Remarks at a White House Reception for Representatives of the Business Community

September 15, 1981

Thank you, thank you all very much. It's a privilege to welcome you here to the White House this evening. You and those you represent were not only the key to the successes of our bipartisan coalition, you're the key to economic recovery of this Nation.

I see many familiar faces -- just as we hurried through the crowd here -- and I met with many of you as we pushed for the largest tax and budget cuts in our history. But I know that all of you here worked very hard to make those goals a reality. You and your neighbors and coworkers wrote letters and made phone calls and visited your Congressmen to get them passed. And Members of Congress later spoke of being overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. They spoke of it; they screamed about it. [Laughter] They said no one could get through on their phone lines.

But we do owe you a great vote of thanks. But you didn't do all of that work for a thank you, as you better than most see the necessity of restoring free enterprise to American life. You understand the bottom line of profit and loss, and you know that people, businesses, and governments must live within their means. Representing all aspects of American life, you know the opportunity in store for all of us if we reawaken our entrepreneurial spirit.

For too long there's been an adversary relationship between government and its own business community. The freedom to take a risk, to reap its rewards, to work harder for a better wage, to climb as high as your own ambition and effort will take you -- that kind of freedom is basic to the dream that is America and essential for the return of economic health in this country.

After decades of big government spending, there were some who didn't believe that the American people would take action to change that -- but they did. And when I first came to office there were some who said the people didn't care enough to insist if Congress went along -- but they did. And now there are those who doubt the staying power of the American people, who don't understand our commitment. And for those doubting Thomases, I have a message -- they're wrong again.

I think what must have been a thrill to you, and has been the biggest thrill to me in all these months, was to discover how the American people believe in America and in themselves. There's a great deal of confusion at the moment, I know. Yes, our economic recovery program has been passed by the Congress, signed into law, but it's not yet in effect.

The legislation that was passed this summer was historic, but that was only a beginning. We've only started on the long, hard road toward recovery, yet suddenly we hear some saying that our programs aren't working. Well, of course they're not; they don't start until October 1st. [Laughter] And when they do start, they're aimed at reversing three decades or more of mistaken economic policy, and they're not offered as a quick fix. It isn't going to happen overnight. But they will work.

I'm as committed today as on the first day I took office to balancing the budget, freeing the people from punitive taxation, and making America once again strong enough to safeguard our freedom. And I'm surer today than I ever was that we can achieve all three of those things. We'll continue to make budget adjustments as needed, and we'll hold the line. And I hope we have the same kind of bipartisan support that we had in passing the program, as we now have a need to resist the efforts to increase spending through appropriation bills. As for myself, with regard to that, I will not hesitate to use the veto to block any such efforts.

And let me silence those, those who would scare our older Americans. The budget will not be balanced at the expense of those dependent on social security. That system has serious problems; but we have sent our proposals to the Congress, and we have no plans to change them.

Now, I thank all of you for all that you've done to give our country a new beginning, but I remind you there are many trials yet ahead. I hope we can count on your help, the help that was so invaluable in the past. Together, I think that we're equal to our challenges, and together, we'll surmount them. So again, it's just a heartfelt thanks.

And now I have a couple of presentations to make. You know, there were a lot of people -- you and all the help, as I've said, that you gave -- but here in Washington, there were a few people that before the fight was over must have wondered why they made the decision to come here in the first place. And so I have a couple of presentations to make.

Two people that had to have worked as hard as anyone in the world were Dave Stockman, Office of Management and Budget -- and he put in more hours than there really are -- [laughter]. And this is just a little souvenir we thought that you might like. It contains the first page and the last page of that great reduction in government spending, the one where you put your name and make it legal, and one of the pens that was used to sign it. Dave? There you are.

And then someone else who must have wondered if he shouldn't have second thoughts, but he was one of the heroes of getting this done, equal in the number of hours, day after day, and doing a great job of selling all the time. This is the front page and this is that last one, the bottom line, where the signatures go. To Don Regan. And this is the tax program that reduced our taxes.

There's a double signature on there. I thought there ought to be a little personalized note on each one of them. [Laughter]

Well, there is no way to measure what they did and the work that they put in, and it's a shame to just have to say that that was only a battle -- the war still goes on. [Laughter] So, they'll be still at it for months and months to come, not only in getting this '82 budget passed, but then, as we said before, we are working on the unspecified cuts that must be made in the budget for '83 and '84, and we're going to now make them specific.

But again, and I know they'll agree with me, there will be no retreat. So, I'll turn you over now to this memorable gathering.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 5:33 p.m. on the South Lawn of the White House.