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Statement at the Conclusion of a Conference with Northeastern Governors in Hartford, Connecticut

October 03, 1976

Many times in the last 8 years, the Republican Administration has set one group of our people against another. They have set race against race, and generation against generation. They have set business against labor, and fanner against consumer. They have even set the government of our country against the people.

But one of the worst inequities is the way the administration has deliberately turned its back on the Northeast. The people of this region deserve a chance, like people who live anywhere else in our country. They deserve a chance to hold a job, own a home, educate their children and live in health and security. But the administration's policies have denied them their fair chance. They have had no chance to work, no chance to improve their communities. They have not even had a chance to get the energy they need to heat their homes and keep their factories open.

Forty-two years ago, a Democratic candidate ran for President in a time of economic crisis. He saw that the poverty of the South was the greatest long-term obstacle the nation had to overcome, if it was ever to restore prosperity and economic justice to all of the people.

Today, there is a different region that demands our concern. The potential decline of the Northeast is a major peril to the stable growth, and the equality of opportunity, that our people want.

The Republicans have said that they want to base this campaign on the record. Let's look at a record they would prefer to ignore, the record of their neglect of the Northeast.

When national unemployment stood at 7.5 percent this spring, the nine slates of the Northeast averaged 9.6 percent unemployment. In the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, the greatest urban center of our country, unemployment exceeds 10 percent.

In Rhode Island, the unemployment rate is now 10.8 percent. In Connecticut, it is 9.5 percent, and in New York State it is 9.4 percent.

The nationwide unemployment rate of 7.9 percent is higher than any time between the Great Depression and the inauguration of Gerald Ford, but in seven states of this region, rates are even higher.

During Mr. Ford's Administration, conditions have grown even worse. After 6 years of the Nixon Administration, 7.2 percent of the people of Philadelphia were out of work. After two years of the Ford Administration, the figure has risen to 8.6 percent. Connecticut's unemployment rate rose by 50 percent between 1974 and 1976, and it is now losing 2,300 factory jobs per year because of companies leaving the state. There are 216,000 more people out of work in New York than when Mr. Ford took office.

The problem is not confined to one city, or one state, or one industry in decline. From the manufacturing centers of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts to the small towns of Maine, Republican policies which deny the Northeast its lifeblood of energy and investment have created unemployment, poverty, layoffs, shutdowns—and the human strains behind these figures that Republicans never see. Last year alone; crimes committed by teenagers in the major cities of the Northeast rose by 10 percent. I do not believe it is a coincidence that unemployment rates among these same young people often exceed 40 percent.

The Northeast's ability to finance the public services it needs has also been stretched to capacity. The per capita tax rate in Connecticut is now the highest in the nation. New Jersey is third highest; New York is sixth. In 1953, state and local taxes consumed 6 percent of all personal income in Connecticut. Last year the figure had risen to more than 10 percent.

As I have traveled through the Northeast, I have seen the faces of men and women from all walks of life. Many of them wear that look of alarm which some of us thought had passed with the end of the Great Depression. It is the haunted look of an American who wants to work but has lost the hope of finding a job. It is a look the Republicans do not see.

I have seen in the cities of the Northeast the effects of a national program of urban neglect. As a young woman told me in Brooklyn, "We feel as if the government has simply red-lined all our cities."

The Republican Administration has hurt the Northeast in seven specific ways—through decisions and mistakes which have harmed the country as a whole, but whose worst impact has been in this region.

First, Mr. Ford vetoed the initial public works bill, which would have provided jobs in this region. Yesterday, he decided to sign the bill, in one of the many steps he has taken during the last 3 months before the election to do the things the Republicans have opposed for the previous 3 years and 9 months.

Second, the absence of any energy plan has left the Northeast—which depends on foreign oil for two-thirds of its supplies—in ever greater vulnerability and peril. The administration's short-sighted insistence on raising the price of energy has cost the average family in the Northeast nearly $1,000 each year, and has destroyed many thousands of jobs.

Third, the administration has let its housing policy become a shambles. Throughout the Northeast, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is a major slumlord, owning thousands of abandoned houses. The one program the administration has concentrated on—the Section 8 program— has been a miserable failure, providing homes for only 23,000 families, instead of the 400,000 the administration promised.

Fourth, Mr. Ford's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 1977 would have removed 26 weeks of compensation for unemployed workers—assistance that is vitally important to the families of the Northeast.

Fifth, Mr. Ford has proposed a change in regulations for the Urban Mass Transportation Administration. Under existing rules, up to 90 percent of UMTA funds may be used for operating expenses, which is the kind of help the established transit system of the Northeast need. Mr. Ford's proposal would lower the 'ceiling to 50 percent.

Sixth, the Republican inflation has steadily reduced the value of federal aid to the states of this region. The Republicans' 1977 budget represents the following reductions from 1976: community and regional development, down 8 percent; law enforcement and justice, down 9.5 percent; education, training, employment and social services, down 18 percent, all in real dollars.

Seventh, the administration's failure to take serious steps toward welfare reform has imposed a mounting burden on the large cities of the Northeast.

If we are to restore prosperity to the Northeast, if we are to follow Franklin Roosevelt's example and rebuild the region that now demands our help, we must start with a partnership between federal, state and local governments. I have talked with the governors today and am encouraged by their efforts to form a Regional Development Council. Under the Republican administration, regional coalitions have been necessary as a form of self-defense. If I am elected President, they will be the building blocks for cooperative policies.

We will base our partnership on the foUowing principles:

First, we will have a reasonable, equitable energy policy which will not leave the Northeast out in the cold, which wiH not unfairly burden the people of one part of the country, which will not leave homes and factories and entire communities in constant peril.

Second, we will develop jobs where they are needed and you know they are needed here.

Third, we should eliminate the local burden of welfare costs, which is so heavy in the Northeast, and we should have a phased reduction in the states' share of welfare costs, to the extent that federal revenues allow.

Fourth, we should re-enact a revenue sharing program which includes the following elements: eliminating priority categories; allowing funds to be spent for education; directing funds to local governments; increasing funding to cover inflationary costs.

Fifth, we must greatly improve the administration of federal programs. Because of impoundments and delays in drafting regulations and distributing funds, local governments cannot budget with any degree of certainty.

Finally, we need an administration that understands the sharp impact of national economic conditions on local governments. Because of the economic crisis, last year cities were forced to raise taxes by $1.5 billion and cut back on municipal services—last year, 100,000 municipal jobs were eliminated. The Joint Economic Committee of the Congress has concluded that these actions negated the positive effects of federal job creation efforts and tax cuts.

After his election, but before he assumed office, John Kennedy returned to the Northeast to address the Massachusetts Legislature. He recalled the vision of one of your predecessors, a governor of the Massachusetts colony, who called upon his fellow citizens of the new nation to establish a government which would stand as a beacon for all mankind—"a city on a hill."

Two centuries later, we can still perfect that government, we can still build that city on a hill. I ask you to let me work with you to achieve that goal.

Jimmy Carter, Statement at the Conclusion of a Conference with Northeastern Governors in Hartford, Connecticut Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347671

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