Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on the Federal Budget and the Congressional Elections

October 15, 1988

My fellow Americans:

Today we learned that there will be no Gramm-Rudman-Hollings sequester this year. With that in mind, I'd like to take a moment to talk about one of Washington's favorite pastimes: making the Federal budget.

As Congress prepares to leave town, many of its liberal leaders are congratulating themselves about their handling of the budget. And, yes, at least Congress didn't repeat its budget performance of last year: one desperation bill called a continuing resolution passed over 2 months late rather than the 13 regular appropriations bills required by law. Congress heard my warning that if that happened again I'd use my veto pen, even if it meant shutting down the entire Government.

So, we stopped Congress from once more saying, "The dog ate my homework," when its budget assignment was due; and we got them to cut spending enough so that we'll meet the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings targets this year. But left to its own devices, Congress would not have done this. You see, Congress is still controlled by liberal big spenders. And no matter when they hand in their homework, they still call every paper "tax and spend."

You may have heard a lot of campaign talk from our liberal friends recently about the Federal deficit and Federal debt. What you don't hear them say is that the President can't spend one dime of the Government's money without congressional appropriations. Only Congress can decide how much the Government spends. Only Congress can pass spending bills. Only Congress can determine how big the deficit will be, or if we're to have a deficit at all. In fact, it is against the law for the President to spend a penny more or a penny less than Congress directs him to spend. The President can't add to the deficit. He can't subtract from it either. That's Congress' job.

And how many of us have stopped to think that our liberal friends have had a majority in the House of Representatives for 52 of the last 56 years and in both Houses of Congress for 46 of those 56 years? And in all that time, there were only 8 scattered years in which the budget was balanced; the last time was 1969.

Over the years, I've asked Congress for many spending cuts that Congress with its liberal leadership has rejected. Add them all up, and they come to more than this year's entire budget deficit. Think of it: We could have wiped out a year of deficits if our liberal friends in Congress were as dedicated to reducing government spending as we are.

Of course, the liberal big spenders in Congress will tell you that they're for reducing the deficit and even for reducing spending. But somehow for them reduced spending always comes down to reduced defense spending. And time and again, when they've cut defense spending, it's just been a cover for spending more on their special interest programs. In 6 years, the liberal leadership in Congress cut defense spending authority by over $125 billion. And for every dollar they cut from defense outlays, they added $2 to domestic spending.

I've called on our liberal friends in Congress to admit their addiction to big spending and to give the President more tools to help him help them kick the habit. And that's why I've wanted a balanced budget amendment: to require them to live within their means. And it's why I've wanted a line-item veto for the President: so the President can go through the budget, lift out bad spending, item by item, and make Congress vote on it out in the open, not hidden with thousands of other items. That way, if the spending really is bad, you'll know about it, and your representatives will have to answer to you when they go home and ask for your vote.

You can see why the liberal congressional leadership is dead-set against the balanced budget amendment and the line-item veto. They like things just as they are, although they act as if the first chance they get they'll find a way out of the discipline of Gramm-Rudman-Hollings. I'm sorry to say that the Congress' liberal leadership still has one answer to everything: raise your taxes. And if they stay in control of the Congress, they just might find a way to raise them.

In the next 4 weeks, as you're thinking over how you'll vote this year, I wish you'd consider something else as well: Since we must ride two horses, Congress and the President, across every stream, shouldn't they both be going the same way? Why should we have a President who says no more taxes, and Congress have a liberal leadership that wants to tax and spend? Why should we have a President who's for a line-item veto and a balanced budget amendment, and Congress have a liberal leadership that's against both? If we don't want a tax-and-spend liberal in the White House, shouldn't we give the President we do want a Congress that will work with him? And when it comes to giving the next President a more receptive Congress, I hope you'll remember: If your Representative and Senator aren't part of the answer, you can be sure they're part of the problem.

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

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives