Jimmy Carter photo

Torrance, California Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Town Meeting

September 22, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much, Jerry Brown.

Governor Jerry Brown, Mayor Jim Armstrong:

It's a real pleasure for me to be here with you at North High, the home of the Saxons, who haven't been scored on yet. First, I'd like to make a few remarks about a subject of great importance to you and to our Nation, and then we'll spend the rest of the hour with my answering your questions about things of interest to you.


Six weeks from now our Nation will make a very critical decision. This decision will set the course of your life and of our Nation's life not just for the next 4 years but for many generations to come. It will help to decide what kind of world we live in. It will help to decide whether we have war or peace. It's an awesome choice. And in this great and free land of ours, the choice is made not by me, not by my opponents, not by other candidates, not by Members of the Congress, not even by Governors, but by you. Americans have an inalienable right, a very precious right, to choose your own future and to set your own course as a free people.

Having served as President now for 3 1/2 years, I have a very optimistic vision of America's future, because I feel the strength and the good sense of the citizens of our Nation at townhall meetings like this. I believe this is my 26th townhall meeting, and I've had 60 press conferences. Over 500 times I've met with the news media for different kinds of interviews to present my case to the American people.

When people of this country are told about a clear challenge or a problem or an obstacle and they understand what is at stake in the history of our Nation, America has never failed. We are ready now to do the right thing, to make a good investment on your part and on mine in a bright future for this country. There are indications now that our economy is improving very rapidly, much more rapidly than the economists thought was possible. But my strongest source of optimism is not on statistics about the economy, but in the American people and how you've responded to some of our Nation's very serious challenges.

As a farmer, as a businessman, I know that there is no way to turn a profit and have a better life without making a good, sound investment at the beginning. If you want to get something out, first you've got to put something in. The same goes for a family that buys a precious possession or that puts money into an education investment. If you want to have a bright future, you have to invest in it, and you have to work for it. And the same thing goes for our Nation.

Our land has faced some very tough, difficult challenges in the last 4 years. For the first time in memory, we have had to confront a major economic threat from outside—the challenge by the OPEC nations on our economic independence from uncontrollable oil prices and threatened shortages. For too many years we've been importing that very high-priced oil and at the same time importing inflation and unemployment, and we've exported the economic power that it takes to create jobs and a better life for American people.

Three and a half years ago, in April of 1977, I called the energy crisis the moral equivalent of war. Many people were skeptical. They said that dealing with our energy challenge was politically infeasible, that it would be unpopular, and that the American people would never respond. The skeptics were wrong. Dealing with our energy challenge has not been easy. Certainly it has not been all that popular. But it has been necessary. The people have come to see in our energy program that we've hammered out with Congress the soundest possible investment in our Nation's future, and we're just beginning to see some early returns on that investment.

This year the United States will consume an average of 1 1/2 to 2 million barrels of oil, imported oil, less every day. We've had a reduction of about 24 percent in oil imports this year compared to preceding years. We are drilling more oil wells and natural gas wells this year, 1980, than ever before in history. American coal production is the highest it's ever been in history, and 10 times as many homes now have solar power than 4 years ago. So, we're making good progress.

And finally let me say that we are looking to the future with confidence, because we're taking the profits that formerly went to the OPEC nations and investing those profits in American enterprise, American technology, American fuels, American jobs, to give us in America a better life in the future. We're ready to revitalize American industry across the board. And this particular community and your State is crucial to that future progress, because here you're on the cutting edge of change. Californians have never been afraid of change. You have had the pioneer spirit ever since the first settlers came here. And you know and I know that in technology' and new ideas, new concepts, new ways of life, this has been an exciting part of the greatest and most exciting nation on Earth.

A generation ago America set a goal to go to the Moon. Today we face challenges and opportunities much greater in scope than even putting the first men on the Moon. The new energy program for conservation and the development of energy in our own Nation is greater financially than the entire Interstate Highway System, the entire space program, and the Marshall plan that rebuilt Europe, all put together. This can give us a challenge, yes, but an opportunity for ingenuity and sweat and accomplishment and a better life than we have ever yet known.

Americans have always met challenges. We've always overcome obstacles. We've always resolved difficult questions and carved out a better future for ourselves. And I have absolutely no doubt that the 1980's will see that exciting life that will make our Nation in the future even greater than it has been in the past.

And now I'd like to answer your questions.



Q. President Carter, let me be first, Betty Quiroz, to welcome you to Torrance.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Betty.

Q. My question is, What is your opinion between the B-1 bomber and the B-1-I mean the B-52—sorry—and the B-1 • bomber?

THE PRESIDENT. All right. What we need to do in our Nation is to stay ahead of the threats that are mounted against us. The B-1 bomber is a superb penetrating bomber, quick to take off, more heavily armed, much smaller in cross-section to radar than was the B-52. The problem has been that the Soviets have invested tens of billions of dollars in ground-control radar and anti-aircraft capability that would have made the B-1 bomber obsolete or obsolescent as a penetrating device carrying missiles by the time it was fully deployed.

So, I made the judgment, which I'm sure was the right one, to shift instead to the air-launch cruise missile, a relatively inexpensive, small, effective weapon that can be carried several hundred miles from the shores of the Soviet Union, launched with pinpoint accuracy, which is almost invisible to the Soviet radar, and can penetrate much more effectively without the threat of the loss of life of American pilots. So, the B-52 carrying the airlaunch cruise missiles, with the followup, more modern bomber to come later to carry those cruise missiles, is the best approach.

In addition to the air-launch cruise missile, which is a highly effective new weapon—and we'll be producing 3,000 of those this year; it's not way off in the distant future—plus the Trident submarines and Trident missiles and the MX missiles-those three will keep us in a competitive position with equality and an ability to withstand the threat from the Soviets.

We have got to keep our Nation strong. For the 8 years before I became President, 7 of those years we went down, down, down in our commitment to a strong national defense. We've reversed that trend now, and we've had an increase every year since I've been in office in national defense capability. That's going to keep on to keep our Nation strong and at peace. The best weapon is the one that's never fired in combat, because we're so strong we keep the peace. And the best soldier is one that never dies in combat, because we're strong enough to keep the peace.

Thank you very much. Good question.


Q. Mr. President, my name is Ray Hawkins, and I live in the wonderful city of Torrance. And my question to you, sir, is: What is your position on taxing social security?

THE PRESIDENT. I'm against it.

Q. That's very good, sir. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. As long as I'm President, we're going to keep the social security system sound. We're not going to tax social security income. We're not going to reduce the social security program to, quote, "its original concept" of the 1930's and eliminate SSI and all the benefits that have been done. We're going to continue to index social security so that as inflation goes up, the social security payments will stay in touch with the changing cost of goods. And we're not going to reduce the age at which social security recipients have to retire to get benefits or raise the age either. So, we're going to protect the social security system as you know it, and we will not tax the social security income.

Thank you very much.


Q. My name is Marc Brown. I'm from Harbor City. Mr. President, the general consensus among the informed voting public is that John Anderson, with a moderate stance on most issues, would draw more votes away from your candidacy than from Ronald Reagan. Is that why you will not debate with Mr. Anderson and Mr. Reagan on the same platform?

THE PRESIDENT. I think your analysis is right. As you know, Anderson and Reagan are both Republicans, and Anderson's voting record the 20 or so years he was in Congress is very similar to the positions that have been staked out by Governor Reagan. In the campaign Anderson, however, has taken some extremely liberal positions on a few highly publicized points.

I have no objection at all to debating both Reagan and Anderson, but the first debate that I want to hold is a one-to-one, man-on-man debate with Governor Reagan. That's what I want, and that's what I determined to get. Marc, I might add one thing. Following that debate with Reagan, man to man, I'll be glad to debate Reagan, Anderson, Clark, Commoner, anyone who has a theoretical opportunity to be elected President. I'm not trying to avoid debates. I'm eager to see them.


Q. My name is Marissa Fruchter, and I'm 16 years old. And I'm in the alternative program here at North High School. You must have had some idea of what the Presidency would be like before you were elected President. How have your feelings changed on this issue?

THE PRESIDENT. Marissa, there is no preparation for being President. I was on a local school board during the integration years in Georgia. I was in the State senate for two terms. I was Governor of a State. And I campaigned for President for 4 years and got to travel all over this Nation and to learn about its problems and to study what I might do if I should become President.

The job is unique. Even a Vice President, in my judgment, cannot prepare adequately for being President, because in the Oval Office, under the most difficult circumstances, when a crisis arises or a difficult question comes, you're on your own. The issues that come to me as President are not easy ones. I never get an easy question or an easy problem, because if a question is easy, it can be solved by you or your parents in your home or in a local city hall or a county courthouse or in a State legislature or Governor's office. But if those problems can't be solved in any of those places, then they come to me as President, and I share them with the Congress.

Also, I've found that the more difficult a question is and the more vital it is to the American people, the more likely my advisers are to split almost exactly 50-50. Half say do this; half of them say do that. I have to make the ultimate decision.

I deal with a lot of crises every week. Most of them you never know about. If I handle them well in the Oval Office, then they don't become worldwide crises separating our Nation from a chance for peace or adversely affecting your life. If I meet a crisis improperly and don't handle it well, then it becomes a crisis for the entire country or maybe sometimes for the entire world. So, there's no preparation for President.

On the other hand, it's a good job, because it's the best elected office in the world. And in a democracy the President doesn't feel alone, because I have the support and the confidence and sometimes the criticism and sometimes the advice of millions of people who share the same beliefs and the same goals and the same ideals and the same principles that I do.

And the history of our Nation is such that as I live in the White House and realize that Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln and, of course, more recently, Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt lived there and dealt with problems much worse than the ones I face, it's a reassuring feeling, because the underlying strength of this Nation is so great that it can accommodate a President who is fallible and who does sometimes make mistakes.

So, although there's no preparation for it, it's a great and exciting job and a great and exciting nation. And the support of people like you make my job easier, sometimes under the most difficult circumstances. I like the job, and I intend to keep it for 5 more years.


Q. Hi, I'm Noelle Naito, from Costa Mesa. And any time you're in Orange County, my dad says don't hesitate to drop in for dinner, but my mom says think twice, because you'll have to cook and clean. My question is: What was your reaction to the debates last night? Did you find yourself agreeing more with John Anderson or Ronald Reagan? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. How do you know I didn't watch "Midnight Express"? [Laughter] I watched them. I watched the debate, and I thought it was very interesting between the two. I think it would not be appropriate for me to say who I think won or lost. My judgment is that John Anderson's wife thought he won and Ronald Reagan's wife thought he won. [Laughter] And I'm not going to get in an argument between the two wives.

I think the debate process is a healthy one. I believe that the debate between myself and President Ford in 1976 was very constructive, not only for me and President Ford but for the country. I believe it is good to have the major emphasis on the debates, at least in the initial stages, between the nominee of the Democratic Party and the nominee of the Republican Party.

As you know, Congressman Anderson ran as a Republican. He never won a primary, even in his home State. He never won a caucus contest, even in his home State. And after he was defeated or eliminated as a Republican, then he decided to run as an Independent.

In my judgment it's better for the Nation and for my campaign and for, I believe, Governor Reagan's campaign to have the sharp issues drawn in the minds of the American people between the two candidates who do have a chance to win. And so that's why I look forward to debating Governor Reagan on a one-on-one basis to sharply define those issues between me and him. Following that, as I said earlier when Marc asked me the question, I'll be very glad to debate Anderson as well.

But I don't want to answer your question by saying who I think did best and who I think did worse. I think I came out okay last night. [Laughter]

Thank you very much.


Q. Mr. President, my name is Sharon Dezutti, and I'm from Redondo Beach. You are known as one of the best friends of education. And I would like to think about that topic for a minute and ask you to share with us, when it comes to education, why you are the far better choice than the other two.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I started my public career on a local school board in Georgia, and I saw during those difficult years between 1955 and 1962 the tremendous opportunities that existed in my own State that were not being realized. And ultimately, when the politicians and the churches and others were too timid to move forward and change the South and eliminate racial discrimination, it was the teachers and the school boards and some of the courageous parents that made those social changes that opened up to the Southland a new opportunity or new era for us all. I would not be President today had that change not taken place. So, as a dynamic force in America I saw the courage and the commitment, sometimes the sacrifice, that was exhibited in the lives of those deeply involved in education, particularly those who are professionals, classroom teachers and administrators.

When I became Governor, Georgia had a long way to go, and I think we made a lot of progress. I spent about 25 percent of my time as Governor trying to improve the educational system of my State, because it was so far behind. When I became President finally, I only spent 1 percent of my time, roughly, in a Cabinet meeting on education, because about the only questions that came to me were lawsuits between individual citizens and a local school board or between a local school board and the State legislature or something of that kind involving the relationship between students.

I felt that it was important for us to have a Cabinet officer there so that a parent or a student or a teacher or an administrator or a State legislator or a State school superintendent could know which person in Washington was specifically responsible for education, because in the past, with health, education, and welfare in one department, education was buried under health and welfare. So, I looked around the Nation to find the best person I could find to be responsible for the education system in our country. I came to California, found a woman named Shirley Hufstedler, a great judge, and asked her to be Secretary of Education. Now I believe that we have a bureaucracy, in the finest sense of that word, ready to make major strides forward in education.

We have had since I've been in office a 73-percent increase in Federal funds for education, channeled to those kids that needed it most. We have now arrived at the point so any child in this country, any young man or woman can go to college if they are academically qualified, regardless of the income level or the social status or the net worth of their family. And we've expanded greatly the emphasis on education for those past the college age who might want to use their lives in a constructive way as adults or even senior citizens.

And the last point is we've emphasized youth programs. We have a major youth bill in the Congress now, a $2 billion bill, which is very vital, to make sure that a young person who graduates from high school or from a vocational, technical school or community college or senior college will be matched with the jobs that are open in that particular community. In the past there's not been a good relationship between the Labor Department, that was trying to fill jobs, on the one hand and the education system that was turning out graduates. In the future we want to be sure that those jobs seeking persons are matched with persons seeking jobs and that any defect in a person's education is overcome, preferably at the senior high school level, so that the young person who graduates will have a career waiting for him or her and not just a life of idleness or unemployment.

Those are a few of the things, just offhand, that come to my mind about education. My heart is in it. I think we've done a good job so far, a better job in the future.


Q. God bless you, senor. My name is Santana Mata. I live in Torrance, and God bless you.

THE PRESIDENT. Gracias, senor.

Q. What are you going to do with the draft? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. We're not going to have any draft, in my judgment, any time in the foreseeable future. The only circumstance under which I would recommend to the Congress new legislation to implement a draft would be if I was convinced that my Nation's security was actually threatened.

What we have done is to pass through the Congress a law permitting young men to register for the draft so that we could stop the long delay, which would be 90 or 100 days, if there is an opportunity or a need to marshal our forces. We had a remarkable response from our young men. About 93 percent signed up in the original sign-up period, and thousands are signing up now every day to bring this very high percentage on up higher. You might be interested in knowing that 15 percent of those who did sign up to register for the draft indicated that they would like additional information about the career opportunities in serving in the military forces.

So, I believe in a volunteer military force. I believe the registration for the draft will strengthen the voluntary military force. It will help with recruiting for young people looking for a career in the military. It will help to encourage those to reenlist when they are qualified technically to do a better job for the military. It will help to keep our Nation at peace and help to avoid any need for a mandatory draft in the future.

Q. I don't think so. You're doing a good job. God bless you.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.


Q. Mr. President, my name is Myrna Loy Sampson. I'm from Torrance. Welcome.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Myrna.

Q. I appreciate the interest that you've shown in the moral fiber of American families as you evidenced in the White House Conference on Families. I'd like to know, are you planning to declare all-out war on the moral disintegration that we're seeing in our cities? Last night three human lives were lost across the street from the campus I attend. I'm frightened, Mr. President. What can I do as an individual citizen to combat this horror?

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Myrna. You have a very famous name, and you're very beautiful.

Q. My dad liked her, too. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. The longer I'm in the White House as President, the more I realize that the basic structure of our Nation is founded and must be preserved not in a government bureaucratic system, even at the local and State level, but in the individual family structure and magnified from there into the community structure as well. Strong families, strong communities are the basis for a safe life and a good life for our people. I believe there's been a move back toward a deeper commitment to moral principles in our country.

We did have a very serious shock to our country and to our beliefs and to our ideals with the Vietnam war, with the revelations about the CIA violating American law, and during the Watergate era, when Americans lost faith in their own government, lost faith in truthfulness, and also lost faith to some degree in one another. I think we've helped already to repair that damage.

Also, I have seen in recent years, since I've been in the White House, remarkable demonstrations of a need for American people to cling to those principles and ideals that never change, because in a rapidly changing, fast technological world, when people are uncertain about what's going to happen next year in energy or what's going to happen next year in where they live, educational systems, and so forth, there are some things that don't change. Religion is one of them.

Everybody was shocked when Pope John Paul II came to our Nation, traveled around our country, and had an unbelievable outpouring of respect for him, respect for what he advocated, and also for one another during that period. I think the most exciting day I've spent as a President, although I'm not a Catholic, was the day that Pope John Paul II came to the White House. And a million and a half people went to see him and listen to him and have Mass at a park in Chicago. I think that this is something that indicates the hunger of American people for those finer elements of American life.

One of the things, finally, to abbreviate my answer, is that we've got to alleviate the problem that alienates particularly young people from the system within our society. If a young person finishes high school and searches for a job and can't get it, it's a very severe blow to that person's self-respect. And over a period of time, there's a sense of discouragement and despair, anger, and then later comes alienation when that young person turns against his own parents and turns against the school system and turns against the police and turns against the local officials and turns against his own country.

And that's why I think it's extremely important for us to strengthen our education system, tie that educational system to job opportunities, have this new youth bill passed, which will add hundreds of thousands of new jobs for young people and let them know that when they get out of high school or out of junior college or whatever that they can have a productive life and be part of our societal structure. I think that'll go a long way to eliminating the violence that sometimes results because those young people don't feel that they are part of the investment in a safer and more sound future.

Yours is an excellent question. It's one that addresses my thoughts every day, and I'm grateful to you for it.

Q. Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.


Q. Hello, Mr. President. My name is Mike Caudillo. I live here in Torrance. And also I'm a disabled person and a Chicano at that. I was wondering if your attention was drawn to the immediate problems with the Hispanic communities of perhaps all the killings and shootings that go on throughout the barrios of California-and here in the Southwest we're now the majority, not the minority—and if perhaps you might know of civil servants that are drawn to this attention and perhaps may have watched a televised program on August the 11th on "PM Magazine" that addressed the immediate problems within the communities.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Mike. Esta ciego? Mike, are you blind?

Q. Yes, I am.

THE PRESIDENT. I thought so.

Q. I was wondering, well, if perhaps you could comment on the issue, though.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I'll be happy to. One of the serious problems that we face in this country, Mike, is the assimilation into our society of newcomers to our Nation. I would guess, unless there's some native Indians here, that all of us and our families were immigrants to this country, coming here for a better life, a better opportunity, for freedom, for a chance to worship as we chose, and all of our ancestors, or maybe some of us, felt strange and alienated when we first came. We didn't know the language. We didn't know how to get along with our neighbors. We didn't know how to accommodate this great and exciting and changing new free world.

Now we're going through a stage of trying to accommodate civil rights improvements in our country. I mentioned earlier that I'm from the South. I don't want to go through that again, because I've already covered it. But in the Southwest and in the western States, we've had a problem, certainly before I became President, of equality of treatment of Chicanos and other Spanish-speaking citizens. In the Department of Justice, there were examples of a lack of equitable justice and a sense in the Hispanic community that they were not treated fairly, or you were not treated fairly by the Federal Government.

I think we've corrected that to a major degree. We have an advisory committee made up of Hispanic leaders now who work directly and personally with the Attorney General. We have a prosecuting attorney in the Justice Department who is a minority citizen himself, Drew Days. In addition to that, we've tried to move towards the appointment in the judicial system of highly qualified minorities as judges so that they can bring not only wisdom and integrity and experience and sound judicial temperament but also a special sensitivity about minority groups.

And I'm glad that although I've only been in office 3 1/2 years, that I've appointed more women judges, I've appointed more Hispanic judges, and I've appointed more black judges than all the other Presidents in the 200-year history of our country. This will help a great deal to alleviate some of the problems that you've described, Mike.

Thank you very much.


Q. Mr. President, I'm Fred R. Booth. I'm from the city of Torrance. Sir, I would like to ask you, are there any new items of interest for the retired and the active duty personnel, such as commissary privileges and so forth, in the Navy at Long Beach?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I don't know of any. I just signed this month another in a series of bills that would improve the pay, the moving expenses, the living expenses, and the reenlistment benefits of people who are still in active duty or coming into the military. But I don't know of any plans at this time to change the privileges of retired military personnel at the commissaries and so forth.

You want to ask another question? Go ahead.

Q. To additional statement, they keep telling the retired personnel there was going to be new, additional commissaries built here. There's literally thousands of retired personnel in this country, and we don't have the space available for those people.

THE PRESIDENT. Let me see if I can discover the answer to that question and write you or either call you on the phone no later than Wednesday.

Q. Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. We've just had passed through the Senate the military construction bill, and I'm not familiar enough with it to know about specific locations as to whether the money will be used for commissaries and so forth. But if you'll come up here to the front and give your name and address and your telephone number to one of my staff members, we'll give you a telephone call Wednesday and answer your question specifically. I don't know the answer at this point.

Thank you, sir.


Q. Mr. President, Kay White, League of Women Voters, Torrance. I'm a resident of Torrance.

THE PRESIDENT. Good to see you, Kay.

Q. Faced with growing resistance to local communities to provide affordable family housing, what steps would your administration take to strengthen the enforcement of fair housing laws?

THE PRESIDENT. I'm very glad that lately, in the last 4 weeks, we've had a steady increase in the number of housing starts in this country—up now to a rate of about 1.4 million homes being built per year, which is a very good recovery.

We still have a problem in the legal ability to enforce the existing fair housing legislation that was passed in 1968, as you know. The House of Representatives has passed a fair housing bill, which we sponsored, to give us the administrative authority to enforce the existing law. That legislation has now passed out of the Judiciary Committee, the chairman of which is Senator Ted Kennedy, and is ready to be voted on in the Senate. I support that legislation very strongly and hope it passes. Later on this afternoon, in Los Angeles, I will be with Senator Kennedy at a joint political event, and we'll be discussing it then.

But I hope that the fair housing legislation does pass. It will be another major step forward to provide equality of opportunity and also fairness to the people of this country.

Thank you, Kay, very much.


Q. Good afternoon, Mr. President. You look very well today.


Q. I'm Coralee Randall, from the 10th—[inaudible]—district of Los Angeles, California. I'd like to know, what is your feeling about some type of socialized medicine in the near future?

THE PRESIDENT. Coralee, I'm not in favor of socialized medicine, but I am eager to see a nationwide comprehensive health insurance plan put forward through the Congress, phased in very carefully, with the emphases as I'll describe very briefly: first of all, on controlling the rapidly increasing hospital costs for all Americans; secondly, to have an emphasis on prevention of disease rather than the emphasis on the treatment of an illness once a person gets it; also, an emphasis on outpatient treatment, whenever that's feasible, for a given affliction rather than the placing of a person in a hospital, which costs a lot.

I'm also very committed to the fact that each person in this country ought to have the complete freedom to choose one's own physician, either a family doctor or a physician, to treat a special illness. In addition to that, we want to make sure that as much as possible the private insurance sector is involved in the insurance program. And it ought to be emphasized as we phase in those who need it most.

At the present time, with Medicare and Medicaid there's a fairly good insurance program for the elderly and also those who have very little, if any, income, in the welfare category. This new program ought to be phased in, I'd say, first of all to strengthen the health care given to women and tiny babies, even those in the prenatal stage, and for the first year or 2 years or 5 years of their life and then constantly expanded until eventually the health insurance program would cover all Americans.

In my judgment, it would be cheaper than what we spend now, it would prevent a lot of illness instead of just treating illnesses after they occur, and it would mean that in a given community you'd have much better cooperation in providing a healthy environment in which to live and hospitals to treat illness at a much lower cost if one does get a serious illness. It would also include a catastrophic health program so that if a family did have a very expensive illness, say, the husband of the family had terminal cancer and had to linger for months and months in the hospital, that that cost would be paid.

Those are the principles of the health program that I envision, that I believe the Congress will pass in my second term. But I am not in favor of socialized medicine, where the Government takes over the medical establishment and runs it for the private sector.

Thank you, ma'am, very much.


Q. Good afternoon, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon.

Q. Thank you for coming to the South Bay.

THE PRESIDENT. I'm glad I came.

Q. My name is John Mandell, and I live in Harbor City. And, Mr. President, opinion polls show that voters now consider inflation to be the major problem confronting all Americans and, also, many of these same voters believe that Government deficit spending is the root cause of inflation, not OPEC, not union wage contracts, not corporate pricing structures. I would like to know what specific steps you now propose to take to eliminate inflation or at least reduce it and why you believe these actions might succeed at this time, when your prior efforts during the last 3 1/2 years have actually resulted in accelerating inflation.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as a matter of fact, my efforts have not resulted in an accelerating of inflation. What's inflicted the entire Nation and indeed the entire world with inflationary pressures has been an increase in the price of OPEC oil of 120 percent in only 1 year. The price of oil on a nationwide basis in 1979 went up more than the price of oil had increased since oil was first discovered back in the 1880's. And that has permeated our entire economy and caused a tremendous increase in the price of all goods.

In March, if you remember correctly, after that tremendous series of increases in the price of energy, I imposed on the Nation some anti-inflation measures. The interest rates dropped about 1 percent per week for a long time, and inflation decreased dramatically. The last figures that we have for inflation showed that the inflation rate was zero. We had no increase in inflation in July. I don't anticipate that continuing in August, because it was probably an aberration, but at least it's the first time in 13 years that we have had zero inflation in any particular month. There's no doubt that inflation has come down, and I believe it'll be out of the double-digit figure for the rest of this year.

There are two or three things that must be done. One is to increase the productivity of American workers. We now have the highest productivity among our workers of any nation on Earth. But our plants and our tools are becoming obsolescent, and our productivity is not increasing as much as it is in nations like Germany and Japan, where their industrial complex was destroyed in the Second World War and they are more modern. Now that we've got the energy program intact and ready to implement, we are now ready to revitalize American industry and create new jobs, by better tools and better factories for American workers, not only in basic industries like steel and automobiles but also the high-technology industry that's so important here in California, particularly in your own community.

Another thing is to be responsible in dealing with tax reductions. As you know, the Reagan-Kemp-Roth proposal would slash income taxes, primarily for rich people, over the next 7 years a total of a thousand billion dollars, a trillion dollars. This is similar to what the income tax reduction was under Proposition Nine that the Californians wisely rejected in a recent referendum. But if we have that tremendous slash in income taxes, with great benefits going to rich people, then that would be highly inflationary in nature.

The tax proposal that I have put forward would actually be anti-inflationary in nature. It would primarily result in investments in new machines, new jobs, new industrial capability, and would help to offset the built-in increase in social security payments to keep the social security system sound, and in that, would be actually a contributing factor toward decreased inflation in the years ahead.

So, higher productivity, a balanced tax program, that I've put forward that won't be implemented until next year, and the removal of our excessive dependence on imported oil—those are the things that I believe would contribute to controlling inflation in the months and years ahead. We'll do all three of them if I'm elected, and I intend to be elected.

Q. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, sir.


Q. Mr. President, welcome. I'm Jim Logue of Carson, and on June 5th you directed the Department of Justice to look into all Cuban aliens with criminal backgrounds. Two thousand had gone to Federal prisons for investigation. Over 200 have been expelled back to their country, but they haven't left our country yet. When is the date for that? And we have to stop all this hijacking with these people.

THE PRESIDENT. We now have a massive force of Coast Guard ships and Navy ships between the coast of Cuba and the coast of Florida to stop the illegal aliens coming in here from Cuba. I can understand their desire to escape from communism. We've got 3 or 4 million refugees around the world who are escaping from various elements of totalitarian persecution, not only in Cuba but also in Cambodia, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and other places with which you are familiar.

It's my responsibility as President to enforce the law. Once these people arrive at our shores, then I have to be responsible for making sure that the law is carried out in accordance with my oath.

We have placed now over a hundred thousand of the Cuban refugees in communities in our country. They're doing very well. As you know, the Cubans are a highly motivated, very good workers, very competitive. And the ones who escape from a communist system most often are the ones that have some freedom desire in their hearts and some competitive spirit about them to escape from government control. So they are competitive, and as you know, they've done very well.

The second point is, the last point I want to emphasize is that we are doing the best we can to work with the officials in Cuba to stop this illegal flow into our country. It was announced in Cuba the first of last week, last Tuesday, that any hijackers who took a plane to Cuba would be immediately returned to the United States for trial and they'll be given the maximum sentence under the law, or they'll be executed by the Cuban officials themselves. In my judgment, this would go a long way towards discouraging hijacking in the months ahead.

So, to stop the illegal flow, to treat those that are already here humanely and assimilate them into communities where the unemployment rate is ultimately low and where they have families, to punish the hijackers severely, and to work with the Cuban officials to stop any illegal aliens coming in in the months ahead—those are the things we are doing in accordance with the law. And I believe we're having increasing effectiveness, although it is a messy business. It's been a very time-consuming thing for me, and I can't tell you that we've handled it perfectly so far. We're making progress on it, and I believe that we are doing the best we can.

That's a good question and a difficult one to answer.

Thank you, Jim.

Yes, ma'am.


Q. Good afternoon, Mr. President. My name is Patricia Phedey. I'm from Carnes, California, and I'm concerned about the effects a war between Iraq and Iran will have on our hostages. And I would also like to know why Iranians are still allowed by Immigration to enter this country.

THE PRESIDENT. I've been monitoring all day from Air Force One, with messages and telephone calls, the developments in Iraq and Iran along their border. Apparently, Iraq has decided to mount air strikes against several places in Iran and has done some damage, the extent of which we don't yet know. I'm also not familiar yet with accurate reports about the degree of ground force involvement.

I don't believe that this altercation between Iraq and Iran will have any predictable effect on the lives or safety of the hostages. It could cut both ways. It could convince Iran that they need peace with their neighbors, they need to be part of the international community, they need to be able to have a strong and viable economy, they need to get spare parts for their military weapons, and so forth, and therefore induce them to release the hostages. I'm not predicting that, but it's a possibility.

The most important thing in Iran is that they finally have a government. They finally have a President, a Prime Minister. They finally have a cabinet. They have a speaker of the Majles, and they have a parliament. This has not been the case in the past. I can't predict to you a rapid movement toward release of our hostages. I pray that it will happen. I cannot predict that it will yet. But I can tell you that the signals coming out of Iran lately-and they've all been public signals—have indicated some new desire on the part of the Iranians to resolve the problems between ourselves and them.

We have a very restrictive policy now between ourselves and Iran. We are not permitting any Iranians to come here from that country to the United States. There were some Iranian refugees who had already left their country and moved to different places in Europe, to Austria or to England or a few other countries, that we do permit to come in here, only on a very serious hardship case. I won't belabor the point, but just let me make one example. There are some fervent religious believers, for instance Jews, who were persecuted in Iran under the revolution, who escaped from Iran to Europe with the idea of coming here to join their relatives. A person like that is given a hardship permit to come into our country, and those are the only ones now that we are permitting to come here from Iran.

I hope we'll get the hostages back safe. We've had two policies ever since this happened. One is to protect the honor and integrity and the best interests of our country. The other one is not to do anything to endanger the lives or safety or the hope for freedom of the hostages themselves. That's our unchanging policy, and I'm committed to that. And I believe that we will see the hostages come back to freedom in the future; I can't say when.

Thank you.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.


Q. Hello, Mr. President, my name is Tim Good. I live in San Pedro, which is about 10 miles from here. In your opening remarks you called for an increased investment in our economic capabilities. Why then don't we make more than a token investment in solar power instead of going to the quick fix of nuclear energy, which is the most polluting technology ever devised?

THE PRESIDENT. Tim, in 1975, 2 years after the Arab oil embargo, we were only spending about $50 million on solar research and solar power development. We are now spending a billion dollars a year on solar power. This is a 20-fold increase over what was the case in 1975, in just 5 years. We now have 10 times as many homes using solar power as were using it 4 years ago.

This commitment of mine to solar power will be extended throughout the end of this century, when we have a very noble goal, which I believe we can meet, of having 20 percent of all our energy used in this country come from the Sun, either directly from the Sun's rays or from growing crops, indirectly— converted into fuels from the growing crops. That's a major commitment, and it's second only to the commitment to conservation.

If there's one thing better than solar power to meet our needs, it is to save energy and not waste it. So, the emphasis on conservation and the emphasis on solar power are two major components, and they have been increased more than any other element of the energy production cycle. However, I want to point out to you that the energy complex is very broad and far reaching and has many facets to it—the production of synthetic fuels from coal, the production of synthetic fuels from oil shale and tar sands, the production of energy from hydroelectric, particularly the small dams, from temperature gradients in the ocean. All of these kinds of things are an integral part of producing more energy in our country.

There are only two ways to cut down on imports. One is to produce more energy in the United States, and the other one is to save more energy and to cut out waste. You might be interested in knowing that this year we have more oil and natural gas wells being drilled than any other year in history. This year we're producing more coal in the United States than any year in history. And of course, we have much more commitment to solar power and to conservation than any year in history. Those are the kinds of things that we're having to do. I think we'll be successful in the long run.

Thank you very much.


Q. Mr. President, Eugene R. Anderson, from Torrance. Mr. President, the organized labor feels that the Carter administration has been unsympathetic to its needs. What are some of the programs you will introduce to gain support of labor, such as enacting the situs picketing bill and the continuous enforcement of the Davis-Bacon Act?

THE PRESIDENT. Eugene, I think that it's accurate to say that the vast majority of labor organizations in the Nation have already endorsed me and Fritz Mondale, and I'm very grateful for that support.

I am supporting Davis-Bacon. I will not permit Davis-Bacon to be destroyed. If the Congress should act to eliminate Davis-Bacon, I will veto the legislation when it comes to my desk. Secondly, I have supported situs picketing, and I am also strongly in favor of labor law reform. And my hope is that next year we will have the votes in the United States Senate to pass labor law reform legislation.

The most important element of my program that will benefit labor, however, is to have a high quality of life for Americans and high employment in the new technologies that am inevitable in our country following the establishment of an adequate national energy policy.

We have a vision of the future, as I said earlier, that is very optimistic. We've been through terrible times in the last few years in trying to accommodate these changes that were forced on us. But our Nation has always been able to accommodate change. We've been on the cutting edge of progress. And what we do in this Nation, in providing for new jobs in energy, high technology and otherwise, will set the tone not only for ourselves but for the entire world.

I've got a good partnership with labor. I'll be leaving here this afternoon, going to speak to the State AFL-CIO group. And I'll be meeting Senator Kennedy there, and he'll also be on the program with me. I think that labor will give me strong support in the future, and I hope and pray that I'll continue to deserve it.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. I'm sorry to say that our time is up, and I won't have a chance to take any more questions. But let me make a few comments in closing.

I don't know of anything that's more beneficial to a President than to have a chance to come to a community like yours, to stand here and answer questions—I have no idea what you're going to ask me—that I feel are the most important to you in your lives. We've had questions from retired military people. We've had questions about education. We've had questions about morality in America. We've had questions about our future. We've had questions about energy. We've had questions about our hostages. We've had questions about the strength of our military. We've had questions about the draft. We've had questions about the duties of President. We've had questions about the campaign itself. We've had questions about medicine. We've had questions about fair housing. We've had questions about Chicanos. These are the kinds of questions, coming from your heart, that are very important to me.

And I believe that we can look to the 1980's in this great country with confidence and a sense of unity of purpose and a belief that our lives, already the best on Earth in my judgment, will be even better in the future in the greatest nation on Earth.

Thank you very much. God bless you all. I've enjoyed being with you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2 p.m. in the gymnasium at North High School.

Jimmy Carter, Torrance, California Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Town Meeting Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251544

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