Remarks at a White House Luncheon for Elected Republican Women Officials

September 6, 1985

Thank you all very much. Welcome to the White House. It's always good to see some old friends, but to have a chance also to make some new ones. And it's always a pleasure to be joined by two of the most important women in my life, Nancy and Maureen. We don't often have lunch together.

It may be September, but here in Washington it is still hot and muggy, as you have discovered. They don't know whether we are going to break the record. The record is 7 straight days of this kind of a heat wave, and I think we're up to 5 now or maybe I haven't counted them all. But I remember, as a boy, a preacher in our church one Sunday, in the dog days of summer, told us that because of the heat he was going to preach the shortest sermon that we had ever heard. And he said just seven words: ``If you think it's hot now, wait.'' [Laughter] So, I am going to follow his example. I'll run a little bit over seven words, but I'll try to keep it short.

I'm sure you've heard of our plan to completely overhaul the Federal tax structure. This is the most burning issue facing the American people, I think, in this decade. I'm going to be out on the stump all fall bringing our case for tax fairness and economic growth to the American people and rallying their support. I'll be in many of your States, possibly many of your communities. And I'll be looking for your help, because it's at the grassroots level that our tax proposal will find the energy, determination, and willpower needed to topple the status quo. Now, I used that term because every place I've been going, like yesterday to the students of North Carolina State University, I explained status quo -- that that's a Latin term for the mess we're in. [Laughter] And the present system is a mess.

As State legislators, I'm not going to tell you about the pleadings of lobbyists. You're very familiar with that. The siren songs of special interests are heard in every legislative hall. But this time we can work for the special interests of all the American people to create a fair and equitable tax system, one which will be a double boon to the economy because it will both close wasteful loopholes and cut tax rates. It's time for Americans to take their money out of tax shelters and invest that money in America's future. Every day we live with the present tax code, we're slowing economic growth, sacrificing jobs that could've been created, and unfairly burdening families and perpetuating an unjust system that only breeds cynicism and resentment in the American people.

I was out on the road twice this week. I was in Missouri on Labor Day and yesterday at North Carolina State, as I told you -- State University, and talking to those college students brought home the urgency of this issue. The room was just electrified with their hope and energy and enthusiasm. I just said at the table and will repeat -- the 21st century is going to be in good hands. How unfair it would be to chain them to the failed policies of the past. One of our proudest accomplishments as Republicans is the way we've been able to draw more and more young people into our ranks. I've repeatedly said that I can remember back a time talking to Republican fundraisers, and so forth, when I'd come home and say the only young people present look like they couldn't join anything else. [Laughter] But not anymore.

We've swept aside the pessimism and the resignation that gripped the elected leadership of this country not too long ago, and we've opened up the doors to the future. Like the American people, we Republicans believe that America is still young, still vital, still strong. And what we have accomplished goes beyond just words. We've backed our words, I think, with decisive and dramatic action. Our 25-percent across-the-board tax reduction gave new life and substance to the American spirit of optimism. An entrepreneurial renaissance is spreading across our land. A powerful economic expansion is lifting America out of the devastation of a decade of high tax policies and enabling us to build on a solid base of noninflationary growth.

Now, here's a piece of good news you may not have heard about, but then, knowing some of the people on our team that have been talking to you so far today, maybe they mentioned it. The Democratically controlled House Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families rated all the different tax plans that are floating around and found that ours was, by far, the most profamily of all of them. By raising the standard deduction to $4,000 for a married couple filing jointly and nearly doubling the personal exemption to $2,000, we'll make it so that a family of four doesn't pay one penny in Federal income tax on the first $12,000 of earnings. We're also giving nonwage-earning spouses equal access to the IRA's, those nontaxable savings accounts. And this, coupled with the pension reform that was passed in the last Congress, will go a long way toward alleviating poverty by allowing women the means to care for themselves in their retirement years.

Another report may be of special interest to you as State legislators. Our proposal to eliminate the State and local tax deduction has been getting a lot of flack from some quarters -- been talking about it here at this table. Well, it turns out that the New York State government has a study by its comptroller that found that taxpayers in New York would save $588 million a year in taxes under our proposal. And that's the point. If the individual taxpayers in your States benefit, your States and localities as a whole benefit. There's no logic to fighting tax fairness and fighting a plan that would increase economic growth, create jobs, give families a much-needed break, and take the working poor off the tax rolls all together.

Of course, we still have a job to do in Congress getting spending under control. In that connection, on the revenue side, I'd like it known that I could immediately deposit $1.2 billion in cash in the Treasury if Congress will support this administration's decision to sell Conrail back to the private sector, where it belongs, and get the Federal Government out of the business of owning a railroad. I was only a kid the last time the Government tried to run the railroads. That was in World War I. And it was a disaster for the country and for the railroads. Everett Dirksen might have said, ``A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon it adds up.'' [Laughter] Well, some in Congress seem to think that they can proceed as usual, indiscriminately spending taxpayer dollars, and that sooner or later they'll be bailed out with a tax hike. Well, not for at least 3\1/2\ years they won't be bailed out with a tax hike. Using Navy terms, I'll say as many times as I have to, there will be no tax hike on my watch.

We Republicans have always looked for long-term solutions, and this tax plan is one of those which will be working long after we've left office. As State legislators, you know the programs closer to home are more cost-efficient, better planned, and offer more assistance. But the gluttonous Federal tax system has robbed you of the base for local programs. We must continue to move this wheel of government in the interest of what's right for America. And this is the time for which all of us have worked, the moment in which together we can build a partnership between the levels of government with a growing economy to give America the momentum for the next century.

And with that, I'm going to say thank you, and God bless you all. And we're going to eat dessert. [Laughter] Thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 12:50 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his opening remarks, the President referred to the First Lady and his daughter Maureen.