has a study by its own comptroller. It found that under our proposal, taxpayers in New York would save $588 million a year. So, that's the point. If the individual taxpayers in your States benefit, your States and localities as a whole benefit. There's no logic to fighting tax fairness, to fighting a plan that would increase economic growth, create more jobs, give families a much-needed break, and take the working poor off the tax rolls completely.

Of course, we still have a job to do in Congress getting spending under control. In that regard, on the revenue side, I'd like it known that I could immediately deposit $1.2 billion in cash in the Treasury if Congress will support this administration's decision to sell Conrail back to the private sector, where it belongs. I was only a small boy the first time the Federal Government tried to run the railroads. That was during World War I, and it was a disaster. If the war'd gone on a little longer, I don't think we'd have had any trains left. [Laughter] So, we have an offer of that amount already. We can sell, if they'll only give the word. As Everett Dirksen might have said, ``A billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you're talking real money.'' Some in Congress seem to think they can proceed as usual, indiscriminately spending taxpayer dollars, and that sooner or later they'll all be bailed out with a tax hike. Well, for at least 3\1/2\ years they won't. There'll be no tax hike on my watch.

We Republicans have always looked for the long-range solutions, and this tax plan is one of those which will be working long after we've left office. As State legislators, you know that programs closer to home are more cost-efficient, better planned, and offer more assistance. But the gluttonous Federal tax system has robbed you of the base for local programs. We must continue to move this wheel of government in the interest of what's right for America. And this is the time for which all of us have worked, the moment in which we can build a partnership between the levels of government with a growing economy to give America the momentum for the next century. And, my friends, I'm convinced that together we can succeed.

And now I'm going to -- you know, in the business I was always in, you wanted a tag line to get off that would be popular -- [laughter] -- appreciated. It is, we're going to have dessert now. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 12:55 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his opening remarks, the President referred to the First Lady and his daughter Maureen.