Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at Dedication Ceremonies for the Raritan River Steel Company Plant in Perth Amboy, New Jersey

September 09, 1980

First of all let me thank Brendan Byrne for that fine introduction. It's a pleasure to be with President Shields and Chairman Herin, who's down here for a meeting with his entire company leaders to see at firsthand what modern technology can do for the well-being of our Nation and our people. Senator Bradley and Mayor Otlowski, Congressman Ed Patten, I'm really delighted to be with all of you as well.

I'm especially thankful for those kind words that Bill Bradley said about me. As you know, he and I have some deep philosophical differences: He believes in basketball; I'm more of a softball player myself. [Laughter] He's got a lot to learn. He's learning fast. Whenever he gets one of his bills through the Senate he still refers to it as a slam dunk. [Laughter] But I might tell you that your junior Senator has now acquired a strong leadership role although he's only been there just a few years, and there is no doubt in my mind that Brendan Byrne's prediction about a bright, wide future for Bill Bradley is going to come true.

I'm also glad to be with Brendan Byrne. It's always a pleasure to come to New Jersey and find him passing through his home State. [Laughter] This is the only State in the Nation where I can come and say, "Welcome back, Governor." But I might point out to you that when he's outside of New Jersey he's working for you.

I was checking some figures this morning on the way up here on Air Force One. Since January of 1977 the unemployment rate in New Jersey has dropped 29 percent. There have been a total of 478,000 new jobs added just in New Jersey alone. That shows that when Brendan's out of town he's working for his home State. And I might say that Bill Bradley, Ed Patten, and others have done a good job for you in Washington as well.

Federal funds for mass transit have totaled more than $400 million. This is more than all the previous years combined in Federal allocation of funds for improving the transportation systems that take you to and from work. Economic development aid in the last 3 years, it has comprised two-thirds of all the economic development aid coming to New Jersey from the Federal Government since 1965. And urban parks to make your life more pleasant—there's only one State in the Nation that's got more Federal funds for urban parks than New Jersey, and New Jersey's rapidly creeping up on that State. So, all in all, I think in the last few years with the leadership standing behind me on this stage, New Jersey's come out very well.

This morning I want to pay particular tribute to Eddie Patten. As you know, he was mayor of Perth Amboy before he went to the Congress. He's now served 18 years, 18 years of very quiet public service. You don't hear much from him, as you know, but he does his work for the folks back home. He has a congressional career that has specialized in serving what you might call "forgotten people," the people that don't have a strong voice or a lawyer or a lobbyist in Washington working for you. Eddie Patten serves that role, and I want to thank him publicly as President of our great country and wish him Godspeed in his voluntary political retirement in the years ahead.

And Mayor Otlowski was telling me about the slogan that he's pursued, "Pride in Perth Amboy." Looking around, I can see under his leadership why that's such a proud slogan and why you're carrying it out.

I'd like to say a few words about this steel plant, not just looking at Perth Amboy or even New Jersey but looking at what it means to this Nation and, indeed, to the entire world. It does mean 450 present jobs for this community. It means a kind of core around which past, present, and future other businesses will come to your community. It means that for the first time, really, the modern technology of a quality environment can be combined with a very rapid production of steel. I want to congratulate the management of this new mill, the investors, the suppliers, the designers, the workers, the mayor and the people of Perth Amboy for making it possible. The county and city officials worked very closely with the State officials and with me in making this a real success story.

My understanding is that this mill is the most advanced in this country and is unexcelled anywhere in the world. This mill will produce more steel per worker than any mill anywhere. Your president just told me that each worker, including the president, on an average produced 1,349 tons of steel a year. Is that right? Almost correct—l,339 tons of steel per year. That's unbelievable, and it's a record that's not equaled anywhere in the world.

The steelrods produced here, as you know, will compete head-on with imported rods from anywhere. As a matter of fact, about 50 percent of the present production of steelrods from this plant goes to Mainland China, the People's Republic of China. And we can produce steel in this plant, ship it halfway around the world, and still compete and beat the high competition from Japan—just a short distance from the People's Republic of China.

As you know, the northeastern part of the United States imports a tremendous amount of steelrods. This plant alone, if it was devoted exclusively for domestic consumption, could cut our imports of steelrods from overseas in the northeastern part of the United States by 25 percent alone.

I'm particularly grateful, too, in this time of energy shortage that this plant produces steelrods only using about 30 percent of the energy that's ordinarily expended in the open-hearth process. And I'm particularly pleased at the care for human beings, the respect to historical buildings in this community, the environmental quality. There is no air pollution from this plant, there is no water pollution from this plant, and this plant is a model that I'm sure that other modern plants can use for their development in the future. I know it's important to you who live here, to make sure there's a good relationship between the job that you hold, the pride in doing a good job, and the quality of life that a factory presents for you and for your families, now and in the future.

This plant is also a part of something very special and important that's taking place in America, and that is the rebuilding of America's industrial base. As your president pointed out, early in this century, we were ahead of all the nations on Earth in steel production and also the technology of it. Now it's time for us to come back. We've had some very difficult problems in recent years with the energy crisis. It's taken the Congress about 3 years to come out with an effective national energy policy. Now we are embarked on a two-pronged policy: one, to conserve energy, which this plant is doing and which all of you are doing so well, and the other one is, to produce more energy in our own country.

This base gives us an opportunity now to utilize the tremendous innovative spirit of American people, the free enterprise system of which we are so proud, and the dynamic and aggressive attitude to build a better future for us all. It's very important for us to realize too that a careful, planned industrialization or modernization program for economics is important.

The so-called Reagan-Kemp-Roth tax cut is a very, very serious mistake. It means tremendous tax cuts for the rich, and it means a devastating blow to the American economy and high inflation for the average working family in this country. It is so bad that my prediction to you is that the Republican candidate for President and other Republicans will soon be abandoning their own Kemp-Roth proposal and looking for something even more reasonable than that.

What we need is a carefully planned, targeted, workable revitalization program for America that will increase investment, that will offset social security income tax increases now scheduled for next year, that'll help those parts of the Nation that need it most, and, at the same time, all that's being done to hold down inflation. That's exactly what our plan is going to do for this country.

There is no need for me to mislead you, and there is no need for me to try to gain some political benefit from a very fast moving, ill-advised tax cut here just before the November election. We have, as you know, in this country made the right choice in many ways. We have a lot of lessons to learn, a lot of basics to which we must return. We now have the highest productivity per worker of any nation on Earth, the highest in the world. But some of the other countries have been catching up with us, because our productivity per worker on the average in this Nation has not been increasing. That's what we've got to change. We must stay competitive.

I want you to tell your grandchildren and I want to be able to tell my grandchildren that we were able to face the future with confidence, that we had confidence in our Nation and in ourselves, that we didn't flinch from tough decisions, that we made those decisions with confidence in ourselves and in one another, that it was not easy, it was not simple, we knew there were no magic answers, we knew we couldn't make changes overnight. But change can't take place just in one spot—Perth Amboy—but must be broadscale, all across our Nation, with business and labor working with a new sense of partnership and cooperation. But once we got started, the American productivity system out-produced, outbuilt, and out-competed that of any other nation on Earth.

There are some cynics in this country that say that our country, being more than 200 years old, is already over the hill, that somehow we're on the decline, that our productivity and our ingenuity and our way of life and our quality of life are headed downhill. Don't you believe them.

The same kinds of people said 4 years ago, that because the Republicans had failed, that there was no way for America to face, successfully, the tremendous challenge of the energy problem that's been foisted on us by OPEC. Well, since then our oil imports are down 24 percent.

The first year I was in office, we imported 8 1/2 million barrels of oil from overseas every day. We have now cut that on the average in 1980 by 2 million barrels of oil per day that we do not buy overseas. At the same time, we are now drilling more oil wells and more natural gas wells than in any time during the last 25 years. That's the subject of a whole speech, and I won't go into it. But I would like to say that we've turned around that serious problem that we faced 3 1/2 years ago, and now we've made it the basis for a tremendous and exciting future, when every family in our country can have a better life, a more exciting life, a more challenging life, and a happier life with more leisure and more pride in what we're doing.

The cooperation that you've seen here, with a relatively small $12 million investment or loan guarantee from the Government, has been expanded into an investment total of more than $140 million. That's the kind of cooperation that we need between Government and private industry, with the Government providing the help that it can, removing obstacles, working in a cooperative way, but the primary emphasis being and primary responsibility being on the shoulders of the private enterprise system. We don't want the Government to stick its nose in the lives of American people or the lives of American free enterprise system.

I just have a couple more remarks to make. The economic system that I described just 2 weeks ago, to revitalize America, building on the energy success, will add a net total of more than a million jobs in the next 2 years. This is above and beyond what we expect from normal economic recovery and from the programs already proposed to the Congress. But more importantly, it'll put new and efficient tools in the hands of the efficient American workers. This is something we've not done adequately in the past. We've got to give the tools and technology to you to do the job, and that's exactly what we're going to do.

The direct investment in communities and in industries hard hit by economic change are important. We'll welcome foreign investments. Foreign investments in the automobile manufacturing business are good, and the foreign investment from Canada here in Perth Amboy in this plant is very good for our country.

We need to retool the automobile industry to produce the fuel-efficient cars that Americans want. Steel is a major and basic industry, and this kind of modern technology will put us back in a competitive position so that we can meet any competition anywhere on Earth. The steel industry throughout our country is now benefiting from $550 million in aid programs begun 2 years ago by my own administration. We've liberalized the tax provisions to provide more capital. We'll do that more in the future, and at the same time we have not abandoned the strict requirements on air quality and on water quality.

We'll also have an unprecedented use of high technology and an unprecedented emphasis on research and development to keep the new ideas coming along, to keep America competitive and to keep Americans working. And out of the windfall profits tax we're building a better transportation system for our Nation. This not only concerns railways and highways but also the seaports and other facilities to ship our products overseas.

And finally I'd like to say that we must invest very heavily in our human resources. As change takes place—and there's no way for us to stop change; we don't want to stop change—we've got to make sure that workers who are displaced from an old or obsolescent industry have a chance without moving their families to get training and preparation for the new jobs that will move into that same locality to provide employment for those people. And for young people coming along out of high school, we've got to have training jobs to prepare them for a prominent and productive career. These are the kinds of programs to which I'm deeply dedicated and with which your fine congressional delegation and your Governor have helped so much.

We have, in our country, the finest opportunities in the world. The politicians sometimes tend to take credit for the progress we're making. The credit goes to people like you who are willing to work hard, to get along well with your neighbors, to keep your pride in stable families, to hold your communities together, to prepare for the future, to accommodate change, to have vision and courage, not to be fearful and to be proud of our country. Those are the characteristics of the American spirit that haven't changed since our Nation was first conceived in 1776, not far from this place.

Our country thanks you for what's been done here in Perth Amboy, for the tremendous advancements that you yourselves have made, and the demonstrated ability of Americans to meet any competition and to keep our Nation, which is already the best on Earth, the best on Earth throughout our lives and the lives of our children and our grandchildren.

God bless you, thank you, congratulations.

Note: The President spoke at 11:41 a.m. outside the plant. Prior to his remarks, he was given a tour of the facilities by plant executives.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at Dedication Ceremonies for the Raritan River Steel Company Plant in Perth Amboy, New Jersey Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250779

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