St. Louis, Missouri Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Townhall Meeting.
THE PRESIDENT. Senator Tom Eagleton, Governor Teasdale, Congressman Bob Young, Congressman Harold Volkmer, Chancellor Arnold Grobman, Mayor James Conway, ladies and gentlemen:
It's a great pleasure to be with you in this beautiful city, so dynamic and so friendly. I'm always glad to come and feel and experience the hospitality of the St. Louis area, but I particularly wanted to visit the home of that outstanding soccer team, the Rivermen, and also, of course, the Riverwomen, who do such a good job in this modern day of full equality. So, here I am, and I've come here to talk with you about our choices in one of the most crucial elections in recent times.
Three weeks from tomorrow the American people will choose not just between two Presidential candidates, not just between two major political parties, but between two futures, two very different and significant futures that will affect the life of everyone in this audience and those you love and throughout this country.
I feel confident that the American people will make the right choice. I know that they, like the people of Missouri, are builders. The same spirit that built the strong industries and communities of this area is building a new future now for America. We are already building a new energy base for this country. We've conserved energy dramatically. Every day this year, in 1980, we are importing 2 million barrels of oil less from foreign countries than we did the first year I was in office. Thanks to you, because you've seen the challenge and, as has been the character of America through thick and thin, through difficult times, through challenges, through troubled times, you've never failed to respond; we've also not only conserved energy, but coast to coast we're developing new energy resources as never before in our history. This year, in the United States, we'll drill more oil and gas wells than any year in history, and this year in the United States we'll produce more coal, American coal, than any year in history.
What we've done on energy under the most difficult possible circumstances where OPEC oil prices more than doubled in one year, 1979, is now giving us a base on which we can build a new industrial program for the entire country. This program which I've already unleashed and which will be put into effect next year, will create a million additional new jobs in the next 2 years in growing and competitive industries.
The American worker is still the most productive on Earth, producing more goods and services in a year than workers in any country on Earth. But a lot of our industries have become old. They need remodeling. We need to stay on the forefront, on the cutting edge of progress. And you can't ask workers to continue to be the most productive on Earth unless they've got new tools and new factories with which to do it.
In recent weeks, as President, I've had a chance to go around this country and visit sites to see what revitalization is already going on. I visited workers in a modern textile mill in South Carolina, and almost unbelievably in the last 2 years, America has increased textile exports by over $2 billion. And we, at the same time, have cut down imports, because now we can be competitive, even with well-paid workers, in that very important element of American life.
I've been to a new steelmill in Perth Areboy, New Jersey, the most modern steelmill in the world. There the workers produce more steel per year than in any steelmill on Earth. Half of their total production, made from scrap metal that used to go overseas, is being sold to the People's Republic of China. The workers in that factory can now produce steel and ship it halfway around the world and sell it cheaper to the people of China than the same steel can be produced in Japan and shipped a few hundred miles.
And I've seen a major grain elevator on the west coast of our country—growing by leaps and bounds in exports to the Far East, because now we've got a billion new friends that we never had before in the People's Republic of China. And at the same time we've kept our friendship and our trade with the people on Taiwan.
It's extremely important for an American farmer to be productive, to have storage on his farm or her farm so that you can market grain and other products when prices are good, so prices don't fluctuate wildly and rob the housewife, the homeowners each time the markets change.
We now have set records since I've been in office: the highest gross income in history for American farmers, the highest net income in history for American farmers. In 1977 we set a world's record on agricultural exports. In 1978 we broke that record. In 1979 we broke it again. In 1980 we increased American exports of farm products $8 billion, and this year $40 billion worth of American farm products are going overseas and bringing those good dollars back home where they belong. That's what we're doing.
And just a few hours ago I was in the southern part of Illinois, near Marion, in a mine 600 feet deep, one of the most modern coal mines on Earth. This year, as I said, we're producing more coal than we've ever produced before, and we can export as much coal as we can mine, ship to seaports, and load on ships. My goal is in the near future as a major energy source on Earth to replace OPEC oil with American coal. That's what we can do.
And finally, let me point out to you that I've also been in some excellent automobile assembly plants in Michigan, where the most modern, most durable, most safe, and fuel-efficient cars on Earth are now being built. American cars can match any built anywhere, and I just ask you, as Americans, the next time you get ready to change cars and buy a new model, give those new American cars and those new American automobile workers a chance.
The future of this country is extremely bright, but the brightest part of all is that ours is a nation not only of economic but military strength. We're a nation whose military strength is second to none, and that means that it's possible for us to stay at peace. I thank God that for the last 3 1/2 years this Nation has stayed at peace, and I pray God that when I finally go out of the Oval Office, we'll still be at peace.
And now I'd like to spend the next 51 minutes answering your questions about anything on your mind. I'll do the best I can. Don't know all the answers, but I'll try.
I think the first one's over here.
THE NATION'S STRENGTHS
Q. I'm Thelma Jean Coutt, and I live in University City, Missouri. Mr. President, why are you telling us you can cure the Nation's woes in the next 4 years when it has gone down so far in the first 4 years of your administration?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't claim to have all the magic answers, and I don't think there are any simple or easy answers to the complex economic problems that we face. What we have to remember is that this country has been blessed by God with tremendous human and natural resources. All the OPEC Arab countries put together, for instance, have 6 percent of the world's energy reserves—6 percent. We've got 24 percent. We've just now put into effect a new energy policy, and we've made tremendous progress in cutting down the vulnerability that I inherited when I went in the Oval Office.
You probably remember, Thelma Jean, a couple of years ago or more when we lost, the whole world lost, about 4 million barrels of oil per day with the Iranian revolution. You remember there were gas lines and a lot of despair and skyrocketing prices. Recently the Iran-Iraq war erupted and we again lost about 4 million barrels of oil per day. No gas lines. No despair. Stable prices. The reason is that our Nation was prepared. When I came into office we had a very despairing outlook on farm income, agriculture, exports—in the pits. We did have very low net and gross income. I've already given you the statistics. I won't repeat it. But we've made good progress now.
In addition, we were very high in unemployment. In the last 3 1/2 years we have added a net increase of 8 1/2 million new jobs in America, never before done in any President's term, in war or peace. We've got a long way to go.
I could stand here and give you all the statistics about great things that have been done, but let me point this out: We face very serious challenges. The point is that we have now taken steps, sometimes with tremendous political difficulty, to put into effect a new energy policy and to prepare America for the future by saving energy in this country and producing more American energy. I think in the future it's going to be a lot better.
But I don't want to mislead you. America has got to be ready to face unforeseen challenges, tests of our strength, trade competition, and we have got to be prepared to sacrifice on occasion.
We've never had it easy in this country; we've never asked for the easy way out. But one final thing I'd like to say is this: We've got it better now than many people realize.
I'm old enough to have gone through the Second World War, the Great Depression. I grew up then. I've seen the divisiveness of the Vietnam war and the embarrassment of Watergate and some here might be old enough to have gone through the First World War. Our country has faced those challenges, much more serious than anything we face now, successfully. We have never failed in this country, no matter how complicated the question, to find the right answer.
We have never failed, no matter how difficult the problem, to find a solution. We have never failed, no matter how high the obstacle, to find a way over it, if this country was united and confident. And that's why I believe that with the full support of the American people, a united nation, blessed by God with great resources, we'll find a better future even than we have. We've got a darn good present in this country.
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN
Q. Mr. President, my name is Lawrence Connor from St. Louis City. I read recently where one Department, Health and Human Services, has more people in it than the United States military, and its budget exceeds that of many foreign countries, and this bothers me very much. Could you please tell me what specific actions, if any, you would take during the next administration to reduce the growing influence of the Federal bureaucracy and to help get some government off our backs?
THE PRESIDENT. I'll try to answer that. You're right. Health and Human Services has the third largest budget in the world, second only to the U.S. Government and to the Soviet Union. The reason for that is, primarily, the enormous amount of money handled by social security, where people pay in social security taxes all their lives and when they are at the retirement age, HHS, or Health and Human Services Department, handles that money in a very efficient and humane and proper way and channels it back to people that have paid it in for security when they retire.
I believe this Department now is as efficient as its ever been. We had a very confused Department up until about a year or so ago with health and welfare and education in the same Department. We've taken education out now, and the reason we've done that is so that education can stand on its own so that local people, State officials, school board members, parents, when they have a problem with the schools that might wind up in the courts will now know one Cabinet officer to go to to get an answer to a question or try to resolve a problem before the Federal courts stick their nose in local peoples' business.
In the entire Federal Government, outside of the military, we've had substantial growth in the population of our country and in people served, with cancer research, better health services, immunization programs for little children, and the social security, SSI, Meals on Wheels for the elderly, that sort of program. We have 44,000 fewer Federal employees on a fulltime basis now than we had the day I came in office, in spite of the increase in services provided because of a growing population and growing demands and so forth. I think this trend can continue. I'm determined to make sure we get the Government's nose out of peoples' affairs and also hold down the bureaucracy and give better efficiency, that is, better services.
One other point I'd like to make, not relating to HHS specifically: My philosophy is probably the same as yours. I think the less government you have involved in peoples' lives in the free enterprise system the better off we are. We've tried to do some unprecedented things and had good success. We have deregulated—first time—the airline industry. We have deregulated for the first time the railroad industry. We have deregulated for the first time the trucking industry. We have deregulated for the first time financial institutions, banks, and so forth, and we are now working on a deregulation of the communications industry. We have also deregulated over a phased period of time the energy industry to make sure that we have more American energy produced to cut down our dependence on foreign oil.
So, we are withdrawing the Government from involvement in the free enterprise system and also the private lives of American citizens, let the free enterprise system work the way it ought to be with maximum competition, maximum services, and a minimum of inflation and intrusion into the private lives of Americans. We're going to keep the rate of Federal employment going down steadily as we can, continue to increase the efficiency of government as we have this first 3 1/2 years.
Q. Mr. President, I would like to know, when you go in a store you find imported goods and you don't find American-made goods.
THE PRESIDENT. And you want to know why?
THE PRESIDENT. What's your name?
Q. Erin O'Neill.
THE PRESIDENT. What's your first name?
THE PRESIDENT. Erin?
THE PRESIDENT. Beautiful name.
Q. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. Erin, it's very important for us not to build a wall around our country and isolate ourselves from the rest of the world, because we have to buy things from foreign countries and also produce things in this country with American workers and have other people in foreign nations buy things from us. If we say to a foreign nation, we won't buy any of your goods—we won't buy any of your bauxite to make aluminum, we won't buy any of your chromium to help make better steel, we won't buy any of your raw materials with which we can use to make our own products—then they would say in return, we won't buy any American goods, and we'll put your workers out of work.
It's much better also for us to have friends in those foreign countries. Some of those countries are struggling just to stay alive, economically. They are poor countries. Quite often they only have one product that they can export—one raw material like the ones I just mentioned, chromium or molybdenum. Sometimes they have sugar, sometimes they might have coconuts, sometimes they might have coffee, and if we don't buy anything from them, then their children go hungry, their parents can't find jobs. The products that they grow on their farms can't find a market.
So, the best way you can have competition and at the same time have low prices and at the same time have a broad range of goods to buy, it's better for us to sell our products overseas and for those overseas countries to sell products to us.
Now, if you or your parents don't want to buy foreign goods, you don't have to. You know, you can just say, "I don't want to buy anything but goods that are made in America," and that's your privilege. And our country could get along and maybe the other countries could survive as well. That's the good thing about a democracy. We've got such a broad range of products made in our Nation that you can buy American goods, if you want to-like automobiles.
I just mentioned a while ago, it would suit me fine if Americans would decide now and in the future to buy more American cars. But a year ago, foreign cars-like those made in Japan and Germany and Sweden and other places, because their gasoline has always been so high priced—were smaller, and they got more miles per gallon, and Americans were still manufacturing large cars that use a lot of gasoline, because our gas had always been so cheap. Now, however, American manufacturers see that American buyers want the small and efficient cars, right? So, they're making the kind of cars that Americans want.
So, international trade lets us sell our products and, at the same time, gives us competition. But if you don't want to buy foreign goods, you don't have to.
This State of yours, Missouri, is a tremendous agricultural producing State. We sell $40 billion worth of American agricultural products overseas. If we didn't buy some goods from overseas, the people wouldn't buy our grain and a lot of Missouri farmers couldn't produce corn and soybeans and rice and other things that they export, because nobody would buy them.
So, it's better to trade back and forth. Use your own judgment though about whether you want to buy foreign goods or American goods. If I had a choice, I'd buy American goods, all things being equal.
Q. Good evening, Mr. President. Welcome to St. Louis. My name is Louise Whittenburg, and I'm from Florissant, Missouri. By the way, you're not only in the home of good soccer country, you're 10 miles away from the school district of our National Teacher of the Year, Beverly Bimes.
Could you please create what we in education call a behavioral objective, that is, one: State a specific economic problem that you wanted to address yourself to 4 years ago. Two: List the steps you took to remediate that problem. And three: Tell what changes you have observed which you think indicate you have been successful.
THE PRESIDENT. Okay. Louise, I think the most important one that I faced when I was elected President was energy. And since I've already covered it fairly well, I'll be extremely brief.
We did not have any energy policy in this country. We had had an enormous increase in the amount of oil we imported from foreign countries before I became President. It had been growing by leaps and bounds each year. I decided that we would face that problem head-on.
So, I made a speech, a fireside chat to all the American people in April of 1977. That same night I made a speech to the Congress of the United States and spelled out an energy program for our country. It was not popular then. I pointed out in my radio-TV talk that my public opinion polls would go down 15 percent because of this issue. It went down a lot more than that, I might say.
But the Congress began to address it, and as the Congress Members here know, Tom Eagleton and the other Members of the House, it took us 3 solid years to overcome the tremendous influence of the oil companies on Capitol Hill in Washington, because prior to that time, the consumers had not had a voice in energy that could equal the tremendous influence of the American oil companies. But we've built up that interest and that commitment over a period of months until finally, by a thread—one vote in the House, one vote in the Senate—we built a program to conserve energy and to produce more American energy.
We've finally this year passed the windfall profits tax on the oil companies, on the unearned income of the oil companies. That money can be used now to produce synthetic fuels, to insulate homes, to encourage research and development, to produce solar power, to conserve energy, all these things can be done in the future plus improving our rapid transit systems and helping the poor families, particularly elderly, to pay their higher fuel bills as the price of OPEC oil goes up.
All that has now resulted in a tremendous reduction, for the first time, in how much oil we import, because when we imported oil we were importing inflation and also unemployment. It was a very difficult battle, perhaps the most complicated issue which the Congress has ever faced in the history of our country.
Not only have we reduced imports, but we've done it by improving the production of American energy, and, as I said earlier, this year, strangely enough, will be the highest production of coal and also the highest number of oil and gas wells drilled. And in the next 15 years it will be completely conceivable to triple the amount of coal that we produce in this country.
I think Americans are living a better life by having their homes better insulated, by having automobiles more efficient, by having the factories produce more goods with less consumption of energy. So, that's the kind of complicated goal that I set for myself and this Nation. It was actually ridiculed at first. You remember I said it was the moral equivalent of war, and there were a lot of cartoons drawn and fun made of the seriousness of it. That is the domestic side.
One other sentence: We've also restored a major part of our Nation's strategic security, because in the past when we were overly dependent on Persian Gulf oil, by squeezing down on the supply to us they could almost bring us to our knees economically. Now they can't do it. Now we are much more secure, because we've taken these steps. That's a typical example that you asked for.
Q. My name is Sharon Daniels, and I'm from St. Louis. Okay. Mr. President, since the Cubans entering the U.S. will undoubtedly be minorities in our society, what will be your economic plan to keep these minorities from adding to the already large number of people on welfare and in the unemployment lines?
THE PRESIDENT. Did you say the Cuban refugees?
THE PRESIDENT. What's your first name?
THE PRESIDENT. Sharon?
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. Sharon, this has probably been my most serious human problem since I've been President. As you know, throughout the world now literally millions and millions of people are trying to escape totalitarian governments and find freedom. This is going on in Cambodia, where the Vietnamese have invaded. It's going on in Afghanistan, where the Soviet Union has invaded. It's going on in Ethiopia, where people are trying to seek a life of freedom, and in other countries around the world. Some people are escaping extreme poverty, like is the case in Haiti, and of course, in Cuba the Castro regime has imposed on its people a loss of freedom and also poverty at the same time.
We've got laws on the books that the Congress has passed to deal with refugees in an orderly fashion. The presumption has been that a refugee, before they come to our country, would be screened somewhere else to see if they were qualified to come to our Nation and brought in in a very orderly and predictable way.
All of a sudden early this spring Fidel Castro opened up Mariel Harbor on the northern coast of Cuba and said that people that want to leave could leave. A lot of Cuban families who live in our Nation paid boats to go down and haul those people to our country. Along with their relatives Castro also sent some—not many, but some—criminals and some people who had mental problems. We were getting about 3,000 a day and trying to handle them as best we could. The people of Florida were angry. I had to put some of those refugees in camps in Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. Those people were angry.
But at the same time I remembered-and you're not going to like this, some of you—I remembered that they are human beings. They were trying to escape communism. They were looking for freedom, to live a life as they chose. They wanted to worship God and escape from a Communist, atheistic nation.
I also remembered that my parents came to this country looking for a better life, looking for the freedom to worship. And every time a wave of immigrants has come to our country—whether they are from southern Europe—Italians, Greeks, and so forth—or whether they are Jews from the Soviet Union or whether they were people from Ireland, who came here during the potato famine—no matter when they came, the people that were already here had a tendency to say, "We've got it made now in this great country. Let's don't let any more of those immigrants come in."
Our country has been a nation of immigrants, a nation of refugees. We have been strengthened by it, not weakened by it. And every time people have come here with a different color skin or a different kind of language or religious habits, there's been a general tendency to say, well, they're going to create a real problem. But every time our country has gotten stronger and better.
Now we've got 125,000 Cubans that have come in here. There are none coming in now. We cut off the flow. I put Coast Guard boats and Navy boats down there, because I'm sworn on my oath to uphold the laws of the country and to let people come in here in accordance with the quota system after they've been screened. So, we stopped the flow. But the ones that are already here, we're trying to deal with them as human beings that we care about. We are placing them in communities that want them and where jobs are available, where the unemployment rate is relatively low. And we're placing them with families, quite often who are their own relatives.
We've already put into communities about 90 to 95 percent of them; we've got a few left. All of them now are in Arkansas, and eventually by the end of this year, they'll all be placed. That's 125,000 out of 230 million. They're not going to hurt our country. But we're giving them a new life, and I predict to you, that although this has not been an easy thing for me politically or for the people of Florida to accommodate, now I am very proud that our country has once again proven that we've not lost the ideals and the human beliefs and the religious beliefs and the generosity that has made this country great.
Our country's not going to be hurt. It's going to be helped.
Q. Mr. President—
THE PRESIDENT. I might add one point. I'm going to do everything I can to enforce the American immigration laws. But don't be disturbed, because, as I said in closing when you were applauding, our country has not been hurt by this episode; I think it's been helped. Not only here, but people around the world know that America has not changed. It still has every element of greatness.
PROGRAMS FOR THE ELDERLY AND
Q. Mr. President, my name is Reverend Quinton Ross, and I live in Florissant, Missouri. My question is: There are many elderly and handicapped in our Nation, and I need to know, are there any programs that will address the issue of the handicapped and elderly that have no one to look after them or have no other means of support than fixed incomes?
THE PRESIDENT. All right. Yes, we have greatly improved the programs for the handicapped and the elderly. In the Department that I discussed earlier, Health and Human Services, both those responsibilities rest there. For an elderly person who's poor, of course social security or SSI, Meals on Wheels, health care is available, and for the handicapped the same thing applies.
If you have a particular family in mind that might need help and doesn't know how to get help for themselves, if you'd—is that the case?
Q. The case is something of that nature, but widespread.
THE PRESIDENT. Good. I would like for you either to see me or one of my staff members and give me the name of the family or either your name, and we'll contact you privately to make sure that that family or that elderly person or that handicapped person gets the help they need and deserve.
Q. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. Will you get the name and address? Fine.
Q. I'm Jack Hughes from Bellefontaine Neighbors, Missouri. First of all, Mr. President, I'd like to welcome you to the beautiful and friendly city of St. Louis.
THE PRESIDENT. Right on.
Q. Mr. President, many Americans are concerned about our military strength. I'm wondering if you have any plans to raise the salaries of our Armed Forces up to an adequate level in order to retain trained and skilled personnel for a strong defense?
THE PRESIDENT. Fine. As Tom and Harold and Bob know, just a few weeks ago I signed the so-called Nunn-Warner act, which gave another raise to the people in the military to help pay for housing, transportation, higher reenlistment bonuses, and also an increase in salary.
One of the very serious problems that I inherited when I went into the White House was a constant decline in the allotment of funds for defense purposes all put together. My profession is a military officer. I went to Annapolis. I was a submarine officer and resigned from the Navy after serving 11 years. The 8 years before I was inaugurated was a period of steady decline. Seven of those years we actually had a decrease compared to the previous year in Federal budgeted funds for defense.
Since that time of my inauguration, every year we've had a steady, predictable, substantial increase in commitments in our budget for defense, above and beyond inflation. We'll continue this for the next 5 years. I've already allotted to the Congress my version of what ought to be done for the next 5 years. The Senate and the House have basically said this is a good plan.
In addition to that we now have a 15-year plan worked out with our NATO Allies, so they have agreed to join with us in a steady, progressive buildup in military strength in the European theater, which is the most likely to see the outbreak of some sort of combat with the Soviet Union or the Warsaw Pact in the future. I hope it won't.
We've also addressed specific programs. I won't go into detail about them, but just very quickly the nuclear deterrent: It was vulnerable. We now have in all three legs of our nuclear deterrent—air, the new air-launched cruise missiles are small, relatively inexpensive, penetrating missiles, high accuracy, that can go into the Soviet Union, no matter what they do with their civil aerial defense. Secondly, the Trident submarine. The program was almost dead. It was stalemated before I became President. We now have completed sea trials on the first Trident submarine with new missiles. The next one is ready to be launched shortly. So, the sea leg is also intact. And the MX missile, mobile in deployment, makes it relatively invulnerable to any sort of preemptive strike by an ICBM from the Soviet Union. So, in all three of those areas, plus the Rapid Deployment Force, naval force buildup in the Persian Gulf region, and so forth, we've made good progress.
The last point I want to make is this: All I've told you comprises about 5 percent of our gross national product, a very reasonable expenditure for a nation which is determined never to be equaled by any other country in military strength. 1 I believe that the reason we've kept our Nation at peace and been able to extend peace to Israel and to Egypt and other countries around the world is because of our military strength.
1The President's point is that we will not be outdone in military strength by any other country. [White House correction.]
I have no apology to make for the high budget levels on defense expenditures. I think it's a good investment. It's not wasted. The best weapon is one that's never fired in combat, and the best soldier is one that never has to shed his blood on the field of battle.
The last point is this, because we're in a college community and I want to make this point clear: I strongly favored the registration for the draft. The young men of this country responded to an extraordinary degree, much better than we anticipated. We don't anticipate any time in the future having to implement the draft, unless our Nation's security is directly threatened. But we'll be prepared for that if we have to do it.
Fifteen percent of all the young men who signed up for registration indicated that they were interested in having more information about a career in the military forces. As a person who's now become President and who had a military career, I found that it did not interfere at all in my political development or my economic status in life nor my ability to operate a farm or a successful small business. And I would hope that many of our young men and women would take advantage of a chance to get a good career, to serve our Nation, to contribute to peace, to contribute to the strength of American ideals. And in the process, we'll continue to increase and improve the pay, the status, the esteem, the self-respect, the excitement, and the quality of service in the military forces.
As Commander in Chief, that's one of my major responsibilities, and I will not shirk it.
Q. Hello, hello. My name is Pain Huggins, and I live in St. Louis County. I think my questions have been adequately, satisfactorily addressed. So, instead, I ask you to speculate about which part of the world Mr. Reagan would prioritize for military action?
THE PRESIDENT. Okay. I've got a very strict policy of being careful about what I say— [laughter] —and I'm going to bend over backwards to be accurate and fair. [Laughter]
My belief is that every President would like to keep this Nation strong and at peace. Secondly, I don't believe that our Nation is likely to be brought into a war just because of a change in administration. However, there are some trends put forward by my opponent that concern me.
Every President since Harry Truman, Republican and Democratic, have worked to control nuclear weapons, have tried to have a balance between ourselves and the Soviet Union, equality, with a steady reduction or control over one another, and a guaranteed means to assure that the agreement that we signed, either SALT agreements or the test ban agreements, were carried out.
Governor Reagan has departed from that. He has advocated not a balance, but nuclear superiority. It sounds not too bad, but the Soviets would not accept our having nuclear superiority anymore than we would accept the Soviets saying, "We demand nuclear superiority, and then we'll negotiate with you on equal and balanced nuclear controls." That is a very serious issue.
Mr. Reagan has referred to the fact that an arms race might be advisable, and he has also said, as you know, that he was going to play a card of an arms race to force the Soviets to do this or that. A nuclear war would be the worst thing. It would make energy and economics and education and caring for the elderly and trade insignificant as an issue. That is a very serious matter.
In the past Governor Reagan has advocated the use of American military forces in many instances when other Presidents, myself and Republican Presidents, have settled troubled times diplomatically. He's advocated, for instance, using American military forces in North Korea, Ecuador, Cuba, the Mideast, Cyprus, Pakistan, Angola, Rhodesia. Those are a few places—
Q. Right. Very good.
THE PRESIDENT.—that I know he has advocated the use of American military forces.
I want to make it clear I'm not insinuating that he would do that as President, because there is a much more serious responsibility on a person once they are in the Oval Office.
Let me add one other human thing, because we've got time. That job is a special job. Nobody can prepare for it ahead of time adequately. It's a lonely job. It's difficult, because the questions that come to my desk in the Oval Office are ones that cannot be solved in a person's private life or in a family's home or in a local city hall or a courthouse or in a State legislature or in a Governor's office. If they can be solved then, I don't ever hear about them. But the ones that come to me are the most difficult ones, and I share them with Tom Eagleton and other Members of the Congress, and we try to work out solutions, sometimes very close calls.
I have good advisers. My Cabinet is as good as any Cabinet that ever served, and they give me good advice. But when that issue is so important and so difficult my experience is that the advice is often fifty-fifty. Half the people say yes; half the people say, "Mr. President, no." I have to make a decision. That's all right.
A lot of crises come to my desk. We've had troubled times every day since I've been in office, domestically and internationally. I deal with those crises. If I deal with them properly, you never hear about them, Pam. But if I make a mistake in dealing with a crisis, then it might affect your life and the life of everyone in this country or even the entire world. So, soundness of judgment and temperament and compatibility with the peaceful ideals of America is a very important element of any President, Democratic or Republican, and I think experience in the office means something as well.
My belief is that any President who serves in that office, Democrats or Republicans, in the past or the future, will do the best they can. And it's not a lonely job, because the President has partnership with you, with people in this auditorium, and people like you all over the country, and the more we are open with our mistakes, with the arguments pro and con, with the difficulties and with the opportunities, the more we guarantee that we don't make a serious mistake like Watergate. That's the kind of thing that a President has to do.
So, I think we'll have a good administration in the future. I think we'll have a better one if the people make the right decision November 4.
VICE PRESIDENT MONDALE
Q. Mr. President, my name is Joe Beckerle, and I'm from the Cranolet area of the city of St. Louis. I would like to preface my question by saying that I'm a very ardent admirer of Fritz Mondale. Now, my question is: If you and Mondale are reelected to another 4-year term, will you give him more of an input and let him put more of an input into both foreign and domestic affairs?
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Joe. I share your admiration for Fritz Mondale.
It would be almost impossible to give him more responsibility than he already has. Any observer of the White House operation will tell you that there has never been a closer relationship between a President and a Vice President that exists today between me and Fritz Mondale. Since I've been in office, he has never been excluded from any private session that I have had-with a foreign leader, a domestic leader, or anyone else. He has responsibilities now for the military that no Vice President has ever before had. I trust him with every element of the responsibilities which I share. He has an office right down the hall from me. In the past, the Vice President was across the street in a different building. He and I share staff members. We consult with each other constantly.
So, I don't know that I could give Fritz any more responsibility than I presently give him, but if I think of any way- [laughter] —to put additional responsibility on his shoulders, I guarantee you I'll take your advice and let him have it, because he can handle it.
FEDERAL BUDGET DEFICITS
Q. Good evening, Mr. President. My name is Jack Schreiber, and I'm from Normandy, Missouri. It's also the home of this university. During your 1976 campaign, you pledged that if elected the Federal budget would be balanced by 1980. Since that time, the level of Government spending has increased significantly to the point where we are now faced with the prospect of a budget deficit in 1980 of $60 billion. Estimates for 1981 already indicate a budget deficit in the excess of $30 billion. During this same period, we've experienced the highest level of inflation in recent history, much of which has been attributed to the dramatic increase in the price of oil.
My question: Have not Government deficits and the Federal Reserve Bank's willingness to finance these deficits been a major cause for inflation, and if so, and if reelected, what hope can you give us that we will ever see a reduction in the growth of Government spending, a balanced budget, and some relief for the American taxpayer? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. It was my hope and my expectation that the present budget the Congress is dealing with for this current fiscal year would be balanced. In March of this year, I presented to the Congress a balanced budget. Unfortunately, after then we went into a recession which we had not anticipated, brought about, fairly well on a worldwide basis, by the fact that oil prices increased more in a 12-month period than they had since oil was first discovered in the 1800's.
That meant two things, Jack. One was that more people were unemployed or partially employed. Unemployment compensation payments went up. Welfare payments also went up. Trade Recovery Act payments—like in the automobile industry, to retrain workers—also went up. And while those payments were going up to people who were unemployed temporarily, they obviously stopped paying income tax, and so the Federal revenues went down. That is where the budget became unbalanced.
It was something that we did not anticipate. It was something that I wish had never happened. Nothing would please me more than to stand here before you and say, "We have finally balanced the Federal budget." When I ran for President in 1976, our budget deficit was about $60 billion, which at that time was about 4 1/2 percent of the gross national product. Now the budget deficit is not as high as you say. We think it'll be about $40 billion, which is less than 2 percent of the gross national product. If we continue to have good recovery and people continue to go back to work, then we have an excellent chance to balance the budget.
Those budget deficits are much lower, as a percentage of gross national product, than they are, for instance, in other major trading countries like Germany, very prosperous, or Japan or Great Britain. We are bringing those deficits down. But sometimes when you try to get them exactly balanced and you have an unexpected downturn in the economy, then there's no way you can control a small deficit.
I might add this: Since March we have seen the situation improve. July, as you know, showed a zero inflation rate—first time in 13 years. It was an aberration, and we will have a continued inflation rate, maybe 8, 9 percent for a while. We have proposed for next year an economic program that will be anti-inflationary in nature and will also provide at least 50 percent of tax reductions for investment in more modern tools and more modern factories, which I believe will stimulate the economy, put more people back to work-about a million new jobs by the end of the following year—bring in more revenue, because people pay more income taxes, and modernize so that we can be more competitive and more productive.
As you know, the thing that causes inflation is the deficit plus the fact that people don't save very much in our country lately, plus the fact that American workers are not as productive as they should be. So, we're trying to deal with those root causes of inflation. The most important one is the one you mentioned-the excessive dependence on imported oil. We're making excellent progress on that. I think the progress will continue.
Finally, let me say I wish we could have the balanced budget immediately. That's still my goal. I can't guarantee you exactly when it'll happen. But it's at the top of my priority list in dealing with the Federal budget to meet the needs of our Nation, first of all, adequately, to keep an efficient government, to deregulate the private industry, let it function in a competitive way, and continue as we have already, very successfully, to drive that deficit steadily lower.
I wish I had a better report for you. I don't want to mislead you. That's as accurate a statement as I can make.
I don't think I have time for another one. They tell me my time's up. I'm sorry. Let me make one other point, and I pretty well covered the issues on a broad basis here, all the way from energy to deficits to the people who are unemployed or the elderly or the afflicted.
Finally, let me say this: I don't claim that we've never made mistakes. We've learned in the process. I don't claim that our country doesn't have problems. We have some. Most of those problems are challenges that we can adequately meet. A President must bear the responsibility for successes or failures. The President serves today, but the decisions he makes affect our Nation in the future. That's why this campaign that will take place in almost exactly 3 weeks is so important to you. The differences between myself and my opponent are sharp, stark differences. I've not tried to dwell on them tonight, as you know—the only time I have is when I got a specific question about defense.
But my hope and my judgment is that the American people will consider the blessings that we have, the problems that we face, the fact of our greatness, the blessings God has given us, a chance to participate as you've done tonight, and give me the support that I need as President, hopefully as the next President, to make the greatest nation on Earth even greater in the future. That's my prayer. I hope you'll join me.
Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 7: 30 p.m. in the gymnasium of the University of Missouri at St. Louis.
Jimmy Carter, St. Louis, Missouri Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Townhall Meeting. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251066