Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at a Campaign Fundraising Function in Indianapolis, Indiana

October 09, 1976

How many of you were out at the rally a while ago? Anybody? Not very many then.

We had a great rally, I thought, and a tremendous crowd, which has been typical of the campaign ever since the first debate. I think we've got a good strong momentum going throughout the country. And, of course, one of the most important things is to realize what the Democratic Party stands for. The fact is that your congressman, your senators, your gubernatorial candidate, your candidate for lieutenant governor, attorney general and others are very important and tied together.

I don't want to make another long, kind of a crowd-rallying speech, but I think it's good to set up a few things, very soberly.

And you're going to be surprised by my speech. It's going to be brief.

I think we need two things in government.

One is competence. I happen to be a businessman, and a farmer, and an engineer, and a physicist. And I've had experience as a schoolboard member, as a state senator, as a governor.

And I believe that the American people are competent. I think we are able to take care of our own affairs; I think we believe in the work ethic. I believe we are able to work together in a unified fashion.

But we haven't had that experience in our own government in the last 8 years.

Now, Johnson and Kennedy, as you know, were in office 8 years. The other 16 years, in the last quarter century, we've had Republican Presidents.

And Johnson and Kennedy were able to demonstrate, to a substantial degree, sound businesslike management. When Lyndon Johnson went out of office, Richard Nixon inherited a balanced budget.

Last year, under Gerald Ford, we had a $65 billion deficit. It's the highest deficit we've ever had in the history of our country. And greater than all 8 years put together when Johnson and Kennedy were in office. Now, it's not an accident that it happened. When Harry Truman was President, he was in office 7 years, we had an average of a $2 billion surplus, not a deficit. But it was because our people were at work, our economy was strong, our people had confidence, and there was some ability in our nation for government, industry, labor, agriculture, the professions, education, science, to work together toward the future.

Our country is so strong that if we don't have an obstacle in our way, in an incompetent administration, we naturally tend to correct our mistakes, and to heal our wounds, and to tap the tremendous economic strength of our country.

So we do need competence. With incompetence comes a tendency toward secrecy.

Now, Gerald Ford has not had a full scale White House press conference since last February. Since he was the nominee of his party, he has not had an open press conference of any kind. The only one he had was an impromptu press conference with a few reporters, and he wouldn't permit his voice to be recorded.

Now, this is not the kind of campaign that the American people expect And it obviously, for a few days at least, gave the American people the image that everything was right in the Ford Administration, everything was right in the Republican campaign, because they didn't make any apparent mistakes.

As you know, he would come out from the White House into the Rose Garden, memorize a 90-second speech, make his speech, go back into the White House, and that's all that the evening news reporters, had to put on the television. And it looked like he was very much in control of things. Or he would sign a bill in the Oval Office, that he had opposed for the last 2 years, take credit for it, look like he was managing the nation's affairs.

But with incompetence comes an inclination to conceal what's going on in the government. We need an open government.

I think you all remember, if you are as old as I am, Franklin Roosevelt's fireside chats. Well, I intend to restore that next year. And I think about once a month, [I will] talk to the American people on television, or perhaps radio, if the speech is not of moment, and let the people understand what we're going to do about welfare reform, tax reform, government organization, or education. Or health care. Or perhaps in dealing with Eastern Europe, as they struggle to get freedom.

But that, combined with a press conference with tough cross-examination from the knowledgeable White House Press Corps every few weeks, would ensure that the people always know what I do as President. If I make a mistake, I'll have a strong inclination to correct that mistake.

Now when John Kennedy had his frequent White House press conferences, he got a report from every Cabinet member immediately before the press conference. He said, now, if there is anything going wrong in your department I want to know about it because, if I get a question, I've got to answer the question.

And that kept his Cabinet members on their toes.

When I was elected Governor of Georgia, we had a horrible bureaucratic mess. We had 300 agencies and departments, bureaus and commissions. We reorganized. We abolished 278 of them; we had a very simple, economical, efficient structure, that was open. We've passed a sunshine law, forcing it open by law. And that's what I intend to do as President.

So competence is something that is characteristic of the American people. It ought to be instituted in government.

You can't deliver good health care, you can't have a fair tax structure, you can't have a competent and compassionate welfare program, you can't have a good relationship between the federal, state and local levels of government and private industry, with an incompetent government.

But that's what we've had.

I think Republican business leaden, who are very wealthy, quite often do tend to support someone like Gerald Ford, but if they look back in history, when they've prospered most is when the economy has been growing, when people are at work, when people are happy, when people are competent, and when the Democrats, by the way, were in the White House.

Now, I'm a businessman myself, and I know what's happened to me, with red tape, paperwork, intrusion of government in my business, and a general feeling that I don't know what is going to happen next. And quite often I make decisions as a businessman, not on what's best for my customers, or what's best for me, but how to take advantage of some loophole that's been put in the tax laws that say have been designed for some big shot special interest but just by chance applies to me.

And quite often you'll have dentists and doctors growing cattle, you'll have cattlemen building high rise appartments, you'll have construction engineers making pornographic movies, just because there is a tax loophole and a tax shelter that they can benefit [from] by doing something that doesn't apply to their line. That kind of thing needs to be changed.

And the other aspect of government—I'm not giving you a lecture; Fm just explaining something that's been on my mind a long time—the other thing about government is compassion. Now compassion, in my opinion, is not a characteristic of weakness. If somebody is weak and unsure of himself or herself, they don't have much time or inclination to treat others with concern. For somebody that's strong in spirit, strong physically, strong in influence, secure financially, that's the kind of person that quite often you can see has a genuine concern for others.

And that's the way government ought to be. Quite often in our country, as you well know, local, state and federal levels, the people that make decisions in government are exactly the kind of citizens that don't suffer when there's a mistake.

My family doesn't draw welfare checks. And whether there's a maladministration of a welfare program in Georgia, my family didn't suffer. My family doesn't have to depend on a public health system for prevention of disease, because I'm able financially to pay a private doctor to give me and my family a semiannual, or annual physical examination. And if I wanted my children to do so, I could bypass the public school system, if I didn't like it

As a matter of fact, my children have always gone to the public school system, and Amy intends to go to public schools even in Washington, D.C.

But the point is that we're not the ones that stand in an unemployment line when people are out of jobs. And we can accommodate inflation rates that the average retired person, or working person, can't accommodate.

And that's where insensitivity comes. From a lack of realization that many people in this country don't have fair treatment under our laws. We have a different standard of justice for rich people and poor people.

I've been in almost every prison in Georgia while I was governor. To meet with, to talk to, to try to understand those who were in prison. There are black people, white people, young people, old people. They are well educated people. Thirty-five percent of our prison inmates are retarded in Georgia. They're poor people. But there are not any rich people in the prisons in Georgia. It's a different standard in our justice system. It's just not right.

And the pardon of Richard Nixon is just one example of how there is a different standard of treating crime. If somebody steals a 30-cent loaf of bread and gets caught, he's gone to prison. If somebody embezzles $50,000 from a bank, I guarantee you that they won't go to prison, unless it's extraordinary circumstances. That ought to be changed. And we have a responsibility, those of us who are influential, or successful in government, or Democrats, to be both competent and compassionate in dealing with other people.

I've grown up among poor people. I would say 10 percent of us in the community where I grew up were white, 90 percent black. And we need a good welfare system. But it ought to be one that holds families together and doesn't separate families. It ought to be one that has a work incentive built in and not be an encouragement not to work.

When I was a child on the farm during the depression years, I got good health care. And my primary interrelationship with doctors and nurses was to prevent disease. We don't even do that now in this modem age. The diseases that were prevented when I was young, you remember, were diphtheria, and polio, and whooping cough, and mumps and measles, that were fatal. But nowadays there's not any thrust to prevent disease.

The last thing I want to say is this, to illustrate my last point. We ran a survey in Georgia of the ten most severe crippiers and killers of Georgia people. Cancer was number one; stroke was number two; and all the way down the line. We've found that black women in rural counties had 22 times more cervical cancer than white women in urban counties, simply because they never see a doctor until they know that they are desperately sick. We found also that it only costs three dollars to detect a potential stroke victim with simple cholesterol analysis and a blood pressure test. You can tell someone you might have a stroke, go to your local physician, your family doctor, and get some simple medication. But most people who are poor never have access to medical care until after they're sick. And as taxpayers you know how much it costs to take care of someone who is poor or indigent who has had a stroke. Thousands of dollars a year. Yet three dollars could prevent that kind of an affliction.

So, what I want to bring to the White House, if I'm elected, and I think I have a good chance to be elected, is a competent government, and one that is concerned about people who need the services of government.

We've got a good Democratic ticket in this state. And in the Congress, Senate, Governor [applause], and I think President.

And I want to express my thanks to all of you for letting me be with you, for joining with me and with Larry [Conrad] and the congressman and your senator who are running for major offices in the Democratic Party. We'B try not to everdisappoint you. I know you've been with the Democratic Party in Indiana through thick and thin; the last eight years have been kind of thin for use, but I think next January we're going to turn things around, and prove [applause] to the rest of the world that we've got a country to make us proud. Thank you for letting me talk to you. I've enjoyed being with you.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at a Campaign Fundraising Function in Indianapolis, Indiana Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347565

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