Remarks to Representatives of Ethnic and Fraternal Benefit Organizations During a White House Briefing on Tax Reform

October 17, 1985

Well, thank you all, and welcome to the White House. I just stopped and stuck my head in the door of a meeting that's going on down the hall you'd have liked very much. They range from about that high on up to that high. They were the Young Astronauts. This is the first anniversary of the Young Astronauts Program. Well, a special greeting to Virgil Dechant and Al Mazewski -- two men that I know have done a great deal in support of our fair share tax plan.

Washington, I'm glad to say, is cooling off now that it's fall, but the battle for tax fairness is just beginning to heat up. As someone once said, government is too big and important to be left to the politicians. The same could be said of our struggle to overhaul our tax system. We need you, America needs you to get actively involved and to help get the message out to the American people and, through them, back to Congress that we want a progrowth, profairness, and profamily tax bill this year, in 1985.

I've been all around this country stumping for tax fairness, and everywhere I go, the American people enthusiastically embrace our proposals. I was thrilled to see a poll in USA Today recently -- where I went to talk about our tax plan earlier this month; that was in Cincinnati. Support for America's fair share plan among those who had read or heard my explanation of what the plan does shot up 14 points to an overwhelming 68-percent majority. I have complained that I think one of the reasons there isn't more action from the people is that there just isn't enough information out there about what the plan will do. When the people hear all the facts, when they hear the case for tax fairness as well as the case against it, America's fair share tax plan wins a landslide victory. The American people know a good deal when they see one, but you have to show it to them first.

Now, I'd like to be able to visit every city and town in this country and talk about our fair share tax plan. I'd like to be able to go door to door and tell every American how our proposal will benefit them, but there's just not enough time if we're going to pass tax fairness in 1985. And that's why you were asked here to the White House today. We can't rely on the media to tell the good news of America's fair share tax plan to the American people. They've got all kinds of news to report and just can't take that on. But you represent ethnic and fraternal benefit organizations all across our country. You are the grassroots that everyone talks about. You are America. You can get the message out directly to the American people that if we want our nation to achieve its full potential, if we want America to be first in economic growth and technological innovation, if we want to save the American family from being crushed under the burden of Federal taxation, and if we want our children to have the bright and prosperous future they deserve, we must restructure our nation's tax system; we must pass America's fair share tax plan. I know you've had some briefings and some talk already, but I hope I won't be plowing plowed ground, but let me get into a few specifics of our plan.

First, we see no reason to start up a new tax on America's fraternal benefit organizations. We should be bolstering and encouraging, not taxing and discouraging these essential organizations that mean so much to the private life of our nation. But let me also tell you some of the specifics of how we plan to make it easier for families, because our profamily initiatives are the heart and soul of America's fair share tax plan. The historians Will and Ariel Durant once wrote that the family ``is the nucleus of civilization.'' Well, they were right, but for the past several decades, the Federal Government has been treating the family almost as if it didn't matter. Throughout the great tax explosion of the sixties and the seventies, everybody with a paycheck got hit and hit hard by taxes, but those trying to raise families got clobbered. Not only did their taxes skyrocket, their personal exemption, the real value of the deduction they were allowed to take for themselves and each one of their dependents, was steadily being knocked down by inflation. In other words, families were getting a double whammy, a double tax hike.

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the colossal growth of government over the last two decades was financed by raiding the dwindling bank accounts of America's families. If the personal exemption, which was $600 in 1948, had kept pace with inflation, it would be worth $2,700 today. So, there's a tax increase the people didn't even know was being imposed on them. We plan to almost double the current exemption to $2,000. We can't go all the way, but our plan would raise the exemption in order to make up for some of what the families lost over those years. To me, that's only fair, and what's fair is worth fighting for. And I hope you're with me on that. [Applause] Thank you.

Now, we are also increasing the standard deduction for joint returns to $4,000, and our proposal will mean that families as well as the elderly, the blind, and the disabled living at or below the poverty line will be completely scratched from the Federal income tax rolls. The United States Government will no longer tax families into poverty. Our profamily measures will mean that a family of four doesn't have to pay one single cent of Federal taxes on the first $12,000 of income. And because saving is so essential to families but so very difficult with all these expenses, we're expanding the tax-free savings accounts of the IRA's so that they are fully available to nonwage-earning spouses. We figure that the housewife is also working a full 40 hours a week and probably much more. So, let's have an end to treating homemakers like second-class citizens.

Our profamily initiatives are designed to make it affordable to raise families again. You shouldn't have to be affluent to experience the blessings of home life, and that's a right to which every American is entitled. I'm glad to say that the Democratic-controlled House Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families has rated our tax proposal the most profamily tax proposal before the Congress, more profamily than any other proposal that's around and light years ahead of the present system. Now -- and this goes beyond economics, although in my opinion profamily policies are the best economics there is -- this gets to the moral code -- or core of our nation. America has a responsibility to the future, and our children are our future. We're a nation of immigrants who've labored and sacrificed to give our children a better life, and we can't let big government, high tax policies take away what we've worked so hard to achieve.

You know, our forefathers got so riled up over a tea tax, among other things, that they started a revolution. Now, today we have a tax on families, a tax on achievement, success, and aspiration -- a tax on the American dream. Well, I think it's time we had another revolution, a peaceful one this time, called America's fair share tax plan. This fair share tax plan is a gift that we owe to ourselves and to our children. And with your help, mobilizing support out there in the grassroots, we'll have it wrapped up by the holiday season, and then we'll really have something to celebrate on New Year's Day.

So, thank you all for being here. God bless you all. Thank you. When I first got here, a little 11-year-old girl wrote me a letter, and she told me all the things that I should do. And by golly, she had a pretty good grasp on what was needed. But I've always remembered her letter. She wound up and said, ``Now get back over to the Oval Office and go to work.'' [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 1 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building.