Radio Address to the Nation on the Economic Recovery Program
My fellow Americans:
During the last 2 years the United States has risen from the depths of recession to one of the strongest recoveries in decades; from dark days of despair to a bright new dawn of promise and hope for all Americans.
I remember saying back when things looked the worst that too much pessimism could be deadly. Well, some people criticized me for trying to sugar-coat bad news. I merely wanted us to remember that there's a psychological factor in recession, and too much hammering at it makes recession worse.
What pulled us through that ordeal, I'm convinced, was our determination to stick to our program, believe in ourselves, and trust in our values of faith, freedom, and hard work—values that have never failed us when we've lived up to them.
And now we're seeing the payoff. 1983 was a banner year for America, notwithstanding voices of pessimism which always found the single dark cloud in every blue sky. Those voices come from many different areas of our society. Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported on a survey of one of them—the television networks' nightly news coverage of the economy during the last half of 1983. During that entire period there were 4 to 15 economic statistic stories a month telling us whether inflation, unemployment, interest rates, retail sales, or housing starts were up or down for a given month. The survey found nearly 95 percent of these reports were positive. However, of the 104 lengthy economic news stories in which the networks gave us their interpretation of what was happening, 86 percent were primarily negative. The survey found the economic news in the second half of 1983 was good. But the coverage on network television was still in recession.
Now please don't get me wrong, every administration must be held accountable. None of us can be excluded from the fury of a free press whenever that's right and proper. But true balance implies consistently showing all faces of America, including hope, optimism, and progress.
Our economy is stronger than practically anyone predicted. The index of leading economic indicators has been up 16 of the last 17 months. Industrial production has risen 14 straight months. Housing starts climbed 60 percent in 1983 to the highest level in 4 years. Retail sales surged. Auto sales registered their best year since 1979. And we had the steepest drop in the unemployment rate in more than 30 years. Yesterday we learned that unemployment for all workers in February dropped to 7.7 percent. More Americans are now at work than ever before in this nation's history.
Here's one example that sums up the difference between yesterday's policies of depending on government and our approach that begins with trusting people. Last year we were asked to raise taxes and appropriate money for a $3.5 billion program to put 300,000 people in make-work jobs over a year. We said no, because incentives produce economic recovery, and strong, steady growth puts more people back to work than any government program. And it has.
Recovery has put as many people back to work each month as their program would in a year. We've added an average of 300,000 jobs every single month for the past 15 months, and almost 400,000 last month alone. That's 4.9 million additional workers working and paying taxes. Our economic recovery has become economic expansion. And the potential for new jobs and economic growth in the future is beyond our imagination.
The revolution in science and high technology is only beginning. Each time our knowledge expands, each time we push back frontiers of medicine, agriculture, and space, we will be creating entire new industries, modernizing older ones, and raising our standard of living.
The issue before America in 1984 is clear: Which direction will we go now—forward with optimism, faith, and confidence, continuing to build an opportunity society for all our people; or backward in pessimism and fear, surrendering to politicians who would dismantle our program because their agenda is to make government grow big and fat at your expense?
To serve that agenda, they need to dwell on bad news. So when good news comes, they're either dumbstruck or they pretend they didn't hear. Well, with your support, we'll keep our economy moving forward, and we'll keep America's rendezvous with an optimistic future.
Till 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 the Economic Recovery Program Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/260686