Excerpts of President Reagan's speech to the Republican Women's Leadership Forum yesterday in San Diego:
I'm proud that this administration has continued the tradition of political opportunity for women. Just look at the record. For the first time in history, three women serve in the Cabinet of the United States--Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Hanford Dole, Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret M. Heckler, and Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane J. Kirkpatrick . . . .
We've also appointed more women to top policy-making positions in our first two years than any previous administration has in a similar period. And we have appointed more than 1,200 women to executive positions throughout the government . . . . We appointed the first woman to the Supreme Court. What all this adds up to is clear: the greatest political opportunity for women in this country--real progress rather than words and promises--rests with the Republican Party.
What some cannot accept is that women are not a monolithic group. Women in the 1980s are a diverse majority with varied interests and varied futures. Some seek to start their own businesses. Some seek to advance in their chosen careers. Some seek to focus on the home and family. Some seek political office. And some women seek to do all those things.
We must meet these needs in different ways.
For women whose former husbands are delinquent in child-support payments, we've proposed strengthening the Federal Child Support Enforcement System.
For women receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children, we've increased training opportunities that will help them secure permanent, productive jobs. Our Job Training Partnership Act, which replaces the discredited CETA Program, specifically targets these women as a group that must be served.
For women and men working in the federal government, I signed into law the bill extending flexible work hours, but this especially helps women who are holding down a job and raising a family.
For all women, we've provided various forms of tax relief. We've greatly reduced the income-tax marriage penalty and increased--almost doubled--the maximum child-care tax credit for working mothers. We've expanded participation in IRA accounts, benefiting women whether they work at home or in paid jobs.
And we're acting to remedy the inequity some women suffer in pension programs. Of course, we've also virtually eliminated what was once known as the "widow's tax"--the estate taxes levied on a surviving spouse. This has special benefit to those with family farms and small businesses where women have been hard-working partners.
But I know your interests range far beyond what are narrowly called "women's issues." Women are interested in the very same issues that interest men--those that affect the peace and prosperity of this nation . . . .
When we got to Washington, inflation was running at double-digit levels . . . . Inflation was taking an especially serious toll on those on fixed incomes, a disproportionate number of whom are women . . . . Well, we have reduced that inflation to 2.4 percent for the last 12 months, the lowest 12-month rate in over 17 years . . . .
We cut the prime interest rate from 21 1/2 percent to 11 percent. There will be a little jiggling up and down but, if the Congress acts responsibly, rates will continue to decline.
. . . Following five years in which the federal tax take doubled, we came in and reduced personal income tax rates by 25 percent across the board. And soon they will be indexed so that the federal government will never again profit from inflation at the people's expense.
The cumulative effect of all our economic efforts is now being felt. As they say down at Cape Canaveral, we have lift-off. Our economy is lifting off and it's because of the policies we've been pursuing over the past 2 1/2 years.
Consumer confidence and spending are up. Productivity is up. Industrial production, retail sales, auto sales, housing and construction are all up since the beginning of the year. Last quarter, the economy grew at an annual rate of 9.2 percent, a much bigger jump than expected.
Unemployment, of course, is the last of the major indicators to show improvement. The rate is still too high, but last month we achieved the biggest monthly drop in almost 24 years.
Nearly 2 million new jobs have been added to the economy since the first of the year. And the unemployment rate for adult women has dropped from 9.2 percent in December to 7.9 percent today.
A majority of new jobs created in the next decade will be filled by women. And I'm very optimistic about women's business ownership. There are almost 3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, and their number is growing dramatically--substantially faster than men's in recent years . . . .
At this point in the pursuit of equality, economic opportunity provides the greatest, most immediate advancement for women. It's economic recovery that will move women forward the fastest. It's economic recovery that will produce more options for women than anything else . . . .
Now certainly economic opportunity does not guarantee equal opportunity. There are laws already on the books to safeguard the rights of women. Those laws must be enforced. Some must be strengthened.
I think it's time to cut through the fog of demagoguery that surrounds this whole issue. All of us are interested in one goal: ensuring legal equity for women.
At my direction, by executive order, our administration started by making a comprehensive search of federal laws and regulations that unfairly differentiate on the basis of sex.
I initiated this because I believe it's important. And contrary to what you might have heard or read, that process is going forward. After receiving a preliminary report, we worked with Sen. Robert J. Dole on legislation that will make many of the necessary corrections recommended by the report.
Recently the third quarterly report was submitted for review to the Cabinet Council on Legal Policy. I have directed the Justice Department and the Cabinet Council to accelerate their review of federal laws and to have specific recommendations on my desk for discussion immediately upon my return to Washington.
In addition to the review of federal laws, I initiated a project to encourage the states to review their own laws.
Of course, the federal government could not and should not tell the states what to do but, if the states are not moving fast enough, you who live in the states can help. Let the state know, let us know where we can make faster progress.