Remarks on the Nation's Economy at a White House Meeting With State Legislators and County Executives

February 9, 1981

I'm not saying hello individually, except to those near at hand, because I understand we'll have a chance later when we leave here for some photos. But I am grateful that all of you came here today, and I hope that the meeting so far has been productive for you. I know that it's helpful for us.

The task before us is enormous. We are on the brink, as I said on the air, of an economic calamity -- and I don't think that's too harsh a word -- but it is not our economic system that is at fault. The system is sound, and it's proven itself time after time. We've just played fast and loose with the system, and it's time that we made it work the way it's supposed to. The first priority, I believe, is a return to the concept of federalism.

You, the State legislators, you who are in county and local government are the representatives that are closest to the people. You are the first to see which programs work and which don't, and you know what is best for the States, for your communities, and that means what's best for the people. I've long believed that State and local governments have a better chance to be efficient and responsive than does the Federal bureaucracy, which tries to fit solutions to problems that vary from one locale to another, and all too often they end up with their own bureaucracy the beneficiary of whatever program they administer. My goal is to transfer as many programs as are appropriate back to you, along with the tax resources to pay for them. And we can use your help in getting that done.

It'll take all of us working together to turn things around, and frankly, I've asked you here today to enlist you in this effort. I would like your guidance as we come down to the wire on our comprehensive economic program, which we'll be submitting to the Congress next week, and then I would like to continue working with you as we work to put that plan into operation.

I know that you've been spending a lot of time with our economic advisers this afternoon doing just that, but I'd like to hear from you myself. So, right now I think that's the end of the monolog. We can have a dialog, and the floor is open to hear your comments.

Note: The President spoke at 4:35 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.

The press release includes a transcript of this discussion session which followed the President's opening remarks.

Following the meeting, the President attended a reception for the State legislators and county excecutives.