Remarks at an Iowa Caucus Rally in Waterloo

February 20, 1984

The President. Thank you very much, Governor Terry Branstad, and members of the Iowa delegation, and my old friend, the conscience of the Congress, H.R. Gross. Thank you all for your very warm welcome.

And may I say it's a tonic to be in this beautiful place. And if I can remember the way we used to do the call letters, ``Where the West begins in the State where the tall corn grows.'' And it's good to be back with hard-working people who share an abiding love for God and family. You don't listen to the worldly cynics; you're too busy making America's future better.

It's wonderful to see so many of you here. There are almost as many of you as there are Democratic Presidential candidates. [Laughter] You know, I'm a little curious about some of the things those fellows have been saying. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, because you're closer to the situation than I am. But aren't these people who talk so much about fairness for all Americans the same ones who can't see you unless you belong to a special interest group? And don't you get a little nervous when those born-again budget balancers tell us there's only one way to reduce deficits, and it begins with raising your taxes?

But let's be fair. This is one area where all our liberal friends are willing to cut spending. There is one area. They'll cut what America needs to protect her national security. Oh, they say they're for a strong national defense. But ask them if we should build the B - 1 bomber or the MX missile or the Trident submarine or the cruise missile or the aircraft carriers or the M - 1 tank or rebuild the battleship Iowa -- but that's another story.

I don't know how they feel about slingshots -- [laughter] -- but I do know that with them in control our defenses would still be growing weaker. Oh, troops would have landed in Grenada all right; they just wouldn't have been American troops.

The Grenadians wouldn't have been applauding, and our American students might not have been saved. You know, I'm going to interrupt right here, because -- I wasn't going to tell you this, but I have to.

One of our young men, a lieutenant in the Marine Corps, pilots a Cobra, was in Grenada, and then he went on to Beirut. And this young lieutenant wrote back to the Armed Forces Journal at the Pentagon. And he said that in every story about Grenada, in every paper, he read in every one of them the same line: Grenada produces more nutmeg than any other spot on Earth. And he had come to the conclusion that that was being repeated so often, it was a code. And so he wrote back to say he had broken the code.

Six stages. Number 1: Grenada produces more nutmeg than any other spot on Earth. Number 2: The Soviets and the Cubans are trying to take Grenada. Number 3: You cannot make good eggnog without nutmeg. [Laughter] Number 4: You can't have Christmas without eggnog. [Laughter] Number 5: The Soviets and the Cubans were trying to steal Christmas. And Number 6: We stopped them.

Audience. [Chanting] U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A!

The President. You bet. Thank you.

What we're talking about are questions of values, judgment, and courage. Our administration did not answer a problem of national security by slapping an unfair grain embargo on Iowa's farmers. We removed that grain embargo and began rebuilding America's defenses. And now we're doing our best to help farmers work their way back, strengthen their prices, increase their exports, and regain their reputation as reliable suppliers.

We can do better. But we must never shy from telling the truth. And we have some important truths to tell between now and November 6, election day 1984.

The first truth is the old reliable: People who live in glass houses should never throw stones. Or, to put it another way: The liberals who had total control over government but who saddled America with double-digit inflation, record interest rates, huge tax increases, too much regulation, credit controls, farm embargoes, no growth at home, weakness abroad, and phony excuses about you having a malaise are the last people who should be giving sermonettes about fairness and compassion.

Now, I have to say there was one thing fair about their policies. They didn't discriminate; they made everybody miserable. And now these critics say that we can do nothing right. The spending and tax cuts were too big, all their special interests have been hurt, and the recovery can't last. If pessimism was an Olympic event, they'd win a gold medal for sure.

You know, their attitude reminds me of a comment that a great American leader made about a similar situation. He said, ``Those who are frightened by boldness and cowed by the necessity for making decisions complain that all we have done is unnecessary and subject to great risks. Now that these people are coming out of their storm cellars, they forget that there ever was a storm.'' Those words were spoken by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the fall of 1934 -- which brings me to the second truth we must tell between now and November: America is better off today than we were 3 years ago. We're better off because we're through placing faith in more government programs. We're restoring our faith in the greatest resource this nation has -- the mighty spirit of free people under God.

It was you at the grassroots who reminded Washington that we are a government of and by and for the people, not the other way around. And it was you who said it is time to put earnings back in the hands of the people, time to put trust back in the hands of the people, time to put America back in the hands of the people.

And that's why America is moving forward with confidence again. We're seeing a new dawn of hope for our people. As the psalm says, ``Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.'' We're still not where we want to be, but look how far we've come. We don't have 12\1/2\-percent inflation anymore; inflation is less than 4 percent and has been for 2 years. We don't have interest rates over 21 percent; the prime rate is now down to 11. We don't have taxes doubling in 5 years; we cut everyone's tax rates. And next year, your taxes will be indexed so that government can no longer use inflation to profit at your expense. And we eliminated estate taxes for spouses, so that Iowa families won't have to sell the family farm just to pay the government a tax.

In 1980 we had economic stagnation; in 1984 we have a sparkling recovery that is reducing unemployment by the fastest rate in nearly 33 years. America is back.

But if the dream of America is to be preserved, we must not waste the genius of one mind, the strength of one body, or the spirit of one soul. We need all our people -- men and women, young and old, individuals of every race -- to be healthy, happy, and whole. And I assure your fine Governor and all of you here today, we must not and will not be satisfied until every person who wants to work can find work. This is our goal. And for each of the last 13 months, an average of 300,000 people a month have found jobs here in this land of ours.

Recovery in the farm community has been more difficult. The worldwide recession, large crops in other countries, last summer's drought, East-West tensions, and unfair trade practices have all contributed to cash flow problems for our producers, and they've made it harder for us to correct the legacy of the past. But make no mistake: We are working our way back from despair to hope. We've made a commitment to help, and we're doing our darn level best to carry it out.

We said we would lift the grain embargo, and we did. We said we would help restore the reputation of American farmers as reliable suppliers, and we negotiated a new long-term grain agreement with the Soviets. We promised to lift the burden of surpluses off the back of agriculture, and most surpluses have been cut. Prices are still too low, but they're stronger than they were, and this year farm costs will decline.

As proof of our commitment to expand exports, I recently approved a $1 billion increase for agricultural export credit guarantees in fiscal year 1984. The new total of $4 billion is almost twice what the previous administration made available in any year.

Let me interject some words here about a person who's been a rock of support in Washington for Iowa's farmers. He reflects the values of your people, and he represents you well. His Joint Economic Committee hearings on the next generation of agricultural policy were among the most important ever held in Congress. He's been a leader in controlling government spending and reducing taxes. He doesn't leave any doubt that he's Iowa's Senator. And if all of us work together, Roger Jepsen will be reelected as Iowa's Senator.

The third district of Iowa can also be proud of their Representative, Cooper Evans.

Audience. [Chanting] Coop! Coop! Coop!

The President. I must say, a moment ago you scared me when you started yelling for Coop. [Laughter] I have a little problem with one ear; I thought you were booing. [Laughter] Roger informed me of what you were saying -- [laughter] -- that it was all right.

But Cooper sits on the House Agriculture Committee and the House Select Committee on Aging. He serves his district well. He's been a strong voice in both his committees, and he's carried on the great Republican tradition begun by Senator Grassley before you elected to send Chuck to the Senate. These men, along with your other Iowa Republicans -- Jim Leach, who is with us today, and Tom Tauke, who will join me in Des Moines -- make an important contribution to the country.

We had a plan to rescue this nation in 1980, and that plan is working. Now it's time to take freedom's next step, to make sure that the progress that we've made will continue -- not just through the next election, but through the next generation. And once again we're the ones with the clear idea of what must be done. In the coming months we must build a great coalition of Republicans, Independents, and disenchanted Democrats around our bold vision of an opportunity society for the future.

Let others appeal to greed and envy, pit group against group, treat people as helpless victims, and seek to weaken our national defense. Let them promise the Moon -- they'll deliver green cheese. Their first promise begins with taking back all the tax reductions that we were able to pass with your help. They're captives of an anti-growth, dinosaur mentality that offers nothing for the future but repeating their failures of the past. For 44 of the last 50 years they controlled both Houses of Congress. They gave us annual deficits and a national debt of nearly a trillion dollars. But far from objecting then, they said this was good for us. Well, big government wasn't good for us then, and it isn't good for us now.

We have a positive vision of our citizens and our country: America moving confidently forward, her people united by shared values of faith and, as the Governor said, family and work and neighborhood and peace and freedom. We seek to bring out the best in every person, because we know every man and woman carries the spark of greatness.

As an opportunity society begins, it begins with growth, and we know how to create it. Our tax incentives spurred this recovery, but tax increases can destroy it. We are on the side of the little taxpayers, not the big tax spenders. I consider stopping them from taking more of your earnings an economic responsibility and a moral obligation. If the big spenders get their way, they'll charge everything on your taxpayer's express card and, believe me, they never leave home without it. [Laughter]

That's why we're urging needed reforms to bring greater responsibility to government spending. The Congress should stop fiddling and pass a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced Federal budget. Do you know who first started that idea and how long ago? And he's been touted as a Democrat hero ever since. I don't think he'd be happy with them. Thomas Jefferson in 1787, looking at the Constitution, says, ``It lacks one thing. It lacks an article preventing the government from being able to borrow.''

We also seek a line-item veto to prevent pork barrel projects from passing just because they're attached as amendments to important legislation. And if this Congress won't pass these reforms -- and I'm excepting present company -- then let's elect men and women who will.

Greater growth will also come from simplifying the tax code. We want to make the tax system more fair and easier to understand. And we want you to have the incentives of personal tax rates coming down, not going up. Along with these reforms, we will encourage growth by continuing to modernize our industries, expand our import markets -- or export markets, I should say, and develop the new frontiers of high technology and space.

But America can only move forward if the foundation of our society and freedom is secure. Our families and communities must be able to live and work without fear of being mugged, robbed, and raped. We have a comprehensive crime bill that would provide long-overdue protection to law-abiding citizens. It would put an end to the liberal era of coddling criminals. The Senate with its Republican majority has passed that bill, but the House with its Democratic majority is sitting on it. Maybe it's time they felt some pressure from the grassroots. You know, you don't have to make them see the light; just make them feel the heat. [Laughter]

Building an opportunity society also means providing our children the best possible education. And here, too, we're the ones with courage to call for basic reforms. Overall spending on education soared by 600 percent over two decades, but the test scores -- the SAT scores -- went down, down, down. So, what do our critics want? More money for more programs. What America's schools really need are tougher standards, more homework, more discipline, merit pay for teachers, and our parents finally in charge.

Now there's one other reform that I hope you'll help us on -- an amendment making it clear that the God who loves us be welcomed back into our children's classrooms. [Applause] I thank you, because as far as I'm concerned, He never should have been expelled in the first place. And just maybe, just maybe, speaking for nationwide, if we can get God and discipline back in our schools, we could get drugs and violence out.

Ben Franklin asked the Constitutional Convention in 1787 -- and he was speaking of the Lord -- he said: ``Have we now forgotten this powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?''

An opportunity society, reaching for its future with confidence, sustained by faith, fair play, and a conviction that good and courageous people will flourish when they're free -- this is our vision of a strong and prosperous America, at peace with itself and the world.

Just as America has always been synonymous with freedom, so, too, should she become the symbol of peace all over the Earth. I'm confident that we can keep faith with that mission.

Peace is our highest aspiration. A lasting peace must be anchored by courage, realism, and unity. We must go beyond the control of nuclear weapons to actual reductions. And my dream is to see a day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the Earth all together. We remain flexible in our bargaining. I've repeatedly stressed this to the Soviets, and we're beginning to see some positive signs. But I must make one thing plain: As Commander in Chief, I have an obligation to protect this country, and I will never allow political expediency to influence these crucial negotiations.

I believe with all my heart that America is more prosperous, safe, and secure today than 4 years ago. Hope has been reborn, confidence is rising, a spirit of optimism is spreading across our land. We have made a new beginning, a dramatic and far-reaching step toward a much better future.

I urge you: Take our message, the Republican message, to the people. Remind them where we were, what we've done, and how far, together, we can still go. You -- you have always been our greatest strength. You made the difference before; you can do it now. With your talent, your drive, and your heart, we can make history again. We can make 1984 the next great wave of a Republican renaissance. And in doing that, we can make our beloved country the source of all the dreams and opportunities she was placed on this good Earth to provide. We need only to believe in each other and in the God who has so blessed our land.

Thank you. God bless you all, and God bless America.

Note: The President spoke at 3:03 p.m. in the McElroy Auditorium. He was introduced by Gov. Terry Branstad.