Remarks at a Rally for Senator Harrison Schmitt of New Mexico in Albuquerque

March 2, 1982

Thank you very much for a most heartwarming welcome. You know, in Washington you wake up to the local news there, and you're not always as enthused as you are right now.

But, Mr. Chairman, Mayor Kinney, Republican State Chairman Morris, Mrs. Schmitt, Senator Jack Schmitt, I came to Albuquerque today to tell you something that I now realize is absolutely unnecessary to tell you, and that was how lucky you are to have a Senator like Jack Schmitt. You already know that. And you're lucky that, among other things, he's a geologist, because let me tell you, Washington has more than a few people with heads that only a rockhound can handle. [Laughter]

For 6 years now Jack has been chipping away at the petrified attitudes that have characterized Washington for decades. And now this year with a Republican administration and a new Republican majority in the Senate, he's had some help.

As chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, he played an instrumental role in enacting last year's budget cuts. They were, incidentally, the biggest cuts that have ever been made in the history of this country. And let me say he handled those budget cuts with as much skill and precision as he flew the spacecraft that took him to the Moon. He was careful, and he did no harm to the programs that genuinely serve the needy or provided sound education value to our children.

You know, right now, because of some changes that we're making with regard to the Department of Education, there seems to be spreading in a kind of a wave among some people that -- well, we're trying to do away with or lower educational quality. Not so. There are those in Washington who, ever since they turned to Federal aid to education, intended Federal control of education, and that interference by the Federal Government has hurt the quality of education from coast to coast in this country.

The Congress is now beginning to study the administration's 1983 budget proposal, and this proposal provides a solid framework for congressional consideration. You've been hearing a lot about so-called alternatives to the budget that we've presented. Well, many of these are not genuine budget alternatives at all, but political documents designed for saving certain legislators' political hides rather than saving the economy.

This administration is willing to consider any comprehensive program as long as it does not compromise the fundamentals of our tax cut program. The American people have been promised tax relief. Last year the Congress passed tax relief, and as long as I have any say in the matter, no one's going to take it away from us.

It is true that we've only had the first installment and a small one that hardly made a dent in the built-in tax increases which we had inherited. But the next installment will come in July 1st, and then there will be a further one in the following year. Incentive must be returned to those who work and save and invest.

And if I may echo and add to something that Senator Schmitt said up here a moment ago, there's another bottom-line requirement, we cannot afford to compromise our national defense needs. Senator Schmitt has worked for a stronger defense. He has read the studies. He knows that our relative military imbalance with the Soviets will be at its worst -- in spite of our buildup, it will be at its lowest point by the mid-eighties. He's familiar with the horror stories of recent years -- fighter planes that couldn't fly because they didn't have the spare parts, Navy ships that couldn't leave port, a Rapid Deployment Force that was neither rapid nor deployable and not much of a force. He knows that a major conflict involving the United States could occur without adequate time to upgrade United States force readiness.

For years, he has advocated substantial increases in the defense budget, and this administration agrees wholeheartedly. An increase is essential. Defense has been starved for years. And yet it is not true, as some charge, that we're splurging extravagantly on unnecessary defense spending while we are neglecting our other Federal responsibilities.

In 1962 President Kennedy's budget, to give you something to judge this by, called for defense spending that amounted to 44 percent, almost half of the national budget. Even with our increases, defense spending this year will only be 29 percent of the overall budget. That's right halfway between one-fourth and one-third of the budget.

Now, to those who say there must be an alternative to our increased military budget, I agree. What they say is absolutely true, there is an alternative to a larger defense budget. It is a larger and increased possibility of war.

These young people who are here today, there isn't any one of us who is anticipating the day or thinking in terms that they should some day be called upon to bleed their lives into some battlefield somewhere in the world as other young people have before them. No, if we have the proper defensive strength, no young Americans will have to bleed their lives into a battlefield. A cutback in defense would be a cutback in our chance of peace and security.

As much as I detest the idea of deficits, as President I must accept a large deficit if that is what it takes to buy peace for the rest of this century and beyond. With every improvement in our military readiness that we make today, we're saving the life of some young American who'll be serving our country tomorrow.

As you well know, Senator Schmitt is one of the very few men on this Earth who has walked on the Moon. It must be quite a sight up there, looking back on this beautiful blue planet hanging in the void. I would think that seeing the Earth from a quarter of a million miles away must change a man forever. He must look at everything ever after from a different perspective, a larger perspective. And I think Jack Schmitt has brought that perspective to the Senate.

Being a scientist, Jack has that analytical, independent mind. When the facts support our case, he'll support the administration. When the facts don't support us to Jack's satisfaction, well, he can be as stubborn as those burros the prospectors use to lead around New Mexico's mountains. [Laughter] And I mean that in the friendliest of spirits. [Laughter]

You know, when I was much younger, I heard about a prospector that came down out of those mountains, and when he arrived in civilization and announced that he had been up there for 40 years hunting gold -- said he'd been there -- that's what he was, a prospector -- he'd been up there for 40 years. And the fellow he was saying this to said, ``You mean you're been up there in the mountains for 40 years looking for gold?'' And he says, ``No. I was only looking for gold 1 year. The other 39 I was looking for my burro.'' [Laughter]

That illustrates a certain independence there. But whether Jack agrees with us or not, he always listens -- or we always listen to what he has to say, because we know that he speaks for New Mexico and her citizens and for this country.

I came here to deliver a message. The message is that Congress needs Jack Schmitt in the Senate. The administration -- my administration needs Jack Schmitt in the Senate. And if I may be presumptuous enough to speak for you here today, New Mexico needs Jack Schmitt in the Senate.

Let me just say one or two more words. Jack told you about some of the figures and some of the changes that have occurred in this last year with regard to interest rates, with regard to the rate of inflation.

You know, it's sometimes easy for us to forget in Washington as we look at inflation coming down, that out here people are perhaps not so prone to notice that, because it is still inflation. So, they go to the store. They're not particularly interested in the rate of inflation. They only know that the price this year is higher than the price was a year ago. And all we can try to say is, yes, but it's not as much higher as it was getting to be a year ago. But the aim and the goal that we're all dedicated to in this administration and in that majority in the Senate that we have, we're dedicated to the day when you're going to go into the store and say, ``The price is lower than it was when I was in here last.''

We're faced with, yes, a large deficit -- larger than we had anticipated because of the recession that has hit this country. How does such a figure change? Well, when you add 1 percent to the unemployment rate in this country, you add 25 to 27 billion dollars to the deficit, and we're in a recession. We think that we're going to turn the corner in that recession in the coming months. Things are going to be different.

But today, with this being an election year, there are people on the opposite side of a Jack Schmitt who are going to make a great issue about this deficit. I would ask you to remember only one thing: Remember, they are the same people who for over the last 40 years have told us the national debt isn't important; we owe it to ourselves. They are the same ones that have piled up deficits, except once in the last 25 years. They've had deficits every year but that one, and they never mentioned them, they didn't seem to be bothered too much by them. Suddenly now the deficit is the all-important issue of the coming election. Well, we hate deficits too. We hated them all of the time they were piling them up. We're going to whittle at these deficits until we're down to government spending within its means.

And I just finished saying to some people over in Cheyenne, we don't have deficits because of our tax cuts. We have deficits because the government is spending too much, and we're going to change that.

So all I ask of you -- you've applauded all these things that I've said we're going to do. We'll do them a lot easier and a lot better if you send him back to Washington for another 6 years. We'd like to have him.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 3:29 p.m. in the Kiva Auditorium at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

Following his appearance at the rally, the President attended a fundraising reception for Senator Schmitt in the Acoma Room at the convention center.