Informal Exchange With Reporters on Foreign and Domestic Issues

September 13, 1984

Q. Why is Dobrynin coming to see you, sir?

The President. Why what?

Q. Why is Dobrynin coming to see you?

Q. Gromyko.

The President. We did agree. We're going to have a meeting. We invited him, knowing that he was coming to the United Nations.

Q. Mr. President, what about Walter Mondale's -- [inaudible].

The President. Well, again, as I say, my specifics have been there for almost 4 years. We have submitted four budgets -- three -- and one to go. And they contain all the things that we're trying to do to reduce government spending and to increase the growth of the economy, which will increase revenue. They're all there for anyone to see, including some legislation still before the Congress that Tip O'Neill has refused to allow the Congress to vote on.

Q. Tip O'Neill says that 43 billion of those cuts is in Social Security from 1981. Are you still planning to go for that?

The President. That song they sing -- he was a part of the bipartisan commission that came forth with the plan to put Social Security on a sound fiscal basis. It's been adopted. Social Security is secure as far as we can see into the next century, and we're not going to touch the benefits of the people on social security.

Q. He said in March you're going to have to take another look at Social Security, that it still needs some attention.

The President. Not that I know of. There are still two future tax increases in the Social Security payroll tax between now and 1990, which they passed in 1977 -- the biggest single tax increase in our nation's history.

Q. Will you rule out future reductions? Will you rule out future reductions for feeding programs for women, infants, and children?

The President. Right now we are spending more on those programs, on food programs, than ever before in history. Spending for food for the needy of all kinds is up 37 percent since 1980.

Q. But will you rule out a future reduction?

The President. We're looking at thousands of suggestions, most of which have to do with improving management. I still insist that government overhead for providing benefits is still much too high. You can make further budget cuts without affecting how much actually goes to help the needy.

Q. Mr. President, in your talk you're criticizing the Doubting Thomases in your speech who are putting down America. Who specifically are you talking about?

The President. Some of you might not like it if I answered that question specifically. But I've noticed that there's never a ``good news'' economic story on the evening news that was not accompanied by, or buried by, finding some individuals who have not yet benefited by the economic recovery.

Q. What's wrong with fair criticism?

The President. It isn't criticism at all. It's ignoring the fact that -- we know there are still individuals who have not been helped. The whole aim of the program is finally to get to everyone, but we also know that there are millions of people that have gone back to work, the economy is booming -- all of the figures that I've been giving in speeches. So, it would be fair to present this in a balanced way.

How come none of you've mentioned the polls?

Q. Well, what do you think of the polls?

The President. Goody. I just wanted to say, President Dewey told me to run scared and not be overconfident. So, the only poll I'm going to listen to is the one that takes place November 6th.

Q. You said that before.

The President. What?

Q. Are you going to win in a landslide this time?

The President. I'm going to run scared. Yes, I know I've said it to you before, I'm waiting for you to repeat it in your news accounts.

Q. [Inaudible] -- specific budget deficit reduction plan between now and the election?

The President. As I say, our whole economic program is aimed at this, and it's there and has been there in every budget. The deficit today would be $50 billion less if the Congress, the House of Representatives, had agreed to the cuts we asked for, beginning in 1981.

Q. Then this is all the Hill's fault?

The President. What?

Q. The deficit is all the Hill's fault at this point?

The President. Well, since they have been approving deficit spending for -- with just a few exceptions -- virtually throughout 50 years, in 42 of which they have dominated the Congress, I would have to say that they can't remove themselves from the blame. Our deficit this year is over $20 billion less than we ourselves projected that it would at the beginning of the year. And this has been brought about by the gains in the economy. And that is still the best way of approaching added revenues for government, is through improving the economic base.

Q. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much are you enjoying the campaign?

The President. What?

Q. One to 10, how much are you enjoying the campaign? With 10 being the highest?

The President. Well, I had a good time all day yesterday. I think I'll have a good time today.

Okay, let's go.

Note: The exchange began at 9:55 a.m. on the South Lawn of the White House as the President was departing for a trip to Nashville, TN.