Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at the Annual Republican Congressional Fundraising Dinner

May 11, 1988

Thank you, and thank you, Lee Greenwood. Lee, your music is an inspiration to America. Now it's my turn to sing for my supper. [Laughter] Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all very much for being here tonight. I want to thank all those who worked so hard to make tonight's dinner a success, especially the waiters: Al Gore, Bruce Babbitt, Dick Gephardt, and Paul Simon. [Laughter] But really, David Murdock, our dinner chairman, has done such a terrific job I may not let him go back to California until I do. And Rabbi Balkany, thank you for your outstanding efforts toward tonight's dinner.

By the way, in a few weeks a new film opens: "Rambo III." You remember, in the first movie Rambo took over a town. In the second, he single-handedly defeated several Communist armies. And now in the third Rambo film, they say he really gets tough. [Laughter] Almost makes me wish I could serve a third term. [Laughter]

But what I really want is for the next Republican President to have a Congress that will work with him, not against him. And that is exactly what Congressman Guy Vander Jagt and Senator Rudy Boschwitz are working to achieve and what tonight is all about. In the Senate we can win back control just by picking up five seats. And with our excellent candidates, I know we can do it.

I remember when George Bush and I took office, January 1981—or as another Republican President might have put it: 4 months and 7 years ago. You know, I've waited 125 years to say that. [Laughter] When we took office, the American economy was sinking rapidly in quicksand. Government spending was soaring out of control. Business was being crushed by massive regulation and taxation. Two consecutive years of double-digit inflation had raised consumer prices by a whopping 27.2 percent. And with inflation driving people into higher and higher tax brackets, take-home pay didn't go very far. The prime rate was at a record 21 1/2 percent. Business failures and unemployment were climbing. Economists called it stagflation; the Democrats called it malaise; the liberal pundits said it was part of America's inevitable decline.

But we came in and said the only thing that was inevitable was that bad policies produced bad results. We said there may be no easy solutions, but there's a simple solution: Get government out of the way, and let free people in a free economy work their magic. When we proposed cutting tax rates and letting working people keep more of their own money, our critics warned that it would lead to runaway inflation. Instead, inflation was slashed to a fraction of what it had been, and interest rates were cut by more than half. The top tax bracket has now been lowered from 70 percent to 28 percent, and tax revenues are at an all-time high. Our critics warned that if we slowed the growth in government spending the economy would suffer. When I spoke to you last year, I reported that the U.S. economy had had 53 consecutive months of growth. Well, tonight I have to take that back because it's now 65 months. It is the longest peacetime expansion in our history. And jobs—at the 1984 convention, I said the expansion had created 6 1/2 million new jobs. Now it's over 16 million new jobs.

Now, does all this good news mean, as our critics argue, that America's prosperity has run its course? Hardly. The Democrats were wrong before, and they're wrong again. Our prosperity is based on sound fundamentals: increased production by individuals in the world's most dynamic and freest economy. And now new advances in the physical sciences, information systems, biology, and applied mathematics are producing new industries, new jobs, and increased productivity that will power our economy well into the next century. So, the best is yet to come. If the American people vote in November to continue the progrowth economic policies of the last 7 years, believe me, the next decade will be known as the Boating Nineties.

But the opposition that controls Congress has made perfectly clear where they stand. When I send them budgets that limit spending, they call them dead on arrival. And when they talk about reducing the Federal deficit, it's just a code word for raising taxes. That's why the 1988 elections are so important. We need a new Congress willing to hold the line on taxes and spending. And I promise you this, even after I leave office, I will never stop campaigning for the tools needed to limit the insatiable fiscal appetite of government. To protect our prosperity, the President needs the line-item veto, and America needs a constitutionally mandated balanced budget.

There are only two things that the liberals don't understand: the things that change and the things that don't. [Laughter] The economy, technology, industry—these things change. But America's basic moral, spiritual, and family values—they don't change. And I think you agree with me that those values are the source of our strength and the root of our liberty. America's moral and economic strength at home helped power the cause of freedom around the world. And today, with America proud and respected, it's easy to forget how different things were in the late 1970's. Our military had been allowed to decline. We had planes that didn't fly and ships that didn't sail. Our foreign policy had lost its direction. Instead of being a world leader, America was bending over backward to avoid offending its enemies, and our nation's influence and respect in the world declined. As Jeane Kirkpatrick put it: "It was as if the United States was wearing a sign saying, 'Kick me.'"

With the leader of the free world sitting on the sidelines, the consequences were tragic for world freedom and our own security. Just think of the year 1979. In that one year, Iran, Nicaragua, and Grenada were all lost. Iran fell to the Ayatollah. Nicaragua and Grenada were taken by the Communists. In that one year, our Embassy in Iran was seized not once, but twice. Our Ambassador to Afghanistan was assassinated by gunmen, and that country invaded by Soviet troops—add to that the economic decay at home. That was 1979. Don't we have a right to ask the American people tonight, if the Democrats return to the White House, what happens in 1989? [Applause]

Well, there is a choice. Over the last 7 years, we've rebuilt our armed forces and reversed America's slide. We have spoken openly and directly about the fundamental moral differences between the United States and the Soviet Union. We have rejected containment and made our policy the expansion of freedom around the world. We sent a new message of strength by restoring democracy in Grenada. And by supporting courageous freedom fighters around the world, we're shining a light on the path out from communism. And this Sunday, the Soviet Army is scheduled to begin its long awaited withdrawal from Afghanistan. And isn't it time we apply the lessons of Afghanistan in Nicaragua and show the same commitment to freedom fighters in our own hemisphere as we do to others in distant lands? [Applause]

Just as we have rejected the permanence of totalitarianism, so too have we worked to put an end to nuclear terror. While our opponents were shouting for a nuclear freeze, we stood firm and demanded the total elimination of an entire class of U.S. and Soviet nuclear missiles, to be verified by on-site inspection. That's what we demanded, and I can tell you, that's what we got. The INF treaty has swept away the failed ideas of arms control or nuclear freeze. The new vision is nuclear arms reduction. Add to that our plan for a Strategic Defense Initiative, and we can give our children a world free from nuclear terror and the brighter, safer future they deserve.

It was not too many years ago that some people were saying the Republican Party was finished. They said our philosophy of opportunity at home and firmness abroad was out of touch. Well, in 1980 and 1984 we proved them wrong. And I have more bad news for them: Not only are we not finished, we're just beginning. Last week a New York Times editorial asked why New York primary voters showed such little concern about the economy and national security. The Times concluded: "What this seems to add up to, bluntly, is peace and prosperity." Well, carrying a record of peace and prosperity into a national election is a good beginning. But we're also going to keep talking about excellence in education, cracking down on crime, and continuing to press the war against drugs on every front. And that means passing new, tough laws, including the death penalty for drug kingpins and those who kill police officers. It means appointing no-nonsense judges, blocking drugs at our borders, confiscating it in our cities, and eradicating it in the fields where it is grown. And it also means—and Nancy has led the way here-teaching our children to just say no.

Eight years ago, George Bush and I said to the American people, "The time is now." And it still is. The story of America is one of people who've made their dreams come true by realizing that the time for action is always now. It began with 13 Colonies in their battle for independence; and then westward expansion, an Industrial Revolution, the building of a great nation, and finally America's ascendance on the world stage. At every point, the time was now. It is history's greater story, and its greater chapters have not yet been written.

If I may, I'd like to take a moment to say just a word about my future plans. In doing so, I'll break a silence I've maintained for some time with regard to the Presidential candidates. I intend to campaign as hard as I can. My candidate is a former Member of Congress, Ambassador to China, Ambassador to the United Nations, Director of the CIA, and National Chairman of the Republican Party. I'm going to work as hard as I can to make Vice President George Bush the next President of the United States. Thank you, and God bless you.

Now it's on to New Orleans and on to the White House!

Note: The President spoke at 9:52 p.m. in Hall A at the District of Columbia Convention Center. The dinner was sponsored by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Annual Republican Congressional Fundraising Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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