Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks on Signing Into Law the Full Employment and Comprehensive Employment and Training Act Bills

October 27, 1978

THE PRESIDENT. I see a lot of smiling faces. [Laughter]

With the signing of this Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978, this Nation is putting its long-term economic goal of full employment with stable prices into law. This act requires that the Congress and the President and the Federal Reserve Board cooperate in probably an unprecedented way in indicating each year the policies that will be followed to achieve these goals.

This was the last major piece of legislation among many important acts that bore the name of a great and compassionate American, Hubert Humphrey.

I think everyone agrees that he's with us in spirit. He knew how destructive unemployment was to our Nation and to individual American citizens who could not find a way to utilize the talent that God had given them. He knew how important it was to the social and economic fabric of our Nation to have people employed. He dreamed of the day when everyone who wanted a job could find a job.

Congressman Gus Hawkins, who coauthored this legislation, from its very inception continued in an effective and a yeoman's way to guide the leadership in the House to pass this legislation. And then, of course, he was joined with a very effective ally in the Senate, Muriel Humphrey. And we derived success because of their great work.

I want to express my thanks to the Full Employment Action Council, which was ably chaired by Coretta King, and also to the Congressional Black Caucus, under the leadership of Parren Mitchell, to House Speaker Tip O'Neill, and to Senate Majority Leader Bob Byrd, whose unflagging support and hard work in the final few hours of the legislative session translated these two legislative proposals into the bills which I am about to sign. And I would also like to thank Leon Keyserling, whose work in drafting this legislation and his persistence in seeing it through to a successful conclusion helped to make this fine day possible— [applause] —go ahead and applaud for them all.

The unemployment rate in our country was 8 percent on Election Day in 1976. And one of my first actions as President, working with Senator Humphrey and others, was to propose legislation to put Americans back to work.

A part of that legislation created the largest public service jobs program and the largest training program, combined, in the history of our country since the New Deal days of the Great Depression. The results have been dramatic. Unemployment has been reduced 25 percent, more than 6 1/2 million new jobs have been created, a record not matched in so short a period of time in the 200-year history of our country, even during wartime. Over 1 1/2 million Americans have been taken off the unemployment rolls.

I'm also signing today the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act Amendments of 1978, because the programs in it provide major tools in our effort to reach the unemployment goals of the Humphrey-Hawkins bill by 1983.

I'm pleased that the Congress has passed our recommendations to extend CETA and more sharply to target its programs to those who are most in need of help.

The Congress also gave the Secretary of Labor, Ray Marshall, the authority that we requested to investigate and to deal effectively with some examples of fraud and abuse which have in the past occurred in the public jobs programs. These few unscrupulous people who would use these programs as political plums or for personal gain deserve condemnation and punishment. They are a threat to the opportunities of people who have been unable fully to participate in our economy. We intend to see that such abuses are ended.

My administration is committed to attacking the specter of youth unemployment, which threatens to sap the will and waste the potential of a sizable portion of an entire generation of Americans. Extending the youth employment and demonstration projects act is critical to the success of this effort.

Our targeted tax credit proposal, approved as part of the tax bill, would also help millions of young people find employment in the private sector of our economy. I'm particularly proud that Congress approved this and the Private Sector Initiative program. We will establish now private industry councils throughout our Nation, letting labor, business, community leaders, government leaders at all levels form a full partnership to make our CETA program more effective even than it has been in the past.

Hubert Humphrey said, and I'd like to quote him, "A Humphrey-Hawkins bill is a first step, but an indispensable one, toward an era of full employment, steady economic growth, and reasonable price stability. It is no panacea. It is no miracle cure, but with it, national economic policy will be required to be directed toward achieving specific, measurable economic goals."

Although attaining the unemployment and the inflation goals of this bill will be very difficult, we will do our best to reach them. The CETA legislation, with its attack on structural unemployment, is a key to that effort. But I must warn you that our fight against inflation must succeed if we are to maintain the steady economic growth necessary to avoid an increase in unemployment and to achieve the goals in the Humphrey-Hawkins bill.

Success in fighting inflation is critical to success in fighting unemployment. In the future, we can see from this bill that all Americans, not any particular kind of American, will be benefited. There will be required 2-year programs and 5-year programs expressing from the point of view of myself, my entire administration, the Congress, the Federal Reserve, and the private sector, specific goals to achieve in employment, inflation, unemployment, production, real income of Americans, productivity, how much each American worker can produce, price levels, balanced growth, a downward trend in the Federal share of the GNP spent, improving our trade balance, and working toward a balanced budget.

Those are the requirements in this bill, the elements that any President would want to assess and in which a President and the Congress needs the utmost cooperation from every other element of American society.

The Federal Reserve Board will have to make now semiannual written reports to the Congress specifying its own contribution-for controlling inflation, yes, but to meeting the other goals as well.

I'm very grateful that those assembled behind me on this stage and in front of me in this audience have been so successful in bringing to a conclusion this long struggle to provide for our Nation an inspiration, a motivation, and a mechanism by which we can have in the future both full employment and balanced growth for our great country.

It's with a great pleasure now that I sign both these bills into law, and then I would like to call on a few carefully selected people to make brief remarks. [Laughter]

[At this point, the President signed the bills.]

I would like to ask Muriel Humphrey to say a word, if she would.

SENATOR HUMPHREY. Well, I have a very full heart today, and it's a lot of emotion for me—a little difficult for me to speak. I see many friends, wonderful people in the audience here, on stage as well as in the audience, who have given hours, years of work towards attaining this bill. I'm very, very proud to have been a part of the success that we have obtained for this bill.

Hubert, I think, over the years, felt it was a very, very great way, it was an ideal and a goal that he hoped could be accomplished. And I think now we're seeing the result of it. Hubert Humphrey had a good many times been involved in different bills that we know about—the equal rights bills and some very important ones—but most of the time, he gave over the honor to someone else to have his name on those bills. I think that the Humphrey-Hawkins bill is the only bill that has the distinction of having his name, and I must say I thank everyone. I see so many different ones that I want to say thank you to, I don't dare to mention the names- [laughter] —especially the President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.

Now I'd like to call on Gus Hawkins.

REPRESENTATIVE HAWKINS. Mr. President, and friends— [applause] —the same to you, thanks.

I'm sure that Hubert Humphrey would have enjoyed the exuberance of this occasion, would have had a very wonderful speech to say. It's been such a long struggle that some of us have given out, I think, in talking. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. He would not have been one of those. [Laughter]

REPRESENTATIVE HAWKINS. I'm quite sure that as I supported your energy program and also looked at the economies in the White House, I was a little afraid today that you had extended this economy to these pens. I'm very pleased to know that you have not done that. [Laughter]

I'm quite sure that when time is settled and individuals have had an opportunity to read the Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act, even our critics, they will begin to agree with some of us that it really is a modern-day Magna Carta of economic rights, not between the people and an unwise ruler, but a contract between the people and a magnificent President who gave us the assistance needed to get the bill through.

And I'm quite sure that none of us is so naive as to believe that this is the end. It is only a beginning. The bill must be implemented. It is significant today, Mr. President, that you're signing also the CETA bill, which begins the implementation of the full employment act. Those who have said that the full employment bill is only a symbol, that it has no program, no money, or practically nothing else in it, I think will be delighted to know, if not excited, that at least in the beginning of the implementation of the full employment act, this, the first bill-the first step, as Hubert Humphrey would have said—has certainly a program. It provides, directly, jobs, more than 600,000 directly, and that it has more than $11 billion in it. Now, if that isn't money, then I'm quite sure it may disturb even you and your economy program, Mr. President.

So, I think we're on the way. Those that also would say we are raising the expectation of people, well, I can only say that I hope that we are. I hope that we are keeping alive the hopes of millions of Americans who believe that in a meaningful job at decent wages, that that is something which America can afford to give to them. And I hope that we forever keep that hope alive, that expectation. To me, that is not asking for too much.

THE PRESIDENT. Congressman Hawkins just told me that he and Senator Humphrey began work on this bill in 1971. And it's been a long and difficult struggle, and the bill is filled with great and important substance. If it wasn't, the struggle would not have been so great, and so many people would not have been sweating, now that they've read what's in the bill. [Laughter]

It's going to put a great responsibility on me as President, on every member of my Cabinet, on the Federal Reserve Board, on. every Member of the Congress, on labor, business, to carry out the mandates of this legislation.

It is very important and, I think, will transform not only the employment opportunities and growth but the basic planning mechanism by which the economic future of our Nation can be assessed, goals can be set, and mechanisms to reach those goals can be made possible.

It's very important legislation, and I thank Gus Hawkins and Senator Humphrey, both Senators Humphrey, for this work.

I'd like to call now on Coretta King, who was the first one to talk to me about this legislation when I was still Governor of Georgia. [Laughter]

MRS. KING. This is indeed a great historical occasion, perhaps as significant as the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Perhaps in the future, history will record that it may be even more significant, Mr. President, because I think it deals with an issue on a basic human right that's the most basic of all human rights, the right to a job. And that is a central priority now of our economic policy with the signing of this act into law today.

I want to express my appreciation to all of those persons in the Full Employment Action Council, Full Employment Committee, the National Committee for Full Employment, as started 4 years ago in a coalition effort working for a full-employment economy. Gus Hawkins was there that day, Leon Keyserling was there that day, and a number of other people who are in this audience.

I am representing my cochairperson, Murray Finley of Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers, who could not be here. And with me, Irving Bluestone of the United Auto Workers and Jay Clayman of IDUD. In the audience are other members of our coalition representing the Urban League, the NAACP—Mr. Hooks was supposed to have been up on the platform, I believe—who are all members of the 84 organizations in the coalition, including Dr. Howard Spragg of the National Council of Churches.

As President Carter said in 1974, I called him and he was still Governor, and asked him if he would join our committee. And he asked if I would send the material, and later on, he signed his card as a member of the National Committee for Full Employment. Now, we'd selected only one Governor, and we very carefully selected him. [Laughter] I don't know; maybe we were prophetic, because here he is today as the President who signs this legislation and makes it a law.

I want to express my appreciation on behalf of the coalition to both authors of the bill. I think of Senator Muriel along with Senator Hubert Humphrey—who could not be here today, but is with us in spirit—and Muriel has worked untiringly. And Gus Hawkins, who has worked very closely with us, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the majority leader in the Senate and in the House, and all of the persons who have worked untiringly-this is a unique coalition, and, Mr. President, we are going to stay in business to help with the implementation of this thing.

And also, I would like to say that this bill is a tribute, or this law now, this act, is a tribute to the dedication of Senator Humphrey and Gus Hawkins and both Senators, but it's also a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., because in 1968, he started a crusade calling for a job and income for all people who needed a job. He did not live to carry out that campaign, and so in 1974, we felt that we had an obligation, a mandate, to pick it up and to carry it forward. And now today, I am sure Martin Luther King, Jr., is with us in spirit, because his concern was that all people in our society would be able to share equally in the fruits of this great Nation.

Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. All the members of my Cabinet, of course, will join in the carrying out of the mandates of this bill, but I'd like to call on Ray Marshall, Secretary of Labor, to represent the Cabinet and to say just a closing word.

SECRETARY MARSHALL. Mr. President, this act represents a real victory, I think, for the American people. It would be very difficult to think of a problem that this country has that would not be materially improved by full employment. And I think that either in material terms, in terms of the lost output that the country suffers as a result of unemployment, or in terms of the human suffering that goes with unemployment, no other problem could parallel it. We've done a lot of talking about full employment for the last 30 years, and now we have committed ourselves to achieving it.

So, I think it's a great day. I think that—I heard that this was the largest signing of any bill that we had had in the White House, and I think that indicates the feeling that people have. But it also indicates the number of people who were involved in making this program successful. I'm proud to have had a part in it and to be Secretary of Labor at the time that it gets signed. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank all of you.

Note: The President spoke at 2:03 p.m. at the ceremony in the East Room at the White House.

As enacted, H.R. 50, the Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978, is Public Law 95-523, and S. 2570, the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act Amendments of 1978, is Public Law 95-524, both approved October 27.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks on Signing Into Law the Full Employment and Comprehensive Employment and Training Act Bills Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243603

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