Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at a Ceremony Marking Attainment of a Trillion Dollar Gross National Product.

December 15, 1970

Secretary Stans, members of the Cabinet, and all of our distinguished guests today from the Department of Commerce and the other agencies of Government:

I am, of course, very honored to be here on this occasion in which we pass a milestone, the first trillion dollar economy for the United States and, of course, the first trillion dollar economy for any nation in the history of the world.

It is fascinating to watch that clock. Paul McCracken told me that it is moving at the rate of $2,000 a second. And we can think how much that is going to mean if we just keep it moving and perhaps even move it faster in the years ahead.

The Secretary has well stated what that means to the American people, that it means something more than simply the material production which a trillion dollars-which none of us really can comprehend would ordinarily contemplate.

I would like to put it in terms that I think in this particular season of the year we would all appreciate more. A trillion dollars of the economy means a lot of business, a lot of factories, a lot of production, a lot of jobs. But, in a sense, it is a material concept. I know that particularly at the Christmas season we do not like to think simply of material things.

Yes, we want to see the department stores sell more. I hope and I hear from some quarters this could be the biggest Christmas season ever, and I trust that it is. But I think at this season of the year we think, also, of other concepts, and particularly spiritual and ideological concepts.

For example, many people that I talk to, when they hear discussions about our economy and what are we going to do about business and the fact that our economy is the richest and the strongest in the world, raise the question: Well, isn't the real objective of society to have better education? Isn't the real objective to concentrate on better health? And isn't the real objective to have better housing?

Or putting it another way, why don't we think more in terms of what we do for people rather than in terms of business producing more and more billions and finally a trillion dollars a year?

As the Secretary well pointed out, though, our ability to do things for people, to do things for people in the United States and to do things for people around the world, depends upon this enormously productive American economy.

I have often told the story of a trip I took around the world in 1953 when I met with one of the most idealistic leaders in the whole world in an Asian country. He took me into his room where he had all of his economic charts and showed me what his plans were over the 5 years for raising the standard of living of the people of his very poor country to a level higher than any of them had ever had--very low by our standards but still very high-and also of what his plans were in terms of education, in terms of housing, and all these other things.

None of that ever came about. The reason was that his method for doing it was simply to have the parliament in that country pass the law setting up those minimums, and then some way that would become a fact.

We all know that we can pass laws setting up minimum standards for education, for housing, for health, even for income for families with children. But unless we produce the wealth, all of those great dreams, those idealistic plans for doing things for people, aren't going to mean anything at all.

It is a fraud on the people to tell them, "We are going to pass laws that are going to raise your standards of living," unless we have this robust, strong, private enterprise economy of ours, which is the wonder of the world, producing the wealth, over $ 1 trillion a year at the present time.

I would simply like to point out that on Sunday night this week I was able to go before the White House Conference on Children and for the first time in the history of those conferences that go back through 70 years of this country, to the time of Theodore Roosevelt--and, of course, for the first time in the history of America--I, as President of the United States, was able to endorse a program that will provide a minimum income for all families with children in America. And that minimum income, a floor for the income of all families with children in America, is higher than the ceiling that three-fourths of the people in this world will ever know.

I was able to do that because of that trillion dollar economy.

A President of the United States couldn't have made that promise even 10 years ago. He couldn't have advocated such a program possibly even 5 years ago. It would not have been one that would have been any more viable than the plans of my friend in Asia 20 years ago about his country, where simply by passing a law they were going to raise the standards for education, housing, and income for an impoverished people.

So as we look at America at this Christmas season, I think rather than apologizing for our great, strong private enterprise economy, we should recognize that we are very fortunate to have it.

Oh, it has faults, but let us recognize that its faults and the faults of this system, which is so often criticized in this country, can be cured and can be corrected because of the strength that we have. The programs for the environment, the programs of a minimum income for every family with children in America, the programs costing billions of dollars for education, and a new program of health that I will be submitting to the Congress when the new Congress comes in--all of these otherwise would simply be politicians' promises that could never be fulfilled if it weren't for the fact that the American people were producing in their private capacities at the rate of a trillion dollars a year.

That is the way to look at it. Don't look at it simply in terms of a great group of selfish people, money grubbing, not wanting to help other people.

Let us recognize, because of the strength of this American economy, we can do things in America that no other country in the world can do.

We can offer a minimum income for families with children that no other country in the world can offer because they don't have the kind of income that we have. We can offer programs of education and housing, health, all of these other fields that help people that no other country in the world can equal because of the productivity of the American economy.

It is a strong economy. It is something that I can point to with pride, not because Government did it--Government played a part of the role--but because as we look at that trillion dollars we must remember that five out of every six of those dollars were the result not of what Government did, big as our Government is, but what a people did in their private capacities.

So five-sixths of that trillion dollars is produced by the people of the United States in a climate of freedom which the Government of the United States has the responsibility to create and maintain.

And in this Christmas season, let us be thankful for many things: Be thankful for the freedom we have in America. Be thankful that as a result of our moving forward on the economic side that we can now turn more to the quality of life and not just to its quantity. And be thankful for the fact that because we are so very rich, because we are so very productive, America can do so many things that are very good.

This is a wealthy country. It is a very strong country. It is a very great country/ But our capacity to be a good country also depends upon this fantastic ability to produce, represented by a trillion dollars a year.

Thank you.

I made a record then for speaking. I have made a lot of speeches in my life, but the Secretary just informed me that I talked $5 million worth.

Note: The President spoke at 12:13 p.m. in the Department of Commerce Auditorium.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at a Ceremony Marking Attainment of a Trillion Dollar Gross National Product. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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