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Radio Address to the Nation on Tax Reform

August 23, 1986

My fellow Americans:

Good news for this hot summer day: Tax reform is on its way toward final victory in the Congress. To return for the moment to my old role as a radio sportscaster: It's the bottom of the ninth, and tax reform is rounding third and heading home. We're about to score the winning run, not just of the game but of the whole season. Still, we should remember, as Yogi Berra once said: "The game isn't over till it's over."

Two-and-a-half years ago, I instructed the Treasury Department to begin work on a revolutionary overhaul of our tax system that would make it fairer and simpler and stimulate growth by lowering tax rates. It's been a long, arduous struggle. Each step of the way a chorus of pessimists predicted failure: It would never get by the special interests. Tax reform, they said, stood about as much chance as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Well, they forgot one thing: America didn't become great being pessimistic and cynical. America is built on a can-do spirit that sees every obstacle as a challenge, every problem as an opportunity.

Thanks to the support of the American people, tax reform has gained steadily in popularity and momentum, powering past the opposition and on to victory in both Houses of Congress. Now, just last week the Senate-House conference committee approved an agreement that reconciles the Senate and House versions. We want to commend Chairmen Packwood and Rostenkowski for this great achievement. The next step is final approval—an up or down vote in both Houses. There is absolutely no reason for any further delay, which only causes uncertainty and puts a damper on investment and economic growth. I urge Congress, when it reconvenes in September, to act promptly and make tax reform the law of the land.

Let me give you a few of the highlights of this revolutionary tax overhaul. First of all, the present 14-rate structure will be collapsed into only 2, and over 80 percent of the American people will pay the lower rate of only 15 percent or will pay no taxes at all. The top individual and corporate rates will also be slashed, while many special tax breaks will be closed. All of this will draw America's investment money out from under the tax shelters and back into the productive economy where it belongs. And we've indexed taxes to make sure inflation never again pushes Americans into higher tax brackets. Families will get a long overdue break through increases in the standard deduction and personal exemption. And millions of working poor will be completely dropped from the tax roles, making this one of the best antipoverty programs this country has ever seen.

We will no longer use the tax code to make economic and social policy. Instead, we're going to let market forces shape our economy into a sleek and efficient powerhouse of growth. With tax reform, America will have the lowest marginal rates and the most modern tax code in the industrialized world—one that encourages risk-taking, innovation, and that old American spirit of enterprise. We will be refueling the American growth economy with the kind of incentives that have helped create record numbers of new businesses and over 10 1/2 million jobs in 44 months.

But America won't be able to grow and prosper indefinitely if the rest of the world economy is dragging behind. We're already beginning to see the slowing effects on our own economy of sluggish world growth. Without faster growth, other countries simply can't afford to buy as many of our goods and services, and that hurts American workers. Well, tax reform is good news for them, too. A British news magazine has described it as the beginning of a tax revolution that will "stalk through the West" as our industrialized partners cut tax rates in their own countries in order to remain competitive with the American dynamo. The Europeans have called our expansion the American miracle and have talked enviously of our record of economic growth and job creation. Well, now is their opportunity to join us on the growth path, to carry this revolution of hope and opportunity around the world, and create a strong, sound, and growing world economy. Tax reform is the door to a bigger future, a future as big and hopeful and full of heart as the American dream, a future of expanding possibility and ever increasing opportunity for all Americans, indeed, for the whole world.

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

Note: The President spoke at 9:06 a.m. from his ranch in Santa Barbara County, CA. Bob Packwood was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Dan Rostenkowski was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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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