Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Montana Republican Party Rally in Great Falls

October 28, 1982

Thank you very much. It's great to be back in Montana and at Charles M. Russell High School again. I have to be honest with you, though. Some of my hard-working aides recommended against leaving the Capital and coming all the way out here. So, to keep them happy, I decided, I said, "Okay, we'll flip a coin to decide whether to visit your beautiful State or stay in Washington." And you know something? I had to flip 14 times before it came out right. So, then I got them all together, and I said, "Boys, we're going where the people think big and the sky's the limit." You know what I meant; they didn't. They all headed for Tip O'Neill's office. [Laughter]

But it's all so wonderful again to see the incredible beauty of this State and of the wilderness, and I don't feel so bad now about where we're sending Tip and the Democrats next Tuesday.

Besides getting to come to Montana, there are some other advantages to being President. On the way out here I told Air Force One's pilot to fly low over Mount Rushmore. I just wanted to see if they were adding any new faces. [Laughter]

Seriously, though, it really is refreshing to see the Rockies again. You know, we don't have anything like that in Washington. We have one mountain. The big spenders have been working on it for 40 years. It's called the national debt. [Laughter]

But our incredible national debt and what led to it is one major reason why I'm here today. We're approaching an election that is every bit as crucial as the election of 1980. Americans remember all too well the days of double-digit inflation, skyrocketing interest rates, the days of hostages in Iran and the national malaise, the days of leadership in Washington that blamed you, the people, for their mistakes. Now, none of us wants to return to those days. But make no mistake: The decisions made by Americans next Tuesday and throughout this decade will determine whether we stay the course and maintain our national renewal or whether we stagger off on one more economic binge—a binge that we and our children would have to pay for. And we'd pay for it with another pounding hangover.

Take that mountainous debt as an example. Today it stands at more than a trillion dollars, that the Government will spend this year just in interest payments on the debt. That's as much as it took to run the whole Federal Government only 20 years ago. But our trillion-dollar debt is only one small part of the chaos, confusion, and all-purpose mess left us by the failed policies of the past. Farmers, miners, housewives, and small businessmen are still paying dearly for these mistakes.

Remember when inflation was in double digits for 2 years in a row? Remember when interest rates hit 21 1/2 percent? Can you remember when the growth in the gross national product had gone down for the third year in a row, and the money supply had increased by 13 percent in the last half of 1980—the highest rate in postwar history? Remember when unemployment was already a serious problem, business failures were increasing, and a recession was on its way that would hit us with hurricane force—a recession that was the legacy from all those years of boom and bust, of wild spending, erratic monetary policy, and of tax and tax, and spend and spend, and borrow and borrow?

Now, I'll admit that these statistics aren't at the fingertips of every American. But I do know that in their own quiet way, Americans fully understand the mess we inherited in 1980 and the obstacles we faced in trying to straighten it out.

And what a job we did face 21 months ago. In the last 10 years, Federal spending had tripled. In the last 5 years, Federal taxes had doubled. In 1980 alone, Federal spending had gone up 17 percent. The budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, the one that does all the charity programs and so forth, had become the third largest budget in the world, just after the national budgets of the United States—the total budget—and of the Soviet Union.

Those automatic spending programs we call "entitlements" were completely out of control. Those are the programs that the Congress doesn't have to change them every year. They're there with automatic increases built in. The food stamp program alone had grown in 15 years from $65 million to $11.3 billion—an increase of more than 16,000 percent.

Well, on Inaugural day, just minutes after I took the oath of office, I went back into the Capitol and I signed a memorandum-without even taking my coat off before I did it—that put a freeze on Federal hiring. In the next three and a—or a year and three-quarters, I should say, we cut the rate of growth in government spending by nearly two-thirds. We got individuals and businesses their first real tax cut in nearly 20 years and achieved the historic reform of tax indexing. That was stopping government from moving people into a higher percentage tax bracket just because they'd gotten a cost-of-living increase. We cut into the thicket of Federal regulations that were smothering economic growth, and we saved businesses and citizens at least $6 billion annually. Now, that's not a cut in the spending of government; that was a savings out in the private sector to the people who had to do all the paperwork connected with those regulations. And we reduced the number of man-hours of paperwork the citizens were performing by nearly 200 million man-hours.

We knew it would take time. But even though our economic recovery program has been in effect for only 13 months, the dollar is stronger than it's been in any time in 10 years. Inflation—once the number one concern of every American; double digit for 2 years—is down to 4.8 percent so far this year. And you know, it's a very interesting coincidence, because 4.8 percent was exactly what inflation was when the last Republican President, Jerry Ford, left Washington. And that 21 1/2-percent prime interest rate is all the way down to 12 percent and even in some banks 11½ percent. We're still working to bring them down further. But let's face it, we've already come a long way from that 21 1/2 percent that we inherited.

And you know, the source of our economic problems is even beginning to dawn on the bafflegabbers and those fancy dudes in Washington. They're finally realizing what Montanans have known for a long time: Government is too big. It spends too much of our money. You can't drink yourself sober or spend yourself rich. You can't prime the pump without pumping the prime.

But all these gains that we've made are now in jeopardy. Already the national leadership of the Democratic Party is talking about taking back your third-year tax cut scheduled to go into effect on July 1st and revoking the historic reform of tax indexing, which I mentioned. If they have their way, the average family of four would lose over $2,500 in tax relief over the next 5 years.

Now, that's why the election here in Montana is so important. We have to maintain control of the Senate. We couldn't have done what we've done if we didn't have a majority in the Senate, slim as it is. 'And we must have control of the key committees of the Senate which comes with having a majority. We have to put men and women in the House of Representatives who have a record of being part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Now, I ask you, is there anyone who's fought harder against big government, anyone who's fought more eloquently against higher spending and more taxes than your own candidate for the United States Senate, Larry Williams?

As head of your National Taxpayers Union, Larry has led the battle here in Montana for the tax indexing initiative and for an amendment to balance the Federal budget. Montanans aren't going to have to worry about where he's going to stand or how he's going to vote at the crucial moments in the next Congress. Now, let me tell you, he's no rubber stamp; I know that. And there are probably going to be times when Larry and I won't always agree. But I do know this: I know his personal integrity and his conscience will always be his guide. I need Larry Williams; Montana needs him; the country needs him. We need a proven fighter in the battle to get government off our backs, out of our pockets, and back to the standards of excellence once envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

And I especially want to address some remarks today to those voters in Anaconda and Butte and the other towns around this State, many of them miners and traditional Democrats. This is their chance to send a message to the national leadership of the Democratic Party. This is their chance to tell them, "Leave the tax cut alone, stop stonewalling the balanced budget amendment and the school prayer amendment, and stop bottling up those legal reforms that would crack down on professional criminals." This is your chance and their chance to tell the national leadership of the Democratic Party, "Quit bowing to the liberals in the grandstand and quit playing deep left field." This is their chance to tell them, "We've had enough of warmed-over McGovernism, we're voting Republican this year not because we've left the Democratic Party, but because under the present leadership the Democratic Party has left them."

And I say that as someone who's spent more than two-thirds of his life as a member and a worker in the Democratic Party, and I just couldn't follow the leadership any longer when it took the turning it took and the path that it has taken in these recent years.

Now, just let me add something right now that I hope all voters from all parties in this State know: There isn't a single Congressman who's done more to help not just this district and State, but the entire country in the areas of agriculture, defense, and controlling big government—not one-more than Ron Marienee. We need Ron back in the House. And I don't have to ask you—it's apparent that I ask you for your support—but when you go out of here, start buttonholing friends and neighbors and make sure you get their support, too.

One other prediction for you: If we can get our message out to the Independents and the Democrats in this State, another personable and strong-minded Montanan named Bob Davies is going to steamboat with Larry and Ron right into the next Congress.

Now, let me insert just one thing. It's a kind of warning. I can predict that in these last few days of the campaign, nationwide-and this touches on something that Larry spoke of up here a moment ago—I can predict that our opponents are going to broadcast widely one of the most dishonest canards that has ever been fostered in a political campaign. They're going to tell you that we—and I really include myself, because I'm kind of a target of that—that in some way, we're on our way to changing or reducing or doing away with social security. Now, that is sheer demagoguery, and it is an outright falsehood. I pledged back in 1980 during the campaign, and before that in the primary campaign, that social security-we all are aware has some fiscal problems that have come upon it that must be resolved to keep the program's integrity. But these problems must be solved and will be solved not at the expense of taking anything away from the people who are presently dependent on social security. And you know, I said once during the campaign: Anyone who will tell a lie about that is just like a fellow that says he enjoys a cold shower in the morning—they'll lie about other things. [Laughter]

So, here are the stakes. Do we go back to tax and tax, spend and spend? Do we go back to economic stagnation at home? Do we go back to dishonor and retreat abroad as we've known it in recent years? Or do we stay the course? Do we offer hope and incentive and opportunity? Do we keep alive the beacon of faith and freedom that is the American dream?

I know the answer we'll get from those of you out here in the wide country and under the big sky. I know that all of you believe in these things—the love of freedom, the belief in the basic values, the sense of daring that we've returned to Washington. It's in your very being. It's in the ground you walk on, the air you breathe, and the grandeur that you see every day.

Believe me, this election is important to our future. Help me, help your State, and help this country. Send Larry Williams to the Senate and Ron Marlenee and Bob Davies to Congress. And together, we can make America great again—not just for ourselves, but I'm so happy to see all these young people here, because that's what this election is all about—America great again for them.

Thank you, and God bless you. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:02 p.m. in the gymnasium of the Charles Russell High School, following remarks and an introduction by Larry Williams, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Montana.

Following the rally, the President attended a Fund-raising reception for Mr. Williams at the Sheraton Great Falls Hotel. He then went to the Great Falls International Airport, where he boarded Air Force One for his trip to Las Vegas, Nev.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Montana Republican Party Rally in Great Falls Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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