News Conference in Kansas City, Missouri
Governor Carter. Yesterday afternoon, I sent President Gerald Ford a telegram and I'd like to read it to you and then answer questions.
To President Gerald Ford:
You have made erroneous statements about my positions on several issues. First, I do not advocate increasing income taxes on low or middle income families. Second, I do not advocate eliminating the existing homeowner income tax benefits. Third, I do not advocate new spending programs which would cost anything near $100 billion. My pledge is to have a balanced budget by 1980, fiscal year 1981, and to phase in new programs only as funds become available through an expanding economy and improved government management. Fourth, I do not advocate a $15 billion reduction in the defense budget. My projected savings from efficiency and elimination of waste is from $5 billion to $7 billion. Knowing your belief in integrity I am sure that after these corrections you will refrain from making these misleading and erroneous statements to the American people.
Signed, Jimmy Carter.
I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have on this or any other issue.
Q. [Question on President Ford's press conference statements.]
Carter. Because I noticed that in the press conference that Mr. Ford called, and for which he got full news media coverage, that he made these false statements as part of his apparently prepared effort, and I think it was highly misleading for him to say that without my having an adequate chance to respond. And this is the first opportunity to prepare . . . and I want him to get the telegram before I announce it to the press. So I think this is the earliest time that I had a chance.
Q. [Question on people who work for a living, taxes, low moderate income people.]
Carter. Let me answer it this way. One kind of reform, in fact the only one that comes to my mind right now, is the person who uses tax shelters, where the income is actually excluded from taxation by a legal, legally authorized trick. If someone earns $100,000 from salary, and reports all their income on the income tax forms, doesn't use a tax shelter, then I would guess that their tax rate would be substantially reduced in a tax reform effort.
Q. [Question on mortgage interest and property tax deductions.]
Carter. No. The mortgage interest deduction and the property tax deduction would be maintained. It's now about $12 billion total. About half of it goes to property tax credits, about half of it goes for interest payment credits. That amount would be retained. If any change was made it would be to shift the credit toward the low and middle income families who are buying their first homes. The amount, though, I think is adequate. I wouldn't reduce it. I promised not to do that. For those who are buying a second or third home, that benefit may be decreased because I think it's best to have the major incentive for building homes go to those who are buying their first home, and who need the money most. Now this has been a matter of confusion since the first League of Women Voters debate way back before the New Hampshire primary. I clarified that statement completely, I think, in the second League of Women Voters debate in Miami. And I'm glad to get it clear.
Q. [Question on tax shelter exceptions.]
Carter. The only exception I can think of now is the tax shelter provision. I would not, for instance, remove the right to make charitable contributions. I think that ought to be continued. My major thrust will be to eliminate the loopholes that permit people to get an unwarranted advantage. And as I said several times, perhaps it was a confusing statement, but the fact that those who do work for a living, whether it's on a salary or by the hour, and who have reported all their tax for income—all their income for tax purposes—would not have an increase.
Q. . . . Are you calling for dramatic tax reform? How can you pick and choose and have a total tax reform . . . tax rate?
Carter. I've just described it as best I can. I won't write for you this morning a complete income tax code. But if you would clarify your question I would try to answer it
Q. Would you suggest a basic lowering of the tax rate?
Carter. I would guess the tax rates would be lowered throughout the entire gamut of income. One aspect which I have not adopted completely was based on my long discussions with several tax people, and it was that at the top level the income tax rate would be reduced from 70 percent to 50 percent, at the lower level it would be reduced from about 14 percent to 10 percent. That reduction in rates would come from the elimination of existing loopholes that I've described.
Q. How about the middle income rates?
Carter. Well, it would be reduced commensurately. I believe if you would get a pencil and paper and compute that you'd see that there was about a 40 percent reduction at the lower level and approximately the same, about a 30 percent, at the upper level. So I would guess the middle range—$15,000 to $20,000—would have a commensurate reduction of about 35 percent in the rate of taxation.
Q. [Question on television time.]
Carter. There is no provision in the law about equal time when you are running against an incumbent President. But I will reserve the right, under the fairness doctrine, to ask for full coverage at a later date, if I have an announcement to make, similar in importance to Mr. Ford's repetition of Mr. . . . not investigating his income tax problems. And if I think that I ought to be cross-examined about my statement. But the equal time does not apply. But I reserve the right to appeal for time under the fairness doctrine at a later time.
Q. [Question on $15 billion defense savings.]
Carter. I don't recall ever making that statement. Ken Rich, who is a very careful reporter, said once when I was being interviewed by the L.A. Times editorial board that I used it. Is that correct, Ken? In San Diego in a casual exchange. I don't recall that I can't deny that I ever said that. I think that Congressman Udall and others were using a $15 billion figure during the New Hampshire primary'. About a year and a half ago, I went to Washington to meet with a group of my own Defense Department advisors. And we went down a list of advisable savings and the amount of reduction in defense expenditures that would result from efficiency and elimination of waste, and duplication, was $5 to $7 million. In my memory of the whole campaign, at least going back to the year and a half, I've used the 5 percent or $5 to $7 billion figure, but I can't say unequivocally that I have never mentioned the $15 billion figure. I don't remember it; but I can't dispute the word of Ken Rich, prior to the time when I actually did an analysis of it.
Q. [Question on Carter's showing in recent polls.]
Carter. Well, we're campaigning more since then in the western states. That's a kind of an old poll thing. I think the latest CBS and New York Times polls show a different result And it's hard for me to say. The poll returns have been sometimes in conflict. I would say volatile is the best word for them. Our own polls show that we have strengthened our support in some of the western states, like in California, where the last poll we ran showed 7 to 8 percent advantage. Our poll showed that we picked up substantially in this region of the country, including Illinois. I think a recent Chicago Sun Times poll shows I had approximately a 10 percent advantage in Illinois, which is a great improvement over what we had projected. But I don't know how to answer your question about why do we slip in a certain part of the country and why do we gain in another. Ever since the Republican Convention, I think our lead has been approximately 8, 9, 10, 11 percent. And I think almost all the polls that I have seen—all the ones I have seen—show that my own strength has been going more solid. But the only poll that really counts is November 2, and I can't really answer your question.
Q. President Ford accused you of using different accents before different audiences. What type of accent do you plan to use during the next 2 or 3 days?
Carter. I didn't know I had more than one accent. As a matter of fact I can't detect any accent at all. I'm too deeply involved in my own voice mannerisms to detect any accent.
Q. He said you sounded like Ralph Nader at one point . . .
Carter. Well, that's a little bit more than accent. You know most of this group here follows me everywhere, and they've never been reluctant to point out discrepancies when I do make them.
Q. [Question on removal of atomic weapons from . . . countries such as South Korea...]
Carter. No. I prefer not to name other countries. South Korea is as far as I want to go. We have in Europe now 6,000 to 7,000 atomic weapons. Some of them are obsolete. They're widely disbursed throughout the NATO countries. They ought to be maintained in adequate strength expressed in atomic weapons in the NATO area. In South Korea, I think we ought to withdraw all of our atomic weapons. We now have in excess of 600 there. They're quite vulnerable, if there was a drastic military operation in South Korea. I don't foresee the possibility that we would use them in a localized war that might erupt in South Korea. I certainly hope it won't and don't expect it to. I talked about this to several people who are, perhaps, certainly more knowledgeable than I, including former Secretary James Schlesinger. He agrees with that position. I don't believe that the withdrawal of atomic weapons from South Korea would encourage Japan to become a nuclear power. And I think that the Japanese people are absolutely committed against that and the Japanese Government has not yet signed the nonproliferation treaty. But I think they could be induced to do so if we took actions that I described in my nonproliferation talk I also favor the withdrawal of our ground troops from South Korea. I might add without speaking for him that Mr. Schlesinger agrees with this position as well and so does the President of South Korea, Mr. Park. This would be done over a period of 4 or 5 years. And it would be after consultation with the Japanese and South Koreans. I would like, during that interim period, to strengthen at least, the armored forces of South Korea. Their ground forces now—infantry—are superior to North Korea's, in our opinion. And I would continue to maintain after that period of time adequate tactical air cover to help South Korea if they were attacked by North Korea. There are many places around the world where we have atomic weapons. I don't want to comment on which specific countries I think they should not be located in.
Q. [Question on withdrawal of U.S. forces.]
Carter. My understanding is that your statement is not correct. But I can't vouch for that But I would certainly, through normal diplomatic channels, confer with them or at least they obviously would know about it because it would be a very careful, methodical, and not a secret withdrawal. Did I answer your question, sir?
Q. Governor Carter, in your talk about the People's Republic of China, and particularly Formosa...
Carter. Well, we are bound by a treaty to guarantee the freedom of Formosa, Taiwan, the Republic of China. I would like to improve our relationships—diplomatic relationships with the People's Republic of China, and mainland China, hopefully leading to normalization of diplomatic relations sometime in the future. But I wouldn't go back on the commitment that we've had to assure that Taiwan is protected from military takeover. I hope that we could have the same sort of general arrangement that has been worked out with other countries; they vary to some degree. Canada, Japan, Australia, and others have tried to work this out. That's a difficult question for me to answer because I don't think anyone knows the answer. The People's Republic of China is adamant in saying that there is only one China. The Republic of China on Taiwan is adamant in saying that there's only one China. We have ratified that concept by saying that we adopt the proposition that there is only one China. Of course both those Chinas claim that they are the one. But I would like to see us obtain from the People's Republic a pledge that there would be no military reaction against Taiwan. I don't know if that will be possible or not. It's impossible for me to project that far into the future.
Q. Do you accept the principles of the Shanghai [Agreement]?
Carter. Yes, I do. But I want to point out to you, unnecessarily, I'm sure, that there's a deliberate avoidance there of which is the true China. And I don't want to try to decide that myself since the parties to this Shanghai Agreement couldn't decide.
Q. Second debate ... President Ford.. .do you think Gerald Ford is smart enough to be President?
Carter. Well, he is President, and I think that's the proof that he's smart enough to be President. I personally have never thought that that was a blunder; I thought it was a mistake for him to say it, but I think that was not a slip of the tongue. I think that Mr. Ford actually believed that Eastern Europe was not under the domination of the Soviet Union. And as you know, it took him almost a week before he would change his position. I'm sure, because of the pressure from public opinion, and the pressure from his own staff. But I have never thought that that was a slip of the tongue or that he misspoke himself. I think he stated what he actually thought. And I think that what he thought was in error.
Q. [Question on Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.]
Carter. I would never recognize that the Soviet Union had a right to continue their domination of Eastern Europe. I would recognize that it exists, but it ought not to exist. I would demand in a reassessment of the Helsinki Agreement that the Soviet Union live up to their so-called Basket Three agreements which permitted freer expression within the Eastern European area, freer movement of people who want to leave, the right of families to reunite, the right of access to the outside world. I would demand that the Soviet Union cease jamming Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe, and I would make available at every opportunity trade opportunities— tourist exchange, student exchange, cultural exchanges—with Eastern European countries. I would cease to treat them as a uniform block which has been the attitude of this administration. I would renounce immediately the so-called Sonnenfeldt Doctrine that says that there is an organic link between these individual countries and the Soviet Union. Those are some of the things that I think could be done with effectiveness.
Q. [Question on U.S. military involvement in internal affairs of another country.]
Carter. I have said many times that I would never become militarily involved in the internal affairs of another country unless I thought our own security was at stake. And I would not consider our own security at stake if a military action was initiated by Hungary or Poland or East Germany or Czechoslovakia against the Soviet Union.
Carter. No, that's not the case. That's a reduction in the tax rate.
Carter. That computation, which was done by men and women in Brookings Institution, takes as a supposition that the total federal income from income taxes would not change.
Q. You do not think the American people will be paying less [inaudible]?
Carter. American citizens who work for a living and who report all their income for tax purposes would pay less. Those who now enjoy the option of not paying any income taxes, like Ford Motor Company, would certainly pay more. But the computation that was done by Mr. Pechman, and I'm sure he'll be glad for you to give him a call, I don't stand behind all his figures because I haven't talked to him, is that if you eliminated the unwarranted special tax exemptions and privileges, sometimes known as loopholes, that that would save enough to reduce the tax rate by the amount that he specified, which was about 35 or 40 percent across the board. I'm not pledging myself to that exact reduction. That's an estimate that has been computed by the Brookings Institution.
Q. You have in effect said that President Ford misrepresented your views on, for example, taxes . . . change your mind after last week?
Carter. No. I've never advocated that we eliminate the mortgage credits.
Q. In response to a question at the [Presidential] forum to which you referred...
Carter. I think if you read a transcript of the question and the answer, the question is very confusing. It was a long question of, I guess, 150 to 200 words, and that was—my response was—that was the kind of thing that I would consider changing. But immediately when the question was raised, I think the following day, I spelled out, after getting the information about it, that answer that I gave you this morning.
Q. Vice Presidential debates... more exciting...
Carter. I've never watched the Presidential debates so I can't respond. More exciting? I hadn't heard that comment, but it was very interesting and exciting to me.
Q. [Inaudible.] You don't believe Gerald Ford misspoke, you believe he does not think that Eastern Europe is under domination . . .?
Carter. I don't particularly, but I'll defer to your judgment as far as your own opinion is concerned.
Q. Do you think that Gerald Ford had anything to do with the Sonnenfeldt Doctrine...?
Carter. I can't answer that question. As you know, Mr. Sonnenfeldt has been a top adviser for Mr. Kissinger. And the Sonnenfeldt Doctrine was never repudiated, as far as I know, by Mr. Kissinger. I don't know what Mr. Ford's position is on the Sonnenfeldt Doctrine.
Q. What will be your attitude toward Cuba, particularly in light . . .
Carter. I don't see any immediate prospect for the normalization of relationships with Cuba. And I don't advocate that as a goal for our country in the foreseeable future. Mr. Castro has never requested or suggested the advisability of normal relationships with our country. He's made several pledges which he has violated. One is to be a peaceful nation; and obviously he's sent troops to Angola, among other countries in Africa. He's promised not to interfere with the internal affairs of Western Hemispheric countries, but he's been in the forefront of demanding independence, for instance, for Puerto Rico. I think he also still has an aggressive attitude in some other countries throughout South America. So for all those reasons including this latest unpredictable occurrence which you described, I don't see any prospect of us normalizing relationships with him. I think you probably know that the OAS took down some of the barriers for the 23 nations in that organization, to trade with Cuba on an individual basis. Each country can do as it chooses. We've decided not to trade with Cuba directly, but I think we do permit some American corporations to trade with Cuba through other countries. And I don't see any prospect of changing that basic approach now.
Q. Soviet Union ... domination in Europe .. .is one of the countries now dominated by the Soviet Union. What expressly would you support military intervention in order to insure liberty...?
Carter. I think publicly I've already given a list of things that I think would be appropriate in case of an uprising which I think would be highly unlikely—a military uprising. I can't describe to you exactly what we would do. It would depend on the nature of the uprising, the country involved, the degree to which they had achieved, over a long period of time, any of their own independence. I have said already in speeches that it would be a deplorable situation, for instance, for Russia to make any move into Yugoslavia which is relatively independent of the Soviet Union. Following Tito's ... is no longer independent of the Soviet Union as well. Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, are highly dominated by the Soviet Union. I wouldn't want to make a statement about what I would do 2 or 3 or 4 or 8 years in the future if that should occur. I don't know what I would do at the time. But I would not send American troops in, I can't imagine us becoming involved in a war if the Polish or East German people decided they wanted to be free.
Q. Supposing the Soviet Union moved into Yugoslavia. What would you do in that case?
Carter. I can't answer that question. I cannot answer that question. I would not go to war in Yugoslavia.
Thank you very much.
Jimmy Carter, News Conference in Kansas City, Missouri Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/353880