Flint, Michigan Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Townhall Meeting.
THE PRESIDENT. It is really great for me to be here on my birthday in Viking country. Everybody has told me that Flint Northern High is a school of champions. Is that right? [Cheers] That's what I heard. And that's in athletics, academically, and otherwise. And I'm very proud to be able to come here on this special day for me.
AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY
I wish everyone could have been with me this morning when I had a chance to see a display of America's brand new 1981 automobiles at the airport in Detroit and then to visit one of our modern production lines in Wayne County, where some of the best designed, best built, safest, most up-to-date, most efficient automobiles in the world are being made in the United States.
It's really a thrill for a President of our great country to see this demonstration of American ingenuity and American teamwork helping us to overcome one of the most difficult transition periods that the world has ever seen, with the enormous increase in the price of OPEC oil, with the change in buying habits, which has afflicted our Nation as nothing ever has before in the history of the automobile industry, or to see the fine working men and women, with tremendous investments now and in the future, modernizing our automobile industry faster than any other nation on Earth could possibly even attempt. And to see the pride in the workmanship and quality is indeed a thrill for me.
And I do not hesitate to repeat my call, which I made early this morning in the Detroit area, that American buyers all over this country should cast their eyes first at automobiles that are built in the United States of America. There may have been times in the past when buyer preferences changed and foreign cars met needs that couldn't be met by American automobiles. If that is the case, when the American consumers now get ready to spend American dollars on a new car, my advice is for them to look first and foremost at the fine, new American cars that can meet any competition and come out safer and better all around.
I will not rest as President until our automobile industry is completely competitive and has its tax laws written and economic assistance provided and investment capital ready and the protection of American workers that's necessary for us to make our entire American automobile industry competitive in every sense of the word. We've seen this serious threat, brought about by OPEC, in changing buying preferences very vividly.
This morning I rode from Washington to Detroit, from Detroit up to Flint with Doug Fraser and other leaders in the UAW, and we discussed in great depth the new partnership that has been forged between the Government and management in automobile industry and American automobile workers to face the future with confidence and with commitment and with success.
You can all think back 3 or 4 years ago, where there was an adversary relationship, a competitive relationship between Government and the automobile industry and between management and labor. About the only time we faced each other across the table was to bargain and to argue and to debate about Government regulations and about wage settlements. That time has passed, in that we now sit regularly around the negotiating table thinking how we all can work on the same team to overcome these threats to our Nation's basic industry. And what is happening in automobiles is now beginning to happen in steel.
And with the new energy policy now intact, we can move to the future and completely rebuild the American economic system, to modernize basic industries, such as steel and autos, to encourage high-technology industry that keeps us in the forefront of production, research and development, to keep us on the cutting edge of new changes so that America, as it always has been in the past, will be the first ones to get bright ideas to be competitive on an international basis. We're going to rebuild our transportation system-it's sadly in need of overhaul-expand our exports, and aid communities and workers which happen to be hit hard by those inevitable changes that we have faced so far. When we're through, the American economy will be a full-employment economy with stable prices, and the American workers will continue to outwork, outproduce, and outcompete the workers of any other nation on Earth.
Before I take the first question, I want to make just one other point. We've faced challenges together before. In the Depression years when our economy was strangled and everyone was doubtful about the next month, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on the automobile industry and the workers and said, "Move the time for introduction of your new models up." And the automobile industry responded, and workers turned out those cars earlier, and hundreds and thousands of people went back to work in the depth of the Depression. And later on, in World War II, the same President Roosevelt called on the industry and said, "Our country is in danger. I need for you to help turn America into the arsenal of democracy." And the same spirit prevailed then, and the automobile industry kept our Nation free. And now we find the same spirit prevailing as we face this economic threat, not quite so severe, as a matter of fact, as we faced on those other two occasions. And I don't have any doubt that we will be successful.
And finally, let me repeat a point that I made earlier today. Just 5 weeks from now, the American people will make an important decision. I won't mention politics, but I'd like to say this: I intend to be the President when a constant stream of American ships filled with American-built automobiles are unloading every week and every month in Tokyo and Yokohama, and I want you to help make that pledge come true.
Q. De parte de los estudiantes de la escuela norte que deseamos darle las felicitaciones. Feliz cumpleanos, querido Senor Presidente. [On behalf of the students of Northern High, we'd like to offer you congratulations. Happy birthday, dear President Carter.]
THE PRESIDENT. Muchas gracias, senora. Es us placer para mi estar aqui y las felicidades son muy buenas. Gracias. [Thank you, ma'am. It's a pleasure for me to be here and your greetings are very good. Thank you.]
Q. De nada. [You're welcome.] You'll get an A in my class.
THE PRESIDENT. I'd get an A in her class. [Laughter] I'd hate to ask her what her class is. [Laughter]
What is your long-range solution to the Cuban refugee problem?
THE PRESIDENT. I think the Cuban refugee problem has been one of the most difficult human problems I've had since I've been in the White House.
As you know, throughout the world 3 or 4 million people are refugees from their own country because of pressure on them from totalitarian, primarily Communist, governments that deprive them of freedom. I would guess that unless there are some native Indians here, that almost everyone came here, other than the blacks from Africa who came as slaves originally, to seek freedom and to find a better life in this country.
The Cubans came here in a flood in the first few weeks when Castro finally gave them the right to go to freedom. We received about 3,000 Cuban refugees per day—a very difficult problem. Now, we cut that down to about 150 per day by using the Navy and the Coast Guard to stop the flood of small boats coming from Mariel Harbor in Cuba to the United States.
My responsibility is to administer the laws of the United States and the constitutional provisions, and I'm sworn to do that. So, I tried to stop the illegal flow of Cubans and others into this country. Now the Cuban officials have announced that no more will the boats be encouraged to come to Mariel Harbor and no more will they be permitted to bring Cubans back to the southern part of the country, primarily Florida.
With that stopping of the Cuban refugee flow, we'll now be able to handle the matter, I think, well. We will put a few Cuban refugees, that have been in excess and haven't yet been placed, in Puerto Rico. I talked to the Governor of Puerto Rico, after I took off from Washington this morning on Air Force One, to explain to him what was going to happen. We will continue to place those refugees in places where the unemployment rate is lowest and where they have family members that can help them get assimilated into our society. We're trying to handle them humanely. We have stopped the flow. I will not let that flow recommence. And we will abide by the laws of the United States, using the Coast Guard, the Navy, and the full resources that I have to enforce the laws.
Q. Mr. President, Flint is an important automotive industrial city in the Nation, but I feel that Flint doesn't get enough recognition for what it does. Flint is the cradle of GM, and in 1937 there was a sit-down strike, which created all labor unions. And GM is where Flint started and not Detroit. Flint may not be a very big city population-wise, but it's just as important.
THE PRESIDENT. I agree with you. When I asked Doug Fraser and the UAW officials about the origin of General Motors and the UAW, they don't make any bones about it; they say Flint, Michigan.
And it's not an accident that I've come here. There are tens of thousands of places in the United States, as you know, that I could have chosen to come for this townhall meeting, and I think I would have been welcomed in almost all of them, but I chose to come to Flint. I might say, too, that there was one place, at the end of a long 1976 campaign for President-when I hadn't really had a chance to be on the same platform with my running mate, Vice President Walter Mondale-that I chose to be the night before the election. Do you remember where that was? Flint, Michigan, right?
This is my fifth visit to Flint, Michigan, and I always enjoy coming here. And I particularly wanted to come here this morning—and in a way I hate to say this, but I'm going to be frank with you-because of all the cities that have been hurt by the changes that have taken place in the automobile industry, with excessive imports and too slow a change to new models, Flint has been hurt the most. As President, my heart goes out to those who suffer, and I know that the people in Flint, Michigan, have been suffering. And I came here to let you know that I, as President, Vice President Mondale, Secretary Goldschmidt of Transportation, my whole administration is working with the leaders of UAW and all the manufacturing leaders in the automobile industry to put Flint, Michigan, back on its feet economically and to provide jobs for you workers. That's why I came.
And I have to admit there is another reason. I'll just make this remark off the record. George Bush said that I didn't have the guts to come here. It doesn't take any guts to come here, with friends who share with me a hope for the future. And also, I was invited to meet here to have a man-to-man debate with Governor Reagan. I'm here. And anytime he's willing to meet me back here on a two-man debate proposition, I'll make my sixth visit to Flint, Michigan.
Q. Happy birthday, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, ma'am.
Q. I have a birthday this month, too. [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. I won't ask you how old you are if you won't tell anybody how old I am.
Q. I don't care, really. I'm going to be a senior citizen, that's for sure, and that's what my question is about. I want to know what the future is for us senior citizens of a better life to live?
THE PRESIDENT. I'll be glad to tell you.
Q. Some of us have a pretty rough time.
THE PRESIDENT. I know that. I'll be glad to tell you. A lot of the future life for senior citizens will depend on the decisions that will be made in the ballot boxes of voting places on November the 4th.
We have a need to protect the social security system, to keep it sound, to make sure that social security payments are never taxed, to make sure they're never reduced, to make sure that when inflationary pressures impose themselves on retired people, that social security payments are increased to accommodate the changes of inflation. We need to make sure that we protect the Medicare program, also Medicaid. We need a nationwide comprehensive health program for our people.
And we also need to recognize that senior citizens—and if I am reelected President I'll be 60 years old 4 years from now—we need to recognize that people who've reached retirement age still have a lot to contribute in ways that are beneficial to our country. And I want to make sure that in the future, as we have since I've been in the White House, that we give senior citizens a chance to work, parttime if they choose or enjoy themselves without working as they choose. But there's a full life to be lived even during retirement years.
So, to protect retirement benefits, to protect our health programs and improve them, to make sure that we index payments so that inflation doesn't rob those who are retired, and to make sure we don't tax income—those are some of the things that you can count on if I'm in the White House. And I believe that the Congress will back me up on all those items.
Thank you, ma'am.
Q. Happy birthday, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.
JAPANESE AUTOMOBILE IMPORTS
Q. My name is Ted Gallimat; I'm a resident of Flint Township. I have supported you since September 10th, 1975. I wish you well for the next 4 years as President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. So far, I like your question very much. [Laughter]
Q. I could say I'll vote for you if you vote for me, but I won't.
Is there any possibility in the future of generating equal trade with our friends in Japan by their removing the tariff or by the U.S.A. imposing them in regard to the automobile?
THE PRESIDENT. That's an excellent question. I don't believe I can answer it about what will happen years in the future, but let me tell you what we are doing and the prospects as I see them.
First of all, when Japan abuses privileges, as they did with the recent assembly loophole on small trucks, I am determined to act forcefully. I have imposed, as you know, a 25-percent duty on the small trucks that have come into our country almost assembled and then just a little bit of assembly went into them, and I believe that's very important. And I just got word that the Japanese manufacturers of those small trucks will increase their price 25 percent beginning in the near future, which will make the American small and efficient trucks competitive. So, meeting competition in that respect and preventing dumping and unfair competition is very important to me.
Secondly, we're trying to encourage the Japanese to restrict their shipment of automobiles to this country this year during this transitional phase. Recently, a top Japanese official announced that their shipments of cars to this country would not be increased further, that their total shipments would not exceed those of 1979, and that the last 6 months of this year the anticipated rate of Japanese automobile shipments would be down 200,000 below what we had thought it would be. That helps.
In addition, we are encouraging Japanese who are going to sell their cars in this country to put their manufacturing plants or assembly plants in the United States, to employ American workers to make Japanese cars. When I got into the airport this morning in Detroit, there was a Volkswagen there, manufactured in this country. And the man who represented Volkswagen-America told me that 70 percent of all the Volkswagens sold in this country are manufactured in the United States with American workers. The only two things they import from Germany now is the transmission and the motor itself.
In addition, we are trying to get the Japanese to buy spare parts and parts for assembly of their own automobiles in the United States. And we're trying to force them to lower tariff barriers—that's important-but also distribution techniques that in the past have almost completely excluded American cars from the market in Japan. All those items put together will help.
I've also asked the ITC, the International Trade Commission, to make a quick ruling on whether or not unfair competition has been exerted against American workers by the Japanese automobile imports. They will have hearings in about a week and make a determination then about whether we can restrain excessive and improper shipments of Japanese and other cars into this country. If and when the ITC rules, my intention is as quickly as possible to consult with the Japanese leaders and provide some means to communicate with them, either through Reubin Askew, our Special Trade Representative, or, perhaps later on after the election, with the Japanese leaders themselves with me.
So, in all those areas we're trying to make sure that we impress upon the Japanese, one, they've got to be fairly and properly competitive and secondly, that the American automobile industry does not intend to relinquish to the Japanese or anyone else any part of the automobile production scheme in this Nation.
Q. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.
AMERICAN HOSTAGES IN IRAN
Q. Mr. President, I was going to ask you how it felt to be 21-plus, but you already told us. So, I'll ask my other question now—Happy birthday to you anyway.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.
Q. Do you think that the war between Iran and Iraq is a threat to our hostages, and what do you think we should do about it or what is going to be done about it?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't believe that the present war between Iran and Iraq has changed the status of the hostages as far as their safety is concerned. I don't believe it's threatened their lives further, and I don't believe it's changed, as far as I can determine, the prospect for their return to their homes and to freedom.
Yesterday, the Majles, or the parliament or congress, of Iran was debating the hostage question, ignoring, at least for those few hours, the threat to their nation's existence from Iraq. The problem with Iran is that we have not had any government with which we could deal. And they have now finally got a President, a Prime Minister, a parliament elected, a speaker of the parliament, and they're getting a cabinet put together now. Once that's done, I think we'll have a good prospect of improving the chances to get those hostages home.
We have been very cautious since the very beginning to do two things: First of all is to protect the honor and the integrity and the interest of our Nation—that's my responsibility; and secondly, not to do anything from the White House or from my own public statements that would endanger the lives or safety of the hostages and their chance to come back home to freedom. I've never seen any incompatibility between doing both those things at the same time.
And I'm being very cautious in this trying time for Iran, to let them know that we're staying neutral, that we'll do nothing to try to punish Iran, that we want our hostages back. We want Iran to be a secure nation. We want their own people to choose their own government and in the future, when it's mutually advantageous, to restore normal relationships between our two countries. But I need to get every American to understand that our priorities are twofold: to protect our Nation's interests and to protect those hostages and to keep our country at peace. These are the things that are important to us.
The last thing I'd like to say is this: It's always difficult for a powerful nation to be patient and not to capitalize in a political way over a tragedy like the capturing of our innocent hostages. But the American people have shown that patience; we've acted in a very mature way. And I believe we'll continue that process and that attitude.
My constant prayers are that the hostages will be released safely and will come back home. And I don't believe that war, as serious as it is—and we're trying to end it—has further endangered those precious 52 Americans about whom we're so concerned.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE FOR MICHIGAN RESIDENTS
Q. Yes. Mr. President, I'd like to ask what you plan to do to help Flint, Michigan's, economic problem.
THE PRESIDENT. All right, I'll try to answer that.
I've been very conscious of the need to have extended unemployment benefits for those who have been made unemployed by the change that's taken place in the automobile industry. Secondly, we've asked the Congress now for a 13-week extension, above and beyond the 52 weeks that's authorized under the present law, for unemployment compensation.
The special training assistance that goes to provide help economically and training for workers who have to change jobs is also available there for most workers. And we're trying to get it extended to some other workers, 50 percent of whose jobs are related to an industry that's impacted by imports from overseas, as has been the automobile industry in our own country.
In the last 3 1/2 years, just for the State of Michigan, we've put in here about $3 billion of economic development assistance, CETA programs which provide jobs for citizens, plus the youth employment jobs. That's above and beyond the new programs that we've put into effect all over the Nation for education, for better transportation, and so forth. Three billion dollars is a lot of money. It's not my money; it's the taxpayers' contribution. And Michigan and the Flint area deserve it.
So, we're trying to make sure that as this industry works out of its transition phase, back into full production with the new style automobiles and with the elimination of unfair competition from overseas, that we can keep intact the economic security of people who live here in Flint.
The last point is—I'll repeat myself briefly—we've formed a new and very close partnership, that never has existed before, between the Federal Government and the executives who make the decisions with the automobile industry and the executives who represent the automobile workers. We've only done that in one other industry in our Nation—and I announced it yesterday—and that was the steel industry. So, that's the kind of forward-looking partnership that will pay rich dividends in the future.
Those are some of the things that we're doing that will help to alleviate the concerns that I share with you about the
people who live here in Flint.
Q. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT, It's a good question, and I thank you for it.
Q. My name is Marlene Laro, and this is my sister Rachel. My daddy is a Republican, and my room is undecided. What is the difference between a Republican and you, so I can tell my parents how to vote? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. Very good. Is your first name Marlene—and Rachel, right?
THE PRESIDENT. That's an excellent question, Marlene. I thank you for it.
There are several very important differences. One is a basic difference between the two parties, the Democratic and Republican Party. The Democratic Party has always been the one that cared most about human beings, about humans who have not had a good opportunity that exists for those who are rich or powerful or well educated or socially prominent or who have had every advantage in life. The Democrats believe that those who do suffer, like retired people, or those who are out of a job or those who might be black or those who speak a different language are given a chance to stand on their own feet and to compete and have equality of opportunity. The Democrats have always been on the forefront of that.
We've also always seen that there were special needs at certain times in history. For instance, during the Great Depression, which I remember, but of course you don't, back in the thirties and forties, there was no security for people who got to be 60 years old or 65 years old and couldn't work full time. Social security was put forward. The Democrats were for it; the Republicans were against it.
I lived on a farm in Georgia, and the Democrats felt that we ought to have rural free delivery of mail, that a farmer ought to get mail just like a city person. Democrats were for it; Republicans were against it.
There was a time when American workers were cheated, when people worked all day, sometimes 18 hours a day, and didn't get much pay. And there was no law that said you had to pay a person a certain amount of money to work. If somebody was out of work, a person that owned a factory could say, "I'11 give you 10 cents an hour or 15 cents an hour to work in my factory," and if that person didn't have any bread to eat, they had to say, "Okay." So, a proposal was put in the Congress to have a minimum wage, and the minimum wage proposed was 25 cents an hour. The Democrats were for it; the Republicans were against it.
This was a concern about working people. When the time came for giving black people a guaranteed right to vote and to have equality of opportunity in getting jobs and going to public buildings and going to the same schools, the Democrats under President Kennedy and President Johnson were in the forefront of saying, "Let's treat all Americans fairly." This is another very important difference.
So, between the two parties there's a great deal of difference all the way down through history.
I was for Medicaid and Medicare. My opponent was against Medicaid and Medicare. Many times my own opponent who's running in this election said that he thought that social security should be a voluntary program, which in effect would spell the end to social security. When New York got on its knees and was about to go bankrupt, my opponent said, "I pray the first prayer every morning, I pray the last prayer every night that the Government won't bail out New York." When Chrysler Motor Company was just about to go under and hundreds of thousands of jobs were at stake all over the country, I and the Congress were working to guarantee loans—not to give away a nickel, but just to give Chrysler a right to borrow money. And my opponent, who is a Republican, said, "I don't see anything wrong with bankruptcy." This is the kind of difference that exists now.
Another very important difference is this: I believe that we ought to control nuclear weapons and have an agreement worked out between us and the Soviet Union, the other major power, to have equal and constantly lowered arsenals of atomic weapons that could destroy the Earth. We spent years under President Nixon, President Ford, and myself, developing a SALT agreement, so-called, to limit those atomic weapons. Every President since Harry Truman, including all the Republican Presidents, like Eisenhower, all the Democratic Presidents, have believed in this process. My opponent is against the SALT treaty that we're trying to get ratified now, and he believes we ought to have a nuclear arms race to convince the Soviet Union that we are the most powerful nation on Earth. With a nuclear arms race there would be no way for the Soviet Union to agree to balanced reductions in atomic weapons.
Those are some of the differences that are very important to me. I felt it was important for us to have a Department of Energy and a Department of Education to deal with crises in these areas.
Q. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. Marlene, one other point. Just yesterday my opponent said that if he was elected President that he was going to eliminate the Department of Energy and abolish the Department of Education.
So, there's a lot of difference historically between the two parties, but there's even more difference now between myself and the Republican nominee this year. So, I hope you'll ask your parents to vote for me and give them some good reasons.
Q. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.
UNITED STATES STRENGTH
Q. Happy birthday, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you.
Q. As a young man about to enter the future, I'm very concerned about the possibility of a draft. And are we militarily ready should there be an emergency with another country?
THE PRESIDENT. What was the last part of your question? I heard the part about the draft.
Q. Okay. Are we militarily ready if there should be an emergency to this country?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. There's no doubt about that. Our country is the strongest nation on Earth, militarily, economically, .politically, and I think morally and ethically as well. We have strong allies. And we are bound together with our allies, because we have mutual interests and it's a matter of voluntary cooperation and teamwork. We also have the most advanced technology, research and development, new concepts.
We've got a well-balanced geographical advantage in that we've got broad areas of our Nation with access to both oceans. We have friendly nations to the south in Mexico, to the north in Canada, quite different from what the Soviet Union has with a major border with a sworn enemy in the People's Republic of China. Our country is almost invulnerable to any sort of land attack or sea attack.
We also have, I believe, a very balanced strategic advantage. Right now oil seems to be the strategic weapon that could be used, not by the Soviet Union but by some of the Arab countries. All the Arab OPEC nations combined have about 6 percent of the world's energy reserve. Our country alone has 24 percent of all the energy reserves, and ours are different in nature, with oil and gas and shale and with tar sands and geothermal supplies. We've got a broad range of energy reserves.
Our country's a peace-loving nation, and a lot of nations around the world are trying to build governments based on freedom, based on democracy, based on the value of a human being, like ours, using us as a pattern. I don't know of a single other nation on Earth that's trying to structure their own government patterned after the Soviet Union.
Our country is also at peace, and we are opening up new friendships as rapidly as we can with other countries. Not much more than a year ago we formed diplomatic relations and opened up trade opportunities and other friendships with the People's Republic of China, a billion people, almost a fourth of all the human beings on Earth. So, that adds an additional dimension to our strength.
Our country espouses human rights, which is a hunger that exists among people in every nation, no matter where they might live.
Militarily, our country's constantly growing stronger. We've got Trident submarines, cruise missiles, the new MX missile that's coming along, that'll make us very competitive still with any nation on Earth. And I might add that the SALT II treaty requires the Soviet Union to eliminate about 10 percent of all their missiles if it's put into effect. We don't have to eliminate any of ours.
The last point is that our people are unified. We are comprised of citizens from almost every nation and ethnic group on Earth. But once we become Americans, we become part of a team that's confident and innovative. The free enterprise system, our freedom of religion gives us a motivation to protect ourselves and the will to stand up over any difficulty that's been exhibited many times in the last few hundred years.
So, I think in every aspect of life, our country is strong, is able, and is willing and eager to defend itself. And I might say, there's not going to be any draft. The registration is to prevent the need for a draft and to keep our country free. Thank you very much.
SUBMARINE COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS
Q. Mr. President, it's an honor to be here, to speak to you and represent the veterans of Flint and Michigan.
THE PRESIDENT. Very good.
Q. My name is William Palo, Flushing Township in Michigan. I'm the chairman of the ELF Committee, District 10, Veterans of Foreign Wars and member of the Chevrolet Motor Post in Flint. I'm also, I was in twice—two wars. I couldn't get it across; I'm sorry, sir.
Mr. President, my question is: The American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans, the Submarine Veterans of World War II, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Michigan and nationally have passed resolutions in support of the Navy's proposed extremely low frequency submarine communication system. We believe that you, as an ex-submarine officer and from your various statements to the press, that you believe we need it, but you haven't been able to make a decision because of political pressure. You also know that the VFW has endorsed Governor Reagan for President partly because of the indecisiveness on your part. The veterans here in Michigan and across the country might vote for you if you showed the courage to make the decision now.
This coil is a sample of what we would like—130 miles—for you to make a decision where to deploy this. The coil would be put in the ground with a transmitter to communicate with our Trident nuclear submarine. At present it must come to the surface for a message, and our potential adversaries can see them. They are not based at the present time. Ten million dollars or more for a submarine, and this would be far less cost compared to the loss in manpower and the deterrent from war. Please comment, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. I'll be glad to. I was in the Navy for 11 years, as a submarine officer for the last 5 years. I understand very clearly, as Commander in Chief of all our military forces, the need to have a strong defense and especially to communicate adequately with our submarines under water. We have several different means to communicate adequately with those submarines.
In 1976 1 stated to the people in Michigan and other citizens in this part of the country that we would not move forward with the then ELF system, which was 2,400 miles of underground transmitter cables, without coming into the communities and ascertaining accurately the attitude of the people involved and to give them the arguments before I made a decision. We've worked on this question, and we'll make a decision when it's necessary to do so.
There has been no delay in the decision because of pressure, because I've not had any delegations come into the White House to see me, I've not had any appreciable pressure through the mail or otherwise on me. The decision will be made by me, by the Secretary of Defense, by the Joint Chiefs of Staff when the time comes. It'll obviously have to be made with the Congress as well.
Since I've been in office, we have reduced the impact—whatever the impact might be—environmentally more than tenfold below what it was when the original system, as you know, was to be considered. We've assessed the possibility of the placement of the underground transmitter cables in other parts of the Nation. That assessment is still ongoing. As soon as I get a recommendation from the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs .of Staff, no matter when it might come, I will not hesitate to make a decision without delay.
At the present time, I can tell you that our communications capability with our submarines is adequate to defend ourselves. It's obvious that in the future we might need additional capabilities to defend ourselves and communicate with the submarines. When that time comes, I will have no hesitation about making a decision publicly and instantly. But if I make a decision to come into this area, then I will meet the commitment that I made in '76 to explore it, to have public hearings myself with the leaders involved before I make a public decision on the subject.
Q. Mr. President, public hearings have been held in the Upper Peninsula, and at the present time Wisconsin is also applying for this system.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I know.
Q. The Chief of Naval Operations has issued you a letter, plus the Defense Secretary has, also. I have copies myself where he has asked you to go ahead on it.
THE PRESIDENT. You're mistaken. Mr. Palo, there is no difference between me and the Secretary of Defense. And when I get a recommendation from the Secretary of Defense either to go ahead with the system or not to go ahead with it and the location that they advocate, I will not hesitate. I have not gotten such a recommendation. When I get one I'll make the decision.
KU KLUX KLAN
Q. Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes?
Q. Mr. President, my name is Angela Sawyer, and I'm a senior here at Northern. And I would like to welcome you to Viking country.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Angela. Q. I would like to know what can be done about the Ku Klux Klan and their secret training camps in the South, if anything can be done?
THE PRESIDENT. The secret training camps are minimal. The Ku Klux Klan is looked on by southerners, black and white, as a despicable and obnoxious blight on the free society of America. In my judgment they are a group of cowards who have disgraced our country. And their strength and influence is much lower now than at any time I remember during my lifetime. In the past they have been a major influence in States like Indiana and others and down through the South, but I think that time is gone permanently.
I have had the Klan demonstrate against me, both when I was Governor, and even recently I had Klansmen, a few, in northern Mississippi [Alabama]1 when I opened my campaign on Labor Day. But I can assure you that the FBI is cooperating fully with local and State officials to make sure that there is no illegal act performed by the Klansmen or anyone else of their ilk who try to deprive American citizens of their rights, and who are filled with hatred based on a person's color or religious preference. I'll do everything I can to make sure that what I say is true now—and it is—continues to be true in the future.
1 White House correction.
EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING PROGRAMS
Q. President Carter, my name is Karen West. And I'm very concerned about jobs in Flint, because I deal with unemployment every day. Therefore, I'm very concerned about the talk in Congress of cutting CETA money for the next fiscal year, also the talk that has been going around of completely wiping out title VI money that deals with cyclical unemployment, which is rampant here in Flint at this time. Therefore, I would like to know what the administration can do to ensure that Flint, which has had the highest unemployment rate in the nation for several months, which is no honor—how can you ensure that we get those CETA dollars and other jobs programs directly to us?
THE PRESIDENT. In addition to the CETA jobs and the others that I outlined as an answer to an earlier question, we're also trying to get an extra billion dollars in countercyclical aid, which means—the word countercyclical means that the money is focused on those communities in our Nation where the need is greatest. In other words, the higher the unemployment rate is, the more money is focused on job programs.
In addition, we have before the Congress now an act, which I believe will pass—it's already through the House and is almost through the Senate— called the Youth Act of 1980, which will add $2 billion to programs to train and to employ young people. This is above and beyond all the existing young persons employment programs and above and beyond all existing CETA programs that are there now. I believe that Congress will pass this bill.
We now have $4 billion in special programs for youth employment, and this will increase by 50 percent to $6 billion. What it does, in a nutshell, is: A young person who's at the, roughly, the junior and senior year in high school or older who does have a need for a job is placed in a private employer's job, and for the first few months the Government pays part of that salary of the young person as they become qualified to work full time and do productive labor. In addition, it's tied in with the Department of Education so that if that young person needs a special skill, say, mathematics or something of that kind, to hold that permanent job, they're given extra work at the high school itself.
This is the first time we have ever had a major program where Education and Labor, those two departments, work hand in hand to address a problem together. In the past we've had too many graduates of high school, too many graduates of vocational schools, too many graduates of junior colleges, and otherwise, who went out into the community where they lived and found their skills didn't match the jobs that were available. The Labor Department is responsible for filling jobs, the Education Department has been turning out graduates. So, I think this will be a major quantum step forward in providing that opportunity.
So, to protect the jobs that we have now, to add a billion dollars in countercyclical aid focused on the special cities, to have an expanded EDA program, or economic development program, again focused on the crippled cities where unemployment is high, and to add the brand new youth job program, which has excellent chance of being put into effect this year—those are some of the things that we're doing that will have a direct benefit to the people of Flint.
Q. Thank you.
TRADE READJUSTMENT ASSISTANCE FOR
Q. I would like to say happy birthday, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, sir.
Q. My name is Clarence Murphy, and I'm a driver for local 332. The company that I work for hauls brand new trucks out of General Motors and Chevrolet plants. And what I'd like to talk to you about is, there's been some rumors that the Secretary of Labor has said that car haulers can haul most anything, and, you know, I'm here to let you know that we can't. If we could put some wire around those trailers there, we'd haul peanuts or whatever we could. [Laughter] I don't think the freight haulers would like that. But—
THE PRESIDENT. No, they wouldn't.
Q.—but there's been some saying that we are not affected by the Japanese imports, and because of that House rule 1543 has not been passed and it's waiting in the Senate to be signed there.
I believe that you are a very fair man, as fair as you were when you first were elected. And I see no need for a person to lose their home and their family if it can be helped.
Now, it was denied us. We're in the Teamsters. And UAW has received this TRA, as it's called, and we are not qualified. They are saying that we're not qualified because we don't have anything to do with the making of the product. But the product is not finished until it reaches the dealership. And we have quite a few drivers that they're losing their homes, and quite a few of us have lost our homes. And we're depending on you. We're definitely depending on you. I don't think it's fair for them to— I mean before we can take care of anything else, we've got to take care of our own, and we're not being taken care of.
THE PRESIDENT. Clarence, let me say this. You've made your case very well. I don't think anyone could have made it better or clearer.
There has to be a line drawn somewhere on the TRA between jobs that are directly affected by imports and those that are not. That's the way the law is written. The position that we have taken, the way I understand it, is that if 50 percent of your kind of work is related to the industry, like automobiles, then we favor the coverage of TRA for that group.
If you would give one of my aides your name and telephone number, let me go back and talk to the Secretary of Labor and give you a call. The reason I want to call you back personally is that I've told you all I know about this subject, and I'd rather find out a little bit more. But I will call you when I get back in Washington, okay?
EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING PROGRAMS
I'm sorry, I don't have enough time for another question. Tell me what your name is.
Q. Kevin McKenzie.
To the honorable President of the United States, Mr. Carter, I would like to say happy birthday and welcome to Flint. I am a young high school student at Flint Northern High School. I would like to know what can you do to help provide jobs for us young people? For example, here in Flint there's only the car industrials, and when they are down, everything is down. The CETA program is not for all. What other alternatives can you assure us with as far as jobs are concerned?
THE PRESIDENT. Let me ask you this: Did you hear my answer to the question that I just gave the lady in the back?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, this summer-and also, I can assure you, next summer-we had a million jobs for young people during the summer months. And this new youth program, that I believe will pass before the Congress adjourns this year, would add another massive program, $2 billion, which will be a 50-percent increase in the program, to give young people a chance to work. So, if I did have time to answer your question that's what I would have told you. Okay?
Let me close by saying—
Q. Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. I've got to—yes, ma'am?
Q. The President of the United States of America?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, but I—
Q. I was elected to say something to you.
THE PRESIDENT. All right. Let me say one other thing before you say something, okay?
THE PRESIDENT. No, you go ahead. Ladies first. [Laughter]
Q. To the President of the United States of America, my name is Ophelia Bonner of—[cheers]—wait a minute—of Christ Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, Reverend Erobbs, pastor, of the United States of America to you today. We are so glad to have you here. In your travels now in the different cities and different congregations, do you have the faith and confidence to believe that you'll be reelected President of the United States in '81?
THE PRESIDENT. If you all will help me, I have that faith, yes.
Let me say one other thing, please. I'm going to have to go, but let me say one other thing.
Q. Mr. President, I'm Andrew Jackson—[inaudible]—a former Congressman from this district.
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, great. Well, Congressman, it's an honor. You go right head.
Q. All right. Now, my question is this: I believe in this campaign the overriding issue is the atomic bomb and the control of it, and I think you've answered this somewhat.
THE PRESIDENT. I agree with that.
Q. But I think I would—I know it's better for you to have the panic button than "Ronald Ray-gun."
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, sir. Thank you, Congressman.
Let me close, in just about one minute summarizing something that hasn't been said. I've come here to Flint because we face difficult problems.
When I became President, the most serious problem we had was the threat of energy and our dependence on too much overseas oil and our possible loss of our Nation's security and our independence, because if people control you or control the product you've got to have, then it takes away part of our freedom. In the last 3 1/2 years we've made good strides on energy, and today we are importing 2 million barrels of oil less every day than we were the first year I was in office. And it's made good progress because of you.
Now we are faced with a very serious problem of change in the automobile industry and challenge to the steel industry. Again we are making very good progress, because we've spelled out for ourselves a road to the future that we can follow successfully.
The point is, our Nation has faced much more serious challenges and much more serious problems in years gone by than any that I have seen since I have been in the White House—the Great Depression, the First World War, the Second World War, Watergate, the Vietnam war. Those kinds of things have shocked this country and endangered our very existence and our Nation's security.
We've got problems now. I don't want to underestimate them. There are no easy answers. But our country, when we were united and when we understood the problem or the challenge or the obstacle, has never failed. And I don't have any doubt in my mind, as President of this country, that the United States of America, a united people, as we face the future together we will not fail. And you can depend on that.
Thank you very much. God bless you.
Note: The President spoke at 2 p.m. in the Flint Northern Community High School gymnasium.
Jimmy Carter, Flint, Michigan Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Townhall Meeting. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251994