Jimmy Carter photo

West Allis, Wisconsin Remarks at the West Campus of the Milwaukee Area Technical College.

October 06, 1980

Well, first of all let me say that I'm delighted to be here.

As President it's always helpful to bask in the glory of two very fine and popular political leaders—Gaylord Nelson, who is looked upon throughout this Nation as the protector of the small business enterprises of our Nation, the protector of the free enterprise system, and one of the most dedicated men I've ever known to helping provide a better life and better jobs for all the people of America. You are indeed fortunate to have him specifically concentrating not only on nationwide problems but on the opportunities in this great State of Wisconsin.

And Clem Zablocki, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House, is one of those men that I have to work with on a daily basis in trying to keep our Nation strong, first of all, and keep our Nation and the world at peace. It's always good to have a man like him, who's completely versed in the very complicated international affairs, but still who keeps his roots very close to the people of this Nation. And he understands the particular makeup of our great country, a country of refugees, a country of immigrants, a country of people who've come here from almost every other nation on Earth and who've invested our lives in better opportunities for our children and also more freedom for ourselves.

So, I'm indeed honored to be with these two fine men.

I had a chance to ride with Mayor Maier and his wife from Washington, and I was welcomed outside by Mayor Barlich. I'm very proud to have both of them here. And the officials of the school, the instructors, the students have already made my visit a successful one, even in the brief time that I've had to spend.

This school, which is the largest one of its kind in the entire world, serves during a year's period of time about 70,000 Americans, those who already have a good life that want to have a better life. And this school, in my judgment, represents what our Nation is all about. We Americans believe in carrying our own weight. We believe in independence for ourselves and also for our beloved country. And this school offers the skills and the knowledge that all of us need, particularly the graduates of this school, to be productive citizens. It helps you to help yourselves, and it helps our Nation in the process.

You all have your own personal goals, you in this room and all those listening to my voice. You want to become even stronger breadwinners for your families. You want to become independent and respected members of a cohesive community. You want to plan for the future. You, like I, want to give your children an even better life than the one we've enjoyed, and we want to be secure in our retirement years.

Today we do face tough economic problems in this country. They're complicated; there's nothing simple or easy about them. Those challenges, if not met successfully, can stand in our way to the fulfillment of the life that we want so much. They can obstruct our economic goals, they can prevent our children having a better life than we have, and they can also prevent our Nation from being secure, prosperous, and at peace. As President, I am determined to meet those economic challenges and to resolve the economic problems for the best interests of all Americans. I've worked very closely with the working families of this country and the leaders who represent them, in and out of the labor union movement itself.

We've got to face, also, specific challenges like the overdependence on foreign oil, which was becoming a debilitating circumstance for our Nation. Over the few years before I became President, every year we were importing more and more of our oil and had reached the point where about half of the total oil consumed in this Nation came from overseas.

As we import a shipload of oil, we also import inflation and unemployment. So, the Congress and I have worked closely together, hammering out for ourselves an energy policy for our Nation. It's been remarkably successful already, although it's only been on the books a short time. We've cut down our imports of foreign oil by about 24 percent, and each day this year we import about 2 million barrels of oil less than we did the same day the first year I was in office—a remarkable achievement by the people of this country, who see this threat to our economic future. I'm determined that we'll continue this progress to make sure that our Nation is independent on energy and that we control inflation and unemployment resulting from this high dependence on imported oil.

We're also facing the problem of declining productivity growth. American workers are still the most productive on Earth. We produce more per hour worked, per year worked in this country than any other people on Earth. But our rate of increase of production per hour or per year has not been going up well; in fact, it's been declining a little bit lately. And that's because we've not had enough money invested in giving our workers the new tools and new factories that would let them continue to be more productive as time goes along and to compete with foreign suppliers of goods. But I think now we've turned the corner on that.

We've got to do it by revitalizing American industry—here again, a very complicated process, because you've got to do it with tax provisions that will let people invest in those new factories and new tools, and you've got to do it with the maximum dependence on the freedom of our free enterprise system. We've tried to get the Government's nose out of the private affairs of the free enterprise system and have had remarkable success recently with the deregulation of the airline industry, the trucking industry, the rail industry, the financial institutions industry. Cut down on paperwork and let competition give industry a better chance to survive on its own, in freedom, and at the same time give consumers better prices for highquality products.

America's strength doesn't come from giant corporations; it doesn't come from the Federal Government; it doesn't come from the State or local governments, either. It comes from the work and the ingenuity and the dedication and the skills of American workers. I'm determined to see our country make the most of this great strength, and I want to make sure that all those who graduate from this school and other schools like it around the Nation have the greatest possible opportunities to provide for yourselves and for your own families. This also, in the same process, provides for the best future of our country.

To improve worker productivity, we need to build the new plants and modernize those that presently exist. There's no way to stop change; circumstances economically in our own country, in a given community, and around the world are going to change. But Americans have never been afraid of change. We've always been on the cutting edge of change. Ready with the freedom that we have, with the good education systems that we have, with the research and development that we know, we've been the ones that carve out the benefits from new ideas and to make our competition with other nations in the world more and more successful. But I have to tell you that world competition is becoming more challenging, more difficult every year. And we need to win that competition. But you don't win a war with obsolete weapons; you don't win a competition, economic war with obsolete tools.

I'd like to point out, since this is a political year, the stark difference between myself and my opponent for President in how to deal with these questions I've just described to you. Governor Reagan proposes a tax program called Reagan-Kemp-Roth. This proposal would provide massive inflationary tax cuts across the board, amounting between now and 1987 to a Federal income tax reduction of a thousand billion dollars, a trillion dollars. These tax cuts would add billions and billions of dollars to the Federal deficit and would mean the printing of more and more Federal money, dollars that would become more and more worthless, and inflation would rob every family.

This Reagan-Kemp-Roth proposal is like quicksilver; it glitters. It promises quick results, easy answers, but it ends up being worthless except for the very rich, who would benefit greatly at the expense of the working families of this country. It's been condemned even by Business Week as inflationary. George Bush, who is Governor Reagan's running mate as Vice President, said it would create inflation in excess of 30 percent, and he called it "voodoo economics." Even President Ford, who supports Governor Reagan, says it's too inflationary for him to support.

We can't deal with our problems offering something for nothing just in the last few weeks or a month of a political campaign. We have to face the facts, and sometimes these facts are very difficult; sometimes, almost always, they are very complicated. And the facts are that you can't give giant tax cuts, giant increases in spending for a nuclear arms race, balance the budget, stop inflation, all at the same time. I have great confidence in the sound judgment of the American people, and I have no doubt that they'll reject this Republican economic program of implausible promises, improbable assumptions, and ill-considered proposals. This creates in the people's minds increasingly, day by day, uncertainty and doubt about the future.

There's another Republican proposal that I'd like to mention to you now that concerns me very deeply and ought to concern every person that lives in our country, and especially those who live in Wisconsin, who pay State taxes and who pay local property taxes. Governor Reagan has proposed that the programs for education and welfare be shifted to the shoulders of the local and State governments. This for Wisconsin means a shift of about a billion dollars a year to pay for the welfare programs that he would put as your responsibility.

There are only two ways he could do it. He's called for some sort of change in tax sources. This would either require that property tax and other taxes in Wisconsin would have to go up a billion dollars, which would cost the average family in this State $870 a year in increased property taxes; or else he would have to transfer literally billions and billions of dollars from the Federal Government to local governments in some sort of a massive, undefined, revenue-sharing program that he's never spelled out to the American people. If he did that, it would further aggravate the tremendous cost in inflation and Federal deficits of the Reagan-Kemp-Roth tax proposal.

This kind of confusion creates doubt and uncertainty about the future. As you know, Governor Reagan has refused to debate with me. What I think we ought to have and what I know we ought to have, for the benefit of the American people, is a man-to-man debate between me and Governor Reagan, so that I can say to him, "I've got a question I want to ask. As you put the burden of welfare and education on the shoulders of local property tax payers, how is it going to be paid for by those already overburdened Americans? Or if you're going to transfer some sort of tax source to them to finance this program, how is the Federal Government going to handle the enormous deficits and the enormous inflationary results of that transfer?"

The point is that in an election year it's extremely important for candidates to be responsible, to be sound, to be clear, to be honest, not to mislead the American people by offering simplistic answers to complicated questions, and if questioned on an issue so important as the one I've just described to you, to explain very clearly to the American people what the answers are.

There's a very clear difference between me and my opponent. There's a very clear difference between the Democratic Party and what it stands for and the Republican Party. That difference is much more vivid in 1980 than it's been before. We're talking about a difference in two futures for America. I know that all of you are searching now, during the last few weeks of this election year, for the answers to this basic question: What is the future of our Nation going to be? Will my family be stable? Will my taxes be moderate? Is my future predictable? Are we going to control nuclear weapons? Are we going to avoid war and keep peace for our Nation? Will education and welfare and other programs be handled in a responsible way? Will job opportunities be provided? Will tax programs be fair?

These are the kinds of questions that must be determined in the mind of every single individual American who goes to the polls to vote on November the 4th. The responsibility is yours. And that's why I came here to this fine school to talk to you and to listen to you and to talk to your students and the faculty of this school and to learn how you feel our Nation's future will be shaped.

I started out my remarks by saying that this school stands for what America is all about, and I believe it's also what our economic programs are all about. There are no easy answers. The American people want frankness. The American people do not believe in living on handouts. The American people believe that an able-bodied person should have a job and if it's offered to them, that that person ought to take the job. The American people want to carry their own weight. And I want to make it easier for those aspirations and those commitments and those principles that have guided our Nation for so long to be carried out.

As I said before, we Americans come from a lot of different countries, and we've all come with the same common dream-a dream of freedom, a dream of opportunity, a dream of a better future for our families. And I'm determined to make this dream of America a living and a breathing reality. With your help, we will not fail. The future of our great country will be even brighter than the present and the past that we free Americans have known.

Thank 'you very much. God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 12:12 p.m. to faculty, students, and community leaders in Room A105-111 of the Main Building.

Prior to his remarks, the President took a walking tour of the college facilities.

Jimmy Carter, West Allis, Wisconsin Remarks at the West Campus of the Milwaukee Area Technical College. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250688

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