Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on the Economy

October 22, 1988

My fellow Americans:

Abraham Lincoln once said, "you can't fool all of the people all of the time." Well, this week our liberal friends have been trying to prove him wrong. They've charged that our record of lowering your taxes, ending runaway inflation, and igniting the longest peacetime economic expansion ever has been bad for middle class, working Americans. Well, it's time to remind them of a few facts.

For example, the "misery index." The "misery index" was an election year gimmick they cooked up for the 1976 campaign by adding the unemployment and inflation rates. It came to 13.4 percent in 1976, and they declared that no one had a right to seek reelection with a "misery index" that high. Well, 4 years later, in the 1980 campaign, they didn't mention the "misery index," perhaps because it had grown to almost 21 percent. And this year they still aren't mentioning it. Under us, it's dropped to under 10 percent.

Our liberal friends have been hopping around the country charging that real family income is no higher today than it was 20 years ago. Now, in fact, it's 14 percent higher. But why would they bring family income up at all? After all, between 1977 and 1981—maybe you can guess why I pick those years—the typical American family's income after taking out inflation fell 7 percent. Think of what it would mean to you and your family if somebody were to cut your family's paychecks by that much today. Think of how much less you could buy at the grocery store, the clothes you couldn't get for your children, how much less you could put in the plate at your church or synagogue each week. And then think of this: Since 1981, when we came to office, the typical family's income after taking out inflation has soared more than 10 percent.

One place you can see what this change means to you is in housing. Our liberal friends have been talking a great deal about affordable housing recently. Don't they remember that in 1980, as housing prices and interest rates skyrocketed together—one of the few times in history that's happened-and real family incomes plummeted, the American dream of owning a home almost went down for the count; and the top housing official of the previous administration finally threw up his hands in despair and said, "For many hard-working families, housing is growing beyond their reach." Yes, according to real estate industry economists, in 1980 the average American family made just over three-fourths of what it needed to buy a home. Today, with interest rates half of what they were and inflation under control, the typical American family makes over 110 percent of what it takes to buy a home.

Renters are also doing better. When the liberals left office, the national vacancy rates for apartments in the price range of low- and medium-income families were around 5 percent, which means it had become hard for low- and medium-income Americans to find an apartment. Today these national vacancy rates are around 8 percent, and it's the landlords who are having to wait longer to find tenants. Add this all up, and you see that we have more, much more, affordable housing today than we had 8 years ago.

You'd think all these facts would give our liberal opponents pause, but apparently not. When we note that since our expansion began, America has created more than 18 million new jobs, that unemployment is nearly the lowest it's been in 14 years, and that a greater proportion of Americans are at work today than ever before in our history, the liberals blandly respond that what we need are "good jobs at good wages." Perhaps they believe that most Americans have bad jobs. I don't believe that. And to tell the truth, I find remarks that put down honest occupations—yes, including short-order chefs—offensive, and I expect you do, too. In any event, overall, job for job, the jobs created since our expansion began pay more than the jobs that existed before.

The liberals charge that we've given tax breaks to the wealthy. But when we came to office the wealthy were paying 19.3 percent of the Federal individual income tax revenues. Now it's 26 percent.

The charges go on and on, but the truth remains the same. No matter how you look at it, the last time they were in office, the liberals clobbered the American middle class—and we stopped them. Some are calling this last-ditch opposition campaign an attempt at "class warfare." So, what's new? Our liberal friends have been at war with America's middle class for years. Now they want you to turn the other cheek—but will they just take that as an opportunity to really let you have it? Main Street America is in better shape today than it's ever been. Why would we ever want to put it back in the hands of those who almost turned out its lights?

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 the Economy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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