Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on the Federal Budget

February 20, 1988

My fellow Americans:

This week I transmitted to Congress our proposed budget for 1989. This budget fulfills the second-year obligations of a bipartisan agreement I hammered out last November with the leaders of Congress. We then, after arduous negotiations, agreed on a plan to reduce Federal deficit spending by over $75 billion in 2 years. If Congress upholds its commitments and stands firm against pressures for increased spending—pressures that reached a peak during election years-solid results will be forthcoming.

And progress already has been made. If our proposed budget is enacted, deficit spending will have dropped from $221 billion in fiscal year 1986 to $130 billion in fiscal year 1989. As a proportion of gross national product, it will have been cut by more than half since 1983. The legislative and executive branches, by living up to our commitments of last November, are demonstrating the kind of responsible leadership expected by the electorate.

The budget we've transmitted is true to that spirit. It reduces the level of deficit spending while at the same time holds the line against any general tax increase. It remains firm in our commitments to essential domestic programs. It also includes funding for the minimum defense program needed to keep our country safe and necessary to honor our commitments to our friends and allies. Anything less would not only jeopardize our national security but also dim prospects for further negotiated agreements with our adversaries.

We've proposed a trim budget that keeps the lid on spending and yet still recognizes that some increases are justified. For example, we're actually calling for Congress to spend substantially more on education, combating AIDS, the war against drugs, and improving air safety, while keeping discretionary domestic spending within predetermined limits.

The long-term solution to the plague of deficit spending, however, is not prudence this year or next. What's needed is reform that will bring discipline and accountability to the budget process. Exemplifying the shortcomings, last year the Federal budget was slapped together into a single behemoth bill and delivered to me hours before the Federal Government was due to run out of money. I was faced with the decision to either sign, without time for careful consideration, or see the Federal Government shut down. I pledged during the State of the Union, after plopping down 43 pounds of paper sent to me by Congress, that I would never sign another catchall continuing resolution. I'm pleased that at least 34 Senators and a good number of Congressmen, including many in the leadership, have indicated that they, too, do not want a repeat of last year's budget mayhem.

Make no mistake, we have the opportunity to put our fiscal house in order and to reform the budget process. We've proven time and again that, by working together, partisanship can be put aside and progress can be made when the national interest is at stake. It took cooperation from both sides of the aisle, for example, to put in place an economic recovery program that has given this country the longest peacetime expansion in history. Inflation and interest rates have been kept down. Family income is up. And we've created over 15 million new jobs since the recovery began.

Being mindful of the suffering that comes with unemployment, that last figure is a matter of particular pride for me. And as our economy has grown, unemployment has dropped to its lowest level since 1979. But that statement doesn't come near to describing the success we've enjoyed. Today more people have jobs and a higher percentage of our work force is employed than ever before. Since the recovery began, we've created more new jobs than in all of Western Europe and Japan combined. And even the meaning of unemployment figures is sometimes not fully understood. Our 7 million unemployed citizens are often thought of as people who have lost their jobs, as they're sometimes described in the media. In fact, less than half of the unemployed are job-losers. Fifty-five percent are new entrants, mainly young people looking for their first jobs; reentrants, individuals who left the work force, perhaps to raise a family, and are now seeking to get back in; or job-leavers, who voluntarily left their jobs to change locations or occupations.

We, of course, need to remain concerned about each and every citizen who is seeking work and should not be satisfied until everyone who wants a job—a good job—has one. One person enduring the pressures and frustrations of unemployment is too many. That is why responsible Federal spending and taxing policies—policies that foster growth and expand opportunity for all our citizens—are so important. That is what the budget that I have just sent to Congress is all about.

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 Federal Budget Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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