Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on Administration Policies

August 18, 1984

My fellow Americans:

Something very bright and happy and hopeful has been happening across our country in recent days. We've watched a grateful nation shower its affection on those who showered us with glory—our Olympic athletes.

Theirs was a triumph of faith and hope. In honoring them, ours has been a celebration of the new patriotism. Nancy and I saw our athletes in Los Angeles the day after the Olympics ended. You could just feel their joy and energy. And when our famous gymnast, Mary Lou Retton, stood on her toes to give me a hug, I couldn't help thinking, "How can anyone not believe in the dream of America?"

Now, I've been accused of being an optimist, and it's true. All my life I've seen that when people like Mary Lou have a dream, when they have the courage and opportunity to work hard, when they believe in the power of faith and hope, they not only perform great feats, they help pull all of us forward as well.

Somehow, the idea that American progress begins with spirit and a willingness of the heart was ignored during the 1970's. The intellectual establishment was so busy demanding more power for government, more bureaucracy, regulation, spending and—oh, yes—more and more taxes, they forgot all about the secret of America's success—opportunity for people, for all the people.

When the economy reached the point of collapse by the end of the seventies, they began talking about our crisis of spirit, about our malaise. But we hadn't given up hope; we just hadn't been allowed to hope.

So, when we came to Washington in 1981, we said, "Let us renew our faith and our hope. We have every right to dream heroic dreams." We put together an economic recovery program that made a radical break with past policies. For the first time since the administration of John Kennedy, we cut tax rates significantly for every working American. We told the people, "America's destiny is back in your hands. If you work harder and earn more than before, your reward will be greater than it was."

But from the beginning, the old-guard establishment-people who still make policy from abstract statistics, theories, and models rather than looking at the reality of human behavior—have filled the airwaves with gloom, predicting our program couldn't meet our goals. And from the beginning, they've been wrong: When they said inflation and interest rates wouldn't come down, when they said recovery wouldn't come, when they said the expansion wouldn't last, and when they said the deficit wouldn't come down.

Recently, many liberal analysts have been reviewing our record and our prospects. Their message remains: "hasn't worked; can't be done." So, when the Urban Institute came out with a study a few days ago, it was only natural that some of the press would look for the same old doom and gloom. For example, they didn't report that the study also said elderly Americans have clearly done better under our policies with real gains in disposable incomes, nor that the social safety net is still largely intact for the nonworking poor. Even the Urban Institute said there is no evidence that working welfare mothers who have been eliminated from the rolls are quitting their jobs to requalify for benefits, and that despite all the furor, it finds surprisingly few changes from 1980 with respect to the environmental, public lands, and water resources activities of the Federal Government.

And no one seems to mention that the centerpiece of our policy, the tax cut, was not fully in place until 1983. Our program has just begun. But let's look at the record since it has: over 6 million jobs created; a surge in investment and productivity; a record 600,000 business incorporations; the biggest increase in real after-tax personal income since 1973; and perhaps most important, a new spirit of optimism and confidence about America's future. It's clear that once people get a chance to show what they can do—well, America got well and got strong.

What isn't clear is why those pessimists, with so little faith in people, so little understanding of incentives, and so many bad predictions, are not more humble and not treated a little more skeptically by the media.

In 1984 we face an historic choice. Will we heed the pessimists' agenda of higher taxes, more bureaucracy, and a bigger welfare state leading us right back to runaway inflation and economic decay, or will we continue on our new road toward a true opportunity society of economic growth, more jobs, lower tax rates, and rising takehome pay?

I believe the spirit we've seen during and after these Olympics reveals something very important about America. We believe in ourselves, we're hungry for real opportunity, and we're up to any challenge.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on Administration Policies Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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