Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on the Fiscal Year 1988 Budget

January 10, 1987

My fellow Americans:

As you may have heard, earlier this week I paid a visit to the hospital for minor surgery. Now my doctors tell me that I'm coming along just fine, and that's exactly how I feel—just fine. Come to think of it, with the approach of the Super Bowl, I can't resist telling you that it won't be long before I'm suited up and back on the playing field. With just 2 years to go in our administration, that makes this the beginning of the fourth quarter. So, take it from an old sportscaster: Don't leave your seats; the game ain't over!

Soon I'll appear before Congress to give my State of the Union Address, outlining our agenda for 1987 and beyond. We saw earlier this week that one part of our agenda, continued economic growth, is already well under way. On Thursday the Dow Jones Industrial Index closed above 2,000 for the first time in history; indeed, the Dow has gone up more in the past 4 years than it did in the previous 20. New figures showed that the Producer Price Index is at an excellent zero percent; while unemployment dropped to just 6.6 percent, the lowest level in nearly 7 years. And with Congress back in town, another part of the agenda, the Federal budget, has already become an important piece of business here in Washington.

Just this week—a full month earlier than usual—our administration submitted to Congress our proposed budget for 1988. This budget reflects sound policy, both foreign and domestic. Mindful of America's world role on behalf of freedom, the budget calls for a strong and innovative national defense, including full funding for our historic Strategic Defense Initiative. After all, it was our strength, not talk, that led to my meetings with Mr. Gorbachev in Geneva and Reykjavik. In an effort to make our economy more competitive with those of other nations, our budget sets out important steps, including training for dislocated workers, the return to the private sector of certain institutions now owned by the Government, and more funding for research and development. And to set an example for the entire country, I've asked Federal agencies to continue to improve their own productivity.

This budget also reflects what accountants might refer to as sound financial management, but what you and I would call common sense. To begin with, the American people understand that it's hard enough to support a family and make ends meet without the Government constantly raising taxes. So, this budget contains no tax increase whatsoever—none. Regarding the Federal deficit, our budget calls for prudent cuts in programs that have proven wasteful or are no longer needed—cuts that can be made without harming the poor or elderly. In this way, our budget meets the deficit-reduction goal set out last year in the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings legislation. In other words, this budget will keep the Government on a path of shrinking deficits that would see the Federal budget balanced in just 4 years. In the less than 1 week since we submitted this budget, some in Congress have already begun fumbling in the backfield. There are constant charges that the Federal deficits are somehow the fault of our administration. If Congress had approved reductions we have asked for, the deficit today would be dramatically smaller. During the past 5 years, Congress appropriated almost $67 billion more than I requested for domestic discretionary programs.

Now, there's another point to be made here, perhaps even more important. In the past two decades, defense spending—the Federal Government's first responsibility-has fallen as a proportion of our gross national product, while domestic spending in real terms has nearly doubled, pushing total Federal spending as a proportion of the gross national product from under 20 percent in 1967 to almost 24 percent today. In other words, big government has been claiming more and more of the goods and services produced by your own hard work. In the words of a recent Wall Street Journal article, those in Congress who want big government to get even bigger "are asking the public to ratify, finally and conclusively, the rising domestic spending levels Congress has legislated ... a process that every Reagan budget has attempted to reverse." Almost as if to illustrate this point, in the 4 days that Congress has been in session, it has already considered a huge budget-busting water and sewage treatment bill that would cost $18 billion.

Our administration remains ready to work with Congress in fashioning this budget, in particular to consider any budget proposal that meets the three basic requirements of a strong national defense, a shrinking Federal deficit, and no tax increase. But I have to be frank: If the big spenders want a fight on the budget, they'd better strap on their helmets and shoulder pads. In this fourth and final quarter, I'm determined to go out there and win one for the American people and, yes—and one for the Gipper.

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

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from the Map Room at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on the Fiscal Year 1988 Budget Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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