Remarks at a Louisiana Republican Fundraising Reception in New Orleans
Well, Dave brought up—the Governor brought up a little nostalgia here. And I've been sitting here feeling a little nostalgia, also, to see here in this place a group like you, who, as he said, have paid the tab that you've paid for a Republican fund-raiser. My nostalgia was going back to 1964, when there was no thought in my mind of ever being in public life or holding public office at all. But I came down here to help a man named Charleton Lyons, who said that his goal—he knew the election was impossible-but his goal was to see if we could not establish a two-party system here. And how happy he'd be to see how well it has been established here.
I've just spoken to a national meeting here in your city a few moments ago, the police chiefs of not only the Nation but internationally-sheriffs-tremendous crowd. I spoke to them about crime, and I'm happy to tell you that they're against it. [Laughter]
But you know, talking about some of the problems in Washington right now is a little like the Irish landlady who put up a lunch every day for one of her boarders that he took to work. And he was always unhappy about that lunch and let her know when he came home. So, she put two slices of bread in, and the next day she put in four, and he was still unhappy. And then she put in six, and he was unhappy. She got up to about 10, and he was still griping about the quality of the lunch, so she split a loaf of bread, put ham between the two halves, and put that in the lunch. He came home, and she was waiting for him and said, "How was the lunch?" He said, "Well, all right. But I see you're back to two slices again." [Laughter]
And you know, government's been doing that for a long time. They've been slicing away at our bread, more and more, and they've gotten all the way up to where they're just on the verge of grabbing the whole loaf. And I think that we have gone back to two slices, just recently, with the changes that have been made.
We had a great victory with the passage of that budget and that tax bill, and yet I think we should remember a Japanese proverb: "After a victory, tighten your helmet strap." Well, I started tightening ours Thursday night, because you've all got to be bone tired. We couldn't have had that victory without you. Believe me, it was for quite some time the talk of Washington of the extent to which the Capitol heard from the people of this country, and that's what made the victory possible.
And yet we're all going to be bone tired before we get through, because we have to continue, and we have to do more. And we made no secret of that fact. We said at the time it was passed that there had to be tens of billions of dollars more cut out in the next 2 years before we could get down to what should be the normal thing in our country, and that is a balanced budget. Our States have to do it; there's no reason why the Federal Government shouldn't have to do it. And we're going to keep going until we do.
And yet some of our opponents, those who dug in their heels and fought the hardest against what we were trying to do, are those who over the years have persisted in this system we've had of spending more than we take in. Before next week is out, our national debt will be over a trillion dollars. That's 16—not 16—but that's a thousand billion dollars. It's incomprehensible.
I told some of the crew the other night when we were doing that television speech, I said, "I was going to do an example here and hold, if I could get from the Treasury, a 4-inch stack of thousand dollar bills and tell the people, 'That's a million dollars.' And I was going to then show them what a trillion dollars was in a stack of bills, but I couldn't, because that would be about 63 miles high." I may be wrong with my arithmetic, but I did it very hastily in my head. [Laughter] But it would be up to about that size.
Anyway, those people who opposed that didn't offer any alternative, and now that it's passed, they're insistent on saying that it won't work. As a matter of fact, a couple of them have even said it hasn't worked. Well, it hasn't; it doesn't start until Thursday, and much of it doesn't start until January 1st, the beginning of the new year—many of the most important tax incentives that were built into the structure.
So, one thing that I think we have to remember is that the budget deficit at the end of 1982, whether we meet our target exactly or not—and we're determined to keep on trying that we will—would have been $35 billion bigger than it will be because that's how much we got in the package of cuts that have already been adopted. And the same thing is true of the years it would be $130 billion—those cuts spread over the next 3 years.
So, I think we have made a start, and yes, we are asking for more cuts, as I said. And I believe that our program will work. I believe it with all my heart. It's based on sound principles of a free marketplace, providing incentive for the entrepreneur, for the working person, for all the way up, yes, to the corporations, so that they can provide the jobs our people must have, and to remove the excessive interference by government in our personal and private lives.
And we've made a big start in that. George Bush is heading up a task force that has already cut the increase in government regulations in half. And we're not going to be satisfied until we have cut the existing regulations—I don't know whether in half or what it will be—but we're going to get rid of all the unnecessary, the complicated, the duplicative regulations.
Let me just tell you of a letter that I got. I'm going to quit talking in a minute, so that I can come down and say hello to some of you in the limited time we've got here. But I got a letter the other day from a gentleman, and he sent me a form that he'd received from the Census Bureau. And he said that he and the people living in the same place where he was had been under a program of the Census Bureau to have a continuing survey of the people—they had been chosen as some. And so he said, "We were interviewed four times this last year."
And he said, "This notice I've attached is the notice that they'll be coming back four more times this year. Now," he said, "I don't know how much this foolishness costs, but," he said, "among the questions—" and I looked at the form where four times they'll come back, on top of last year's four times, to ask them if they changed their minds about retiring, are they thinking about going back to work. And he said to me, "I'm 84 years old. I live in a retirement home. All of us here are retired, and they're going to come here and ask us four times in the coming year whether we're still retired or not." [Laughter]
Well, we're going to find out how much that costs, and we're going to do something about it.
But I'll say one last thing. As you know, we'd tried to do something that I had promised to do about the integrity of social security. We had hoped that our opponents would join us and make this a bipartisan effort because, as the program stands now, there is a long-term collapse of the program simply on the basis of the actuarial imbalance that exists within it. But there is an immediate problem in which the trust fund from which the benefits are paid will be out of money before the end of next year, if something isn't done.
Now, it is true that temporarily we can stave that off by borrowing from the other funds, as I said Thursday night in the broadcast. But I also said—and I don't think this was really a retreat—again, one last effort to get the kind of bipartisan cooperation we need, and that is if they will join us in establishing a task force to come up with a settlement that will do two things: that will restore the fiscal integrity of social security, but at the same time will guarantee that no one presently dependent on social security is going to suffer any loss or any harm or change in the benefits that they're presently receiving.
Now, the reason we have to hurry away-a couple of my neighbors up there and myself—is because there's a limit to how long we can leave those fellows alone. [Laughter]
But whatever speculation you've read or seen or heard or anything else, I was only built with one gear. We are not going to retreat from this program, because we know it is going to restore America to the economic stability that this nation [applause] .
Thank you all very much. And as Dave said, if you really want to do something for us in 1982, in addition to continuing to help as you have in the past, you send them some more teammates and give us the people that we need up there to continue with these programs. And we'll be forever grateful to you for that. They're very much needed, although I must say, we have had great cooperation from some people who are certainly spiritual brothers of ours, even if they do have a different party affiliation, and I think we can hold that group together to continue what we're doing.
God bless all of you, and thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 12:09 p.m. in the Galvez Room at the International Trade Center, following remarks and an introduction by Governor David C. Treen of Louisiana.
Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Louisiana Republican Fundraising Reception in New Orleans Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/247709