Jimmy Carter photo

Interview With the President Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With a Group of Editors and News Directors.

July 15, 1977

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't get a chance to finish my lunch. I hope you have a chance to do it. [Laughter]

I don't know what Jody was talking to you about, but I'd like to maybe take about 3 or 4 minutes to outline some of the things that face us at this moment, on a topical basis, and then spend the time we have available answering your questions.


We've just finished a superb meeting, I thought, with Chancellor Helmut Schmidt from Germany. Prior to that, we had a very good meeting with President Perez from Venezuela. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Begin will be here from Israel, and following that, we'll have Prime Minister Andreotti from Italy and, following that, President Nyerere from Tanzania.

This is a series of meetings that we've been conducting throughout the whole year, and I think it's given me a good chance to learn about foreign opinions, to re-cement our ties with nations who are naturally our allies and friends, as are those that I've mentioned to you this moment.

We also deeply are involved in the congressional appropriations legislation at this point. We have proposed to the Congress a comprehensive energy package, which was long overdue, and we've been very pleased so far with the action taken by both the Commerce Committee and the Ways and Means Committee. There's an ad hoc committee that's been set up to deal just with energy, and they will take over shortly that responsibility.

We hope that the House will finish with the entire energy package prior to the mandatory recess period that will begin on August 6. The Senate is now working on the energy package in a preliminary way, and they'll receive the legislation from the House before the summer work period.

We've done a lot of work on a comprehensive welfare reform proposal that we expect to go to the Congress, I'd say, well within the next month. And before they adjourn this year, we'll have a comprehensive tax reform proposal presented to them.

The Congress has moved very strongly on the major items that we put forward before the Inauguration---comprehensive ethics legislation, the authority for me to reorganize the Government, the evolution of a new Department of Energy, and so forth. We're very pleased with that relationship.

I have had some major disagreements with the Congress. One is to try to put at least a partial quietus on what I consider to be an unwarranted expenditure of moneys for water projects and the liquid metal fast breeder reactor production model at Clinch River, and so forth. We're trying to work that out to my satisfaction.

This year is one when we've addressed many problems that had been delayed for decades. I hope we can make progress in some of the international affairs that we face. We've got, I think, a very encouraging relationship with the Soviet Union in spite of the fact that some of the items are so controversial. But as I said at my last news conference, we are raising issues jointly with them which have not been addressed so substantively in the past.

We are working toward a comprehensive test ban treaty to prohibit the testing of all nuclear explosives, both military and peaceful. We now have no constraint on peaceful nuclear devices for underground explosions, and we have a 150-kiloton limit on military weapons. So this is quite a liberal restraint.

We've also put forward, as you know, the hope that we might begin demilitarizing the Indian Ocean, freezing our present level of deployment there, which is quite modest on both sides, and working on prior notification of missile test launchings, a prohibition against an attack of observation satellites by either country.

We've made two basic optional proposals to the Soviets on SALT talks. One is to ratify those items that were definitely agreed upon between Kissinger, Ford, and Brezhnev, and a much more deep series of cuts in nuclear weapon launchers and MIRV'd missiles, with a freeze on further deployment of the development of more advanced technology weapons.

We are trying to move, and we are working with the Soviet leaders. And although we haven't been successful in these efforts yet, there are study groups working, and I think the tone of their own relationship is good within the study groups themselves. There have been some polemical discussions on their part, particularly about the absence of progress, but I think this is just a difference of interpretation.

I don't want to take up any more time. I would rather answer your questions about specific items, and I'll start---



Q. President Carter, I'm Linda Glazer from Saratoga Springs. How do you feel about efforts in Congress to abolish the mandatory 65 age requirement?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it's a good principle to evolve. There are still some details in the legislation that have to be worked out, with the rapidity with which the Federal laws have changed, the degree of interference of the Federal Government in private industrial, manufacturing, and professional agreements that involve longstanding terms between the employees and employers.

We have not yet done an adequate assessment of the impact on the Nation's economy. But, in general, I favor the relaxation of mandatory retirement laws. I think the first step would obviously relate to the Federal Government. But we've got superb people working in the Federal Government now on an exceptional extension--which I am authorized to pursue along with the Cabinet officers, themselves--which I think vividly demonstrates that when they reach 65, they still have a lot of production years ahead of them.


Q. Mr. President, hospital costs containment bill--I'm aware of a proposal by the Community Hospital Association which would, in effect, self-regulate itself, limit capital expenditures and freeze employee ratios for a 2-year period to study the long-range aspects. And they approached Representative Rostenkowski and were told that his mind's made up, doesn't want to hear anything else about it.

Is your cost containment bill pretty much--are you very firm on this, or are we open to other suggestions for more long-range planning so that we can talk about freezing or controlling other costs to hospital suppliers; namely, doctors, others, other medical suppliers to the hospitals rather than just putting a freeze on the hospitals?

THE PRESIDENT. I think our mind is pretty well made up, except within the bounds of the congressional deliberations when I presume that adequate opportunity is given those who want to testify to do so. But I would not be willing to accept a 12-month or a 24-month or a 36-month study before we come back and make a recommendation to Congress.

We are faced now with an almost impossible proposition of having the cost of hospital care double every 5 years. And until we get some sort of constraint on hospital cost increases, I don't think there's any hope that we'll ever have a better health system for the money that is available. As you know, the cost of hospital care has gone up exorbitantly, in my opinion, compared to other inflationary costs.

So, to summarize, I would not be in favor of any delay other than that that would be part of the normal congressional process.

Q. Let me follow that up just a second. Has any thought been put to controlling other suppliers to the hospitals, such as doctors' fees, their regular, normal supplies that they have? As I understand it, under the cost containment bill, these costs are not frozen or limited to a 90-percent increase---or are they? Are they taken into account?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I think adjustments in wages have at least a partial exemption, and, of course, the fees that doctors charge to patients is not included in the hospital cost containment legislation. But we are pursuing independently of the cost containment bills some attempts to constrain the unnecessary purchase of very expensive machinery and equipment, where several hospitals in one area will spend an enormous amount of money on duplicative equipment which has got to be paid for.

I served 14 years on a hospital authority at home--and my mother is a registered nurse--and my uncle before me, my brother after me. And we've been able to see firsthand that many of the increases in hospital costs can be reduced without any deterioration, in my opinion, on the quality of the care given to the patients.

But I think this is just a first step in a move toward more preventive care, a heavier emphasis on outpatient care, without having to have the patient admitted to the hospital to receive treatment and insurance payments, and some constraint on expenditures for the very expensive equipment, and, also, increasing use of paramedical personnel. But this is a very complicated overall subject. This is the first of many steps.


Q. I am Chester Washington from Los Angeles. On the job picture, the National Urban League has just reported a dramatic increase in the unemployment of black citizens, and they say now it's down to the level during the recession period of the fourth quarter of 1975 and that the unemployment ratio among black youths is up to 58 percent.

I know money is being funneled into the city to help alleviate these problems, but is there anything else, any other areas where that problem may be helped?

THE PRESIDENT. I've never seen any statistics that equaled those. I wouldn't dispute them, because statistics can be used to prove a point. So far, since I've been in office, and I don't claim credit for it, the unemployment rate on a nationwide basis has decreased one full percent, which was the goal that we set for ourselves for the entire year--to get it down to a 7-percent level. It was 8.1 percent in December of 1976.

We've got, in addition to that, about a $21 billion stimulus package, a major portion of which is oriented toward employment with the Comprehensive Education and Training Act, public works jobs, and so forth. In addition, we've got 273,000 jobs for young people that would be included partially in those

Q. What was that number again?

THE PRESIDENT. 273,000, I think; some of them in our National Park System, and so forth. Some of that is in the GETA programs.

In addition, we've got 1.1 million jobs approved for the summer work program. I think this is the highest level we've ever had. This last month's report on employment showed a slight increase, about 1 1/2 points. But heads of families improve their percentage of employment. I think the increase in unemployment was primarily among housewives, women who were partial employees. And since last November, there've been 3 million new jobs provided in our country on a net basis. We've got 3 million more people working today than were working last November. In the last month alone, we increased 270,000 jobs in spite of a slight increase in unemployment percentage.

But we are deeply concerned about young persons' employment, particularly in minority groups. When we met in London at the summit conference, I would say the number one issue that we discussed among all seven heads of nations was youth unemployment. And we are trying to cooperate with our allies and friends who were there to deal with that particular subject. But I have never seen any sort of statistic as high as the one you've quoted. I wouldn't argue with it.


Q. Mr. President, I understand that perhaps part of this program or meeting today, sir, is to get feedback, also. Of course, I don't think it's anything new to you, but I think one of the new--one of the prime concerns among the people in our area is that of the waste in Government, the seeming irresponsibility of Congress, and the unresponsiveness of the bureaucracy; a feeling of desperation that nothing can be done and feeling overwhelmed by it.

I put this in the context of requesting, sir, to know a little bit of what's going on in the area of reform, internally.

THE PRESIDENT. This afternoon, I'll present my first proposal to the public on reorganization. We started with the most difficult one of all, as far as I am concerned, and that is cutting down the Executive Office of the President. It's difficult because of the personalities involved; they're so close to me. It is also difficult because here is a repository of many special programs that Congress had established where closeness to the President himself would permit them to span across several departments as they made decisions. It's a very controversial subject.

We, I think, have done a good job in this respect. We have a series of reorganization studies that will proceed from this that have already been revealed. We have a 3-year authorization from the Congress to complete the reorganization effort before the bill, the legislation expires. This gives me almost unlimited authority to propose to the Congress modifications in existing structures. And when we want to form a new department--for instance, we're pulling together more than a dozen different departments into the Department of Energy--that has to be done with separate legislation because it requires an affirmative vote of both Houses of the Congress.

As you know, with the reorganization authority I can make modifications as I see fit, and they go into effect unless the Congress vetoes it, by a much easier process.

In addition, we're cutting down on paperwork. I was just notified Monday morning by the Secretary of Labor, Ray Marshall, that the number of forms that are used by OSHA, for instance, would be reduced 50 percent and that the remaining forms required would be greatly simplified. This touches 1 ¼ million businesses in the United States. We are trying the same thing on all the other departments. We, in addition, are trying to simplify reports required and eliminate as many as we can.

And we have put a limit on the number of personnel who will be working in the Federal Government. My goal is that at the end of the following fiscal year, in October, on October 1 of 1978, that we would have no more employees in the Federal Government than we had in October of 1976. We are being very strict about that. This is in spite of the fact that many new programs are being assumed; that it is inevitable in any government.

So, we're doing the best we can in this early stage to bring about some restoration of confidence in the governmental process, and I enjoy it. It's a part of my experience and responsibilities as President that appeals to me. I think you will be pleased when you see the report this afternoon on the Executive Office of the President and the subsequent reports. But I don't think it's hopeless at all.


Q. Mr. President, the Surgeon General has ruled that cigarette smoking can kill you, and the Federal Government stepped in and told people they can't advertise--[inaudible]. I am from North Carolina. [Laughter] My question is this: How then can the Federal Government continue to give price supports to tobacco farmers? Is there any situation that you can envision where those supports will stop?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, only if the Congress votes that they would stop. I think that this is one of the most difficult philosophical questions to rationalize that I can think of.

We have, obviously, other conflicts; one that I addressed in my last press conference was on the abortion issue. Although I am strongly opposed to the concept of abortion on a morality basis, women insist on having the right to make their own decisions about their own body. The Supreme Court has ruled they can do this under limited circumstances. And then the next question is, should the Federal Government finance abortions? I don't think the Federal Government should.

The same thing applies to cigarette smoking. The Federal Government, long before I got here, decided it was a danger to one's health and put a warning notice on the cigarette packages and put constraints on advertising. The American people, in spite of that, still prefer to go ahead and smoke. I don't happen to smoke myself, but I don't condemn others who do.

But there's no way to rationalize inherent conflicts of that kind. I don't see any likelihood, though, that the Congress is going to eliminate the price supports on tobacco any time in the foreseeable future.

One of the things, as you know, is about sweeteners, artificial sweeteners now. It may be that the Congress will decide to put a warning on the diet soft drinks rather than completely prohibiting the use of saccharin. The present law, though, requires that saccharin be taken off the market altogether if it proves to be a danger to your health.

This is a difficult thing to rationalize. How much does the Government move in and constrain Americans' habits in that respect? This is not anything new, as you know. I'm reminding you of things that I'm sure you know.

I think the 18th amendment to the Constitution prohibited the sale of alcohol, which is obviously dangerous to one's health--if used in excess, at least-and after the trial period, that was repealed because the American people didn't accept that constraint on their lives. And now all the States and the Federal Government accept taxes from the sale of alcoholic beverages.

I would put the tobacco in the same category, roughly, with that where the American people demand the use of the product and the Federal Government tries to stabilize, tax, and modify, in the most beneficial way, the production and distribution of that product.

Q. Mr. President--

THE PRESIDENT. You go ahead. I'll get you next.


Q. If you had it to do all over again, would you find a different way to raise the human rights issue with the Soviet Union?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't think of any different way to do it. I've thought about that a lot, because it certainly was not done to aggravate any other government nor to single out any country.

Every time I've ever made a statement about human rights, I think without exception I have always included our country in as a people who are constantly searching for ways to alleviate or to reduce discrimination practices and to insure that our high standards for human rights would be realized.

So, I don't think I would do it any differently. To me, this is an integral part of the consciousness and commitment of America. It's another step forward in the realization of the goals and aspirations that we established 200 years ago.

We are not trying to send in troops to make other nations conform to us, we are not trying to punish anyone else. But I think there has to be some means in a democracy like ours, first of all, for a President to exemplify or to personify what the American people believe. And my opinion is that the American people believe very deeply in the concept of human rights.

I think it's important that this commitment be expressed publicly. We've been through some sordid and embarrassing years recently with Vietnam and Cambodia and Watergate and the CIA revelations, and I felt like it was time for our country to hold a beacon light of something that was pure and decent and right and proper that would rally our citizens to a cause. But I've been cautious not to single anyone out for condemnation.

And I might say that my own attitude on the human rights question has been fairly moderate. I'm proud of it. But I think it's accurate to say that some Members of Congress would go much further than I and even terminate all relationships with other countries who don't measure up to our standards of human rights. We can't do that.

So, I think a slow, careful, methodical but persistent expression of our concern about human rights violations has already been effective and will continue to be effective in the future. I don't believe there is a single leader of a nation in the world now who doesn't have at least in his or her consciousness the concept of human rights and how that country is measuring up to the expectations of one's own people or trying to avoid worldwide condemnation. So, I think our efforts have had an impact, and I would not do it otherwise.

MR. POWELL. Mr. President, one more question.

Q. Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I promised you.


Q. Thank you. This morning we had a presentation from Mr. Warren on the subject of environment and energy conservation, and the entire thrust of his presentation was conservation efforts.

There was no discussion and I'd like, if you could address yourself to this fundamental question, as to whether or not the administration is prepared to do or suggest anything to limit growth as a fundamental effort to deal with the environmental and energy questions confronting the country?

THE PRESIDENT. That's a concept that is partially my responsibility, yes. When we put forward the energy proposal to establish a policy for our country, one of the presumptions was that we would continue to grow economically.

Our goal is to have, roughly, about a 5 percent per year growth in our own economy to sustain the needs of the rest of the world and also to keep our people employed.

We set as a goal for ourselves on energy consumption, however, an annual growth of about 2 percent.

We think the difference there might be achievable because of the efficiency and elimination of waste. For a given standard of living now, we use about twice as much energy as other peoples, like Germany, Sweden, Japan, who have an equivalent standard of living.

I think there's a historical trend that is almost inevitable that I detect and have to recognize; and that is, that we're shifting more and more toward having economic growth based on a higher quality of life, which means an increasing foundation of things like better health care, better education, more recreation, and not the long, tedious hours of labor that went into the production of goods.

So, I think that in general a shift towards service employment is a good part of the increase in the economic strength of our country.

This can be done with efficiency, compared to what we have been doing in the past, and without further deterioration in the quality of our environment. There again, without belaboring the point, just the expenditures on the protection of our environment, air pollution control, water pollution control, the handling of waste products, the protection of the purity of the oceans, for instance, those kind of things are expenditures which give us a better life, which don't waste our natural resources but preserve them and, at the same time, give us economic growth because of the expenditure that goes into production and effectuation of those efforts.

So, with proper understanding and constraints, I think that our economic growth can continue at a moderate and steady pace, give us at the same time an opportunity for full employment and a better quality of life and the elimination of waste of valuable raw materials and natural resources.

Compared to other countries, that growth is modest. I think the Germans are striving this year for 4 1/2-percent growth. We'll probably have a good bit higher than that, maybe 5 1/2-percent growth overall.

The Japanese are looking for about a 6 1/2-percent growth rate this year. Other countries, a good bit lower.

But my goal is to maintain a rate of growth as I've just described.

Let me say in closing that I hope you've had a chance, while you're here, to get to know some of the members of the White House staff. We don't claim to know all the answers, you know. We're learning. I have never had a chance to serve in the Federal Government before, except when I was in the Navy. I have benefited from a sense of support and good will and, I'd say, counsel and constructive criticism since I've been in office.

We have done the best we could to stay in touch with people back home. We've made fairly frequent trips out through the country. I have made one trip overseas.

Later on, in just a few days, I will go down to Charleston, South Carolina, then over to Yazoo City, Mississippi, then on down to the coast of Louisiana.

We've instituted and maintained and will maintain an open press conference format every 2 weeks, which was predicted to be a failure, I think, by some, but which I think has proven to be good. And your coming here is an innovation that has meant an awful lot to us.

So, we would welcome your constant inquiries and your constant advice, and I know we'll get your criticisms when we deserve it in your opinion, whether I ask for it or not.

I've enjoyed being President so far and recognize that I still have a lot to learn.

Q. May I make one comment? I usually start with the taxicab driver. So I said, "How do you like President Carter?"

He said, "Well, he's brought back faith in the future to our people."

THE PRESIDENT. That's a good way to close.

I'll have to recognize you.


Q. May I ask one question about your water projects? My newspaper, the News Courier, in Charleston, where you'll be in a few days, has supported you on the water project issue with particular reference to the Russell dam and lake. Congress has given you a hard .time, and some of the Congressmen have given me a hard time, too.

How do you feel about your success so far in this, and will you continue to press this issue with Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I will continue to press this issue. We've made a tremendous amount of progress this first year. The Congress--the Senate, at least, has already agreed to eliminate about half the water projects. We've cut back severely on those that will be continued; they've eliminated all new starts for this year.

If we're not completely successful with this appropriation bill, then I will pursue this issue as long as I am in the White House.

I've really got to go. I appreciate it very much.

Note: The interview began at 1 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House.

The transcript of the interview was released on July 16.

Jimmy Carter, Interview With the President Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With a Group of Editors and News Directors. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243217

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives