Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on Tax Reform

June 01, 1985

My fellow Americans:

I wonder how many of you know about the Quaker whose patience was sorely tried when the cow he was trying to milk kept kicking the milk pail over. Finally, he got up from the milking stool, faced the cow, and said, "Thou knowest I cannot strike thee. Thou knowest I cannot even curse thee. But doest thou knowest I can sell thee to someone who will?"

It's been a busy week here in Washington. We've made a proposal for merging tax reforms. It's also been a week in which we tried to bring a little Quaker wisdom here, too. And let me explain why the two go together.

You see, Washington doesn't take to change very well. Special interest groups set up offices here, hire some energetic staff members, make it a point to get to know the right people, and then use their influence to win special treatment. The accumulation of all these special privileges—and the tax code is the best example—frequently leads to a tangle of confusing laws and chaotic regulations. It's the public interest that suffers. And the ones who have to try and make sense of all the rules and regulations, not to mention footing the bill for the special privileges, are Americans like you who can't afford to hire a lobbyist in Washington.

Well, that's where the President comes in. The whole idea of the Presidency is having somebody in the Oval Office who can try to get above the bickering and buttonholing in the cloakrooms and corridors and say, "Look, enough of this. Let's just get something done for a change that will help the people."

You see, the President and the Vice President are the only ones in Washington elected by all the people. In a way then, the President should be the people's lobbyist, your lobbyist. And any President who wants to succeed should remember his first obligation is to the people. They elected him, and only they can give him the support he needs to get things done.

Well, that's certainly been the case in the last 4 years. The victories we've won belong to the people. You made them happen by writing, telegramming, or speaking personally to your Representatives and Senators. You made your voice heard here in Washington, a voice strong enough to make the politicians do what was right, not for the special interests but for America.

So, this week, once again, I've been trying to do my job by giving you the facts and asking for your help. I won't spend a lot of time right now telling you about the current problems with our tax code. Each of you has had to face that nightmare every April 15th. So, that's why I proposed a sweeping new reform that will reduce the 14 tax brackets we now have to only 3—a reform that will reduce the many special tax privileges. If our plan goes through, making out your taxes each year will be more simple, and it will reduce all those feelings of unfairness and injustice that so many Americans rightly harbor about our current tax code.

In addition to bringing simplicity and fairness, our plan is also profamily. By raising your standard deduction, boosting exemptions to $2,000 for each taxpayer and dependent, and by expanding the IRA's to include spouses staying at home, our plan is progrowth. And, too, most people would pay lower taxes.

And should you decide to work overtime or put more into your savings, the Government would take less away than it does now. And needy families—those at the poverty line or near it—would no longer have to pay Federal income taxes at all. New incentives in the tax code would help them rely less on welfare and public assistance. We'd also be giving small business a hand, the companies largely responsible for providing most of the new jobs in America. Our tax reform package has many other advantages. Believe me, I could go on. There isn't time for that because I need to get back to that Quaker and his cow. You see, here in Washington the special interests are trying to pick apart our tax reform package. Just as it has opposed so many of the other good things we've tried to do for the American people, much of official Washington is going to oppose this tax reform, too.

That's where all of you and a little Quaker wisdom come in. Just like that Quaker's cow, many in official Washington make a habit of kicking over the American people's milk pail. And as my chief of staff Don Regan said recently, we're going to need the people to go talk to the cow and maybe ask him a few questions about how he or she likes it here on the farm.

So, yes, we very much need your support, especially those of you who've never written before to your Representatives or Senators. Please make your views known, and remind official Washington that you expect to be listened to. Tell them the time for America's tax plan is long overdue. And tell them it's time they stopped letting the entrenched interests and special privileges kick over the milk pail.

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

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.

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

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