Remarks to Employees at the Chrysler Corporation of St. Louis Assembly Plant in Fenton, Missouri

February 1, 1983

Governor Bond, Senator Danforth, the Members of the Congress representing you in Washington, Mr. Iacocca, friend here who has been driving us around this plant:

I've been having a little nostalgia here, because I used to do some plant tours when I was doing a show called ``The General Electric Theatre.'' And I used to stand before groups of the employees going through some of the 139 plants, and for want of something better to do, I'd tell them to ask questions. And one of the questions I used to get the most was, ``How does it feel to see yourself on the late, late movie?'' And I said, ``It's like looking at a son you never knew you had.'' [Laughter] But I can't tell you how good it is to see an assembly line producing American cars, and especially Chryslers.

The last time I was in a plant it was the Chrysler plant in Detroit, and it was during the campaign. I know that Chrysler employees here in Fenton have had a rough time the last few years. But I want you to know that -- and I really mean it -- America is on the mend, and both the economy and Chrysler are on the comeback trail.

Thank heaven I can say those words that autoworkers love to hear, which is auto sales are up, and that's having its effect. Now, Lee has told me that 1,700 of your fellow autoworkers are being called back to their jobs when a second shift begins in July; 1,500 more will be coming back when plant two resumes operation in the summer. And, all in all, as he told you, Chrysler is investing $150 million to get these two facilities working again.

The other auto companies are beginning to feel the recovery as well. You won't mind my mentioning them. Ford Hazelwood plant is bringing on another shift, and so is that other little company, General Motors -- [laughter] -- and they're calling back some employees.

An economic recovery is something like a seedling. For awhile it grows underground, and you don't see it above ground, and then it shoots up and seeds sprouting all over the place. And that's what we're starting to see around the Nation right now, the shoots of an economic recovery are beginning to push up through the recession with its attending unemployment.

It's no accident that the leading economic indicators are up for 8 of the last 9 months. What we've been trying to do hasn't been too well understood by some, or maybe there's others that didn't want to admit it, but we want to lay a solid foundation for long-term growth. We want an economic base so that you won't have to go through the pain again that you've experienced. And I believe that we've laid that kind of a foundation.

Remember what an enemy inflation used to be? It was murderous. Well, inflation has been brought down from 12.4 percent 2 years ago to 3.9 percent. And we've taken the lead in reducing the interest rates, which have been poison as far as car sales are concerned. The prime rate was 21\1/2\; it's now down to 11; but that's not low enough. We're going to keep on pushing on that and inflation until they're both down some more.

I know the auto companies and the UAW are doing everything they can to get things turned around as well. I wanted to stop by here today and say that the American people know that the United States -- or the U.S. autoworkers are still the greatest autoworkers in the world, bar none.

I know, too, that you've had here, in what's going on, the cooperation of Governor Bond and the State government of Missouri. And that's the way it should be also, that government shouldn't be a heavy hand in your pocket and holding you down. It should be cooperating and helping to let private enterprise do the job that it can do in keeping people at work. With your help and Chrysler's help and the help of so many other hard-working people and companies, we're going to get this economy humming like one of those Chrysler engines I saw you just stuffing in the body back there.

I know there's been a lot of misunderstanding, and I know that many of you have been told a lot of things about what we're supposed to be doing or not doing. Very simply, my idea of what the Federal Government should be doing is reducing the cost of government to the lowest practical point at which you can leave the most of your earnings in your pocket that is possible and still do and fill the responsibilities of government. And with that, to stop this inflation binge, which has been the longest continued worldwide inflation the world has ever known -- and that has been the cause of the high interest rates -- bring them down, reduce the regulations and restrictions that have been hampering business and adding to the cost of the product, make us once again competitive in the world market.

Now, if you can find a better program than that, you buy it. I just wanted you to know, I'm not above stealing a good line when I hear one. [Laughter]

But it's been a great pleasure to be here. I know we're due at some other stops now and have to get going, but thank you all, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:55 a.m. in the assembly plant. Prior to his remarks, he was given a tour of the plant. Among those accompanying him on the tour was Lee Iacocca, chairman of Chrysler Corp.