Presidential Campaign and Candidates


APRIL 18, 1983

We’re in trouble, deep trouble. And we’ve got work to do, lots of it.

In the last few years, we have stalled, lost our unity, lost our purpose, and stopped pulling together for the common good. We have become a nation of single issues and special interests.

Everywhere we look – in business and labor, law and medicine, education and entertainment, government and politics - -mediocrity is commonplace. America’s leaders have failed to lead. It’s no surprise that our people are worried about the future and full of questions. Why are we in this mess? Does anyone know the way out? Who calls for shared sacrifice? Who talks about our common enterprise?

We’re stalled for two basic reasons: all our leaders manage to sleep through important ships in the world economy; and we allowed the Reagan administration to carry out fundamental changes that will eventually bankrupt our treasury, destroy our government, and subvert our morale. We can no longer afford self-indulgence, and we can no longer afford Ronald Reagan.

To turn to the first reason, I believe our extended period of post-war prosperity and world dominance lulled us to sleep. In Why England Slept, Jack Kennedy described British complacency in the face of the growing Nazi threat; Like the British, we reward ourselves with the good life while the rest of the world recovered from the war and began the hard work of economic expansion. We assumed that prosperity was the inevitable result of our splendid character and indomitable cheerfulness. All of us silently conspired in a dream-like denial of the new realities.

Corporate managers indulged in the wildest of fantasies - - million-dollar salaries, the trappings of royalty, even golden parachutes to cushion the unfortunate side effects of disasterous failures. They dreamed of endless conferences in fashionable watering holes in private jets swooping around the world at their convenience. Their secret desire, in short, was no-risk management.

Incredibly enough, the fantasy became reality, and so did expense of layers of corporate bureaucracy that focused undue attention on quantitative games of “leveraging “ and “positioning.” Craftsmanship and long-term growth carried no prestige when corporate leaders focused on the quarterly report. “Paper entrepreneurship” replaced real entrepreneurship, and outfoxing the tax code became more rewarding than outworking the competition.

Meanwhile, parts of the labor movement became narrow and self-centered. They came to expect ever-increasing wages and ever-decreasing hours, without regard for the cumulative effect on productivity. Work rules became overly detailed, contributing to the inflated cost of doing business.

Meanwhile, the Federal government went off on a tangent of its own. As an attack of our ignorance and our prejudices, it became a burden in other ways. Its costs shot through the ceiling. Some of those regulations became elaborated to the point of absurdity. And this excessive regulation help to prepare the way for the triumphs of the know-nothings in 1980.

In the international economy, the role of our government has been catastrophic. As other countries decided to play football, our government decided we would continue to play by the rules of baseball. Inevitably, we became a non-participant. We sat on the bench. By endlessly mumbling the sacred Chan “free market, free market,” we put ourselves to sleep while the rest of the world learned to run its economic affairs through government collaboration and involvement. It will prove to be a costly siesta.

Finally, we politicians began to ignore the long-term interest of the country. We became narrowly focused on the next election and lost sight of our common enterprise. Worst of all, we allowed the American people to grow cynical about politics, which is, after all, the very essence of democracy.

America’s leaders did not ask nearly enough of themselves.

The Reagan administration has accelerated these destructive trends. Not since Groucho Marx took over the reins of Freedonia has such a destructive group occupied a nation’s capital. The Reagan crew is worse, however, because it is driven by malicious intent.

It is now obvious that when the American people asked for a leader in 1980, they were given a public-relations officer. Behind the public-relations façade, the Reagan appointees are destroying our government, our instrument for working together on common concerns. At EPA they seem to have concentrated all their considerable energies on suborning the agency and its laws. At Defense all thoughts of military strategy have been swamped by oceans of money.

At Interior a man of extremes has made a religion of desecrating the wilderness and dismantling the national parks. At Labor nobody talks to the sat shadowy figure at the helm. An energy, education, and at housing and urban development policymaking is a lost art. And just as they’ve forgotten how to bring a lawsuit. And every agency and the Federal government, the Reagan administration has scorched the earth and left smoldering ruins.

But this administration’s servility toward the rich borders on the obscene. The President listens almost exclusively to the special pleadings of the wealthy and the well-born. While the special interests enjoy Carte Blanche, the rest of us push the cart. For those who are not already rich, already established, and already educated, the future is already bleaker. But to ask Ronald Reagan to stop favoring the rich is to ask the fly to stop buzzing and the fish to stop swimming. The man can’t help himself. That’s what he does.

Look around at the wasteland the President’s policies have brought forth. Tweleve million Americans on the bricks looking for a job. Heavy industry operating at less than 50% capacity. The Japanese, the Europeans, and the third world countries putting us out of business. Budget deficits reaching $200 billion, with $300 billion looming on the horizon. The government going broke, the tax base washing out to sea. Foreign policy in a shambles, with friends frightened and enemies laughing. And business holding tight on investments, knowing interest rates are going back up.

How does Ronald Reagan respond? He says our government is the problem. Imagine that. The world is going to hell in a handbasket made in Taiwan, and the President of the United States of America says our government is the problem. Or sometimes he blames Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter for this wasteland. Clearly, the Reagan administration, however feverish and busy it looks, has exhausted its small store of ideas, has exhausted the patience of the American people, and must be replaced.

The fiftieth anniversary of Franklin Roosevelt’s inaugural offers a unique perspective on the failures of the incumbent President and on the reasons for my candidacy today.

Our 32nd President looked out on a similar wasteland, an economic disaster smothered in hopelessness. But through hard work, sound judgment, and a wide-ranging imagination, Roosevelt transformed that bleak landscape. The wasteland became the most abundant economy in the history of the world. The hopelessness became a robust self confidence that defeated charities and they explored the universe.

How did Roosevelt do it? Some say it was his unique flair for leadership. Others point to the army of alphabet agencies he created to attack entrenched problems.

I think he did it by appealing to deeper reserves and the American character - - enterprise, patriotism, fairness, generosity, community, and common sense. When we use these reserves - - these deep pools that temper and refresh our vision - -we see ourselves as a single people, as a family linked together in a common enterprise. And it is our government - - yes, our national government - - that takes these deeper reserves and shapes them into a useful, supple tool.

American history is the story of how that tool has been used to guide our destiny. Canals, harbors, railroads, homesteads, dams, irrigation, education, roads, and dozens of other key factors in our national development were started in shape by government intervention. Industrial policy is nothing new under the sun. Only the name is new.

The American people know all of this. They know that to weaken the government is to handicap one self needlessly, to diminish oneself in the international arena, to inflict pain and punishment on one’s own kind. The American people are ready to sacrifice again and to tap into these deeper reserves again. We have done so in our lifetimes, and we can do so again.

We suffer through the agony of Pearl Harbor, and then we crushed the dictatorships.

We saw Europea in ruins, and then we rebuilt it with the Marshall Plan.

We watch communism spread, and then we stopped it.

We were challenged by Sputnik, and then we won the race to the Moon.

We felt overwhelmed by racial discrimination, and then we dismantled its structure.

We retreated before the onslaught of air and water pollution, and then we turned them back.

There is no easy formula, no magical set of new ideas, no magical set of old ideas, no cluster of all-powerful interest groups. There is just work. But when we work together, sacrifice together, and pull together, there is no force on earth that can stop us. And when we look closely at our victories, we always find the government channeling our energies and pointing us in the right direction.

My campaign, then, offers little in the wake of comfort, it rejects the politics of supply-side gimmickry. It rejects the politics of special-interest conservatism and interest-group liberalism. It disdains that the politics of neo-this and neo-that.

My campaign offers the politics of work., Share the work. Share the sacrifice. Share the benefit.

We Americans have a lot of work to do. For starters, we must get our financial house in order. Then, we must reestablish standards of excellence in our schools and workplaces; train, and retrain, large parts of our workforce; rearrange our organizations to make them more flexible and to release entrepreneurial talents; relearn the techniques of international competition; and recommit ourselves to a decent respect for the environment, and an honorable role in world politics, in the spirit of one-for-all in all-for-one. Finally, we must reeducate America’s leaders and managers to the realities of the modern world, equip our basic industries with the latest and computers and robots, and rediscover the high art and craft of governance.

Governance, in fact, will emerge as the underlying issue in this campaign. Everyone needs a government, and the debate will focus on a series of related questions: What kind of government do we want? How much do we want? What limits do we place on it? How do we pay for it? How do we make it work better? How do we make it accountable? Which basic values and visions of the future will guide governmental activities?

Here, for example, are a few specifics that suggest the approach a Hollings administration would bring to government.

First, our basic problem is the lack of a job - - not the lack of a skill, not the lack of training for a high-technology future. We also know budget deficits and jobs are interlocked. Therefore, as President, I would freeze our current level of taxes and spending. Everyone would share the sacrifice in an across-the-boards freeze. No cuts in programs. No cuts in taxes. Under this approach, we would have saved $100 billion last year and $700 billion over the next five years. Then, with the government borrowing less to cover the deficits, basic industries and high-echnology enterprises would find the capital to invest in modernization and jobs. Finally we would train workers to fill the newly available jobs. When I was governor of South Carolina, we train rule people for high-technology jobs and only 100 days. When used in the right way, government is a subtle and highly effective tool; but only a President who is experienced and willing can use it on a continental scale.

A second example is defense. While we need to rebuild, we need not wreck the economy. We’re overprepared for nuclear war, underprepared for conventional war. As President, I would target readiness, rapid deployment, the Reserves, and the National Guard. We would save $70 billion by canceling the MX Missile and the B-1 bomber and moving ahead with the Stealth Bomber. By using these defense savings to stabilize the economy, we stand a better chance of having an economy to defend. We simply cannot afford Ronald Reagan’s grotesque, nation-destroying fantasies.

As a third of specific, I would try to install a measure of credibility in our arms control efforts and our foreign policy. Ronald Reagan came to town threatening to invade El Salvador, to blockade Cuba, to plan a limited nuclear war, to fire nuclear warning shots, and to use boycotts to force our European Allies to reject the Soviet pipeline. He said American was in a prewar posture. Over 700,000 frightened Americans spilled out into the streets of New York in fear of their own President. Today on one believes him when he talks about arms limitation. Meanwhile, delicate relationships with countries in Europe, Africa, Latin America, the Near East, and the Far East have been sledgehammered to the point of severance. We need to work with our Allies in a spirit of equal collaboration. Calmly and deliberately, we need to fashion international policies on economic growth and low interest rates. The enemy in Latin America is not Russia or Cuba - - it is our own stupidity. We never arrive with sufficient economic aid until there is an emergency that also requires “advisers” and military hardware. Will we never learn? Will we never be on the side of the people? Food, land reform, cooperation - - these must form our priorities. We must encourage the other countries in Latin America to find a solution for El Salvador. Beyond a nuclear-weapons freeze, we must seek a worldwide show of public opinion against the use of nuclear weapons. Perhaps we should agree with the Soviet Union to subtract two warheads each time a new one is deployed. Credibility, not empty rhetorical flourishes, is the key to foreign policy.

Fourth, I would, as President, reinvigorate the consensus on social justice that grew out of the turmoil of the 1960s. Affirmative action works. And the president must symbolize our national commitment to social justice for minorities, women, and the disadvantaged. Reagan doesn’t, and that’s a national disgrace.

Fifth, the global economy has changed, and that means we need a President who is willing to lead our government onto the field of play. For our private companies to compete with other companies, we need our government to compete with other governments. Trade policy should be: even under a single Department of Trade and Development. Business, abor, agriculture, and government must work together on strategic issues. Offshore, the government must encourage business, not police it. Once again government sets the tone and points that direction.

Finally, a Hollings administration would underwrite the basic health and education of every American kid. As Edmund Burke wrote, “Education is a cheap defense of nations. “ If you think health and education are expensive, try disease and ignorance. President Reagan would have us try both. And I say we can‘t afford this President any longer. We cannot raise the economic level of any until we raised education level of all. While the President either pleads with us to stay the course, he forces millions of our kids to drop the course. Meanwhile, high school graduates in Japan have the equivalent of four more years of schooling than our graduates. If we leave the next generation unprepared for international competition that will resemble war, then we will richly deserve the obscurity in reduced circumstances we will receive. But only the national government can underwrite our human infrastructure. And only president who sees government as a useful tool for achieving human progress can undertake this fundamental responsibility.

In the coming campaign, I will remain true to certain basic, underlying values: a love of diversity and free discourse; a belief that people learn from history; a faith in the inevitability of progress; a conviction that the true civilized nation reduces the gap between its poorest and its wealthiest members; and an insistence that honesty, compassion, and fairness have a secure place in American politics.

President Reagan asks “Are you better off than you were four years ago? “ I ask, “Are we as a nation better off?” The distinction is important. President Reagan and the other candidates continue to address the individual interests at the expense of the common good. They continue to overlook the true strength of America, which was captured in the closing lines of the Declaration of Independence: “We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” It was really a Declaration of Dependence. In that spirit, let us once again declare unity of purpose and roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Source: South Carolina Political Collections, Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library, University of South Carolina Libraries


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