"Ask President Carter" - Remarks During a Telephone Call-in Program on the CBS Radio Network
WALTER CRONKITE. Good day. President Carter and I are in the so-called Oval Office of the White House. We are in a couple of wing-backed chairs in front of a coffee table and in front of the fireplace. Across from us is the desk at which the President spends much of his day working; over to our left the large doors opening out into the beautiful Rose Garden of the White House, on a very nice spring-like day here in Washington.
This is a unique occasion, in the sense that it marks a new approach to communication between the President and the people of the United States. It is indeed historic--unique, historic--and we must also say an experiment since the President has never taken part before in this sort of a broadcast.
Now, here's the way we want it to work, we hope it works. We will receive phone calls from all over the country. We expect people to ask questions on many, many subjects, of course. There will be no censorship at all, no pre-screening in that sense. However, you should know that it is not going to be easy, of course, to get through, because there have to be just a limited number of lines coming to us here at the White House.
My advice is if you get a busy signal you do like you do when you get a busy signal any time. You just hang up and try again. When you do get through, we will verify your call by name and hometown. And then I'll introduce you to the President and you may talk directly with him.
Please remember that we want to give just as many of you callers as possible an opportunity to ask President Carter your questions. Therefore, I'm going to be just a little bit ruthless here in cutting off any long-winded statements from our callers. We do want to hear from you. The President wants your opinions and so forth, but don't make a speech, will you? In other words, get to your question right away. Ask it just as clearly and directly as possible, and just as in Presidential news conferences, you will have an opportunity for a follow-up question if you think that it's necessary.
Mr. President, we are very pleased that you've accepted our CBS News invitation and are giving us this time to let the Nation "Ask President Carter."
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Walter.
I'm glad to have a chance to let people have direct access to me, and in the process of answering 50 to 100 questions this afternoon in an unrehearsed way, not knowing what's going to come next, I think the people will learn something and I know I will learn a lot about what is of interest to them. Also, I believe that if there are tens of thousands of folks who want to get through and can't do it, in listening to the other questions that are asked, they are likely to get an answer to their questions. I am looking forward to the 2 hours. And whenever you are ready, I am.
MR. CRONKITE. All right, Mr. President, we're ready here, and I think that Joseph Willman of Sterling Heights, Michigan, is ready out there in Sterling Heights with the first question. Go ahead, Mr. Willman.
MR. WILLMAN. First of all, I'd like to say good afternoon to President Carter and Mr. Cronkite. My question right now is, according to the UPI story in today's Detroit News, Idi Amin has sent squads that have killed 7,000 Christians. With this and other happenings there, how can we with good conscience trust a man with such an ego--[inaudible]--and if the time arises will we use force to get them out, even though confrontation with this country is expected by Amin?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, it's hard to know how to answer that question about future events. As you know, we had what was on the border of a crisis last weekend. The .attitude that we took was constantly to monitor what is going on in Uganda, to deal directly with Amin in a very forceful way, to let him know that we were expecting American lives to be protected.
We also got the help of several national leaders who are quite close to Amin. Primarily those are of the Moslem faith, and they contacted him directly.
We also got the Federal Republic of Germany, West Germany, who has diplomatic leaders in Uganda, in Entebbe, Uganda, to contact Amin.
And he was constantly giving me assurance through cables that the Americans would not be hurt. As you know, the outcome of that weekend's tension was that he eventually said that the meeting with the Americans was called off, and that anyone who wanted to leave or come into Uganda from our country would be permitted to do so.
I think that it's obvious that we'll do whatever we can to protect American lives throughout the world. We have in the past, before I became President, informed the American people in Uganda--and I might say in several other countries around the world--that there was a potentially dangerous circumstance for them and that if they were primarily concerned with a peaceful life, they ought to change countries.
We do know that most of the persons who are Americans in Uganda are missionaries, deeply committed to their own religious faith. They've got an option to leave and they've decided to stay. So, I think at this time I feel that the American lives there will be protected.
We did act, I think, forcefully and effectively with Amin; we had a lot of help from other nations. And I can't say what I will do in the future except to try to handle the situation similarly to what I did last weekend.
MR. CRONKITE. All right, let's take our next caller. It's Pete Belloni of Denver, Colorado.
MR. BELLONI. Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon.
MR. BELLONI. How are you?
THE PRESIDENT. Fine.
MR. BELLONI. Good. Mr. President, your proposal of increasing the gasoline tax by 25 cents a gallon, won't that put quite a burden on the people of this country who are already financially strapped with higher taxes and fuel bills?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Belloni, I've never proposed any such thing and don't know where the story originated.
MR. BELLONI. It was in the paper last week, the Rocky Mountain News.
THE PRESIDENT. I don't believe the story was attributed to me in any way, because I've never commented on that at all and have never even insinuated to anyone that I was going to raise the gasoline tax by 25 cents.
MR. BELLONI. Have you heard about it, though?
THE PRESIDENT. I had one news question about it and responded the same way I am to you, that I don't know anything about the proposal and have no intention of doing it. I might say that on April 20 I will--if plans go the way we have them now--make a speech to the Joint Session of the Congress, probably in the evening, and explain for the first time in our country what our comprehensive energy policy is. We don't have one at this moment. And we've been working on it ever since--even before I became President. So, April 20 we will try to spell out an approach to the energy problem that will involve all aspects of it--oil, coal, solar energy, obviously nuclear power, hydroelectric, pricing, mandatory efficiency, conservation, voluntary and so forth. This may or may not involve any changes in the price structure, but I certainly have not considered and have no intention of any such increases you've talked about this afternoon.
MR. BELLONI. Yes, sir, Mr. President. Whoever brought out the story--do they know who did it or anything or how it leaked out or anything?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, it didn't leak anywhere from the White House because that's not a decision that has been made in the White House.
MR. BELLONI. I see. Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. It's been an honor.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Pete. I've enjoyed talking to you.
MR. CRONKITE. Thank you, Mr. Belloni.
The next question, Mr. President, is from Mark Fendrick of Brooklyn, New York. Mr. Fendrick, go ahead.
RELATIONS WITH CUBA
MR. FENDRICK. Good afternoon, Mr. President. What I'd like to ask is in relationship to the attempts for returning to a normal relationship with Cuba. Now in the paper the last couple of days here in New York there's been talk about the Yankees baseball team going to Cuba.
Do you think that this is a possibility in the near future, and do you think that normal relations to Cuba are possible with, again in the near future?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, there are varying degrees of relationships with Cuba. As you know, we have had some discussions with them in the past; for instance, on the antihijacking agreement which expires this spring. And we now have no visitation rights by American citizens to go to Vietnam, to North Korea, to Cuba, and one or two other nations.
We do have a procedure already in effect whereby a limited number of Americans can go into Cuba without using a passport because of a prior agreement with the Cuban Government.
I would like to do what I can to ease tensions with Cuba. It's only 90 miles, as you know, from the Florida coast. And I don't know yet what we will do. Before any full normalization of relationships can take place, though, Cuba would have to make some fairly substantial changes in their attitude. I would like to insist, for instance, that they not interfere in the internal affairs of countries in this hemisphere, and that they decrease their military involvement in Africa, and that they reinforce a commitment to human rights by releasing political prisoners that have been in jail now in Cuba for 17 or 18 years, things of that kind.
But I think before we can reach that point we'll have to have discussions with them. And I do intend to see discussions initiated with Cuba quite early on reestablishing the antihijacking agreement, arriving at a fishing agreement between us and Cuba, since our 200-mile limits do overlap between Florida and Cuba, and I would not be averse in the future to seeing our visitation rights permitted as well.
MR. FENDRICK. In relationship, though, to the Yankees playing an exhibition game there, I've noticed that Secretary Vance has backed this idea. Do you think that that's a possibility this season?
THE PRESIDENT. It's a possibility, yes.
MR. FENDRICK. Okay. Thank you, Mr. President.
MR. CRONKITE. Mr. President, may I ask, it seemed that Secretary Vance indicated just the last day or so that there would be no preconditions in discussions with Cuba. Are you now saying that there will be?
THE PRESIDENT. No. The preconditions that I describe would be prior to full normalization of relationships, the establishment of embassies in both our countries, the complete freedom of trade between the two countries.
But you couldn't possibly arrive at a solution to some of those questions without discussions. So, we will begin discussions with Cuba if they approve the idea fairly shortly on the items that I have described--increased visitation of Americans to and from Cuba, the fishing rights question that has to be resolved for the protection of our own fishermen, and also the antihijacking agreement which has been in effect in the past, but is about to expire.
MR. CRONKITE. This is "Ask President Carter" on the CBS Radio Network. Now to call the President here in the Oval Office in Washington, let us remind you of the telephone number again. It's 900-242-1611. 900-242-1611.
The next call, Mr. President, is from Miss Cheryl Clark of Paris, Kentucky. Miss .Clark?
MISS CLARK. Mr. President, Miss Clark, a student at the University of Kentucky.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes?
MISS CLARK. Let me ask, do you consider it possible for government to create jobs similar to the WPA and the CCC in the Depression years in order to reduce unemployment, or do you want the Humphrey-Hawkins bill?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, the first major proposal that I made to the Congress, which was worked out with the congressional leaders even before I was inaugurated, was to put the American people back to work or to start that process. I think this is one of the primary responsibilities that I have as President.
We've asked for a so-called stimulation package to our economy over the next 2 years--this one and next year--of about $31 billion, a major portion of which is either reducing people's taxes or providing direct jobs. The jobs can be provided in a number of ways, including the one that you described for young people, similar to the CCC program we had during the Depression years back in the thirties.
In addition to that, we have approved, as far as my administration is concerned, a substantial amount of money for public works projects; that is, to build libraries, schools, and other facilities in communities and let the Federal Government help to pay for it. This work would be done by those who are employed by private contractors, and the same thing would apply in the insulation of homes, in building recreation areas, and employment in local and State government, perhaps in mental institutions, health programs, teachers' aides, also in the training of, primarily, young people to hold a full-time job in the private sector. And the total cost of this, as I said, is about $31 billion.
I think this is the best approach to it. The Humphrey-Hawkins bill is pretty much a philosophical kind of expression of our Government's commitment to full employment. The Humphrey-Hawkins bill has been constantly modified. It's never gotten out of committee, either in the House or Senate. And I think some of the things that we propose this year are a substitute for some of the provisions of the Humphrey-Hawkins bill.
I do feel, in closing, that most of the job opportunities ought to be generated permanently and in the private sector of our free enterprise system, and not in Government itself. And that would be the result, I hope, of this 2-year effort to stimulate an economy which is very dormant now and where the employment rate and the inflation rate is excessively high.
MISS CLARK. Okay. Thank you very much, Mr. President,
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Cheryl.
MISS CLARK.---for public confidence in Government interests.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.
MISS CLARK. Goodby.
THE PRESIDENT. Bye.
MR. CRONKITE. The next call, Mr. President, is from Nick Kniska of Lanham, Maryland.
MR. KNISKA. Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
MR. KNISKA. My question for you is that I would like to know why your son Chip and your daughter-in-law and your grandson are living in the White House on taxpayers' money and why he is not out in his own house earning a living instead of living off the taxpayers?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think you might want to know that all of the personal expenses of our family are paid for out of my own pocket or the pocket of my children.
MR. KNISKA. Okay.
THE PRESIDENT. Our food is kept separate. We pay for all of it, all of our clothes and so forth are paid for out of our own pocket. Chip is a hard working young man and he's a great help to me. Most of my first year in office will be spent fairly close to the White House, and when we have a special problem anywhere in the Nation, and I want the people there to know how deeply concerned I am about it, I would like to have the opportunity to use members of my family to go and represent me personally, along with professionals who serve in the Government.
I will give you one quick example that involves Chin directly. When we had a very serious problem in Buffalo because of excessive snowfall, I asked Chip to go up there to speak for me, and he's a very knowledgeable young man. And he also let the Buffalo people know that I personally cared about them. I couldn't take a full day off and go and spend a day in Buffalo, but Chip could.
So, I think this is a good .approach. But I want you and the American people to know that we are not mooching off the American taxpayers. All of our family's expenses are paid for out of my own pocket.
MR. KNISKA. Okay, and a quick follow-up.
THE PRESIDENT. Sure.
MR. KNISKA. Last week or so you had your grandson born in the Naval hospital.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
MR. KNISKA. Is he entitled to special military benefits or government benefits also?
THE PRESIDENT. No, sir.
MR. KNISKA. Okay, then why were they using a military hospital?
THE PRESIDENT. The Bethesda Hospital is available for .all top officials and their families.
MR. KNISKA. Yes, because we're a military family, too.
THE PRESIDENT. Very good. And I was an old military man myself. But we have health insurance and we pay the routine charges for the hospital expenses.
I might say, though, that in complete honesty with you that there is a physician who is attached to the White House and who always has been. He follows me when I go somewhere in case I get hurt or have a heart attack or something. And his services are available to the members of my family as well.
MR. KNISKA. Okay. So, in other words, that's where he sent them.
THE PRESIDENT. That's correct. He's not an obstetrician, but he is available in case I or any of my family members, or even guests in the White House who get ill during the night--he's available to take care of them. That's done at public expense.
MR. KNISKA. Okay. Thank you very much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Goodby, Nick.
MR. CRONKITE. Mrs. Esther Thomas of Villanova, Pennsylvania, Mr. President, is on the phone. Go ahead, Mrs. Thomas.
MRS. THOMAS. Thank you.
INCOME TAX REFORM
Good afternoon, Mr. President. First, I'd like to say as a mother of an American officer in the United States Army, a career officer, I hope you go into history books as the first Democratic President that did not solve our Nation's financial and unemployment problems by going to war.
Now for my question. How can we, as middle-class earners, expect legislation or reforms that would remove tax loopholes the rich or affluent use as deductions, when all laws and legislation are made by the rich? There are no poor people, no poor or no lower-class wage earners in either the House or the Senate.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mrs. Thomas, I think, you may have noticed during the campaign that I made an issue of this almost constantly, and in my acceptance speech, at the Democratic Convention, said that I thought the income tax system of this country was a disgrace.
MRS. THOMAS. Yes.
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't changed my opinion about that, and I have initiated a comprehensive analysis of the income tax structure. And before the end of September we will propose to the American people and the Congress, in a highly publicized way, basic reforms in income tax structure. In the stimulation package that I mentioned earlier this afternoon, we have one provision in there that helps people like yourselves. It increases the personal exemption for a family up to $3,000, and this is a permanent change and also greatly simplifies the income tax forms which, as you noticed for 1976 calendar year that you are filling out now, are very complicated.
MRS. THOMAS. And how.
THE PRESIDENT. Now this average for a family, for instance, that makes $10,000 a year, this tax reduction or refund will amount to about 30 percent of the taxes paid, and the permanent reduction that will be in effect from now on will amount to about 20-percent tax reduction for that $10,000-a-year family.
We anticipate in September eliminating a great number of the loopholes that do benefit the rich and the powerful, and any of those savings that are derived from that will be passed along to the low- and middle-income families like, perhaps, yourself.
MRS. THOMAS. Thank you. And may I say, as a registered Republican, I'm behind you 100 percent. And I'm sure there are a lot of us out here.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, ma'am. I really appreciate that.
MRS. THOMAS. Thank you. Bye-bye.
MR. CRONKITE. What about Mrs. Thomas' question about the Congress being loaded in the upper-middle classes and upper classes and not enough representation from the lower classes. Do you think that's true?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think once a Congressman gets in office now, with a fairly substantial salary, they are obviously in the upper class. So is a President, by the way. I guess, so is an anchorman for CBS.
But I think that to the extent that Government officials like myself and the Members of Congress make an extra effort to stay in touch with people, to let folks like Mrs. Thomas ask us questions and to scrutinze who pays the bills for my family within the White House and so forth, that's a good way to restore confidence in us. Also, I believe that the campaigns which come every 2 years for the Members of Congress keep them in touch with poor or working people. I know my own campaign for the last 2 years, joined by my wife and all my sons and their wives, my mother quite often, and my sister and my aunt, we learned a lot about people in other parts of the country outside of Georgia during the 2-year period. So, the campaign process, as part of our constitutional system, I believe, is a good guarantee that, to a substantial degree, public officials stay in touch with folks back home.
Now, the problem is, Walter, in a case like income tax, over a period of years the laws change. And the ones who demand the changes are those who are powerful and who are influential and who can hire lobbyists, or who can pay for their own private lawyer and who can form a cohesive approach to Congress and put tremendous pressure on the Congress to meet a permanent or a transient, temporary need. Once a need is passed, that special privilege in the law stays there.
The average American family with $10,000, $15,000, sometimes $25,000 a year, has no organization. They don't have any lobbyists. And the only way for them to understand what goes on in a very complicated income tax law is for somebody like the President to take the initiative and present to the American people, in a comprehensive way, all at once, these are the things that are unfair, these are the things that can be changed to make it fair, so that the American people can be marshaled to exert their influence and their interest in the tax laws.
A person who has a special privilege, they focus their attention and their influence on that one tiny part of the law, and the average American has no idea what's going on. But if I can get the whole American tax-paying body, toward the end of September, to join with me and to demand from the Congress that we make the laws simple and fair, then in that instance, I think, we can overcome this deterioration which, in my opinion, has taken place ever since 1913 or whenever it was that the income tax laws went into effect.
And that's why I am so interested in having the American people not only believe that I am acting for them but let them understand what's going on. That's the reason for this radio broadcast.
MR. CRONKITE. The next caller who is on the line, Mr. President, is Mrs. Harlan Schnuhl of Brandon, Wisconsin. Go ahead, Mrs. Schnuhl.
MRS. SCHNUHL. Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon.
MRS. SCHNUHL. I would like to compliment you on giving the opportunity to the American people to participate in this question-and-answer period.
As a wife of a dairy farmer, my question relates to a problem concerning many such farmers. What can be done about improving the public relations between the consuming public and the U.S. ag department in regard to the price increases for farm commodities at our farm level and the explanation to the public that we as farmers receive a small amount of these widely acclaimed increases?
THE PRESIDENT. I have got two quick suggestions. One is to put a farmer in the White House as President, and another one is to put an actual dirt farmer in the Department of Agriculture as Secretary. And we've already done those two things.
Also, I think the next step is to let the American public know the truth about agriculture and the farm and ranch families of our Nation. I think that the interest of consumers and the interest of the average farm family are exactly the same.
I have studied the Wisconsin dairy farm industry quite at length myself during the Wisconsin primary last year. The average Wisconsin dairy family only makes about $7,000 a year, and that is with all the members of the family working on the farm--maybe three, four, or more adults.
There is an average investment in the Wisconsin dairy farm of about $180,000. So, if the farmer sold and the money was put in a savings account at 5-percent interest, the Wisconsin dairy family would have an income of $9,000 a year just from interest, which is $2,000 more than they get from working full time on the dairy farm.
MRS. SCHNUHL. Correct.
THE PRESIDENT. And if the American consumers who drink milk and who eat cheese and other dairy products know for a fact that the farmers are not making excessive profits, that they work very hard 7 days a week, and that the return on their investment is extremely low, like 3 or 4 percent, I think they would appreciate what the farmers do.
And I think a stable farm economy where the prices of milk are at least equal to production costs would guarantee that you don't have the wild fluctuations up and down and milk and wheat and cotton and beef and poultry and pork. Because when the prices fluctuate wildly because the market is uncontrolled, when they go up, the consumers pay the high price; the farmers have already sold their products to a middleman. And when the prices go down for the farmer, for the consumer they stay up.
So, what we are trying to do is to have a stable farm economy with predictable production as well as the weather will let us, with prices that don't fluctuate wildly, and with the truth being told to the consumers that what's best for them is almost always what's best for the average farm or ranch family.
So, I think we are making some progress in that.
I might close my answer by saying that in 1977, this year, there will be a comprehensive farm bill either passed or extended from the past number of years. So, we'll be .addressing this on a full-time basis.
And Bob Bergland, who is a dirt farmer from the northern part of Minnesota and now the Secretary of Agriculture, I think, will have a much better way to understand both farmers and consumers than has been done in the past.
MRS. SCHNUHL. Well, thank you so much for your comments.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Mrs. Schnuhl.
MRS. SCHNUHL. Goodby.
THE PRESIDENT. Bye.
MR. CRONKITE. On the phone is Ms. Rita Karatjas of Joliet, Illinois. Ms. Karatjas, come ahead, please.
Ms. KARATJAS. Good afternoon, President Carter.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon.
Ms. KARATJAS. I would like to know if you intend to remove the tax from savings account interest and stock dividends. I believe we're one of the only countries in the world that tax unearned income.
And I feel that as income is already taxed at the payroll level, I feel it's very unfair that it's taxed again after it's invested or saved.
THE PRESIDENT. Ms. Karatjas, I can't answer that question yet. I am not trying to avoid your question. I just don't know the answer.
Ms. KARATJAS. I see.
THE PRESIDENT. That's one of the things that we will be considering, along with hundreds and hundreds of others in the comprehensive tax reform study that will be going on this year. So, I am reluctant now to single out one particular part of the tax code and say it will not be changed, even though it might very well stay the same. I just can't answer your question now.
Ms. KARATJAS. I see.
THE PRESIDENT. I'm sorry.
Ms. KARATJAS. Thank you.
MR. CRONKITE. The next questioner, Ronald Fouse, Centerville, Georgia. Mr. President, Mr. Fouse.
MR. FOUSE. Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, Mr. Fouse. I came through Centerville the last time I was home.
MR. FOUSE. Yes. You come through the Air Force Base I work at every time you come down.
THE PRESIDENT. Very fine. Go ahead with your question.
VIETNAM ERA VETERANS
MR. FOUSE. Yes, sir. Now that you pardoned the draft evaders and you propose to pardon the junkies and deserters, do you propose to do anything for the veterans such as myself that served the country with loyalty?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I thought I might get a friendlier question from Georgia, but I'll try to answer your question.
I don't intend to pardon any more people from the Vietnam era. I promised the American people when I was running for office that I would pardon the ones who violated the selective service laws. I don't have any apology to make about it, and think I made the right decision. But the deserters and others who have committed crimes against military law or civilian law will not be pardoned by me on any sort of blanket basis. My preference is to let the Defense Department handle those cases by categories or by individual cases.
We have moved, I think, already to help, as you said, loyal and patriotic veterans like yourself. And I have appointed a very fine young man to head up the Veterans Administration now, Max Cleland, who is a veteran of the Vietnam war. This is kind of a new generation of leadership, and within the economic package that I presented to Congress, we have a heavy emphasis on training and job opportunities for veterans.
So, I hope in the future that we can have a restoration in our country of appreciation for veterans who did go to the Vietnam war, who have not been thanked or appreciated enough in the past, and a much more sensitive Veterans Administration toward the Vietnam veterans who have not had as many benefits as veterans of previous wars that were more popular.
But I don't have any apology to make for what I have done, but you need not be concerned about an extension of pardons on a blanket basis in the future from me.
MR. FOUSE. Okay, sir. Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.
MR. CRONKITE. Mr. President, there seems to be increasing talk of a bonus for Vietnam veterans. Is that in your thinking at all?
THE PRESIDENT. No, sir.
MR. CRONKITE. The next call is from Mrs. Richard Nicholson of Forth Worth, Texas. Mr. President, Mrs. Nicholson.
EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT
MRS. NICHOLSON. Mr. President, I appreciate this opportunity to talk to you. I feel that you are violating the States' rights when you call into the different States and lobby for the ERA. I was wondering, don't you think that this should be left up to the individual State legislators and let them decide without interference from high political officers?
THE PRESIDENT. Okay. Well, I think you probably have noticed that the final decision is with the State legislatures, and although I have made a few telephone calls since I've been in office and have talked to some personally and to some Governors about the passage of ERA, I haven't tried to interfere or put pressure on them.
When I ran for President, I made it clear that I was in favor of the equal rights amendment passing, and still am in favor of it and hope it does pass. But I respect very well and very consistently the right of individual State legislators to vote the way they choose. But I think it's good to point out to the legislators individually and to the people of the country, as I am doing at this moment, that we do need to give women equal rights. They've been cheated too long. They don't have equal pay for equal jobs, and I think that this equal rights amendment, which is very simple and very clear, would be a good thing for our country.
So, I don't have any way to make a legislator vote against his or her wishes, don't want any influence on them, but reserve the right to express my opinion just like you have a right to express yours.
MRS. NICHOLSON. Except that I don't have the power to make or break someone that you do.
THE PRESIDENT. I don't have that power either, Mrs. Nicholson.
MRS. NICHOLSON. Okay. Now, about the ERA, nowhere does it mention anything about women's rights. And there is the equal pay opportunity which is already a law that is being used. So how can the ERA help in these two areas?
THE PRESIDENT. I think the equal rights amendment just simply says that the Congress nor any State are not permitted to discriminate against women. And I would presume that you would agree with
that statement, but apparently you don't.
Mrs. NICHOLSON. Well, certainly I do.
MR. CRONKITE. Well, thank you very much--
THE PRESIDENT. I think that's all. Thank you, ma'am.
MRS. NICHOLSON. Thank you.
MR. CRONKITE. Let's do move on. We want to get as many questioners in as possible today.
Mike McGrath of Warsaw, Indiana, has won the lottery to get on the air here. Mr. McGrath, go ahead with your question to President Carter.
MR. McGRATH. Yes, sir. Mr. President, sir, are you there?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, sir. Go right ahead, Mike.
INCOME TAX REBATE
MR. McGRATH. Okay. There is a little quotation there--I was awfully proud to serve in the Vietnam war there. I was aboard the U.S.S. Constellation there in North Vietnam, there.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
MR. McGRATH. But at any rate, is that there tax rebate supposed to be for $50 or what?
THE PRESIDENT. I think it'll be more than $50 for some people, Mike, depending on what your income is.
MR. McGRATH. Oh.
THE PRESIDENT. The ones that make above $25 or $30,000 a year don't get any rebate, according to the latest action of the Congress. And that means that a little bit more would be available to those at the lower levels of income.
In addition to that, there's a special provision for allocation of funds to veterans like yourself.
And in addition, we have a tax reduction that's permanent, by giving a higher personal exemption of $3,000 for a married couple. I think the latest version is $2,400 for a single person. So, you'll get about an equivalent of a 30-percent reduction in your income taxes for 1976 if you are at the $10,000 or so level.
MR. McGRATH. Mine might be a little lower than that.
THE PRESIDENT. If you have a real high income, like you seem to have, you might get a little bit lower. But it won't be lower than $50 in the tax rebate unless you are well above the $25,000 level. And in addition, as I said, you'll get the permanent reduction in your income taxes brought about by the higher personal exemption. That'll stay on the books even after the stimulation package has gone.
MR. MCGRATH. Oh, okay.
THE PRESIDENT. Pretty good deal for you, I think.
MR. MCGRATH. I think so.
Another thing, though, was somebody told me at the factory where I work at, the Peabody American Brands plant, somebody told me that there GI bill was supposed to have been reactivated or something. Is there anything to that at all?
THE PRESIDENT. Mike, I don't know about the latest version of that. But if you'll listen in on the radio program for the next 10 or 15 minutes, I'll get the answer for you and give it to you in a few minutes.
MR. McGRATH. That is fine. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Mike.
MR. CRONKITE. I might note that the President has a plan for just that. If he doesn't have the answer here, he's got a couple of aides standing by to see if they can get them. It is Saturday afternoon. A lot of Government offices are closed, but he's going to do the best he can to get them for you.
THE PRESIDENT. I might say, Walter, that if I can't find the answer before we go off the air, I will call Mike personally 'and give him the answer, if I can.
MR. CRONKITE. Let's remind all of our listeners out there the toll-free number to reach the President here at the White House is 900 242-1611. 900-242-1611.
Now, Mr. President, we have a young man, 13 years old, I'm told, from Ridgecrest, California, John Herold, who has a question for you. John, go ahead.
MR. HEROLD. Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, John. How are things in California?
MR. HEROLD. Fine.
THE PRESIDENT. Good deal. What's your question?
MR. HEROLD. Since the West is having a drought and the East has too much snow, instead of shipping the snow in boxcars to the South, why not ship it West?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we're not shipping snow south in boxcars. I think somebody made a study of that, John, and found that it would be too expensive to try to ship snow to the West.
We are very concerned about your drought, and I am not sure how far north Ridgecrest is, but I know that there is an appeal by your Governor not to waste water.
And I believe that in the future, along with energy conservation, we're going to have to start worrying about water conservation.
We've had too much snow in the East. Most of it has melted already, so we don't have any snow to ship, even if it wasn't very expensive.
That's a good thought, though, and it was investigated quite thoroughly, I think, a couple of weeks ago when Buffalo, for instance, had accumulated about 4 or 5 feet of snow.
Good luck to you, John, and thanks for calling in.
MR. HEROLD. Thank you.
MR. CRONKITE. The next call is from Mrs. Helen Heller' of Vineland, New Jersey.
MRS. HELLER. Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, Mrs. Heller.
MEDICARE; HEALTH CARE COSTS
MRS. HELLER. Thank you for this opportunity to talk to you.
My question concerns the medicare program. Does HEW have any plan to reevaluate this program with the possibility of extending benefits to senior citizens so as to reimburse them for things like needed dental care, eyeglasses, and/ or medications? The cost of these items are so often beyond our fixed social security income, and yet they're vital necessities to us.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, ma'am. Those things are all under consideration. We are now in the process of reorganizing the internal structure of the Department of Health, Education, and We]fare, so that we can put the financing of health care under one administrator. This will help a great deal to cut down on the cost of those items for people like yourself. Also, we are freezing the amount of money that you have to pay for medicare this coming year, although the price of health care has gone up about 15 percent a year the last few years. We are trying to prevent your monthly payments from going up for this coming year.
MRS. HELLER. That is good.
THE PRESIDENT. Additionally, we have introduced into the Congress a bill that would hold down hospital costs and try to prevent health care costs from going up faster than other parts of our economy. There's been a great deal of maladministration or poor administration of the health costs.
I hope that over a period of years--and it's not going to come easily--that we can have a comprehensive health care plan in our country. It will be very expensive, but the first step has got to be to bring some order out of chaos in the administration of the health problems we have already got, and to help poorer people like, perhaps, yourself---I don't know what your income is--be able to prevent rapidly increasing costs of programs like medicare.
So, we are at least freezing your medicare costs, if the Congress goes along with our proposal, and over a period of years we'll try to expand the coverage of the health care services for all citizens like you.
MRS. HELLER. Well, thank you very much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, ma'am.
MR. CRONKITE. The next caller is Miss Phyllis Dupere of Rehoboth, Massachusetts. Miss Dupere, the President is on the line.
MISS DUPERE. Hello, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, Phyllis.
SPACE SHUTTLE PROGRAM
MISS DUPERE. I'm a recent graduate from college and I majored in science. And my question is about the space shuttle program. If you had the opportunity to go on one of the missions, would you go, and why or why not?
MR. CRONKITE. You are talking about a space mission, Miss Dupere?
MISS DUPERE. The shuttle program.
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, I see. Miss Dupere, I'm probably too old to do that. I don't know if I could start now and train and get ready to go. When I was a younger person I was always very eager to do the most advanced and sometimes quite dangerous things. As soon as our country had the idea of having atomic power to propel submarines, I was one of the first ones to volunteer and was one of the very earliest submarine officers to go into the atomic power program. And I am thinking about, in the next few weeks, going with Admiral Rickover out on one of our atomic submarines to ride on that as a President, as part of my duty to learn about things of that kind.
But I can't tell you that I'm ready to go on the space shuttle. I think I just don't have the time to get ready for it. I might say that my sons would like very much to do it. But not me.
Miss DUPERE. You think your daughter would?
THE PRESIDENT. I think perhaps she would, yes. She is a very innovative young lady and is always trying for new things, and I think she's competent to be a pilot in a space shuttle in the future or to be a Member of Congress or even to be President. Yes, ma'am.
Miss DUPERE. Okay, thank you. Goodby.
MR. CRONKITE. You know, Mr. President, with that shirt-sleeve environment, so-called, with the shuttle, they're holding out a little hope that some of us fellows may get a chance to go along.
THE PRESIDENT. I'm interested in that program, by the way. I think that it's going to be a much cheaper means by which we can perform our very valuable flights in space and still return the costly vehicle back to Earth. I'm very interested in that.
MR. CRONKITE. It's going to mean the utilization of space. We are getting past the exploration stage, I think, now.
THE PRESIDENT. It is. We are using it now. I think, as you probably know, with he space satellite photography we not only guarantee the security of our country but we do a great deal of analysis for crop conditions, topographical mapping to see how far it is between certain places, highway planning. And this is a good way, too, by the way, from either a highflying airplane or space to analyze waste of energy to see where we are not insulating adequately, and so forth.
So, for all those reasons, even things that are very common, like growing crops or mining or building highways or cutting down on heat losses, we are already using space vehicles for those purposes.
MR. CRONKITE. The next telephone call is from Ms. Susan Allen of Cheyenne, Wyoming, Mr. President.
MS. ALLEN. Yes. Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, Susan.
PRESIDENTIAL RETREATS; SOLAR HEAT
Ms. ALLEN. Okay. My question is, when you're President, do you ever get overwhelmed with your duties and just feel like getting away from it all, and if so, do you have a place to go, you know, when you get away from your duties?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, yes, I do, Susan. I felt the same way when I was Governor, and I felt the same way when I was a candidate, and I felt the same way on occasion when I was a farmer or when I was in the submarine program.
I might say that I've enjoyed this first 6 weeks of being President. I have a very good staff to help me, and the working conditions are good. My house is close to my office. And I've got a good Cabinet. So far, the American people have been very supportive. I think most people in the country want me to do a good job. And that helps me a lot.
I do have a place to get away. We have been down to Georgia on one occasion since I've been in the White House. And while down there, my wife and I were able to go out in the woods and in the fields. I like to hunt arrowheads. And she and I walked for hours in the open fields looking for arrowheads, just as a hobby. We have a chance to hold hands and talk to each other about things, all alone.
Ms. ALLEN. Yeah.
THE PRESIDENT. And we have been to Camp David once. It's a beautiful place in the Catoctin Mountains, about an hour and a half away from here 'by automobile. It's a camp that President Roosevelt used when he was President. And it's available to Presidents and some of the Cabinet members as well. We have been there on one occasion. So, we have a chance to get away.
And I might add in closing that the White House living quarters on the second and third floors, where I and my family live, is quite private. We've enjoyed living there very much.
Ms. ALLEN. Yeah. Are you in favor of solar heating?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I am. I think this is an area where we need to expand our research and development programs, and I think that in years to come you're going to see, in my administration and from Presidents who come after me, a very heavy emphasis on the use of solar power.
Ms. ALLEN. Yeah. We have a solar house.
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, do you? How's it work?
Ms. ALLEN. It's worked pretty good so far, but Buffalo and .all those places got a lot of snow. So, we don't really have a chance to really check it out in a really big blizzard, but it's been working really good.
THE PRESIDENT. Very good.
MR. CRONKITE. Thank you very much, Ms. Allen, for calling.
Mr. President, are you finding the work at the White House more or less burdensome than you expected?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, it's about the same as I expected, Walter. I've enjoyed it so much so far. It's such an exciting job. I spend about half the time being President and about half the time being a student. I put in an enormous amount of time, and it's pleasant--I am not complaining-learning about security matters and defense matters and studying the Congress and how it operates and learning about foreign affairs.
I've a big globe in my office next to my chair, and when I get a dispatch from a foreign country or when I have a visitor from a foreign country, like Gabon in the equatorial region of Africa, or Mexico, or Canada--Mr. Rabin is coming over here from Israel on Monday, and later all the leaders are coming in from the Middle East, later Mr. Fukuda from Japan, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain is coming soon.
I study about those countries and get ready for their visit. It takes me a lot of time. But I would say that the number of hours that I put in and the difficulty of the job is about the same as it was when I was Governor of Georgia, but in addition, it's more interesting because you have the foreign affairs questions to address.
MR. CRONKITE. Your next caller, Mr. President, is Bob Mitchell of Philadelphia. Mr. Mitchell?
MR. MITCHELL. Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Hi, Bob.
MR. MITCHELL. How are you?
THE PRESIDENT. Fine.
MR. MITCHELL. I would like to say that this is truly an honor to be speaking to you on this historical occasion.
I live in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, but I work at the Living History Center in Philadelphia which I am calling you from today.
While visiting Philadelphia just before Election Day, Mr. Mondale pledged to keep the Frankford Arsenal open. The arsenal employs many people in this area and is an important part of our defense system. How can you justify the Army's insistence on closing down this institution, which is both a national necessity and a necessity to this area, which is already overburdened by the economic depression?
THE PRESIDENT. Bob, I might say that if there's one question that the Vice President has talked to me more about than any other thing since I've been in the White House it has been the Frankford Arsenal. And he and I have a deep, personal interest in the Frankford Arsenal.
Under the previous administration the decision had already been made final to close down Frankford, and we are reassessing the possibility of keeping it open, at least in some form. If it is a final decision by the Defense Department that the arsenal be closed, I will do everything I can to honor the Vice President's commitment and to try to orient some other kind of Federal project into the Frankford Arsenal area so that the people will not suffer any more than necessary economically.
But we're doing the best we can on that. The closing down had gone so far when I became President it's almost impossible to reverse it. But we are aware of your problem and we'll just have to do what I think is best for the country, and at the same time try to honor the promise that the Vice President made to do the best he can to keep it open.
MR. MITCHELL. Okay. Well, thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Bob.
MR. CRONKITE. Mrs. Phyllis Rogers of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is on the phone, Mr. President. Mrs. Rogers?
MRS. ROGERS. Good afternoon, President Carter.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, Mrs. Rogers.
MRS. ROGERS Thank you again for the invitation to the Inauguration.
THE PRESIDENT. Did you come?
DRUG ADVERTISING; SOLAR ENERGY
MRS. ROGERS. Two questions: Would it be possible to eliminate the word "drug" from drug store advertising? Also, when new drugs are invented, they always use the word "drug." Why not use the terminology "medication?" Maybe it would discourage drug abusers. What do you think?
THE PRESIDENT. I think that's a good idea. I was talking yesterday, just coincidentally, Mrs. Rogers, to Dr. Peter Bourne, who is now the head of my entire drug control effort, and he will be working with foreign countries, including your neighbor of Mexico, and with the Congress and others, to try to hold down the abuse of drugs, and as you know, this applies not only to the illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine and marihuana, and others, but it also applies to some of the medications that you've described.
The barbiturates, for instance--there is a developing question about whether they are necessary at all, and Dr. Bourne pointed out to me that the number one drug that causes death is heroin, and the second is barbiturates, which is a medication that's used quite frequently by medical doctors.
So, the two are mixed in the people's minds, and I think that "medication," as you have suggested, is a better word. I am not sure if you could name the dispensers of that, though, "medication stores." They might object to that. Maybe there's a better word. Maybe "pharmacy" would be best. But I don't have any authority over what they name it. But that's a good idea, to separate the two, the illegal drugs from the legal medications would be a good distinction.
MRS. ROGERS. Thank you. And the other question is, we are very concerned about the solar energy program here in the State of New Mexico.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
MRS. ROGERS. And we're hoping it will go through for us. Can you comment?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know what the decision will be. I don't intend to get involved in the decision personally. I would like to see the research and development programs for solar energy be decided on a merit basis and where the installations are best.
I would say, though, that New Mexico has a head start on many of the places around the country because of the long history of research and development and because of your climate. But I think we will have several places around the country where we will be doing an increasing amount of research and development on solar energy in the future.
MRS. ROGERS. We love you, President Carter, and thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very, very much yourself.
I've just gotten an answer, by the way, that I'd like to give, Walter, if I can, to Mike McGrath from Warsaw, Indiana, regarding the GI bill.
President Ford had recommended terminating benefits under the GI bill for all persons who entered military service after January 1, 1977. He wanted to cut the period of eligibility for veterans who had entered military service before this time from 10 years to 8 years.
During the campaign I came out against these actions and supported strengthening of the GI bill and to hold to the 10-year period of eligibility. In the budget that I just put into the Congress, I added the extra 2 years of benefits. So the 10-year period will remain for Vietnam veterans for the GI bill.
So, the answer, I think, is a good one for Mike, and I hope that he is still on the air to listen to it.
MR. CRONKITE. We remind you that to reach the President here in the Oval Office of the White House the number to call is 900-242-1611. In some areas there is an access code for long distance. If there is, you use it and then you dial 900-242-1611.
And having successfully done that, Mrs. Opal Dehart of Trinity, North Carolina, is on the phone, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, Mrs. Dehart.
MRS. DEHART. Good afternoon, President Carter. I'm proud to have the opportunity to speak with you.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, it's nice to talk to folks from North Carolina. You got a question for me?
MRS. DEHART. Well, I really had more of a favor to make than a request. My father has terminal cancer. He found out a month ago. He's a hard-working man all his life, never made much money and doesn't have much now and for several years I have been reading about vitamin B17, Laetrile.
And I feel that the people in this country should be permitted to use this treatment in this country. I realize that the AMA says it's not been proved safe, but for a terminal patient, who is not going to live and has a chance to live with it, I don't see how it could be dangerous. And hospital insurance does not cover treatment not authorized by the AMA, and most hard-working people in this country cannot afford treatment that's not paid under insurance benefits.
And if a person has money available to leave the country for treatment in one of the 17 countries where the cancer specialists use this successfully, they have a chance of recovery. And a lot of people even from my area have done this.
What I want to say is that we need your help and the Government's help in taking this vitamin out, that it's made available to the American people.
THE PRESIDENT. All right. Mrs. Dehart, I might let someone from the Department of HEW give you a call Monday and talk to you about it further. And you didn't ask me a question, but I have heard about the controversy. I know that in some of our neighboring countries, I think Mexico, you can buy the Laetrile and be treated with it.
MRS. DEHART. That's right.
THE PRESIDENT. Why don't you let me have someone call you Monday, if you don't mind. It wouldn't help much if I called you, because I'm not a medical doctor and I'm not familiar with it. Would that suit you okay?
MRS. DEHART. Yes, sir, it would. I just wanted you to be aware and maybe, sir, something could be done. There's an investigation needed. I know that right now it is banned because of the 1953 ban from the State of California.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, ma'am.
MRS. DEHART. That's a little outdated. It's not been tested, and the doctors who signed the papers at that time had not tested it. They went on somebody else's word---
MR. CRONKITE. Thank you, Mrs. Dehart. I know the President is going to have you called on that. It is a matter that concerns a lot .of people in the U.S.---
THE PRESIDENT. Walter, I might say one of the things that concern the medical profession in permitting the use of a drug that might not be harmful and may not do any good either, is that sometimes it causes people not to seek treatment because they are depending on a worthless drug. I'm not trying to make a judgment on this one, but I know that's a concern to us.
MR. CRONKITE. Mr. O. B. Parris of Vinemont, Alabama, on the phone, Mr. President. Mr. Parris?
OIL COMPANY DIVESTITURE
MR. PARRIS. Yes, Mr. President, I'm Red Parris with Gulf Oil. I'm a jobber for Gulf Oil Company here in Cullman [County], Alabama; also with Goodly Construction Company.
I was wondering how you feel on the vertical divestiture of the oil companies-vertical and horizontal divestiture of the oil companies.
THE PRESIDENT. The position that I took during the campaign, Mr. Parris, is the same one that I have now, I think, as a general proposition, vertical integration of major industries is not contrary to the best interests of the American people, provided you have a continued and adequate competition.
I am concerned on two ends of the vertical integration process. One is that there be an insured competition for leasing rights. I think it would be a mistake for us to require a different company to drill for oil, to extract the oil from the ground, to pump the oil to a refinery, to do the refining, and then to distribute it, and then to wholesale it, and then to retail it.
If different companies had to do all those processes, I think that the price of the final product, like gasoline, would be greatly increased because of inefficiency.
MR. PARRIS. I do, too.
THE PRESIDENT. I think at the wholesale and retail level, though, there have been occasions that I've witnessed when there has been an inadequate amount of competition. And sometimes small and independent service station operators have been forced to shift toward the majors, and this particularly did occur in the initial stages of the 1973 embargo period.
I have a concern also about horizontal investments. When the major oil companies acquire over a period of time a controlling interest in, say, coal mining operations, it means quite often that there's not a heavy enough emphasis placed on increasing coal production.
So, at the wholesale and retail level, I have some concern.
And in the horizontal investments by oil companies, like in coal or uranium, I have some concern unless I am convinced that there is adequate competition there. I would be in favor of considering divestiture, but my first preference would be to insure competition through the antitrust laws and disclosure of profits at the individual levels of the vertical integration, rather than divestiture itself.
MR. PARRIS. Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Mr. Parris.
MR. CRONKITE. The next caller is Mr. Dale Butkovitz of Peru, Illinois. Mr. Butkovitz?
MR. BUTKOVITZ. Yes, good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, Dale.
MR. BUTKOVITZ. Yes, I have a question here. This relates with the recent coffee situation. My question is, can we see any prospect of lower imported commodities on--such as coffee, and if so, how can we go about this?
THE PRESIDENT. Is your name pronounced Butkovitz or Butkovitz?
MR. BUTKOVITZ. Butkovitz, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Butkovitz.
I don't know how to answer your question about the future. As you know, the Brazilians and other coffee-producing countries claim that the drought--or freeze I think it was--destroyed a number of coffee trees and that's the reason for the high prices.
I think there are adequate reserves on hand now. But the future crops of coffee are likely to be very short, and the prospect of shortages have forced up the price.
I don't know how to deal with this. There is no way for us to control the price of coffee that comes in from Colombia or Brazil or Costa Rica to our own Nation.
I think that we have one opportunity as consumers, and that is to drink less coffee as the price goes up. This is almost inevitable in a free enterprise system.
I'm here now for 2 hours without moving, and just coincidentally, I am drinking hot tea now instead of coffee.
I don't want us to put up an embargo on coffee rise, but I don't know how to answer your question any better than that. I don't know what the future holds. I don't think that we can do anything to control the price of coffee except to reduce consumption.
MR. BUTKOVITZ. Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, Dale.
MR. BUTKOVITZ. God bless you, and I wish you all continued success. You're doing a fine job.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much, Dale. That's nice of you.
MR. CRONKITE. We're going to pause now briefly in this CBS News special broadcast, "Ask President Carter," to give our stations 5 seconds to identify themselves.
This is the CBS Radio Network. This is "Ask President Carter," an experiment in communication between 'the President and the people of the United States.
Now, let's go over the ground rules again. The toll free number is 900-2421611. GBS operators will take your call. They'll verify it, and they'll call you back to put you on with the President.
We want to hear from just as many of you as possible, so please do get your question promptly when you get on the line.
Mr. President, let's take another call. It is from Mr. Phillip Roche Tooele of--or it's Mr. Phillip Roche of Tooele, Utah.
THE PRESIDENT. Very good.
MR. CRONKITE. Let's go through this once more, Mr. President. We might as well spend the afternoon with this. Mr. Roche of Tooele, Utah.
MR. ROCHE. That's Tooele.
MR. CRONKITE. All right, thank you, sir. It is Roche, though, isn't it?
MR. ROCHE. It is Roche.
THE PRESIDENT. Phillip, go ahead with your question.
MR. ROCHE. Mr. President, are you familiar with the sick leave portion of the 1976 income tax revision?
THE PRESIDENT. What was the first part of that? I heard the 1976 income tax revision. What's the first part?
MR. ROCHE. The sick leave portion of the 1976 income tax revision.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I am fairly familiar with it.
MR. ROCHE. Well, my question is this, Mr. President, of those that can't qualify for their Federal medical retirement now, could they possibly be given their jobs back?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know.
MR. ROCHE. The 1976 income tax revision changed the agreement to which these people retired at. And by changing the agreements, people making $300 or $400 a month are going to have to come up with $400, $500, $600 for their 1976 income tax, due to the retroactive clause in the sick leave portion.
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Roche, perhaps Walter could answer that question. I don't know. But I'll have my staff see if I can get the answer. If I can't give it to you on this program, I'll give you a call Monday and try to answer your question.
MRS. ROCHE. That would be great, but, Mr. President--
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, ma'am.
MRS. ROCHE. If we would be allowed, the truly disabled ones were allowed up to $100 a week tax deduction, if they were truly disabled, even though they are truly disabled now, this new revision has taken away that exclusion.
MR. CRONKITE. I gather that is Mrs. Roche, it it?
MR. ROCHE. That's the boss.
MR. CRONKITE. Well, I tell you, the President is going to look up this question for you. It's a rather complicated one. He is going to see if he can get an answer for you and get back to you. The question is almost as difficult as pronouncing Tooele---
MR. ROCHE. Tooele.
Thank you very much, Roches; glad to talk to both of you.
THE PRESIDENT. I'll call you back personally on Monday and talk to you about it.
MR. CRONKITE. Now, Mr. Charles Stone, Mr. President, of Dallas, Texas. I can pronounce both of those names, Stone and Dallas.
INCOME TAX; HOUSING
MR. STONE. Two questions, sir. Having recently completed figuring the income tax for my fiancé and myself, the tax difference was $1,000 between single and married. When and what action do you plan to take?
Also, in the news you recently stated that the cost of a new home is out of reach to most Americans. Is there anything that can be done about the price or the interest rates?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Stone, the only thing that I know of that can cut down on the price of interest rates would be to control inflation. And we have been working for the last 6 weeks on a comprehensive approach so that we will know in Washington and so that the American people can be informed about all the things that we do that cause an increase in interest rates.
In addition, for low-income families or middle-income families, we are trying to stimulate housing construction by helping with the repayment of your mortgage on a monthly basis.
I hope to increase the amount of guaranteed loans for people like yourselves, and I hope that this will be of help to you in the years to come.
We've increased the authorization for home construction by between $8 billion and $9 billion which is an awful lot of money. Of course, that extends over 40 years in the future.
To answer your first question, I would like to see in a tax reform package a removal as much as possible of any sort of tax advantage for either single people or married people. This is a complicated question, and I don't know how to deal with it.
We have now in some parts of the income tax laws a fairly substantial reward for people who live in the same house but who are not married, and I would like to remove that, but at the same time let people who are single and who live alone, not as married people, not be punished.
So, that's one of the complicated questions that has always been a matter of debate, both in the States' and National Legislatures.
I don't know how to give you the answer yet. But there is a great disparity now.
MR. STONE. Yes, sir, you will have an answer, I believe you said in September, in your tax package.
THE PRESIDENT. I hope so. We're going to address that issue, and I hope we can come up with a reasonable answer. We are going to complete the study of this entire tax code, which is enormously complicated, as you know, and the deadline that I have established and the Secretary of the Treasury, Mike Blumenthal, is the lead Cabinet officer on it, has agreed we can complete this study and make our recommendations to the people and to the Congress by September 30. Yes.
MR. STONE. Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. Good luck to you.
MR. CRONKITE. Mr. President, did I understand you to say there you would penalize unmarrieds living together?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I just don't think there ought to be an advantage between married people and the unmarried people who share the same household. I'd like to remove, if possible, any advantage one way or the other, Walter.
MR. CRONKITE. Mrs. John Ritchey is on the phone, Mr. President. She is in Georgetown, Kentucky. Mrs. Ritchey?
MRS. RITCHEY. Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, Mrs. Ritchey.
OTTAWA INDIAN LAND SALE
MRS. RITCHEY. I am part American Indian. I'm a descendant of the Ottawa tribe of northern Michigan. We presently have a bill in the Senate. It's bill number 1659. This is awarding us payment for sale of land to the Government, but the Government is once again dragging its feet for prior services and things like this.
I would like to know if you are aware of this bill and if you can help us in any way. This originally started in 1870. It was a signed treaty. There was a partial payment made in 1910, but since then, nothing.
THE PRESIDENT. I see. The answer to the first question is easy. The answer is no. I'm not familiar with the bill. The answer, if I will help you or not--I'll help you to this degree. I will look into the bill and see what I think is a right and fair thing to do. If it seems to me that the particular Indian group to which you refer has not been treated fairly, then, through the Department of Interior and the Attorney General, I'll give you what help is proper.
MRS. RITCHEY. Okay.
THE PRESIDENT. I'll either be back in touch with you this coming week or let one of my staff members call you back and see what we think about the legislation that you have described. Okay?
MRS. RITCHEY. Okay. This is something, you know, that we've worked on.--
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
MRS. RITCHEY.---with our ancestors. They've all died. This is something that they've all talked about. These are hopes and dreams that have never been fulfilled.
THE PRESIDENT. I understand. I think, as you probably know in Maine, in Massachusetts, in several places around, further west and south, there's a great new analysis of whether or not Indians have been
treated fairly and legally in the past.
MRS. RITCHEY. Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. I would believe that I and the Congress would want to treat your ancestors or their descendants, including yourselves, fairly about it. But I'll look into the bill personally and let you hear from either me or my staff about it.
MRS. RITCHEY. Okay. Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. Good luck. Thanks for calling.
MRS. RITCHEY. Bye-bye.
MR. CRONKITE. The next call, Mr. President, is from the Reverend James Baker, Ridgeland, South Carolina. Reverend Mr. Baker.
CONSUMER PROTECTION LEGISLATION
REVEREND BAKER. Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon.
REVEREND BAKER. First, sir, I would like to commend you for the efforts you have made to restore ethics and morality in Government. I think you have taken a splendid action in that direction. And I wonder if more cannot be done to protect the consumer from shoddy merchandise or warranties that are not honored and similar unconscionable profit actions on the part of a minority in our country, either through the Federal Trade Commission or a consumer protection bureau sort of setup.
THE PRESIDENT. If I don't do that, Reverend Baker, before I go out of office, I will consider my administration being a failure. You are absolutely right.
In many instances the regulatory agencies in Washington have been staffed and led by men and women whose primary interest is not to the consumer at all, but to the industries being regulated.
REVEREND BAKER. Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. So far we've not been able to get passed the legislation for establishing a consumer protection agency and the consumers' interests quite often are supposed to be protected by a little tiny group of people in many dozens, even hundreds of agencies scattered throughout the city of Washington.
So, I'm in favor of establishment of the consumer protection agency itself to focus the consumer's interest in one agency as much as possible. This agency would be quite small. I think the budget would be in the neighborhood of $11 million a year for the entire nationwide coverage, and it would let you and I and other people know where to go to register a complaint. And it would also have a group of people there whose only interest would be to protect people like you from being cheated.
So, I am strongly in favor of that. And I believe that before the next year or two goes by, we'll have the new agency in operation, and I wish that you would examine every one of my appointments in these regulatory agencies that have taken place now and that will take place over the next 4 years, and I believe, in every instance, you'll see that the people that I do appoint have their obligation to the consumer. That's the way it should have been in the past.
REVEREND BAKER. Thank you. Since you're interested in the small consumer, you see, the consumer with a small complaint is not able to hire an attorney, naturally, to handle it for him, where a consumer, you know, has a $25 or $50 complaint. He has nowhere to turn unless he has an agency that can handle it for him. Many of these are poor people.
THE PRESIDENT. You're right. I favor, in certain instances, the right, the increased right of consumers to file class action suits, law suits, where a thousand customers who have been cheated can get together and get some relief from unfair trade practices. And also, on occasion, the consumers ought to have an increased right to have legal standing in court.
I think that within the Government itself, quite often the consumers have not been treated fairly. That's why I believe it is better to have a separate agency for consumer protection itself.
REVEREND BAKER. Thank you, sir. You have the prayers of the American public for a successful term of office.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Mr. Baker.
MR. CRONKITE. Mr. President, when do you expect to send legislation or a proposal for legislation to establish a consumer agency up to the Hill?
THE PRESIDENT. The legislation, Walter, as you know, made a lot of progress last year. My own inclination is to support the legislation that was already considered by Congress, and I believe that with the support of the White House, instead of the opposition that was the case under the previous administration, that it will be passed.
MR. CRONKITE. Will you support the present legislation as it is now up at the Hill then?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I wouldn't want to say I would support it in any language that is put in it, but if I can approve the basic language, I am strongly in favor of the agency, yes.
MR. CRONKITE. The next caller is John Melfi of Johnson City, New York.
MR. MELFI Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, John.
MR. MELFI. I know we have a foreign aid policy to help countries in need, but why do we spend so much on this when we have so much poverty, unemployment, et cetera, in our own country?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, John, I am going to take a position that's not very popular, politically speaking. We only spend about 3/10 of one percent of our gross national product on foreign aid, which is about half the proportion that is allotted to this purpose by other countries like France, Germany, and so forth.
I don't particularly want to increase this greatly, but I would like for it to be predictable. Also, in the past, we've not had foreign aid used in an effective way. As one of my friends has said quite often, I'm not in favor of taxing the poor people in our rich country and sending the money to the rich people in poor countries, and quite often that has been done in the past.
We have also a need, in my opinion, to support the lending institutions, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank--they give aid to other countries in the form of loans, sometimes low-interest loans. But instead of just handing gifts out that are kind of bad, as a basic philosophy, and also that are abused, I would favor contributing to the capital stock of these international or regional lending agencies. I believe we will get a lot better return on our money, and I might say that my own experience in this first 6 weeks has been that the International Monetary Fund, for instance, and the World Bank are quite strict on a nation that makes a loan.
They make them work hard toward balancing their budget. Quite often they require them to clean up corruption. They make them assess very carefully their trade policies.
So, I believe that the lending procedure in foreign aid is much better than the gift procedure, and when direct grants are made, we ought to do more than we have in the past to get the grants to people who actually need it.
Within those changes, I think that our present level of foreign aid is about right, John.
MR. MELFI Okay. Thank you, Mr. President. Best of luck to you in the future, and I hope you are here for another 8 years.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.
I might say, Walter, there's a Mr. Otto Flaig of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His telephone number, unfortunately for him today, is 242-1611, and ever since 6 o'clock this morning he has been getting calls from people who want to talk to me. He has requested me to announce that people please dial the 1 and then the 900 before they dial the 242-1611, so his phone will quit ringing.
MR. CRONKITE. I assume those calls could only get to him from the Milwaukee area, and if they once dial the 900, it won't get through to him at all.
THE PRESIDENT. That's true. I'd like to ask people--I guess there are other folks around the country that got the same last seven numbers. So, everybody ought to remember to dial the 900 before the 7.
MR. CRONKITE. I wonder if that gentleman in Milwaukee is giving them any answers. Maybe he is giving them quite satisfactory solutions to their problems.
THE PRESIDENT. I am sure he is getting a lot of questions. His answers are probably better than mine.
MR. CRONKITE. We have a call from Lapeer, Michigan, from Ms. Colleen Muir, I believe it is.
Muir, is it?
Ms. MUIR. Muir.
MR. CRONKITE. She's 16 years old, I am told, Mr. President.
Go ahead, Ms. Muir.
Ms. MUIR. Good afternoon, Mr. President, and thank you for this opportunity to talk to you.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Colleen.
MILITARY AND PUBLIC SERVICE
Ms. MUIR. I was wondering, since the volunteer draft program isn't working too well, that you would put a draft system into effect; and, if you would, would you draft women the same as men as the equal rights amendment infers?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Colleen, we don't have any plans now to put in a draft system. So far we are still getting by with the voluntary armed forces.
The major problem has been in the reserves. We are about 800,000 people short, I believe, now in reserve recruitment. The regular armed forces are holding their own.
But if I see it is necessary in the future to initiate a draft, then I would certainly recommend to the Congress that this be done.
I would like to combine it with a much more comprehensive public service opportunity where people might go into jobs like the Peace Corps or VISTA, teachers' aides or mental institutions and so forth, along with military training as well.
I would make it much more all-inclusive than it has been in the past. I would not, for instance, exclude college students. And if it becomes necessary for national security, the likelihood is that women would be included as well. But I'd like to draw a distinction between military service and other service that would benefit our country just as much in a time of need or crisis.
But I might reemphasize that at this time we have no intention of going to a draft.
Ms. MUIR. Okay, thank you.
MR. CRONKITE. Thank you, Ms. Muir. From Jerry Wildman, the next call, Mr. President. He's in Lake Worth, Florida.
MR. WILDMAN. That's Wildman, Mr. Cronkite.
MR. CRONKITE. All right.
MR. WILDMAN. Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, Jerry.
MR. WILDMAN. Before I get to my question, I would just like to add that I am a candidate for the U.S. Naval Academy, and I hope to follow along in your footsteps.
Now, to my question, I would like to know what actions would be taken if any hostile acts were taken against American or allied citizens living in Uganda.
THE PRESIDENT. That was a question earlier on the program, Jerry. I might just say that we had this question come up last weekend. We tried to handle it in a very unpublicized and careful way, knowing the unpredictability of Idi Amin.
I just let him know very forcefully and frankly that we were concerned about American citizens. And we also got other nations, who have the communications and the understanding of Amin better than we do, to deal with him and to help us there.
I understand from the news that about 8 or 10 different foreign leaders, mostly from the Moslem countries, contacted Amin. The West Germans helped us a great deal, and the crisis was averted.
But I would guess if this should reoccur in the future--and I hope it won't--that we'll handle it in the same way, Jerry.
MR. WILDMAN. I see. Well, thank you very much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, sir.
MR. CRONKITE. The next question is from Samuel Rankin of Billings, Montana, Mr. President.
MR. RANKIN. Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, Sam.
HEALTH CARE; VIETNAM
MR. RANKIN. I have a two-part question. The first is broken into two minor economic questions. I hope that this has not been covered previously. If it has, maybe you would like to add some things that possibly you didn't get to add in the previous questions.
I would like your commitment and your comments on a resolution in the public's favor that would alleviate the painfully high cost of medical care in the U.S. And I know also that these two are related--a total commitment to the lowering of the transfer payments, which I believe are your 46 percent of the income derived by the Government from corporate and individual taxes.
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Rankin, I don't know any way to answer your question very well at this point. I might say that these are two questions that we're working on simultaneously. The income tax changes are part of the transfer of payments. Also, the welfare system in its entirety needs to be reformed.
By the first of May, Joe Califano, who is the new Secretary of HEW, working with literally hundreds of different people, will come up for me and for the Congress with a comprehensive reform of the welfare system. It will be, I would say, next year before we can complete an adequate analysis of the health care system as a whole.
Now, we are trying now to hold down the cost of both medicine, treatment, and also hospital care. But I can't answer your question yet.
MR. RANKIN. All right.
THE PRESIDENT. The first part of the answer, though, will be forthcoming May I with a welfare reform package; the second part, September 30, with income tax revision proposals. And the comprehensive health care would probably have to wait until next year. There's just so much we can do the first year, Sam.
MR. RANKIN. I appreciate that.
THE PRESIDENT. I'm sorry.
MR. RANKIN. Then, the second part of my question, Mr. President, with many of our young people so involved in the past and presently with Vietnam, I would like to respectfully suggest that possibly you appoint a young person, preferably a Vietnam veteran, to accompany the mission headed by Leonard Woodcock and including my State's most distinguished Member of the Senate, Senator Mansfield, going to Vietnam in the near future. I believe this would help many of us, myself included, who felt hesitant in going to Vietnam and would now like to feel that we are helping rebuild that country.
And I respectfully request that my name be on that list if and when you do decide to include a young member.
My wife wants me to be sure and say that if you are ever in Billings, Montana, that we would more than like to have you stay at our home.
THE PRESIDENT. That's a very nice invitation for me. My roommate at the Naval Academy back in ancient days was from Butte, Montana. His name was Blue Middleton, and I hear a lot about Montana from him. And, of course, Senator Mike Mansfield is one of the most distinguished Members of Congress that has ever served in our country.
The five members who will go to Vietnam have already been chosen. Leonard Woodcock will be the chairman. As you have said, Mike Mansfield would go. A woman, Marian Edelman, will also be on the trip, and a professional diplomat will go along, and also one Member of the House of Representatives as well.
Unfortunately, we won't have a veteran of the Vietnam war. I thought about this, Sam, and I also thought about sending a member of an MIA family.
MR. RANKIN. Right.
THE PRESIDENT. But my judgment was that we probably ought not to get people there who are so deeply and emotionally involved in the process. We've been encouraged so far--nobody can predict what is going to happen in the future--at the response of the Vietnamese Government.
I think they want to reestablish relationships with our own country. They need help in exploring for oil and in other ways. They need to trade with the outside world and not be completely dependent upon the Communist countries, like .China and Russia.
Of course, we want to get an accounting for the more than 2,500 Americans who still are not completely accounted for in Vietnam. So you have a good suggestion. But I have already chosen the five people, and they are now getting ready to go.
They'll arrive in Vietnam, if the plans go through, I think, the 16th of March. So it is well underway.
MR. RANKIN. I think your proposal, your counterpoint to mine, was well taken. I can understand, you know, your thinking behind choosing someone who isn't necessarily a Vietnam veteran.
MR. CRONKITE. Thank you, Mr. Rankin. Thank you, sir, for calling.
I am going to suggest, Mr. President, that because we only have 35 minutes left, that from here on out we ask the callers to limit themselves to one question or possibly a follow-up if it is really necessary. But let's limit each caller to one subject matter, at any rate.
The next call is from Louis Lawson of Richmond, Virginia.
MR. RUSSELL LAWSON. Mr. Cronkite, President Carter, my name is Russell. You may call me Russell. Unfortunately, I had two questions before Mr. Cronkite asked me to limit it to one. But I have one that is really uppermost in my mind.
I was wondering if you feel if there is any inequity in passing laws which encourage the hiring of members of minority groups and women while passing such laws implies resisting hiring equally qualified white males?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I don't like that concept, either. I think most of the laws that have been passed have been designed very narrowly to insure that there is no continued discrimination against somebody because they are in a minority group or women. Now, the courts have interpreted this to mean that if a company, for instance, has historically excluded men and women from the labor force, from their own labor force, that they have to go back and take corrective action.
But I think all of the laws with which I am familiar on equal employment opportunities just guarantee that now and in the future there won't be discrimination and that if there has been a history of discrimination, that it be corrected.
MR. LAWSON. I hope that is true. I have been unemployed for a while. I feel I am the victim of this kind of system.
I want to say though before I go, that I'm really impressed by your desire to involve Americans more closely in the Government, and I am so pleased to have had the chance to talk to you.
Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.
I might say we have a question we can answer, I think, now, for the man and his wife in Utah about the exclusion for disabled people.
This was removed from the income tax law in the 1976 act; that is, sick pay exclusion for anyone except the permanently disabled. The Congress gave as its reason, it sounded like a good reason, that such sick persons could deduct their medical expenses from the income tax and would therefore get a double benefit.
When anybody in our society, even if it is an afflicted person or disabled person, has a special exclusion, then other people have to pay their taxes for them. This is one of the things that will be assessed this year, and we may or may not put the double credit back for permanently disabled, but my guess is it would not be put back in.
MR. CRONKITE. The next caller, Mr. President, is Ms. Cheryl Quinn of Cleveland, Ohio.
Ms. QUINN. Yes. Hello, Mr. President.
I want to thank you for doing a great job and thank you for the Inauguration tickets.
And also my more was in the Korean war and she, after she got out, she was signed up to take X-ray and technician. She had to come up, back to New York from Texas. Then she got married and had kids. And then she couldn't--when she did get the VA bill, she didn't give her what they wanted, what she wanted. They only gave her 8 months of school. She has 3 years and some.
THE PRESIDENT. You want to know what can be done about it, Cheryl?
Ms. QUINN. Yes, I do.
THE PRESIDENT. She may have let her time run out on the GI bill of rights. That's probably what happened, the way you describe it. I don't think we could do anything about it, to be perfectly frank with you, without changing the law to make a special case for your mother and those like her. I doubt that it could be changed, Cheryl. When the law was written, the Congress put into it that after a certain period of years, I think 10 years, that the GI benefits would be lost. But I'll have someone on my staff check out the case and see if there is something that can be done about it, within the law itself. They'll give you a call back this coming week. Okay?
Ms. QUINN. Okay.
MR. CRONKITE. Let me remind you that these calls are no, t being screened in any way for content. There is no censorship at all of the calls into us here in the Oval Office of the White House.
Gerald Anderson, Denver, Colorado, is the next caller.
MR. ANDERSON. Hello, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Hi, Gerald.
CONGRESSIONAL PAY INCREASE
MR. ANDERSON. I'm wondering what is the justification with you trying to reduce the Federal budget, the justification behind the $12,000 pay increase for Congress? How can you lower the budget by giving them $12,000 a year and us $50 back?
THE PRESIDENT. Gerald, that is a hard question for me to answer.
MR. ANDERSON. I'm sure it is. That's why I thought I would throw it at you.
THE PRESIDENT. I think you probably know that there is a law that was passed by Congress and the previous Presidents, before I came into office, that said that a commission would recommend pay levels for the Congress and for others like the Federal judges and Cabinet officers and unless the Congress voted no, that the pay raises would go into effect. In other words, if the Congress does nothing, the pay raises go into effect.
And that's what occurred. That law has been on the books for quite a while.
MR. ANDERSON. Well, right, what I am getting at, though, is with you trying to lower the budget, why did you not try to do something to stop that or if there was anything that could be done to stop it? Why couldn't in some way they be convinced that it was against, you know, the fiscal matters of the country to give them this increase?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I might say that I think that the salary increases were justified. One of the things that President Ford asked me to do before I was inaugurated, while he was still in office, was to add nay support to the increase in salaries. I agreed not to object to the increase, provided there was a strict law on ethics tied. to it to limit the outside income of Congress Members and to remove the conflicts of interest that exist between, with them and also with people serving in the executive branch of Government.
I do think the law ought to be changed, Gerald, to make sure that in the future, if any sort of salary increase goes into effect, that it not go into effect until after the following general election. I think this would help a great deal to make all of us more careful about it, and it would mean that if the Congress doesn't veto an increase, that they would not get an increase in salary until after they had to face the voters again in the next general election.
With that change, I would be in favor of continuing the law as it is.
MR. ANDERSON. So, there was no way you could have stopped this increase?
THE PRESIDENT. That's correct. I didn't have any authority over it. I have to say to you, I could have made speeches around the country against it, but it was not my inclination to do so.
MR. ANDERSON. Don't you feel that with the Congress people receiving this excessive amount of money, compared to the average working person, that it puts them out of touch with reality as far as what the average person has to go through to live in this country?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can't say that you are exactly right on that, no. I have seen, from my own experience, that it costs a Member of Congress an enormous amount of extra money to maintain close contacts with the people back home. Quite often to finance and to own a house, say, in Colorado, where you live, and also to buy and to own or to rent an extremely expensive house here in Washington. Also, the Congress Member, in order to stay in office and to build up seniority to serve you and the other people around Denver better, has to run for office every 2 years. Now, there are also Members of Congress who have no trouble raising money for a political campaign. Others have to spend a lot of their own money in a political campaign.
If you compare, say, a Member of Congress who has to do that with a Federal judge who lives in Denver full time, who doesn't have to run for office, who gets the same amount of pay, and who doesn't have the constant political world to live in and to deal with all kinds of complicated and very controversial questions like a Congressman does, all in the open, I think the Congressmen deserve just as much salary as a Federal judge.
So, it cuts both ways. I think, Gerald, that in fairness to the Members of Congress-I've never been in Congress as you know--there are some extraordinary expenses that a Member of Congress has that an average person, even a public servant like a Federal judge, does not have.
But I believe that the one change that I described to you ought to be made; that is, to let future salary increases go into effect only after the next general election.
MR. CRONKITE. It is also true, Mr. President, isn't it, that the Members of Congress, members of the judiciary and the executive branch who are entitled to these raises, had not had one for a very long time and had fallen far behind the general cost-of-living increases?
THE PRESIDENT. I think the last raise went into effect about 8 years ago.
I might say, Walter, that I made a mistake a while ago. I got my decimal point wrong on the shortage in the reserve figures because of not having a draft. The total reserve is about 800,000 and the shortage is about 10 percent of that, 70,000 or 80,000. Somebody just called in and said that I said the shortage was 800,000. And I'm sorry I made that mistake.
MR. CRONKITE. An officer in the reserve I would guess.
THE PRESIDENT. I guess.
MR. CRONKITE. Sergeant David Cash of Mililani, Hawaii, is on the phone, Mr. President, our first call from the State of Hawaii. Sergeant Cash?
SERGEANT GASH. Good morning, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, Mr. Cash.
MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING
SERGEANT CASH. I'm with the 25th Infantry Training Command. We have a tae kwon do program, which is the Korean martial art, and it's been with the 25th Infantry for the last 3 years. We train the Army personnel in it to, you know, to be a better soldier in discipline and mentally conditioned. And they turn out to be real, real--better soldiers--real good soldiers.
I wondered how much difficult a problem it would be if the Army, throughout the whole Army, the United States Army, that we could have a program like that established in every infantry division.
MR. CRONKITE. Do you understand what the program is, Mr. President? Because I am afraid I don't.
THE PRESIDENT. No. Would you tell me briefly, Sergeant Cash, what the program is again?
SERGEANT CASH. It is tae kwon do. That's the Korean martial art. It is like you have karate in Japan---
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, I see. I understand.
SERGEANT CASH.---which, which we train personnel which come in the division as a---
THE PRESIDENT. I understand now. Well, I think it's probably a good program to have, Sergeant Cash. When I went through my own Navy training, I had the equivalent of karate training as part of my own preparation for military service.
I might say that I broke my right collar bone in the process, but I recovered from it.
I think that the most severe kind of physical training for combat soldiers is probably beneficial. It obviously ought to be done without abuse and without damage to the person, but I think that to be in top physical shape and to know how to deal with personal hand-to-hand combat is a good thing. I hope I've understood you question properly.
MR. CRONKITE. Thank you very much, Sergeant Cash.
Let's go to the next telephone call, from Walter Lipman of Spring Valley, New York.
MR. LIPMAN. Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon.
MR. LIPMAN. I am rather amazed at being able to get hold of you.
This question is something that a bunch of friends of mine and I bandied back and forth and swore would never get on the air, but anyhow, Mr. President, it seems, well, at least to me and my friends, that the term "drug addict" is more a function of one's social station than anything else. Many famous people, such as Sigmund Freud and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote Sherlock Holmes, and Dr. William Halsted, who was one of the founders of the Johns Hopkins Medical School, were quite heavy users of drugs such as cocaine and morphine, yet they were considered leaders of society in their day.
Now, in this light, doesn't the prosecution of drug users and their habits by the Drug Enforcement Administration seem capricious, arbitrary, and rather unjust?
THE PRESIDENT. No, it doesn't, Walter, not to me. I established a drug treatment program in Georgia while I was in office there as Governor. In July of 1972, I believe it was, we had 11 deaths in the Atlanta area from heroin overdose, primarily among young people. We put in a drug treatment program and kind of opened the whole question up to public awareness in October, and the following 12 months we had zero heroin deaths.
I've been in our treatment centers throughout the State of Georgia. In fact, my sons have worked in those treatment centers. I've seen literally hundreds of young people's lives almost completely destroyed by addiction to heroin, in particular.
I think that a question like morphine would be a different one altogether. Morphine is a drug that's, as you know, administered legally--or as a previous caller said, a medication that is administered legally.
But I would do all I can, and am moving as aggressively as possible, to stamp out the traffic in drugs like cocaine or heroin. I believe they are a devastating affliction on our society and ought to be eliminated as much as we can.
MR. LIPMAN. Mr. President, do you know the drug origin of heroin?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I know it comes from poppies.
MR. LIPMAN. No, but the purpose of this---
MR. CRONKITE. Mr. Lipman, thank you very much for your call, but we're running a little short of time. We do want to get in as many calls as possible, so we're going to move right along to Paul Guertin of Cudahy, Wisconsin.
MR. GUERTIN. Hi, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, Paul?
SELECTIVE SERVICE PARDONS
MR. GUERTIN. One thing I've always wished I could tell you, and now I have the chance, that's, pardoning the draft dodgers or evaders was one of the best things you could probably ever do, because I feel that if somebody dodged the draft or was an objector of it, obviously they had a reason, and they should be listened to. And forcing somebody to do something, even if they object to it or don't believe in it, is just taking away their rights.
MR. CRONKITE. Do you have a question, Mr. Guertin, for the President?
MR. GUERTIN. Not really. I just wanted to say that.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I might say that that was one of the most difficult decisions I made. I made my decision, though, quite early in the campaign. I never did mislead the American people about it. I made the major public announcement at the American Legion Convention out in the State of..Washington last year---one of the most critical audiences that I could have had.
I've just seen some public opinion poll results this week that showed that about 45 percent of the American people thought I made a mistake, about 45 percent of the American people thought I (lid the right thing, and the other 10 percent didn't have any opinion. So there's no way to suit people.
I feel that it is time for us to get over the Vietnam war as soon as we can, and I believe that those that have been excluded from living in our wonderful country for the last 10 or 12 years have been punished pretty severely.
MR. GUERTIN. I agree with it.
THE PRESIDENT. I think that the deserters and all, as I said earlier on this program, ought to be handled on an individual case basis within the Department of Defense, and they are expediting their assessment of cases and will handle them under normal military legal procedures.
MR. GUERTIN. Okay. Well, it's really nice being able to talk to you. Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, sir.
MR. CRONKITE. The next call is from John Raymond Lau of Yorktown Heights, New York, Mr. President. Mr. Lau?
MR. LAU. Hello, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. Go right ahead.
MR. LAU. Yes, how are you doing, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. Fine.
MR. LAU. I would like to know what your opinion is of the French-English Concorde, and with the elections in France this week, do you feel that rejection of the Concorde would bring the power to the French Communist Party?
And also I'd like to say that many French citizens are counting on the SST to keep France from going the Communist way. So, what is your opinion on that, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. Okay. Our Government has already expressed its opinion, Mr. Lau. The previous administration authorized the Concorde to come into our country for a 16-month trial period, and a couple of weeks ago I made a statement that I agreed with that decision and thought the Concorde ought to be given a chance to fulfill its trial itself. As you know, under the Federal law I have authority over Dulles Airport.
MR. LAU. Right.
THE PRESIDENT. And so did President Ford. We're permitting the test flights to come into Dulles, and we're very carefully monitoring environmental consequences of the SST flights, including primarily noise.
The Kennedy Airport in New York is not under my control at all. I have nothing to do with it, no authority over it. The New York Port Authority has that decision to make, and I understand on March the 10th they are going to make a decision whether the Concorde can come in for test flights or not. I don't know what their decision will be.
I talked to President Giscard from France yesterday about the Concorde, and I also talked to Governor Hugh Carey to let Governor Carey know, as President Giscard had asked me to, that the French people consider this a very important issue. My own statement to President Giscard is that we are not concerned about the SST flights because of commercial competition. About 6 years ago our own Congress decided not to go
into the SST-building business.
MR. LAU. Yes, I remember.
THE PRESIDENT. And the whole problem in our country is noise and environmental quality maintenance. Now, I might say one other thing. I think that the noise standards in our country are going to be stricter and stricter in the future, and not more and more lenient, and the same noise standards ought to apply to an airplane, whether it's a Concorde or a Lockheed or an airplane of some other kind, or any sort of American commercial plane.
So, I think we can establish strict environmental laws. I think they ought to apply to the SST flying, of course, at subsonic speeds, and our own commercial planes the same. But it is the environmental question that will exclude the Concorde, if it is excluded, and not any sort of animosity toward the French people. Nor is it any commercial competition between us and France on SST flights.
MR. LAU. Okay, Thank you, Mr. President.
MR. CRONKITE. The next call. Thank you, Mr. Lau.
Our next call is from Mrs. Ruby Hewitt of San Bernardino, California. Mrs. Hewitt?
MRS. HEWITT. Yes, good afternoon, President Carter.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, Mrs. Hewitt.
MRS. HEWITT. Thank you for giving this time to the American people to speak with you. It is indeed a privilege which we appreciate.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, ma'am.
CIVIL SERVICE EMPLOYEES
MRS. HEWITT. My question is why veterans and civil service retirees are given two cost of living a year but only one cost of living to social security retirees?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. I didn't realize that there was that difference, Mrs. Hewitt. That's the kind of question that I'm afraid I'll have to get an answer to, if there is an answer, and call you back about it Monday. I doubt if I will have time to give the answer to you by the end of the program since we only have about 15 minutes to go. But I'll try to get the answer back to you.
MRS. HEWITT. May I say my brother's last wish was to be buried in Georgia in Bluff ton. Noland Frisbee--he was in the service there, and he had written me many letters about Georgia and how lovely it was.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.
MRS. HEWITT. Beautiful people there.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you so much. I might say in Plains, which is a tiny little town, we have a Hewitt family. Maybe they are kin to you and your brother.
MRS. HEWITT. No, my name was Frisbee before. It is Noland Frisbee. He is passed away now, but his request was to be buried in Bluff ton where his family is now.
THE PRESIDENT. Very good. Thank you, ma'am.
MR. CRONKITE. Thank you, Mrs. Hewitt.
John Caldwell of Atlanta, Georgia, is on the phone, Mr. President. I'm advised he is 17 years old. Mr. Caldwell?
MR. CALDWELL. Yes, good afternoon, President Carter.
THE PRESIDENT. How are you doing?
MR. CALDWELL. I am 17 years old. And I'd like to know, do you plan to make any other place than Plains, Georgia, your White House away from Washington?
THE PRESIDENT. No, sir.
MR. CALDWELL. Okay, thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. The only other place I anticipate going on a fairly regular basis, as I mentioned earlier in the program, is to Camp David, which is a place for Presidents and has been used ever since Franklin Roosevelt was in office. But I don't intend to have several White Houses as has been the case in the past.
MR. CALDWELL. Yes, sir. Thank you very much.
MR. CRONKITE. Thank you, John Caldwell.
The next caller on the line is Miss Leslie Pfenninger, Lanham, Maryland, Mr. President.
Miss PFENNINGER. Hello, President Carter. It's good to speak with you.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Leslie.
CIVIL SERVICE EMPLOYMENT
MISS PFENNINGER. I'm a 1976 college graduate with a goal of working for Civil Service, and I've been working toward that goal since May. I might say it's a depressing effect to find the doors completely shut.
I'd like to know if the restrictions will be lifted to permit individuals like me to compete for jobs now only open to those currently in Civil Service or those of a reinstatement status,
THE PRESIDENT. Leslie, what is your profess[on or special training?
MISS PFENNINGER. I have a dual B.A. in psychology and sociology, and I also qualify as a statistician.
THE PRESIDENT. The best thing for me to do is to check on your particular case with the Civil Service and give you a call back this coming week about prospects for employment in the future. I presume that the Civil Service has a record of your application. Is that correct?
MISS PFENNINGER. Yes, sir, they do.
THE PRESIDENT. We'll be back in touch with you next week.
MISS PFENNINGER. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good luck.
MISS PFENNINGER. I hope you will continue this kind of direct contact with the public.
THE PRESIDENT. Good luck to you.
MR. CRONKITE. I bet, Miss Pfenninger, when they told you the best way to get a job is just knock on a lot of doors, they didn't ever suggest telephoning the President on a national call-in show, but it seems to work. You're going to get an answer from him.
Russ Went of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is on the phone, Mr. President.
MR. WENZ. Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Russ, how are you doing?
MR. WENZ. Very well. I want to tell you you are doing a wonderful job, and I hope the Congress keeps you going.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think they will.
PUBLIC SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS
MR. WENZ. I have a brief review and then a question. President Calvin Coolidge came to Granite Falls, Minnesota, on July 29, 1928, to dedicate the monument of Colonel William Caldwell. He was a Civil War hero. Last July the local American Legion Post there suggested to the mayor that they issue a proclamation, July 29 of each year as Annual Presidents Day.
On this day they are going to have a reaffirmation of our national unity, problems, and what we can do, and pride in the rededication of our national ideals and that sort of thing.
The question, Mr. President, is, would it be possible for you to accept an invitation from the Governor of Minnesota or Mayor Geller of Granite Falls to be the speaker of National President's Day?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Went, I doubt it. This first year I've tried to hold down as much as possible any public speaking on my part. I really need to learn more about this job. And, as you know, I have got a very good partner up here from Minnesota---
MR. WENZ. Yes, indeed.
THE PRESIDENT.---who might be available. I can't speak for him. But Fritz Mondale might be a possibility. But I appreciate very much the invitation.
If they would write me a letter, we can give them an official answer on it. And also I appreciate the concept of reaffirming our patriotism in not only a national way but also a local way, as you all have done.
MR. WENZ. One of the things we would like to do is remind everyone that a number of men in their prime gave up their lives or were injured seriously, you know. That is why we have our freedom and independence.
It's nice talking to you, sir, and thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. Good luck to you.
MR. CRONKITE. Thank you, Mr. Went. And your next caller, Mr. President, is Mr. Kerry Kimble of Fulton, Missouri. Mr. Kimble?
WAR POWERS RESOLUTION
MR. KIMBLE. Yes. Mr. President, my question covers the war powers resolution. And do you feel that it infringes upon your power as Commander in Chief in the limiting or getting the approval from Congress to continue the use of American forces in a certain situation past the 60 days?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Kimble, it is a reduction, obviously, in the authority that the President has had prior to the Vietnam war. But I think it's an appropriate reduction. My own attitude toward government is that I would never see our Nation approach a time of war with any sort of predictability about it without discussing it thoroughly and frequently with the Congress and also letting the American people know what is going on.
Although we did get involved in the Vietnam war, and even fought extensively in Cambodia without telling the American people, and sometimes lying to them, I would never have that inclination. So, I have no hesitancy about communicating with Congress, consulting with them and also letting the American people know what we do before we start any combat operation. And I think with that process we can minimize greatly the chances that we will get involved in combat anywhere in the world.
MR. KIMBLE. Sir, you would accept their approval for your actions on that?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. There is, I think, a provision that in a time of crisis, where an unanticipated attack might be launched against our country's security, that I could act, but to continue any sort of military operation, I would have to get the Congress approval. I have no doubt that that is the right thing to do.
MR. CRONKITE. Thank you, Mr. Kimble.
The next call is from Mr. Johnnie Strickland of Fayetteville, North Carolina.
MR. STRICKLAND. Good afternoon, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon.
MR. STRICKLAND. I am John Strickland from Fayetteville, North Carolina. And I want to thank you for this opportunity to talk with you, and I would like to know what your sentiments are on the Panama Canal 1904 treaty, and changing it.
THE PRESIDENT. Okay. It is good to hear from you, Mr. Strickland. My sister lives in Fayetteville, as you may know. I am glad to answer your question.
We are now negotiating with Panama as effectively as we can. As you may or may not know, the treaty, signed when Theodore Roosevelt was President, gave Panama sovereignty over the Panama Canal Zone itself. It gave us control over the Panama Canal Zone as though we had sovereignty. So, we've always had a legal sharing of responsibility over the Panama Canal Zone.
As far as sovereignty is concerned, I don't have any hang-up about that. I would hope that after that--and expect that after the year 2000, that we would have an assured capacity or capability of our country with Panama guaranteeing that the Panama Canal would be open and of use to our own Nation and to other countries.
So, the subject of the negotiation now-it has been going on quite a while--is to phase out our military operations in the Panama Canal Zone, but to guarantee that even after the year 2000 that we would still be able to keep the Panama Canal open to the use of American and other ships.
MR. STRICKLAND. I understand, and I certainly hope that we are not too lenient, because we have lots of money invested in the Canal Zone. And I really think the Canal Zone belongs to us a whole lot more than most people think it does.
MR. CRONKITE. Thank you, Mr. Strickland.
And the next call comes from Miss Michelle Stanley of North Benton, Ohio, and Mr. President, Miss Stanley is 11 years old.
MISS STANLEY. Jimmy?
THE PRESIDENT. Hi, Michelle.
Miss STANLEY. Hi. I just called to thank you for sending me the invitation to your Inauguration.
THE PRESIDENT. Did you get a chance to come?
MISS STANLEY. No, I didn't, but I was just happy to get it. And I have another question. Why doesn't Amy go to a private school?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I hope sometime perhaps, Michelle, you can come and visit with Amy.
MISS STANLEY. Sure.
THE PRESIDENT. She goes to the public school and did in Georgia when we lived there as well. She enjoys it very much, and I have a very strong commitment to the public school system and don't have anything against the private school system. But I think it helps the public schools in Washington, D.C., to have the President's daughter go there. And it indicates to other parents that I have confidence in the public school system all over the country.
Amy goes to school with children, I think, from 26 foreign nations as well as our own country. And so far she likes the school very much.
So, because of my commitment to the public school and because Amy likes it, those are the reasons, Michelle. Good luck to you.
OTTAWA INDIAN LAND SALE
I might say, Walter, that I've got an answer to Mrs. John Ritchey's question about the payment for the Ottawa Indians' lands. This bill has already been signed into law. And there are $10.2 million to be distributed to the members of the Ottawa tribe. The Department of Interior is right now writing rules for the distribution of the funds, and by late summer of this year, the money will be distributed. So, that ought to be good news to Mrs. John Ritchey of Georgetown, Kentucky.
MR. CRONKITE. Mr. President, you got the answer there for her just in time because we have just about run out of time. I am just curious, Mr. President, before we close this off today, what you thought of the questions you got in this first experiment in meeting the people through a telephone call-in broadcast.
THE PRESIDENT. Walter, I liked it. The questions that come in from people all over the country are the kind that you would never get in a press conference. The news people would never raise them, like the Ottawa Indian question. And I think it's very good for me to understand directly from the American people what they are concerned about and questions that have never been asked of me and reported through the news media.
So, my inclination would be to do 'this again in the future. And I'll wait and see how the American people react to it, to see whether or not I have done a good job to make it worth their while.
But I want to thank you for being here with me this afternoon. The 2 hours passed very quickly, and I've enjoyed it and learned a lot from it.
MR. CRONKITE. I think they did, indeed, and we'd be glad to sign you up again, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good deal.
MR. CRONKITE. We have run out of time. We thank you for your time and the cooperation of your entire staff in making this broadcast possible.
We regret such a small number of those who wanted to talk with you actually did call in and many of you who did call and didn't get through to the President, we apologize for that.
Our special .thanks to all of you who were interested in this new broadcast idea and for President Carter and me in the Oval Office of the White House, good afternoon.
I am Walter Cronkite, CBS News.
Note: The program began at 2 p.m. It was videotaped for television broadcast at 5 p.m. on the same day on the Public Broadcasting Service.
Jimmy Carter, "Ask President Carter" - Remarks During a Telephone Call-in Program on the CBS Radio Network Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/242900