Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Reagan-Bush Rally in Austin, Texas

July 25, 1984

The President. I want to thank you for always reminding me that if you want to see where America's dreams reach toward wide open sky, where her spirit of progress is as strong as her heart is big, then come to the Southwest and come to the great State of Texas.

I'll take up where the Vice President left off on one point: At their convention, the leadership of the Democratic Party gave Texas the back of their hand. Well, we've come to give you a message from our heart: We care about Texas. We care about your citizens and the values that you all live for. But rather than saying "your," maybe I should be saying "our," for you've made me feel at least like an adopted son.

And you've also given me and the country one of your finest. Believe me, Texas has no more loyal son than my partner, George Bush. And I use that term, "partner," advisedly. With all due respect to those who have served in that office before, I don't believe there has ever been a Vice President that has been so involved at the very top level in all that is going on in our country and in the decisions that are being made. He is untiring, totally faithful, and I am so grateful for what he brings on the basis of his experience as a Congressman, his experience as the Director of the CIA, as our Ambassador to the United Nations, and as our representative to the Republic of China. I just happen to think he's the best Vice President we've ever had.

Now, I'm also thankful for the friendship and the support of great Texans like John Connally, Bill Clements, John Tower, and Phil Gramm. They've worked with courage and common sense for growth, for stable prices, and for a strong America.

But, you know, when Phil Gramm tried to help us control government spending and taxing, he infuriated the national Democratic leadership. So, he did the honorable thing—he left his party. He joined ours. But then, where he didn't need to do this, having just been returned to office, he went back to the voters of his district to give them a chance to register approval or disapproval on the action he'd taken. And thank heaven—they registered approval.

They stuck with him then, and I'm confident that Texas will stick with him now. I'm confident that Republicans, Democrats, and Independents will join together to elect Phil Gramm your next United States Senator.

Now, with this talk about switching parties, I remember when I cast my first vote. I was a Democrat. And I cast it for Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932. He ran on a platform to reduce the Federal budget by 25 percent, to eliminate useless boards, commissions, agencies, and bureaus, and restore the autonomy of State and local governments that he said had been unjustly seized by the Federal Government. Ask yourselves which party could run on that platform today?

Audience. Republicans! Republicans! Republicans!

The President. Certainly not those we heard and saw in San Francisco. But then, with all respect to millions of fine, patriotic citizens who are Democrats in this country today, let us ask, were those people in San Francisco truly representative of those millions of rank-and-file Democrats across this land?

Audience. No!

The President. To those of you who are still Democrats—and I know there must be many here—and who might share my belief that government should not plunder more of our earnings, should not seize greater power over our lives, but should work to ensure the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with an orderly society, then I extend an invitation to you, and to millions of others: Come where you will be welcome and appreciated. Join George Bush and Phil Gramm and me, and together we'll make history on November 6th, 1984.

You know, when I heard some of the things that were being said last week in San Francisco—and I didn't watch all the convention— [laughter] —there's some punishment you just don't deserve. [Laughter] But from what I did hear, and then maybe the next day read about, I couldn't help but think that maybe the fog is so thick out there that it was getting inside their heads. [Laughter] But maybe there's another explanation. The national Democratic leadership is going so far left, they've left America.

I'm sorry they seem to see only misery and feel only fear and never stop pining for the days of tax and tax and spend and spend. They offer a three-point program: Fear the future, ignore the present, and forget the past.

And one promise that was made at that convention by one of them made me think of a suggestion I got for the income tax. It was a plan we will not adopt. It was a sample form. On one line, you put down how much you'd earned, and on the other line it said, "Send it." [Laughter]

But they offer a three-point program—as I said—forget the future, ignore the present, and forget the past. I've found a way to put their pessimism to constructive use. It's a sure-fire diet that you can use to lose weight. And there's only one rule: You only eat on the days the pessimists say something good about America.

Well, permit me to make three small points of my own.

Point one: Those responsible for punishing America with record inflation, record interest rates, record tax increases, credit controls, farm embargoes, gas lines, no growth at home, weakness abroad, and phony excuses about malaise are the last people who should give sermonettes about misery, unfairness, and compassion.

Point two: Today they offer new realism. Well, forgive me, but their new realism seems to begin right where their old ideas left off: billions in new spending; higher taxes on small business, family farms, and every other working family. And we must answer with a firm unequivocal no.

Audience. No!

The President. Point three: A little barometer of discomfort that Jimmy Carter and his Vice President used in 1976. They created the misery index by adding the inflation and unemployment rates. In '76 that came to 12 1/2 percent. And they said our candidate had no right to seek reelection with a misery rate as big as 12 1/2. Well, since the Democratic leadership devoted hours in San Francisco to talk of misery, I hope I'll be pardoned for taking 10 seconds to say we cut their misery index almost in half from the 19 1/2 it was in 1980 to 10.3 today. And we'll bring it down even more if they'll just get out of the way.

We'll campaign on our record—and, yes, on theirs as well—and for ideas we believe will bring new hope to all Americans. We intend to represent only one special interest group—you, the people.

Let me pose the question they never got around to in San Francisco. Which major industrial nation today has the strongest currency; the strongest economic growth—7 1/2 percent for the last quarter—inflation of only 3—well, it's only been 3.3 percent for the last 3 months; labor force participation at an all-time high; fastest rate of job creation, as you've just been told. There are 7 million more people employed in the United States today than were working in 1980.

Last year there were a record 600,000 business incorporations, its fastest growth in business investment in 30 years; the largest increase in real after-tax personal income since 1973; and leadership in developing jobs and markets for the future in science and high technology, both on Earth and in outer space.

Well, I think you know which nation fits all of those, and the initials are U.S.A.!

I'm sorry the other side still doesn't know any of this, but then they never have understood the economy. They still think that GNP stands for gross national promises. [Laughter] They've never understood that incentives are the driving force of growth and human progress, that if we work or save more than before, our reward will be greater than it was, and we'll be challenged to lead more productive, worthy lives. They don't understand, but America does; and I believe that challenge will be the choice of a new generation.

Incentives, initiative, and innovation are sparking a revolution in America. We see it here in Austin with your great commitment to technological leadership. But we mustn't stop until we simplify the entire tax system, until we make taxes more fair, easier to understand, and most important, until we bring your personal tax rates further down; because if we bring them down enough, the underground economy will shrink, the world will beat a path to our door, and no one will be able to hold America back. So, please, don't let them bury the American dream in their graveyard of gloom and envy.

Endless tax increases, deeper dependency, planned protectionism, certain sacrifices, and veiled quotas—we don't need that kind of progress, do we?

Audience. No!

The President. I've always been told that if you want to make a Texan's neck swell, you tell him where to line up and what to think. Well, this election offers the sharpest, most important choice in modern times-greater freedom or coercion.

Last night I asked the leadership of the Democratic Party to support six key measures for our future—legislation that will benefit all Americans, legislation that's been bottled up by a do-nothing House leadership. For example, they seek to reduce deficits, but the futile way—by raising taxes on America's families.

Audience. No!

The President. Right. I'm asking—why not do it the right way, the fair way, the effective way? Why not insist that government spend no more than government takes in? Why not insist that Speaker O'Neill permit a vote on.

Audience. Boo-o-o!

The President. I hope they're listening in Washington. [Laughter]

But why shouldn't he permit a vote on the constitutional amendment mandating a balanced Federal budget?

Fairness for families means a spouse working in the home would enjoy the same individual retirement rights, IRA's, as a spouse working outside the home. Each should be able to save and exclude from taxation up to $2,000 a year. We'd like that bill passed now.

Tuition tax credits would help low- and middle-income parents paying to send their children to parochial or independent schools while also paying their full share of taxes to support public schools.

You know, it's fine to get way out there in the nether regions—out in the abstract someplace—and talk about our great national family. But how about a little help for the real families who sustain our neighborhoods, our churches, and our schools? The forgotten Americans in all those years of their domination have been those parents who sit around a table at night deciding how to pay their bills and put their kids through school. How about a little compassion for them, too?

Then there's our bill offering incentives for investment in 75 enterprise zones that would bring jobs and growth and hope for people in inner cities and in other distressed regions. But here's the rub again. Enterprise zones have been blocked for 2 years by the same people who gave those fine speeches about opportunity and fairness. Well, do they want to end the welfare bondage or they just want to filibuster forever about the nice things they'll do someday, somewhere, somehow, for somebody?

We think it's not asking too much that Americans be able to take a walk after dark without having to cringe in fear. We have a strong anticrime proposal that would provide new restrictions on bail, tougher sentencing, and stricter enforcement of drug trafficking laws. Lives are at stake. So, if we still can't get a vote on that, maybe it's time to move some politicians out of office to get the criminals off the streets.

And finally, last night I asked the House to pass the equal-access bill. It would permit religious student groups the same freedom that other student groups now have to meet in public high schools in their vacant rooms during off-hours. This is—let me repeat—this is in nonschool hours. I believe the God who blessed this land of ours never deserved to be expelled from our schools in the first place.

Well, I'm pleased to give you some good news, and just received—take out your pens, members of the press— [laughter] -today I have just been informed the House of Representatives finally passed, despite stubborn resistance by its liberal leaders, the equal-access bill, 337 to 77. But let's make one thing plain: While this long-overdue action is welcome, it's certainly not sufficient. They should put their new realism to work and take action on each of those other five requests that they've bottled up for so long; and together we will make America great.

And let me just suggest to you the steps that we've taken, the steps we've taken to reverse years of neglecting our military security-shameful neglect—have not made America less secure; the steps we've taken have made us more secure. If the sons and daughters of this nation can risk their lives to protect our freedom in a dangerous world, then we have a moral obligation to give them, in the way of protection, the finest we can in weaponry, in machinery.

I want to tell you something. When you see one of those young men or women out on the street in uniform, if you haven't done it already, give them a smile and maybe ask them where they're from and tell them, maybe, you're a little grateful for what they're doing. I have to tell you that nothing in this job has made me more proud than the young men and women who are representing our country in uniform. They have the highest level of intelligence and education of any who have ever represented our country in the past in uniform. They are the best trained. They have an esprit de corps that just won't stop.

And I know—I was an officer once, and I know that in civilian clothes you're not supposed to salute. But I also know that if I'm Commander in Chief and when they started throwing those highballs at me, I'm going to salute 'em back.

Thank you for your wonderful Texas welcome today and for being with us here and sharing your joy and spirit.

And before I go, I do want to ask you a question that you may have heard before. Tell me, are you better off today than you were 4 years ago?

Audience. Yes!

The President. Well, all right. Let me ask another: Is America better off than she was 4 years ago? [Applause]

Audience. Reagan! Reagan! Reagan!

The President. Then I'm going to assume—I won't even ask this one—I'm just going to assume that you don't want to go back to the days of America being second best.

Audience. No!

The President. Let's keep going forward together.

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

Note: The President spoke at 12:45 p.m. at Auditorium Shores. He was introduced by the Vice President.

Following his remarks, the President went to the Hyatt Regency Austin Hotel, where he met with leaders of Texans for Reagan-Bush. He then traveled to Atlanta, CA, and the Waverly Hotel, where he met with Southern Republican leaders. He remained at the hotel overnight.

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

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