Gerald R. Ford photo

Remarks at the International Council of Shopping Centers Convention in Las Vegas

May 24, 1976

Attorney General Bob List, Frank Orrico, Sylvan Cohen, members and guests of the International Council of Shopping Centers:

It's a great privilege and a very high honor for me to have the opportunity of addressing the International Council of Shopping Centers, and I'm deeply grateful for your very cordial and warm welcome.

As much as I am in favor of a healthy and prosperous American automobile industry, with some temerity I suggest that you not trade in a reliable Ford in 1976 for a flashier model. [Laughter]

George Washington once wrote a few years ago, "Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive." Like America, that advice is about 200 years old, but it's still pretty good advice in 1976.

First, let me compliment all of you on the phenomenal progress your industry has made over the years. You have grown from some 75 shopping centers in 1949 to more than 16,000 in 1976. You've shared in America's rising postwar prosperity, and you have filled a very major need for America's growing suburban population.

Twenty-one months ago, America's prosperity and economic strength were threatened by a chilling combination of recession and inflation. Some of America's leading economists and politicians thought it best to impose wage and price controls to deal with America's economic problems. Others insisted that we spend massive amounts of Federal dollars to stimulate the economy, despite the serious danger of feeding an already tragic inflation.

I decided that the way to real recovery and enduring prosperity in America was not through government quick fixes. It has never worked, and it won't work. I had faith that America would work its way out of its economic difficulties, rather than trying to spend its way out.

I proposed and the Congress accepted a major tax cut for individuals and tax incentives for business expansion and job production so that we could get the great free enterprise system in America working at full speed again. We also began a comprehensive effort to restore the confidence of the American people, a confidence in themselves, in their government, in their future. This effort was absolutely essential to restoring economic confidence of the consumer, a very key element in our economic recovery.

I think the record shows that these policies have been very successful. America today is in the midst of a strong and surging economic recovery, and I compliment the American people for their wisdom, their forthrightness, and their success.

The real gross national product rose during the first quarter of this year at an annual rate of 8.5 percent--far, far above the most optimistic predictions of a few months ago, in dollars and cents. That means the value of America's output of goods and services rose at an annual rate of almost $200 billion, and even here in Las Vegas, that's not a bad jackpot. [Laughter]

The amount of money people have to spend after taxes and other deductions are taken from their paychecks, what the economists call real spendable income, has increased by $100 billion in the past year. Farm income is at an all-time high, and so is farm production.

Total retail sales are up more than 14 percent. Automobile sales are up 34 percent over a year ago. Food sales are up more than 7 percent. General merchandise is up 12 percent. The prime rate of interest has been reduced from 12 percent, when I became President, to 6 3/4 percent today.

Since the bottom of the recession, almost exactly a year ago, we have gained 3,300,000 more jobs and more than 710,000 more jobs in the last month alone. But the most encouraging statistic is more Americans--87,400,000--are on the job today, more than ever before in the history of the United States.

Considering where we started about 12 months ago when the unemployment rate was nearly 9 percent, I think that's a very good comeback by any standard. And, after months and months of higher unemployment and mounting fear, America today is getting back to work. Faith in the future has been totally restored in our great country.

It's perfectly obvious we're going in the right direction, but I will not be satisfied until every American who wants a job can find a job in America. But let me assure you, we will not achieve full employment by letting the Federal Government plan and control our national economy. Just over a week ago, I proposed to the Congress a very broad and comprehensive 4-year agenda for action in reform in every major segment of our economy as far as the Federal Government is concerned. This would include, for example, EPA, OSHA, plus all of the other more or less traditional regulatory agencies.

This, if the Congress will cooperate, will give to us an opportunity to say that unless the Congress acts on what we propose in regulatory reform--if they don't act in 9 months--what the President recommends will become the law of the land. And this is the only way that I know, from the 25 years of being a part of and dealing with the Congress, that we can get them to move in the right direction. And I ask for your help.

My administration has also undertaken some of the most fundamental reforms of Government regulations and reporting requirements in this country's history. I was amazed. In the past, small business in America spent $18 billion every year just to comply with Government reporting requirements. Most of the merchants in American shopping centers are small business men and women, and it's time that they got back to working for their customers instead of working for the Government. To put it another way, it's time the Government minded its own business for a while and let you run yours.

More government will not solve America's economic problems. The answer is less government control, less wasteful government spending, and lower taxes for middle-income Americans.

I have proposed to the Congress that we cut Federal income taxes by $10 billion on July 1 of this year and, particularly, to increase the personal exemption from $750 per person to $1,000 per person. My proposal also calls for the enactment of a special accelerated depreciation allowance for new plants and new equipment to make permanent the increase in the investment tax credit and to retain the $50,000 corporate surcharge exemption.

I want the American people to keep more of the money that they have worked so hard to earn. I want them to spend it the way they want to spend it--at the shopping center, for their children's education, for whatever they need, instead of paying more and more for government programs that we don't need.

As some of you may know from my struggles with the Congress, I have vetoed 49 bills sent to me by the House and the Senate over the last 21 months. Responsible Members of the Congress sustained 42 of those vetoes, and those vetoes which were sustained saved the American taxpayer $13 billion.

May I add a foot

Note: The President spoke at 12:17 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the MGM Grand Hotel. In his opening remarks, he referred to Robert List, Nevada State attorney general, and Frank A. Orrico, president, and Sylvan M. Cohen, president-elect, International Council of Shopping Centers.

Gerald R. Ford, Remarks at the International Council of Shopping Centers Convention in Las Vegas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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