Remarks at a Reagan-Bush Rally in Gulfport, Mississippi

October 1, 1984

The President. Thank you very much, and thank you, Trent, for that introduction. I was having so much fun listening, I kind of hated to get up here. [Laughter] Thank all of you for a most heartwarming welcome.

It's great to be in Gulfport, and greetings to all of you who come from the delta, the home of the outstanding Congressman Webb Franklin. Webb can't be with us here tonight, because he's up there with my friend Billy Mounger, having a fundraiser up in Jackson -- carry on so he can be back there again in the Congress.

And of course it's always a great pleasure to be here with Trent Lott, who, as minority whip in the House of Representatives, has worked with skill and devotion. And I know it's a great uphill battle and a very difficult one, but just as he remarked about a certain Speaker of the House of Representatives, wouldn't it be wonderful to be calling Trent Lott the majority whip? [Applause]

And we have with us here a candidate for the Congress who could add to our ranks up there, David Armstrong. Send him there. We need him.

Now, we couldn't have accomplished half of what we did without a Republican majority in the Senate, and Thad Cochran is in the first rank of that majority, and that's why he's there. He and some other stalwarts are battling against those who are still out for the old-fashioned idea of spending your money faster than you can send it in.

But it's great to be back in the South. You know, I'm always happy when I visit this part of the country, maybe because you make me feel so much at home. You in the South have always given our country more than its share of greatness and courage. Here are the traditions and values that shaped our land. Here is steadiness of purpose, fidelity to ideals, love of country. Our opponents may be ready to ignore this region, but Vice President Bush and I happen to consider that the South is worth respecting, worth listening to, and, yes, worth fighting for.

We've come here for one reason, and one reason only: to win. And we ain't just whistlin' Dixie.

The choice between us and our opponents is the cleanest [clearest]\1\ (FOOTNOTE) our country has faced in more than 50 years. According to them, America's future is grim and getting grimmer. They say our people are despairing, that we have nothing to hope for but fear itself. Well, America has fallen on hard times, they claim, and they place the blame squarely on our administration. You know, sometimes I get the feeling that they don't like me very much. [Laughter]

(FOOTNOTE) \1\White House correction.

But our opponents' rhetoric of gloom and doom is nothing but a nightmare. It's time for them to wake up and look at the facts.

Four years ago, the economy of the South and of all America was in a shambles. In just 5 years, taxes had nearly doubled. The average monthly mortgage payments more than doubled. And the real after-tax income of the average American actually began to decline. From 1979 through 1980, just 2 years, working Americans' weekly earnings declined in real terms by 8.8 percent. That was the worst drop since World War II.

Our defenses had grown so weak that many of our planes were too old to fly. And those that weren't too old couldn't fly for lack of spare parts or lack of pilots. Many of our ships couldn't leave port.

Today, just 4 years later, the United States of America is a very different place. It's stronger, more prosperous, and bursting with patriotism. Well, now, if, as our opponents insist, I have to take the blame, well, all right, if you'll share it with me. [Applause] This isn't a Reagan recovery, this is an American recovery.

This great nation is moving forward again, and we're not going back to that unhappy past. We've knocked inflation down from 12.4 percent to 4.2. Productivity is up, consumer spending is up, and take-home pay is up. In contrast to that 8.8 percent decline in real weekly earnings that I mentioned, in the last 2 years they've risen 3.2 percent. You tell me whose policies are more fair to the working people of America. During the past 20 months, we've created 6 million new jobs. We've been creating more jobs every month than our allies in Europe have created over the last 10 years.

Your great success story has come as quite a shock to the professors and the economists. Back in October of 1982, one economist often seen and quoted claimed that ``The engines of economic growth have shut down here and across the globe, and they're likely to stay that way for years to come.''

That was just 2 months before the start of the best recovery in postwar history. That's why when I hear some of the projections they make for what it's going to be like in 1989, they're blowing smoke. They don't know what it's going to be like in 1989. It all adds up to a simple lesson: Don't trust the professional pessimists. [Laughter] Trust the American people.

My friends, I believe our great nation has turned the corner. The shadows are behind us, and the bright sunshine of hope and opportunity lies ahead. But I wouldn't want to take that for granted, so let me just ask you: Do you feel better off than you did 4 years ago?

Audience. Yes!

The President. Is America better off than it was 4 years ago?

Audience. Yes!

The President. Well, now, despite this strength of this expansion, there's one sure way to ruin it. You'd have to be something of an expert to do that, but when it comes to bringing economic growth to a grinding halt, our opponents are experts. After decades of a rising tax burden, they want to give the American people a massive new tax increase. They call it -- --

Audience. Boo-o-o!

The President. They call it bitter medicine, but that's just because they think they can get us to swallow anything. [Laughter] I think the word shrimp means something different to our opponents than it does to Gulfport. To you, it's a livelihood; to them, it's your paycheck after they get their hands on it.

All told, their tax increase would be the equivalent of $1,800 in new taxes per household. Are we prepared to sit back and let them do that to America?

Audience. No!

The President. We all watched the Olympics this summer, and we cheered to see American athletes go for the gold. Well, making our economy bear the burden of their tax hike would be like having a coach tell an Olympic swimmer to do laps carrying an anvil or a runner to sprint with a ball and chain.

Come November, the American people will get to vote on our coaches, and come November, the American people are going to tell Coach Tax Hike to go find another team.

Our pledge is for tax simplification, to make the system more fair and easier to understand. Do you know that Albert Einstein has said he cannot understand the Form 1040? [Laughter] We want to make it simpler and easier, so that we can bring yours and everybody's income tax rates further down, not up. Tax simplification will provide powerful new incentives for economic growth.

We'll fight for enterprise zones, to help Americans in disadvantaged areas get off unemployment and welfare and start climbing the economic ladder. And we'll keep government under control by working for a line-item veto. I had it as a Governor, 43 Governors have it; the President needs it. And then a constitutional amendment mandating that government stop spending more than government takes in.

A southerner named Thomas Jefferson, back shortly after the Constitution was ratified and put into place, said it had one lack. It needed a clause to prevent the Federal Government from borrowing. Jefferson was right, and it's time we recognized it.

Now, you might have noticed that our opponents are trying to appeal to traditional Democrats by comparing themselves to Harry Truman. Well, President Truman kept a sign on his desk that said, ``The buck stops here.'' But if our opponents are elected, their sign will say, ``Your bucks stop here.''

Forgive me, but Harry Truman believed, with F.D.R. before him and John Kennedy after him, in strength abroad and self-reliance at home. Now, to all those Democrats here today -- and I hope there are many -- there would have to be, in this place. [Laughter] And I hope that you feel that under its present leadership, the Democratic Party no longer stands behind America's role in the world, that it no longer represents the working men and women. So, we say to you -- and I say this as one who, for most of my adult life, was also a Democrat: Come walk with us down the new path of hope and opportunity.

Add your strength to ours, and all of us can build something new for America, something far better than before. And it will be a true bipartisan achievement between millions of patriotic Democrats who know they can no longer follow the leadership of that party.

As our economy grows, we'll need to go forward with bedrock values that have always sustained the people of the South -- the values of faith, family, neighborhood, and good, hard work. And together, we're already making an impressive start.

We've helped lead a grassroots revolution for excellence in education that will reach every child in this land. Recently, we learned that scholastic aptitude test scores have gone up a full 4 points. Now, that's the second improvement in the past 3 years and the biggest increase in those scores in 21 years.

We must continue to crack down on crime. We say with no hesitation, yes, there are such things as right and wrong, and, yes, for hardened criminals preying on our society, punishment must be swift and sure. In 1980 the crime rate was rising. Well, last year, reported crime dropped 7 percent, and that's the steepest decline since 1960.

No crime strikes harder at the heart of America than drug smuggling, for drugs tear families apart and turn healthy, productive Americans into sick people unable even to care for themselves -- men and women who often turn to robbery to pay for their habit. We've established the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System, under the superb leadership of Vice President Bush, to wage war on drugs. And today drug seizures and arrests are at record levels. I know that Coast Guard men and women stationed here in Mississippi are playing a leading role in this vital effort.

In a case that just took place, days ago, the Coast Guard cutter Acushnet, right here in Gulfport, came across a fishing boat that flew no proper flag. The Acushnet pulled alongside, and five Coast Guard officers went aboard. Well, the Coast Guard officers knew for certain something was wrong when they saw that all the hatches had been nailed shut. In the end, they confiscated almost 4 tons of marijuana, towed the fishing boat into Gulfport, and made six arrests. I know that you'd like to join me in thanking the officers and crew of the Acushnet for a job well done.

In foreign affairs, America is at peace. Since 1980 not one nation has fallen to Communist aggression, while the people of one country, Grenada, have been set free.

And as I look south over the Gulf, I can't help thinking of one troubled part of the world -- Central America. Some would have us take a position of weakness in Central America or withdraw from the region altogether. They want to hang a ``Do Not Disturb'' sign on our border and pretend there are no problems. But that would betray the brave people of Central America and ignore our own national interests, for if Central America falls, make no mistake about it, refugees will flood our borders. I pledge to you that we will give firm support to the forces of liberty, democracy, and economic progress and that we'll do so as long as I hold this office.

Audience. 4 more years! 4 more years! 4 more years!

The President. Well, I wasn't going to, but if you insist. [Laughter]

Now, I know that many of you have a special interest in the great effort to defend our freedom, whether you serve in our Armed Forces, help to build our ships, or are veterans that have served our nation with pride. Let me assure you, we're determined to give America defenses that are second to none.

Since we took office, we've built up our stocks of ammunition. We've replenished our military supplies, and we've begun work on new equipment, including important new aircraft. And today America is once again giving the men and women in our Armed Forces the pay, the training, and the respect they've always deserved.

One of our proudest accomplishments concerns the Navy. In the two decades before we took office, our total fleet had been cut nearly in half. Well, we've turned that around. In the past 4 years, we've added 44 ships to the fleet, bringing the total to 523, and that's well on our way to our goal of 600. Now, many of the new ships have been built right here in Mississippi. And when I look at the sleek ships around us, once again we can say with pride: Columbia is the gem of the ocean.

I told Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko, when I met him at the White House on Friday, the United States seeks no territorial expansion. We make no attempts to impose our will on anyone; but we will never again allow America to let her guard down.

Well, now, I'm supposed to end my speech. But I -- --

Audience. No!

The President. Well, yeah, but I can't help but remark about something that I've seen more and more at rallies of this kind all over the country: so many bright, young faces here today, so many young people. Listen, I can remember a time when the only young people that ever came to one of our rallies looked like they couldn't join anything else. [Laughter] Listen, and I see enough short haircuts that I believe there are some people here that aren't in uniform, also. But they wear the uniform every day, men and women.

And may I stay just long enough to leave one message with you, one last thought from my heart: I have to tell you that nothing, and I mean nothing, has made me prouder these past 4 years than the young men and women who are serving our country in uniform. By any measure -- --

Audience. 4 more years! 4 more years! 4 more years!

The President. You know, by any measure, those young people I've mentioned are just the best. And I have to tell you something -- and forgive me for using a word that you children should never use -- well, none of us should -- but it's been said that back in World War II -- as a matter of fact, it is a fact that someone asked General George Marshall what was the secret of America's success, what was our secret weapon in World War II? And General Marshall said, ``The best damned kids in the world.'' Well, the young men and women serving today are the grandsons and granddaughters of those heroes. And I'll tell you, he was right; they are still the best damned kids in the world.

Now and then on the news a commentator will be talking to one of our young people in uniform. And it's kind of struck me that so often you hear the -- when the young man in uniform or woman in uniform answers, you so often the proud and lilting cadence of Charleston or Memphis or Jackson or Gulfport, Biloxi. The South was the home of patriots in 1776, when a southerner wrote our Declaration of Independence. And today, more than two centuries later, the South is the home of patriots still.

So, maybe when you see one of our young people in uniform walking along the street here in Gulfport or Biloxi or wherever, maybe, if you think of it, just nod and smile and say hello, and maybe let them know how all of us feel about them. It'll make you feel real good, and I know how good it'll make them feel.

Well, now I do have to go. And I -- --

Audience. No! 4 more years! 4 more years! 4 more years!

The President. All right. Four more years it'll be. And God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Send us all back there.

Note: The President spoke at 6:25 p.m. at Joseph T. Jones Park. Following his remarks, the President returned to the Broadwater Beach Hotel, where he remained overnight. Earlier in the evening, the President attended a reception for local Republican leaders at the hotel.

The following day, the President traveled to Brownsville, TX.