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Portions of a News Conference in Plains, Georgia

September 03, 1976

Senator Mondale and I have had a chance to be together last night until about midnight and again this morning. We both, since our last meeting, had a chance to travel around the country a good bit. I've been out in California and Iowa and the State of Washington and up in the Washington, D.C. area and New York

Senator Mondale has just returned from a 9 day full-time campaign trip. We spent most of our time comparing notes about the reaction of the people of this country toward our own campaign, of course, and about some of the serious problems that affect our nation.

The overwhelming concern is about the management of our nation's affairs as relates to inflation which is very high, unemployment, which this morning was revealed to be the highest since the Hoover depression, 7.9 percent; it went up again, contrary to the projections of President Ford and his economic advisors.

I think the concern is that there is no plan for the future, no vision of what this country can be, no strong leadership and actually making proposals that would cut down on the inflation rate, and would cut down on the unemployment rate, and deal with the crucial family problems that relate to every American with whom we talked.

We also spent some time going over poll results which confirm these findings, just about people's attitudes, not comparison in voting strength, in making plans for next week.

Tomorrow there will be a press briefing in which we'll outline the routes to be followed by myself and Senator Mondale and members of our immediate families during the first week of the campaign, which I think will indicate vividly the broad base of thrust of our determination to reach the people directly. Senator, you might Wknt to add something.

Senator Mondale. As the Govemot pointed out, I just completed nearly two weeks of campaigning around the nation, and I've been over much of it. I've talked to many, many Americans, and I think the central theme is they don't think anyone is in charge, and that they're paying the price in several respects.

First of all, unemployment. In New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, California, many other states that I've visited, it was not uncommon to find every 10th worker out of work. Of course, the cost to them is tremendous and to the rest of us it is also tremendous, and as is shown this morning, that unemployment figure is continuing to rise despite all their predictions to the contrary.

Similarly, they see no firm hand trying to deal with the erosion in the value of the dollar. Inflation is just a tremendous thing in American life today, and it's at a rate 3 times that suffered in the 60's. They don't see their President or the policies leading toward any turnaround in this dreadful situation where the dollars that they saved and the dollars that they're earning mean less and less.

I think basically what Americans want to do now is to have a government and have leadership that will take command, will unify this country, and help deal with the real problems that fundamentally and adversely affect Americans; and to provide that kind of trust and confidence—is essential to a vibrant and optimistic country. That's above all the message that I've been hearing as I traveled around this nation.

Governor Carter. Any questions.

Q. I suppose we wonder how you all are going to turn it around.'

Governor Carter. Well, in the first place, to lay out some specific goals to achieve in control of inflation, which I think is probably the most difficult to understand and also to deal with. In my speech that I made this week, which Senator Mondale and I have gone over, the obvious answer is, number one, to put our people back to work. As long as we've got 7 or 8 million people out of work, we'll never have an end to inflation and [have] a balanced budget, which I intend to achieve.

Secondly, we need to make sure there is adequate competition in the market place. We've got too many instances in this country the last few years where as a demand for products goes down, the prices actually go up.

Another thing is to break up the sweetheart arrangement that exists between regulatory agencies and industries being regulated to enforce the antitrust laws.

To have a strict control over spending, there will be no new programs implemented under my administration unless we can be sure that the cost of those programs is compatible with my goal of having a balanced budget before the end of that term. And this will require delay in the implementation of costly programs if they are proposed; the quick phasing out of those which have already served their useful purpose; the phasing in of programs to make the present programs work before new programs that are costly are implemented; top, zero-based management of the budget; and combined with a sunset law to automatically terminate or to reassess for termination those programs that have been initiated and have long past served their usefulness.

This has got to be done. We don't have any way now to predict what's going to happen next. So I would say the overall thing would be tough management for the White House. What we have now obviously is whenever something goes wrong, with mismanagement in the government, whether it involves the FBI or the CIA or the Medicaid program, nobody's responsible. I think the President ought to be responsible, and, as such, I will be responsible.

The American people have got to look some place for leadership, and that leadership, as I said many times, has got to come out of the White House.

Q. Governor, do you have any advice or complaints about Senator Mondale's campaign style or substance up to now?

Governor Carter. I think it's just been great. No, I didn't have any complaints. We've both discussed the news reports of our campaign. There was some complaint about the coverage, but as far as the actual campaigning, no.

Q. Is there anything you want to hit or have the Senator hit harder than he has?

Governor Carter. Well, we have had this chance to feel out the consciousness of the American people, and I think those themes have become very obvious to us. We will in the future be exchanging basic speech material; we've never tried to look over one another's shoulder as our presentations were in the process of being put together. I trust him; he trusts me. But the speeches that I've made the last 2 weeks are now in Senator Mondale's hands for study, and his speeches are in my hands for study.

We want to be sure that we are compatible, and I have learned a lot from Senator Mondale. He's been there; he's seen as a co-sponsor, for instance, of the sunset legislation, how that will tie into zero-based budgeting which I have implemented and used for four years as governor. And this melding of his knowledge of the horrible Washington scene with my fresh approach coming in from outside, I think will correct the defects that are there. So I think we've got a good open relationship between our staffs and him and me personally that will stand us in good stead.

Q. [You have a] position on income tax reform and the need for the wealthy to pay their fair share.

Governor Carter. Right.

Q. Is there some embarrassment from the fact that your tax returns that you released disclosed that last year you made about $136,000, but paid only about 9 percent in federal income tax?

Governor Carter. I think that illustrates vividly the need for tax reforms. I personally would like to see investment tax credits, for instance, which was the reason that my taxes were not as high last year as they have been in the past, changed to be predicated almost entirely on the number of people that are put back to work. Right now, a lot of investment tax credits given to businessmen like myself don't relate at all to how many new jobs are provided.

But, no, I don't have any embarrassment about it. I think if anyone checks my income tax returns and net worth for the last 10 or 15 years, and they've all been revealed, I believe back to 1965, that you would find out that I paid roughly 25 to 30 percent of my annual income in taxes. Last year was a special case because we had a very large plant that cost almost a million dollars to install ...

Q. Governor, do you think FBI director Kelley should be fired?

Governor Carter. That was beautiful harmony. I don't know whether he should be fired or not. I don't know the details of the case. That's a decision for President Ford to make. I think there again it's an indication of an absence of leadership. I'm not President, and I don't have access to the private reports that should have been a natural stream of information coming into the White House. It's apparent that President Ford has not done anything to prevent that kind of violation of propriety; it's similar to the Medicaid problem. He didn't do anything about it; and outsiders have actually revealed the problem with Mr. Kelley, and also of Medicaid, and I think this also is an indication of a lack of leadership. Again, I'll wait and see the evidence before I decide whether or not he should be removed.

Q. Do you regret that your sons have tried pot?

Governor Carter. Yes, I do. I don't approve of the use of marijuana. I might say I've never tried it myself and don't intend to. I think the medical effects of persistent use of marijuana still concern me very much, and I wish that they never had tried it. None of them use marijuana now. They're very truthful boys, and they've never tried to mislead us, but all three of them in the past have tried it on occasion. In a couple of instances, when we discovered that they had tried marijuana, we talked to them, and it was some time before they quit using it, and I think that their wives have had more of an influence in their abandoning that habit than their parents. But they've always been frank with us about it, and I think it's something that most teenagers go through, and I think we ought to be very strong in eliminating the influx of marijuana to this country, heavy on the pushers, and I don't favor the use of marijuana at all.

Q. Do you think [marijuana] has worse effect than alcoholic consumption?

Governor Carter. I think so. I can't say for sure. Anybody who becomes an alcoholic, of course, can have one's life destroyed by the use of liquor. One of the bad things about marijuana is quite often it's used in an environment, and consistently, with much more habit-forming drugs. I don't think there's any evidence that marijuana use is habit forming, but no adequate study of marijuana's final effects has yet been conducted. I'm more favorable about it than I am liquor, yes. ...

Q. [It has been charged] that programs in the Democratic Platform and proposals and programs that you have outlined in your campaign would cost a great deal of money, in the billions of dollars ... Are you going to have a salesmanship job on this, do you feel that it's going to be a [liability]?

Governor Carter. Well, I can't preclude skepticism on the part of people who have derived their opinions from past performance. I think anybody that has watched the horrible mess in Washington the last few years, particularly in the last 8 yean, would be skeptical about a balanced budget. I think though it's fair to say that under Democratic Administrations in the past that the budget has been very carefully handled even with the heavy inflationary pressures of the fullest participation in the Vietnam war.

Under Kennedy and Johnson, the average inflation rate was only 2 percent. Under Ford and Nixon, it's been 6 percent; the average deficit has been 600 percent more under Nixon and Ford than it was under Kennedy and Johnson, and I think we've got a fairly accurate projection from very conservative economists about what is likely in the next four years. It's going to require tough management, and it's going to require very careful assessment of the ultimate cost of programs; it's going to require a weeding out and elimination of costly programs that have long past served their purpose; and if it requires a delay, for instance, in implementing welfare reform or health care in order to accomplish the goal that I've set of a balanced budget, then those delays will be there.

The goals that we've established in the Democratic Party platform are not completely compatible with my own, but I don't anticipate any great increase in spending to bring about a fulfillment of all the promises that I've made to the American people...

Q. The balanced budget concept is more important to you ... than the health care or the welfare reform programs which you [advocate]?

Governor Carter. Well those promises will be kept But as a matter of initial phasing and timing ... last March, I believe, I made a major speech on health care and spelled out my goals for it. It was very careful, very conservative, and also practical. And I spelled out then that the health care program would be phased in gradually.

The first thing, is to make Medicaid and Medicare delivery systems work

The second, compatible with that, is to eliminate the horrible bureaucracy that now gives us 72 different agencies trying to administer health care programs.

And another one would be to make sure that we understood ahead of time how much the programs are going to cost.

So what we are doing, as I described to some of you, after our economics briefing out here and budget briefing, which were combined, is to start with fiscal year 1981 and work back from there. Our projections are, with a very modest increase in gross national product with about 4 percent a year, an overall unemployment rate of about 4/2 percent or so, it is about 3 percent adult unemployment and inflation rate of about 4 percent, that we can anticipate by the end of 1980, the end of this term, about a 60 billion dollar increase in expenditures; and within that framework I intend to implement those changes.

We now spend $550 per person per year on health care. And I don't believe we'll have any overall increase in that cost. There might be some shifting toward different funding sources, but I intend to use as much as possible, the private sector in every instance where there's a choice between private and government in administration of a program. I don't see any benefit to the American people in going to the government; I prefer private.

Q. [Question inaudible]

Governor Carter. We'll carry out the promises that I've made as aggressively and quickly as I can. But it doesn't help any to give people a little more payment for Social Security or welfare or veterans' benefits or for housing programs and then rob them with inflation.

Just the interest on the public debt that's been added under the Nixon and Ford Administrations adds $350 per year per family in this country. That's sapped away 350 bucks per year for every family in the United States—just the interest—and that's permanent.

So you've got to control the government to make it work. Now when I was Governor of Georgia, we substantially increased the services to the people that needed it most ... health, mental health, education ... and we had a balanced budget because of tough management, careful long-range planning, and zero-based budgeting.

And that is an integral part of my character. I couldn't do any different, even if I wanted to. It would have to change my whole character. But we will be careful and methodical. We're going to spell out what the American people can expect and carry out those commitments.

Q. [Question on Watergate.]

Governor Carter. My own feeling, and I think it would be confirmed by public opinion polls, is that nobody holds President Ford responsible for Watergate. And nobody holds President Ford responsible for what Richard Nixon did that disgraced our country. But to the extent that Nixon initiated programs or maladministration or whatever, if President Ford, who's now been in office over two years, continues those programs, I think obviously he has to share the responsibility. He's the President. We've only got one President Somebody's responsible for the Executive Branch of government It's not the Congress. It's not the Cabinet members. It's not the regulatory agencies. It's the President. And I guarantee you it's very difficult now to find any admission or acceptance of responsibility on the part of the President when something goes seriously wrong, like Medicaid, like FBI, like CIA revelations. Most of the investigations, most of the corrective proposals, have come from outside the Executive Branch altogether, and I don't remember a single one that's ever come from the White House. So to that extent, I think President Ford has got to be responsible for the two years he's been in office.

Q. [Question on his position on abortion.]

Governor Carter. Well, I've never changed my position on abortion. I'm against abortion. I don't think government ought to do anything to encourage abortions. I'll do everything I can within the framework of the Supreme Court rulings to minimize abortions. I'm not in favor of any constitutional amendment that I have ever seen. The only thing that I have changed is a response to the Democratic Party platform plank that insinuates to many people that church groups or individuals don't have a right to seek an amendment, and I do think they have that right. But that's my position. So far as I can discern, even starting back with the Iowa statement, I've never changed those basic positions. And I can't answer every conjectural question that, if so and so happens five years in the future, what you will or will not do, but that is a concern to me. I haven't read the article but I understand that both The Washington Post and The New York Times expressed some belief that I had changed my position on abortion. I can't detect any change in my position.

Q. [Question on balancing the budget.]

Governor Carter. The projections we gave to you—I think Senator Mondale was with me—when we discussed the budget and the economic briefing results, indicated that we could carry out the promises that I have made and within the framework that I've described to you, the 4 1/2 percent overall unemployment, the 3 percent adult unemployment, the inflation rate, and a moderate growth rate, that the budget could be balanced. That's the best indication from a wide range of economists of all political persuasions, some quite liberal, some quite conservative, and there's no disagreement with those terms among those people who helped me with economics.

Q. [Question on delaying the implementation of Carter Administration programs and keying them to the availability of revenues.]

Governor Carter. I think we had the same statement in my health speech that I made last March, and I believe that we had the same statement when I gave the briefing to which you referred. The amount that we project, as I said earlier, is about $60 billion that we will have under those very conservative estimates, available for new programs. Now that doesn't include the savings that we hope to realize with the zero-based budgeting techniques, government reorganization, and also the sunset laws. But I am quite comfortable with those figures and quite comfortable with the promises that I've made...

NOTE: This is a partial transcript with some questions paraphrased, because their precise wording was inaudible on the transcription tape.

Jimmy Carter, Portions of a News Conference in Plains, Georgia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347654

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