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Radio Address to the Nation on the Balanced Budget Amendment

June 06, 1992

I want to talk to you today about a big idea, a big change in the way your Government works. For the past 12 years, President Reagan and I have tried to get Congress to act responsibly and restrain Federal spending. We've tried compromise. We've tried confrontation. And we've tried quiet diplomacy with the leaders of Congress. None of this has been enough. And so, my friends, the time has come to take some commonsense action. We must pass a constitutional amendment mandating a balanced budget.

For most of our Nation's history, there was an unwritten rule against deficit financing, against saddling future generations with a mountain of debt. But in recent times, we've moved away from that. Now, we're borrowing from the future to pay for indulgences of the present. Our future is at stake. To ensure long-term economic growth, we must get Federal spending under control.

I've called for big changes in many areas, reforms in how this Nation's gridlocked capital does business. Right now, we're coming out of tough times. The American people know that budget deficits threaten the long-term economic health of our country. Over the years, we've accumulated Federal debt totalling $65,000 for every family of four. This doesn't create more wealth. It merely helps pay for our current consumption. And that's like taking out a car loan and never buying a car.

To make our economic future strong, the balanced budget is where we must start. Beginning well before I became your President, I have fought for a balanced budget amendment. As a matter of fact, on February 9th, 1989, the very first legislative proposal that I made as President was for Congress to adopt a balanced budget constitutional amendment. In each of the three budgets I've submitted since, I've repeated that plea.

Why am I so fiercely dedicated to this issue? Look at your own family. You know what happens when you spend more than you make. The devil's going to come demanding his due. Well, that's what our American family faces right now.

When you hear about a deficit measured in hundreds of billions of dollars, remember that's not "Monopoly" money. Some day, that debt must be paid with your money, as sure as your own personal debts will have to be paid with your money. It's unacceptable when this spending riptide has us drowning in debt, dragging us further out to sea.

This amendment will bring us back to shore. Forty-four States already have some type of constitutional balanced budget requirement. Eighty percent of the American people want this amendment and the tougher scrutiny of Government spending which it will require.

We're fed up. We know it's time for partisan posturing to yield to responsibility to govern. It's time to stop treating our Federal Treasury like the corner cash machine.

Thomas Jefferson's words still ring true: "I place public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared." Today, we have within our grasp the power to conquer that fear. The key to this is twofold: We must control reckless Government spending, and we must encourage economic growth.

Last January, I proposed a solid, commonsense action plan to create jobs and stimulate economic growth for the short term. Congress still needs to act on that plan and act now. A balanced budget amendment will help ensure economic security for the American people in the long term. Congress needs to act on that measure and act now.

We have a moral imperative to act on behalf of future generations. They are not yet here to represent themselves. It's time to protect our children and our children's children. And we're determined to enact this solemn bond between generations.

May God bless you and our great Nation.

Note: This address was recorded at 10:03 a.m. on June 5 in the Cabinet Room at the White House for broadcast after 9 a.m. on June 6.

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

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