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Atlanta, Georgia Remarks Before a Joint Session of the Georgia General Assembly.

February 20, 1979

Governor Busbee, Lieutenant Governor Miller, Speaker Tom Murphy, distinguished members of the Georgia House and the Georgia Senate, and my friends throughout my beloved State of Georgia: I'm honored to come back to you.

I wish my wife was here with me. She was planning to come. But at this very moment, there are being conducted funeral services for a brave and distinguished American diplomat, Adolph Dubs, who gave his life in Afghanistan in the service of our country.

It's a sobering thing to realize that in a time of peace and prosperity, that the toughness of our Nation still is exhibited almost on a daily basis 'by the patriotism and the dedication of those who give their lives to public service. And I think it's well for us to remember that our own freedom has been dearly purchased even by the lives of some who have helped to serve for us and with us.

This capitol is where I have spent some of the most challenging and exciting and enjoyable days of my life—rewarding times. And I can say from the bottom of my heart that it's good to be home.

I have to admit that as President, at times in Washington, this seems to be a haven of rest and companionship as I look back on my time as Governor of Georgia. On the way down here, though, I was looking at the list of committee chairmen who serve in the house and senate. And at moments like those, I'm glad I'm President, dealing with the Congress. [Laughter]

I have very closely read the newspapers from Georgia, and I notice with gratification that the same degree of cooperation, mutual support, harmony, and friendship exists among the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the speaker of the house as existed among the speaker, Lieutenant Governor Lester Maddox, and myself. [Laughter]

It's also pleasant for me to see the ease with which .difficult problems, difficult questions have been dealt since I left the Governor's office. You've answered questions that I couldn't answer. For example, I was never able to deal successfully with the problem of the local option sales tax. [Laughter]

Progress is gratifying to see, and I want to say that because of the great progress of this General Assembly and the State of Georgia, that daily you bring a sense of gratitude and appreciation and pride to the heart of the President of the United States.

Many of the problems and the challenges of National Government are different from those of State government, yet the experience that I gained here and the lessons that I learned here have proven very valuable to me during the last 2 years of my life.

I learned here, for example, that the legislative process is sometimes slow, sometimes difficult, sometimes frustrating. But I also know from experience as a State senator, as a Governor, as a candidate, and as President, that the needs and the problems of our age, our era, are too challenging and too complex to permit simple answers.

The same is obviously true at the national level, as at the State level. When the Founders wrote our Constitution, they didn't promise us that governing ourselves would be easy or that freedom would provide an automatic answer to every problem. They .didn't promise us that democracy would be stagnant or easy or convenient. They talked instead about eternal vigilance, about duty, about sacrifice, and they made provisions in the Constitution for beneficial change.

Most of the amendments to our Constitution over the generations have been designed to extend and perfect rights and liberties for individual citizens of this Nation.

The Bill of Rights was the first major change setting forth our most basic safeguards for personal liberty. Later, former slaves were liberated, and they were granted their full rights as citizens. The people were allowed to vote directly for United States Senators, and later, women were brought into the electorate.

Continuing this trend, there are now two constitutional amendments which I hope you will ratify. They are politically controversial and difficult.

One of them will grant voting rights to almost a million people who live in the District of Columbia. This is a proposed amendment which I take to be appealing both to liberals and conservatives, one which received broad support from the Georgia delegation. It was supported by Senator Talmadge, Senator Nunn, and all but two of the members of the Georgia congressional delegation. This granting of fundamental rights was also supported by conservative Republicans like Strom Thurmond, Barry Goldwater.

And I would like to also remind you that half our people are still not guaranteed their full rights in the Constitution. We owe the women of Georgia and the people of the United States no less than the ratification of the equal rights amendment.

I've been told that you will not consider either one of these amendments this year. But I hope you will consider the passage of those amendments in the same spirit that the trend and the evolution of the United States Constitution has exhibited under even more difficult times in years gone by.

These decisions and many others are challenges for you. And there are challenges also for the President and the Congress. Let me just mention one of those major difficult issues that face me as President, which you share with me in a special way.

Because of problems that have developed over a long period of time, both at home and abroad, our Nation now faces increasingly complex and challenging tasks in the area of economics. The time ahead will be difficult, requiring us to draw out the best that's within us—our idealism, our willingness to face unpleasant realities, our readiness to put the longterm interest of all above the short-term interest of a few, sometimes above the interest of our own selves.

Later on today, at Georgia Tech, I'll discuss our responsibilities as a world power in the international military, diplomatic, and political—arena. But we face equally grave tasks here at home. And the most difficult of these responsibilities is to control the persistent high inflation which threatens the health of our economy and the economic well-being of our people. And as President I pledge to you that I am determined to bring inflation under control.

The importance of this task is hard to overemphasize. We must grapple with inflation in a context that is far different from the expansive, free-spending days of the 1960's.

When I became President, I inherited both a huge budget deficit and an economy wracked by stagflation. We had the worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression. And at the same time, inflation for the 3 years before I became President had averaged over 8 percent.

We've moved forward firmly and strongly to tackle these problems. We have created in less than 2 years more than 7 million net new jobs, and we have cut the unemployment rate down already by more than 25 percent. We've set forth now an anti-inflation program that recognizes the basic causes of inflation and attacks this problem on a broad front.

Some of the causes of inflation, frankly, are beyond the control of the Federal Government. I'm determined to carry out the lessons that I learned here to keep our free enterprise system free.

I'm trying to reduce the amount of unwarranted intrusion of the Federal Government in personal lives, in the life of business—employers and employees. Also, of course, we cannot control the weather, which is demonstrated amply in Washington this week. And weather, of course, has an important impact on food prices. We cannot determine the nations' actions throughout the world which affect the prices of energy and other commodities, although we use our influence to some degree in a beneficial way. Nor can we erase the fiscal excesses of the 1960's and the early 1970's. But we can act ourselves, and by planning wisely, we can mitigate the adverse effect of these uncontrollable factors.

Because inflation is our most serious domestic problem, I have really taken it seriously in preparing my budget. The budget I proposed to the Congress cuts the Federal deficit. In fiscal year 1980, if my budget is adopted—and I expect it will be, in its overall commitment—the deficit will be $36 billion lower than it was when I was running for President; we have already cut the deficit more than 55 percent.

My budget also reduces the proportion of the total Nation's income that's collected and spent by the Federal Government to the lowest level it's been in over 7 years. And although in the past that trend was upward, we've turned that around, and the trend is now in the right direction. It's falling.

I set forth a goal in my campaign, and I'm using the powers of my office to move our Nation toward it, the goal of a balanced Federal budget. We can achieve this goal by sensible, sensitive, and well considered public policy which will at the same time protect the strength of the American economy.

I've proposed a substantial increase for national defense. This afternoon, I'll analyze our international commitments in Europe, in the Middle East, and other parts of the world. We must have the muscle to meet these commitments.

The President of the United States has no greater responsibility and the Congress of the United States has no greater responsibility than to provide for the assurance of the defense of this Nation. Together, the Congress and I will meet this responsibility, and we will keep a strong America.

We must, of course, also meet the other needs of our Nation, such as those of the poor and the elderly. But there's a clear limit on the ability of the American people to pay higher and higher taxes to finance more and more new programs. That's why our efforts to cut waste, to eliminate fraud, and to end mismanagement of public funds is so important.

We've reformed the civil service system so that Government will deliver more and better services for every dollar spent and every employee hired.

I've now appointed Inspectors General in every major Federal agency to root out fraud and to bring to justice those who are responsible for it. We are already uncovering abuses in agencies like the General Services Administration. And I intend to see these investigations of fraud and abuse pursued aggressively, wherever they lead—let the chips fall where they may.

The Federal Government has neither the resources nor the wisdom to solve every problem by itself. The States and the localities and, most important, the people must do their part.

This is the time for restraint. Expenditures must be controlled. The deficit must be reduced. The Federal Government must set an example. But this kind of restraint is difficult. It asks each of us to serve the general good by accepting less than we want in our own specific area.

I have sent to the Congress a budget that's tight and fair. But as in every other year, the inevitable pressures to spend just a little more here or just a little more there, for someone's pet project or for someone's favorite interest group, have already begun.

I'm determined to fight these pressures. I'm determined to stand firm. I'm determined to use the full powers and resources of my office to hold the line on the Federal budget.

I was taught that as a senator and as Governor by a great leader in this chamber, former Chairman Sloppy Floyd.

In closing, let me say that to hold the line, I need and I ask for the help of every elected official and every American taxpayer who shares my concern about waste and inflation. I believe the people of this country are ready to build a new foundation for the 1980's, to regain control of our economy and our destiny as a nation.

From our earliest days, students of American democracy have warned that our freedom and our prosperity might tempt our citizens to get so caught up in their own personal pursuit of happiness and wealth that they would neglect the public business.

The challenge for us today is to put aside temporary gratifications for the sake of the long-term public good. The job will not be glamorous, and results will not come quickly or easily and may not always even be detectable. But I believe that we will succeed. And when we have, the monuments to our efforts will be a vital, healthy economy—sustaining the needs and hopes and dreams of all people. And we will have, you and I, working together, an even greater United States of America.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:48 a.m. in the House Chamber of the State Capitol.

Jimmy Carter, Atlanta, Georgia Remarks Before a Joint Session of the Georgia General Assembly. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/248822

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