Jimmy Carter on Government Reform

President of the U.S., 1977-1981


Unlimited money in politics violates essence of America

Carter said unlimited money in politics "violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now, it's just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nomination for president. And the same thing applies to governors and Congress. So now we've just seen a complex subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election's over."
Source: Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p.203 , Nov 15, 2016

1978: Government cannot mandate goodness

Who said the following? "Government cannot solve our problems, it can't set our goals. It cannot define our vision. Government cannot eliminate poverty or provide a bountiful economy or reduce inflation or save our cities or cure illiteracy or provide energy. And government cannot mandate goodness."

Ronald Reagan? No, those were the words of President Jimmy Carter, in his 1978 State if the Union address. And who said this?

"We know big government does not have all the answers. We know there's not program for every problem. We have worked to give the American people a smaller, less bureaucratic government in Washington. And we have to give the American people one that lives within its means. The era of big government is over."

George W. Bush? Actually, that was Bill Clinton, in his State of the Union address, in January 1996. Clinton added with pride, "Today our federal government is 200,000 employees smaller than it was the day I took office as President."

Source: Obama`s Challenge, by Robert Kuttner, p. 87-88 , Aug 25, 2008

First to serve full term with no Supreme Court nominees

The Supreme Court since Earl Warren stepped down has been more lawyerly, and less activist. Republican presidents opposed to the Warren Court's activism were able to make the large majority of the appointments of the past 3 decades.

President Nixon made the first 4 appointments. In 1975, President Ford replaced William O. Douglas with John Paul Stevens. Then an appointments drought set in: Jimmy Carter became the first president ever to serve a full term without making an appointment to the Supreme Court. A vacancy did occur soon after Ronald Reagan took office. The next vacancy occurred in 1986.

Source: First Among Equals, by Kenneth Starr, p. 13 , Oct 10, 2002

Created Depts. of Energy & Education; reformed civil service

Other domestic accomplishments included approval of the Carter plan to overhaul the civil-service system, making it easier to fire incompetents; creation of new departments of education and energy; deregulation of the airlines to stimulate competition and lower fares; and environmental efforts that included passage of a law preserving vast wilderness areas of Alaska.
Source: Grolier’s Encyclopedia, “The Presidency” , Dec 25, 2000

Limited public funds for congressional election campaigns

None of us can be satisfied when 2/3 of the American citizens chose not to vote last year in a national election. Too many Americans feel powerless against the influence of private lobbying groups and the unbelievable flood of private campaign money which threatens our electoral process.

This year, we must regain the public's faith by requiring limited financial funds from public funds for congressional election campaigns. House bill 1 provides for this public financing of campaigns. And I look forward with a great deal of anticipation to signing it at an early date.

Source: Pres. Carter's 1979 State of the Union message to Congress , Jan 23, 1979

Turn gobbledygook of Federal regulations into plain English

For some citizens, the Government has almost become like a foreign country, so strange and distant that we've often had to deal with it through trained ambassadors who have sometimes become too powerful and too influential--lawyers, accountants, and lobbyists. This cannot go on.

We've made progress. We have proposed abolishing almost 500 Federal advisory commissions and boards. But I know that the American people are still sick and tired of Federal paperwork and red tape. Bit by bit we are chopping down the thicket of unnecessary Federal regulations by which Government too often interferes in our personal lives and our personal business. We've cut the public's Federal paperwork load by more than 12% in less than a year. And we are not through cutting.

We've made a good start on turning the gobbledygook of Federal regulations into plain English that people can understand. But we know that we still have a long way to go.

Source: Pres. Carter's 1978 State of the Union message to Congress , Jan 19, 1978

Deregulate banks & airlines; get rid of excessive regulation

Our first major test in Congress would come on a bill authorizing the President to address the problem of the federal bureaucracy--its complexity, its remoteness when people needed help, its intrusiveness when they wanted to be left alone, and its excessive regulation of the major industries to the detriment of consumers. An important achievement of my administration when I was governor of Georgia had been to reorganize the state government, and I was eager to make similar changes in the federal government.

I wanted to combine many scattered agencies into one Department of Energy; establish another department for all matters concerning education; deregulate banks, airlines, trucking, communications, and railways, hold down the number of federal employees; reduce paperwork; and consolidate or eliminate as many of the small agencies and advisory groups as possible.

Source: Keeping Faith, by Jimmy Carter, p. 69 , Jan 24, 1977

Pushed government-in-sunshine open-meetings laws

As governor, Carter pushed for "government-in-sunshine" legislation. He proposed a law opening many government meetings to the public and to reporters. This was a revision of the state's previous open-meetings law, and some questioned whether the revisions were actually an improvement. Carter was also largely responsible for the passage of a campaign financial disclosure bill, requiring candidates to make public disclosures of all contributions of $101 or more.
Source: Jimmy Who?, by Leslie Wheeler, p. 81 , Jan 1, 1976

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Other past presidents on Government Reform: Jimmy Carter on other issues:
Former Presidents:
Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

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V.P.Joseph Biden
V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole

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Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022