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Remarks at a Fund-raising Dinner in Los Angeles, California, for United States Senate Candidate Pete Wilson

August 23, 1982

Mayor Pete Wilson, the long-time friends and the newcomers to that circle here tonight, and all of you ladies and gentlemen:

I am very proud and very delighted to be here on this particular occasion. We were just talking over here. I was saying, for the one real Westerner up here at the head table, he sure is duded up. [Laughter]

You know, I was very worried--and we were just talking about it--we were worried, "Did they really mean that? Casual western?" So you can imagine my relief when I met Pete out there at the airport and saw, yep, they did, because I had a picture of myself standing up here this way in front of a bunch of people dressed like the lawyer from the East. [Laughter] But I can only tell you, after a year and a half in Washington, somebody says casual western to me, that's what they're going to get. [Laughter]

I'm sure that you know how important this election is or you wouldn't be here tonight. The Senate has been called the most exclusive club in the world. The hundred men and women there represent the 50 States. And you know, sometimes we forget or sometimes we're young enough that we just didn't know or weren't aware that that's exactly what the Senators do represent-that not too many years ago it was changed to popular election?and that Senators were actually chosen by State governments. They are there to represent the interests in this federation of sovereign States of their particular sovereign State as well as the national interests of the federation.

In about 10 weeks, Californians are going to choose which of two men is best able to represent the State. One of them has held the highest elective office in this State, that of Governor. He took office 8 years ago, in the middle of the fiscal year, with a $500 million surplus in the State cash box. Previous to that, the State of California had returned the last surplus before that $500 million-we couldn't return it because the administration had to leave in the middle of the fiscal year?but the one previous to that we turned back $850 million in the form of a rebate. And I have often thought nothing ever delineated so clearly the difference between the two parties as the statement of a Senator in the opposing party who stormed into my office one day when we were giving back that $850 million and said he considered that giving that money back was a misuse of public funds. [Laughter] Well, the new Governor did not give back the $500 million. And now he seeks to move on to greener fields, leaving the State a few million dollars in the hole, which is against the constitution of the State of California. And it's a little frightening when you stop to think that if he were in Washington, he wouldn't be dealing in millions, he'd be dealing in billions.

Now, as an alternative, we can choose a man who was a part of the California State Legislature when California was climbing out of that fiscal swamp, turning back to the people surpluses every time we got one as rebates to the people. He then became mayor of one of our great cities. And that city is recognized nationwide as one of the best run communities in the United States.

Will we make our choice based on campaign slogans or spot ads? Or will we, the people of California, do as Al Smith admonished once and look at the record? Is there any relationship between what the Governor says he will do and what the Governor has done?

I understand, though, that a Senator from Massachusetts is going to come out here and campaign in his behalf. That same Senator from Massachusetts came out and campaigned for a relative of the present Governor 16 years ago when I was running. And he made a great point up and down the State that the people should watch out, because I had never held public office before. Well, you know, he had never held public office before he became a Senator. As a matter of fact, he'd never held a job. [Laughter]

But let me try and tell you how important it is that we hold this slim lead that we have, that slim majority in the United States Senate. It's the first time that we have had a majority in one of the Houses of Congress in decades. And without that, we couldn't achieve what has been achieved in the last year and a half.

And what has been achieved? Well, I think one of the most historic changes in government?a 180-degree turn from the historic pattern over the last decades of tax and tax and spend and spend, and don't worry about the public debt, we owe it to ourselves.

When we took office, it was at the end of 2, years of double-digit inflation?12.4 percent was the rate when we arrived; the interest rate, 21 1/2 percent, prime rate. The rate of increase in government spending had touched 18 percent, and 2, million workers, in that last campaign year of 1980, had lost their jobs.

We were not quite to the middle of the fiscal year when we took office so the '81 budget was in place, and there wasn't much we could do about that. But we had to proceed immediately with the fiscal budget for '82, which would go into effect on October of 1981. That budget was you know, under the pattern in Washington budgets are proposed for a few years in advance.

The unemployment kept on increasing, the recession of 1980 became the recession of 1981. Yes, the unemployment has increased. But I remember campaigning in which I stood in communities and areas in which the unemployment rate at that time had reached as high as 20 percent, and I called it a depression. And I was immediately corrected by the incumbent, who said it was a recession. I don't know whether you'll recall, but I told him that a recession was when your neighbor lost his job; a depression was when you'd lost yours-- [laughter] --and relief would be when he lost his. [Laughter]

But we proposed an economic recovery program almost the instant that we were there, and it was a long and hard struggle, if you'll remember. And then just about this time of year a year ago, we passed and I signed here in California our economic recovery program which reduced proposed government spending over the next 3 years by $130 billion and contained also the greatest tax cut?single tax cut in the history of the United States.

Now, the program didn't go into effect until October of last year, but by September the critics were already calling it a failure. It hadn't started yet, so to make it easier to identify they renamed it "Reaganomics." Now, I don't think they were trying to honor me? [laughter] ?with that, but if they were, I just want them to know that I had already received a distinguished honor that they could in no way equal. In the tiny village of Ballyporeen in County Tipperary in Ireland, where my great-grandfather left from to come to America, they have named a pub after me. You see, if you're for free enterprise, the word gets around. [Laughter]

But our program started last October. It continues to be phased in over a 3-year period. The second part of that, the second phase was the tax cut that you all received on the first of July. Some failure -- 21 1/2-percent interest rate is now 13 1/2. The 12.4-percent inflation rate has been running at less than 6 percent for the last 6 months. And after a decade of decline, after a time when incomes went up some 120-odd percent but the actual real earnings of the American people kept going down and the standard of living kept going down, personal income for July -- that single month, up 1 percent. And if you wanted to annualize that instead of keep on doing that every month, that's a 12-percent increase. Disposable personal income after payment of income tax went up 2.1 percent in July.

The savings rate?and in this country of ours, for the last several years personal savings, the very essential to having a capital pool for investment that industry can borrow from -- that savings has been less than that of our counterparts in the other industrial nations in the world. But in June, before the tax cut, it had gone up to 7.3 percent. It had been 6.9 percent in May. It has been steadily down for the months and a long time before, as I've said. I am interested to see what it will be. You don't get the figures as early on that one, so we'll wait a few weeks before we know what it is for July.

Housing starts were up 34 percent in July. The permits for new housing were up 174,000 over June. Ninety-day Treasury notes upon which we were paying 15 1/2-percent interest?the government was paying just a couple of weeks ago--are now down to less than 8 percent.

Fraud and waste--and we have a task force that's been in that and reporting to me every 6 months, and the last report on their 6 months they had saved $5.8 billion for us?thousand of audits, thousands of indictments, and hundreds and hundreds of convictions. And last year's tax cut, which as I say was to be phased in over a 3-year period, is still the largest tax cut in history in spite of what happened last week, because over the 3 years, the coming 3 years, even with the bill that has just been passed, the American people will get a tax cut in these 3 years of $335 billion. And accompanying that will be spending outlay reductions of $280 billion.

There's one other thing that I want to mention: federalism. There is a program that we have been working with Governors-well, some Governors. [Laughter] We've been working with mayors, we've been working with city council members, county officials, State legislatures, to work out a return to the tenth amendment; to give back to the States and the cities and the counties of this country the programs, the powers, the authority that were unjustly seized by the Federal Government in denial of the tenth amendment of the Constitution; to put government, as much as possible, those functions that are proper, back in those levels of government that are closest to the people.

Now, who would you like to have in California helping administer that switch back to that kind of federalism? Someone whose first great battle of history-making proportions was against the medfly? [Laughter] Or someone who has served in the State legislature for years, someone who has now served as the mayor of one of our major cities for years, who knows the local problems and knows what the Federal Government should do if we're to have the kind of honest government, efficient government that we should have for all of us throughout the Nation?

If ever there was a watchword that was appropriate, it is in this election. And that is, with Pete Wilson's opponent, with regard to him, that we should say, "Pay attention to what he does, not what he says."

Let me just give you a little example. It wasn't too long ago that he stepped up to the 155-millimeter microphones and fired a salvo at Jim Watt. And it was all about--he single-handedly, the Governor of California, was going to protect the coastline of California from the threat of oil. Well, there are 520 Federal or United States supervised oil wells off the coast of California, outside the 3-mile limit. There are 3,000 State supervised and regulated oil wells inside the 3-mile limit off the State of California. And this summer alone, the present Governor of California has approved drilling permits for 20 more wells on the very edge of the Santa Barbara sanctuary.

What is the sanctuary? Well, when we were in Sacramento, as Pete knows, we'd laid out some of the great scenic areas of California and drew lines out to the 3-mile limit and said, "No matter what, there will be no drilling inside these beautiful scenic areas." And a Republican administration in Washington continued the line on out beyond the 3-mile limit and said, "We will observe your sanctuaries." But there are going to be 20 more. They may not be in the sanctuary, but you can throw a rock from any one of them into the sanctuary from where they're going to be drilled. So, as I say, he talked a great war; he hasn't exactly been fighting that war.

This?I can't tell you?and, you know, I'm a little?[inaudible]?here. This is the first time I've ever been a before-dinner speaker. [Laughter] But nothing of what we've achieved, nothing of what we have accomplished could have been done if we did not, for one of these rare moments in history, have that majority in the United States Senate. I'd like to have a majority in the other House, but in off-year elections history says that you don't usually gain in that off-year election. Anyway, we're going to try very hard to gain.

But I can tell you this. The Senator who's coming out to campaign for Pete's opponent is a member of a very exclusive little group of a half a dozen Senators who have set an all-time record in the history of the Senate for spending; in fact, more spending than any other Senators that have ever been there. We know some of the things advocated by Pete's opponent and what he would stand for.

I haven't touched on another area, but one of which I'm very proud. When we took office, the supposed voluntary military was a failure. People were talking that we could not exist or have a good defense without the draft. Now, even though we have a registration?and I am convinced that that is worth keeping?I am opposed to a peacetime draft and I'm even more so now, because we don't need it.

We found that half our airplanes couldn't fly on any given day for lack of spare parts. We found that on any given day there were Navy vessels that couldn't leave port either because they didn't have enough crew or they didn't have enough parts. And we set out to do something about that. Now, we've been accused of spending too much on military and cutting social reform programs too much, and I know which side Pete's opponent would come down on on that, and I know where Pete would come down from his experience as a legislator.

I think it should be recognized that when John F. Kennedy was President, only 27 percent of his budget went for the social reforms to help the needy and the helpless in this country, and 46 percent went for defense. In our budget for 1983, about 53 percent of our budget is going for the needy and the helpless, and only 29 percent is going for defense. And yet, the morale, the esprit de corps, the reenlistments of men in the service?men and women in the service today, the level, the educational level of the people going into the service making it a career, is something we haven't seen in a great many years. And I just have to tell you one of my favorite little stories about that.

Our Ambassador to Luxembourg wrote me a letter, and he said that he had been up on the East German border, visiting the Second Armored Cavalry Regiment. And he told me how great they looked. And then he said that one of these fellows, a 19-yearold trooper, followed him over to his helicopter and asked him if he could get a message to me. And being an Ambassador, he allowed as how he could. And the kid said, "Well, will you tell the President that we're proud to be here, and we ain't scared o' nothin'."

I just thought you'd like to know about the attitude of those who are guarding our shores, because they are the real freedom fighters. It is by doing their job and doing it right that they can be a deterrent to war. And our goal is peace. And you've never gone into a war because you were too strong; you go into them when the other fellow thinks you aren't strong. And we're going to continue.

So, you have, really, a clear-cut choice here. The more strength we have in the Senate, the more we can gain allies over there in the House. You send Pete Wilson. San Diego will find a way to get along without him. You send Pete Wilson to Washington. And just?if you can't send him, don't send anybody. [Laughter.]

And, as I say, I know I'm preaching to the choir, because you wouldn't be here if you didn't-- [laughter] --feel that way. But God bless you all. And we're going to keep it up in Washington. And we're going to keep the country turned around on this new course until we have reduced the percentage of gross national product that is being taken by the Government and being spent by the Government until once again Government is back spending within its means. And then my dream is that day we make the first payment, I don't care what size it is, on the national debt to prove to our kids that we're not going to dump it all on them.

Let me just say, deep, if you will, in your hearts?! said, I think, the last time I was out here and, maybe, to many of you, I don't know all the national anthems in the world, but I do know this. I don't know of any other that ends with a question. "Does that star spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?" And all we have to determine is, you bet we've got the answer to that question.
Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 7:41 p.m. at Sound Stage 6 of the 20th Century Fox Studios. Following the dinner, the President went to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, where he remained overnight.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Fund-raising Dinner in Los Angeles, California, for United States Senate Candidate Pete Wilson Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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