Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Nevada Republican Party Rally in Reno

October 07, 1982

Mr. President, thank you. Governor, Senator Paul [Laxalt], and our fine candidates who are here—Barbara Vucanovich, Chic Hecht:

You know those words about this clear blue sky and this fresh air, being—the West is hard to leave. So, I hope the rest of the country will forgive me if I point out: Did you ever stop to think that if Columbus had taken that boat ride across the Pacific instead of the Atlantic, the capital would be out here? [Laughter] All these good people here, except Governor List—why don't we just skip November, and I'll take them back to Washington now? [Laughter]

But I'm told that this gathering is billed as an old-fashioned GOP—Grand Old Party—rally. The only thing about that that bothers me is that word "old-fashioned." I have a suspicion that's because I'm here. [Laughter] I'd like to make this a pep rally for the Wolfpacks' victory tomorrow.

Okay. You know, I have to tell you, I love outdoor rallies like this. Once during the campaign some fellow said to me that he didn't think I was working very hard. He said, "You've got too good a tan." And I said, "Well, I've been doing a lot of outdoor rallies." And then he says, "Well, you talk too long then." [Laughter] You know, there was a humorist—and maybe some of you are too young to remember him—but he was Robert Benchley. And he was in Hollywood for a time, making pictures. And when he wasn't working he was always indoors under a sunlamp getting a tan. And finally there in sunny California, indoors, a friend said to him one day, "Why don't you just go outdoors? And Bob Benchley said, "What? And get hit with a meteor?" [Laughter]

Well, you know, there are times when I think some of our critics and our opponents must have been hit by something—meteors or something else. They've developed a very interesting case of amnesia. They can't remember a thing that was bad about the economy prior to my taking the oath of office. [Laughter] They make you think that everything economically that's bad started on January 21st, 1981. They don't remember that in the 4 years before we got to Washington, the entire Government of the United States was in their hands.

They controlled the Presidency, the United States Senate, the House of Representatives, and all the committees of Congress, the executive branch, the hundreds of departments and agencies responsible for running the Federal establishment. They had the whole enchilada. They controlled everything except inflation, interest rates, taxes, and an economy that was on a toboggan slide.

And in their political amnesia, they've forgotten that under their leadership inflation went up from 4.8 percent in 1976 to 18 percent by January of 1980, and that at the same time the interest rates climbed from 7 percent to 21 1/2 percent and our taxes doubled in 5 years. Well, I can't blame them; if I were in their place, I guess I'd try to forget a lot of things, too.

But now let me point out that I spent most of my life as a Democrat. And I know others at this rally have been or still are Democrats, and they have every reason to be proud of their party's many fine traditions. The problems we face today are bigger than any single political party, and solving them will require the best efforts of all our people.

But in saying that, let me point out something else. I think it's important to note that there is a great gulf today between millions of patriotic Democrats and the leadership of their party. I don't fault the intentions of that leadership these past years. I know they meant well. They claim compassion and deny that we feel any. But their compassion stopped short of the average American, the men and women who hold our country together and who were being taxed into poverty to support an ever-growing bureaucracy that wasn't helping solve anything. Indeed, it was not government that should solve the problems; it was government that was the problem.

Families, both Democrat and Republican were driven in the evening to sit around the kitchen table in too many American homes to try and figure out how to cope with inflation and what they were going to do next. And while the average family was being pinched, it was fat city for the Federal Government. In the year before I took office, that single year, Federal spending increased by 17 percent. How many of our fellow citizens were able to say that their incomes or their pensions or their savings had gone up by 14 [17] 1 percent. They hadn't. As a matter of fact, for those few years, the standard of living in this country was actually going down even though people were getting cost-of-living pay raises because those cost-of-living pay raises were moving them up into higher income tax brackets.

1 White House correction.

Right now we're all paying the penalty of those tragic excesses of the past. Unfortunately, many are paying with their jobs. Nearly 11 million people are out of work. And, you know, the worst of it is, it didn't have to be this way. If only the big spenders in Congress had shown some restraint. If only they would now.

That's why the balanced budget is so important. The United States Congress breathes on a respirator that's pumping money, money, money. And the best way to pull the plug on its big spending ways is a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution.

But even though the American people want the amendment, even though a majority of the Congress voted for the amendment, the House Democratic leadership still prefers the failures of the past to the steps that we must take to build a better future. And that's what this election is all about.

Tomorrow the new unemployment rate comes out. And a great many people are anticipating—and very possibly it will show—another increase. But I have some questions for those who'll be all over our television screens lambasting this administration if it does. Where were they when the economy started going haywire? What are they offering now, except their failed policies of the past—spend and spend, tax and tax, and, if that isn't enough, borrow and borrow. Let me ask one final question of them: When will they open their eyes to the onrushing surge of confidence now occurring in this country's financial markets?

Earlier today—you haven't heard—I'm pleased to report that a number of major banks in the United States this morning lowered their prime lending rate to 13 percent. Now, that's a far cry from the 16 1/2-percent rate that prevailed just this last summer and the 21 1/2 percent that was in effect just before we took office. And as interest rates have tumbled, investment has been flowing into our equity and our bond markets. In the past 2 months alone, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has jumped more than 20 percent. And yesterday, it had the second biggest increase in the market in history.

Those investors who have the responsibility of investing billions of dollars, including the pension funds of American workers, don't make their decisions lightly. Are they sending us a signal? Do they believe that the American economy is turning a corner, maybe? Do they believe we mean business in our battle against inflation? Are they ready to give this economy a strong vote of confidence?

It's an unfortunate fact of life, however, that one of the last symptoms of recession to yield to a recovery is unemployment. But in the meantime, there are important steps we've taken to reduce that hardship. We've extended unemployment benefits in those hard-hit areas to those who have exhausted their time. And I will soon be signing-that's recently been passed—a job training bill, a measure that will provide training for over a million Americans a year.

Now, this is important. If you take on a Sunday and open to the help-wanted ads in a metropolitan paper, and discover that even with 11 million people, almost, unemployed in this country, you will find 65 or 70 pages of help-wanted ads asking for workers to come. Why aren't they filled? Because that the people who don't have the skills that those jobs require. And we're going to try to give them to them.

In past training bills—there's a difference between the one that I'm going to sign and those past ones. In the past bills, only 20 cents out of the dollar went to actual training. The rest could be considered administrative overhead. Well, in our bill 70 cents out of every dollar is going to the actual training.

And tomorrow I will sign the Export Trading Company Act, which will encourage the formation of trading companies to spur exports. And the best thing about this measure is that it assists U.S. businesses in developing exports and thus creates hundreds of thousands of jobs at virtually no cost to the taxpayer.

You don't know how much I wish there were some quick, easy cure for this terrible economic mess that was so long in the making. But it does seem to me that the people who created the mess are hardly justified now in claiming that having created it, they're the best qualified to try and clean it up.

From our very first day, we've been working to undo the economic wreckage they left behind. As a matter of fact, when I finished taking the oath of office on that inaugural day, the first thing I did was go back into the Capitol, and before I'd even taken my topcoat off, I signed an Executive order [memorandum] freezing the size of the Federal Government, that it could not grow from that day forward. To get control of the spending, to encourage incentives by lowering taxes, to root out waste and fraud, to stop unwise regulations, and start America on the road to expansion and growth once again—that's what we've been trying to do since that January day.

I won't dwell on this, but you might be interested to know that we've had a team of Inspectors General who have been making thousands—tens of thousands of audits. There have been thousands of indictments. There have been hundreds of convictions already for such things as a government agency spending some $300 for an item that they could get for about $30 in their local stores. Other things of—thousands of people that were still receiving checks from the Government; they'd been dead for an average of 7 years.

Our first priority was to lick inflation. Well, inflation has been reduced by 59 percent. Since January it's averaged 6.1 percent, and last month it went down at an annualized rate of 3.3 percent. An average family of four with an income of $15,000 is about $1,000 better off in purchasing power than it would have been if inflation had stayed where it was 20 months ago. Interest rates have dropped nearly 40 percent. And I've told you, of course, made the announcement about the prime, down to 13 now.

Unnecessary regulations have been reduced. The American people have been sending about 10 billion pieces of paper to Washington a year. We so far have reduced the amount of paper by about 200 million man-hours of work in filling out that paper. Your tax rates when the final installment goes in next July will have been cut for the first time in 20 years. Step by step, our program is working.

I believe deeply that we can put our current economic difficulties behind us if we have the strength to stick to our course. But until there's a job for every American who wants to work, and as long as plants and machinery lay idle, we can't let up in our efforts.

We Americans have been tested by these past few years of discouragement. But we've never been quitters, and we're not going to quit now. I hear all those voices every day saying that we can't succeed. Well, if we only put our heart and courage to the test, I say we can't fail.

To those who are faint hearted and unsure, I have but one message: If you're afraid of the future, then get out of the way; stand aside. The people of this country are going to move forward with people like Governor List, Barbara Vucanovich and Chic Hecht and Peggy Cavnar down south. Nevada represents the true spirit of America. And I'm honored to be with you today and to share in that spirit. And I have to tell you your hospitality has lifted my own spirits as high as those beautiful soaring Sierras that we can see out here every day.

I just have one last remark to make. You know, there've been great charges about who has compassion, as I mentioned earlier, and who doesn't. And, of course, we're supposed to be hard-hearted, and we're supposed to be balancing inflation by doing all sorts of cruel things.

Now, I know that, as I said earlier, that the party before us was well-intentioned with all of their social reforms and their attempts to help people. But when you're going to help people, you really should know what you're doing. And their efforts at helping people, that brought us a mjillion-dollar debt and brought us the inflation and made people poorer, not better off, reminded me of the young fellow one day that was riding a motorcycle.

It was a cold winter day, had a leather jacket on; the wind was whistling in through the buttons on his jacket chilling him. And he finally figured out if he stopped and put the jacket on backward, that wouldn't happen. So, he did, and down the road he went. But it kind of restricted his arm motion a little bit. So, he hit a patch of ice and skidded into a tree. And when the police arrived and elbowed their way through the crowd that had gathered, and they said, "What happened?" The people who were there first said, "We don't know. He seemed to be alright when we got here, but by the time we had his head turned around straight, he was dead." [Laughter]

So, we're going to try to keep everybody warm. And we're not going to try to turn their heads around straight. We're going to try to help them in the regular and old-fashioned American way, which is: direct the help in such a way as to make people self-sufficient and independent and no longer dependent on bureaucrats for a handout.

So, thank you, God bless you all, and happy going tomorrow.

Note: The President spoke at 12:12 p.m. from a stage constructed on the campus quadrangle of the University of Nevada/ Reno. The President's remarks followed an introduction by Joe Crowley, president of the University of Nevada.

Following his appearance at the rally, the President attended a Fund-raising reception for Governor Robert List, a candidate for reelection, and congressional candidate Barbara Vucanovich at the Rancho San Raphael in Reno. He then traveled to Las Vegas, Nev., where he attended a Fund-raising reception for senatorial candidate Chic Hecht and congressional candidate Peggy Cavnar at the residence of entertainer Wayne Newton.

Following his campaign activities in Nevada, the President went to Los Angeles, Calif., where he remained overnight.

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

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