Question-and-Answer Session Following a White House Luncheon for Editors and Broadcasters from Southeastern States
The President. Well, anyone who is still eating or drinking coffee or anything, keep right at it, and we'll have that dialog I mentioned. I didn't realize that I talked so long at first, until I sat down at the table and realized how cold the soup was. [Laughter]
I've had a request for the first question here.
News Coverage of the Recession
Q. Mr. President, you recently were critical of network coverage of some of your programs, and since we're all in the news and journalism business, I thought maybe you could respond to the question: Is this some sort of a beginning of an attack or an assault on the media?
The President. No, and the thing that you've just asked about—out in Oklahoma I had met with a group, the publisher and some others from the paper out there, and we were sitting around having a conversation about this. And what I actually protested was that I felt that the news media in general was just creating such a drumbeat of pessimism in this time of recession; that I've always felt that there is a psychological factor in recession, and that if you just keep hammering at this, you add to the recession. You have people that suddenly say, "Well, I won't buy this or that," or "I won't do what I was going to do because of the fear of it." And actually, I think some of this pessimism is—it can't really be justified as news to constantly, day after day, go out and find some individual, tragic as it is for anyone who's lost a job or is laid off, but to dwell on that and on the individual problems of someone instead of a balanced picture of what is the situation.
For example, bad as this recession is—and let me say, no one in this room can claim any more of a traumatic feeling about the unemployed than I can, because I was looking for my first job in 1932 in the depths of the Great Depression. And I saw my father lose his job, opening an envelope on Christmas Eve. So, I know the tragedy of unemployment.
But how many people know, for example, that today the basic strength of our economy-which is going to have to be the factor that brings us back to normal—is such that. today we are almost at a record high in the percentage of people of working age who have jobs in this country? The record was 59 percent, and today 57 percent of the people of working age have jobs, in spite of the high unemployment.
Part of the unemployment is not as much recession as it is the great increase in the people going into the job market and, ladies, I'm not picking on anyone, but because of the increase in women who are working today and two-worker families and so forth.
And that was what I was criticizing. Let's have a little optimism. Let's have some stories, for example, about the ad on the air last night of the automobile dealer here in the vicinity, who's himself, lowering the interest rates to 9 1/2 percent for people that buy cars at his place. I think free enterprise has got muscle left that can still help.
Cuba and International Drug Trafficking
Q. Mr. President, the U.S. State Department has—[inaudible]—Cuba's intervention in the drug, international drug trafficking. Do you think it's possible, Mr. President, to deal with a country, with a government that is dealing in drugs and sending guerrillas to other countries and violating human rights in Cuba?
The President. Well, I don't think we are helping someone who's—or dealing with someone who's sending guerrillas to other countries and the violation of human rights. I think if that is aimed at the El Salvador thing, I think there are countries there that we're not dealing with who are sending aid and personnel into El Salvador to help that movement. I think the election kind of straightened the record out on El Salvador and what the people there want, and we want to help them get that.
On the drug traffic, this is much more difficult. We are working in cooperation with many governments, countries where we know they are the source of the drug. And they are cooperating with us in trying to stop that traffic. There we have to recognize that our own country does not have completely clean hands. There is a great deal of marijuana produced in the United States. So unless we could be 100 percent able to find and apprehend or do away with that, we would be as much of an offender as some country that is trying as hard as it can to eliminate the drug traffic from its country.
Q. But Cuba, sir, is helping—according to the United States State Department—Cuba is helping the drug traffic—[inaudible].
The President. Well in Cuba; we don't have any dealings with Cuba. If they'd ever like to rejoin the civilized world, we'd be very happy to help them. But not under the present circumstances. And let me also say this about the drug traffic. We're launching a program here, and have got it started, more than we've ever done before. But I am still of a belief that, while you do your utmost to intercept the drugs, we're not going to lick that problem in our country until we take the customer away from the drugs. The most effective answer is if we can get our young people, particularly, and be successful in convincing them they don't want to go down that road. Instead of trying just to take the drug away from the customer, let's turn the customers off so they don't want the drug.
There was a young lady back there.
Barnwell Facility in South Carolina
Q. Mr. President, I'm from South Carolina, and my question relates specifically to that. Recently, your Secretaries of Energy, Commerce, and State sent a letter to Mexico inviting officials there to participate with the United States in a privately owned, nuclear-fueled reprocessing center. Now experts tell us that such a facility is only feasible at the Barnwell facility in South Carolina. So, do you favor using Barnwell in a federally funded or a privately funded nuclear-fuel reprocessing facility?
The President. I think that in the whole energy field that our best bet is, again, is still the private sector, free enterprise. And I think that government has, particularly with regard to that type of fuel, I think that government has a great responsibility to ensure that there are rules for safety that will be applied and.—
Q. But what about Barnwell?
The President. The what?
Q. But what about the Barnwell facility in South Carolina?
The President. The
Q. Barnwell, B-a-r-n-w-e-l-l, Barnwell.
The President. Oh, well, I'm afraid you've asked me a question that Jim didn't bring me up to date on. I'm going to have to check with Jim Edwards on that and find out.
The other young lady there.
Federalism and Tuition Tax Credits
Q. Two questions. The first one, as you send more money back to the States to be divided up, are you intending to put any strings on it to see that they are divided up on a per capita basis? In North Carolina, for instance, on some of the cuts, they are being distributed per town units. They're disproportionate on a per capita basis, even though the money is being collected on a per capita basis. And the second one, on the subject of the tuition tax credit that you announced yesterday, how are you going to prevent that from being used to cause functional segregation?
The President. Well, we have a proviso in the legislation we're going to send up that it cannot be used in any way to promote segregation, to answer the last question first. But we recognize also that, as you say, functional could take place. We've discussed this at our own table here.
I don't really believe that's going to turn out to be a problem, because first of all our tuition tax credit is proposed for the lower and middle-income people. There will be a cap on earning level above which there will be no tuition tax credit.
Second, the overwhelming majority of students in the main private schools or the parochial schools, the religious schools in America, the overwhelming majority come from families with incomes of $25,000 or less. In Chicago, for example, 40 percent of the students in the Catholic schools of Chicago are black. And there seems to be a greater urge on the part of our minority citizens to get that kind of education, because in too many areas the public school system apparently is just not doing the job that they want done for their children. So, we'll make very sure that it cannot be distorted.
Q. On the first question about—back to the first question
The President. Oh-
Q. I'm sorry. On the money that is being sent
The President. Oh, per capita and so forth. I don't know whether—there are so many categorical grants, block grants, and so forth. And if we're talking about federalism, every provision is going to be made for a pass through from the State level, and it would have to be based on the needs of the various areas. That's being worked on as we continue, and the federalism program isn't dead. We're still working on it.
Views of East Tennesseeans
Q. Mr. President, I'm from east Tennessee, and east Tennesseeans urged me to tell you that they're looking forward to seeing you in Knoxville on May 1st to open the World's Fair— [laughter] —number one, and number two, while this might not be hard news, I promised my listeners I would say to you what they asked me to say. And what they asked me to say was that you should hang in there. They still believe in you. Keep chopping away about give-away social programs, and don't make the mistake of trying to govern by reacting to so-called popularity polls. They believe that your character will dictate the proper politics. Thank you, sir. [Laughter]
The President. Well, thank you very much. [Laughter]
I've just been told—I think there are some hands that have been up quite a while out here. No, the gentleman just behind you.
Regional News Conferences
Q. Mr. President, first off, I'd like to be so bold as to thank you for inviting us. Certainly it's good seeing you again and seeing you look so well.
My main question is that, since we do enjoy more of this one-on-one, would you consider the possibility of reinstituting what was at one time viewed as a regional news conference or news meetings? And if so,' would you entertain an idea of coming to Greensboro, North Carolina, for a two-State Carolinas news conference? [Laughter]
The President. Well, let me say this was also discussed at the table here. I am going to discuss this, because I believe on trips that I make—I don't know that we could make special trips just to have a news meeting-but I would think that it would make a great deal of sense when you're in an area to have a press conference in which the national press is not barred—they can attend—but limit the questioning to the local and the regional press, who don't ordinarily get the opportunity they get here in Washington.
Now, I've just been told that I have a bill signing ceremony—darn it—and they tell me that I have to get out of here.
Situation in the Falkland Islands
Q. One international question? If a peace is not negotiated between the Falklands and England, what type of position do you feel that's going to put the United States in? The President. If a peace is not negotiated between Argentina and the United Kingdom on the Falklands, what position that would put us in? You've asked a question that I just can't answer for the simple reason that these negotiations—now Alexander Haig has arrived; he is down there now in Argentina—and they're so delicate, and everyone is watching every word that's said, that for me to answer in any way a question of that kind just might upset things that are going on. I'm just going to keep my fingers crossed, and we're making every effort we can to have a peaceful solution to that problem down there. And I just really can't make a statement of any kind that might be misinterpreted or resented by someone involved in the negotiations.
So now— [applause] —she'll get mad at me; I just can't do it. I'm sorry. Let me just say, the next time we do this, I'm going to overrule those people that thought I ought to make some remarks, and we'll just give it all to question and answer so we can get all those in.
Note: The session began at 1:09 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.
The transcript of the session was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on April 17
Ronald Reagan, Question-and-Answer Session Following a White House Luncheon for Editors and Broadcasters from Southeastern States Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/245111