Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a White House Briefing for Members of the Young Presidents' Organization

April 13, 1988

Thank you all very much, and thank you, Ken, and welcome to the White House. I am delighted to have you here to wrap up what I know has been a whole series of meetings and briefings that you've had with top officials of the administration. The Young Presidents' Organization has an extraordinary membership. I can't help but admire men and women who are already being called president when they're 40. [Laughter] It took some of us a little bit longer. Come to think of it, though, I've often wondered, does president of my union of Screen Actors Guild before I was 40 count? [Laughter] So, I'm one of you. [Applause]

Well, what you've accomplished so early in life means that your biggest success still lies ahead. I know that you're—well, now that you are used to being called president, no one knows where you might wind up. We certainly need risk-taking, bottom-line chief executives like you to serve in government. I've been very fortunate to have in my administration former members of YPO like Jack Courtemanche, who isn't here with us this morning, but three others that are: Carl Covitz, Bob Tuttle, and Joe Wright. And without men and women drawn from the private sector, it is easy for the Federal Government to become unresponsive and out of touch.

Soon after we got here, I commissioned a task force to reduce excessive government regulation, which I asked Vice President Bush to head up. And thanks to that effort, we were able to eliminate some of the needless regulations that had built up and to subject all new proposed rules to the most careful scrutiny. And the result has been pretty practical. The Federal Register, which lists all regulations, is just a little more than half the size that it was when we came here, and the estimate is that we have eliminated among people—just citizens, small—or community and State governments and so forth, businesses—600 million man-hours a year of work filling out government forms in answer to the regulations. A lot of you know personally the sort of paperwork the Federal Government can require.

I remember the old story about a businessman who after many years of dutifully keeping the records and documents required by the Federal Government in his particular business, and with the files really piling up, he wrote the Government asking if he still needed to keep all the old documents. And a letter came back saying, "Well, it's okay, you can throw away any papers more than 8 years old provided you make copies of each one of them first." [Laughter]

Here in the Old Executive Office Building, you know, they tell me that officially we're in the White House, but I'm still not used to that. You see, back before the Federal Government was a growth industry, this one building housed most of the executive branch of government. But after a couple of world wars that changed, and existing Federal departments grew and new ones sprang up. And when each agency got its own complex, the White House sort of adopted this beautiful old building. After all, it's just across the street.

Well, I'm happy to report that the Federal Government is not growing that way anymore, but many of your businesses are. And that's the best sort of news for America. In fact, I'll bet that it has been your companies that have needed the new office space in the last few years because the economy is in the longest peacetime expansion in U.S. history. April marks the 65th straight month of economic growth. And during this period, we have created nearly 16 million new jobs, and they're better and higher paying too. And in fact, the U.S. has created about 21/2 times as many new jobs as the other leading industrialized nations all put together. No government program can do that, but companies like yours did. Today a greater percentage of our citizens is working than any other time in our history.

I have to try something out. Did you ever know—I didn't know before I got here-what is considered the potential employment pool in America and upon which the statistics are based? It is everyone, male and female, 16 years of age and up, regardless of whether they're going to school, regardless at the other end whether they're retired—they're all considered a part of that pool. Well, when you say the highest percentage of that pool is employed, 62.3 percent of all of that group presently are employed in the United States. It's no coincidence that while we've held down the rate of growth in government, the private economy has been booming—real GNP grew by nearly 5 percent in the fourth quarter last year and inflation remains low. And because you are out there in the vanguard of American business, I don't have to tell you that economic growth is more than statistics, it's the cumulative daily efforts of men and women like yourselves.

As Business Week Magazine reported recently, "Basic manufacturers, once considered a dying breed, are selling products many thought wouldn't even be made in the United States any longer—escalators to Taiwan, machine tools to West Germany, lumber to Japan, and shoes to Italy." Well, since the third quarter of 1986 the volume of American exports has been growing some 4 times as fast as the volume of imports. And it's thanks to you, not the Government, that since 1980 the United States' manufacturing has increased its productivity roughly 3 1/2 times as fast as in the previous 8 years. The result is that, as one German manufacturing expert put it recently, the United States is "the best country in the world in terms of manufacturing costs."

It's thanks to the private sector that the real income of the average American has been rising steadily for the last 6 years. The Federal Government did one thing to contribute to this: we got out of your way as much as we could. So, when American business created new wealth for the country, it flowed to the American people and was not diverted to Washington to fund new bureaucracies and spending programs.

What the Federal Government needs to do now is what each of you always does-balance the budget—and not by raising taxes but by controlling spending. If we can continue the progrowth policies of the last 7 years, I believe that the next decade will be known as the "Roaring Nineties." Our country is poised for even greater economic growth in the years ahead because we've opened up the economy, lowered tax rates, and restored the ideal of limited government and free enterprise.

America will face choices this fall that will determine what lies ahead for American business and the economy. And I want to ask you to become active and involved this year because the stakes are too high and the choice too clear for it to be left up to others. If the policies under which your companies have flourished are reversed, how could your companies' bottom line not suffer? We cannot afford to have American businessmen once again treated like a bunch of hired hands laboring on the Federal farm, where the folks in Washington act as if what you produce belongs to them.

I can't help but say—once back when I was Governor of California—interject here about how that attitude can grow in government. We, one year, gave back $850 million of surplus in California to the taxpayers—just told them to reduce what they gave us in their taxes, and we'd make it up with that surplus. And one Senator stormed into my office one day, and he said—I think he said—there is no excuse for giving back that public money to the people. [Laughter]

Well, we've cut the top personal income tax rate by more than haft-making U.S. tax rates among the lowest in the world—and revenues have increased, not decreased, with those cuts. And right now, all of our trading partners and neighbors are going through the same thing and making the same kind of tax cuts. We've proved that lower rates enhance economic growth and greater growth results in higher tax collections. We've demonstrated that American business and entrepreneurship are second to none. Let's keep America moving forward.

I ask each of you in the coming months to direct some of your talent, energy, and leadership to the choices that lie before us. In doing so, you'll be serving your country as citizens, serving your companies and industries as corporate leaders, and helping to preserve and build the jobs, growth, and opportunity that working Americans depend on. After you leave here, I want you to remember this building and think whether next year and beyond, America will be constructing new plants and offices for expanding businesses like yours, or will we be raising more and more Federal office buildings to tax, regulate, and stifle the energy, imagination, and enterprise of the American people.

The choice we face is a very simple one. Is the Federal Government going to grow, or is your business going to grow? I want to let you know that I'm on your side. Thank you for all that you have done to make America stronger and more prosperous. I thank you all, and God bless you all.

[At this point, a portrait of the President and Queen Elizabeth II on horseback outside of Windsor Castle was given to the President. ]

Well, I can't tell you how happy I am. And yes, the Queen and I did go riding when we were guests there at Windsor Palace on a visit. She's a good rider. [Laughter] I have to take a second and tell you something about that. I knew about her and her riding before she invited me there to join her, and I had known it because earlier, when I was in England way back in 1949, I was invited to visit the Royal Mews. That at Buckingham Palace is the stable and indoor riding hall and all. And she had just become the commander of—as their—I can't remember which regiment it is, but cavalry regiment.

And therefore, she had to ride, leading them in parades and so forth as a princess. And the man that was taking me through, that was in charge of the stables, was telling me about her and how they trained her. They get all the household help down there with towels and tin pans and so forth all around the riding hall. And they would bring her in, and she would ride around that hall while they made all the clatter and noise they could possibly make to distract the horse. And she was ready for the first parade in London. But he spoke very admiringly of her courage and how quickly she developed this ability to ride. And like all of us that expose ourselves to horses, once you've learned how, which she had to do, she found out she loved it. So, she's now—that's one of her sports.

But, oh, I don't know whether to give that to the Presidential Library or not. [Laughter] I've already made up my mind. [Laughter] Thank you very much. Thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 11:01 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. In his opening remarks, the President referred to Kenneth M. Duberstein, Deputy Chief of Staff

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a White House Briefing for Members of the Young Presidents' Organization Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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