Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on the Economy

July 16, 1988

My fellow Americans:

Next week the Democrats will hold their national convention in Atlanta, and as they do so, you're going to be hearing a lot of rhetoric about the economy. Indeed, our economic future is likely to prove the central issue of the coming campaign. So, with the campaign season upon us, I thought I might take a few moments this afternoon to put this whole issue in proper perspective.

When it comes to the economy, there are two big facts to keep in mind. Before we came to Washington, our economy was in a mess: inflation in double digits, men and women being thrown out of jobs, the prime interest rate soaring at the highest level since the Civil War. And the second big fact—well, the second big fact is that when our administration had put its economic program in place, the economy stopped shrinking and started to grow, and it's been growing ever since.

Permit me to share with you just a few figures, figures I truly hope the Democrats keep in mind as they meet in Atlanta. Today's economic expansion has become the longest peacetime expansion in our entire history. Unemployment has fallen to the lowest level in nearly a decade and a half. Among black teenagers, unemployment has fallen to the lowest level since record-breaking began back in 1972, showing that minorities are among those benefiting the most from economic growth. Since the expansion began 67 months ago, the American economy has created more than 17 million jobs, far more than the number created by the economies of Western Europe and Japan combined. Business investment in plant and equipment is up. Our trade balance is improving. And more Americans have jobs today than at any time in our history.

What does all this mean? It means that getting the Government off your backs and out of your pockets has worked. You see, for years now there have been two basic approaches, two basic philosophies, regarding our economy. The liberal view is suspicious of free markets and private enterprise. It holds that it's the job of government to intervene in the economy, and to intervene constantly—taxing, regulating—spending more and more of your dollars. And, yes, it's this liberal view that nearly wrecked our economy the last time the Democrats were in charge.

Our administration ushered in a new philosophy, one that trusted you, the people, and not big government. We cut tax rates, pared back regulations, limited the growth of government spending. And we did all this to get government out of the way so that individuals and enterprises had incentives to grow, to invest, to innovate, to create jobs. Professional economists would describe our philosophy as one that believes there's a bias for growth in the private sector. To put that same idea in plain language, we believe it's only natural for individual men and women to want to build a better life for themselves and their families and that it's up to the Government to get out of the way and let them do just that.

By now, it's clear that our approach works, that trusting the people leads to prosperity. Economists have even begun to realize that the old boom-and-bust cycles of the past probably had more to do with the volatility of government policy than with underlying economic causes and that if we remain true to low-tax, high-growth policies, today's expansion, already at 67 months and still counting, can go on and on.

This brings me back to the convention that's taking place in Atlanta next week. You see, today we face an historic opportunity. It's the chance to remove the fear of the boom-and-bust cycle once and for all, replacing it with consistent low-tax, limited government policies—in other words, to achieve a bipartisan, national consensus for economic growth.

I firmly believe that there will be some right-minded Democrats at the convention next week, just as there are many rank and file Democratic voters across the country who agree. But sadly, the leaders in charge of the convention will want to take America back to the failed policies of the past. It's ironic, isn't it, that just as countries around the world are adopting the same progrowth policies our administration put in place, so many in the Democratic Party want to go in the opposite direction.

So, as you watch the convention in Atlanta next week, I urge you to ask yourself this question: Is the Democratic Party and its nominee for President going to keep taxes low and government growth under control, or are they going to go back to the very policies that could wreck our economy yet again?

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

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House.

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

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