Remarks at a Reagan-Bush Rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan

September 20, 1984

The President. Thank you all very much. And before I begin the remarks that I intend to make today, let me say a few words, if I could, about the cowardly act of terrorism that we learned of early this morning. The suicide attack against our Embassy annex in East Beirut has saddened all of us, of course. It's another painful reminder of the persistent threat of terrorism in the world.

I've talked with our Ambassador, Reg Bartholomew, who, although injured himself, expressed pride on behalf of the dedicated Americans who were serving with him. In this moment of anger and sorrow, our prayers are with those who are bereaved, while our commitment to the cause of peace remains firm. And I'm proud, as all Americans should be proud, of the brave Americans serving our nation throughout the world in the cause of peace for people everywhere.

But now, we've just been visiting with your good friends in Iowa. And now, what a wonderful way to cap our day to be back with you in the Wolverine State. I can't imagine a better place to begin our Michigan campaign than right here in your all-American city -- the center of the 5th District, the home of our 38th President of the United States. And you don't have to be in Grand Rapids long to understand how this town gave us someone as good -- no, forgive me -- as great as Jerry Ford.

Your spirit of hard work, your belief in each other, and your faith in the future are making Grand Rapids one of the best success stories in the Middle West. Now, I've just been out to the Westinghouse plant and seen an unbeatable combination for our future -- men and women from labor and management joining together to pool their resources, and not only saving their company but developing advanced technologies to make it stronger, bigger, and better than ever before.

Now, some people seem to spend their time traveling back and forth across America wringing their hands in despair. Well, thank heavens for people like you -- you, who rolled up your sleeves, went to work, and together have created almost 13,000 jobs for the Grand Rapids area in the last 3 years.

This is the brand of leadership that Jerry Ford gave America. He helped heal the Nation's spirit, he brought back our economy, he began rebuilding our defenses. And when Jerry Ford left, America was better off than before.

I have to tell you a little personal thing here about Jerry Ford and myself. I can begin it by saying we go back 50 years, except that we didn't know it 50 years ago. It was just that we happened then -- without realizing or knowing each other -- we happended to share an experience. Jerry Ford was down on the floor of the Michigan Stadium, in the center of the line down there, playing for Michigan against the University of Iowa. And I was up in the press box broadcasting that game on radio.

One of the greatest tragedies of our time was seeing the America that Jerry Ford made well and strong again brought to its knees by people who didn't know then -- and who don't know today -- what common sense and strong leadership are all about. My friends, we -- --

Audience. 4 more years! 4 more years! 4 more years!

The President. All right.

Audience. 4 more years! 4 more years! 4 more years!

The President. All right. All right. I'll give in, you talked me into it.

Well, America made one mistake, and we paid dearly for it. Let's make sure this November 6th we don't make the same mistake all over again.

Four years ago, we had to cope with, as Jerry told you, the double-digit inflation nightmare and the interest rates of 21 percent and the highest peacetime tax burden in our history, zero growth, rising crime rate, scholastic aptitude test scores that had been falling for two decades, a foreign policy as feeble as it was fearful, and to top it off, the people in Washington whose only answer was, ``All of you suffer from a malaise.'' Well, the American people didn't suffer from any malaise; they suffered from leaders who denied them opportunity, and opportunity is what we're putting back in the hands of you, the people.

You know, with this being football season and Michigan being a powerhouse football State, maybe you've noticed in our Nation's Capital the same thing I have: When all the last team ever did was punt, isn't it great to see America scoring touchdowns again?

Unlike 4 years ago when crime rates were going up but scholastic aptitude test scores were going down, today the crime rate is going down and scholastic aptitude test scores are going up.

Our economy is not falling apart. Our defenses are not being neglected. America's being looked up to again as a leader for peace and freedom. And not 1 square inch of additional territory has fallen to Communist aggressors since 1981.

Now, Jerry Ford told you about inflation and what it's down to. We won't be satisfied until inflation is 0.0. And while here in Michigan things are looking up after a long period of hard times, we cannot and we will not be satisfied until every person in your State who wants a job can find a job.

But let's recognize the progress we have made. I can see there are many students in our audience here today. I heard somebody a little while ago, when I was offstage, asking you some questions. I want to ask some questions, too. I won't give the answer away by naming the country I'd like to ask about, but a little hint: It has three initials, and its first two are U.S.

Of all the great industrialized nations in the world, which has shown by far the strongest, most sustained economic growth?

Audience. U.S.A.!

The President. What country can say its investment is up, its productivity is up, its take-home pay is up, and its consumer spending is up?

Audience. U.S.A.!

The President. And what country, during the past 20 months created 6 million new jobs?

Audience. U.S.A.!

The President. And what country created, on the average, more new jobs each month during the past 12 months than all the countries of Western Europe created over the last 10 years?

Audience. U.S.A.!

The President. All right. You get 100. You passed.

Audience. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

The President. All right.

Audience. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

The President. All right. Yes. And you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Believe me, there's nothing we can't do if we could get some long-overdue reforms passed by the Congress. Now, I'm talking about a constitutional amendment mandating that government stop spending more than government takes in and a line-item veto, giving the President power to veto individual items in appropriation bills to get rid of some of the useless extravagance.

There's another change that we must have: an historic simplification of the tax system. Do you know that Albert Einstein said that he couldn't understand the form 1040? [Laughter] We want to make that entire system more fair, easier to understand, so we can bring yours and everybody else's tax rates further down, not up.

You know, I've said that this election offers the American people the clearest choice in 50 years. Nothing illustrates better the nature of that choice than their obsession with raising your taxes and our determination to stop them. You see, they have the same problem today that they've always had: They promise too much and they spend too much. Just to pay for their promises in this campaign would result in the equivalent of an $1,800 tax increase for every household. Now -- --

Audience. Boo-o-o!

The President. I know -- [laughter] -- you've had a taxpayer's revolt here in Michigan. But considering the magnitude of what's at stake today, would you agree that nothing could be quite so revolting as what they do to you and to all the taxpayers of America?

Well, I've been traveling our nation, and I've heard what our people feel. And believe me, there's no doubt about where they stand on this question. Come November 6th, America will rise up and answer my opponent's issue number one -- his tax increase -- with an emphatic, unequivocal no.

You know, each day -- --

Audience. 4 more years!

The President. -- -- each day, our people do what they've always done best, and that is create not only prosperity but also the very ability of the United States to perfect and enjoy a wider array of freedoms than any other nation in history. That's America. People paying a fairer share, but always keeping a fair share. And that's where we and the other side part company. Their first loyalty is to government; our first loyalty is to the people -- all the people.

Audience. 4 more years!

The President. And that's why we have such dramatically different visions of the future. They want a new so-called trust fund for their tax increases. Well, we don't want their tax increases or their new trust fund; we want a government that trusts you. Their legacy to our people would be -- or to our children, I should say -- would be built-in tax increases that could only be described in one way -- from here to eternity. [Laughter] Our legacy can be -- --

Audience. 4 more years!

The President. -- -- our legacy can be an American opportunity society with lower tax rates for all. Now, they see an America where every day is April 15th tax day; we see an America where every day is the Fourth of July.

The tax increases they propose are recovery killers; they're destined to crush the initiative and spirit of the people, designed to destroy jobs and economic growth, and, yes, make no mistake, destined to make the deficit much higher, not lower.

My friends, the choice for 1984 is clear and crucial: Will we let them take us back to their failed past, whose memory remains still so fresh and painful?

Audience. No!

The President. Will we let them erect their giant stop sign and bring America's economy and your families' opportunities for the future screeching to a halt?

Audience. No!

The President. Or will we continue on the high road of hope?

Audience. Yes!

The President. Will America continue to champion the great, driving idea for your future: Economic growth through lower tax rates, more jobs, rising take-home pay, and greater opportunities for every American?

Audience. Yes!

The President. That's our vision for tomorrow, and it's a far better vision.

To all those Democrats who've been loyal to the party of F.D.R. and Harry Truman and J.F.K. -- and I hope there are many present; I was one for most of my adult life -- people who believe in protecting the interests of the working people and who are not ashamed or afraid of Americans standing for freedom in the world, for those Democrats who are here, I say, ``Join us.'' And by ``us,'' I also mean Guy Vander Jagt and Hal Sawyer and Mark Siljander and your fine Senatorial candidates, your candidate Jack Lousma, your other candidates for the Congress -- Paul Henry and Jackie MacGregor for the House of Representatives. Come and walk with us down the new path of hope and opportunity, and together we can lift America up to meet our greatest days.

No army is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. In 1980, millions of Americans from all walks of life came together for the common cause of freedom. We united under a new banner for opportunity, for growth, and progress. We fought to make a new beginning. We struggled to rescue our nation. And all during those momentous days, our ranks have continued to swell.

Today the power of that idea has become a mighty tide for progress. And with Democrats and independents joining us in larger and larger numbers, the power of that idea can become a tidal wave for progress. Those politicians who remain stuck in the past -- well, they cannot and will not hold us back. It's time for them to stand aside and get out of our way.

We're not going back to weakness; we're going forward to make America stronger than today. And together, we'll make sure that America is back up on top.

When I spoke of these candidates and these incumbent Congressmen here and how we need them, the last time that a Republican administration had a Congress of its own persuasion to help it to do the things it had told the people it wanted to do was in the first 2 years of the Eisenhower administration. And since then, until 1980 -- or till 1981, they have controlled both Houses of the Congress. And now, since '81, we at last have controlled one, the Senate. And we couldn't have accomplished what we have without that one. But, oh, how far we can march if we have both Houses of the Congress subscribing to our philosophy of more freedom and opportunity for the people.

So, I thank all of you. Jerry Ford, I thank you. I thank all these wonderful candidates here. And I thank all of you wonderful people for this grand Michigan welcome. Believe me, I go back to Washington from here very much inspired. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 5:17 p.m. in the Ah-Nab-Awen Bicentennial Park, which is adjacent to the Gerald R. Ford Museum. He was introduced by former President Gerald R. Ford.

Following his remarks, the President returned to Washington, DC.