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Radio Address to the Nation on Domestic Reforms

March 28, 1992

Good morning.

Many have called the 20th century the American Century. The question before us today is about the next century, looking just a few years ahead.

Let me tell you a story that will help shape that century, a story you probably haven't heard about. It's about a battle between those who want to change things and those who want to protect the status quo. And in this battle those who support change are telling those who want to stand pat: Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

Wednesday, those words were heard loud and clear. I'm talking about how the Democratic Congress couldn't muster a two-thirds majority -- incredibly, couldn't even get a majority -- to override my veto of the liberals' latest tax increase. This story you haven't heard about is also unheard of. Only twice before in the last 60 years has the House failed to muster a simple majority to override a veto.

Congressional liberals suffered this defeat for a simple reason: Americans measure progress in people helped, not dollars spent. And that's why I'm going to continue the fight to keep a lid on Federal spending. It's also why I asked Senator McCain of Arizona and Congressman Harris Fawell of Illinois to formally introduce legislation to endorse the 68 rescissions I announced last week to cut nearly $4 billion in waste from a bloated Federal budget.

Unlike liberal Democrats, given our big deficit, I don't think the Federal Government can afford to fund prickly pear research or study asparagus yield declines. Those who reject these pork barrel projects will stand with me and the American taxpayer. Those who support them will have to explain in November why the public interest has been denied.

If enough Members demand it, Congress must vote on each of these bills, yes or no, up or down. I'm going to work with those who want the Congress to be accountable and fight those who will try to block our initiatives through parliamentary gimmicks. I know that Government is too big and spends too much. And now let's see where Congress stands. Stay tuned, keep listening. We'll find out who really wants to cut spending and who just wants to keep the pork.

In a world more driven by economic competition than ever before, the challenge I am referring to is crucial to our future. I mean reform of the American Government. During the last decade, one institution after another has looked within itself, decided on improvements, and acted to fix its problems and reflect its principles. Our task now is to bring that process of reform to the United States Government. All of us know Government's problem: Too often it is not accountable, not effective, not efficient. It's not even compassionate. Only by changing it can we protect America's general interest against selfish special interests.

My rescissions will help knock out one part of the special interest problem at work in Congress today, but the changes I want are even bigger. I want to end the PAC contributions which are corrupting our system. I want to place term limits on Congress, and I want to lead the American people in making changes that will make the 21st century another American century.

One challenge is to make our people educated, literate, and motivated to keep learning. And that's why I'm trying to reform our education system from top to bottom.

Our people must have a sense of well-being about their health and that of their children and families. My health care reform plan will guarantee them access to the finest health care system in the world and make that care affordable.

And next, help me return our civil justice system to its original purpose: dispense justice with civility. Eighteen million lawsuits a year are choking us, costing individuals and businesses billions, a tremendous drag on our morale as well as our economy.

And in the next century, as we look at the likely economic competition as well as the likely opportunities, they will be beyond our borders. That means we must open up more foreign markets to sell our goods and our services and to sustain and create jobs for our people.

Reform of Government, education, health care, our legal system, opening markets abroad: addressing these issues is fundamental to America's future. Already America has changed the world. Today I'm asking you to help me change America. If Congress won't change, we'll have to change the Congress. The battle has been joined, and it's your future that we're fighting for.

Thank you for your support. And may God bless the United States of America.

Note: This address was recorded at 10:30 a.m. on March 27 in the Oval Office at the White House for broadcast after 9 a.m. on March 28.

George Bush, Radio Address to the Nation on Domestic Reforms Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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