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Remarks in a Question and Answer Session with the AFL-CIO Union Leadership in Portland, Oregon

September 27, 1976

Q. Governor Carter, when we concluded our regular convention last Friday, we endorsed the Carter-Mondale ticket. We did have some preliminary discussion on the Humphrey-Hawkins bill, and also on 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act. Our people would like to see you push those two items harder than you have. And take a more firm position than you have today.

Governor Carter. I did not support the Humphrey-Hawkins bill in its original form. But now the bill passed by the House Education [and Labor] Committee has incorporated changes which Congress agreed, and which I agree, have made the bill a very good one. It calls for, first of all, an emphasis on jobs in the private sector. Earlier the emphasis was too much on jobs in the government.

Secondly, the bill concentrates on a wide range of means by which low unemployment can be achieved. And it sets, I think, a very good goal of 3 percent adult unemployment in four years which would be a tremendous improvement over what we now have. It also gets the government out of the business of trying to plan specific economic steps for the private enterprise system, of which you are the most important part.

But before the vote, I sent to the chairman of the Education Committee, my complete endorsement of the Humphrey-Hawkins bill in its present form, and I think it's going to be a good bill.

On 14(b) I take the same position now, that I took as governor, that although I would not take it on as a crusade, I would be very glad to sign a repeal of right to work or 14(b) when it passes.

Q. Governor, I've listened to some of your speeches on nuclear energy and I want to tell you now that we have ... [most of question inaudible] ... [labor has come out against nuclear energy]?

Governor Carter. Let me tell you about my position on nuclear energy. As I have said many times to audiences around the country, before I did, nobody in my family in more than two hundred years, ever had a chance to finish high school. I went to the U.S. Naval Academy and got an education at government expense, I did my graduate work in nuclear energy and worked under Admiral Rickover in the development of the second atomic submarine. We have 22 referenda around the country that I know about on nuclear power plants. I'm not in favor of any moratorium on any atomic power plants. I think it's not right for a President to leave so much doubt in the minds of our people about safety, that 22 different states have initiated referenda in different states to do away with atomic power plants. For the foreseeable future, we'll have to continue to operate and to build atomic power plants. When I was Governor of Georgia, I worked very closely with a Georgia Power Company to locate and to build and to put down some prescriptions on the design of a major atomic power plant near Baxley, Georgia. And we hope that we'll get another one just south of Augusta in the future. But there are some things that ought to be done. It ought not to be done on an individual state basis. It ought to be done by the federal government And the essence of it is to let the American people know that, when an atomic power plant is built, it can be safe.

Let me mention a few things to you, if you've got the time to hear, and I'll be very quick. First of all, the atomic power plant should not be located where people live and where the earthquake fault zones exist, just to guarantee that 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now that plant is likely to be safe.

Secondly, we need to have the reactor core located below ground level. The building that houses the entire plant should be tightly sealed and a heavy vacuum maintained. It is physically impossible for an atomic power plant such as we use in this country to explode. But it can melt down and radioactive gases can be released. If they are released, they ought to be held within the building, maybe two, three, four or five years, until the radioactivity goes down. The personnel who are in the building can exit through a standard design escape hatch, which is in place in many places around the country—I've seen them—they might be heavily contaminated, but they would not contaminate the neighborhood. There ought to be a standard design so that every power plant doesn't have to be an experimental model. We ought to have a full-time atomic power representative in the control room 24 hours a day to shut the plant down, independent of orders of the power company, if an abnormality does develop. In the last 25 years, we've only had to do that twice. We've never had a fatality in an atomic power plant in the United States.

Another thing that we must do is to have the assurance from the federal government, working closely with the state and local government, that there's an adequate evacuation procedure for people who do live within a certain area around the community so they can understand ahead of time that if something does happen they know what to do to protect themselves. There ought to also be adequate insurance provided for those who might have property that would be damaged if there is a nuclear disaster. Now in my own experience in the atomic power field, I've known but one plant to melt down to go out of control. That was in Short River, Canada. It was in this country; it was a heavy water plant, which we very seldom use in this country, but it melted down and I was one of those who had to go in and clean up the plant after it melted down. But that is a very, very rare occasion. So that's my position on atomic power. We've got to shift from oil to coal, we've got to protect what valuable energy resources we have by strict conservation measures, we've got to increase our research and development program for solar power, continue to use atomic power to make up the difference between those steps and what we need, but the shift should come from the federal level and not from the fifty different states. I think atomic power plants can be safe. We must have though the strict set of precautions that I've outlined to you. Is that clear enough?

Q. Governor Carter, I'd like to ask you a campaign question, rather than a political question. I was wondering, within the campaign structure, the Carter-Mondale campaign structure, whether or not guidelines have been established within, among your own staff, at all levels, to make direct contact with and work closely particularly with our local central bodies and some of the major organizations. I can say to you now that in many areas, at least in the West, at this point it is quite loose, and it is to our mutual concern and benefit that something be done to speed this up in the next five weeks?

Governor Carter. I would hope that our local state coordinators have already contacted you and are working intimately with you. If they aren't, then they will be shortly. And if they haven't been, it's my loss, not yours. I have tried to do this at the national level and our people throughout the country have been told that one of the major supportive forces we have is in the labor movement. And I would hope that in voter registration, in getting out the vote, and in presenting the issues to our people that we could work in very close harmony.

There's one point that must be remembered. In the new election laws, concerning financing, we can't participate directly in voter registration. That's a Democratic National Committee function that's separated from my campaign by law. But on getting out the vote, following registration, we can work as a team. But in order to divide the financial responsibility and not charge that much money to my own campaign, the registration part is through the Democratic National Committee, the get out the vote drive will be coordinated between us and you. But make sure that you check with the folks and let them know what we are doing. You here in Oregon, the nine states, well we'll be sure—I'll let one of my people contact you.

Q. If you had to do it again, would you change anything about the Playboy interview?

Governor Carter. The question is about the Playboy interview. I try to run an accessible campaign. I've given interviews to people that would probably be better for me not to talk to. But Playboy has a wide readership, and I think it's good for their readers to know about me. The editors particularly wanted to know about my Christian beliefs. And I think that's a group of Americans who may not hear enough about Christianity and moral and ethical beliefs, from myself and any other source. So I decided to answer the questions. The basic question that was so controversial, and I wish all of you would read the entire article, I think you would say that it was a good interview, but the particular thing that had so much publicity was when the question was asked, "As a Baptist, as a Christian, do you condemn other people who don't share your religious faith?" And I said that my religious beliefs are that we are not in a position of condemning others. That we are not supposed to say I'm not very guilty, another person is very guilty, therefore I condemn another person. God says, "Judge not that ye be not judged". And I made the point that as President, I would certainly not condemn those who were different from me, but I would try to work to end the afflictions on our society. That would be my legal responsibility. And I also made the point that Baptists, perhaps as strong as any other denomination, believe in complete separation of church and state. But the one example that I used was about adultery. And it was possibly not a very fortunate choice, but as you know at the Sermon on the Mount, it said that if you even look with lust on a woman you have in your own heart committed adultery, therefore, don't condemn people, who may have done even worse. And that was the illustration that I used. And it perhaps was an unfortunate illustration. But I don't have any apology to make for it. I thought it was a good way to let the American people, particularly Playboy readers, know about my religious beliefs. I think it was perhaps typical of my campaign. I might say this. I would rather run that kind of campaign and even make a mistake now and then, and let the American people have a contact with me, than to hide in the Rose Garden for eight weeks and ignore the real needs of this campaign, and to isolate myself from the American people. I made the right choice.

Q. Governor, taxes are near and dear to the hearts of every American, including labor union representatives. The press has had a field day recently trying to make your position misunderstood.

Governor Carter. I don't know if any of you saw my wife on Meet the Press yesterday. Did anybody see it? I thought she did a superb job, and I don't think I'm prejudiced on that point, but as she pointed out I would never increase taxes on Americans who work for a living, or who report all their tax, all their income on a tax form. We have unbelievable loopholes in the tax laws that make the tax laws disgraceful, that favor those who have very high incomes. Those loopholes only are applicable, in almost every instance, to those who have incomes of $50,000 or more, who have a very large estate and can generate tremendous amounts of income. Last year, 1974 tax returns, there were 3,200 people who made over $50,000 a year and paid not a nickel of income tax. There were over 800 that made over $100,000, and 244 who made over $200,000 income that year and didn't pay a nickel in income tax. And when they don't pay their taxes, you know who pays it for them. You and the other working people of America who don't have lobbyists constantly in Washington trying to carve out a special privilege for their own constituents. As I said in the debate the other night, you can't have a lobbyist with the proceeds from an unemployment check. And so we do need comprehensive tax reform. But I want to repeat again, I will never raise taxes on someone who gets their income from working or who reports all their income on an income tax return.

Thank you very much. I enjoyed being with you.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks in a Question and Answer Session with the AFL-CIO Union Leadership in Portland, Oregon Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347549

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