Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner for Senator Strom Thurmond in Columbia, South Carolina
Senator Thurmond—Strom, thank you very much for a very warm and very flattering introduction. Governor Jim Edwards, Senator Baker, George Graham, Bill Cassels, Members of the Congress who are here, and all of you ladies and gentlemen:
I don't have the words to thank you properly for the welcome that I've had. I'm delighted to be back in your beautiful State-the location that Sir Walter Raleigh described as paradise on Earth. And I'm delighted to be here, speaking for someone who is a true legend in his time. Strom Thurmond is a man of character, wisdom, energy, and leadership, and he's one big reason America is back on the road to greatness again.
He's a man of the people. His heart treasures those values that make us a good and loving people—family, work, neighborhood, peace, and freedom. They say you can't live in South Carolina for long without meeting Strom in person. Not many can match his sense of responsibility to his State.
You know, it's been said that experience is the yeast of success. Well, take a look at the chapters in Strom's life. He's been a teacher, superintendent of schools—he helped start the tech schools that transformed South Carolina from an agrarian to an industrial-based economy—then a judge, major general in the Army Reserve, Governor, and now Senator, not to mention being a patriot, husband, father, and a kind and good man. Strom, I couldn't grab that many roles if I'd spent the rest of my life in Hollywood. [Laughter]
Maybe you'll understand why I say Strom is my friend, and I like him by my side giving me counsel and advice. And I trust the good sense of his friends. I'm confident that come November 1984, you'll send him right back to Washington to keep on doing a great job as your Senator.
And Strom, we're grateful to you for giving us one of your most talented and trusted advisers, the man who managed your 1978 campaign, Lee Atwater, from right here in Columbia.
Strom speaks with a voice of common sense, and common sense is about as common in Washington, D.C., as a Fourth of July blizzard in Columbia, South Carolina. [Laughter] There's a great sympathy in Washington for practically any scheme to spend money. But for years, Strom has been one of those lonely voices telling the awful truth: that government can only spend what it borrows or taxes away from the people. And hard-working people in South Carolina need higher taxes like they need a plague of locusts. You don't need to be taxed more; government needs to spend less.
We didn't go to Washington to raise taxes. We went there with a radical idea: to put this economy and the destiny of this great nation back in the hands of you, the people. And that's exactly what I think we've begun to do. With your support and Strom's, we came to the rescue of a nation whose house was on fire. We put out the flames and, brick by brick, we're rebuilding a foundation of strength, safety, security, and prosperity for America, and that's not bad for a new beginning.
Now, it's true, some people don't seem to like anything we do. Our opponents resist our budget savings. They oppose our tax cuts. And they complain that all their special interests have been hurt. Well, pardon me, but let them resist and oppose and complain, because I intend to remind the people the big spenders who saddled America with double-digit inflation, record interest rates—as Strom has told you—huge tax increases, too much regulation, credit controls, farm embargoes, no growth, and phony excuses about malaise are the last people who should be giving sermonettes on fairness and compassion.
I'm a firm believer in the need for bipartisan cooperation, especially in foreign policy where politics should stop at the water's edge. And sometimes we succeed. But there just isn't much sympathy among some there in Washington for reducing the tax burden on hard-working American families. And if the liberals in the Congress had their way, the American people would never have received any tax cut—no first year, no second year, or, as the girl in the TV ad says, "no nothin'." If we had followed their blueprint for compassion, the average family of four would be paying, as Strom told you, nearly $700 in higher taxes this year. And isn't it strange that we never hear a fairness argument that is framed that way?
But never mind, because that average family won't be paying the higher taxes some of those complainers on the Hill tried to pass. Thanks to the help of Strom Thurmond, his Republican colleagues here with us tonight, and a lot of responsible Democrats, we passed the first decent tax cut for every working American since 1964.
Despite all the threats from the other side, we kept our promise to the people. And we still have one more promise that must and will be kept. Indexing, an historic reform, will begin in 1985—it's already been passed—so that never again will government be able to profit from inflation at your expense.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that we still have a long way to go. But take a look around us. America is getting well, and she's getting strong. We've got a recovery train going. And rather than whine and carp and complain, the misery merchants should get on board and help us keep America moving forward. And if they can't do that, then let them get out of the way.
Inflation has plummeted by four-fifths, 80 percent, as Strom told you. And it's been under 21/2 percent during the past 12 months, and that's the lowest 12-month rate in more than 15 years. The prime rate is almost half what it was when we took office. Estate taxes on family farms and businesses are being cut sharply. Strom and I happen to believe widows and children shouldn't be forced to sell the family farm or the family business just to pay Uncle Sam, and now they won't have to.
Factory orders, industrial production, auto sales, and housing starts are up since the beginning of the year. Housing starts, we just learned yesterday afternoon, were up last month to the highest level since December of 1978. The stock market has come back to life and today hit a new record. Workers' real wages are rising for the first time in 3 years—that's real wages, constant dollars. And while unemployment remains too high, we're putting people back to work across the country. Since December, more than 2 million of our fellow citizens have found jobs. More Americans are on the job than any time in United States history. We're moving forward again, and as Al Jolson used to say, "You ain't heard nothin' yet."
You know, you can recite all these facts and figures or you can use an easier way, a kind of a layman's way to tell our economic program is working: Our opponents don't call it Reaganomics anymore. [Laughter] You know, I never did call it that. I just called it America getting back on track.
Increasing housing starts, greater automobile production, rising personal income should be music to the ears of one crucial industry in South Carolina—your textile industry. And no one in the United States Congress works harder for the textile industry than your Senator, Strom Thurmond.
Recognizing the importance of that industry to the national economy—an employer of nearly 2 million people—I told Strom our administration would seek to relate imports to growth in the domestic market. We believe progress is built with competition, keeping faith with the magic of the marketplace, but we also know there are times when exceptions must be made due to special circumstances in market conditions. And that's why we've continued to support the Multifiber Arrangement which gives us the ability to protect our domestic textile and apparel manufacturers within the international system.
Reflecting the concerns of Strom Thurmond, we've negotiated a series of bilateral agreements which are far tighter than any existing before we took office. Our new China agreement contains 33 categories of textiles and apparel, as opposed to eight in 1981. Where other threats to our import textile and apparel industry have appeared, we've tried to counter them. And as you know, we have much to do, and I pledge to you tonight, our administration will strive to work toward an ever closer relationship of textile imports and domestic market growth, consistent with our existing international obligations.
Strom, I hope the good people of your State won't mind if I also tell them what a determined and effective advocate you are for South Carolina's farmers.
Senator Thurmond and I share a very profound belief: We must preserve the American system of family farming. Strom has fought to protect the tobacco price support program from those who don't understand it. You know, talking about our family farms and what they can do—every person out there in farming in America, feeding not only himself and his family but feeding more than 50 other people in the world-there's a story that's going the rounds in Russia.
I've kind of become a collector of the stories that the Russian people tell each other which reveals their cynicism about their own government. And this story is just one of my favorites. The commissar goes out to one of their collective state farms, corrals one of the workers and says, "How is everything going? Any complaints? ....Oh," he says, "I've never heard anyone complain, comrade, sir." He says, "No, nothing." "How are the crops? .... Oh," he said, "the crops are wonderful, never been better." "Potatoes?" He said, "If we pile potatoes up in one pile, they'd reach the foot of God." And the commissar said, "This is the Soviet Union; there is no God." The worker says, "That's all right; there are no potatoes." [Laughter]
Strom personally traveled to Chicago on September 2d to meet with Secretary Block and discuss drought conditions in South Carolina and request appropriate aid.
And I can't finish these words about Strom without mentioning what I think might be his most important contribution not just to his fellow South Carolinians, but to free people everywhere. Strom Thurmond has been on the frontlines in our struggle to strengthen our foreign policy. He said some nice things about me on this, but he stands up for a strong national defense to make America second to none.
The debate on defense is about protecting lives and preserving freedom, because they're the source of all our other blessings. We both believe it's immoral to ask the sons and daughters of America to protect this land with second-rate equipment and weapons that won't work.
The savage Soviet attack against the unarmed Korean airliner reminds us we live in a dangerous world with cruel people who reject our ideals, who don't even understand them, and who disregard individual rights and the value of human life. We can. only keep our families safe and our country free and at peace when the enemies of democracy know America has the courage to stay strong. And Strom and I intend to make sure they do. His leadership will be important on key appropriations votes that are coming up on defense and the MX.
And let me just add how much it meant to me when I returned to Washington after the downing of that Korean plane to have Strom over at the White House for advice and support.
But when we talk about defense, I think we should remind people what things were like back in 1980. Remember all those planes that couldn't fly, the ships that couldn't sail for lack of crew or spare parts, troops who couldn't wait to get into civilian clothes? One weapons program after another was being eliminated or delayed. America was falling behind. The free world was losing confidence in our leadership. But what we heard from our leadership was lectures on our inordinate fear of communism.
Well, just as we're turning the economy around, we're also strengthening the Armed Forces and bringing a new sense of purpose and direction to America's foreign policy. In the military, the number of combat-ready units has gone up by a third since 1980. The deployable battle force in the Navy has risen from about 480 ships when we took office to 510 today—well on its way to our goal of 600. The percentage of new recruits with high school diplomas has risen throughout our Armed Forces. And since 1980 the reenlistment rate has gone up by more than a fourth. We're attracting better recruits. We're keeping them longer, because we're giving them better pay and better equipment and because we're giving them the respect and appreciation they've always deserved.
Let me just interject something here, because the last time I gave a speech in Columbia during the 1980 campaign I said one of the most important ways to control Federal spending is to control waste, fraud, and abuse. Perhaps you've seen those headlines and the TV news about the Pentagon paying $100 for a 4-cent diode or $900 for a plastic cap. Now, what is missing or buried in all of those stories is the most important fact of all: It was Cap Weinberger's people—Defense Department auditors and inspectors—who ordered the audits in the first place and who conducted the investigations that revealed those figures. Those are our figures. We're the ones who formed a special unit to prosecute Department of Defense fraud eases. And in just an 18-month period, the Department has obtained 650 convictions, and this doesn't count the number of settlements that have been made not going to court. So despite all the headlines, we are keeping that promise to weed out waste, fraud, and abuse.
In foreign policy, we've let the world know that America stands up for democratic ideals again. And one other thing: Under our administration, this nation is through with hand-wringing and apologizing. We don't have to put up walls to keep our people in. We don't use an army of secret police to keep them quiet. We don't imprison political and religious dissidents in mental hospitals. And we don't cold-bloodedly shoot defenseless airliners out of the sky.
What we are doing is working tirelessly for a just peace in the Middle East, promoting human rights in southern Africa, giving firm support to the forces of democracy in Central America, and negotiating for balanced and verifiable arms reductions. In fact, in our search for peace we have more major arms control negotiations underway with the Soviets than any other administration in history. And this is the first time that the Soviets have agreed to go beyond nuclear arms ceilings to negotiate actual reductions in nuclear weapons.
They haven't done it as well as they should; we haven't got them to the point that we think they should be. But at least they're there talking. And I don't think they would be there talking if it wasn't for the buildup in the military strength of the United States, the sort of signal they've gotten.
We can hold our heads high. I believe with all my heart that the United States is safer, stronger, and more secure today-both economically and militarily—than before. And if enough of you would just make your voices heard, we can make two more powerful contributions to the cause of good: We can welcome God back into America's classrooms, and we can finally protect the life of the unborn child.
I believe one word sums up the difference between today and 1980: Hope. Hope is being reborn in America. A better future awaits us, and together, we can make America a nation of winners again. So let us have faith. Let us go forward, remaining true to our vision of progress—the vision Strom Thurmond has worked so hard to achieve. It begins with your families, churches, schools, and neighborhoods. We don't ask the people to trust us; we say trust yourselves, trust your own values, and working together, we'll make America great again.
Too many of our opponents are only comfortable trusting government. Their solutions-higher taxes and more spending-could bring us back full circle to the source of our economic problems, with the Government deciding that it knows better than you what should be done with your earnings and how you should live your life. Their road is timid and appeals to fear and envy. We have a great message. We can keep dreams alive in the hearts of our people. And one sure way to do that is to reelect in 1984 our friend, Strom Thurmond, Senator of South Carolina.
I want to thank all of you. I just have to say this afternoon I had a most thrilling afternoon out on the campus of South Carolina, at the University of South Carolina, and seeing thousands of those wonderful young people. And you looked out at them, and you know I did some of my life in public office back in the riotous days when if I went to a campus, I started a riot. And to see those thousands of young people out there was to see the future of America. To see these young people, also from that campus, and hear them up here tonight is to see the future of America. And I assure you, the future is very bright indeed.
Thank you very much, and God bless you all.
Note: The President spoke at 7:45 p.m. in the Cantey Building at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds. Prior to the dinner, the President attended two Republican Party fundraising receptions at the fairgrounds.
Following the dinner, the President returned to Washington, D.C.
Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Fundraising Dinner for Senator Strom Thurmond in Columbia, South Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/261887