Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Evansville, Indiana

September 27, 1976

I'm glad to be back in Indiana. The state that expressed your confidence in me in the primary, gave me a great victory, and one that I believe is going to give me another great victory on November. [applause]

I'm glad to be here with Vance Hartke and with Larry Conrad. I'm glad to be here with David Cornwell, and I'm glad to be here with all the other Democratic leaders who've kept this state in a sense of progress and hope during the last few dismal years of Republican Administration. When I came to Indiana my last trip before the primary, standing on a cold factory shift line, early in the morning, I had a good friend standing at my side. He had campaigned around the country for President, and when he withdrew he gave me his support, and I'll never forget the strong friendship and the kindness and support of Birch Bayh. Birch, I really appreciate it.

After I leave here tonight I'm going home, and see my wife and see my little girl and visit my farm, and be in my own home, in a little town. Rosalynn has already been to Evansville to campaign; my son, Chip, has been to Indiana to campaign; it's my second trip to Indiana to campaign. We need you, we're depending on you, and if you help us we're not going to lose.

Tonight, I'd like to talk to you about homes, about families, about human dignity, about the right to have a job, and the failure of our leaders, and about the hopes and dreams of the American people and the greatness of our country.

I'd think you ought to always say something good about your opponent. President Ford exemplifies the leadership of the Republican Party. He stands for its historical principles, its historical policies, he serves in the great tradition of Warren Harding, Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon. [laughter and applause]

He's a true leader representing accurately what his party is. When he became President, he was not a Lincoln but a Ford, and he told the truth. I have to give him credit for that. [laughter and applause]

Ford's a good automobile; it's not doing too well in the White House; it's stuck in the mud, four flat tires, out of gas, gears locked in reverse. If it ever moves again, which I doubt, I'm sure we're going to try to back it into the future. We need a Democratic President to face forward and to approach the future with confidence, with the people, move our country, restore leadership to the White House, and the integrity and pride of the people of this country in our own nation. If you help me in November, I'll help you in January to get this country moving again. I know that's what you want. [applause]

He says he'll try to run on the Republican record. In the last 8 years, we've seen our welfare double. When Richard Nixon went into the White House, we were spending about $2}4 billion on unemployment compensation. $2 1/2 billion! Now we are spending over $19 billion. In the last 3 months, our unemployment rolls have increased 500,000. Since Mr. Richard Nixon left the White House, our unemployment rolls have increased 2 1/2 million. That's 2 1/2 million homes like mine in Plains, where the husband or the wife have no jobs. And when you walk into a home day after day after day, having had pride in your self-reliance all your life and your children or your spouse see you without employment, it can destroy a family. Statistics are bad enough. But the human realization of what the Republican Administration has done to this country is what bothers me.

We've seen inflation quietly rob our people. Under Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, the unemployment rate most of the time was about 1/3 percent. It got up to an average of about 2 percent. Under Nixon and Ford, it's averaged over 6 percent. The cost of everything you buy goes up double every 10 years, and if you put your life savings in a saving and loan bank at 5 percent interest, you don't make any money; you lose 1 percent every year. Older people, retired people on a fixed income see the light bills go up, the telephone bills go up, rents go up, property taxes go up, and they have to buy cheaper and cheaper food, do without a new dress, many move out of their own homes. When they buy Christmas presents for their grandchildren, it's just a little bit cheap.

The human suffering brought about by inflation is something that is quiet; you can't see it, but it robs everybody. You don't quite know why, but your family gets poorer as time goes on. Richard Nixon was bad enough. It's been worse over the last 2 years. We've had four times as large a deficit average under Gerald Ford as we had under Richard Nixon. Four times more. Last year, the deficit was $55 billion, the highest in the history of our country. And the combined Ford and Nixon deficits are greater than all the other 192 years of our nation's history combined.

Is that good management, is that good leadership, is that good businesslike operation of our government? No it isn't. And we'll not have an end to the inflationary spiral, we'll never be able to meet our people's legitimate needs until we put our people back to work.

I grew up on a farm. I worked all my life. My people have been in Georgia over 200 years. Nobody in my family ever had a chance to finish high school before I did. I know what it means to struggle and struggle successfully and I appreciate my background. When I ran my farm, I balanced the budget. My wife runs our home accounts, she balanced our budget. I run my business with the budget balanced. I was Governor of Georgia. Four years. We had a balanced budget every year and a surplus. And if you elect me President, before this next term is over, we're going to have a balanced budget in Washington and you can depend on that. [applause]

Richard Nixon had a Democratic Congress. Gerald Ford has vetoed four time as many bills per year as Richard Nixon. And the bill vetoes have not been designed to save money, they've been designed to keep people out of work, to cut down on veterans' benefits, to keep us from educating and training nurses, to prevent an opening up of the secrets of our government, to stop veterans from training and to keep from having adequate prices for farm products. Those are the kinds of vetoes we've had. And a lot of them have been overridden. Eisenhower only had two vetoes overridden. That affected the American people while he was President. Ford had eleven. In one instance, when he vetoed a bill to help handicapped people; every U.S. Senator except one voted to override the veto. We've had a breakdown in the relationship that ought to exist between the President who's supposed to represent us, and the Congress, who's also supposed to represent us. This hurts the consciousness of our nation. It divides us from one another. It destroys the unity of purpose. It's imperative if we're going to correct our mistakes and ask the difficult questions and bind ourselves together and approach the future with confidence. We've set new records in crime. The nation's crime rate has gone up 58 percent in the last 8 years, 29 percent in the last 2 years. And one of the reasons for it is because our young people can't get jobs. Unemployment is not an excuse for crime, but unemployment causes crime. We've seen an attitude in Washington where the big shots are excused for serious crimes, but the average working people don't get that same excuse and that same treatment in our system of justice and that ought to be changed too. [applause].

Our income tax laws are a disgrace. The surest income to be taxed is the income earned from manual labor. There are not any hidden, secret loopholes for someone who works with his or her hands, and draws a paycheck every week or every two weeks, or a retirement check every two weeks. But there are hidden secret loopholes for everyone else. The Democratic Congress has struggled in trying to pass a tax reform bill with no help from the administration. Next year, with a Democratic President, working with a Democratic Congress, we're going to have a comprehensive reform of the income tax structure of this country and make it fair for a change. And you can depend on that too. [applause]

We've had gross mismanagement. We've got a horrible, bloated, confused, overlapping, wasteful mess; that's our government—mine and your government. Hundreds of agencies, bureaus, boards, [and] commissions sharing the same responsibilities, wasting our money, putting out directives and guidelines, red tape, paperwork. There's no way to go to Washington and get an easy answer to an easy question. When I was Governor of Georgia, I tried to set up a drug treatment program in one department. I had to go to thirteen federal agencies to get answers about drug treatment. And they weren't trying to cooperate with one another. If I'm elected President of this country, and I intend to be, next January we're going to have a complete reorganization of the Executive Branch of government. [applause] And make it efficient, economical, purposeful, simple, and manageable for a change. The American people are competent. I see no reason why our government shouldn't be competent. The American people are fair. I see no reason why our government shouldn't be fair. The American people tell the truth. I see no reason why our government should conceal the truth or lie.

The American people have respect for one another, and are bound together with a sense of brotherhood. I see no reason for our nation to be divided. And I want to see federal, state, and local levels of government working together because we represent the same people exactly. I want to see government, industry, labor, agriculture, science, education, and other parts of our lives sharing the same goals in energy, transportation, education, health care, welfare, tax reform, pollution control—these things can be done with competent leadership. Leaders who have confidence in you.

Recently, the Congress passed a bill concerning antitrust. It's on the President's desk. I urged him to pass it. This bill is the best antitrust improvement in years. It lets the state attorneys general in all 50 states represent you. When you get cheated by price-fixers, and if you have been cheated, it lets the attorney general of a state get simple damages for those who've lost. It also broadens the Justice Department's right to investigate antitrust charges. And it requires major corporations to reveal their plans to consolidate and to swallow up smaller companies. The small businessman in this country, the small businesswoman in this country, the consumer in this country, don't have the legal ability to fight every battle in the courts; it's too expensive. But this legislation would help. It would give us a stronger private enterprise system. And restore competition. It's needed. This is not always the case in Washington. The search for a better way to protect consumers. But the Congress has done it on its own, with no help from this administration. Mr. Ford has to decide this week to veto or sign it. And I hope he'll change his policies of the past and sign it. Sometimes our government is not fair. When someone is in Washington 25 or 30 years, it gets to be a closed interrelationship, you scratch my back, I'll scratch your back. [light applause]

Public officials, lobbyists, special interest groups, go to the same private clubs, they go to the same restaurants, they play golf on the same golf course. They learn about unemployment, inflation, housing problems, from staff reports. Or bureaucrats. They avoid direct contact with the people. They don't go into people's homes. They don't talk to those who are not now able to buy homes, who have seen the monthly payments on an average home more than double in the last eight years. They don't talk about the family who now sees it as hopeless for their children to get a better education. And they don't understand how a farmer feels when we work all year growing a crop and then find at the end of the harvest season that the Republican Administration has put another embargo on the shipment of our grain overseas, and the price of wheat is cut in half, below what it was last year. [applause]

The slow personal damage that has been done in our nation in recent years is even more serious than most of us realize. In the aftermath of Vietnam, Cambodia, Watergate, CIA, FBI, unemployment, inflation, deficits, Medicaid scandals, the American people have been hurt. We love our country. We love our government. We don't want anything selfish out of government for ourselves; we want to be treated fairly. We want to know what goes on in the inner council behind those locked doors. And we want to have a right to make our own decisions. When it is a choice between government doing something and private industry doing it, we prefer that the private sector do it. But if it's a choice between work and welfare, we prefer work. If it's a choice between federal, state, and local levels of government having responsibility, we prefer that the government closest to the people have the responsibility. We believe in our country. We love our country, but the spirit of the United States is being sapped away by this Republican Administration. And we've got to change it. And we've got to change it next year. [applause]

In the last 21 months, I don't believe there is any other human being in this country who has traveled more than I have, visited more places, talked with more groups, answered more questions, listened more carefully, to the heartbeat and the voice of our great country. When I began campaigning I didn't hold public office, I didn't have much money. I didn't have a nationwide campaign organization. I come from a small town—683 people. Not many people knew who I was. I bet not 1 percent of the people in this room had ever heard my name. We began campaigning just like you would if you wanted to be President. My wife and I and my children and a few volunteers began going from one home to another. And we would invite all the neighbors to come into the living room and meet with us—sometimes three or four people would show up. We'd go into a labor hall that would hold up to 200 to 300 folks, and maybe 10 people would come, and we'd stand in factory shift lines, and nobody knew why I was there or who I was. And by the time I explained, "I'm Jimmy Carter from Georgia, I'm running for President," they were already gone. We walked into beauty parlors and barber shops and restaurants, and on the streets and factory shift lines, later on, shopping centers, farmers' markets, livestock sales barns, city halls, county court houses. We talked a little. And we listened a lot. In New Hampshire and Florida, and Illinois and North Carolina, and all over the country. We had 30 primaries where you could win delegates. And I was in all of them. I didn't win them all. But because my base and my support was from the people, we built up a campaign organization that made history in Presidential campaign politics in our country. Long before the convention even met, I had won the nomination of the Democratic Party. Most of the delegates who went there for me had never been involved in politics before. But they believed in me and I believed in them, and I haven't changed. And I want to be sure that I've maintained my relationship throughout this present campaign, and up until November 2, and particularly after January the 20th. I owe special interests nothing. I owe the people everything and that's the way I'm going to keep it. [applause]

I just want to say one more thing. I don't claim to know all the answers. Nobody could. But I believe in the greatness of my country. And I believe that our system of government is still the best on earth. And I believe that our economic strength that God gave us is still with us, and I believe that there is no reason for despair in the future. It's not going to be an easy campaign as you know. It's a very difficult thing for a complete outsider to defeat an incumbent President with a full backing of powerful political entities in Washington and throughout this country who have benefited from his incumbency. But I'm not afraid of this challenge. Because my strength, my support, my advice, and my counsel and my criticism comes from people like you all over this country. The greatest resources we have is in the 215 million Americans who still have the same basic character, experience, belief in hard work, honesty, unselfishness, idealism, patriotism that we've had for 200 years. That hasn't changed. If you believe that we need a change in Washington, you can help me on November 2, and I'll help you on January 20, to change this country and give the government back to you once again.

Thank you very much.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Evansville, Indiana Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347548

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