Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a Meeting With Editors and Publishers of Trade Magazines

September 24, 1982

Well, thank you very much. I've been an after-lunch speaker a number of times, but this is the first time without lunch. [Laughter]

But it's wonderful to have you all here today. The readership of your magazines is a unique and influential one, and you, yourselves, represent a cross section of business and industry as well as the country itself. So, to all of you, especially those who are visiting the White House for the first time, I want to extend the warmest welcome.

More than most people, those of you in this room will remember the talk a few years ago about the reindustrialization of America. Most of this discussion was well-intentioned, focused on strengthening America's industrial base. But here and there were the old suggestions about the need for central planning and massive government expenditures to bring all this about.

You don't hear too much of that talk anymore. I think it's an indication of how dramatically the political climate has changed in the past few years. For the first time in a long while, even during the recent recession, the voices of those who routinely called for Federal intervention, wage and price controls, and billions for make-work jobs just haven't had the appeal they had in the past.

A few years ago, those of us who were warning about the dangers of government spending, huge deficits, and a growing tax burden were in the minority. Now it seems that everyone's concerned. There's been a sea change in American politics, even in Washington, here, where people seem to be realizing that you can't drink yourself sober— [laughter] —or spend yourself rich- [laughter] —that you can't prime the pump without pumping the prime— [laughter] —

Well, in 1980 when traveling our country in the campaign trail, I said what I've said all during the past 20 months—that the cause of our economic problems and the recession we inherited can be very simply put: Government is too big, and it spends too much money.

Now, the people agreed then, and I believe they agree now. They voted our way on election day. They also made their voices heard during all those crucial legislative battles over spending and taxes. I think our people are disillusioned with the policies of big government, with boom and bust, with high inflation followed by higher unemployment.

Think back to 1980: interest rates—21 1/2 percent; double-digit inflation for 2 years in a row; productivity and the rate of growth in the gross national product dropping for the second year in a row. Almost 8 million people were unemployed, and business failures were increasing.

Then came the present recession, a legacy from the years of spend and spend and tax and tax, and even more Americans out of work.

Well, in 6 days our economic program will have been in place 1 year. It has brought down interest rates. It's gotten the gross national product going in the right direction. It's given us the first real tax cut for individuals in almost 20 years and gotten inflation—only a year ago the number one economic concern of most Americans—down from 12.4 percent in 1980 to an annual rate of 5.1 percent since January.

Maybe it's time to ask Speaker O'Neill and the liberal leadership of his party if they really want a return to the policies that gave us a trillion-dollar debt. Are they willing to pledge to the American people that when a new Congress begins next year, they won't try to take away the income tax cuts and the historic reform of indexing taxes to inflation—which probably was the biggest tax increase over the years this nation has ever had?

Let me go a step further and speak a moment about one of our major concerns right now—jobs. You might have noticed the rhetoric from our liberal critics has already reached a crescendo. The trouble is that they call their compassion a solution. The perfect illustration of what they call—I should say, their compassionate solution is the perfect illustration of why the United States is suffering from such deep-rooted problems. Last week, they stampeded the House with another temporary, public make-work program for, at best, 200,000 people. It would carry all the old flaws of that wasteful, discredited CETA program. Most important, it's no answer for the man or woman laid off, sitting around the table at nights wondering how they'll put their future back together again.

We've taken a different approach. Beginning way back in February, we started working on a program that would meet criteria for a real, long-term solution. The Senate-House conference just acted yesterday, and I called on the entire Congress to act next week, to pass this legislation that will provide job training for i million people or more per year in the private sector.

So, my question to the Speaker is, which is it going to be, Tip? Temporary or permanent? Two-hundred thousand or 1 million? Make-work or training for lasting jobs? A political solution of spend and spend, borrow and borrow or real economic opportunity for people looking to us for effective help and leadership?

We can't go back to the failed policies of the past. We must stay the course toward less inflation and more jobs.

But beyond issuing this challenge and citing the statistical evidence of how far we've come, we intend to remind the American people of an even more important change. In this administration, we haven't talked about the era of limitations, or no growth, or learning to do with less. We've talked about, instead, incentive, opportunity, and expansion. We're emphasizing the all-important goal of capital formation as the way to expand and renew our industrial base. We haven't tried to get government to redistribute a shrinking economic pie; we've come up with a recipe for a bigger and better pie that all Americans can share in.

Now, incidentally, let me interject that-with all this economic talk—that this morning, some of the press began speculating that somehow recent attempts on some social issues, such as the place of prayer in school and the abortion problem and all, were somehow just a political gimmick, and now we'd discarded that and were moving on to something else. I believe this country is hungry for a spiritual revival. I also believe that what Teddy Roosevelt said once is true—"The Presidency is a bully pulpit." And we're not going to give up on those social issues that have to do with the morals of this country and the great standards that made this country great. We'll be working for them, too.

Now, just one other thing: We're rebuilding America's military and strategic strength. We've adopted a foreign policy that speaks openly and candidly about the failure of totalitarianism, a foreign policy that advocates the moral superiority of Western ideals like personal freedom and representative government, a foreign policy that calls for a global crusade for freedom and democracy.

It's this combination of strategic strength and rhetorical candor that for the first time in years has taken American foreign policy off the defensive. Most important, it's strengthened the chances for a lasting peace by providing a credible base for important new peace initiatives, especially in the arms control area and in regions like the Middle East.

A new political consensus, the support of the American people, has made all of this possible. Our institutions are working again, and this time for the people and not against them. I don't mind saying, I think that's a record to be proud of. I think it's something the American people want continued, and that's the message we're going to get to them this fall.

And now, you're going to get your dessert, and I'm going to sit down and have a cup of coffee with you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:53 p.m. in the State Dining Room during the luncheon for approximately 75 editors and publishers.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Meeting With Editors and Publishers of Trade Magazines Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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