Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Hot Springs, Arkansas

September 17, 1976

It's good to be back in Arkansas. This is a state that I have visited often in the last few years. When the returns came in in the primary, you gave me a tremendous victory, and when the returns come in on November 2nd, I believe you are going to do the same thing.

As David [Pryor] pointed out, the times have changed. The last time a President was elected to go to the White House from the deep South was in 1848. Monday morning I went to Birmingham to campaign with Senator Sparkman and Governor Wallace, and when I arrived there they told me that I was the first Democratic nominee who had ever come to Alabama in the history of our nation. I just came here from Biloxi, Mississippi, and the two great Senators from Mississippi, Eastland and Stennis, told me that they couldn't remember when a Democratic nominee had been to their state to campaign.

And I'm glad to be part of a process that lets me share the tremendous southern political heritage with great men like them and your own great Senator McClellan whom I admire very much and whom I am grateful to for being here. He represents everything that is good and decent, that's strong, honest, that's committed to the Constitution and laws of our nation, as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, playing a major role in guaranteeing our nation a strong defense, there's a sense of reassurance about his presence there.

• David Pryor, who was nice enough to introduce me in such glowing terms, represents a great combination of compassion and concern for people who need the legitimate services of government and also the tough managerial experience that he's brought to the governorship of Arkansas.

• When I was elected governor myself in 1970,1 shared the glory of that new political day in the South with Dale Bumpers, and I think that one of the reasons that I have worked so hard and been challenged so greatly and had to rise to the challenge is because he provided me with the toughest possible competition as a southern governor. But he and I and Reuben Askew, and John West and others shared a common concern, and a common experience, and a common confidence, and a common hope, and dream that we might just measure up, barely, to what the people of our region have always represented.

• Congressman Ray Thornton, who is leading the drive for voter registration, on the Agriculture Committee, important to me and to all those who have been involved in farm life throughout most of our years.

• Bill Alexander, a tough, hard worker, for the rural areas of our country, also on the Appropriations Committee. This helps us throughout the South.

• Congressman Wilbur Mills, who was a stalwart leader in the Ways and Means Committee, who shaped the policies in veterans' assistance, welfare, health, taxation, for our country.

• Jim Guy Tucker, who's going to go to Congress next year, to carry on the great southern tradition.

So I'm proud to be part of what the Democratic Party is, and what the southland is. Twenty one months ago, I decided to run actively for President, and I began my campaign.

Four years ago, September of 1972, I made a decision to make the contest. When I began running, nobody knew who I was much, very few people cared; I came from a town with 683 people. I didn't hold public office, I didn't have very much [support]; I didn't have a built-m campaign organization, but I and my wife and my three sons and their wives and a few volunteers began going from one home to another, sometimes we'd invite the community, three or four people would show up in a living room. We'd go to a labor hall that would hold several hundred people. Maybe ten people would come. So we went to factory shift lines, and spent most of our time explaining to people who I was, and what I was running for. And we'd go into shopping centers, beauty parlors, barber shops, livestock sale bams, farmers' markets. When I told my mother that I was going to run for President, what she actually said was, "President of what?"

But we have come a long way. And the reason is that we have had to take the kind of approach that has been typical of our party. I've come a long way in the last two weeks. Monday a week ago, I started off in Warm Springs. I've already got to Hot Springs. But I'm going to maintain that kind of progress throughout the campaign.

I decided to go to Warm Springs, Georgia, to kick off my campaign because fifty years ago this year Franklin Roosevelt purchased that site. He had been stricken with polio, he was deeply afflicted, and as a handicapped person he went there to regain his strength, his self-confidence, his hope, his purpose in life. He was a rich man, but he saw in his own handicapped state that a lot of other Americans were handicapped because of the debts of the depression brought on by the Hoover Administration. Roosevelt saw how afflicting joblessness is. He saw the need for paying wages to adults who labored with their hands. He saw a need to give people some security in their old age, some sense of dignity and purpose and confidence. As the leader of our party, he proposed the first minimum wage law—25 cents an hour. It finally passed with the help of a Democratic Congress. Ninety-five percent of the Republicans voted against paying 25 cents for an adult man or woman to work with manual labor for an hour. Roosevelt brought, over the objection of the Republican Congress Members, rural electrification. H? proposed the simple concept of Social Security; there were 95 members of the House who were Republicans—94 voted against Social Security. This is typical of what our party has always done.

And then came along Harry Truman, a common man but an uncommon leader. He made tough decisions when the circumstances required it He never backed off, no matter what it was—Point Four, NATO, the concept oi the Marshall Plan, aid to Turkey and Greece, formed the United Nations, recognized Israel immediately. It was always a sure feeling in our minds that when Truman spoke he told the truth. And there was never any doubt who was the leader of our country. He had a sign on his desk in the oval office— does anyone remember what it said? The buck stops here. Nowadays, things have changed. The buck can run all over Washington now and not find a place to stop.

Leadership is missing. And when we have no leadership in the White House, the country drifts. So as far as compassion is concerned, understanding closeness to the people, hopes, ideals, dreams, patriotism, self-confidence, dignity, of human beings, the Democratic Party is there, constant, never changing, deeply committed, expressing the purposes first expressed by Thomas Jefferson. But there are other things that are involved too—the change with each generation. And I think it's good to compare the two parties. Unemployment is now 7.9 percent. We have 500,000 more Americans unemployed today than we did three months ago. When Kennedy and Johnson went out of office, the unemployment rate was less than 4 percent When Truman went out of office, unemployment was less than 3 percent

Let's talk about inflation, that robs us all. The average inflation rate under Kennedy and Johnson, 2.2 precent. When Truman went out of office, the inflation rate was less than 1 percent. Under Nixon and Ford, the average inflation rate is 6.5 percent, three times what it was under Kennedy and Johnson, more than 6 times what it was when Truman went out of office.

Let's talk about fiscal integrity, balanced budgets. Last year's deficit [was] $65 billion. More than the whole 8 years, cumulative, of Kennedy and Johnson. Truman was in office 7 years. We didn't have an average deficit. We had an average surplus of $2 billion. So inflation control, jobs for our people, balanced budgets, sound management, [are] also a part of the Democratic Party. How can you combine services for our people, better health care, better job opportunities, insurance in their old age, good farm programs, rural electric membership corporations, a chance in life, with a sound tough competent government? The Democratic Party has been able to do it historically, and that's the issue this year. A choice by each individual American person, what kind of government do I want?

Bankruptcies last year, for small businessmen like myself, [were] twice as _ great as they were in 1968. The White House budget itself, completely under the control of the President, in 1969 was $3.6 million. For this next year, $16J4 million, an increase of over 400 percent. Well, this brings us down to questions about what we want in government. I believe we need to decide as leaders the things the government can do, and the things the government cannot do, and should not do. When there is a choice between a government performing a function and private industry or individuals performing that function, I say we ought to go with the private sector and not to the government.

There need not be a fear of government. We have no fear of government. But I think we ought to have a government the people understand and control, and not the other way around. We need to have a minimum of secrecy in government, a maximum of personal privacy for human beings, who have a choice between the federal, state and local levels of government having the responsibility or authority, the choice ought to be with the government closest to the individual citizen. These are the kinds of concepts that never change in a Democratic Party, and let us tie together good services and sound management.

As I've said in my acceptance speech in Madison Square Garden, our income tax structure is a disgrace to the human race. It needs to be changed. The American people are not selfish, we don't want to grasp for some advantage for ourselves that our neighbors don't have. We want to be treated fairly. We want it to be done in such a way to restore our confidence in our own government. Now the surest income to be taxed in this country is the income earned from manual labor. A family that makes less than $10,000 per year pays a higher proportion of that income in total taxes than does a family that makes more than $1 million a year. That's not right I don't believe we'll ever solve the difficulty of tax inequity and confusion until we have total comprehensive tax reform and, if I'm elected President this November, and I intend to be, we're going to have that beginning next January.

I come from a poor part of the country. And I believe in a good welfare system. We now have about 12 million people who draw welfare benefits on a regular basis. About 1.3 million of those are fully able to work. There is nothing wrong with them mentally or physically, they are not too old, they are not blind. They should be removed from the welfare system altogether and placed under the responsibility of the Labor Department, the Education Department. They should be given job training, literacy instruction if they can't read and write, the services of public and private job placement agencies, and offered a job. If they are offered a job and don't take it, I wouldn't pay them any more benefits. The other 90 percent can't work full-time. We ought to treat them with understanding and with fairness, and concern, and compassion. There ought to be a fairly uniform nationwide payment to meet the basic necessities of life. We ought to have built into those welfare laws an encouragement to work part-time. We ought to remove the elements of the welfare laws that encourage or force a father to leave their home, or pretend to leave their home. The present welfare system is anti-work, and anti-family. And it also ought to be completely revised. I believe the American people are honest enough, fair enough, concerned enough, intelligent enough, to have a fair welfare system. And I believe that everything the government does—in welfare, taxation, in transportation, Social Security, health, education—ought to be designed to keep families together, not to separate them, and to protect our neighborhoods, and I intend to do that too, especially.

I served eleven years in the Navy. All of my folks have been in Georgia more than 210 years. Nobody in my father's family ever had a chance to finish high school before me. But I went to the U.S. Naval Academy, and I served in the submarine force. And I learned then that we need to have a strong defense. The most important single responsibility on the shoulders of a President, is to guarantee the security of our country, a freedom from the threat of successful attack or blackmail, and the ability to carry out our obligations to our allies. I believe with tough management we can eliminate the waste and confusion and have a tough, muscular, simple, well-organized, narrowly focused defense capability, the capability to fight And with that capability, that's known by us and known by the world, there comes the best guarantee of peace, and I intend to insist on that, and work for that as President of this country as well.

There are just a couple of more things I want to mention. We need to Have a competent government. We don't have a competent government. It's wasteful, it's confused, it overlaps functions, it's not accountable. It's wrapped in secrecy. And the clear delineation of responsibility and authority are just not there. We need to have a total reorganization of the Executive Branch of government. And if I'm elected President in November, I guarantee you that I'm going to put full time on this subject so that we can have for a change an efficient, economical, purposeful and manageable government. If I'm elected, you can depend on that. And I believe the Congress and the people are ready for it. So tax reform, welfare reform, government reorganization, also need to be combined with management principles, zero-based budgeting, sunset laws, and we need to have some interrelationship between the people and the major Cabinet departments.

I'd just like to say one word about agriculture. One of the reasons that I get up early every morning—five or six days a week—and put in 16 hours campaigning—is so that January 20, 1977, I can send Earl Butz back where he came from, and have in the Secretary's office someone that will listen and someone that can convince the American people, along with me as President, that what's best for the family farmer in the long run is exactly what's best for the consumer. The day before yesterday, I spoke to about 65 to 70,000 people at the farmfest in Minnesota. Earl Butz was there the day before I was. And he predicted to the crowd, there was only a couple of hundred folks I understand—he couldn't draw that big a crowd in Georgia, I don't believe—but he predicted to them that when I arrived that I was going to announce that, when I was elected President, he would be fired. That's the first accurate prediction that Earl Butz has made in a long time.

I made a speech last spring to the Gridiron Club in Washington, and my good friend Earl Butz was there, and he walked up to me and he said, "Governor, I understand that everywhere you go, you promise that you are going to fire me if you are elected." I said, "Yes sir, that's right." "But why do you have to say it more than once?" I said, "Well, that's my best applause line, first of all," and I said, "Also, in a lot of places in the country the farmers are very discouraged," and it gives them something to look forward to next year."

But we need to have a predictable agriculture policy. We need to have uninterrupted and strong export commitments. We need to make sure that carryover stocks, when they do occur, at least half of them are controlled by farmers. We need to have a presentation to the American people about the facts involved in agriculture. We've got now, we who are involved in farming, to be a very small minority. And unless we maintain a strong voice based on an accurate presentation of the facts about our lives, then we are in danger of being destroyed economically because of an insensitive government. It is very important that this be done.

One last thing I want to say is this. I don't claim to know all the answers. In the process of campaigning, I've learned a lot about our country. Fve had to, because of an absence of support from powerful people. I've had to go directly to the voters themselves. We've built up a campaign organization as those of you who are familiar with Arkansas politics know, in large measure based on those who had never been actively involved in politics before. It's a good, solid base of support. It represents the essence of the Democratic Party. A closeness with the people themselves. A commitment to their needs. I owe special interest nothing. I owe the people everything. And I'm going to keep it that way.

The other night, my opponent, reluctantly emerged from the Rose Garden and finally made his first speech of the campaign. He spoke of his vision of America. And it was a fine vision, and a noble vision. The only trouble was that my opponent has spent his entire life in politics opposing the programs that make that vision come true.

He seems to have experienced, in the last few weeks, a remarkable conversion at this late date in his political life.

But I don't think the people will be fooled. Mr. Ford cannot rhapsodize about the future as if he and his party had no past. The Republican Party from Hoover and McKinley and Coolidge to Nixon, has been the party of negativism and opposition. The party that at every turn had to be dragged kicking and screaming from the past into the present. The Democratic Party, the party of Roosevelt and Truman, and John Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson, is a party that has a genuine vision for America and has always fought to make that vision a reality.

Let me close by speaking just a few minutes about my vision of our future. My vision as the heir to a great Democratic tradition. It is a vision that has deepened and grown and matured during the 21 months that I have campaigned through this great land. I've never had more faith in America than I do today. We have an America that for all its trials and tribulations, still has our priceless resources of a courageous people, and the most nearly perfect system of government ever devised on earth.

We can have an America, if we work together, that turns away from scandal and corruption, and official cynicism, and is once again as decent and competent as our people.

We can have an America that endorses and promotes and provides an excellent education for my child, and your child, and every child.

We can have an America that encourages and takes pride in our diversity: our religious diversity, our sectional or regional diversity, our cultural diversity. Knowing that out of all this pluralistic heritage, has come the strength and the vitality and the creativity that has made us great and will keep us great.

If we can have an American government that does not oppress or spy on its people, our dignity can be preserved, and our privacy and our right to be left alone; we can have an America whose military establishment has liminated waste, and confusion, and becomes lean and tough again, and secure against any possible threat. We can have an American foreign policy that is both realistic, and idealistic, and represents the character, and the compassion, and the common sense of the American people.

We can have an America with a strong economy and a balanced budget. Ve can have an America which harnesses the idealism of the student, the ompassion of a nurse, or the social worker, the determination and faith of a farmer, the wisdom of a teacher, the practicality of business leaders, the experience of the senior citizen, and the hope of a laborer, to build a better life for us all.

We can have an American President who does not govern with negativism, but with confidence in the future, with vigor and vision and aggressive leadership, a President who is not isolated from the people, but who takes his strength, and his wisdom, and his courage from you.

I see an America on the move again, united, a diverse and vital and tolerant nation. Entering into our third century with pride and confidence. An America that lives up to the majesty of our Constitution, and the simple decency of our people.

This is the America we want. This is the America that we will have if we work together and win this election and give the government of the people back to the people of this country.

Everybody that's eager to see a change in Washington, would you let me know that you feel that way?

If you help me, I [will] help you change this nation to be great again.

Thank you very much.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Hot Springs, Arkansas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347545

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