ALAN JEWETT. Mr. President, members of the clergy, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
On behalf of the board of selectmen and all of the citizens of the town of Clinton, I wish to extend a warm welcome to the President of the United States, Jimmy Carter.
I believe I can speak for all Clintonians, Mr. President, when I say your visit to our beloved town has created a spirit of civic pride equaled very few times since the incorporation of this town in the year 1850. We are proud to have been chosen as the first town in the Nation to participate in your meet-the-people program. With the knowledge of Clinton's proud heritage as evidenced by the many sons and daughters who have served their country and left their marks on the lives of Americans, it is a warm tribute to be number one.
We are confident that this meeting will be the forerunner of a successful nationwide visit with the common, ordinary American citizens, such as we have here.
We are also quite pleased that you are fulfilling your campaign promises to bring the Federal Government back to the people, to allow their thoughts, their inputs, their ideas into the administration's programs that will be presented to Congress in the coming months.
This is truly government of the people, by the people, and for the people. We believe, Mr. President, that after many years, we once again have an administration that will be responsive to the needs of the country and its People.
At this time, we also wish you a happy St. Patrick's Day.
It is indeed an honor and a personal privilege to be able to introduce and present the President of the United States of America to this meeting. Ladies and gentlemen, Jimmy Carter.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. A number of weeks ago I told my staff to choose an average American city for me to start with my people-to-people effort. They made a terrible mistake, because this is no average city; this is an extraordinary city.
You've chosen a wonderful chairman of your selectmen. Anybody who has parents so well prepared that they have a son who is born the day before St. Patrick's Day has very good judgment. I want to wish Alan Jewett a happy birthday.
It just gives you one more day to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.
I understand that about 4,000 people filled out coupons and put them in to be drawn out to see who would come here tonight, and that the ones who are here were the losers and the rest of them are celebrating. [Laughter]
It's really a great tribute to me and to our country and to the office of the President that you are willing to, in effect, compete for a chance to come to meet with a political leader. I've studied about Clinton, about your background and your history, about the character of your neighborhoods, about your special problems and your special achievements, about the kind of people who live here. And it makes me proud to be an American.
This beautiful building was constructed just so average citizens like yourselves could come here and decide your own governmental affairs, make your own decisions, stand on your own feet, debate complicated issues, and make a judgment about your own future and the future of your children.
I think the fact that you and your ancestors have participated in this sort of open democracy is what led up to the kind of participation that you still expressed on Election Day. There are about 7,000 registered voters in this city. In the last Presidential election, 6,200 voted--88 percent--which shows how interested you are in government. And I have to say that you showed superb political judgment because I won--I won by a 2 to 1 majority here. I want to thank you for it.
I am not going to take any time making a speech. I would like to outline for your thoughts just a few things that are my responsibility now as your President.
I've never served in our National Government before January. I've never served in Washington. I've served in government at the town meeting, at the county level, and in the State legislature, and as Governor. I haven't been in politics very long. I've got a lot to learn and I'm eager to learn. I don't claim to know all the answers and the day I leave the White House and another President takes over, I still won't know all the answers.
There are a lot of mistakes that could be made. But I believe that what gives me a sense of confidence in myself and confidence in the Nation is the support and participation, the questions and suggestions, the criticisms of people like you who love your country, who don't want any selfish advantage, who want to be treated fairly and who want to help decide on a national level, as you do here in this town hall, your own future.
This gives me a sense of security and confidence. It also causes me to be even more deeply dedicated to make the right decisions. We are moving very rapidly to correct some of the problems in our National Government. We're trying to recement the ties that exist historically between the Federal, State, and local levels of government; to tear down the barriers and the walls that have been built in recent years, so that I can learn from selectmen and mayors and Governors and State legislators and so that there can't be a difference that handicaps us.
I'm deeply concerned about the unemployment rate in our country. I believe that in a nation like ours, everyone who is able to work ought to work and ought to have a chance to work. I presented to the Congress an economic package that's conservative in nature, fiscally speaking, but also will put hundreds of thousands of Americans back into productive jobs, and particularly young people.
About $15 1/2 billion will be spent this year either to cut down in your taxes or to provide direct public works projects or to provide jobs--most of the jobs in private industry where they will be permanent, some jobs in the public sector--and the Democratic Congress and many Republicans have been working very closely with me. I believe, without major change, this economic stimulus package will be on the law books without too much delay.
On April 20, just about a month from now, we will propose to the Congress and to the American people--I will make a speech to the Joint Session of Congress--a comprehensive energy policy. We've not had one in this country ever. Other developing nations know what they're going to do in the future to deal with changing times in energy supplies.
Your own part of the country has been deeply wounded by not having adequate supplies of energy. In Massachusetts about 85 percent of all your energy comes from oil, petroleum products. About half of that is imported. You don't know what is going to happen next. Energy costs have gone up terribly rapidly in your area of the country. When major companies have five or six plants and in the past one of them has had to be shut down because of changing times, quite often the decision has been made to shut down the plant in New England because of unpredictability and because of a lack of understanding about what would happen in the supply and price of energy.
On April 20, I will present to the Congress a plan developed primarily by Dr. James Schlesinger on what our Nation can expect in the future relating to energy. We are forming a new Department of Energy. We now have 50 different Federal agencies scattered all over Washington-all over the country as a matter of fact--supposedly dealing with this crucial question.
In the future it'll be consolidated so that you will know who makes a mistake if one is made and you'll know where to go to get an answer. Bureaucrats, consumers, and producers of energy will know how to focus their attention on solving a problem that's going to get worse for us in the future no matter who's President, no matter how good a job I do.
On May I, Joe Califano, a tough, knowledgeable administrator, who now is trying to bring order out of chaos in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, will come forward, after working with Mike Dukakis and many other Governors and local officials, and propose to the Congress a comprehensive revision of the entire welfare system. This has needed to be done for many years. It hasn't been done. We've had too many people who are able to work drawing welfare, and we've had an inadequate amount of attention given to those who cannot work. We've had homes divided because of silly welfare rules.
We're going to do everything we can to bring our families back together and have a welfare program that's humane, that's efficient and economical and which forces people into jobs who are able to work.
Next September 30, we will complete an analysis of the entire income tax structure. As I said many times during the campaign, and the last time in my acceptance speech, the income tax laws in this country are a disgrace to the human race. The people who are not powerful, who are not influential, who don't have full-time, paid lobbyists to carve out special privilege in the tax laws, have suffered too long. And I give you my promise that next September 30, after long, detailed, laborious analysis of the horribly complicated income tax laws, we will come out with a simpler system, so that 75 or 80 or 85 percent of all of you in this country can fill out your own income tax returns without anybody helping you, and so that you will feel that you are not getting cheated and you will feel that everybody is paying their fair share.
Those are our goals. And I don't intend to lose. I don't intend to lose that struggle.
I think the Congress has been eager to correct problems in energy and correct problems in environmental quality and correct problems in employment and have a fair tax structure and bring order out of chaos in welfare. The Congress is eager to do it, and I am eager to meet them halfway.
In the field of foreign affairs--and this is the last thing I want to talk about-I've done a lot of studying. I trust the American people. I've been criticized by some in the news media in the last 8 weeks about telling the American people too much. I've removed the restrictions on American travel overseas. I believe that an American citizen ought to be able to go wherever that person wants to go without the Government telling him.
We're going to try to open up our borders for a change so visitors can come to our country. They may not be popular people, but I think our system of government is strong enough to have someone come into our Nation and make a speech at Yale or Harvard or here in your own town, with whom you may not agree.
I want to see our country set a standard of morality. I feel very deeply that when people are put in prison without trials and tortured and deprived of basic human rights, that the President of the United States ought to have a right to express displeasure and to do something about it.
I want our country to be the focal point for deep concern about human beings all over the world. I am trying to search with the Soviet Union for a way to reduce the horrible arms race, where we've spent billions and billions and billions of dollars on atomic weapons. We are no more secure now than we were 8 years ago or 12 years ago or 16 years ago. We're much more deeply threatened by more and more advanced weapons. So, we are dealing with the Soviet Union, quietly and diplomatically and, I hope, effectively, to search out a way to reduce dependence on weapons without damaging at all our Nation's own security.
We have problem areas around the World, as you know, in the Middle East, in southern Africa, in the Horn of Africa, in the eastern Mediterranean around Cyprus. We're not trying to impose our will on other people. But when we can add our good offices and the strength of our country to bring potential warring nations together, we'll do this. And I think the American people have enough intelligence and enough judgment to be told what's going on.
In the past we've had too much of top Government officials going off in a closed, locked room and evolving a foreign policy for our country and negotiating in secret and then letting the American people know about it when it's all over. I want you to know about it ahead of time, and you can depend on that when I tell you.
In closing my talk, before I answer questions, I want to say this: I really thank you for making me feel so welcome. There are literally thousands and thousands of people who live in the Clinton area who have lined the streets outside to wave at me and to hold up signs that said "Welcome, Jimmy" or "Hi, Jimmy" or "We love you in Clinton." It means a lot to me.
And I thank you for being willing to come here tonight to talk to me and to ask me questions so that I can learn and so that you can learn. And many people will know what you ask tonight, and they will know about my answers. And if you ask me questions that I can't answer, and that's sure to happen, I'll get the answer for you and send it to your local news media, so that it can be published in the next couple of days, because I do have people working with me that can answer the questions for me.
This is a learning process. I'm very eager now to take the first question. If you would just tell me what your naught. is, and then I'll try to answer as best I can.
THE MIDDLE EAST
Q. My name is Reverend Richard Harding, and, President Carter, it's a pleasure to welcome you to the number one Everytown, U.S.A.--Clinton, Massachusetts.
I would like to ask you, Mr. President-it seems that world peace hinges greatly on the Middle East.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. What do you personally feel must be done to establish a meaningful and a lasting peace in that area of the world? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. I think all of you know that there has been either war or potential war in the Middle East for the last 29 years, ever since Israel became a nation. I think one of the finest acts of the world nations that's ever occurred was to establish the State of Israel.
So, the first prerequisite of a lasting peace is the recognition of Israel by her neighbors, Israel's right to exist, Israel's right to exist permanently, Israel's right to exist in peace. That means that over a period of months or years that the borders between Israel and Syria, Israel and Lebanon, Israel and Jordan, Israel and Egypt must be opened up to travel, to tourism, to cultural exchange, to trade, so that no matter who the leaders might be in those countries, the people themselves will have formed a mutual understanding and comprehension and a sense of a common purpose to avoid the repetitious wars and death that have afflicted that region so long. That's the first prerequisite of peace.
The second one is very important and very, very difficult, and that is the establishment of permanent borders for Israel. The Arab countries say that Israel must withdraw to the pre-1967 borderlines; Israel says that they must adjust those lines to some degree to insure their own security. That is a matter to be negotiated between the Arab countries on the one side and Israel on the other.
But borders are still a matter of great trouble and a matter of great difficulty, and there are strong differences of opinion now.
And the third ultimate requirement for peace is to deal with the Palestinian problem. The Palestinians claim up 'til this moment that Israel has no right to be there, that the land belongs to the Palestinians, and they've never yet given up their publicly professed commitment to destroy Israel. That has to be overcome.
There has to be a homeland provided for the Palestinian refugees who have suffered for many, many years. And the exact way to solve the Palestinian problem is one that first of all addresses itself right now to the Arab countries and then, secondly, to the Arab countries negotiating with Israel.
Those three major elements have got to be solved before a Middle Eastern solution can be prescribed.
I want to emphasize one more time, we offer our good offices. I think it's accurate to say that of all the nations in the world, we are the one that's most trusted, not completely, but most trusted by the Arab countries and also Israel. I guess both sides have some doubt about us. But we'll have to act kind of as a catalyst to bring about their ability to negotiate successfully with one another.
We hope that later on this year, in the latter part of this year, that we might get all of these parties to agree to come together at Geneva, to start talking to one another. They haven't done that yet. And I believe if we can get them to sit down and start talking and negotiating that we have an excellent chance to achieve peace. I can't guarantee that. It's a hope.
I hope that we will all pray that that will come to pass, because what happens in the Middle East in the future might very well cause a major war there which would quickly spread to all the other nations of the world; very possibly it could do that.
Many countries depend completely on oil from the Middle East for their life. We don't. If all oil was cut off to us from the Middle East, we could survive; but Japan imports more than 98 percent of all its energy, and other countries, like in Europe--Germany, Italy, France--are also heavily dependent on oil from the Middle East.
So, this is such a crucial area of the world that I will be devoting a major part of my own time on foreign policy between now and next fall trying to provide for a forum within which they can discuss their problems and, hopefully, let them seek out among themselves some permanent solution.
Just maybe as briefly as I could, that's the best answer I can give you to that question.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.
OCEAN OIL SPILLS
Q. Mr. President, my name is John Olgan. I live at 31 Norman Street, here in Clinton.
In recent months we've had a large number of oil spills off the eastern coast, some that have done lots of damage to our fishing waters and our beaches. I've heard that a lot of the oil spills have been caused by old foreign vessels that are often overloaded.
I wonder if you could tell me what the Carter administration is doing now to try and resolve that problem.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. Just coincidentally, this morning I signed a special message to the Congress covering the entire subject of oil spills and how we might prevent them in the future and how, when they do occur, they might be quickly corrected and how damaged people might be provided with insured compensation for the damage that they suffer.
As you know, on the first day of March we began our 200-mile limit control of fishing waters. And that will provide us, I think over a 4- or 5-year period, with a good chance for American fishermen to have an increasing supply of fish, rather than a decreasing supply. But in the message to the Congress that I sent today is proposed a wide range of corrective actions. One would be mandatory insurance coverage by vessels that come in and out of our waters.
The second one is to join other countries in requiring that new oil tankers constructed have double bottoms and other very secure construction features, so that if they do strike a reef or something, then the oil spills will be minimized.
Another one is to have the Coast Guard go on every single oil tanker which comes into our country ports, after this week, to inspect that tanker, to see if it complies with international safety standards, navigation standards, and to see if the crew are adequately trained to bring that ship in and out of our own ports safely.
Following that first inspection, a complete record by the Coast Guard will be maintained. Annually, that same ship will be inspected by the Coast Guard when it makes subsequent trips to our shores. But I think the Congress is ready to move on this subject. And I think that it will mean in the future that we'll have much less damage to our beaches and much less fear among the American people of the damage that comes from oil spills to fish, wildlife, and the quality of the oceans.
Does that answer your question?
Q. It does. Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT. John, if you would see one of my staff members, I'll have them mail you a copy of my message to Congress, which goes into that subject in a little more detail.
ARMED FORCES RESERVES
Q. Mr. President--
THE PRESIDENT. Where are you?
Q. Right here. Raymond Doleman, 16 Elm Street.
Have you had a report on the in-depth study of the Armed Forces Reserve program, and if so, is a future draft into the Reserves being considered?
THE PRESIDENT. I have had a fairy good report on the problem with the present volunteer recruiting program. We are meeting our quotas on the regular Armed Forces--the Navy, Marines, Air Force, and the Army. We are falling short on recruitment for the Reserve forces. Out of about 7 or 800,000 members who are supposed to be in the Reserve forces, we are now about, I think, 80,000 short. This is of concern to us. We are trying to make sure that the Reserve forces that are there are more highly trained and will be given equipment, ammunition, and more closely trained to fit in well with the regular forces if an emergency should arise.
We are not yet planning in any way on restoring the draft. But this is something that's constantly under assessment. If I consider, as President, that a restoration of the draft is necessary for the security of our Nation, I will not hesitate one day to recommend it to the Congress.
We are monitoring the problem. We hope by better recruiting methods and by a restoration of the sense of patriotism and the quality of the Reserve supplies and training to build up that recruitment. And I hope that this in itself will be adequate. But in the long run, if needed, I would recommend a restoration of the draft.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, sir.
THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY
Q. Mr. President, my name is George J. Olberg. I am vice president of New England Independent Trucking Association.
Mr. President, you ran for office on a platform probably based on ending the mountainous and burdened and outdated regulation which force higher taxes and consumer costs, such as restrictions in transportation which force tens of thousands of trucks to criss-cross the country empty, thus wasting millions of gallons of fuel and millions of valuable man-hours. In order to avert justifiable criticism of your administration and head off more turmoil in trucking and correct a tremendous injustice in transportation which favors the monopolies, would you therefore actively engage in promotion of House bill 2443 and then vote in favor of it when it appears on your desk for your signature? Or will you instead allow a transportation policy to be dictated by your Secretary of Transportation who has not yet agreed to allow independent truckers to compete for freight on equal footing with the monopolies, a policy which ignores the wishes of shippers, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, and more than 100 pages of congressional testimony by the Independent Trucking Association. In short, Mr. President, the question is not what should be done, but when.
THE PRESIDENT. Fine. Thank you. I always like to get the completely objective question. [Laughter]
My staff has begun to assess the need for deregulation of the transportation industry as much as possible.
The first step in that process has now been completed. And I've already sent to the Congress a message which supports Senator Kennedy's bill and Senator Cannon's bill to deregulate to a major degree the airline industry.
The next one on the list will be the surface transportation industry, which would certainly have the trucking industry as a major factor.
In the energy considerations, it's obviously a gross waste to have trucks required to haul a load a long distance and then, because of unnecessary constraints by the Government bureaucracy, have to come all the way back home empty. I think that we need to do away with that particular requirement, at least.
And I would also like to have your name and address given to one of my staff persons, because within the next few weeks, we will have completed our assessment of the regulation of the motor trucking industry, as we have already done in the airline industry. But I think that in general, I and the Secretary of Transportation, Brock Adams, favor substantial deregulation of all aspects of the transportation industry. And I believe that's something that you would favor.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Mr. Olberg.
Q. Sir, my name is Robert Curley, 10 Fall Street, presently, sir, stationed down near Fort Devens. I would like to know your stand on this issue, and also since I've been in the service, I've noticed a tremendous amount of waste. What is your stand or your position going to be on cutting down on military spending?
THE PRESIDENT. What did you say just before waste, military---
Q. What is your stand on Fort Devens, the closing or the opening of---
THE PRESIDENT. I understood that part. And the part about waste?
Q. Since I've been in the service, I've noticed a tremendous amount of waste through the service. What is your plan on it?
THE PRESIDENT. Fine.
All right. When I campaigned for 2 years in our country, in, I think, every State, I never promised in order to get votes that I would keep a particular military base open. I would like to make a judgment in every instance on what I think is best for our country. I'm not familiar with the Fort Devens question. I know that back almost a year ago the decision was made to phase out part of the Fort Devens operation.
I would not promise you tonight, even though we are in the neighborhood, that I would change that order and keep it open. But I will make sure that before a final judgment is made that I will meet with personally your Members of the Congress, including your Senators and your Congress Members, and also the Secretary of Defense and the Deputy Secretary of Defense, to assess as practically as I can, if it's best for our country to shut down that part of Fort Devens that's under consideration.
I can't give you an answer about whether it will be shut down or not. But it won't be done lightly.
Secondly, if a decision is made to close down part of the Fort Devens operation, I'll do all I can as President, again working with your Governor and your local officials and your congressional delegation, to replace as many of those jobs as possible, not just in training programs under the Labor Department and so forth, but in permanent jobs, because there are a lot of new kinds of Federal programs that are coming along in years ahead. And I think it's only fair that when military bases are phased out to some degree, that when there is an option there, that we put those new Federal jobs in the same locality to keep the unemployment rate from going up very high.
I know, as you do, that there is a great deal of waste in the military. I believe in a strong defense, and I will never permit as President any possibility of our Nation being vulnerable to successful attack or threat of attack or blackmail from any other country.
I want to keep us strong. But you don't create military strength by waste and inefficiency in the military. I promised during the campaign that I would identify and cut out $5 to $7 billion of waste in the military. I believe that we can do this.
There are many ways that it can be done. One is to eliminate the building of weapons systems that are not needed. Another way is to cut down on the gross overload of high rank officers in the military. They've grown by leaps and bounds since the Second World War.
Another way is to make sure that we don't transfer military personnel so frequently. Now the average stay on a base of anyone in the military is only about 15 months. At any one time we have about one-seventh of our military people who are either being transferred or are on temporary assignment.
We also need to make sure that we cut down on the future costs of the retirement systems in the military. Quite often they are excessive, and I don't think it's right for the taxpayers of our Nation to have someone go into the Army or Navy at the age of 21, serve 20 years, retire at the age of 41, draw a substantial retirement benefit, and then get a full-time job working with the Federal Government. It's called double-dipping. I think it ought to be eliminated.
So, there are a lot of things that can be done to save in the military. And I think when our fiscal year 1979 budget is put together, we can satisfy you and others that it is much more efficient in many ways.
Obviously, I haven't mentioned all the things that can be done. More careful planning, quicker construction of navy ships, staying on schedule with the production of other weapons systems, standardizing weapons systems, for instance, with. our NATO allies, phasing out unnecessary overseas bases, things of this kind are all under consideration now.
So, I thank you for your good question. I hope I have answered it successfully. I can't tell you what the final decision will be on Fort Devens. I'll just make a decision on what's best for our country. I'll consult with the local officials if we do close down parts of it. I'll do all I can to keep those jobs, as many as we can, in the Fort Devens area.
Q. I appreciate that, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.
VIETNAM ERA VETERANS
Q. Francis X. Boyce, 39 Centennial Street, Clinton, Mass.
Mr. President, I'd like to know if you have any legislative proposals in regard to the Vietnam veterans? They have a very high rate of unemployment; the 21 to 30 category. And, as a result, I think if you will look in your figures, you see figures, you will find as the category they have one of the highest rates of unemployment without any job opportunities. And under Federal civil service, they seem to be only paying lip service to them, and minorities seem to have the upper hand at the present time rather than the Vietnam veteran.
I would like to know that.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'll quote a couple of statistics for you. The Vietnam veterans on the average have twice as high an unemployment rate as other young men and women of their age. Also, among those who served in Vietnam, there were about twice as high a percentage of minority groups as there were other groups, because quite often they are poor and they couldn't hide in college and avoid the draft.
So, I think that we are moving now in the Labor Department to put together a special program for Vietnam veterans. The Congress has recently decided to extend GI Bill of Rights benefits for the full 10 years, which will help a lot of those who would have lost their education opportunities from losing those opportunities. Also, for the first time in my lifetime we've got quite a young man, who's familiar with the recent war, in charge of the entire Veterans Administration itself. I appointed Max Cleland, who happens to be a triple amputee and who's a very tough, young administrator, to be in charge of the Veterans Administration.
So, I think that a move on special programs in job opportunities and extension of the GI Bill of Rights and other rights for Vietnam veterans and a change in the administration of the Veterans Administration to orient itself toward the Vietnam veterans who have never been appreciated are three of the things that we can do immediately. Two of them have already been done. And as soon as the Senate and House pass our economic stimulus package, a tremendous number of new jobs will be available for the Vietnam veterans. They will have top priority under the new jobs and training program.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
Q. Mr. President, I'm Eleanor Filman, 156 Main Street.
It's so nice to have a man who will stand up before us and say he has moral convictions and he's interested in human rights. We are, too.
We are very, very happy that you came out and spoke against Federal fundings for abortions. And our elected Congressmen and Senators voted down Federal funding for abortions. Now, I want to say, what more can you do for us? Can you put out an Executive order holding back the money until this is settled in the courts?
THE PRESIDENT. AS you know, I have to abide by the laws of the land as interpreted by the courts. Joe Califano, who's the new Secretary of HEW, feels the same way I do against abortions. I think he has done everything possible within the law to prevent Federal funds from being used to pay for abortions.
I would like for the Congress to take whatever steps they can under the Constitution to eliminate this encouragement for abortions.
I think that this is something that is more deeply felt by people than any issue that arose during the recent campaign. And I don't know what else I can do, except under the law itself and with the appointment of my own top administrators, to try to hold down the need for abortion.
The other thing that we will do is this: Under the new and revised welfare system, we'll do everything we can to provide a permanent, nationwide system of family planning, to make sure that as much as humanly possible to encourage that every child is a wanted child. And we'll try to give families a chance to make sure that they can avoid unwanted pregnancy with adequate instruction, to provide birth control opportunities for those who believe in them, and also make sure that there is a government attitude to discourage abortions as much as possible.
But there is a great deal, as you know, that we cannot do to prevent abortions completely. But what we can do under the law we are doing and we'll continue to do it.
Q. Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT. I think that's the first time I've ever given an answer on abortion and got applauded. I always give the same answer but about half the time I get-[applause]--
Q. Mr. President, my name is Eleanor Mikolf, [See APP Note below] and I am a sophomore student at Clinton High School. At present the situation on education is the colleges are constantly raising their tuitions when there are no jobs available. Is it going to be worth my while in 2 years to go to college?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. Yes, I believe it will.
There is a strong trend in our country now toward more career or vocational training and away from a college education.
Ultimately, in a person's life I don't think it makes that much difference. This is a choice that each person has to make. And I know that the most important consideration is that when you finish a training program as a licensed practical nurse or a stenographer or an automobile mechanic or a bricklayer or when you get a Ph.D. in physics or philosophy, the major thing is to have a way to be employed when your education is over and to use your only life that God gives you here on Earth to a useful and productive way.
And that's why the unemployment rate in our country concerns me so much. I think we've got so many needs in our society. I think there is going to be a shift towards human services. We've got such a far way to go to provide adequate health care for our people, particularly the prevention of disease. We've got a long way to go in taking care of those who are mentally retarded, who are permanently ill.
We need to expand tremendously the use of Americans as volunteers who work with prisoners who have been put on parole or those who are on probation, or to work in every part of our social services life; older people have so many productive years left with them. But I think if we can move in our own Government--and it's going to take a while--to match job needs with people who are looking for jobs, I think that the unemployment rate can be brought down tremendously.
We've got hundreds of thousands of job openings now in the same communities where we are paying welfare benefits to people who are able to work. And if we can just get for a change the Labor Department and HEW and the Economic Development Administration and HUD to all work together, I think that we can solve the problem that you describe.
So, as a young person yourself, I hope that you will continue your education. And I hope that by the time you graduate we will have done something about the unemployment rate so that you can get a job without any problem.
Q. Thank you very much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.
We did an opinion poll about 2 or 3 weeks ago throughout the country, and we asked the people, "What is the thing that bothers you most?" And by far, the number one item was unemployment. "Someone in my family"--my husband, my wife, my grown children--"just can't get a job." So that's the number one situation we have economically--is to put our people back to work. If we can, I think that we can do it and hold down inflation, deliver proper services to our people. And I promise by the time I go out of office, or by fiscal year 1981, to have a balanced budget. And I'm intending to keep that promise.
NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE
Q. Mr. President, I am Mrs. Anthony A. Cavone, Sr.
Do you intend to develop national health care, and if your answer is yes, how do you intend to handle the problem of higher Federal taxes because of this type of program?
THE PRESIDENT. All right. I'll try to answer this question as best I can.
We now spend more than any other nation on Earth on health care. I think that it runs about $5 or $600 a year per person. But we are not getting good health care because quite often the price of the health care we get has gone up about 15 percent per year when the average inflation rate has only been about 5 or 6 percent a year.
In some cases we are not giving adequate prevention of disease. For instance, the immunization program for children is not nearly as good as it was when I was 6 or 7 years old--and that's been a long time ago. I think that we also can control the unnecessary increase in hospital costs. We can shift more toward outpatient treatment instead of having patients have to go in the hospital to get help with their hospital bills. I think we can make sure that we understand that these programs that are presently in existence in the Federal Government quite often work at cross purposes.
We now have 10 major agencies that are responsible for health care in the Federal Government. Up until I came into office, Medicaid was in one agency, Medicare was in a different agency. They did not even communicate with one another. They quite often take care of the same people. The certification of good health care was in another agency.
So, the reorganization of the Government first, which we can do very shortly, holds down in a mandatory way the increase in the total amount of expenditures of hospitals, makes sure that we have an emphasis on prevention of disease, particularly among young people-we've already moved on all of these items. And the last thing is to develop a comprehensive health care system.
I think if we expend not much more money than we are spending right now on health care, if it's done in a comprehensive and proper way, we can have good health care for our people. We might shift the way it's paid for. But I think we can have good health care without spending much more money on it.
Q. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.
I might say, since he's here, that Senator Kennedy has been the leading Member of Congress in many of the items that I've discussed tonight. And I've been blessed so far with very close and very good cooperation from the Members of the Congress, and that's making it much easier for me to do some of the things that I promised to do during the campaign.
Q. Bill Clinley, 26 Cotchelay Street. I'd like to welcome you to Clinton, Mr. President, and tell you that we consider you one of us, a man of the people whose energies are directed toward the welfare of the average citizen.
We ask that despite the many pressures which are exerted upon you to mold your programs to conform to special interest groups, whether they be labor, business, energy, insurance, environmentalists, consumer advocates, and the like, we have faith that you will always place our interest above all of these.
Briefly, our concerns are like those of most other working Americans--inflation, the loaf of bread that cost us a dime in 1939 and costs almost $1 today. You know that.
Unemployment, you know, the people who have worked their whole lives and have lost the jobs can no longer find a decent job or, if they can, they are asked to accept $2.30 per hour--a total of $92 a week.
Another concern is welfare. What started out in the thirties as a stop-gap measure to keep people from starving has developed into a way of life for many people.
Taxes, right now we're paying almost a third of our salaries to Federal and State taxes.
THE PRESIDENT. Bill, do you have a question?
Q. Yes, I do. I want to commend you on your zero-based budget concept, and I'd like to suggest that when you propose a piece of legislation or sign a bill into law that you issue a people-impact study to tell us honestly and clearly what we are receiving and how much it's costing us. And, in conclusion, I'd like to tell you that we trust you, we pray for you, and we'll follow you in your efforts to make the country a better place than it was when you were elected President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. That was kind of a long statement, but I liked it. [Laughter]
I might say that I found out at firsthand when I got to the White House how much food costs were. We have to pay, of course, all of our food bills in the White House ourselves, and they keep a separate accounting for everything that's done for me and my family and all our guests, even when we have a head of state come and stay with us in the White House. We pay for the food.
And we got our bill for the last 10 days of January, from January 20 until the end of the month. It was $600---for 10 days. So, I know from firsthand. We've been really watching the food bill since then. So, I'm in the same boat with you.
I might say one other thing: The 1979 fiscal year budget which is the one that's being prepared this year, will be prepared, Bill, in its entirety using the zero-based budgeting system. Zero-based budgeting means that every year you start from scratch. And when the budget is put together, ordinarily, the only thing that the President and the Congress look at is the new things that are added on. Anything that has been there all the time is not even looked at.
Under zero-base budgeting you start from zero, and you not only look at the new things but you look at all the old things. So, I think we can save a lot of money using zero-base budgeting. And if we can get the Federal Government reorganized--and the Congress is really moving well on this proposal of mine-and put in zero-base budgeting and then go forward with the idea of what they call "sunset legislation"--and sunset legislation means that when you set up a regulatory agency or something, at the end of 5 years, the Congress has to look at that agency and if it's not doing a good job, it's automatically terminated; the Congress has to vote a new law for that agency to continue on--so, I believe if we can put into effect some of these things that have been done in many States around the country, we'll have a much better chance to meet my goal of a balanced budget before my term is over.
THE JUDICIAL BRANCH
Q. Mr. President, my name is Billy Constantino, and I live on Layton Avenue.
The theme of this meeting seems to be citizen participation. I have a question appropriate to that, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Fine.
Q. During the last several administrations, many of the major domestic questions have been decided by the Federal judiciary and not by the consent of those people that are governed. Many decisions seem to be made in judicial chambers and not in the halls of Congress and not in the White House.
I know, Mr. President, that there are many well-meaning Federal judges and that they must interpret the Constitution. But it seems to me that sometimes, in the guise of constitutional interpretation, some Federal judges impose their biases and their ideologies on the average American citizen.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. You didn't ask me a question, but I want to say---
Q. No, I've got a question. The question was, is this situation going to continue during your administration?
THE PRESIDENT. First of all, I agree with you, and second, I hope to cut it down as much as I can.
One of the reasons that this occurs is that there hasn't been an adequate amount of cooperation in the preparation of new laws, Billy, among local officials, State officials, the White House, and the Congress. Quite often the Congress has passed legislation without consulting with the local and State officials and the President and vice versa.
I think if we can make sure that when we come up with a new welfare program that everybody who's interested is involved in it, we can cut down on the squabbles and disharmonies in the future and take some of the things out of the Federal courts.
Another thing we need to do is to move toward appointing Federal judges on the basis of merit and ability instead of a cheap political pay-off. Now, in your own State, for instance, Senator Kennedy and Senator Brooke have already moved to set up a selection commission that would choose the best people, to present the names to me, for selection for Federal judges. And I believe that Chief Justice Burger, who is now head of the Supreme Court, feels the same way that you just expressed. I think that we can make a lot of progress on this.
I would like to get the courts out of our business, and I would like to let the American people stay out of court as much as possible, too.
Q. Thank you for coming to Clinton, Mr. President.
Q. Mr. President, my name is Edward Pecziekowitz. I live on the street that-[inaudible]--made famous--Park Street.
We have seen Route 495 torn up for 2 years, with millions spent on what looks like a beauty treatment. Now we read in the papers that this same road is in poor condition for travel and the surface has to be repaired. During the repair of this road, maybe you could help to have a connector built to Clinton.
THE PRESIDENT. I won't promise you, but I won't forget your suggestion, either.
Q. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. I think one of the things that might help with matters of this kind is, I've asked all of my Cabinet officers to come out and do the same thing that I am doing tonight. And as you probably noticed, Brock Adams, who is the Secretary of Transportation, spent a good bit of time in Massachusetts earlier this month meeting with people and discussing at first hand the kinds of questions you raise. Tomorrow, I think all day in Boston [Charleston], we will be talking about the energy question so that when we do put together the energy policy, the people of Massachusetts will have had a good voice in it. So, I think in the future we can have a better decision made on transportation matters. And I'm not familiar enough to answer your specific request. Pecziekowitz, is that right?
Q. Yes, sir, right.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, sir.
PUBLIC TRUST IN GOVERNMENT
Q. Mr. President, my name is Father Gerard Patrick Walsh. I am stationed here at St. John's in Clinton. And as an Irishman., I must say to you first of all, Cead Mile Failte, a hundred thousand welcomes.
I am a little bit nervous, so I'll try to get the question out.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, so am I. [Laughter]
Q. In the aftermath of Watergate scandals and other related scandals in our Government and throughout our Government, I was wondering what you could do as the President now, what we could do as a nation of people, to restore the moral fiber of our country, to restore the basic faith of our people--you as the President and the Presidency that you hold, in the Government as a whole.
It seems that so many of us have heard so many promises through the years from politicians, but really we kind of get dismayed at times and wonder what really can be done and what will be done.
THE PRESIDENT. Father, that's a question that I tried to answer during the campaign. And to summarize, the only way that I know that we can restore the trust of the American people in public officials is for the public officials to be trustworthy, to tell the truth, and to make sure that there is a closeness and an intimacy between leaders who've been elected and the people who put them in office. This is something that's crucial to me.
I mentioned earlier in my talk that I think that the American Government ought to stand strongly for basic human rights, whether it's in Northern Ireland or whether it's in other parts of the world. The human rights issue is one that no single President can solve successfully. But one voice, particularly the voice of the American President, can set a standard for the world to start thinking about.
And I believe that over a period of time, we will accumulate a deep concern for human beings, for the right of individuals to make their own decision, not to be tortured, not to be punished.
Also, I think that openness of government is important. I've had so far, and I will have as long as I'm in the White House, a full-scale press conference at least twice a month to let the very knowledgeable Washington news media cross-examine me, quite often with live television and other coverage, and ask me the most difficult questions they can contrive. I'll do the 'best I can to answer them.
And on my radio call-in show a couple of days ago, I had 42 American people who got through to me; 9 1/2 million tried to call me. I'm sure a lot of them were listening. About 24 million people listened to that program. I don't claim to know all the answers, but I want the American people to know that there is a partnership.
I closed, I guess, a thousand speeches during the campaign by saying all we need is a government that's as good and decent and honest and truthful and open and compassionate and as filled with love as are the American people. I know it by heart. And I believe if our Government can measure up to the people, we can do that.
Q. Good evening, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good evening.
Q. If I am slow and deliberate, it's because I have never spoken to a President before, and I thoroughly enjoy it.
Mr. President, Clinton is representative of New England as having a resurgence in small business and craft industries. I wonder if you could tell us what your administration is going to do to help those small businesses and craft industries?
THE PRESIDENT. Fine. I might say that I took my first ride today on Air Force One, and I've never met a Democratic President in my life. So we've got some things in common.
I'm a small businessman myself. I came home from the Navy back in 1953. I lived in a government housing project, and I went to work selling fertilizer. I was my only employee. I didn't make any money that year, not even enough to pay my house rent. The second year my wife went to work with me, and the third year I hired my first employee to work under me, and I built up a business that's still small compared to most of them.
One of the things that we have seen is that quite often the small ,business person has had tremendous handicaps by unfair taxes. The higher up in income that a corporation goes, on the average, the lower percentage of the income is paid in income taxes. So, a revision of the income tax structure would help a great deal, and elimination of paperwork and forms and reports and guidelines and directives and regulations, that pour out in a constant stream from Washington, ought to be stopped to a major degree. And I'm committed to do that.
The amount of reports that come into the Federal agencies is another thing that I think we can correct. Also to have the top-level Cabinet officers work in harmony so that if a small business person wants to get an answer to a question, they can figure out where to go for an answer-to send people who administer programs out into the country to get in touch with small business people would help a lot.
One of the most aggravating programs, and I think a good program is the OSHA program. But it's despised by many business people because of the way it has been administered in the past. I met yesterday with the Director of the OSHA program. And I made sure that that Director understood that heatings were to be conducted all over the country, so that business leaders could come--primarily the small business people--and say this is what we don't like about the program, and this is what we need for it to do to be changed.
Another thing is that when we have new labor programs to stimulate the economy, to provide training, that the small business person can work with those programs to get temporary employees at first and to grow.
Another thing that we can do is to have the Commerce Department help open up foreign trade opportunities for small business people. It's very easy for a large corporation like General Motors or Ford or IBM and so forth, to send out helpers all over the world to sell their products. But quite often the small business has not had an opportunity for those foreign trade opportunities. Here, the Commerce Department can help a great deal.
And I think the last thing I would like to say, just try to keep my answer brief, is to have access to the center of Government--and I am approachable. I've told the leaders of the small business enterprises around the country that when we put together policies for the Small Business Administration and others, that their advice will be sought before we come forward with new Government programs or policies. So I think letting the small business person have a role to play in government and a voice in government decisions is another thing. I could go on and on about it because this is a subject about which I know the most. But those are some of the things that have not been done in the past, but are now going to be done.
Q. In my nervousness, Mr. President, I forgot to introduce myself.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I'd like to know. Q. My name is William T. McGrail, and I live at 5 DeLejeune Avenue, in the great town of Clinton. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.
One thing I would like to remind all of you on is this: When you ask a question, for instance, about the problems of small business, I know that you probably know more about the subject than I do, particularly the one that asked the question that has a problem. And we would like very much, as a follow-up, if you have specific ideas on how we might have a better health program, or better education for young people, or better training programs for those who are unemployed, or a better welfare system, or better help for small business, that you write me a letter and put Clinton, Massachusetts, in a big circle on the front of the letter, and I'll tell my staff to bring those letters directly to me.
We get so many letters that I can't read them all. But, as a result of this town meeting, I would like to have your follow-up letters. I particularly want you to give me your advice. Don't just say that-you need not say that you were glad to have me here and what a good job I did and so forth. Just say this is what I think you ought to do to be a better President.
PUBLIC WORKS PROGRAMS
Q. Mr. President, Clinton is preparing a lot of necessary information to submit to the Federal and State Governments for revitalizing our downtown area. When and if this information is presented to the governments, would Clinton be given strong consideration for Federal funding?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, it would. We've got now, I believe, two Cabinet Secretaries, both of them happen to be women. One is Juanita Kreps, in charge of the Commerce Department which has charge of the Economic Development Administration. And the other one is Patricia Harris, who's head of the Housing and Urban Development Department.
They, working with Labor and other agencies, are considering very rapidly now the applications that are put in. We're going to have a very strong public works program put into effect by the Congress. I don't think there's any doubt about it. The bill hasn't passed yet, but it's well on the way, and the Congressmen are strongly in favor of this bill. This will give us a great opportunity to expand the health for communities like Clinton.
So, I think to answer your question when your application is put in, I can't promise you that it'll be approved because I don't know what's in it, but it will be handled expeditiously, and if it complies with the law, I'm sure that it will be approved.
Q. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, sir.
SELECTIVE SERVICE PARDONS
Q. My name is Mary Correia. I live at 14 Woodruff Road, and I'm a freshman at the Clinton High School. I would like to ask if you believe in the draft. Why, may I ask, did you pardon the draft evaders?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I didn't say that I was going to put a draft back into effect. In fact, I said just the opposite. If I feel, though, that a restoration of the draft is necessary for the Nation's security, I would certainly not hesitate to recommend it to the Congress. I might add there are a couple of other things. If we do reinstitute the draft, I would like to make its application universal to let people serve whether they go and fight in the military or not. And I would not let college attendance be an excuse for not being drafted.
To answer the other part of your question about the pardon, I recognized, before I issued the pardon for the draft evaders, that it would not be a popular decision. About half the people in the country think it was a good decision; about half of them don't think it was a good decision.
I don't intend to issue a pardon for those who were deserters or for those who violated in a criminal way any military or civil law. Those persons will have their cases considered on an individual case basis within the framework of the Defense Department. But I did pardon those who violated the draft laws because I think it's time for us to get over the horrible consequences of the Vietnam war, and I feel that those young people have been punished enough.
After the wars in the past, after the war was over and the wounds were being healed, those who violated laws were pardoned. I know in the War Between the States that those of my family who seceded from the Union and who fought against the Union, after the war was over, they were pardoned. So, I did it. I let the people of the country know I was going to do it before I was elected. Nobody voted for me through false pretenses, and so I don't have any apology to make.
I hope I have answered your question as well.
Q. It's not that I don't believe in the draft. I was just wondering why you did say something about the draft if you did pardon them.
THE PRESIDENT. The question was asked me earlier, you know, if I thought we needed the draft to restore enough recruits for the Reserve forces. At the present time we don't need a draft. And I hope that we can get by in the future without having a draft.
I think the restoration of patriotism and an eagerness to serve our country will stimulate recruitment in the Armed Forces. I hope young men and women will consider as a career the Armed Forces service. This is very important to our Nation, to its security. Because of the unpopularity of the Vietnam war, many young people and their parents have turned their backs on military service and have, in many instances, despised even the young people who went to Vietnam to fight for our country and, in addition, now look down on those who serve in the military.
I want to be sure that, as President, the actions that I take working with the Congress restore the respect that the military deserves among people and once again make service in the Army or the Navy or the Coast Guard or the Air Force or the Marines a source of pride.
If we can restore that sense of patriotism and pride in serving our country, we won't need a draft. I believe that's the best way to avoid the draft in the future.
Q. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. I was in the Navy 11 years. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. And I just hope that we can correct our problem with the draft through increased voluntary service. That was an excellent question, I think. We only have about 5 more minutes. And I'll try to keep my next answers briefer.
MINIMUM WAGE LAWS
Q. Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, sir.
Q. Danny Chambers, 95 Orange Street. What would your position be in those areas of government, State or local, over which you have control of wages and adding in a cost-of-living?
THE PRESIDENT. This is a question that will be decided perhaps this year, Mr. Chambers--is that right?
At the present time the increases in wages are tracked by the wages paid to the lowest income people. And I think that as we consider a new minimum wage law this year, I don't know yet if it's going to be passed, we don't know yet what we'll recommend. But there might very well be considered a factor in the minimum wage law that says: When average wages go up a certain amount, that the minimum wage will also go up a certain amount. What percentage that is I don't know.
At the present time it would be about 45 percent, 47 or 48 percent. But that's a question that might be addressed by the Congress this year. And that would accommodate the cost of living for those who work at the lower levels of wage or employment.
I think that those who do work in well organized trade union environments have their interests protected quite well in almost every major industry. But those who work at the minimum wage level don't get any automatic increases.
So, I don't know yet. I'm not trying to predict to you what will happen. But I know that's one matter that will be under consideration. I can't give you a good answer to your question yet. I don't know the answer yet.
Q. Thank you.
THE NATION'S SPIRIT
Q. Good evening, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Let me say this will have to be the last question. I'm sorry.
Q. Again, good evening, Mr. President. At first I wish not to offer you another welcome to Clinton from Clintonians, but a thank you from Americans all over America for bringing back to us a sense of integrity, pride, and love of our Government amongst ourselves and our Nation.
Now, my questions is as follows: As it becomes more apparent that we as Americans are now engaged in a new era that is one of awareness, self-pride, and involvement, what do you consider to be the greatest aids for the advancement in growth of these areas which should lead to a better America?
THE PRESIDENT. The greatest aid?
Q. Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. I doubt that anyone in politics at least in the last 2 years has traveled more than I have or seen more parts of our country or met with more groups or made more speeches or answered more questions or gotten more free advice. I've learned a lot in the process.
And although we do have serious problems, when I took office we had about an 8 percent unemployment rate. We had a very high inflation rate. I think there was a great deal of distrust of the Federal Government.
We had a confused welfare system, an improper income tax system, and many other things. We were still suffering from the aftermath of Watergate and Vietnam and Cambodia, and the revelations about illegal actions of the FBI and the CIA.
There was an opportunity there for us to make great progress. I believe that the most important aid for solving these problems is the natural and unchanged strength of our country. Economically, we're the strongest nation on Earth. God gave us great blessings of open fields and adequate water supplies and access to the oceans. We've got mineral deposits. We've got the economic strength. No other country has as broad based an opportunity for economic prosperity as we do.
We've got the best system of government on Earth. In spite of its defects, it's still an opportunity for a clean, decent, prosperous, democratic government where people can control it. It hasn't been made dirty except just temporarily. So, our Government is the best on Earth, and our people are our greatest strength of all. So, the aids that the Congress has, the aids that the President has, are not in the offices in Washington; the resources of our country that can help us correct our mistakes and reach for greatness exists among people like you who live in Clinton, Massachusetts, or Plains, Georgia, or Los Angeles, or Washington, D.C., and who are hungry for something of which we can be proud once again in domestic affairs, in foreign affairs.
I want to see our Government so strong, so good, so open, so competent, so decent, so humane that all of us will be proud of it.
And I want the American people, after 3 or 4 years at least, not to look on the Federal Government as an enemy, or an obstacle to be overcome, but as a friend that's constantly probing for better ways to let your own life be meaningful. And if you have a problem of unemployment or too much inflation, or not enough education, or not enough 'health care, or inadequate roads or the threat of death from nuclear weapons, I hope that in the future you will say that "my elected officials in Washington or in Boston will help me work out of this problem."
I haven't always had that feeling in the last 7 or 8 years--but I want to restore that. So, the basic strength and the basic aid that I will have, and Senator Kennedy and Senator--I mean Congressman Early, Tsongas, and others who are in the audience--I'm sorry I started naming people, Mike Dukakis is up there, a good friend of mine. He's helping a great deal with the welfare program. But the thing all of us have to fall back on is you. The thing all of us have to fall back on are people like you.
I'd like to leave tonight by reminding you that we are partners. I don't have any more intelligence or ability than you do. I've been elected President because of the confidence of the American people. But I need your help, I need your prayers, I need your advice, and I also need and welcome your tough criticisms when I make a mistake. And I'm going to try to serve out my own administration by staying close to you. It's not an easy thing for a President to stay close to the people. But I'm going to do my best. And I hope that you will help me overcome my difficulties and learn when I'm ignorant about your needs and repair the damage that might occur that separates me from you so that we can work together to realize the greatness of our country which exceeds that of any other nation on Earth. Thank you very much.