Remarks at a Fundraising Luncheon for Gubernatorial Candidate Jim Bunning in Louisville, Kentucky

October 7, 1983

I'm most pleased to be with you today to support the candidacy of an individual whose strength of character, unbounding energy, and unmatched creativity is going to make Kentucky one heck of a fine Governor -- Jim Bunning.

Kentucky hasn't had the kind of strong Republican leadership that Jim has to offer the Governor's office since the early seventies when Louie Nunn served this State. We were Governors together. I was Governor of California at the time, and I can appreciate the importance of electing Jim. He's offering exciting alternatives to government as usual. And, Jim, I'll just have to admit when I look over some of the things that you've been suggesting, it makes me want to move to Kentucky so I can vote for you. [Laughter]

Jim's been talking about reform that will bring business and commerce into your State. He's talking about lowering certain taxes to encourage industry to locate here. He's talking about getting rid of useless regulations that discourage economic development. He's talking about tax credits for the creation of new jobs, and about vocational training for those unprepared to meet the challenge of changing times. He's got the ideas, he knows how State government works, and he'll do the things he's talked about.

As you all know, better than me, perhaps -- no, you don't know better than me because I broadcast baseball for several years -- [laughter] -- he played professional baseball for 17 years before getting into politics. He's proven his political savvy is as good as his pitching arm, and he hasn't forgotten what it means to be on a team.

I know he sincerely cares about the people he works with, and not everybody in politics is so considerate, even with the members of their own party. Some politicians are kind of like the two campers who were out hiking and spotted a grizzly bear coming over the hill, and it was headed right for them. And one of them reached into his pack as quick as he could, pulled out a pair of tennis shoes, sat down, and started putting on the tennis shoes. And the other looked at him and he said, ``You don't mean you think you can outrun a grizzly?'' And the fellow with the tennis shoes stood up, and he says, ``I don't have to outrun the grizzly; I just have to outrun you.'' [Laughter]

Seriously, though, State government is becoming more important to the well-being of the American people. We Republicans -- and I know there are a host of Democrats who agree with us about this -- believe that government works best at levels close enough for people to influence the decisions that affect their lives.

Centralizing power in Washington doesn't work. It expanded the bureaucracy, it drained resources from the State and local level, but the problems remained and often got worse. When I was a young man, it's hard to believe that government in the United States only took 10 cents out of every dollar being earned. And two-thirds of that was for State and local government and one-third for the Federal Government. Today they're taking something like 44 cents out of every dollar earned, and two-thirds of that goes to the Federal Government, leaving one-third for the States and the local communities.

We're coming to the end of an era when politicians can sell the idea that the best solution to any problem is letting Washington do it because Federal money is free. Well, Washington money isn't free money, as I think most of you are well aware. It comes right out of those same pockets. Just between 1976 and 1981, the Federal tax take doubled. That deprived our economy of the resources that it needed for investment and new job creation. We fell into a pit of high inflation and economic stagnation. Some of the government programs have made little sense, except to those making a career out of administering those programs.

I remember one such program that was proposed during the war on poverty -- which poverty won -- [laughter] -- when I was Governor of California. And for a time they allowed a Governor to veto, for 60 days, a Federal program, unless it was then overridden by the Federal Government. Well, this program came in and it sounded at first -- it looked pretty good. They were going to take 17 of the needy, the unemployed, and they were going to put them to work helping clean up the county parks in this particular county. That sounded fine, just the kind of thing I believe in, except that as I looked closer at it, 50 percent of the budget was going to 11 administrators to make sure that the 17 got to work on time. [Laughter] I thought there might be an easier way to keep the parks clean than that. [Laughter]

But you know, it's -- sometimes these government programs, it's a little bit like the story of the country preacher who called on a town about 100 miles away from his own. He went there for a revival meeting. And on the way to the church, he noticed in that town that sitting on the porch of a little country store was a man from his own hometown, a fellow that was known for his drinking. And the minister went up to him and asked what he was doing so far from home. ``Preacher,'' he said, ``beer is 5 cents a bottle cheaper here.'' [Laughter] The minister told him that didn't make much sense -- the expense of traveling all that way and back, the price of lodging and all while he was there. The drinker thought for a moment and then replied, ``Preacher, I'm not stupid. I just sit here and drink till I show a profit.'' [Laughter]

That was the kind of logic that fit some of the Federal programs of the last 20 years. It wasn't any better than that. But today, we know that for America to move forward and meet the challenges of tomorrow, we must have strong leadership and community involvement.

Jim Bunning is just the person to provide the kind of leadership Kentucky needs to get the people involved. There's no better example of this than the education issue of such concern to so many of us. He's taken some pretty courageous stands on that. This is a subject about which I've been deeply concerned as a parent and as a public official, and I admire him for hitting the issue head-on.

I think voters should remember that those who offer easy answers and quick fixes are doing everyone a disservice, especially our children. Jim has suggested annual testing of students and ending the automatic promotion of pupils.

Oh, Jim, I had a mother in California one day when I was Governor, a black mother who came up to me, tears in her eyes. And she said, ``Don't talk to me about busing or things like that.'' She said, ``Keep my children in the class that they're in until they learn what they're supposed to know in that class. Don't just pass them on because they came to the end of the year.'' And then she told me, she said, ``I have a son who's a high school graduate, and he can't read the diploma they gave him.''

He's proposed lengthening the school year to bring Kentucky in line with the national average, raising the compulsory age for school attendance to at least attempt to give Kentucky children a better chance to graduate from high school. Jim knows that a well-educated future generation will make Kentucky stronger economically -- a view that his opponent may have missed. He's endorsed increasing the pay of your teachers, but he's also had the courage to call for merit pay and competency testing to ensure that the money is well spent.

I've looked over the things that Jim Bunning has proposed during this campaign, and I'm impressed. Since I got to Washington 3 years ago, we've tried to turn back the block grants power and authority to the States. With an individual like Jim in the Governor's office, I know that Kentuckians will benefit greatly from the new authority on block grants, the authority that it gives to the States.

Strong and effective State government is a vital part of the American system of government. Here in Kentucky, home of Henry Clay, one of the giants of American federalism, you well understand the relationship between our freedom and the balance of power between Federal and State government.

We are working on federalism at the national level. This country is as free as it is -- you as individuals owe much of your freedom to this very unique thing about our country -- that it was set up by the Constitution to be a federation of sovereign States, not administrative districts of a Federal Government that retained all the power itself.

It is that ability of citizens to choose where they will live that has kept government at the State levels from becoming tyrannical. It is that that preserves our precious liberty and unleashes productive forces among our citizens that produce abundance such as the world has never dreamed.

In the fall here in Kentucky, with the magnificent colors beginning to burst forth on hillside trees, you know how much God has blessed America. He has done His part. Now, I think it's up to us. With your help, Jim Bunning will be the next Governor of Kentucky.

Thank you, and God bless you. And I can tell you in this spirit of federalism, you'd be surprised how much help it is to someone in my job if it's Republican Governors we're dealing with out there, Governors who believe as we believe.

Note: The President spoke at 12:54 p.m. in the Cochran Ballroom at the Galt House Hotel. Prior to the luncheon, the President attended a reception for major donors to the Bunning campaign.