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Gerald R. Ford: Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session in La Crosse.
Gerald
Gerald R. Ford
266 - Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session in La Crosse.
March 27, 1976
Public Papers of the Presidents
Gerald R. Ford<br>1976-77: Book I
Gerald R. Ford
1976-77: Book I
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Thank you very, very much, Dr. Gunderson. Governor Knowles, Mayor Zielke, reverend clergy, ladies and gentlemen:

Let me say first of all, it is great to be in God's country tonight. This is just an unbelievable reception, and I thank all of you who are here in the Sawyer Auditorium, and I hope and trust that the PA system is working outside. I want to thank all of those people on the outside--just unbelievable--and we will do our darndest to say hello to them after we conclude the program here.

But let me also say when you get a welcome like this, the temptation is to stay maybe overnight. But on the way from California to here, I called Betty, and she said--I hope she meant it--that she wanted me home tonight. And you know I never disagree with Betty. [Laughter]

I think it is awfully easy to see as I drove in--and of course I was here about 2 years ago--why La Crosse was chosen over 243 other cities last year as the number one small metropolitan community in America. And I congratulate you for that wonderful, outstanding achievement.

At that time, I sent a letter of congratulations to your fine mayor, Pat Zielke. When that announcement was made, then coming here and seeing it all in person, I can see why all of you were so very, very proud of it. You should be proud, I think, of the way you have successfully maintained a very workable and a very beneficial balance between preservation on the one hand and progress on the other.

It is my observation that La Crosse, of almost any city in the country, big or small, has found the key that makes for good living. A thriving city and fertile farmlands are in peaceful coexistence here in this community in this area. And the sheer physical beauty of La Crosse is really something to behold.

Your people are strong and forward looking, your commerce is diverse, and in many ways La Crosse is almost a good America in miniature. You have enjoyed a very rich and a very exciting history, as America has. You have had your share of problems, as America has. But your accent has always been, as I read your history, on the future, just as America's must be. The year 1976 is a vitally important, very critical year for America. It is critical for Wisconsin. It is critical for La Crosse. It marks a turning point for our country as we enter the last quarter of the 20th century and begin the third century of America's great history.

It is good for us sometimes to take stock where we have been, where we are right now, and where we are going as a people, as a city, as a State, and as a nation. But as we look back over the last two centuries of America's history, the pages of history tell us that America has come a long, long way in this last 200 years.

We have grown from a very small, poor, weak, struggling collection of 13 colonies to become the greatest nation in the history of the world. Your ancestors right here in the great State of Wisconsin helped to conquer a vast and very dangerous continent and made the heart of America very strong.

Together we have come through wars, depressions, droughts, riots, assassinations, scandals, practically everything that fate could throw at us. But we have also enjoyed some phenomenal economic, technological, and social progress in America, and that progress has made America the envy of all people and all nations throughout this world.

Despite all of the problems we have had, I don't think any of us--I have talked to few, if any, Americans who would trade places with the people in this country with people in any other country, and for very, very good reason.

We hear a lot of talk these days about America being in a state of decline. We hear that America's best days are behind us. We hear that America is only a second-rate power in this area or in that area. That is dead wrong. And frankly I am sick and tired of hearing people who are always running down America. I am proud of America, and I am proud to be an American, just like every one of you are. I believe very deeply in the people of America, in the kind of government we have. I believe in its values, its traditions, its institutions. I believe in America's future.

We have the capacity in this country to do just about anything we want that we set our minds to accomplish and to achieve. America today remains the best hope of peace, the strongest guardian of freedom. We are pursuing a policy of peace through strength. And all of us in America cherish the peace that America enjoys, the peace that finds no Americans in combat anywhere in the world tonight. But to maintain that peace, to deter aggression, to protect our national security, America must be strong. I happen to believe, as we look at the total, America is number one.

America's industry is unsurpassed. American agriculture is the most productive, the most efficient. We produce more food and fiber than we can eat or wear, and we do it with the finest hands and the greatest lands and the best equipment. We have the greatest science and technology capability in the history of mankind. Our military capability is second to none. But there is one thing that is even more important than all of that. America is morally and spiritually number one, and that will be the driving force to keep us moving so that America and all its people, its government, will be number one forever.

As I said, America's agriculture--its agricultural power is the most prolific producer of food and fiber in the history of mankind. That is a credit, in large part, as I see it, to the dairy farms and other farms right in this area and throughout the Middle West, and, well, just all over this country. And La Crosse and Wisconsin play a very significant part in it.

Many of these farms have been in the same family for generation after generation. And anyone who knows farmers, knows what they do, and knows farm families, know that we want the family farm to survive and thrive in America. We want to make it easier for people to pass on their farms, the product of many years of hard work and love and faith, to their sons and to their daughters.

We want to make it easier to keep those farms in the family rather than sacrificing it to the tax collector. In order to achieve this, to maintain this capability of holding a farm within a family, I have proposed to the Congress two legislative recommendations. One, to stretch out estate tax payments at a greatly reduced interest rate over a 25-year period. And, second, I have proposed an increase in the estate tax exemption from $60,000--it was established at that level in 1942--to $150,000.

These proposals, if enacted, and I hope and trust the Congress will move, would help not only family farms but family businesses as well. And I suspect in a community like La Crosse there are many small family-owned businesses that are an important segment of our economy, that can and must be kept within the family for the same reasons that we want family farms retained by one generation after another.

But let me talk for a minute about some of the economic problems we have had for the last 24 months, most of it occurring in late 1974 and early in 1975.

Yes, as Dr. Gunderson said, we were hit with the worst recession in 40 years, but thanks to some very strong commonsense policies that I initiated at the outset of the recession and thanks more importantly to the determination, the courage of the American people, we are working our way out of our economic difficulties.

One favorable economic factor after another pointing the way, we are on the road to economic recovery and prosperity in America, and we are picking up speed every day. Even with the very severe setbacks that we suffered, America today is the most economically powerful nation in the world. And with all the trends in the right direction, employment going up, unemployment going down, with the rate of inflation getting lower and lower, with public confidence leaping forward, with housing starts up, with automobile sales greater, America is showing that we have faith in this great free enterprise system.

We did not panic when the problem got bad; we did not succumb to any quick fixes that would have called for the people to go and work for the government. We recognized that five out of the six jobs in this country are in the private sector so we had to stimulate the private sector with sound economic policies. And when we see the results, we know we were right, and we are going to keep the same solid, steady, firm, constructive programs in the future. And we are not going to buy any quick fixes that some are trying to throw at the American people in an election year.

You know, over the 19 months that I have been honored to be your President, I vetoed 46 bills. The statisticians tell me that's a record. Well, 39 of those bills have been sustained by the Congress. And I appreciate that at least one-third of the Congress on 39 out of those 46 occasions did sustain my vetoes.

I am pleased because those vetoes that were sustained saved the taxpayers of this country $13 billion. And if this Congress sends down any more big budgetbusting spending programs in an election year, I am going to veto them again and again and again and again.

You know, there is one basic truth that I think we all have to understand. I think it cuts across almost anything. I like to phrase it this way: A government big enough to give us everything we want is a government big enough to take from us everything we have.

And so as we try to hold down Federal spending on the one hand and try to hold down the growth of government on the other, we have to have a firm course to protect the best kind of government, the best system of government that man ever fashioned or put together. It is a system that we have that was given to us by our forefathers, laid out with great care and at a great price by patriots yearning for freedom.

We must make certain and positive that this government lives and grows and thrives. It is a government that must never be the master of the people. The people must control the government. We want the freedom in America to choose our own course, our own lives, to chart our own future on our own terms without having the government tell us everything we can or cannot do.

As we look back, America has prospered because that kind of government, compared to any other, has shown the light and shown the way. Yes, the major contribution of our government has been to give people the freedom to do things by themselves--to explore, to invent, to build, to learn, to speak, and to prosper. Eight generations of Americans have enjoyed this freedom and made the most of it. What other nation can match the combined economic, agricultural, technological, and military and moral strength of America?

Yes, the elections of 1976 will play an important role in deciding what course we chart for America's future. In the last 19 months, we have made a lot of progress by doing what is right, but there is much more to be done.

But if I might add a comment, I don't think there is any reason to trade in your Ford on another model in 1976. And, therefore, I invite you all, our Wisconsin neighbors from Michigan, to walk with me in the path of peace on the road to prosperity and the way to victory in 1976.

Why don't we all sit down and get to the questions. This is the greatest audience. I have to call Betty and get her to change her mind.

QUESTIONS

NATIONALIZED MEDICAL SYSTEM

[1.] Q. In view of all the news items about social medicine in Britain, do you feel that socialized medicine in the United States could succeed without being a burden to the taxpayers?

THE PRESIDENT. I think any nationalized medical system, anything comparable to that which they have had in Great Britain and in a number of countries, won't work, and I would vigorously oppose it.

HONESTY IN A PRESIDENT

[2.] Q. I have a Ford, and it is for sale. I want to know if you are, too. This goes along with, I think--after the wake of Watergate, a lot of people are wondering is it possible to be President or to run for President without getting involved in some sort of corruption?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that is a very good question, and the answer is a person can be a President, he can run for President and be totally and completely honest.

FEDERAL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FUNDS

[3.] Q. Mr. President, I have a question concerning our technological progress. What changes do you propose, if you are elected in 1976, in the way the Nation's scientific effort is conducted, and particularly, are you willing to give greater stress to basic research as opposed to applied research?

THE PRESIDENT. In the budget that I submitted to the Congress for the next fiscal year--I submitted it in January, it is for what we call fiscal year 1977--I made a very conscious decision to increase research and development funds for the Federal Government by 11 percent, and I specifically increased basic research money in the Federal Government by, I think, 14 and 15 percent.

It is my strong belief that basic research, even though it is not as glamorous, is not as spectacular, is fundamental if we are going to be able to use what we have in the way of applied research.

Now, in certain areas in the fiscal year 1977 budget, I added more and did not add as much in others. In the area of energy research, we increased the funds on an average of about 31 percent. In the area of solar energy, as I recall, we increased the funding some 40 percent; in geothermal, a significant increase. But across the board, in the Federal Government, the recommendations from me as President to the Congress showed an 11-percent increase in research and about a 14-percent increase in basic research money.

And I might add that was not easy in a year when we were trying to cut back on expenditures in a good many other areas. But I have a firm belief that if America is to continue to move ahead and to keep ahead, we have to have not only as much funding as we possibly can in basic and applied research by the Federal Government but we have to offer incentives for industry, for industry itself to spend its funds in the area of both basic as well as applied research.

AMERICA'S LEADERSHIP ROLE

[4.] Q. I was inspired by a song I believe John Wayne recorded not too long ago about how the Americans are always going out for other countries. And, well, you know, as soon as some country is in trouble, right away America gives them their help, and when we need help, the other countries don't lift a finger for us. What do you have to say about that?

THE PRESIDENT. I believe that the United States, because of our size, our strength, not only in material things but morally and spiritually, we have to assume a leadership role in the world. Maybe we don't necessarily like it every time the burden is thrust on us, but fate has given us certain great assets, and when those assets are given to us, we have an obligation, in my opinion, to help others in a responsible and a reasonable way.

It is my feeling that America is looked upon by people all over the world and that where we can, we ought to help the underdeveloped nations. Where we can, we ought to help nations or people who want freedom in nations where it does not exist. Now, that does not mean we have to go all over the world on every occasion, but I think the leadership role that has been thrust upon us by fate we must assume for freedom and for survival. And, therefore, if we do it right, we can continue to have that leadership role, which I think is something we should be proud of, if we use it well.

U.S. MILITARY CAPABILITY IN INDIAN OCEAN

[5.] Q. I am a citizen of Australia, and I wonder, in light of that, if you could tell me the attitude of your government and your naval forces to the Indian Ocean, especially Diego Garcia1 and things like that?

THE PRESIDENT. The policy of the United States Government in reference to the Indian Ocean is that we should have a minimal military capability on the island of Diego Garcia, minimal military capability. This objective of our Government is strongly supported by the new Fraser government in Australia. It was opposed by the Whitham government that was just thrown out in the last election.

1An island approximately 1,000 nautical miles south of India. It was part of the British Indian Territory, and the U.S. Navy maintained a communications station there.

The reason we feel a minimal military capability on Diego Garcia Island is essential is, that if we don't have it, the United States has no other military operating base of any consequence. And with the Soviet Union having the capability of operating out of Somalia, out of other Indian Ocean bases, it is essential that we at least have this operating base there, so that we can coordinate our activities with our friends and allies, such as Australia, in making certain that no other nation seeks through military force to dominate the Indian Ocean and to dominate the land-based areas around there.

WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ON LIBRARIES
AND INFORMATION SERVICES

[6.] Q. My question is, when will you be appointing 15 citizens to the advisory board for the 1977 White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services, since a college student has already been recommended to you by the Wisconsin National Committeeman Harvey J. Fish?

THE PRESIDENT. The Personnel Office of the White House is in the process of trying to collect the names of citizens all over this country that will make up the advisory board. I can't give you the precise time or date that those recommendations will come from the White House Personnel Board [Office], but I will check on it. I know they are in the process. I think we ought to have the kind of a White House conference you are talking about. Whether we can do it this year or not, I can't make a commitment, but libraries are an essential part of our intellectual, academic areas, and we ought to have a White House conference. We will, but I can't give you a precise time schedule either on the names or on the conference.

SITUATION IN ANGOLA

[7.] Q. Do you support Mr. Kissinger's belief that the United States will be interpreted as weak in the eyes of the Kremlin because of our failure to respond to Angola, and do you feel that this marks the end of the detente envisioned by Secretary Kissinger?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the Congress of the United States made a very serious mistake when they denied me, as President, the capability to help, with very limited amounts of money, two of the three forces in Angola that were trying to settle Angola's problems by Angolans.

If we had gotten the very limited amount of money that I thought should be utilized to help these two Angolan groups--the UNITA [Union for the Total Independence of Angola] and the FNLA [National Front for the Liberation of Angola]--I think they could have found a negotiated way for a coalition government. But because the Congress failed to help and assist, the Cuban-dominated 12,000 mercenaries, plus Soviet equipment of some $200 million, with the help and assistance of the MPLA [Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola], now dominate Angola. It is a very rich country, with a very great potential, and it was a serious mistake that the action of the Congress resulted in the Soviet Union and Cuba, in effect, taking over that country. I think it is a serious mistake with broad ramifications in the future.

MARIJUANA REFORM

[8.] Q. I would like to know your views on marijuana reform.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't believe, on the basis of the scientific evidence that we have available today, that we should decriminalize the use of marijuana.

SOCIAL SECURITY TRUST FUND

[9.] Q. My question relates to social security. In 1965, the maximum amount of social security paid on behalf of any one employee was a maximum of $348. Now in 1976 someone earning $15,300 pays a combined employee-employer total of $1,790. So, in just over 10 years we have had a 414-percent increase in the cost to middle-income American taxpayers. And apparently there is no end in sight because a deficit occurred this year for the first time so more and more money is going to have to be raised. So your solution is to increase regressiveness of that tax by increasing another three-tenths of 1 percent and further burdening the low- and middle-income taxpayers in this country.

I would suggest that maybe a better approach would be, completely reevaluate this program, perhaps make an optional one, or else use general revenue funds to finance it in order to shift the burden to those who can afford to pay it.

After you answer that question, I would just like an opinion on who do you think is going to win--Michigan or Indiana?

THE PRESIDENT. I will answer the last question first. I am delighted that two Big Ten teams are in the finals of the NCAA basketball championship. But if you review the history of the two times Michigan and Indiana played this year, Michigan lost the first game by six points, and they forced Indiana into an overtime in the second game, so don't count Michigan out.

But let me answer the other question, and I am glad you brought it up. It is a very serious problem that we are facing. The Social Security Trust Fund this year will have a deficit between income and outgo of $3 billion. Next year it will have a deficit of $3.5 to $4 billion, the next year it will be closer to $5 billion. At the present time, we have a trust fund of about $40 billion, so if we do nothing, you are bound to have, in a relatively short period of time, some time early in the 1980's, a deficit. There won't be any trust fund. So you really have about three different answers. You can either do as I recommended, which I think is the honest and straightforward approach, to say that we have got to increase the taxes three-tenths of 1 percent or one-sixth of 1 percent on the employer and the employee.

What does that mean to the average, to the employee who would be taxed the most? It is less than $1 a week, less than $52 a year, I think it comes out to $49 a year. That is one answer. The other answer is, well, we can increase the earning base. It is now $15,400 as I recollect. Some people want to raise that to some $25,000 or $30,000. Another one is the suggestion that you have made, to take it out of the general funds, to destroy the concept that people on social security earn it and have a right to a payment out of it. I disagree with that approach.

I think you can take one of the two other approaches--the one I recommended is the better. But let me answer the question of regressivity. You argue that under my approach it is regressive in its tax method. That is partially true as to the taxation, but let's turn the coin over. When the people start to get the benefits, the people in the lower income area get the most benefits. So, they pay less, but they get more, so it balances out in the end. And for that reason, I recommended the approach that I did. I think it is an honest and a sound approach.

PRESIDENT'S VIEW OF ECONOMIC DEMOCRACY

[10.] Q. Mr. President, my question is that the People's Bicentennial Commission has come out with a platform on economic democracy, and I was wondering what your opinion is of economic democracy?

THE PRESIDENT. What is my opinion of economic democracy? I must confess I have not read what the Bicentennial Commission has used in its definition. But I would say that economic democracy means that we have an opportunity in our economic system for an individual to make his way up the ladder on the economic scale. He is not frozen forever once he starts into a certain area of employment. He has the right to move around the country, to move from one job to another, to determine for himself what he, as an individual, is best at and wants to do the years of his employment throughout the country.

From the point of view of the business community, economic democracy to me means that the business community is not run by the government. The business community is run for the benefit of its stockholders, its employees, and for the public as a whole, and that the heavy hand of government does not run it. And if we can get the freedom of the individual and the freedom of the industrial sector, we can keep what I like to believe is the greatest economic system in the history of mankind.

THE FEDERAL BUREAUCRACY

[11.] Q. Mr. President, what do you plan to do about bureaucracy? There are so many agencies, and it seems that it gets so knotted in redtape it is not getting anything done.

THE PRESIDENT. I am sure glad you asked that question because I have got a good answer. [Laughter] In the first place, we have got to stop adding agencies to the Federal Government. And let me give you one that I have said I am going to veto if the Congress is so unwise to send it down to the White House. I don't think we need another fat bureaucracy called the Consumer Protection Agency.

But we also have the responsibility of trying to make sure that those agencies that do exist do a better job. When I became President, I told the Office of Management and Budget that they had to cut 40,000 out of the projected increase in Federal employment. Actually, we cut out 56,000 and the total employment for the Federal Government in the next year's budget, as I recall, goes down about 22,000 more. So, we are gradually squeezing the existing bureaucracy so that it is more effective and more efficient, and in the meantime, we are trying to stop Congress from flooding us with new departments, new agencies, and I think we are making some headway.

One other point. When I was in the Congress, when I was Vice President, and now as President, I keep hearing that individuals and businesses are overwhelmed with forms, government information requests, so I asked the Office of Management and Budget how many Federal Government forms are there that are sent out to individuals or to groups or businesses. It was 5,200. I issued an order--and it darn well better be lived up to--that they had to cut that 10 percent in the next 12 months, and they have a couple of months to go.

ANGOLAN SITUATION

[12.] Q. Congress finally ended a slaughter in Vietnam, and now you want to get us involved in a similar situation in Angola?

THE PRESIDENT. The answer is categorically no. The firm commitment made to the Congress was that not one single U.S. citizen, military or otherwise, would be sent to Angola, but we did say that we would give to the two groups in Angola who wanted to establish an Angolan Government--not a Cuban or a Soviet Government--the money to help establish that Angolan Government. There was a firm commitment that we would not become involved.

Q. Yes, Mr. Ford, but weapons kill people.

THE PRESIDENT. What do you think the Cuban 12,000 mercenaries did to other Angolans?

Q. They made the same mistake we made in Vietnam.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we would be delighted if Cuba would withdraw those 12,000 mercenaries and let the Angolans establish and run their own government. That would be the proper solution, and that is what we wanted.

Q. I just want to say one more thing.

THE PRESIDENT. Sure.

Q. If we had sent arms to Angola, the truth is that war would still be going on, just as it did in Vietnam. For 10 years that war went on; people were needlessly killed.

THE PRESIDENT. I respectfully disagree with you. But I know that Angola is not well off with 12,000 Cuban mercenaries and the kind of influence that the Soviet Union now exercises in that vital part of South Africa, it is just not healthy.

Q. Mr. President, it is getting late, and thank you for coming.

THE PRESIDENT. We ought to take a few more. We will take two more over here and two more over there. Betty won't mind if I get home a little late.

Q. How about three over here. I have a good question.
THE. PRESIDENT. All right, three on each side.

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN EFFORTS

[13.] Q. Mr. President, I am a precinct chairman here, and as I recall, when you were here before, we were talking, and I told you I would try to find "There is a Ford in your future" sign for the background. Now, to help us ensure a Ford in our future again for the next 4 years, what sort of advice could you give us precinct workers for a grass roots support in getting people out to vote?

THE PRESIDENT. I spoke to the California State Republican Convention this morning in Fresno, California, and they had a woman's organization--I have forgotten the precise title--among the Republicans. They said they called it "Walk the precincts to get the grass root vote out." They go door to door, and they are going to do it all over the State of California. I think that kind of a manpower effort, plus good programs, both domestically and internationally, is the best way to ensure that our philosophy is favorably considered in November of 1976. You can't beat that kind of effort.

FEDERAL ASSISTANCE TO NEW YORK CITY

[14.] Q. Mr. President, I would like to ask you a question on New York. What will you do if New York City still finds themselves in trouble, and also, there are other major cities across the United States also in economic problems. Will you give them aid if it comes down to the time they will default?

THE PRESIDENT. The program that finally resulted from negotiations with the Congress means that on June 30 New York City will pay back everything they have borrowed in the last 3 months, and the word I got just before I left Washington several days ago was they were going to make that payment.

And I am delighted that they have made the reductions in their employment in the city. They have renegotiated some of the contracts that they have had. They have cut back on a number of the services that were bloated. In all honesty, New York City has done everything we expected them to, and they are going to make that payment on June 30 with interest, incidentally. So, we came out of it pretty well. I have to say it was not easy, though, and I was not sure that I would have been too welcome in New York City for a while.

THE AMERICAN FAMILY

[15.] Q. Mr. President, presently I am serving as a missionary in La Crosse with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints of the Mormon Church. I felt very comfortable about your comment about the American family. And during the time I have been on my mission, I have been able to associate with a lot of people, I have had time to ponder our country's problems and its situations in world affairs, and especially its problems within itself.

Now, you may know that to us families are very important. And as I have looked at world situations and situations within our country, I have noticed when we get down to the root of our problems it always goes back to the family and the family organization. And as we look at our country we know that things we have as a country today were founded on that family. I wonder what your feelings are about and your ideas of how we could strengthen families nationally as a family unit, down to the detail of the family.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think you can pass a law to strengthen the family. I think the strength of the family has to come from the parents, from the way they live. I think parents have to set the example. I was lucky to have two wonderful parents. We tried to carry on, my wife and myself, in the same way, and we are lucky to have four wonderful children. I think that is the only way that we can achieve what you want and what I believe in and what I think is a fundamental in this country. And I am encouraged. I think there is a rebirth of that feeling in America.

ROLE OF NONVOTING YOUTH IN THE ELECTION PROCESS

[16.] Q. Mr. President, I am a high school student. And I would like to know what role you think the nonvoting youth can play in government, and if you would be willing to accept advice from us, because I think we are interested and we do campaign for Presidential candidates.

THE PRESIDENT. When I was in Congress, I got a lot of nonvoting advice from my own four children, believe me. But I think it is important for young people who are not yet 18 to have an opportunity to vote. I strongly supported the constitutional amendment that made it possible for 18-year-olds to vote. Many people said it would be unhealthy, that they were not qualified. I think their participation has been excellent.

I think we should be proud of the role they played and the ones who are in junior high school and high school--working with their parents, helping with their own political organization whether it is Republican or Democratic. you can play a very meaningful role. You can have an influence on your mother and your father and your uncle and your aunt and your grandmother and grandfather.

So, just because you may be about 17 does not mean you can't be a participant. You can do something to influence others, and you can get people to the polls. And we have to get a maximum vote in 1976 to prove to the world that we love and cherish our democracy. We can't neglect the right to vote.

AMERICAN BUSINESS PRACTICES IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES

[17.] Q. Mr. President, I would like to thank you for letting me speak because I am usually the first guy that hits the red light. My question is this: We all know about the major repercussions that have taken place in the past month because of the plethora of payoffs by American corporations like Lockheed. Now, the governments of the world are dealing with the individuals who receive the money like it was an illegal act. How is the United States Government going to control American corporations paying off people or individuals in other countries?

THE PRESIDENT. I am in the process of establishing a Cabinet-level commission headed by the Secretary of Commerce who will study not only our domestic ramifications but the worldwide ramifications of the revelations that have been public knowledge in the last several months. I think it is a very serious matter. I have the firm personal conviction that we can't tolerate any businesses from the United States, of course, violating our own laws, but I think they have to live up to the laws of the countries in which they do business.

Now, that is a firm, broad conviction, but this Cabinet-level commission or committee will delve into the domestic as well as international ramifications in detail. It is a very complicated matter, and for me to give you any pat solution other than a basic concept, I think, would be a disservice. It has got to be solved. And I think we can come up with this commission that will include as Chairman, the Secretary of Commerce, Mr. Elliot Richardson.

Q. Mr. President, does America or the United States consider it an illegal act for payoffs at the present time? Is it an illegal act?

THE PRESIDENT. If it violates any law in the country in which that company operates, definitely. And there are investigations undergoing at the Securities and Exchange Commission now to find out whether some of these allegations are true and if they are true whether the payments are illegal. Many of them Were made under quite different circumstances, one from another. And for me to give you a broad answer as to all of them I think is not a proper way to respond, because the circumstances differ in one country to another, and that is why we are going to have this investigation on the broadest possible scale.

America must compete if we are going to sell American products abroad. We have to compete fairly and within the law. But that competition has to be equal with others from other countries, so it may have to resolve itself around some international code of conduct, if it is possible. It just is not an answer that I can say black or white. It is going to require a great deal of study and this group will be shortly underway, as I have indicated.

EMPLOYMENT OF YOUNG PEOPLE

[18.] Q. Mr. President, I am a high school student, and I was wondering what your views are on teenage kids working, the ones that are under 18.

THE PRESIDENT. I have long felt that under our minimum wage legislation we ought to have what they call a youth differential which would mean that an employer could pay a bit less to young people so that that individual could have a job rather than standing on the street corner. I think that makes sense, and I believe it makes sense from the point of view of the employer, because a young person is not normally as well qualified as a person who has had some experience. So, a youth differential in our minimum wage legislation, I think, would be a step forward to give young people an opportunity to earn money and to stay off the street corners and have a lot of fun all the time.

I guess that is three and three and it has been great. I love you, and I would like to stay over, but thanks for being here and thanks for the wonderful reception.


Note: The President spoke at 7:50 p.m. at the Mary E. Sawyer Municipal Auditorium. He was introduced by Dr. Adolph Gunderson, candidate for the Third Congressional District.

In his opening remarks, the President referred to Gov. Warren P. Knowles of Wisconsin 1964-71, chairman of the Wisconsin President Ford Committee, and Mayor Patrick Zielke of La Crosse.


Citation: Gerald R. Ford: "Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session in La Crosse.," March 27, 1976. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=5762.
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