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The Nation's Economy Radio Address to the Nation

October 12, 1980

This is President Jimmy Carter, speaking to you from the Oval Office in Washington. I want to talk to you today about our country's future, about the goals I've set for the decade of the 1980's, and how we can achieve these goals together.

Too often in political campaigns the focus is on the contest itself, debates about the debates, charges and countercharges among candidates, the endless speculation about who is ahead. Too often the meaning of the election, the real decision facing our country, is lost or forgotten. During the next 3 weeks, candidates owe the American people a clear vision of what we see for our country's future.

The choice before this country on November 4th is not just between me and Governor Reagan, it's not just between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party; it's a choice between two vastly different sets of beliefs. The meaning of that choice is not just in what we say, but in the consequences of our words, the consequences of what we believe, the consequences of what we will do. They will be more enduring than any campaign rhetoric. Those consequences will shape the whole philosophy of our society, our country's approach to social responsibility, to economic opportunity, to the quality of our environment, to protection of consumers, to older Americans, to the wellbeing of working men, to the well-being and the opportunities of working women. The choice will affect our security both at home and abroad.

So, today and on the next two Sundays I want to describe the consequences of the coming election. Next week I'll discuss the Nation's military security, America's role in the world, and our vital quest for peace. Today I will describe my vision, my hopes, and my plans for our country's economic future. And later this week I will present a more detailed and extensive economic statement.

As you know, we and other nations around the world have recently been shocked by OPEC oil prices, which more than doubled in just 12 months. But our country has been strong enough to withstand this blow. The economic outlook after this period of real difficulty has now brightened. We see the beginnings of recovery along with a reduction in inflation. The number of jobs is increasing. Unemployment is declining. Our policies are working. But to stay on the road to full recovery, we need to keep on attacking the roots of our problems—inflation, foreign oil dependence, slow productivity growth.

I'm especially concerned about the human impact of these problems—temporary unemployment, the uncertainty of rapid technological change, interest rates too high. I know that some people have questions about earning a good living, providing for a family. I know from personal experience how it felt when my three sons were small. Will I be able to care for my family, to give my children what they need, to provide for their future? These human questions are always on my mind. My heart goes out to families who are threatened or who suffer.

Some of our Nation's economic problems are deep-rooted, interrelated, and complex. Solving them cannot be simple. We must face the facts. If we try to stimulate the economy too fast, we may speed up inflation. High inflation triggers high interest rates, which choke off recovery. And we end up back where we started. That's why creating jobs and controlling inflation must go together. That's why I've fought so hard to prevent a massive tax cut this year in the heat of an election campaign, and why I support a targeted tax cut to be enacted next year, focused on the most urgent needs.

Inflation is caused by many forces, therefore we are attacking it on many fronts.

One is the Federal budget. By slowing the growth of Government spending and by avoiding imprudent tax cuts, we've reduced one source of inflationary pressure. We'll continue this budgetary restraint.

Deregulation is another front. We've now acted to free from unnecessary regulation some of our biggest industries—airlines, trucking, energy, banking, railroads—so that the American free enterprise system, with maximum competition, can give us better services with less inflation.

But most important of all, we have met head on our country's number one economic challenge, the primary cause of inflation as well as unemployment—excessive dependence on foreign oil. The dimensions of this challenge are staggering. Foreign oil costs our Nation $85 billion a year—$85 billion that could be spent on American industry, American products, American jobs.

No country, no matter how strong, can afford to send this kind of money abroad year after year without paying an enormous economic cost. The problem was neglected for too long. Now we have acted. From the very first days of my Presidency, I sought to alert the American people and the Congress to this problem. At first there was doubt and even ridicule, but I kept at it and you responded. We've rallied to meet the energy challenge, as we've met other serious problems in the past.

Until recently, most of us never even thought about where our gasoline came from—just from the local service station. We don't think that way any more. We've all come to realize that the service station is at one end of a very precarious supply line. The line is 12,000 miles long, and at the other end is one of the most unstable regions of the world—the Persian Gulf.

We've cut our foreign oil consumption by 20 percent in the last year alone, some 1 1/2 million barrels a day. No other country has matched that record. That is extremely important to every American. The war between Iraq and Iran puts this achievement in perspective. Today the United States alone is saving almost half the amount of oil exported before the war by both those countries combined. We've made ourselves and our allies that much less vulnerable to international blackmail or to a break in the world's oil lifeline.

We're also building up our own ability to produce energy. This year in the United States, we will drill more oil and gas wells than ever before. We've won approval of the most sweeping program in history to develop solar power, synthetic fuels, to conserve energy, and to create other new energy sources.

That program is being financed in large part by a most important and equitable revenue program—the windfall profits tax on the oil companies. This windfall profits tax finally passed this year, after a long and difficult political struggle. It will permit us to take some of the billions of dollars we spend on oil and invest them in creating new American energy sources and new American jobs.

Also, we are making rapid strides in coal production. This year we will produce more coal than ever before in history. With better transportation and seaport facilities, we can triple this production. As the major world energy source, I want to see OPEC oil replaced with American coal.

We have come a long way in a very short time—in conservation, in production, and in public understanding. Our attack on energy can now serve as a historic first step in a drive to strengthen the other economic foundations of our country.

American workers are still the most productive in the world, because we've had the best machinery and equipment, the best plants and factories. But now in some industries that equipment is growing older, and countries that have newer factories are outproducing us. We cannot ask our workers to compete with out-of-date equipment, any more than we would ask our soldiers to fight with obsolete weapons. America will need to spend billions of dollars building new plants and refurbishing old ones.

Recently I outlined a broad-ranging program to renew our economic momentum. This program will have some immediate benefits. It will add a halfmillion additional new jobs during the coming year and a million new jobs by the end of 1982. It will also meet our longterm challenges by encouraging greater investment, higher productivity, and reduced inflation. Half of the tax reductions under this program will go for encouraging investment and creating new jobs rather than for encouraging consumption and more inflation. What I'm proposing is the next major step in building a brighter economic future.

'Our efforts to meet the energy challenge, our program to modernize American industry can set the stage for an American economic renaissance to propel us past our current economic obstacles and build the new foundations for economic greatness. Let me describe that future.

It will be a time of enhanced productivity, with modern plants and equipment to keep American industry at the cutting edge of international progress.

I see us turning American coal and shale and American farm products into American fuel for American cars and trucks, and the light of the Sun into heat and electricity for American homes. And I see those buildings and vehicles that will house us and move us in comfort, using a lot less energy.

I see modern railbeds and ports making American coal into a powerful rival of OPEC oil, and new industries that bring the convenience of modern communications and futuristic computer technology into millions of American homes and offices and factories.

I see an America of full employment, of people working to modernize existing American industry and to create whole new American industries.

It will be a time of purer air, cleaner water, and freedom from the threat of toxic wastes.

This is not just a dream. It's a practical vision that we can bring to life by taking the right actions today, by investing in our future. This is part of the American character. Our families invest in homes, in education. We parents invest not just in our own future but in the future of our children.

I see this kind of progress already in the exciting revitalization of our Nation's urban centers. I've seen it in our ability to produce 8¼ million new jobs in just 3 years, a record never before achieved in any President's term, in times of either 'war or peace.

I've seen it in Michigan, where modern, safe, durable, and fuel-efficient cars roll off American production lines, cars that can now compete with any in the world. I've seen it in American steel production, that's beginning to use the most advanced level of technology on Earth. I've seen this progress in our agricultural heartland, with outstanding production setting world export records every year that I've served in this office.

There can now be an exciting era of increased prosperity and fruitfulness of our land, built upon the new conservation ethic and technological developments using biomass from growing crops to help meet our energy needs. And I've seen the beginnings of progress in our synthetic fuels production and in our new commitment to basic research and to scientific and technological progress in a broad range of American industries.

I'm asking our entire country to drive these programs forward. If we are to succeed, it cannot be because of government alone or business alone or labor alone. It must be because government, business, labor, and the public work together to make this future a certainty for our country. We've seen this partnership at work already in our efforts to assist the automobile industry and the steel industry. It will be further strengthened by the new Economic Revitalization Board.

This kind of partnership is at the very heart of America. Almost 40 years ago, in the midst of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt put it this way: "The most significant fact in American history is the ability of the American people to face a tough situation and to take orderly and united action in their own behalf—and in behalf of the things in which they believe." That was true in 1942. It's true today. And I'm determined that it will be true in the future.

And I also know that we will achieve this future only if we make the conscious decision to invest in it and plan for it now. A good life in the 1980's and in the 21st century can only be built on American ingenuity, American dedication, American values.

The economic challenges which we and the world must face are difficult and complex, extraordinarily complex. But if the proud history of this country teaches us anything, it's this: We can solve even the most difficult and complex problems if we recognize them for what they are and put our minds and our hearts to work on the solutions. History tells us something else, something that illustrates the most basic and important choice before us in 1980: When nations fail to address their challenges realistically and look for simplistic solutions to their problems, then they run into trouble.

This is a choice that affects our economy, but it is also a choice that goes to the very heart of our national spirit:

Are we mature enough and strong enough to accept the realities of the 1980's and to take the difficult but rewarding steps that are needed, or will we close our eyes and dream of earlier times, simpler problems, and painless solutions?

I have faith in America. I have faith in Americans. We will face up to these challenges. We will work together. We will build for the future, a future of greatness for the country that we love.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:10 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House. The address was broadcast live on the Mutual Broadcasting System.

Jimmy Carter, The Nation's Economy Radio Address to the Nation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251004

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