Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Rockwell International Employees

May 25, 1982

Audience member. Hey, Dutch!

The President. Somebody—[ laughter]-somebody's been in Iowa or Illinois. [Laughter] I don't hear that much anymore outside of those two places. Dutch is me. That's my nickname. I don't know why. I'm Irish and English, but it started when my father bestowed that on me, and having an older brother, it stuck. And for 5 years as a sports announcer, I found out that—well, I thought that'd sound better if I used Dutch Reagan than Ronald Reagan. So—but every once in a while, I run into that again. Thank you very much.

Well, on the way in, I've just learned how to make a space shuttle and— [laughter] since I got in the door.

No, I want to say, seriously, I'm a little in awe being in this place and knowing all that has been produced here and thinking back over the years as we waited and watched, as you have waited and watched for the results, for that first step on the Moon. You left your fingerprints on that, and then a gentleman left his footprints on the Moon because of you. The space shuttles, the Apollo, the Space Lab and who knows what more to come.

And I'm here to talk to you about a few little problems we have in Washington just for a few minutes, and then we'll have a dialog instead of a monolog. I understand there's a couple of microphones, and I can take some questions. And I'd rather do that than make a speech, and you'd rather have me do that than my make a speech.

But this is a—well, it's always great to get back here to California. As a matter of fact, I keep looking for excuses to get here. California is a hard place to leave. And there are some days in Washington when I want to get here more than others. [Laughter] And right now you've probably heard a rumor to the effect that they're discussing a budget up on the Hill. And we've been trying to keep it a secret. [Laughter] No, it's very serious and I think for all of us.

Just as you represent something in a great, new development for all of mankind, we're trying to do something new, we think, in Washington, D.C. We think it's time—has been high time for a long time-that we got government back to the place where it didn't spend any more than it took in and it didn't take anymore than it had to out of your pockets. And we think we've made some progress.

About a year and a half ago, when we started, the interest rates were 21 1/2 percent. The Government was increasing spending by 17 percent a year, and inflation was 12.4 percent. And that was the second back-to-back year of double-digit inflation, the only time it had ever happened, I think, in peacetime history. And, of course unemployment was climbing—and it's continued to climb—and we've continued on to the point that we now have a recession. But as of this present year's budget, we've cut that 17 percent rate of increase in half.

The inflation figure for the last year, if you take 12 months back, would run at 6.6 percent. But to show you that we're making progress, if you take it for the last 3 months, for 3 months now inflation has run at less than i percent. And you've had that first little bitty installment of it on the tax cuts. But that's one of the things in the budget battle that's going on.

I've insisted on two things for sure, that-well, in addition to reducing unnecessary government spending, the other is that we must stay with our defense budget as closely as we can so that we don't send any more of the wrong signals to the rest of the world. They must know that we are prepared to do whatever is necessary.

The other thing is there is a 10-percent income tax cut scheduled for July 1st and another one scheduled for July 1st, 1983. And then we index the income tax brackets. And just to explain, if someone hasn't heard that term before, what it is we're trying to do—you've gotten down through the years cost-of-living pay raises to try and keep even with the increased cost of living with inflation. But because of the number of dollars that you increased your earnings, very often that pushed you into the next tax bracket up and you found yourself paying more, a higher percentage in tax, and the result was that you were worse off, not better off, after having gotten that cost-of-living raise. Indexing means that we index—that from there on, the tax bracket's the same as the cost of living is indexed, and you don't move up into another bracket. They also are at the same level.

Last year we got that program and we got the cuts that we thought were necessary in spending for that one year. Now, the budget for 1983 that goes into effect October 3d is there, and the Congress is debating seven versions of the budget. I only like one. [Laughter] I've got a favorite in there. And it's a favorite that will reduce the projected deficits for the next 3 years by some $390 billion. And it won't—as some have suggested—take away those already scheduled tax cuts. And, while there will be some minor trims in defense, they're trims that the Secretary of Defense, another Californian, Cap Weinberger, tells me they can take without setting us back in our plans for rebuilding our defenses.

I think you people here know better than probably most groups that I would talk to that about a year and a half ago, when we got in there, we found out that on any given day half our airplanes couldn't fly because of a lack of spare parts. Ships couldn't leave harbor. And we had a morale problem among our men and women who were in service. And I'm happy to tell you, not only have all those things been corrected, but so has that. You'd be very proud, as I am, if you could hear from and talk to and see the young men and women in our service and the pride that they now have in wearing the uniform and how willing they are to serve.

But now, that's enough about my business. Now, who wants to use one of those microphones? There they are right in front of you.

Yes, sir. Maybe you don't need the—

Q. Can you hear me?

The President. Yup.

Q. My wife said this morning if I could be in your presence, if I could shake the hand of the President for Mrs. LeGrand of Torrance, California, a Torrance Republican.

The President. If you could shake.—

Q. If I could shake your hand for my wife, sir. Mrs. LeGrand. I'm her husband.

The President. Yes. Would you let this gentleman through here? This wasn't a question. His wife wants him to shake my hand as a Republican.

Next time, bring your wife. [Laughter] Yes.

Q. [Inaudible]—shake my hand also?

The President. Yes, I would, but I think maybe I've started something here. All right. You come on and I will. But somebody ask a question while this is happening, because this can't be of much interest to those who can't see.

Who has a question? Yes? Come on.

Funding for Space Program

Q. Are you going to increase the space budget?

The President. Am I going to increase the space budget? I guess that's a question that you're kind of interested in. [Laughter]

We have budgetary restraints, but we are going forward with four of the space shuttles, as you know. And in that defense budget, as you also know, is the B-1. That isn't space; that's another part of the program. I know that there is talk for a fifth, and that is under consideration. But we'll have to wait now as—to see whether that can be added on or not.

But, yes, we are going forward with the four that are scheduled—four space shuttles that are scheduled.

Someone else? Yes.

U.S.-Soviet Summit

Q. Do you think you'll meet with the Russians on the—[inaudible]—this year?

The President. What's that?

Q. Do you think you'll meet with the Russians on the summit this year?

The President. Do I think I'll meet with the Russians? Yes, I do, because I've received a message from President Brezhnev and suggesting a meeting, and we are now—our people at the Secretary of State's level and the Foreign Minister and so forth—they're getting together to try and arrange the exact place and date for that. And we will be talking about what we called the START program.

You know, SALT was strategic arms limitation, except that they could double under the life of the treaty just about what they've got now. We call ours START. It is strategic arms reduction talks. We think we ought to have fewer nuclear missiles than there are in the world.


MX Missile

Q. [Inaudible]—agreed to—[ inaudible]—hear that you decided against the desert base missile system in Utah and Nevada. And I was wondering, what plans do you have in mind concerning the MX missile at this time?

The President. That's a good question-about what plans do we have since we scrapped the mode that had been talked about earlier for the MX missile.

That was to—out in the Utah desert, they were going to build a whole lot of holes connected by a track, and then they were going to keep moving the MX around. Supposedly the Soviets wouldn't know which one of those holes it was in at any given time. Well, it was a tremendously costly operation, and we didn't think that it actually offered that much protection. Granted, it would force the Soviet Union to build more warheads, put more warheads on, but all they had to do was just increase the number of warheads in the event of trying to bomb our missiles or destroy them—just hit every hole, whether it had an MX in it or not.

Right now—the last part of the question is, what are we thinking about doing about that? Well, the first ones—we have asked and we're talking to the Congress about it now—as the first ones come off the line, we're researching several methods of placing them that have been considered—but in the interim of putting them in some of the existing Minuteman III missiles.

And now there has been a new plan that has been advanced and that is getting a lot of attention—the military people—and that is what's called a cluster plan—that you actually, instead of scattering them to hide them, you pick an area and put them all in that limited area—and the idea being that the oncoming missiles would have to come in to such a point that they could very probably detonate their own missiles before they got there as they had to funnel in to hit this very small target—plus which in any form of an antiballistic defense, it would give us a better targeting chance at them. But what we have is an agreement with the Congress that we're going to come back with a recommendation on one of the plans that's being considered later this fall.

There's a hand.—

Indexing of Tax Rates

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. Oh.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. Can somebody relay that, because that didn't carry up here.

Q. I'd like to know—[inaudible].

The President. Did you hear that?

Q. Come up closer. Come up close.

The President. That's—what—Stan, you must have heard it. What did he say? What?

Q. Mr. President, what I'd like to know—

The President. That's good.

Q. something about the—[inaudible].

The President. Oh. Yeah.

Q. What I'd like to know is how is your index plan for the Nation, how does it differ from the plan that you offered for the State of California when you were Governor?

The President. Oh, how does the indexing plan differ from what we'd offered the State of California? Well, no, the plan that we had tried to get in in the State of California my last year—and we lost—and now about 16 other States have done it; we were just ahead of our time. No, that was one which would have set a limit on how much percentage of the total earnings of the people that the State could take in taxes. It would set a limit beyond which the State could not go.

And the closest thing now in Washington to that is the thing that I have advocated and intend to support, and that is that we set a date down the road as we begin to reduce the deficits—we set a date down the road that we can make and have a constitutional amendment that says the Federal Government has to balance the budget.


Q. [Inaudible]—I think you're doing a really good job.

The President. This is kind of embarrassing. He didn't ask a question. He just said he wants me to know he thinks I'm doing a good job. Thank you.

Nuclear War

Q. Recently on TV there have been a lot of programs concerning nuclear evacuation, which is very frightening. And I was wondering, are we getting that close to a nuclear disaster or what? You know, because

The President. This one is that on TV they've seen so much about an evacuation plan in the event of a nuclear disaster and wanted to know are we getting that close? No, I think we still have a deterrent. There's no question but that they have a superior military force than we do now. It's been built up while we've let ours lag over the years. But I think we still have enough of a deterrent for protection.

But as a part of the defense buildup to make sure that we have a deterrent, we had to face a thing that our country overlooked for a number of years. You know, we had what was called the MAD program-mutual assured destruction—that we could have peace if both sides knew that they could blow the other side up. And part of that was that we would do nothing to protect our people. And then we found out that the Soviet Union for years has had a very expensive and a very efficient civil defense program—shelters, evacuation plans, everything. In other words, they have set out to protect their people. We feel that as a part of our defense, in order to let them know that we have a deterrent, because we've got to show that—and we've got to go forward with some plans for the protection of our own people.

Now, so far the—and the budget constraints and all, we've only gone through with studying a plan of evacuating our cities. That, of course, would mean that you would have to—there'd have to be enough strain in advance that you would think-you'd have some warning that you better get the people out. There wouldn't be any protection in that for a surprise attack if they just push the button, because you've only got about 28 minutes, and that's all she wrote.

But this is all part of our preparing to sit down with the Russians this time, and instead of them looking across the table and knowing that we have been letting our own arms decline, that—well, I can cover it better this way. A cartoon a few days ago-we know how the Soviet Union has been building up, and now we have a defense program including this that you've asked about—the cartoon was of two Russian generals. One of them was saying to the other, "I liked the arms race better when we were the only ones in it." [Laughter]


U.K.-Argentine Conflict

Q. Mr. President, it has been reported in the paper there that the Soviet Union has satellites over the Falkland Islands down there. I would like to know, does the United States of America have any satellites in the same area watching the Soviets and the Argentines?

The President. Well, this question is one that I just don't think I can comment on. [Laughter] This question is that we've read that the Soviets—in the papers that the Soviet Union has satellites, communication satellites, or surveillance satellites, down over the Falkland area, and do we have anything there watching them. And I have to stick with my first answer there; I just can't comment on matters of that kind.

Q. Well, you've got Rockwell, and Seal Beach makes the finest in the whole wide world.

The President. I know that you make the finest in the whole wide world, and just rest assured that we're using them. [Laughter]

Mr. Anderson. 1 Mr. President, we have time for one more question.

1 Robert Anderson, chief executive officer and chairman of the board, Rockwell International.

The President. Oh, dear. Here's a young fellow standing right here. Looks like the youngest one here.

Federal Communications Commission

Q. The FCC has been trying to get a hold of the donor records including the names and addresses of my church—[ inaudible].

The President. This is a question about a church, and you say it's the IRS that's—

Q. The FCC—

The President. Oh, the FCC.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. All right. And you want me to check in and see if this is so and what's behind it or f they have any justification for doing this? That's easy to do. I can do that; I will.

There's a lady here. And this one—he runs the place and he tells me I've got to quit now. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President?

The President. Yes.

Q. She wanted me to read the question from the gentleman in the back—

The President Oh.

Q.— who said, "I am proud of you because you visit us. I've been wanting to see you for a long time. And now it is my first life to see you—first time in life to see you."

The President. Well, you never stayed up for any of the late, late movies. [Laughter]

This is awful. I'm sorry. They tell me that I've taken up all the time and I can't

Q. One more.

Q. One more.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. Oh.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. Oh. These are people with a hearing problem and who are seeing me for the first time. And I—well, thank you very much. I didn't understand.

I have to conclude now, but let me just say he made me think—I've told many times, I've gotten questions sometimes about what is it like to see yourself on the late, late show in one of those old movies. And my only answer has always been, "It's like looking at a son I never knew I had." [Laughter]

I'm sorry that I can't take any more. Thank you very much.

Mr. McQuillin. Mr. President, you're the first President that we've ever had that has been at Houston Mission Control during a mission on STS-2. And you're the first President that has ever visited this home of the Rockwell men and women that made the Apollo and now the shuttle spacecraft. You're the first President that's ever had a miraculous technological feat, such as the shuttle, performed for the first time and the only President that had three flights on such a reusable machine. We expect there are going to be a lot of space firsts in your administration, and we at Rockwell are going to try very hard to make that happen.

We have a little memento for you that is in appreciation, our appreciation of your visit to us today. I'd like to thank you for all the men and women of Rockwell for visiting us, sir.

The President. Thank you all very much. I'm very proud to have this, and it is true, I was in Mission Control. There's only one complaint that I have. They were out over Honolulu someplace, coming around, and I think about the next time or two around was supposed to land at Edwards out there. And I asked them if the next time around would they stop in Washington and pick me up and take me to California, too. [Laughter] They said they would, but they didn't. [Laughter]

But this is a proud moment for me, and I thank all of you very much. And God bless you for what you're doing. Thank you for that.

I will add just one thing to those nice things that you were saying about me and the space program. Also—and I suppose this is true of other Presidents, so I can't claim a first, but I also assure you that this President believes in the space program and its importance to this nation.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:31 p.m. in Rockwell's central manufacturing area in Downey, Calif Prior to his remarks, he was given a tour of the assembly area.

W. D. McQuillin, director of manufacturing of the Rockwell Space Group, presented the President with a figurine which contained souvenirs flown on several of the space shuttle Columbia missions.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Rockwell International Employees Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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