Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Radio and Television Address to the American People on the Achievements of the 83d Congress.

August 23, 1954

Good evening, my friends:

Many months ago, I promised you one night that from time to time either I or some member of the administration would appear before you to give you a report on our stewardship of your Federal governmental affairs in Washington.

Now, something like 70 hours ago, the 83d Congress adjourned. It will not again meet unless there should be some unexpected crisis at home or abroad that would demand it to re-assemble in Washington. In the absence of such a crisis, the 84th Congress will take over next January.

Now, this seems like a good time to report to you about the program that has engaged the attention of Congress, and about how successful we have been in carrying out the pledges we made to you more than 19 months ago.

I must say, in starting, that I salute the membership of that Congress for their hard work, for their effective accomplishments; and I am sure that after you take a quick look at this record, you will join in that salute.

It seems to me that the best way to start this little talk is to do it against the backdrop of 19 months ago. Remember some of the crises that then existed in the world--crises, at least, as far as we were concerned. There was in Iran a fanatic in charge, who was supported by the Communist party, and weekly we felt there was a great danger that that huge reserve of oil would fall into the hands of the Communists. Sixty percent of the world's known reserves of oil were at stake. We had a beachhead of international communism starting in Guatemala. We had a terrible war in Indochina. We had a great argument going on in the Suez between two of our great international friends. And of course, there was the war in Korea, a war around which there had grown up such a political situation that military victory, at least a decisive military victory, was no longer in the cards. It was a war that brought home to us a daily casualty list, with resulting sorrow in thousands of homes.

At home, aside from those casualty lists, there was the threat of inflation. It bothered us all. We were worried about the cheapening dollar and about the mounting prices, in spite of the rigid controls that the Federal Government was attempting to enforce.

Along with this, there was a mounting deficit in the Federal budget. Each year we were falling further and further into debt. We were spending more than we were collecting, and the situation was such as to cheapen our dollar, to make our debt and our interest payments greater and greater, and to give a resulting load to the taxpayer.

On top of this, for many months there had been an era of falling farm prices, and so the whole farm industry was suffering the effects of paying a lot of money for the things they had to buy, and getting little in return.

Now in this picture--in this situation--the administration took over a year ago last January, and determined on a very broad program for strengthening America, strengthening it at home spiritually, economically, and militarily, and making certain that it would be stronger internationally, insofar as its peace and security were concerned.

Now at home, to make it more secure, there were a number of things to do. First, there were great and broad economic measures, the relieving of controls, and all that sort of thing. There was the establishment of security measures, so as to make it difficult, if not impossible, for Communists to penetrate into the Government, or into any of the other great organisms of our country where they could weaken us, particularly in time of a crisis.

It was time for a new era of fair play, in which to treat everybody alike, to have no favored classes; and this administration was pledged to do everything it could for the benefit of 160 million American people, and not for any single group, any single area, or any single geographic section.

And then there was noticeable at that time, you will recall, a growing and continuing trend toward centralization in the Federal Government-centralization of power and authority in Washington--with our affairs more and more being dictated by a bureaucrat in that city.

This administration was committed to decentralization--decentralizing our own individual affairs to ourselves where that was possible, and in Government decentralizing as far as possible to the States. You will recall that there was even an attempt at that time to take away from some of the States their own property, their own territory. We passed the tidelands bill to restore to those States their title to their proper lands.

At the same time, we were in all sorts of businesses. We were making synthetic rubber. We were operating barge lines. We were operating coffee roasting plants and clothing stores, and making rope.

Well, we have been getting out of them, so as to return to you, the American people, the maximum of initiative, the maximum responsibility and authority in your own affairs.

Now, in the international field, it was plain, with these mounting deficits, we had to provide for our own security, as economically and effectively, and as efficiently as possible.

That has been the program of the administration.

So defense authorities, instead of just saying, "Let's go out and buy a lot of security," determined priorities in which we should build our defense forces. We have tried to minimize the effort on those that seemed less essential in this day of the atomic bomb, to put our emphasis on those that seemed to offer us the greatest security. This of course applies to our air power, not only in the Air Force, but also in the Navy, which in itself deploys now a tremendous amount of air power and contributes markedly to our defense.

Along with all of this, we tried, through talks--full and frank talks with our allies--to establish better relationships, to get closer to them, to know exactly where we were going, in spirit, in the development of our economic measures, and in the building of our military measures. NATO, of course, existed before this administration came in; I was serving in NATO when I was in Europe during my last tour. It was at the great Caracas conference, where all American countries agreed that any penetration by international communism into this continent would be considered as a threat to all. And that conference had much to do with the final elimination of the threat in Guatemala.

Ever since we came in, we have been trying to establish a concert of nations in Southeast Asia. On April 16, 1953, I made a speech on peace in the world, in which I urged that the free nations undertake that project.

Now, in Indochina, war has ceased, under circumstances that are certainly not satisfactory to all of us. In some respects they are disappointing, but at least we have an opportunity again to tackle that problem of getting a concert of nations that will make the whole region safer and more secure for freedom.

Now this program at home can be defined best, I think, by saying this: that it has been a liberal program in all of those things that bring the Federal Government in contact with the individual, when it deals with the individual and his problems; in this field, the Government tries to be humane, considerate, and sympathetic--and that is true liberalism. But when it comes to the economy of this country, your pocketbook, and your taxes, it tries to be conservative.

So it is conservative in the economy, liberal in human affairs.

We have been developing a program that would bring about a national situation in which every citizen would have reason for bold hope, in which effort would be rewarded, in which prosperity would be shared, freedom would expand, and peace would be as secure as humans can make it.

It is a great program. It is a program to benefit all Americans.

Let's take a look at how it made out.

Now, in discussing what the Congress has done, my friends, I can't possibly take up even the major bills in detail. Literally, there were hundreds of bills passed by this Congress, but many of them are what are called routine or personal.

We calculate that of the bills to promote the program, of which I have been describing the purposes in general terms, there were about 64. Now these bills I couldn't possibly take up, but I will talk about three or four groups of them; and so I shall limit myself to that kind of process this evening.

Now, in the first place, the 83d Congress did two things that previous Congresses have tried time and time again to do and failed.

One, they passed the St. Lawrence Seaway project. Five of my predecessors in office recommended that, and they got nowhere.

The next thing they did was to pass an enormous tax revision bill. I don't mean a reduction of taxes just here and there, but a great tax reform so as to remove inequities and to make more reasonable the basis for your tax dealings with the Government.

Now, I am going to read, in terms that I think will be of interest to a great many of us, a few statistics as to what this tax bill has done, just in the way of looking after people that have had special problems.

First of all, in this matter of dependent children, you parents can now deduct $600 for each child regardless of how much he earns, if he is under 19, and you furnish more than half his support. Now, even if he is over 19, you can deduct the $600 just as before, if he is going to school or taking on-the-farm training. Now, such provisions save you taxpayers $85 million a year.

Take the matter of child care. If you are a single working parent, such as a widow, you can deduct up to $600 more for the expense of child care for each child up to 12 years of age. This will save you $130 million.

Medical expenses--and we know what this means to the ordinary family budget: you can deduct far more for medical expenses than you could under the old law. This will save taxpayers $80 million.

Then, for retired people, all of you who are 65 and older who are retired, including schoolteachers, firemen, policemen, civil servants, and so on, will be exempt, on retirement, up to $1,200 of your income. This will give you a tax cut up to $240 a year. In its total, it will save taxpayers $141 million.

Help for farmers: farmers can now have deductions up to 25 percent of the total farm income for soil and water conservation. They get a faster write-off of the expenses of farm machinery and equipment. Now, these provisions will save farmers $10 million.

Depreciation. All of you will get a more liberal write-off of the cost of new equipment, twice the amount now allowed in the first year. This will save $375 million.

And then, this business of filing your final income tax return. You have an additional month. It is April 15 now, instead of March 15, and you have that much additional time to make your final payment.

Now, here is the significance of all these tax reforms and deductions during the last 19 months. First, they have saved you $7,400,000,000. This is money you spend for yourselves--now--instead of the Government's spending it for you. Moreover, it is money that you are using for all of the things that you need to do--you are following your own decisions, instead of following a bureaucrat's decision.

Now let me ask you this question: How many of you have any faint idea of what $7 billion is?

I had these statistics looked up for me. All the money that the American farmers got last year for all the corn and all the wheat grown in the entire United States--that was $7 billion.

All of the money paid in all of last year for household utilities, and for fuel, amounted to $7 billion.

All the money Americans pay each year for doctor, dentist, medical and hospital bills, is $7 billion.

That gives you some idea of how money has been returned to you, and how much of it has been returned.

Now, along with these two items--the Seaway and the tax reform, which in themselves, with the long study and analysis and work involved, would have made an honorable record--and in addition to the routine bills, there have been many projects undertaken and successfully accomplished that will redound to your great benefit.

You remember I referred to the appalling Federal deficits. We have reduced them two-thirds. And we are well on the way toward a goal, finally, of achieving a balanced budget.

Now, we haven't used any meat-axe in reducing expenditures. It has been a selective type of reduction, and it has taken a very great amount of work, but it is being done under the supervision of Cabinet officials and department heads, and in cooperation with the Congress, so as to bring you one hundred cents for every dollar you spend.

This tax program which I mentioned, incidentally, gives on the average, to each of you, an 11 percent cut in your income taxes.

Now, along with this, the administration has removed 200,000 people from the padded payrolls of the Federal Government; and that in itself is something on the order of a billion-dollar saving.

We are, as I said, on the way to a balanced budget, but in going in that direction we haven't placed the pocketbook above the heart. This is a human administration.

Take housing. The housing measure enacted by Congress, and the programs of this administration that will be fought through to the finish, will make certain that every American family has an opportunity for a decent home, a home in a good neighborhood, among good citizens. In fact, one of the great purposes of this housing program is to produce good citizens, to remove and eliminate those conditions that make crime and disorder rampant in certain sections.

Now, in addition, there are all sorts of social security programs which have gone into effect on a widened basis, reaching more people--with more liberal payments. This brings to the average American home peace of mind, domestic security. That is the kind of thing that is sought in all of these social security programs.

Health--which means so much to all of us. We have gone into a program of hospital construction and the rehabilitation of the permanently disabled, on a very broad basis.

Now we reject socialization of medicine. We don't believe in it. But we know, and everybody must know, that the United States--the people of the United States--are going to have to have access to good medical facilities. And we are attempting to bring about a program, and we will bring about a program, that will make this possible. Scientific research will go on.

Now--the farm problem. When we took over, you will recall, farm income was toppling. And we had unmanageable surpluses which continued to grow at such an alarming rate that they were depressing the market. There was literally nothing you could do, so long as the growth of these surpluses was not checked, to bring prosperity and the promise of real stability to the farmer.

So we started out with the knowledge that every hour we were paying $30,000 of your money--every day $700,000 of your money--just for storage of these crops, which we couldn't dispose of, and which were depressing the market and further cutting our prices.

Now, we have got a program that will encourage efficient production, stimulate consumption, and stabilize farm income. It has been fought through to almost exactly the terms on which it was presented to the Congress.

We went into office last January a year ago, you will remember, in a period of extreme international tension. Now every single part of that problem was patiently studied, often on a bipartisan basis, always with the cooperation of the Legislative leaders, who dealt with the Secretary of State, with me and with others in the executive departments engaged in this problem.

The legislation proposed, and the legislation that has been passed, is concerned with security and peace, and with the building of a strong concert of free nations, because that is the only way in which we can make certain that the Communist menace will be stalled--stopped--in this world, and finally driven back to where it belongs, to its own country.

The foreign aid law is not one merely to help other people for humanitarian purposes; it is serving our own enlightened self-interest, giving us greater security in this country, a feeling of peace and confidence in the world.

Reciprocal trade is another problem that is now under earnest study, and that will be taken up by the next Congress. We have got another year, as a result of the Randall Report, in which to study certain features of this whole business so that our friends could, with us, make a living through profitable trade, which would eliminate the need for these great grants in the future.

Now, at home, we have had to evolve new weapons in order to help defeat internal communism. The great thing we wanted to do was to find effective means of eliminating the Communist or the subversive from any point where he could possibly damage us, but to do it by constitutional process, to make certain that if you or I, or anybody else, were called up to answer questions about communism, he would be protected by the Government.

Now, the Attorney General made up a package program. I think it was a total of 15 bills that he recommended to Congress on this matter, and 13 have been enacted by the Congress. That whole program was made up as a result of the study by the FBI, the Attorney General and all others who have been so experienced in this great matter. It is a record involving not only operation, as we went along getting rid of people, and deporting many people that shouldn't be here, but formulation of the plan that will make us even better and stronger in the future.

Now, how was all this record achieved? One man can't do it. The Congress can't do it alone.

Well, first of all, it was achieved by almost unprecedented coordination-smooth coordination--between House and Senate. Then there was a new era of coordination and cooperation between the legislative branches and the Executive. My Cabinet and I meet frequently with the legislative leaders, and through this process we make certain that we are all going in the same direction.

In addition, in the House and in the Senate there have been energetic legislative captains, the men in responsible positions of leadership in both Houses who carry the responsibility and exercise the authority of committee chairmen.

Of course, in all foreign affairs, there are bipartisan consultations. These take place at frequent intervals, in order that we do not allow this great subject which affects the safety and security of all America, to become a subject of party politics.

That must never happen. And certainly we are doing our very best--and I have always pledged my best efforts--to see that this cannot occur. But all in all, there were 64, as I say, of these legislative projects submitted to the Congress. Now, 54 of them were enacted into law. We did not always make home runs. But we did have 54 hits. Some of them aren't quite what we wanted. But that, after all, is a batting average of .830, and any baseball fan will tell you that is pretty good going in any league.

And the next question is: is the job done?

And the obvious and emphatic answer is no, of course not.

We are at the mid-mark. We will go ahead with this program. We are going to get lots of things done that have not yet been done. We are going to have to re-study this question of making a reasonable reduction in the minimum voting age. Health reinsurance we are going to put before the Congress again, because we must have means in every American family so that it can insure itself cheaply against the possibility of catastrophe in the medical line. The Taft-Hartley Act needs some revisions and, again, they will be proposed to the Congress. already mentioned the subject of foreign trade. It will be one of our big jobs of the coming year.

Now, I said that I have been disappointed. I don't mean individually, or personally. I am disappointed because this program has been designed, through study and work and cooperation with hundreds and literally thousands of people, for your benefit, for your greater prosperity at home, and your greater security abroad. So, when I am disappointed, I mean I am disappointed for all of us--160 million people. Nevertheless, every American can be proud of this 83d Congress, and can join in my salute to it.

Every fact that we have gives the lie to those prophets of gloom and doom that said that we were going to be in an economic depression, and forming breadlines in this time of our history. Of course, we are going ahead, with bold courage--all of us.

Now--what about the future?

Our domestic house is partially in order. I mentioned a few items we must still get into the hopper and get accomplished, but we are going ahead, and the whole planning and program is founded on respect for human freedom, dignity, rights, and our effort to obtain peace. So our relations with the external world will be the thing which we will have to emphasize during the coming months. We will make certain that our friends understand us better.

I have already mentioned such places as Korea, Iran, Suez, and Guatemala, where great threats to our peace and security have already been removed. I want to say this: the papers right now are filled with gloomy predictions about Europe. Don't be too discouraged. On that continent are great friends of mine. They are great statesmen. They are laboring for peace. They want peace as much as you and I do. And they are not licked yet, and we are certainly not licked. Let us not lose faith in them. There is still something to be done in that region, and we are going to do it. We are going to develop better partners in all parts of the world, between us and our cooperating friends.

And now, my friends, here we are. If we are going ahead with this program, if you want it to go ahead, the decisions are largely up to you. Because it is the character of the 84th Congress that will determine: can we go ahead and push through in all these programs for the benefit of America? Or will we be stopped by some kind of political arguments?

We want to go ahead. We are sure that you want us to go ahead. All my mail shows exactly that: that you, with us, are looking forward to peace abroad, greater security, and greater and greater prosperity at home.

And now, my friends, thank you very much and good night.

Note: The broadcast originated in Denver through the facilities of radio and television station KLZ.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Radio and Television Address to the American People on the Achievements of the 83d Congress. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232602

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