Waco, Texas Remarks at a Rally With Local Residents.
Thank you very much, Lloyd Bentsen, for your introduction. Lloyd Bentsen is the man that asked me to work with him to eliminate the tax on the small royalty owners of Texas and Oklahoma and Louisiana, and I agreed to do it. We're going to do it when the Congress reconvenes. That's the kind of leadership you've got in Washington, Lloyd Bentsen.
And I'm also glad to be with Congressman Marvin Leath, one of the finest new Members of Congress, with Charlie Wilson, who was with me earlier in Beaumont, Senator David Pryor, and others that I won't name this morning. But I particularly want to mention Congressman Bob Poage, who represented the people of this district for 42 years and who also represented the people of the Third District of Georgia, where I live, because he knew what farm families needed, he knew what Americans needed—a strong defense, unity among the oil people, and a bright vision of the future. That's what Bob Poage gave us when he was in the Congress, and that's what he still gives us this day.
And I also want to be sure to point out to you the great honor always paid to me when I can be in the same congregation, the same audience, on the same platform with Lady Bird Johnson, one of the finest people who ever lived on Earth. I know that I'm not only in the geographic heart of Texas; I'm also in the Democratic heart of Texas, right? [Applause] You might say I came here for the purpose of getting votes for the Presidency, and that's partially true, but this is also the biggest airport close to one of my favorite towns in the United States, and that's Abbott, Texas, because any town that can produce Willie Nelson will always be close to my heart.
Not too long ago I was in Beaumont, earlier today, and they gave me a new pair of boots. Congressman Jack Brooks said they were stomping boots—to stomp Republicans on November the 4th.
But let me say this: I grew up on a farm, and I know you need high-top boots for things besides stomping Republicans. As you well know—and I see a few carriers out here in the audience—Republicans have a habit of spreading a lot of horse manure around right before an election. And lately, as you also know, it's getting pretty deep all over this country.
I noticed the other day in the news that former President Richard Nixon, one of the great Republican Presidents, as you know, has been writing campaign advisory memos for Ronald Reagan. When I saw where Ronald Reagan was getting his advice, I began to understand a few of the things he'd been saying a little bit better.
Yesterday, I noticed in the news also that Governor Reagan announced that he has a secret plan to get the hostages back. Those of you who remember past elections when Richard Nixon ran against Hubert Humphrey probably find that sounding familiar. Do you remember when Richard Nixon said just before an election in 1968 that he had a secret plan to win the war in Vietnam? You all remember that?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, here it is 12 years later, and we still don't know what Mr. Nixon's secret plan was to win the Vietnam war. Now, how many of you Texans with sound judgment, familiar with history, believe that Ronald Reagan has a secret plan to get the hostages back? How many of you think that?
THE PRESIDENT. Governor Reagan, so far, has had a good opportunity, and he's done pretty well in keeping his plan secret. He's got a secret plan for providing for the well-being of retired Americans by calling four times to make social security voluntary. If there's any one plan I know that would put social security instantly into bankruptcy, it's to let people who want to withdraw from paying social security to do so. Voluntary social security would be the end of it. But Mr. Reagan says he's got a secret plan for correcting that defect.
Mr. Reagan has a secret plan for providing good health care for senior citizens by being against Medicare. He traveled all over this Nation, his first time in public life, working for the American Medical Association, campaigning against Medicare.
Mr. Reagan also has a secret plan for helping working families by being against the minimum wage. He said the minimum wage has caused more misery and more unemployment in America than anything since the Great Depression. I remember when we didn't have a minimum wage, and the Democrats proposed that it be 25 cents an hour. The Republicans were against it, said it was socialism or communism. Later, the Democrats proposed the minimum wage of 40 cents an hour. That's when I got my first job. The Republicans were against that enormous increase, and they said that a working man or a working woman trying to support a family wasn't worth 40 cents an hour.
Mr. Reagan also has a secret plan to take care of working families who are temporarily unemployed without unemployment compensation. He says that unemployment compensation is just a prepaid vacation for freeloaders. That's the kind of secret plan that's still being put into effect. And as you know, Mr. Reagan has already revealed one of his secret plans for curing pollution. He wants to cut down all the trees in the United States. He said that's where the pollution comes from.
Well, there's one more thing that the Republicans are covering up, perhaps a little more deeply than most, and that is a crucial issue to you, even more important, perhaps, than social security, Medicare, minimum wage, unemployment compensation, and that's our Nation's defense. As long as I'm President of the United States and Commander in Chief of the military forces, we're going to have a strong nation, because I know that only through strength can we stay at peace.
In the 7 years before I became President, when Republicans were in the White House, in 7 of the 8 years, we had a decrease—a decrease—under the Republicans, in real funds for our Nation's defense. That, ladies and gentlemen, is not compatible with the philosophy of Texas Democrats, to cut defense spending in 8 years, under Republicans, 37 percent. Since I've been in office, we've had an orderly, steady, effective increase, above and beyond inflation, every single year. And with the help of Democrats in the Congress, we're going to keep that steady, upward progress as long as I serve in the White House.
The state of our Nation's defense is a legitimate issue for a congressional and also a Presidential election, but there's no place in this campaign for false charges.
The latest example is my opponent's charge, for instance, that we are not involved in the Iran-Iraq war because we're weak. Obviously, that charge is untrue and false. Our country is strong. In fact, we have the most powerful naval force ever assembled in the Indian Ocean, with two carrier task forces in that region.
We have overwhelming naval and air superiority to protect our interests there. We've prepositioned equipment for 12,000 Marines and munitions for 500 American aircraft, and we've arranged, recently, for facilities to be used at five different sites in that crucial region. When I took office, we had virtually no defense at all, under Republican Presidents, in that region. Today, we've acted to keep the straits open and to protect our vital interests. I can tell you, ladies and gentlemen in Texas, we're ready.
Let me say, also, that we had no battle tank being built; now we've got one. We had no new armored personnel carrier being developed; now we've got one. The Trident missiles and the Trident submarine were in a stalemate; now they're being built and produced and launched and tested. We didn't have any way to defend our silo missiles; now the MX missile will give us that capability. We didn't have any air-launched cruise missiles then; now we'll produce 3,000 of them in the next year. We're making sure that throughout the world American defenses are strong, because that's compatible with the American character. Those defenses were weakened under Republicans, but under Democrats we're putting our Nation strong, and that's the way it's going to stay to keep the peace.
I want to cover one more issue which you may not hear much about here in Waco, but Bob Poage knows about it, Lloyd Bentsen knows about it, and others on this stage know about it, and that's international affairs. Sometimes a President and a Member of Congress have to make a difficult decision. Two years ago, my administration established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. Some of the Republicans thought it was a mistake. A billion people live there. That may not sound like it has anything to do with you, but listen to this about farm exports. Agriculture is a major element of the life of Texas. The fact is that since I became President, in that one nation alone, annual United States farm products exports to China have gone from zero to over $2 billion. The number one customer in the world for Texas cotton is the People's Republic of China.
We have quadrupled our sales of agricultural products to China in the last 2 years, and now, because of an agreement that we signed just last night in Beijing and in Washington, we'll be able to expand that trade even further. Under this agreement the Chinese will buy at least 6 million tons of American wheat and corn during each of the next 4 years. They can buy up to 9 million metric tons if they choose. Our best estimate is that next year they'll buy about 7.2 million metric tons of United States grain, and their purchase of Texas grain and cotton will continue to go up.
That's a lot of wheat. It may not be easy to understand how much 7 million tons is, but that's enough to make 15 loaves of bread for every man, woman, and child in the nation of China. This is good news for American farmers. It's good news for all Americans. As a matter of fact, in the last 3 1/2 years we've had the highest gross income of farmers in history, we've had the highest increase in net farm income in history. This year we are drilling more oil and gas wells in the United States than any year in history. We're producing more American coal than any year in history. And we've set records under Bob Poage's leadership; now we're following along.
In 1977 we set a world record in farm product exports—1978, a new world's record; 1979, a new world's record; 1980, the highest of all, $40 billion worth of American farm products going overseas to foreign customers. That's what we're doing for the people of Texas.
I might say in closing that this election year is a very crucial year for you, for your families, and for people that you love. The issues are sharply drawn. You remember the past history and the differences between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. I remember growing up on a farm. Franklin Roosevelt, the great Democratic President, said, "We ought to give the farmers an equal chance and start the REA and turn on electricity in the farmhouses of America." The Republicans, as you may remember, were against it.
Franklin Roosevelt thought that older people ought to be taken off the po' farms, as we called them, and given social security and some human decency and selfrespect and security in their older years. He proposed social security. The Republicans were against it. I've already mentioned the minimum wage. Democrats have always been for it; Republicans were against it.
The working families of this Nation have always been foremost in the minds of Democratic leaders. Your great leader, Lyndon Johnson, proved that when he was in office. You might think that your vote doesn't matter in a national election, but if just 28,000 people had changed their minds in Texas in 1960, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson would never have been able to serve this great country. This is how close it is. And in 1968, if just a few Democrats had been more enthusiastic in supporting our ticket, Richard Nixon would never have served in the Oval Office in Washington; we would have had Hubert Humphrey instead.
So, think about your families, think about your future, think about the defense of this country, think about the industrial complex of our Nation. I share the same philosophy you do and that Democrats have shared down through the generations. We believe in human beings and making sure that our people have a better life. We believe in self-respect for those who might be old or afflicted or poor or not well educated, who can't speak English well or who might be black.
We believe in giving people a better chance in life, more security—let them stand on their own feet, manage their own affairs, live a good life. That's what Democrats have always believed. But we also believe that the Government should not interfere in the private lives of human beings, and the free enterprise system should compete and be truly free. The Republicans talk big, but they talk to big business mostly. The profits to them are more important.
Let me tell you in closing what we've done the last 3 1/2 years. We have deregulated the price of oil and natural gas. Every President for many years has promised this, Democrats and Republicans. President Eisenhower vetoed a bill when he was in office, in 1956 I believe, that would have accomplished this purpose. We did it under a Democratic administration. Some thought we did it too fast; some thought we did it too slow. But the fact is that this has resulted in a great boon to the people of Texas. You've got in this State alone, compared to January of 1977, 914,000 people more holding jobs now. That's a good progress.
The unemployment rate in Texas since January of 1977, when I took over from a Republican President, is down 30 percent. Per capita income, that's how much the average Texan makes every year, has gone up over 40 percent in 3 1/2 years. We've taken the Government's nose out of the industrial system of our country. We've deregulated not only the oil and natural gas, we've deregulated the railroads, deregulated the airlines, deregulated the trucks, deregulated the financial institutions, working on the communication systems to let us have competition, good products, good sales overseas, good jobs for Americans, good competition, and let the people of this Nation have a better life.
That's what the Democratic Party has done for you now and in the past. And the Democratic Party, with your help when we whip the Republicans on November the 4th, you're going to have a better life for this country in the future.
Thank you very much. Go to work. God bless you all.
Note: The President spoke at 1:41 p.m. at the James Connally Airfield at Texas State Technical Institute.
Jimmy Carter, Waco, Texas Remarks at a Rally With Local Residents. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251549