Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks and a Question-Answer Session at the National 4-H Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland

October 02, 1976

There was a great change in our country in 1969 when the Kennedy-Johnson Administration ended and the Nixon-Ford Administration began. The Congress did not change; the 200 or more million Americans did not change; but the President changed. And the attitude and the consciousness of our government changed, and our country. There was a forgetting of human rights and civil rights, basic human dignity, and a pride in one's own self-respect.

We saw an abandonment of the commitment to better housing, better education, and fair tax structures, and an end to power of special interest group influence that had robbed poor people and working people of this, country so long.

I think part of it is the difference between the two parties ... the party of Harding, Hoover, Nixon and Ford on the one hand; and the party of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson and Carter on the other hand. Part of it is the party; part of it, too, is the attitude of the leaders. I believe it is time now for us to restore what we have lost. I'm part of the South, and as I have said many times, in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas, and Tennessee, the best thing that ever happened, to the South was the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The granting of the black people of an equal opportunity. It not only liberated the blacks, but it also liberated the whites of our region. But now we still have the quiet, not so highly publicized discrimination, against the poor, against the average working American family who have lost their jobs, who are robbed by inflation, who have an insensitive government, who see their rights not protected any further.

Even though the laws call for this protection—the administration of them—the administration of them has blocked the purpose of the law. I want to restore those things.'

One of the great reasons formy success in the primaries was the confidence of the black voters of this country. I think they very carefully scrutinized—either directly or through other leaders—my performance as governor. My attitude for along number of years before I become President and my obligation to the black citizens of this country is unshakeable and permanent.

I do not claim to know all the answers, but I think if you look at the platforms of the two parties, and look at my own campaign commitments which are public and which will be carried out, there is a dramatic difference between the two of us.

I am eager this afternoon to answer your questions. I wanted to point out the personal commitment difference and the party commitment difference that has existed and some of the historical facts that we sometimes tend to forget. But I want to restore the same attitude and atmosphere of our government that existed when Kennedy and Johnson were in there fighting for the rights of the poor and the deprived and the minority groups of this country. I would like to go out of office at the end of my term with your appreciation and with the appreciation of those who have felt most vividly, and most personally, the adverse impact of both insensitivity and deliberate discrimination.

Q. Governor Carter, your statement—something about the restructing of the welfare system—the employable and those excused from work. This would involve a rather radical restructing of the welfare system. Have you considered any alternative reforms or increment approaches that would bring more immediate relief while the details of your programs are being worked out?

Governor Carter. I think I will be prepared prior to inauguration date to make a comprehensive proposal on welfare reform to Congress and to the people of our nation. I do not know if all of you are familiar with the distinction that has been questioned. We now have about 12 million people in our country who are chronically on welfare. About 1.3 million of those are fully able to work—physically and mentally—they are not old, they are not blind and do not have any afflictions. I would like to remove them from the welfare system altogether; put them under the category of employable people; give them the services of the Labor Department, Education Department, job training, literacy instruction if they cannot read or write, the services of private and public job placement agencies; find them a job, offer them a job in the private or public sector. If they are offered a job and do not take it, I would not pay them any more benefits. I would hope they would take the job and go ahead and join the ranks of those who are employed. The other 90 percent of the welfare recipients cannot work full-time. They ought to be treated with compassion and with respect, with love and attention. There ought to be a fair and uniform nationwide payment to meet the basic necessities of life varying in amount only enough to accommodate the cost of living changes from one community to another. We ought to have a work incentive aspect to the program. So if a mother, for instance, has two little children and her husband is dead, if she can leave those kids with grandmother 15 hours a week and get a part-time job, she ought to be encouraged to do it—not made to but encouraged to—and not lose her welfare payments; We ought to also remove the aspects of the law that now force or encourage a father to leave the home—or pretend to leave the home—in order for the family to have a higher income. Instead of having 100 different welfare programs that are very complicated and are subject for cheating, we ought to have one basic program—maybe two at the most. These changes ought to be made. But they will be implemented very rapidly and following that, I would begin to take over the responsibility of the local taxpayers to finance the welfare system which falls most heavily on sales taxes and property taxes ... then later on start shifting the state governments onto the federal government. That would come much later.

Q. Governor Carter, it has been said that you have not done very much campaigning in the black community and that your campaign strategists have not been dealing very effectively with black elected officials in major cities. It seems that it is particularly important in states with large electoral votes that this would be a vital part of your campaign. Would you care to comment on how this is going to be worked out in the next couple of weeks of your campaign?

Governor Carter. I really believe it has been worked out—I don't agree with your basic premise that we have ignored that tremendous political opportunity. I have met several times with the Black Caucus leaders, for instance, in some primaries I did have delegates who opposed the delegates that were chosen by congressional candidates but I did this without regard to race ... I just felt it was the right thing to do. In most cases, by the way, I won. The leaders for the Black Congressional Caucus are helping me throughout the country with voter registration mostly this coming week and also with get out to vote efforts. I believe we have successfully resolved those questions that did arrive from some degree of competition during the primary months. I have campaigned—I would guess equally—within the black communities and in the predominately white community. Certainly commensurate with the makeup of the electorate. I could not name the dozens—even hundreds of speeches and appearances I've made within the black communities themselves. I would guess though there would be some areas that might feel neglected where if I went into a city with a very hurried visit and I couldn't make enough different kinds of visits to accommodate all the needs, but I have done the best I could to present myself to all the people. I realize a political fact, that if I had no other motivation except selfishness, that it is a devastating blow to me politically to discourage black participation in the electoral process. The statistics show that I have a very heavy and good support among the black people. But where there have been difficulties, I have met with the people involved and have tried to resolve those difficulties. I think among the black elected officials of the nation I would have a very heavy—I would not say unanimous—but heavy political support and I hope that it is because I have earned it.

Q. Governor, one of the major excuses involved with unemployment is jobs for the underemployed ... just a minute ago you said that you would reform welfare to provide some additional jobs. Just what kind of program would you suggest or propose to take care of the present unemployment rate, plus the additional jobs that you plan to provide for those that might come off welfare?

Governor Carter. In the first place, we have to remember that unemployment and inflation goes hand-in-hand. I think if you will remember back historically when Truman went out of office, the unemployment rate was under 3 percent and the inflation rate was below 1 percent. The budget was balanced. When the Kennedy and Johnson Administration was over and Richard Nixon came into office, he had a balanced budget; the unemployment rate was under 4 percent—I think the average inflation rate under Kennedy and Johnson was about 2 percent. Under this administration we have had extremely high unemployment—it is now 7.9 percent—at least twice that among minority groups—sometimes as much as five times that in young minority groups. At the same time, we have had unprecedented inflation. We haven't had this high inflation rate since the War Between the States. We have not had this high of a deficit in the history of our country. Those things go together. I would address this as a combination because they go hand-in-hand. One is to restore the integrity of some of the federal programs—like housing, we have about 20 percent unemployment rate in the construction industry. Nixon impounded the housing funds that had been set up under the Democratic Administration. Ford has never restored the strength of the housing program. I remember when FHA was a notable and successful federal entity. Last year, it lost $600 million. HUD, which is Housing and Urban Development Department, has had 500 indictments and 200 convictions and it has now become the world's greatest slum landlord. Here effective housing programs, unemployment in housing and construction industry go hand-in-hand. Another very important point is this. We need to orient the services of federal programs that are on the books as the Congress originally intended for the people who need them the most. When you have programs involving pollution control, health care, education, recreation, transportation, law enforcement, the Congress intended for those monies to go to people who needed them the most. But because of the Republican Administration and because of the good campaign or political organization of more influential people—because they have more influence and are more articulate—those monies that ought to be going to the ghetto areas of downtown cities or the devastated families in isolated rural communities—have been going into the more affluent parts of our country and also into the more affluent suburban areas who needed the help least. That is a responsibility of administration only.

Another thing we need to do is to channel research and development money where the needs are greatest; where jobs can be of more a result. We also must do two other things: One of them is to have an emphasis on job opportunities. The presently constituted Humphrey-Hawkins bill spells out specific goals that I have adopted to get the adult unemployment rate down to 3 percent or less, to get the inflation rate down in the neighborhood of 4 percent, to have a 5 to 5J4 percent growth rate in our economy which would lead to adequate service for our people and also to restore the concept of a balanced budget that was there under Kennedy, Johnson, Truman and Roosevelt. This can be done. The last thing is this ... there ought to be special programs that target job opportunities. The word that has been used recently by Congress is "countercyclical" which means that the federal aid is greatest where the need is greatest. As a community works its way out of high unemployment circumstances, then the federal funds decrease and go to areas where unemployment is the highest. The Ford Administration has blocked this concept so far. I would also provide direct jobs. President Ford in the last two years has vetoed congressional bills that would have provided 2 million public type jobs, and has blocked any effort to give employment— particularly to the young people and minority groups. I would favor a CCC type program, not just in the rural areas but in the urban areas, for young people where the unemployment rate as you know sometimes exceeds 40 percent. This would help redress social problems that are not directly related, in the public's mind, to unemployment. I think the number one contributing factor to the increase in the crime rate is unemployment among young people.

I live among poor people and I'm not poor any more, but my people used to be fairly poor and I've seen the devastating impact of the breakup of a home on young people's lives. If a family is dependent on Social Security or welfare, or unemployment compensation to meet the family's financial needs. When a young person gets to be 18 years old, they are a complete drain on the family budget because welfare, unemployment compensation, Social Security, and so forth, don't go to pay the living expenses of an 18 year old. That young man or woman is forced out of the home—sometimes abruptly and sometimes in a nice way. It might be the [most] law abiding and deeply religious young person you ever saw, but you put that kid on the street for a week, two weeks, three weeks and they cannot get a job, they are naturally inclined to go toward some way to pay for food and housing. They might become shoplifters, break into houses or cars, start the numbers racket or pushing drugs or become a prostitute—so unemployment is not an excuse for crime—it is a cause of crime. I believe this would be a very good investment of our country to provide job opportunities for young people. They could be teachers aides, work on construction projects on public facilities, they could work in recreation programs, they could work in pollution control efforts, or different areas of public or private life. I would put the first emphasis on jobs in the private sector because they are more permanent. You get a lot more magnification of investment of federal funds ... like in the housing area where I've already mentioned. But those would outline very briefly some of the things I would do to control unemployment, none of which are being done now under this administration.

Q. Governor Carter, when you began your campaign one sensed the beginning of a new political enthusiasm in the country. I think you symbolize to blacks not only an alter native to insensitive Republican conservatives but also to a certain brand of liberalism which has not been beneficial to us in the long run. Some of us share your concern as was reported in the New York Times today about the bogging down of your campaign. The article expressed some things that you are going to change in terms of style. But what do you plan to do in terms of substance to regain your critical imagination and confidence in blacks who are becoming more and more lethargic toward your campaign?

Governor Carter. I do not agree that the blacks are becoming more lethargic toward the campaign. It is not a matter of style. I have not read the article to which you refer but the style and substance are one and the same. It would be a very artificial thing and I think counterproductive if I had an artificiality about my campaign that was dependent on style and did not support it or combine it with substance. What I have been doing recently is to become much more aggressive in pointing out the sharp distinction between this administration and what our country ought to be and between my own commitments in human rights, employment, jobs, inflation, etcetera, compared to what the Ford commitment is. There was a time following the Republican Convention and maybe the first couple of questions of the debate when I deferred too much to Ford simply because he was in the White House. Now I look on him as a man who is running for President for the first time like I am—a hand picked successor to Richard Nixon, a personification of the Republican Party ideas, an equal nominee of his party compared to me. I think that the change that has taken place is my much more avid espousal of the principles of the Democratic Party and contrasting them vividly with what the Republican Party has done and not to be reticent any more in pointing out the great failures of the Nixon-Ford Administration. So that stylistically is a change because I am much more aggressive and much more specific than I have been and I think the substance of the chance is there commensurate with the style.

I might say one other thing—in the last week, the news media who have traveled with me have seen the response of crowds and even individual people alongside the road, etcetera, in Houston and Dallas and Orange County, San Diego and Los Angeles, Portland, Evansville, Indiana, Buffalo, New York, Portland, Maine, Hartford, Connecticut; in Pittsburgh, and Nashville, and wherever I've been the last few days—I think all of them would say the spirit of the campaign has picked up tremendously. The enthusiasm of people has picked up. This [is] probably enviable. We have about 5 more weeks to go in which we have to campaign; I believe there is a growing realization among the American people of the sharp distinction between me and Gerald Ford, what we stand for and what our parties are. I think there is a sharp realization now that is growing with intensity df the great failures within our country. I might add one other thing that you did not ask for ... that is in foreign affairs. Our nation has been deeply wounded just in the realization of what our government is. We have in the past stood for what was right, decent and fair in foreign relations. We have been committed in the past to the probing for human dignity and human rights, civil rights; we have foregone the opportunity to tie ourselves to dictators and to minority government rule. I think that for too long now we have had a Kissinger espousal of constant flexibility, secrecy, and an amoral foreign policy, only right now before the election has he. ever endorsed a longstanding proposal to Great Britain for majority rule in Africa. I think there is a build up in our country of interest in the campaign which is inevitable in the last few weeks prior to a Presidential election. I'm trying to do all I can to inspire the American people to have an intense interest in the campaign itself and I would certainly like for them to have an intensity of commitment to me but to realize the sharp distinctions that do exist.

Q. Governor, as publishers and individual representatives of 114 black newspapers and magazines, we want to thank you for at least showing there is a need for the black press by coming here today; however, we are gravely concerned over the fact that there is no black representation in your first debate and it is my understanding that is going to be worked out in the ensuing debates... one who articulates the needs of black persons. We found that there was a gulf. Number one, the government is the tenth largest advertiser, actually in the nation. One of the voids, as far as black newspapers are concerned is the blatant racism as far as advertising is concerned in black newspapers. If you are elected President, what would you do in order to eradicate that? The government is supposed to be an equal opportunity employer but is doing unequal opportunity advertising. Number two, we as black publishers take an affront to the statement that was made by Secretary Butz. In the'event you were President, and if you had as a member of your Cabinet that espoused that kind of philosophy, what would you do to that individual?

Governor Carter. I was asked that question this morning. I answered that I would not permit that kind of blatant racism to be expressed by anyone who serves in my administration. I think that Mr. Butz should have been fired a long time ago. I don't think he should have ever been Secretary of Agriculture. As you know, about 2 years ago he made a similar statement about Catholics and Italians in his comment about the Pope in an off-colored joke. The thing he was alleged to have said yesterday is even worse. I don't think there could be a more obvious racial slur than what Mr. Butz said yesterday. It was so bad, as you know, that the newspapers have been reluctant to publish it. This would never be permitted under my administration. I hope that we have arrived at the point in our country where the American people will be disgusted with that kind of racial slur. As far as advertising in black newspapers is concerned. I would guess—I have never analyzed the federal needs for advertising—I'm not on sound ground in making this statement But I would guess one of the major purposes of advertising is to explain our federal programs concerning housing, the guarantee of equal opportunity, job opportunities, and programs concerning health, welfare; and it seems to me that the best place to present these difficult federal regulations and policies would be through the advertising in newspapers and radio and television'stations where the viewers consist of those who need to be helped, and where the viewers quite often are those who have been deprived for a long time, who are the ones out of jobs, who are the ones who quite often are not very literate, and who have suffered in this decade the discrimination that existed more intensely in the past generations and decades. So I would guess there would be a natural shift under my administration toward advertising in those kinds of periodicals of all kinds for the readership comprised of those who need the federal program—explanations among themselves. So I think that would be my position, although I have to say that I have not analyzed exactly what kind of advertising is prescribed. That would be one opportunity that would come naturally to me and you can depend on that.

Q. Governor Carter, referring to international affairs, do you feel it is necessary for us to continue our current situation with South Africa in order to be effective in bringing about majority rule in that area and would you foresee any circumstance in the government under your leadership to provide military assistance to guard the principles which they are fighting for?

Governor Carter. My commitment to the American people is that I will never again get militarily involved in the internal affairs of another country unless our own security is directly threatened. I would doubt that would require military involvement in South Africa. There are a lot of things that we can do that we are not now doing. One is the use of public forums— the United Nations, the Organization of African States, the public commitments of the President himself, the Secretary of State—influence that can be exerted on the. minority governments through business interests that obviously have a great influence there. The arousal of public opinion in all its forms, the universal insistence on human rights and economic sanctions, if necessary to expedite the purposes that we have espoused, and the full support for United Nations decisions of which we in the past have been a part but which we have not enforced. So I would hope that we could achieve early majority rule in all the nations of Africa using those means that I have described to you without the use of military force. I think that it is best, to try to deal with that change without the loss of life and through peaceful means? I hope that I have answered your questions.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks and a Question-Answer Session at the National 4-H Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347559

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