Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks at a White House Reception for Members of the National Newspaper Association

March 11, 1982

Thank you very much. I learned in public speaking you should never open with an apology, but I have to apologize. I know I'm late. But I have to tell you something. You know that old song from World War I, "Someday I'm going to murder the bugler"— [laughter] —"and then I'm going to get that other pup, the one that wakes the bugler up." I'm going to find out who it is that puts down where I'm going to be every 15 minutes, because about 20 minutes after I get up in the morning, I'm already behind schedule. [Laughter]

It's a pleasure to welcome you all, again, here to the White House. I'm sorry that Nancy couldn't be with us. She was supposed to be, but there was a hitch again in schedules and she can't be.

Now, I know that since last year you've all been wondering what we've been doing here. [Laughter] You know, in the old days of vaudeville, it used to be that ambitious young vaudevillians—or even some that weren't so young—used to go into an empty theater and try out in front of a blasé booking agent who'd be sitting down there in one of the front seats with a cigar, all alone in the theater, watching them do their act—very hard to please. And there was a young fellow came in with an act, wanted to break into vaudeville, and walked out on the stage. And the agent says, "What do you do?" And the kid just took off and flew around the whole theater— [laughter] -made a couple of circles clear up at the ceiling, came back down, and landed on the stage in front of him. The agent says, "What else do you do besides bird imitations?" [Laughter]

Well, to tell you the truth, I don't think we've been doing any imitations since we've been here. I think we've cut the growth in Federal spending almost in half. We've reduced the size of the Federal Register. That's the thing, you know, that carries and lists all the regulations. Well, it's a third smaller than it used to be. Inflation has been down, running at 4 1/2 percent now, or less, for the last 3 months. I hope we can keep it there or continue to reverse it. And savings are up since October 1st, when the first phase of the tax cut went into effect. It's the first time they've risen in a very long time. And we're really just getting the incentives of our program on line.

I'm getting kind of tired of those people that are saying, "Well, we've tried the program and it doesn't work." They were saying that before it started. And it really hasn't started yet, and it'll really, I think, begin to feel the first effects July, when the next tax cut, the 10 percent, goes into effect. The prime rate is—the interest is still too high. We all know that. But at least it's four points lower than it was when we took office. And yes, the deficit is of great concern to all of us here—larger than we had thought because of the recession that we're in. You know, one percentage point of additional unemployment increases the deficit by anywhere from $25 to $27 billion. And this is the great problem that we have to solve.

But there are different ideas about managing the budget. I met with some of our Senators just the other day up on the Hill, and we had a very good talk, because I'm ready to meet the Congress in a legitimate effort to have a program that will treat with our economic problems and not just have them go on padding the budget.

But some of those who are protesting about the deficit—an informal poll has been taken among some of the chairmen of the subcommittees in the House and some of the regular committee chairmen. And so far, between them, they're discussing and entertaining proposals to add $29 billion to the spending of the budget as we've sent it up. Our budget has been proposing quite a sizable additional cut in spending. I think they're the ones that are doing imitations, imitations of just what's been done for the past years that led us to this business-as-usual and politics-as-usual kind of a situation. They will, if allowed, bring higher inflation, higher taxes, and, yes, bigger deficits.

But I don't believe the American people want that. I don't think they want to go back to the excesses that caused the mess that we're in right now. We want and we need a bipartisan cooperation, a bringing down of the deficit and getting this country moving again and getting industry back at full steam again where it can provide the jobs that our people must have. And, as I say, I'm open to any comprehensive plan that they might be able to present that we can discuss, but I don't believe in just raising taxes and I don't believe in letting our country remain defenseless in the face of the great Soviet buildup of military power.

There's still room for more budget-cutting that will further reduce the rate of increase in government spending. And those who have no—or I have no shame, I should say, about taking advantage of you in this social gathering here— [laughter] —and suggesting that you're in just an excellent position to lend a hand in urging the Congress— [laughter] —not to fall back into those bad habits that It's just a suggestion. [Laughter]

Right now, though, the power of America is tied down and restrained as Gulliver was by the Lilliputians. And this administration and this Congress, working together, I think can unleash that power and can end the things that are causing so much tragic sorrow among the people who are unemployed, and for small businesses that are struggling to stay alive, for the American farmers who are caught in a cost-price squeeze. And all we have to do is kind of forget politics for a little bit and get together on what the people need. And I think what the people need is less government spending and continue to have tax reductions for the people of this country so there's an incentive for people to work and earn.

And at the same time, I think we have to maintain the strength we need to not only keep the peace, but—my dream of one of the reasons why we're trying to redress our defensive structure is so we can sit down at a bargaining table with the Soviet Union for once in which they'll have a legitimate reason for wanting to engage in arms reduction along with us. So far we've had nothing to offer them. They are so far ahead. But if they find out that we mean it, then maybe we can reduce those threatening weapons, particularly those nuclear weapons that are aimed back and forth at each other. And that's my dream.

And now I'm going to quit talking and come down and say hello.

Note: The President spoke at 5:41 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a White House Reception for Members of the National Newspaper Association Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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