Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks in Los Angeles at a California Republican Party Fund-raising Dinner

May 25, 1982

Reverend clergy, Senator Hayakawa, our party chairman, our dinner chairman and host, our toastmaster, all the distinguished ladies and gentlemen up here, and you ladies and gentlemen, all distinguished, out there:

Nancy and I thank you for a very great and warm California welcome. You know, it's always a pleasure to get home, if only for a short visit. And one of the best things about getting home is seeing old friends, and we've been doing that tonight.

Many of us in this room have been toiling together in the political vineyards for more than 20 years. We've shared victories and defeats, good times and bad. I made it 20 years and not more than that, because any more than that I wasn't a Republican. [Laughter] But we've shared the good times and bad and, what's most important, I guess, is that we've never become complacent. This magnificent display of unity and commitment will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the good times. And I think we all owe a round of applause to David Murdock and the others for what they've done to make this evening the success that it is.

I remember not too long ago when a big fund-raiser like this was only $100 a plate- [laughter] —and I know the material cost of your being here tonight. It's lucky we've got inflation under control, or who knows how much you'd be paying? [Laughter]

Tonight we kick off the 1982 campaign season for the California Republican Party. Only a few years ago our party registration was dropping, our coffers were empty, and we were in retreat. If the Dodgers had been doing that poorly, Vin Scully would have been placing side bets on the visiting teams. [Laughter]

Thomas Edison once said, "I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work." Well, the current strength and vitality of our party didn't happen by accident, either. It took work. And each of you should be congratulated for what you've done. Obviously, many of you have been working extra hard. But accomplishments also require leadership, and tonight I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Tirso del Junco for the fine job that he's doing here in California.

Now, there is one other person who should be singled out for all that he has done to inspire and unite the California Republican Party. I'd ask him to stand and take a bow, but unfortunately Jerry Brown couldn't be with us tonight. [Laughter] He wants to raise taxes. We left him a half-a-million-dollar surplus. Well, easy come, easy go. [Laughter]

Seriously, though, we've got tremendous candidates for the Senate, and I can't see a reason why any one of them will not be able to keep Jerry Brown right here where he belongs—here in California swatting medflies. Or do I have that wrong? Does he raise them? [Laughter]

The sad thing is that come January, a Republican Governor is going to have an awful time straightening things out in Sacramento. It won't be easy; I've had some experience in cleaning up after a Brown. [Laughter]

But in a few days, Californians will be going to the polls and, along with determining the party nominations, you'll be given a chance to register your opposition to a blatantly unfair redistricting plan. The way to vote against backroom political manipulation is to vote no on Propositions 10, 11, and 12.

The maneuvering behind redistricting is just one more example of how we must remain vigilant if the sanctity of the ballot box is to be preserved. Of course, none of us ever thought that making government work in a free society would be easy. Teddy Roosevelt had an insight into this. He said, "The noblest of all forms of government is self-government, but it's also the most difficult." To put it another way, if freedom were easy there'd be a great many more free countries.

America during the last 20 years has been poised at a crossroads. A number of political forces, as we should expect in a free society, are trying to direct our country down whichever path most closely conforms to their philosophy and world view. It will be the activists—those who organize and vote—who determine what America will be like two decades from now. It's our job to muster the forces of hope, to inspire them with a positive program that will ensure that America remains a prosperous and a free country.

We're engaged in an epic conflict with the proponents of negativism, the advocates of "no." They offer the politics of no growth, no take-home pay, no neighborhood schools, no incentives to work, no incentives to save, no protections for the family, and no security for our nation or safety at home.

We are and must remain the bold proponents of "yes." Yes, we can have a brighter future. Yes, we can make America work. Yes, we can solve our problems and, yes, we can have a safe and strong America. Yes, we can live together in harmony no matter what our race or religion.

We say this because when it comes to our country, yes is the only word we understand. And I'm not just talking about Republicans. The American people—Republicans, Independents, and Democrats alike-want a positive alternative, something our opponents with all their criticism have yet to offer. The Washington establishment may think it sounds corny, but we still believe in the people, and so do Americans.

A study conducted by the Gallup organization has recently found that among all the industrialized nations, Americans are the most willing to fight for their country, the proudest of their national identity, the most likely to find achievement in their work. They are also deeply religious and behind only the Irish and the English in viewing themselves as happy. Do you suppose that makes us Irish-Americans the happiest of all? [Laughter] It does tonight.

These findings shouldn't surprise anyone. We've always believed that you can count on the American people. You can count on them to handle their own affairs much better than the Government can do it for them. You can count on them to spend their money more wisely than government can spend it for them. You can count on their courage when the cause is just, and you can count on them to do what is right when they are given 'the facts. And that's our responsibility. We've got to work with all the energy we possess to let the people know about the choices we face as a nation. We've got to make sure that our people have the opportunity to hear our message. We'll also do our utmost to see that they won't have to be called on to fight for their country, because our goal is peace.

Now recently, I've been through some serious negotiations with a gentleman named Tip O'Neill, a man whose concern about deficits is legendary. [Laughter] I tried to meet him halfway and on his own turf. We did our best to reach a compromise that would have started the budget process moving again and reassuring the Nation. Instead of compromise, he wanted surrender; instead of progress, he wanted to cancel the election of 1980.

I can pledge to you tonight, we'll be constructive. We're open to new ideas. We'll go the extra mile. But we will never shelve the mandate of 1980 and return to politics as usual.

The people have spoken. The old days of ever bigger taxes and uncontrolled government spending are over. The Speaker told reporters after our negotiations that philosophical differences separated us. Well, he's absolutely right. I just don't believe the philosophy of "no." The profligate spending by liberal kingpins in Washington represents the aspirations of many Democrat Members of Congress and the rank-and-file of their party.

Every demand they made in that meeting was based on increased spending and higher taxes. Now, we tried our best to reach a reasonable understanding. Now it's time for responsible activists in both parties to get on with the business at hand, and that's exactly what we intend to do. That's why the Members of the House aren't here tonight that were supposed to be here, because they're facing right now on the floor of the Congress—and they've been up for late hours on this—having eliminated five of the budget proposals already, they're facing 68 amendments to the two remaining budget proposals.

The liberal philosophy represented by those still in leadership positions in the Democratic Party has had its chance and failed. Thirty years ago, Speaker O'Neill, already a political veteran, was elected to Congress. Now, I was still in movies back in those days. [Laughter] And believe me, "Bedtime for Bonzo" made more sense than what they were doing in Washington. [Laughter]

During the coming election, we cannot let the legacy of the big spenders and big taxers be -forgotten. Will you forgive me if I offer some reminders? In the years prior to the 1980 election, our economy was on the skids, our people were demoralized. Indeed, a voice from the White House told them they suffered a malaise. Overseas, our friends and allies alike saw us as a nation in decline. Government spending was out of control, growing at an annual rate of 17 percent in the year 1980 alone. Taxation was strangling any chance of progress. Dollars that could have been used for business expansion, individual savings, or consumer spending were spent on government expansion.

Taxes actually doubled between 1976 and 1981. They went up $300 billion, and there were $318 billion in that same period in deficits. For all their talk about compassion, they created one of the most brutal inflations in our nation's history. In 1980, it was running at double-digit levels for the second year in a row, robbing from those on fixed incomes, attacking the well-being of the poor and the middle class, stifling savings, and shooting interest rates sky high.

Anyone who questions the responsibility for these miserable conditions should only compare what we inherited with what our current opposition was handed 4 years earlier.

My predecessor and the liberal hierarchy in the Congress started in '76 with an inflation rate of 4.8 percent. By 1980, they had run it up to 12.4 percent. Now, some of you may have heard Senator Kennedy and others in the liberal hierarchy complain about interest rates recently. Well, this is going to make you cry.

In December of 1976, the last full month of the last Republican administration, the prime interest rate averaged 6.4 percent. By December of 1980, interest rates were 21.5 percent. Prior to the 1980 election, productivity was down for the third year in a row, and unemployment was heading up again. I remember campaigning in the Midwest during the 1980 election in towns with 18 and 20 percent unemployment then, where the collapse of several important industries had already begun.

Do any of you remember the misery index? That goes back to '76. My predecessor invented that as a candidate. He added the rates of unemployment and inflation together and then said of the incumbent President that, "No man had the right to seek reelection as a President who had a misery index of 12.5." And he won. He was in office, and after 4 years with a Democratic majority in both Houses of the Congress, the misery index stood at 19 1/2. But he ran for reelection.

Well, in this election year, they haven't mentioned the misery index. Yes, we have a recession; they've mentioned that. And we have an unemployment rate which I'm as concerned about as anyone could be. But that 19.5 misery index we inherited is, for the first quarter of 1982, only 9.8 percent.

We figured that what America needed was a commitment to tackle the basic problems holding our country back and a willingness to stick with it until the job was done. And that's what we've set out to do. Our program has four basic points. Most of you can probably recite them with me, because it's not my program, it's our program, and together we've accomplished much of it. First, we called for getting government spending under control. Well, we've cut the rate of growth in that spending nearly in half in the first year. Our programs called for a tax rate reduction. We've set in place a tax program that will leave hundreds of billions of dollars in the pockets of working people that would have been grabbed away by built-in tax increases. Indeed, the biggest single tax increase in our nation's history was passed in 1977. And for the first time ever, we have managed to eliminate government's hidden tax increase—caused by inflation—by indexing, which will start in 1985.

We called for the elimination of wasteful and counterproductive regulations. And Vice President Bush has been leading this fight, heading a task force with spectacular results. By the end of this fiscal year, the American people will be spared the expense of 200 million man-hours of nonproductive paperwork required under those previous regulations. Now that savings can go into investments which create new jobs. The Federal Register, the book which lists new regulations, was 23,000 pages smaller last year due to the efforts of that task force.

The last part of our program is a commitment to work with the Federal Reserve System to ensure a stable monetary policy. And we've done that. And along with the rest of our program, it's brought a drop in the inflation rate—totally unpredicated, by the way. If you remember, our critics, just a short time ago, and some of the so-called experts were telling us it would take a decade to wring inflation out of the economy. Well, inflation for the past 12 months hasn't been running at 12.4; it's been running at an annual rate of 6.6 percent. But for the last 3 months, the Consumer Price Index has been running at less than 1 percent.

Very early in the administration, over shrill voices that predicted skyrocketing prices, we decontrolled the price of oil. And decontrol unleashed a stampede of exploration, promoted conservation, contributed to the oil glut, and reduced prices. Here again, our policies are pumping vast resources into our economy which were evaporating under the previous administration. There was one problem we met head on in the early months of the administration which could have brought havoc had it not been dealt with quickly and firmly. I think everyone who depends on government-from social security recipients to businessmen—can rest easier now that we've reaffirmed that Federal employees do not and will not have the right to strike.

We've brought tough professionals into this administration who are taking our goals of efficiency seriously. The campaign against fraud, waste, and mismanagement is showing results. For example, calls and letters to hot lines—where someone is to call in with some tip that they can give us that's a saving—has more than doubled in some of the Federal agencies last year, and one phone call alone last September to the Department of Labor resulted in a $10,000 savings.

It was the American taxpayers who brought to our attention films, pamphlets, and magazines that the Federal Government produced by the truckload. We call it the Federal flood of flicks, flacks, and foldouts. [Laughter] Well, one of our projects is aimed at stemming the tide. And due to those efforts, you're no longer paying for a pamphlet called "Imaginative Ways with Bathrooms"— [laughter] —or a coloring book that costs $145,000, or a photo guide to employees of the Bureau of Land Management so they could find their way around the country. [Laughter]

Furthermore, Agriculture found it didn't need a series of recipe books costing over $33,000, which, among other things, instructed taxpayers on how to stuff hard-boiled eggs with crab meat. [Laughter] HUD discovered it could reduce the size and cost of its annual congressional report from four volumes to one, from 1,000 pages to 150, and that was a savings of $14,000. Commerce eliminated nine internal newsletters, and that saved $100,000 a year.

I'm convinced that we've created a momentum for change. The previous administration acted helpless before the Federal monolith, but the Federal Government is composed of individuals. Almost all of them are solid, patriotic citizens, anxious to do their job. It's just that most of them have never been asked how to make things better, even though they've had plenty of good ideas. Well, we're asking, and we're following through.

It's a slow process, as is all lasting change in the age of television and instant gratification. I know it's not easy politically. You know, there's an old story about the impulsive child who realized he had a problem because of being impulsive and decided to pray about it. And he got down on his knees and he prayed, "Dear Lord, please give me patience—and I want it right now." [Laughter]

I'm convinced that the American people will respond if dealt with maturely and honestly. They're willing, if we tell them the facts, to give our program a chance. This recession has made our task difficult, but gloom and doomers notwithstanding, I believe we're on the verge of a tangible and lasting recovery.

The savings rate is up. The preliminary figures suggest the savings rate has jumped from 4.9 percent of the people's earnings to 6.3 percent under the new incentives of our program. And remember, you've only received the first installment of our tax cuts. This is providing a vast new pool of capital for investment and is a tangible indicator that interest rates should be coming down soon. Auto production will be up for the second quarter and some laid-off employees are already being rehired. Construction of office buildings is up. Business travel is up. Home mortgage rates are declining. We still have a long way to go, but we're on our way back.

Finally, I'd like to speak with you about a vital area of accomplishment, one we must never permit to be politicized. Yes, it's something of which we can be rightfully proud.

A few years ago, America was still suffering from what has been referred to as "The Vietnam Syndrome"—self-doubt, vacillation, and confusion accompanied a decline in our military strength. Our allies and our adversaries alike thought of us as weak and indecisive. The dedicated men and women in our Armed Forces reacted as one might predict. Professionals whose skills were badly needed left the service in droves.

I say to you tonight, we can be proud that aside from everything else in these last 16 months, we have restored the confidence of the United States of America. Today our allies know that we're not afraid to lead. Our adversaries are beginning to get the idea that we're a force with which to be reckoned. The men and women of our Armed Forces know now that we're proud of them. We're grateful for the job they're doing, and we'll back them up if they're called upon. And let me give you an example.

Our Ambassador to Luxembourg wrote me a letter. He had just returned from a visit to one of our armored cavalry regiments up along the East German border. And as he was leaving, went over to his helicopter, a 19-year-old trooper stopped him, and he asked the Ambassador if he, by any chance, could ever get a message to me. And being an Ambassador, of course he could, and he said so. And the young fellow said, "Well, will you just tell the President we're proud to be here, and we ain't scared o'nothin'." We may not have taught him much in English, but I sure like his attitude.

In just one week, I'll be leaving for my first trip to Europe as President of the United States. My utmost goal, second only to the preservation of our freedom, is, as I said, maintaining world peace. Our nation is in a much better position today to negotiate and achieve meaningful arms reduction because of the commitments that we've made.

Permitting our defense posture to erode did nothing to further the cause of peace. We have two arms reductions proposals on the table, proposals which will bring both sides into balance, rather than freezing either side into a position of inferiority and vulnerability. But like prosperity, peace comes from commitment and hard work. And in any forthcoming arms reduction talks, the Soviets know this time the alternative to reducing their arms strength is to try and match our industrial capacity.

A cartoon the other day told it all. Two Soviet generals were pictured. One of them was saying to the other, "I liked the arms race better when we were the only ones in it." [Laughter]

In the coming months, our people will again have to make a judgment at the polls. We must state our case clearly. We must get our message to the people. Together, we can and will keep America the great nation that God intended it to be. And tonight, for the first time, you reminded me of something that I quoted at the Republican National Convention in 1980. And you really did remind me of Tom Paine's statement 200 years ago when he said, "We have it in our power to begin the world over again."

Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:44 p.m. in the Los Angeles Ballroom at the Century Plaza Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to David Murdock, finance chairman, and Dr. Tirso del Junco, chairman, California State Republican Party.

Following his remarks, the President and Mrs. Reagan left Los Angeles and went to Rancho del Cielo, their ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks in Los Angeles at a California Republican Party Fund-raising Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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