Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Reagan-Bush Rally in Atlanta, Georgia

July 26, 1984

The President. Senator Denton and Carroll Campbell and Paula Hawkins, thank you all very much—and for those kind words.

You know, a few weeks ago I was down in Alabama at a rally, and I told the people there that I'm always happy when I'm in the South. I guess I feel kind of at home here. The South has always given more than its share to this country, more than its share of greatness and courage. Here are the traditions, in this special place, that shaped our country, and they endure. There's a steadiness of purpose, a fidelity to ideals, the type of thing that made someone say, just a few years ago, that "the South is where this country will be saved."

Now, this is an interesting time in our national life. Last week the Democrats picked their nominees. The election year has begun now that both sides have their tickets. I've been in Georgia and in the South a number of times since I was elected President; I'll be back a number of times.

But I want you to know something. The other party apparently thinks the South just isn't important this year; it just doesn't deserve much attention. Well, I'll tell you how George Bush and I feel about the South. We won't write it off; we won't kiss it off, or try to buy it off. The South is worth fighting for; the South is worth listening to.

The South is America at its best. You know those folks who are writing off the South out there in the fog in San Francisco, they were busy talking and filling the air with eloquent-sounding words; as a matter of fact, big clouds of words. But a lot of those words contained what Winston Churchill called "terminological inexactitude." [Laughter] That's a nice way of saying they said a few things that weren't true.

The future, according to them, is dark and getting darker, and Americans are very unhappy. According to the other party, there's nothing to hope for but despair, and we have nothing in store but fear itself. In fact, I thought it sounded a little bit like one of those disaster or horror movies in which they picked me to play the monster. [Laughter] Do you get the feeling—I don't know whether you did or not, but do you get the feeling that they don't like me very much? [Laughter]

Well, it was great dramatic rhetoric, but the fog has cleared, and this is a good time to look at the record, to look at the facts. Now, the plain truth is that 4 years ago our economy was in a shambles. Inflation, their disease, has come like a thief in the night to rob our savings, rob our earnings, and take the bread off our tables.

Four years ago a tyrant held our diplomats hostage. Four years ago our defense had deteriorated to the point where many of our ships couldn't leave port. Many of our aircraft were so old that they'd been flown by the fathers of the pilots who are now flying them. And 4 years ago the Soviets took the free nation of Afghanistan for their own.

American prestige seemed like a memory. Our standing in the world had fallen. Our government was talking about a malaise. You remember that talk, and you were the ones that were supposed to be having the malaise.

Well, 4 years later America is a very different place. And the Democrats are saying that it's my fault. They keep insisting that I take responsibility for it. Well, they've talked me into it. [Laughter] But I'll only take the blame if you'll join me, because we couldn't have done anything we've done without your help.

So, if you'll join me, I'll take the blame for inflation falling by almost two-thirds, as you've been told. And I guess that makes us responsible for the economy expanding and the country growing and building again. And it's our fault that the prime interest rate fell from that 211/2 percent, our defenses are stronger, that we cut taxes for every American so that everyone can keep more of the money they earn and spend it on their children and their families and their neighborhoods.

Now, you'll have to be patient with me here, because I've got a lot of admitting to do. [Laughter] 106 million Americans now have jobs. That's more than at any time in our history, and it's 7 million more jobs than were held in 1980. That's right—it's our fault. [Laughter] We've created 6.7 million new jobs in the last 18 months. That's our fault again, too.

Their misery index, as you've been told, was almost 20, and now it's barely half that. And I apologize. That's our fault. [Laughter] You remember the misery index. Our opponents invented it for the 1976 campaign by adding the unemployment rate and the rate of inflation. And it was 12 1/2 in '76. And they said that was disgraceful. So, in 4 years they ran it up to about 20. As a matter of fact, as of 4 years ago right now, it was 21.8. And in 3 1/2 years we've brought it down, as you've been told. It's now 10.3. And that was one thing they didn't mention—was having a misery index this year. [Laughter]

You know, when you start to talk about the facts, the fog really lifts. And when the fog lifts you can see the country the way it really is.

Now, I'm not talking about big statistics that exist way off in the air someplace. Things are better right here in Atlanta, too. Between 1980 and 1983, total employment increased in Atlanta by almost 11 percent. By the end of the year, it is expected to have increased by 14 percent. Housing starts in your city have gone up 93 percent since 1980.

And our progress isn't only economic. Nationally, violent crime fell last year for the first time in a decade. And here in Atlanta, violent crime is down almost 16 percent since 1980.

The plain truth, the economy—or the recovery is real. It's based on commonsense fact: that if you allow the people to keep the fruits of their labor, then they'll work hard and make money and save money and invest money. They have an incentive. But kill that incentive, and you kill economic expansion. And that's precisely what the opponents would do.

They talk about the budget deficits. But they don't tell you that the budget problem is a spending problem. They don't tell you that all spending originates in the Congress, which has been controlled by the Democratic Party for 46 of the past 50 years.

They don't want to control their spending. They want to keep spending and raise your taxes so they can keep on spending. And that's what they say they'll do. And believe me, of all the promises they made, that's the one they'll deliver on if you give them a chance.

When they talk about austerity, they don't mean tightening Tip O'Neill's belt. [Laughter] They mean tightening yours, around your neck.

I want to interject something here. The other night in the press conference, I made a statement with regard to the pledge at the convention about their candidate would promise he would raise taxes. And he means it. He's never missed a vote on raising taxes. But then I gave my own position, which is that, no, we have no plans and will not raise taxes. But I added one qualifier, and it seems to be presently being distorted. And let me make it plain what I said.

They have suggested that I put an "if" in there and said, "Well, if, you know, we get all the spending cuts that we can and still we haven't gotten the balance between taxes and spending together, why then we'll have to look at the tax." That isn't what I said. What I said was, if and when we bring government spending down to where we have a government that can fulfill its responsibilities and do those things the people require of government, and then, at that bottom level, that still is above what our tax system is bringing in in revenues, yes, then we would have to look and make those two balance so that we would be spending within our means. But we're a long way from getting down to that bottom line of what is absolutely necessary for government's expenses.

It's kind of interesting to note that in a half dozen years before this administration came here, taxes in the United States were tripled and the deficits totaled $650 billion. Raising taxes just gives them a license to keep on with their deficit spending.

The plain truth is, our administration is on the right track. We've turned away from failed ideas about a huge government taking your money and redistributing it. We've moved on to ideas that work. The plain truth is that we're finally making our defense system stronger, and for only one reason, because weakness invites trouble and strength deters it. And yet, in spite of all of their rhetoric about our gigantic deficit-causing defense spending, our defense budget is lower than the one that their President in 1980 had projected for this particular time—because Presidents must project about 5 years ahead under the law as to what they think's going to happen. We're spending less than they said they were going to spend on defense and doing a better job of it.

The plain truth is there's a mood in this country, a general feeling that, indeed, America is a decent and a just place, and it deserves our love and fidelity.

There's a mood, a general feeling that patriotism isn't something to be embarrassed about, but something to be proud of. There's a mood in the country, a general feeling that once again, there's a lot to be hopeful about. Our optimism has once again been turned loose. And all of us recognize that these people who keep talking about the age of limits, are really talking about their own limitations, not America's.

The plain truth is, things are better. Facts are facts, and the other side is hoping that you won't look at the record. Well, we're hoping you will.

I couldn't be addressing a crowd in this place, and of this number, without realizing that I must be speaking to a great many Democrats who are here. But your Democrat Party has been a great party. I was a Democrat, too. And I supported and campaigned for Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, because I felt they were for a strong America, a fair and decent America that wouldn't shrink from its responsibilities in the world and wouldn't retreat or run from the challenges of the times.

I was a Democrat longer than I have presently been a Republican. But I think that the current leadership of the Democratic Party, the leadership that we saw last week in San Francisco—I think their instructions for getting to the convention were: Go west to San Francisco, and then turn left.

They've gone so far left that they've left the mainstream. And I know that those of you who still are Democrats, or who have been, I know that you've been thinking about these things, and you're aware of them, also. So, I want to put out my hand, and let you know that if you're starting to feel that your party has abandoned you, then we're holding out a hand and asking for your continuing help. We can't do it without you.
From my own experience—

Audience. 4 more years! 4 more years! 4 more years!

The President. Thank you. I give in. [Laughter]

My friends, we want the support of every group, of every individual in this country, and we're going to fight for it from one end of this country to the other. We're going to ask you to help us build a new America, a freer nation. We're going to barnstorm this country. We're going to get out on the stump out there, and from stump to stump, we're going to tell the plain truth. We believe in freedom. We believe in America.

The 1984 election will determine the course this country takes for the rest of the country [century]—as Senator Hawkins told us. This election offers the clearest choice in many years—the clearest philosophical choice, the clearest choice between principles and visions.

This election is about leadership. It's about what we want for our children—a free nation, or more bondage of the tax-and-tax and spend-and-spend variety, a strong nation that is deeply proud of the ideals that it presents to the world, or a nation that begs on its knees for kindness from tyrants?

Audience. No!

The President. Right, no.

We want a free nation where our children can grow and become anything they want to be, or, on the other hand, those who want a tired place where a big government far away will take everything they work hard for.

Audience. No!

The President. No. I think like you.

We all want a great nation to be greater, a nation of free and equal Americans who stand together in the glow of fellowship and in the light of God. That's the country I'm working for, and that's the road that we want to walk down. And I say to you: Come on and walk down the road with me.

Thank you for coming out here today, thank you for listening to me, and God bless all of you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:07 p.m. at the Cumberland Shopping Mall.

Following his remarks, the President traveled to Elizabeth, N.J.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Reagan-Bush Rally in Atlanta, Georgia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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