Special Message to the Congress Proposing a National Economy Program.
To the Senate and House of Representatives:
I have in various messages to the Congress over the past three years referred to the necessity of organized effort to effect far-reaching reduction of governmental expenditures.
To balance the budget for the year beginning July 1st next, the Revenue Bill passed by the House of Representatives on April 1st necessitates that there shall be a further reduction of expenditures for the next year of about $200,000,000 in addition to the reduction of $369,000,000 in expenditures already made in the budget recommendations which I transmitted to the Congress on December 9th.
It is essential in the interest of the taxpayer and the country that it should be done. It is my belief that still more drastic economy than this additional $200,000,000 can be accomplished. Such a sum can only be obtained, however, by a definite national legislative program of economy which will authorize the consolidation of governmental bureaus and independent establishments; and beyond this, which will permit the removal of long established methods which lead to waste; the elimination of the less necessary functions, and the suspension of activities and commitments of the government not essential to the public interest in these times.
These objects cannot be accomplished without far-reaching amendment to the laws. The Executive is bound to recommend appropriations adequate to provide for the functions and activities of the government as now established by law. This is mandatory, and the opportunity for administrative savings is limited. The Appropriations Committees are likewise bound and can only act within restricted limits. Therefore, to lessen the burden upon the taxpayers in a substantial amount it is necessary to enter upon other fields by amending existing laws which place unnecessary obligations on the departments and independent establishments. We need repeal of existing laws which require carrying on of functions not absolutely essential for the present. This means that we should undertake a definite, separate and coordinated program of economy legislation which will enable the Executive and the Appropriations Committees to achieve the results desired.
A clear indication that the limit of executive authority to bring about economies has about been reached, is shown by the fact that the total expenditures estimated in the budget of $4,112,000,000 (including Post Office deficit after deduction of receipts) presented to the Congress, except for increased payments to veterans and expenditure on construction work in aid of employment, was the lowest in over five years. A further indication of the existing limitations is shown by the fact that of the whole Budget the appropriations bills passed by the House of Representatives, together with those recommended by the House Appropriations Committee and the permanent appropriations, already cover about 75 per cent of the budget, and do not yet include the Army and Navy. Yet the positive reductions, including the urgency deficiency bill, so far made by the House and by its committees, on information supplied to me by the Director of the Budget are less than $35,000,000. It is true that the committee has reported reductions of a total of about $113,000,000, but of this about $78,000,000 are effectively postponements until the next December session of the Congress, and must then be provided for in deficiency bills.
I say this in no wise in criticism of the action of the Congress or of its committees but as a demonstration of the fact that the latitude necessary for real reduction of expenses can only be secured by a thorough-going renovation of the law to bring about a real national economy program.
The Appropriations Committees of both the Senate and the House have given earnest consideration to these questions. Also a special Economy Committee and the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments of the House, have been engaged upon these problems. Many suggestions of opportunities for further material reduction in governmental expenditure have been made to these committees by the executive officers of the government, but the major portion thereof require legislative action and authorization.
It appears to me that with four different agencies of the Congress at work on the problem, operating independently with the different departments, the time which has already elapsed and the short time available to us before the beginning of the new fiscal year, all point to the absolute necessity of better organized unity of effort in all the branches of the government primarily concerned with the problem.
Therefore, I recommend to the Congress that in order to secure this unity of effort and prompt action, and thus insure the relief of the taxpayer and a balanced budget, at the same time protecting vital service of the government, that representatives be delegated by the two Houses, who, together with representatives of the Executive, should be authorized to frame for action by the present Congress a complete national program of economy and to recommend the legislation necessary to make it possible and effective. Such a course would expedite rather than delay the passage of appropriations bills.
I am convinced that only by such unified, non-partisan effort, and by a willingness on the part of all to share the difficulties and problems of this essential task can we attain the success so manifestly necessary in public interest.
The White House,
April 4, 1932.
Note: The Congress did not establish the President's proposed joint committee.
Herbert Hoover, Special Message to the Congress Proposing a National Economy Program. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/207557