Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at a Shopping Center Rally in St. Louis, Missouri

October 29, 1976

This is a tremendous crowd and I want to thank all of you for coming tonight. [applause]

In 1948 I cast my first vote, and so did Georgia, for one of the greatest Presidents of all time, Harry Truman, and I'm waiting for Missouri to pay me back next Tuesday. [applause]

To my good friend Tom Eagleton, to Governor Warren Hearnes, to Joe Teasdale your next Governor, to Jim Baker, to your Congressman Robert Young, to Dick Gephardt, and Bill Hungate, one of the great congressmen of all times, and to all you wonderful Missourians, how you doing tonight? We're going to win next Tuesday? [applause]

We've just come in from Toledo, Ohio. Before that, we were in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and before that, we were in New York City and the Long Island area. So the last 22 months I've been campaigning around this country, learning about its greatness and strengths, also learning about its problems.

We had a report today from Mr. Ford's own Secretary of Commerce, about the economic indicators of the future, predicting what's going to happen to the average American family in the months to come. In September, for the second time in a row, we had a negative economic report. The number of people who were laid off from their jobs went up. The number of hours worked per week, went down. The number of orders placed for consumer goods, that means future jobs, went down. This is the first time since January, 1975, that we have had two months in a row where economic circumstances went backwards instead of forwards. I think it's time for our nation to start moving forward again and not continue to move backward with people losing their jobs. [applause]

Mr. Ford's Secretary of the Treasury, on the Good Morning show this week, was asked, "What about the 7J4 or 8 million Americans who've lost their jobs?" And his response was, "They're not suffering." This is the same administration that a year and a half ago the top economic adviser, when they asked, who's suffering most in this country said the Wall Street brokers are suffering worse than anybody else when the economy goes backwards.

We need a President who understands that when somebody loses a job, they and their families do suffer, because Americans prefer to work, not go on welfare.

I've worked all my life. So have many of you. I grew up on a farm in the depression years. My father and his family have been in Georgia for 210 years. We've all been farmers. As a matter of fact, in my father's family, I'm the first one in 200 years that ever had a chance to finish high school. I know what it means to work for a living. And I believe that this country is eager to see its economic strength harnessed and the eight million people who are out of work go back to work. This can be done if we work together in the future and I believe that if you'll vote right Tuesday for the Democratic ticket, next January we'll get this nation moving back toward jobs. [applause]

One thing that we hear quite often from the administration in office is that they're friends of the middle class Americans. Now I guess now I would be classed a middle class American and my family would too. I'm lucky enough to own my own home and I'm lucky enough to have a good income that I think can put my children, my little daughter, through college.

But the ones who suffer most are obviously the ones who lose their jobs. But just think, in the last two years we've added $23 billion to unemployment compensation payments and welfare payments. Now those who draw welfare don!t pay taxes. Those who draw unemployment checks, don't pay taxes. Even those who draw Social Security—and that's all—they don't pay taxes.

The ones that pay the costs of all these extra expenses that are not necessary is the average middle class American family who's still lucky enough to have a job.

There was a time in this country when a family that had a job could plan for the future. We can't plan for the future any more. In the last eight years alone, since Richard Nixon went in the White House, the price of an average family home has doubled from $22,000 to $44,000. Interest rates have gone up 50 percent. It took us 70 years to reach a point where more than half the American families could afford to own our own homes. In the last eight years, we've now seen that drop to less than one third of the families in this country able to own their own homes.

In the last year, 1975, we had fewer homes built than any year since 1940. And we now have an unemployment rate in the construction industry of 25 to 30 percent. In some communities, 60 to 65 percent.

There used to be a time we could put our money in a savings account and we could make a profit on it and it would grow. Nowadays, with 6 percent inflation on the average, if we draw 5 percent interest we lose 1 percent every year. And the security we were looking for is just not there.

There used to be a time when we could plan for the future. That if we had some children and we saved and we were careful and we did without things, we could put our kids through college. But that's no longer the case, because the cost of education has gone up so high, and our savings now are to be spent for increased property taxes.

I'd like for all of you to go home if you will and get your 1968 property tax bill, and compare it to what it is after eight years of Republicans in the White House. It's probably doubled. But the services you receive at the local level of government haven't gone up. The problem is the inflation rate in Washington.

One more thing I'd like to say is this about economics. As I said earlier, I've worked all my life. I haven't wasted my own money. I haven't wasted the taxpayers' money. When I was Governor of Georgia for four years, we had a balanced budget. We had a surplus every year—about $120 million on the average. A cumulative total surplus of $496 million. I run a peanut shelling plant; my budget is balanced.

I run a farm; my budget is balanced. I run a family; my budget is balanced. And if you elect me President, before four years goes by, we're going to have a balanced budget for the United States of America. [applause]

One thing that middle America—the average family—has been told by this Republican Administration, is that you can't have a balanced budget, you can't control inflation, unless you have a lot of people out of work. That's not true. Let me just mention, if you'll forgive me, your own great President. Harry Truman was in the White House 7 years. He didn't have an average deficit, he had an average surplus of $2 billion a year in 1948 and 1950 money. When he went out of office, the unemployment rate was less than 3 percent. The inflation rate was less than 1 percent. Interest on an FHA home loan was 4 percent. That shows what good, tough management can do.

When Lyndon Johnson and John Kennedy were in the White House, they stayed eight years. They were looked on as spendthrifts by the Republicans. They may have passed some social programs that weren't needed— they're being phased out. Let's look at the record. When Nixon went in the White House, he inherited a balanced budget. The unemployment rate was 3.3 percent and the average inflation rate was down to 2 percent. At least the American people knew that we had Presidents in the White House who cared about us as human beings and not just statistics. We need once more to have a President that cares about you and next January the 20th, that's what you're going to have. [applause]

I began my campaign for President 22 months ago—almost exactly—the 20th day of January, 1975. When I started campaigning for President, I was just like you. I didn't hold public office, I didn't have much money, I didn't have a nationwide campaign organization. Very few people knew who I was. I doubt if one in a thousand of you had ever heard my name. I come from a small town, 683 people ...

Let me say one other thing to you. A few votes [from] different kinds of Americans on election day can make a lot of difference. In 1960, the difference on election day was 0.2 percent. And had just a few thousand people voted differently, or not gone to the polls, we would not have had John Kennedy as our President, we would have had Richard Nixon eight yean earlier.

Again in 1968 we had this demonstrated not very well. Had just one person per precinct voted for Hubert Humphrey, we would never have had Richard Nixon in the White House at all.

So three more campaign days will bring us to a great decision. In the history of our country we've had some elections that were very important to us: 1932, when Roosevelt beat Hoover; in 1948, when Harry Truman was elected over Thomas Dewey; in 1960 when John Kennedy whipped Richard Nixon. [The year] 1976 is another time of test.

I see an America of greatness. I see an America where our standard is one of excellence. I see an America of hope and not despair, of courage and not fear.

I see an America of unity and not division. I see an America of idealism and not crooked politicians. I see an America of justice and not discrimination. I see an America of work and not welfare. I see an America where the families are strengthened and where we have within us courage and patriotism and pride in our nation.

I see an America that can uphold, if the American people combine our efforts, the majesty of our Constitution and the common decency of our people.

We have within us strength, if we are willing to tap that strength.

Now I'm running for President, I don't intend to lose. But it's just as much your country as it is mine. And I'd like for you to remember this next four days that if there are difficult questions that you'd like to see answered, if we've made mistakes in the past that you would never like to see made again, if you would never like to see our government bring on us the embarrassment or shame, if you would like to have a foreign policy that represents the character and the high moral standards and the common sense and sound judgment of the American people, if there are hopes or dreams in your own lives that you'd like to see realized for you or your children, I hope that this next four days that you will make a special effort. As free people, proud of yourselves and proud of your nation, even make a sacrificial effort, put in two or three or more hours every day to get your neighbors and your friends and your relatives to go to the polls on November 2.

How many of you believe it's time for a change in the White House? [applause]

Well, I don't know all the answers, and I know it's going to be tough to clean up the mess in Washington. And it's going to take a great deal of cooperation between you and me, between the President and the Congress, between the President and governors, and mayors and others, to put our people back to work, to heal our wounds, to bind ourselves together and approach the future with confidence.

But if you'll help me on November the 2nd, I'll help you on January the 20th and the next four years, to make our nation great once again. Is that a deal? [applause] Thank you very much.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at a Shopping Center Rally in St. Louis, Missouri Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347591

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