Richard Nixon photo

Special Message to the Congress on the Administration's Legislative Program.

September 11, 1970

To the Congress of the United States:


In the course of the past year and one-half I have sent more than 50 messages to the Congress proposing legislation to deal with certain problems, or to achieve certain national objectives. On two occasions I have sought to provide a comprehensive summation of these messages, thereby presenting an administration philosophy.

In the first of these, my message of October 13, 1969, I asserted that if ours is not to be an age of revolution it must be an age of reform, and declared that this would be the watchword of the Administration: REFORM. I listed then a series of such measures already proposed:
Reform of the Draft
Reform of the Welfare System
Reform of the Tax Code
Revenue-Sharing Reform
Postal Reform
Manpower Reform
Social Security Reform
Reform of the Grant-in-Aid System
Electoral Reform
D.C. Government Reform
OEO Reform

I spoke then of further issues for which the Administration proposed new initiatives: with respect to hunger and malnutrition; population; crime; narcotics and pornography; manpower facilities and unemployment insurance; public transportation and air facilities.

In my State of the Union Message of January 22, 1970, I returned to this theme, proposing that as we enter the seventies, we should enter also a great age of reform of the institutions of American government.

The first principle of reform is that government programs and institutions should be effective. They should deliver what they promise. Too many promises of the 1960s have not been kept. The nation is now paying a price for this.

This principle is a cornerstone of the New Federalism. We seek to develop a new sense of partnership between the Federal government and State and local governments, to assign responsibility and authority for public functions to the level best qualified to carry them out. In the name of the "urban crisis," for example, the 1960s saw the Federal government increasingly caught in issues of municipal housekeeping that are most appropriately the business of a city council. But simultaneously the great fiscal power of the Federal government was never brought to play--through revenue sharing--to provide local governments with sufficient resources to enable them to solve their own problems in their own ways.

The second principle of reform is that America must find a way to direct its own growth. We have entered a decade in which our Gross National Product will increase by $500 billion, an amount greater than the entire growth of the American economy from 1790 to 1950. Out of this vast increase in wealth we can create a life of unprecedented achievement for ourselves, and for the nation. Or we can choke on it. "Toward Balanced Growth: Quantity with Quality," the theme of the report of the National Goals Research Staff,1 could well be the theme of the 1970s.

1A summary of the report dated July 18, 1970, and the transcript of a news briefing on the report held on July 15, by Leonard Garment, Special Consultant to the President and Director, National Goals Research Staff; Dr. Daniel P. Moynihan, Counsellor to the President; and Raymond A. Bauer, Senior Consultant, National Goals Research Staff, are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 6, p. 941 and 947, respectively). The transcript of a second news briefing on the report by Dr. Moynihan and Mr. Bauer, held on July 17, was released by the White House on July 18.

In foreign affairs I have held out the hope that if our new policies succeed America may have the best chance since World War II to enjoy a generation of uninterrupted peace. More then is the reason to consider forthwith how we are to use the abundance of peace.

The great question of the seventies, as I pointed out in my State of the Union Message, is, shall we surrender to our surroundings, or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, to our land and to our water? I promised a national growth policy, to bring balance and order to the great changes in population, industry, and patterns of education and training that would affect the quality of life in the three decades ahead.

In February I sent to the Congress the most comprehensive proposals in the area of environmental protection and enhancement ever set forth by any administration. Since then I have proposed the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a focal point for setting general environment pollution standards affecting all media and forms of pollution.

I have now virtually completed the domestic legislative proposals I will make to the present Congress. I would like then to take one further opportunity to sum up. I would like to acknowledge the important achievements already behind us, and also to stress the very considerable amount of work which is still before the Congress and which must be done if we are to meet our responsibility to this new decade, much less to begin to fulfill its promise.

In my message of last October I stated that if a working partnership between men of differing philosophies and different parties is to continue, then candor on both sides is required.

Candor requires first that we acknowledge the exceptional circumstances which were thrust upon us by a relatively rare event in American history. For the first time in 120 years an incoming President of one party has faced a Congress dominated by another.

Given the system of "checks and balances" built into our government, it would be reasonable to predict that in such a situation the institutions of the Presidency and the Congress would thwart one another, and that stalemate would ensue. The American Constitution was devised in large measure to limit the exercise of power. We should not be suprised if on occasion it makes such exercise difficult.

Yet this need not be. It is not less a quality of our Constitution that by providing a voice to wide ranging and diverse interests it makes it possible from time to time to face up to issues of national importance, and to make genuinely national decisions about them. Some decisions can be reached only if both parties are willing to share responsibility; some programs can be enacted only if both parties share the credit.

This, then, is a time to face such issues. As president, I have sought to do so. I have proposed to Congress legislation dealing with issues about which there has been an unmistakable national judgment that something needs to be done. Revenue sharing, for example, was pledged by both parties in their 1968 platforms. We need it; the public supports it. Yet, until no% no President has felt it possible to propose revenue sharing, no Congress has made any move toward enacting it. Draft reform, welfare reform, crime control, environmental protection, are other issues that need urgent actions. I have felt it possible to approach these matters as national issues about which we could make national decisions in which both parties would participate, for which both would honorably accept responsibility and justly claim recognition.

Whatever will be the judgment of history, the record of this moment is that Congress has not responded. There are exceptions, of which all involved can and should be proud. But the larger fact is that Congress, in a mood of nostalgia and partisanship, has too much devoted its energies to tinkering with programs of the past while ignoring the realities of the present and the opportunities of the future.

Time now slips away. The Congress is coming to a close. Its work is not done. The issues I have asked to be considered have not been considered. And yet matters press. We cannot wait for politics. We must seek a record of achievement all can share.

As we build this record, we must not lose sight of the overriding need for fiscal responsibility. Year after year during the 1960s the Federal government incurred a deficit. In the early years of the decade there was a justification for this. The economy was operating at less than full employment capacity. In the later years there was no justification whatever: persistent deficits could lead only to a disorderly and punishing inflation. This was predictable; it was predicted; it came to pass.

It need not happen again, and it must not. This is why I have been forced to veto appropriation bills sent me by the Congress in amounts well above those requested. I understand full well the feeling for worthy purposes that inspires such action. But there is a higher national interest. Economics has taught us to think in terms of the entire economic system. To affect one part is to affect all parts. The Federal government must act in accordance with that knowledge and reality. Just as the President sends a unified Budget to the Congress, the Congress surely should devise some manner of unified response. I have suggested that Congress establish an overall spending ceiling, and adjust the various appropriation bills to accord with that ceiling. There may be other and better ways of attaining this goal. But we can no longer avoid the necessity of finding some means whereby the present fragmented and competitive legislative process that mandates and promotes Federal spending can be brought under control so that the impact of the total Federal budget is to sustain and encourage economic growth, rather than to disrupt it. This is the course of fiscal responsibility.

If restraint is one condition of fiscal responsibility, timeliness is surely another. In recent years Congress has more and more tended to put off the enactment of appropriations bills until months after the beginning of the fiscal year. It is now September. The fiscal year began July 1st. Yet only four out of fourteen appropriations bills have been enacted. This practice begins to threaten the very basis of orderly and effective government.

Fiscal restraint in no sense precludes a reordering of national priorities. To the contrary, it is only when such restraint is exercised that a purposeful direction of events can occur. In fiscal 1971, for example, for the first time in two decades, the expenditures of the Federal government on Human Resources are greater than the expenditure on Defense and Defense-related activities. We have reversed the trend of the 1960s. Our priorities have changed. But this change can be effective only in the context of disciplined and responsible fiscal policy. The matter may be put more strongly. Anyone who seriously wishes to see a reordering of priorities for the nation either must insist on doing so in a responsible and disciplined manner, or must be judged not to be serious.


Of the major items of reform which I have proposed to the Congress, and which I described in my message of October 13, 1969, some have been acted upon.

The Tax Reform Act of 1969, which had some troublesome features, nevertheless did incorporate most of the measures reforming the Tax Code which I had proposed.

The Administration asked for and obtained the extension of the Economic Opportunity Act to permit the OEO to card out its new role.

One of the most important measures of reform passed by this Congress so far is the Postal Reorganization Act establishing the United States Postal Service. It is a landmark bill demonstrating not only ability to respond to a complex and persisting problem with bold and creative measures, but demonstrating as well the power of bipartisan effort when it is exercised with determination and will. This Act will need to be improved upon as the new system is established, but we have a sound structure.

Last year the Congress passed legislation I recommended to permit a change from the oldest-first to a youngest-first order of call in Selective Service, to reduce the period of prime vulnerability to one year, and to select individuals through a lottery system.

Thus we have made a beginning. But our work is nowhere near ended. The other major reforms I listed last October still have not been enacted. Since that time I have proposed a wide range of measures of equal importance. In far the greater proportion these, too, await action by Congress.


As long as the draft is necessary to meet our military manpower needs, it must be made to operate as equitably and consistently as possible.

This year, by Executive Order [11527], future occupational, agricultural, and paternity deferments were eliminated. At the same time, I requested the Congress to restore the discretionary authority of the president on undergraduate student deferments so that these deferments could also be eliminated in the future. I also proposed that legislation be enacted to improve the random selection system by permitting the establishment of a direct national call of inductees. The Congress has not acted on these proposals. But the only long range solution is to end our need to draft by attaining an all-volunteer armed force. On April 23, 1970, I proposed military pay legislation to the Congress as an important step towards achieving an objective of reducing draft calls to zero. Unfortunately, this legislation has not been enacted.

In the meantime--and for all time-America owes an obligation to the men who have fought in Vietnam, and not less to those who backed them in the Armed Forces elsewhere. The Vietnam Veterans Assistance Act which I have proposed to the Congress would provide important new GI Bill benefits relating to postsecondary school training, the provision of Small Business Administration loans to veterans from minority groups, and the provision of guaranteed loans for the purchase of mobile homes. This legislation has not been enacted; it should be.


The Family Assistance Act has been properly described as the most important piece of domestic legislation to go before the Congress in thirty-five years. It is one of the dozen or half-dozen most important pieces of domestic legislation in American history. The Act provides a basic national income supplement for all needy families with children. It abolishes the bankrupt welfare system of the past, which has so greatly contributed to our present crisis, and creates an altogether new system based upon work incentives (including support for child care services), job training and provision, and directed primarily to creating self-sufficient independent families. Where persons are genuinely dependent, as are the aged and disabled, or female headed families with young children, the bill provides national standards of benefits which will enormously improve the condition of the poor in many parts of the nation.

In April of this year the Family Assistance Act passed the House of Representatives by a resounding and gratifying vote. Hearings are now taking place in the Senate. It would be tragic beyond words if this historic opportunity were to be allowed to slip away from us. I am confident that this will not happen, but to prevent it the Senate will, of course, have to move with some dispatch.

The Family Assistance Plan is the keystone of an income strategy for the elimination of poverty in the United States. In 1969 the first move in this strategy was accomplished when Congress adopted the Administration's proposal to abolish income taxes for the poor. Reform of the Manpower Program and Unemployment Insurance are equally essential, and the latter has now also been enacted. But the strategy will be incomplete until the Family Assistance Plan is enacted as well.

On May 6, 1969, before the Family Assistance Plan was proposed, I sent to Congress a message on hunger and malnutrition, in which I declared that the moment is at hand to put an end to hunger in America itself for all time. Since then, major reforms have been carried through toward this goal. But legislation is required. The Food Stamp Act Amendments, which I recommended to the Congress, established the pathbreaking principles that very poor families would receive free stamps, 'that for other families cash requirements would be limited to 30 percent of family income, that uniform minimum national eligibility standards would be established, and a range of similarly important reforms. This legislation still has not been enacted.

Family welfare is necessarily related to family size and the availability of health services. On July 18, 1969, I sent the first Message to Congress ever on the subject of population. At the time I proposed that we should establish as a national goal the provision of adequate family planning services within the next five years to all those who want but cannot afford them, adding that in no circumstances will the activities associated with our pursuit of this goal be allowed to infringe upon the religious convictions or personal wishes and freedom of any individual, nor will they be allowed to impair the absolute right of all individuals to have such matters of conscience respected by public authorities. Part of .this program has gone forward, but in order to reach our goal of being able to serve the estimated five million women who are in need of subsidized, publicly assisted family planning services, family planning legislation should be enacted by the Congress this year.

On the broader question of the future course of population growth and its implications for our society, I am pleased to observe that the Commission on Population Growth and the American Future which I proposed in my Message has been approved by the Congress and is now in operation.

In February of this year this Administration sent to the Congress the Health Services Improvement Act dedicated to the creation of integrated, effective, consumer-oriented health care systems by the consolidation of four existing and overlapping programs in this field. The Act would "decategorize" certain aspects of these programs, provide "joint funding", authorize the transfer of funds among these programs and encourage experimentation in the delivery of health services. The Congress has not yet taken final action on this legislation.


As I stated in October, for the first time in the history of this government, we have recommended a national policy of permanent sharing of the Federal income tax revenues with the States and lesser political units of the country. My proposal, the Revenue Sharing Act of 1969, would begin with $i billion in its first full fiscal year, and rise to approximately $5 billion by FY 1976: It would be difficult to identify another proposal that has received such widespread endorsement. It is elemental economics, elemental good sense, elemental good government. Both parties endorsed Revenue Sharing in their 1968 platforms, and it has widespread public support. Yet neither the House nor the Senate has held hearings on this Administration's bill.


Earlier in this message I stated that the first principle of reform is that government programs should be effective. With this object in view I have proposed a Manpower Training Act which would consolidate the major manpower training programs carried on by the Department of Labor into one funding authority, abolish categorical programs, provide that the administration of the programs be progressively decentralized to the States and metropolitan areas, and further provide an automatic increase of 10 percent in manpower funds when the national unemployment rate equals or exceeds 4.5 percent for three consecutive months.

Here is the New Federalism in action. Consolidate in the interests of flexibility. Decentralize where operations are best managed locally. Assert national standards of performance, and provide automatic adjustments to changes in the national economy. In the history of American Federalism there has been no comparable transfer of functions: a process that for more than a third of a century has taken responsibilities away from State and local governments and lodged them in Washington would now for the first time be reversed, not to reestablish an old arrangement, but to create a new one. Hearings have been held in both the House and Senate, but as yet neither body has responded to the essentials of this historic legislation.

One of the most important measures to pass either session of the Congress thus far is the recently enacted Employment Security Amendments of 1970, which I recommended July 8, 1969. This precedent-shattering legislation will not only cover 4.75 million additional jobs--in small businesses, nonprofit organizations, State hospitals, and State institutions of higher education among others--it will also provide an extension of the benefit period up to 13 weeks which is automatically triggered when the insured unemployment rate for the nation reaches 4.5 percent for three consecutive months, and would remain in operation until that rate drops below 4.5 percent for a corresponding three months. These provisions become effective January 1, 1972.

This is the most extensive reform of the unemployment insurance program ever enacted. Something of moment has occurred. This important income maintenance program has been made flexible, responsive, equilibrating. This is what modern government should be doing in a dozen such areas.


In the Social Security Amendments currently before the Congress, I requested an automatic cost-of-living adjustment in Social Security benefits to compensate elderly Americans, as I stated in October, for the losses they are suffering because of an inflation they could do nothing either to prevent or to avoid. This is an act of fairness which I proposed in my 1968 campaign for the Presidency and which the Congress should no longer deny to our senior citizens. In addition, I proposed several benefit liberalizations and reforms which would make social security a more equitable and effective instrument of income security for the aged. This measure has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate.


The Congress consented to my reorganization plan which provided for the establishment of the new Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Council. I am confident that these new entities will be major factors in improving the management of domestic affairs in the years ahead. However, there are other aspects of management reform which require legislation which has not been acted upon.

In the fourth month of the Administration I proposed to reform the increasingly chaotic and unmanageable grant-in-aid system of the national government by providing the President with power, subject to Congressional veto, to consolidate related assistance programs.

This is no small matter. It is one of the reforms that is absolutely necessary if our present governmental system is to be made to work. Again we face a familiar situation. We have made some improvements through action by the Executive Branch, but legislation is necessary. Hearings have been held on the Grant Consolidation Act in both the House and the Senate, but neither body has acted.

We have recently proposed dramatic changes in the manner in which Social Services are delivered to their intended beneficiaries. As an amendment to the Family Assistance Act, we proposed greater flexibility in the use of services money and related HEW programs--including permissive authority for State and local governments to transfer up to 20 percent from one appropriation to another under certain conditions. Moreover, we would launch a new Government Assistance Program to help Mayors and Governors strengthen their policy direction and management of important HEW services. The Senate Finance Committee was gratifyingly prompt in holding hearings on this important amendment, and I hope the Congress will enact it this year.

The Federal Economy Act is a related measure. Programs need to be consolidated; from time to time they need to be eliminated. This is an elemental principle of the decent management of public affairs. In February, 1970, I proposed program changes that would save $2.1 billion in Fiscal Year 1971--money urgently needed for other programs. More than half of those changes that require Congressional approval have not been put into effect. Further, the Congress is blocking over $170 million of the savings I proposed to achieve by executive action. In all, Congress is not acting on over $700 million in savings, or one-third of my proposals. In those areas where I have been left free to act I am accomplishing 100 percent of the savings planned.


No one subject more profoundly involves the issue of popular sovereignty than the method of electing the President. For almost two centuries the system of the Electoral College has somehow worked, albeit just barely at times, and at other times even doubtfully. Every four years the American democracy places a large, unacceptable, and unnecessary wager that it will work one more time, that somehow an institution that never in any event functioned the way the framers of the Constitution anticipated, will somehow confer the Presidency on that candidate who obtains the largest number of votes. The Electoral College need not do so. Indeed on occasion it has not done so. But far more importantly--whatever the popular vote--it need not confer the Presidency on any candidate, if none has a majority of the electoral vote.

Our ability to change this system in time for the 1972 elections is a touchstone of the impulse to reform in America today. It will be the measure of our ability to avert calamity by anticipating it.

As I stated in my October 1969 message, I originally favored other methods of reforming the electoral college system, but the passage by the House of a direct popular election plan indicated that this thoroughly acceptable reform could be achieved, and I accordingly supported it. Unfortunately, the Senate has not completed action. Time is running out. But it is still possible to pass the measure and to amend the Constitution in time for the 1972 elections.


Last October I called to the attention of Congress one of the truly unacceptable facts of American life, and asked for the enactment of legislation I had proposed which would bring about the orderly transfer of political power to the people of the District of Columbia. I called for a Constitutional amendment giving the District at least one representative in the House and such additional representatives as Congress may approve, and providing for the possibility of two United States Senators. (We need to keep continually in mind that the population of the District is greater than that of at least ten States. ) I asked for an interim arrangement providing the District with a non-voting Congressional representative, and the creation of a Commission on Government for the District of Columbia to propose a permanent governmental arrangement. I have been heartened by progress toward the non-voting representative, but I share the chagrin that most Americans feel at the fact that Congress continues to deny self-government to the nation's capital. I would remind the Congress that the founding fathers did nothing of the sort. Home rule was taken from the District only after more than seventy years of self-government, and this was done on grounds that were either factually shaky or morally doubtful. Surely we cannot allow this inadmissible situation to persist as the American Bicentennial dawns.


In a message to the Congress of November 18, 1969, I proposed the Trade Act of 1969 which would significantly strengthen the trade agreements program of the United States, recognizing that ultimately it is rising world trade and production that must form the base for the prosperity of developing nations. At the same time, the bill would establish a viable program of tariff adjustments for industries and adjustment assistance for firms and workers affected by imports. It would also promote the reduction or elimination of non-tariff barriers to trade, by eliminating the American Selling Price System. While this legislation awaits enactment, I again express my concern about the growing tone of protectionism in the arguments being made in the Congress.

The Merchant Marine Act Amendments provide for a long-range merchant marine building program of 300 ships in the next ten years, with a lessening of dependence on operating-differential subsidy for liner carriers, and the buildup of the bulk commercial carrier fleet for the foreign commerce of the United States. This is a trade expansion measure of fundamental importance. The bill has passed the House of Representatives, but has not as yet passed the Senate.


In my October, 1969 Message I declared that there is no greater need in this free society than the restoration of the individual American's freedom from violence in his home and on the streets of his city or town. These words were carefully chosen. The issue of crime is easily misunderstood, and on occasion deliberately so. The issue of crime is freedom. When individual citizens are the direct victims of violence, or the indirect victims when they are forced to restrict their own movements out of fear of violence, fundamental liberties are abridged. A government that fails to protect those liberties is not worthy of the name. At the time of my statement the issue had been the source of more legislative requests from the Administration than any other single subject. Today, not far from a year later, only two bills have passed. One was the District of Columbia Court Reform and Criminal Procedure Act--a measure of major importance. It provides for the expansion and strengthening of the entire system of law enforcement and criminal justice in the nation's capital. As I said in October, the Act provides more judges, new enforcement tools, reorganization of the archaic court system, a new public defender's office, and reform in the procedures for dealing with juvenile offenders.

The second was an amendment to the Federal Youth Corrections Act to provide more effective and improved methods for dealing with young people in the Federal criminal justice system.

Among the most important crime proposals that have been before the Congress for more than a year, and which have not been enacted, are these:

--The Controlled Dangerous Substances Act. This Act would substantially revise existing drug laws by providing new means for controlling dangerous drugs by establishing a new, comprehensive and realistic penalty structure designed to provide courts with guidance and flexibility in handling offenders, and by providing more effective enforcement tools for diminishing the availability of dangerous drugs.

--Organized Crime Control Act. This is an omnibus bill embodying recommendations of the President's Crime Commission, the National Commission on Reform of Federal Criminal Laws, and other groups. The ten titles codify and strengthen existing Federal laws relating to the prosecution of organized crime. Again, this is an issue easily misunderstood. The most important issues involved in organized crime are not those which are most commonly discussed. It has been estimated that as much as $50 billion a year passed through the hands of organized crime in illegal gambling alone. What is involved here is not the act of gambling by the individual citizen, but the corruption of government that invariably accompanies it. Similarly, the social consequences of the drug traffic controlled by organized crime spread far beyond the personal tragedy of the addict. They weaken the fabric of society itself.

This proposal would make large-scale gambling a federal offense and would make it a felony for large-scale gamblers and law enforcement officers or public officials to obstruct enforcement of State and local laws against gambling through bribery of government officials. And it would replace numerous disparate witness-immunity laws scattered throughout the United States Code with a single uniform provision. It is a long overdue reform. This bill provides, among other things, for increased sentences, up to 30 years, for dangerous adult special offenders-the recidivist, the professional offender, and the organized crime leader.

--Wagering Tax Amendments. This proposal would prohibit the use against the taxpayer of information obtained through his compliance with the wagering tax, while at the same time increasing the coverage and amount of the taxes, and authorizing a grant of immunity to essential witnesses.

--The Bail Reform Act Amendments. This proposal would authorize a judge to detain, after a hearing, a person charged with certain categories of Federal crimes who was found to pose a danger to another person or the community if released.

--Protection of Minors from Obscenity Act and the Prohibition of Transportation of Salacious Advertising Act. These two bills would prohibit the use of the mails for the distribution of matter harmful to minors or advertisements explicitly designed and intended to appeal to a prurient interest in sex.

--Criminal Justice Act Amendments. This proposal would institute fundamental and urgently needed reforms in the provision of legal defenders for poor persons. Crime involves the issue of freedom, and that includes freedom from unjust arrest and conviction. Vigorous and competent legal defense is fundamental to this freedom, and it results in justice for not only the accused but also the accuser.

These crime control measures have been before the Congress for more than a year. There are further measures of equal and as great urgency also before the Congress.

--The Omnibus Crime Control and Sale Streets Amendments. The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration was established in 1968 in the Department of Justice to assist, through a grant program, State and local governments in strengthening and improving law enforcement. These amendments now pending in Congress would authorize appropriations for this important program for fiscal year 1971 and beyond and would amend the basic authority to permit better utilization of the available funds.

--Explosives Regulation Proposals and Amendments. We have proposed legislation to regulate the business of importing, manufacturing or dealing in explosives through a system of licenses and permits as well as prohibiting the purchase of explosives by mail-order. In addition, we have proposed amendments to the U.S. Criminal Code which would provide urgently needed powers to control the epidemic of ,terrorist bombings and nihilist destruction which has suddenly become a feature of American life. Here again the object of crime control is not simply to deter people from breaking the law and to punish persons who have broken the law, but more importantly to maintain and protect the freedom of citizens to live their lives without fear and without injury. The stability of democratic society is what really is at stake.


If the impulse to reform may be muted with respect to some areas of American life, there would seem to be near universal agreement that reform is overdue and urgent at every level in the field of education. There is a difference, however, between reform and retribution. If education has failed--where it has failed--the remedy is not to destroy it, but to restructure it. Moreover, failure as perceived by one group may be success in the eyes of another. Opinions about education must be informed by knowledge about the subject. From this it follows that the first thing to understand about education is that our understanding of the process is weak indeed. At most, it can be described as just beginning. This is a lesson we learned in the 1960s
at no little cost.

During that decade, Congress was extraordinarily generous in its support of education, particularly in its enthusiasm for trying to compensate through education for the environmental disadvantages of our least fortunate children. Support for education comprised the fastest-growing segment of the Federal budget by the mid-point of that ten-year period. This support--regarded as long overdue by most Americans, and begrudged by almost no one--generated an extraordinary flurry of activity in American education at all levels.

Much of this activity was based on the familiar premise that if only the resources available for education were increased, the amount that youngsters learn would increase, too. Somehow, it seemed reasonable to assume that the amount of dollars invested in education was all that really mattered. For we thought we knew what education was all about.

It is, therefore, perfectly understandable that we, as a nation, have been reluctant to accept the findings of massive research and bold scholarly analysis which suggest that perhaps our cherished assumptions may simply not be true. Or, if true, they are far more complex and difficult to understand than we thought. It is entirely understandable that we have all been reluctant to acknowledge how little return our investment has brought, how disappointing the educational results of our ambitious programs have been. But the simple and alarming fact has gradually become apparent, that we did not really understand the educational process well enough to have a purposeful effect on its outcome, which is, of course, what children learn.

There is no shame associated with this conclusion, and no blame to be assigned. But it is time to realize that every .time we invest a billion dollars in a compensatory program, we raise the hopes of millions of our most disadvantaged citizens; which hopes are more than likely destined to be dashed, for the programs and strategies on which they rest are themselves based on faulty assumptions and inadequate knowledge. This is bad government. It is bad politics. It is bad education.

This Administration did not take the easy way out of this sad paradox. The easy response would have been to ignore the research findings or to stop spending money across the board on education. In fact, the total sums budgeted by this Administration for education have risen steadily--to nearly $ 12 billion this year-and will continue to do so. For many of these programs have auxiliary benefits that should not be denied our young people. Far from cutting back---or pretending that programs "work" when in fact they do not--this Administration has chosen the tougher route of reform and research. For we are confident that the day will come when in fact every young American can learn as much and go as far as his abilities will permit. But that day will be slow in coming if we fail now to abandon outmoded precepts and to move beyond simplicities. (While at the same time giving full honor and credit to ,those who re-awakened the nation to its educational shortcomings.)

Accordingly, this Administration has taken a number of executive actions aimed at the reform and renewal of American education, consistent with the principle of the New Federalism that elementary and secondary education are properly the province of States and localities. The Office of Child Development has been created within HEW as the focal agency for our Early Learning Program and other activities aimed at enhancing The First Five Years of Life. The President's Commission on School Finance is now at work examining the pressing and complex problems associated with the financial support of public and non-public schools. The Right to Read has been established as a prime educational goal and a National Reading Council has been appointed to monitor the nation's progress toward it. We initiated a rigorous--and continuing--review of the Tide I program.

But the reforms in Federal education programs that are most needed must represent the combined efforts of the Congress and the Administration. In two major Messages to Congress last March, I made a series of proposals for reform and renewal, first in elementary and secondary education, then in higher education. These were augmented by our proposed Emergency School Aid Act, and by the thorough-going reform of the Impacted Aid Program transmitted as part of the Federal Economy Act.

In these proposals I asked that the Congress establish a National Institute of Education, within the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, in order to bring to education the intensity and quality of research and experimentation that we have grown accustomed to in biomedical research under the National Institutes of Health. Staffed by scholars and experts from many fields, and free of many of the constraints on established agencies, the National Institute would offer reasonable hope that in time we might convert our present ignorance about the processes of education into hard knowledge about learning and how to effect it. Its purpose is to assist schools in solving the pressing problems which beset them. Congress has not held hearings on this important and far-reaching proposal.

I asked that the Congress reform the mammoth--and, in its present form, inexcusable--program popularly known as Aid to Federally-impacted Areas. As I observed in March, this program neither assists States to determine their own education expenditures nor re-directs funds to the individual districts in greatest need. Four Presidents, representing both parties, have asked Congress to take up the long overdue but politically unpopular task of eliminating its most egregious flaws. Although hearings have been held on this long-needed reform, no Committee action has been taken in either house.

I asked the Congress to enact a special two-year Emergency School Aid Program to expedite and encourage the process of desegregation in the United States, and to enhance the possibility that our youngsters can benefit from interracial educational experiences. Surely there has been no domestic public issue in twenty years to engage the attention and concern of more citizens than the relationship of the races within our nation's schools. To the extent that this relationship can be eased and assisted through the use of Federal funds, I have asked Congress to join with the Administration in doing so. I hope that Congress will complete action on this legislation at an early date.

My request that Congress speedily appropriate $150 million under existing authority so that we might begin this challenging task before schools open this September was regrettably cut in half to $75 million.

In higher education, the Administration submitted one of the most comprehensive pieces of education legislation in history, the Higher Education Opportunity Act. Its key elements bear repeating.

By substantially revising the present structure of student financial aid, it would be possible, for the first time, to assure every lower-income student entering college a combination of Federal grants and subsidized loans sufficient to give him the same ability to pay as a student from a family earning $10,000.

At the same time, I proposed to make Federally-guaranteed loans available to every college and graduate student in the United States, regardless of income. The National Student Loan Association--a "secondary market" for student loan paper-would make this possible, and the loans that we propose to guarantee would be sufficient in amount, and flexible enough in length of repayment, that any student prepared to invest in his own future could finance his own education. By making loans available to all, and by concentrating subsidies on those who need them most, the United States would finally be able to tell its young people that no qualified student who wants to go to college need be barred by lack of money.

In looking at the complex ties between institutions of higher education and the Federal government, this Administration concluded that for three decades now the Federal government has been hiring universities to do work it wanted done. time has come for the Federal government to help academic communities to pursue excellence and reform in fields of their own choosing as well, and by means of their own choosing. Accordingly, I asked Congress to create a National Foundation for Higher Education, to be funded initially at $200 million a year, and to be guided in its policies by a Board representative of the general public as well as the higher education community itself. In creating this Foundation, it would also be possible to consolidate a series of narrow categorical programs that have long distorted the needs and wishes of our colleges and universities.

It would be naive to ignore the all-too-apparent fact that higher education may not be as popular in the United States as formerly. There has been a serious loss of faith in our universities, not least. within the institutions themselves. The specter of "student unrest"--and the alleged political consequences of appearing to reward disruptive students and faculty--has tended to paralyze efforts in this field. But it is too easy to do nothing, to let our dismay over the behavior of individual persons and institutions prevent us from sustaining and reforming our long-range investment in education. This is the time to move beyond politics, to move even beyond our individual sentiments, and to take the bold steps that alone can assure the continuation of excellence and the opening of opportunity in American higher education. I therefore urge the Congress to look again at the Higher Education Opportunity Act that I submitted, to understand the Administration's complete openness to responsible amendments, and to join with me in moving together on behalf of our young people.


In my October 1969 message I also asked the Congress to enact an Urban Mass Transportation Assistance Act. This measure will provide the nation's deteriorating public transportation system an unprecedented measure of public support. In the six year period that ended in June of this year, the Federal government provided only $800 million to aid the public transit industry. The Urban Mass Transportation Assistance Act would provide for a program that is four times greater over the next five years, and altogether totals $10 billion over the next twelve years. Both the Senate and the House have been actively concerned with this legislation, and a reasonably similar bill has passed the Senate. But I am still waiting for a sound bill for signature.

Beyond this, the Administration has sent to the Congress a wide range of legislation dealing with transportation including highway authorization and user charges, railroad safety, and emergency transportation assistance.

The Housing and Urban Development Act of 1970 2 is a measure of comparable importance. The object of the bill is to reform the primary Federal housing programs in such a way as to markedly increase their effectiveness in stimulating the production of housing for families of low, moderate, and middle income. The improvements take the form of simplifying, consolidating, and making consistent the numerous programs now on the books. There are now more than 50 narrowly conceived programs in the Federal Housing Administration which would be reduced to eight basic programs with sufficient flexibility to meet widely varying needs. The various subsidized housing programs would be combined into three basic programs, each providing the same level of subsidy to families in similar circumstances. This measure is urgently needed if Federal housing programs are to be made effective and equitable. Unfortunately, although hearings have been held in both the House and the Senate, neither body has acted.

2On July 22, 1970, the White House released the transcript of a news briefing by Harold B. Finger, Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, and ArDee Ames, Executive Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Renewal and Management, Department of Housing and Urban Development, on reports by the President's Task Forces on Low Income Housing and Urban Renewal. Several of the recommendations in these reports were included in the act.

The Congress did enact the vitally-needed Emergency Home Finance Act, and the Department of HUD launched its creative "Operation Breakthrough" applying new technology to housing. But basic reform is necessary to help move these forward steps toward the goal.


In a Message to the Congress at the end of October last year I proposed a comprehensive program of consumer protection, involving eighteen recommendations for the advancement of consumer interests. Five bills were subsequently introduced, embodying eleven of these recommendations requiring legislative action. The Consumer Representation Act provides for the establishment of an Office of Consumer Affairs in the Executive Office of the President and a Consumer Protection Division in the Department of Justice. The Consumer Protection Act would broaden the powers of the Federal Trade Commission in the field of consumer protection, and would create for the first time on a national basis a cause of action in Federal courts in cases of unfair and deceptive practices without regard to the amount in controversy. The Consumer Product Testing Act would promote the development of adequate and reliable methods of testing characteristics of consumer products. The Drug Identification Act and the Consumer Warranty Act would provide important new standards in their respective areas.

Almost a year has passed. Not one of these bills, except for a modified warranty bill passed by the Senate, has been acted on by either body of the Congress.


In a Message to Congress on August 6, 1969, on the subject of Occupational Safety and Health I proposed the establishment of a comprehensive Federal occupational safety and health program. It does not exaggerate to declare that such a program ought to have become Federal law three generations ago. This was not done, and three generations of American workers have paid for it. I proposed legislation to create a Presidentially-appointed independent Occupational Safety and Health Board to promulgate standards on a national basis, and to provide broad powers of enforcement by the Secretary of Labor. Unaccountably, this urgent legislation has not been enacted.

On March 13, 1970 I proposed the Employee Benefits Protection Act which would broaden and strengthen the provisions of the Welfare and Pension Plan Disclosure Act. This proposal has received wide endorsement from labor and management groups which would be affected by it, but Congress to date has not acted.

In August, 1969, the Administrations proposed Equal Employment Opportunity Enforcement Act was introduced in the Senate and the House. Unfortunately, in the thirteen months that have passed, neither House has acted to provide these powers necessary to improve the effectiveness of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

On February 27 of this year I proposed to Congress the Emergency Public Interest Protection Act which would add important new procedures to the emergency disputes provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act. In addition, I proposed the establishment of a National Special Industries Commission to conduct a wide ranging study of labor relations in industries which are particularly vulnerable to national emergency disputes. Again, Congress has not acted.


The first task of government in the post-industrial age, as I have stated, is that of reforming the institutions of the past. The second task is that of creating the conditions of the future. The fundamental fact is that of choice. We can choose to debase the physical environment in which we live, and with it the human society that depends on that environment, or we can choose to come to terms with nature, to make amends for the past, and build the basis for a balanced and responsible future.

The most neglected and the most rapidly deteriorating aspect of our national life is the environment in which we live. In my State of the Union Message last January, I promised to arrest that decline and begin to revive our habitat. In the eight months that have followed, the Administration has proposed a program that fulfills that promise, the most comprehensive and costly program in this field in America's history. During the same period, the Administration has taken a series of executive actions aimed at the same goals. But the Congress has not yet seen fit to take final action on any of our legislative proposals. If it was not evident before, it must surely now be apparent to anyone who lived through the grim smog and pollution that gripped the Eastern Seaboard in late July,3 that prompt and vigorous action is necessary if our lives and those of our children are not to be blighted by preventable and curable environmental deterioration.

3 Two White House announcements, released September 3 and October 7, 1970, concerning cooperation between the United States and Japan in solving mutual air pollution and environmental problems are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 6, pp. 1136 and 1346).

As my first official act of the decade, on January first I signed into law the National Environmental Policy Act establishing the Council on Environmental Quality. The Council is charged with analyzing important environmental conditions and trends, making a thorough review of all Federal programs which affect the environment, and recommending policies for protecting and improving the quality of the environment.

On July 9 I sent to the Congress a reorganization plan which would establish an Environmental Protection Agency, consolidating the major environmental pollution standard setting responsibilities of the Federal government together with certain related research, enforcement and abatement programs. At the same time I proposed formation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration within the Department of Commerce to consolidate Federal programs for monitoring and understanding the environment. Among other things, this would provide better coordination and direction of our oceanic programs.

Responsibility for anti-pollution programs is now fragmented among several Departments and agencies, thus weakening our overall Federal effort. Air pollution, water pollution and solid wastes are different forms of a single problem, and it becomes increasingly evident that broad systems approaches are going to be needed to bring our pollution problems under control. The reorganization would give unified direction to our war on pollution and provide a stronger organizational base for our stepped-up effort.

On February 10 of this year, I sent to the Congress a special message on the environment. This presented a 37-point action program, with special emphasis on strengthening our fight against water and air pollution.

In the field of water pollution, my major legislative recommendations included:
--Authorization of $4 billion to cover the Federal share of a $10 billion program to provide expanded municipal waste treatment facilities.
--Establishment of an Environmental Financing Authority to help finance the local share of treatment plant costs.
--Reform of the rigid formula by which funds are allocated under the treatment grant programs.
--Greatly strengthened enforcement authority, including provisions for court-imposed fines of up to $10,000 a day for violations.

The Senate has held hearings on the water pollution proposals, but has taken no floor action. The House has not even held hearings.

Among my major legislative recommendations for the control of air pollution were:
--More stringent procedures for reducing pollution from motor vehicles.
--Establishment of national air quality standards.
--Establishment of national emissions standards for pollutants from stationary sources.
--A major strengthening of enforcement procedures, including extension of Federal air pollution control authority to both inter- and intrastate situations and provisions for fines of up to $10, 000 a day for violators.

While the House passed these proposals in June, the legislation has not yet been reported to the Senate for floor action.

In addition, the message spelled out 14 separate measures I was taking by administrative action or Executive Order. These included such wide-ranging initiatives as launching an extensive Federal research and development program in unconventionally-powered, low-pollution vehicles, requiring the development of comprehensive river basin plans for water pollution control, re-directing research on solid waste management to place greater emphasis on re-cycling and re-use, and the establishment of a Property Review Board to recommend specific Federal properties which should be converted to other high priority uses including conversion to parklands, or sold.

I again urge the Congress to act soon and favorably on the legislative proposals contained in that message. They are vital to our growing effort to protect and improve our environment.

On February 4, I issued an Executive Order [11507] directing a prompt cleanup of air and water pollution caused by Federal facilities. This task is well underway. As I said then, the Federal government should set an example for the rest of the country. We are doing so.

On April 15, I sent a message to the Congress requesting legislation that would, if enacted, bring to an end the dumping of dredged spoils into the Great Lakes as soon as disposal sites are available. Neither the House nor the Senate has even held hearings on this bill.

On May 20, I submitted to the Congress two treaties and amendments to another treaty dealing with the prevention of oil spills. At that time, I also submitted a comprehensive Ports and Waterways Safety Act to aid further in attacking the causes of oil pollution. Although Senate hearings have been initiated on one of the treaties, Congressional action on these important measures remains uncompleted.

On May 23, I announced that the United States would propose a new treaty placing the natural resources of the deep seabed beyond the 200 meter depth under international regulation.

On June 1st, a revised National Contingency Plan for dealing with oil spills was announced at my direction by the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality.

On June 11, I sent a message to the Congress requesting the enactment of legislation cancelling twenty Federal oil leases for off-shore drilling which had been granted in 1968 in the Santa Barbara Channel, and creating a Marine Sanctuary. The Senate has held hearings but taken no floor action. The House has not even held hearings, this despite the fact that oil spillages near our beaches and shores may be the single most offensive and reprehensible assault on the environment that we have yet witnessed.

To repeat, the most comprehensive and costly program of environmental control in the history of the nation is now before the Congress. The clock is running. We dare not be too late.


In a review such as this, extended as it is, not all of the important measures proposed by my Administration and still pending before the Congress could be discussed. Some others must be mentioned-the legislation to reform the Federal government's relationship to the American Indians, to enhance the role of public broadcasting, to limit the operations of one-bank holding companies. Of crucial importance also are the revenue-producing measures proposed but not acted upon--including the extension of certain excise taxes, the acceleration of collection of gift and estate taxes, the stockpile disposal bills, the proposed Postal Revenue Act, and a special tax on the lead used in gasoline--which are so necessary to the maintenance of a sound fiscal position. Legislation is also needed to establish a realistic and effective farm program.

I have sought here to describe the issues of substance and of process which confront us at this time, setting them in the framework of a general approach to government as we come to the end of one era of social policy and begin the grand adventure of another.

For I believe the nation to have moved into a new era. I believe further that this view is shared by commentators and analysts of widely varying political positions. It is a view increasingly voiced by political leaders. It has become a matter of increasing public perception, and in measure, common acceptance.

The era upon which we are entered is not so easily defined as it is perceived. But it is not on those grounds any less real. To the contrary, the emergence of a post-industrial society is the dominant social reality of the present moment. Our task is to understand, and to respond to these changed circumstances.

The problems of this new era surround the question of choice: what kind of life would we live; what kind of society would we have? Growth becomes less of a goal and more of an issue. What kind of growth? For what purposes? With what consequences?

Our present problems in large degree arise from the failure to anticipate the consequences of our past successes. It is the fundamental thrust of technological change to change society as well. The fundamental task of government in the era now past was to somehow keep abreast of such change, and respond to it. The task of government in the future will be to anticipate change: to prevent it where clearly nothing is to be gained; to prepare for it when on balance the effects are to be desired; and above all to build into the technology an increasing degree of understanding of its impact on human society. With this in mind, the National Commission on Productivity, which I recently appointed, will be evaluating the impact of technology and other factors related to achieving higher levels of productivity vital to the healthy growth of our economy.

What is true of technology is equally true of government. It must become more self-aware, self-examining, self-correcting. There are amends to make and promises to keep that will engage our energies for years to come. But most of all there is a great adventure to be lived. For a period in the not distant past it might have seemed that American society was faltering. It may have been. But we have steadied now. We are regaining a sense of balance, of direction, and of forward thrust. This has been the achievement of the people. The measure of government--the challenge to government--is to sustain that movement.

This challenge is now before the Congress. It is a challenge not merely to men who now hold office there but to the institution itself. Congress has not been spared the attacks on the institutions of American democracy which have increasingly characterized this period of our history.
There is but one answer to such charges and that is to respond with energy and good faith to the legislative issues before it.

It is the responsibility of the President to take the initiative in such matters, and I have done so. A legislative program that will mark this era in history has been presented, and is ready for enactment. More is at stake than the issues with which that legislation deals, transcendent as some of these may be. More is at stake than the reputation of one political party or another for legislative wisdom or political. courage. What is at stake is the good repute of American government at a time when the charge that our system cannot work is hurled with fury and anger by: men whose greatest fear is that it will.

Matters press; we cannot wait for politics. We must seek a record of achievement all can share. It may be that none of us knows how fateful the outcome will prove.

The White House
September 11, 1970

Richard Nixon, Special Message to the Congress on the Administration's Legislative Program. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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