Remarks on the Program for Economic Recovery at a White House Reception for Members of Congress

September 29, 1981

Well, Nancy and I are very pleased to have you here with us. During our time in Washington I've been to the Hill so frequently that I thought maybe it was fitting to have you as our guests over here for a change.

During the days immediately before the summer break there was such a flurry of legislative activity -- you probably remember that -- [laughter] -- there was no time to thank you properly for supporting the economic recovery package. Just to make it official, the whole country is grateful to you for what you accomplished this summer, and that includes us.

For the last few years, we've all faced an ever more grave economic situation with dismay and frustration -- sort of a truck on the way downhill, as I said the other night, without any brakes. Many of our citizens were resigning themselves to permanent economic hardship. But what you achieved this summer, I think, has put us in a position to get control of the situation. And for the first time in years, there are signs of hope and renewed confidence emerging among our people.

After you got back from your break and I got back from mine, some people developed a bad case of the jitters. Of all things, they were blaming the high interest rates and the other economic ills on the program that you'd just passed a few weeks before. Of course, they had a little help in arriving at that idea; most of those making the fuss never supported the program in the first place. [Laughter] And they also knew darn well that it doesn't even go into effect until the day after tomorrow. I suppose by sundown the day after tomorrow they'll be saying, ``See, we told you so.'' [Laughter]

What we accomplished -- the spending and the tax rate reduction -- I think were proud and historic moments. In the last two decades the Federal Government has grown almost 500 percent, and that's several times as much as the country has grown. And so did the income tax payments of individual Americans.

Every generation faces its responsibility and ours, I think, is bringing government growth and taxation under control before it destroys everything that we hold dear. Now, you knew something had to be done, so did the people.

There are those who underestimate the American people. I was in an industry that I thought did that for years. I used to think that most producers, the only time they ever saw America was from 30,000 feet on their way back and forth from New York to Hollywood. And I thought they underestimated a great deal. And that was a big mistake. But I think there have been accounts recently of citizens all over the country who are willing to sacrifice a bit now to get America back on the right track. Some of the press in reporting this seemed to be astounded by that fact. There shouldn't be any surprise on our part or theirs.

If there's one thing the American people aren't lacking, it is courage. At times they've been misled, but they can be counted on to do what has to be done. And right now from what I'm hearing, they're happy that you're making some tough decisions rather than taking the easy way out. The public knows that it took a number of years to get us into the economic mess, and it'll take time and hard work to set things right. So, when others start to panic, remember that the people are still on our side. And as long as we're sincerely trying to put America's house in order, they'll stay on our side.

Now, I expect some good economic signs within a few months of the start of our program. There's got to be a pony in here somewhere. [Laughter] I think with the tax incentives, there's going to be a dramatic jump in the money available to loan. And coupled with some of the new budget proposals -- you didn't think I was going to let you out of here without mentioning them -- [laughter] -- coupled with the budget proposals, the interest rates should come down. As a matter of fact, we've seen some nibbling on that already.

In this first 8 months, we moved forward with a multipronged approach, and I think it is beginning to show results. Now, the Vice President -- he spearheaded the most vigorous attacks on redtape and overregulation that have ever been conducted. And by the end of our first year, the growth in the Federal Register will be 50 percent of what it was in 1980. And I know what he's aiming at: He wants to get it down to pamphlet size. [Laughter]

Furthermore, I think the oil situation looks good. Spurred on by decontrol -- you remember, that was going to destroy everything -- we've witnessed the biggest spurt in exploration in the nation's history. In an astonishing reversal, oil production in the lower 48 States has just increased for the third month in a row. And coupled with a more manageable inflation rate, the growth in total employment -- you know that there are a million more Americans working now than there were just a year ago at this time -- we're as confident today that the Nation's economic problems can and will be overcome as the day we proposed our program.

Now, I know it's not always going to be clear sailing, but we've come a long way and there's still much to do. So, let's never lose sight of the common goal -- a healthy and a strong America. And I just want each of you to know what an honor it's been for me to work with all of you and a great pleasure.

And I'm happy to see that there's a young lady right here in front who's really, I think, a pretty good reason for everything that we're doing, to see if this country won't be as good to her and her friends her age as it's been to all of us.

Thank you all, and thanks for being there. And -- [turning to Mrs. Reagan] -- let's go down and say hello.

Note: The President spoke at 5:29 p.m. in the East Room at the White House at the reception for congressional supporters of the President's program for economic recovery.