Radio Address to the Nation on the Congressional Agenda and the Economy

November 6, 1982

My fellow Americans:

You may not have been aware, but last Tuesday, when we voted we were being observed by representatives of countries from five different continents. Officials from Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America joined us here to watch and learn as a part of the international Conference on Free Elections.

Sometimes it's good to stop and think how unique we really are. We accept our right to vote as normal, but it is revolutionary. In the eyes of much of the world, it's a miracle. Last Tuesday as Americans of every race, creed, and walk of life went to the polls and voted, we demonstrated once again that we are the freest people on Earth.

Now that we've chosen the women and men who will represent us and shape our future, we must get on with the business of the Nation. There are serious problems America must face and genuine opportunities we must seize. You, the people, have sent a workable combination of Republicans and Democrats to Washington, and we must get on with the job.

When the Congress recessed last month for the election campaign, it hadn't finished some of its most important work. So, I've asked them to come back. Our needs are too urgent to wait until next year. We must not fritter away the time while millions of our people are barely hanging on. The economic health of America is at stake.

In this session, as in the next, cooperation will be the key to continue leading America to recovery. Campaign rhetoric and partisan politics must be set aside. Every elected official must bring to his or her work a bipartisan dedication to the good of the Nation. The Congress and the executive branch, Democrats and Republicans, must join together, not to do what's easy, but to do what is right.

In these times of deep unemployment, the Congress must act to bring about growth and new opportunities. First, the Congress must do its part to control government spending. It has not yet lived up to its promise to save $3 in outlays for every $1 already passed in new revenues. Eleven appropriations bills must still be passed, and I will use the veto, if necessary, to keep them within the budget. Second, I urge the Congress to reconsider the constitutional amendment to balance the budget. That bill was among the most important to pass the Senate this year. It was blocked in the House by a minority of big spenders, despite the overwhelming support of the American people. Third, the Congress should act on regulatory reform to help make government and industry more economical and efficient. And fourth, we need the jobs, growth, and opportunities our enterprise zones proposal will stimulate in depressed areas. That has been before the Congress for about a year. And fifth, we need the clean air bill, both to protect the environment and make it possible for industry to rebuild and create more jobs.

These and other pressing needs remain on the congressional agenda. We've had enough talk. Campaign cliches must give way to action. If we're to continue the momentum for recovery, if we're to surmount our problems as I know we can, we must act together, and we must act now.

Just yesterday, the Labor Department announced that the unemployment rate reached 10.4 percent. Now, that's only a cold government statistic, but behind it are real people who are hurting. I'm not going to sugar-coat this news, because I cannot hide my own personal ache. I remember what it's like to be 21 and to feel your future has been mortgaged by the generation before you. That's a terrible tragedy we must never allow to happen again.

In our efforts to revive our economy, jobs must be our most urgent priority, and lasting solutions must be our constant and consistent principle.

How deeply I wish that we could relieve our current situation with some immediate magic method. But there is a new spirit building -- of optimism and hope for America's future. The severe problems which have been neglected for years and which caused unemployment to trend steadily higher -- problems of runaway spending, taxing, double-digit inflation, and skyhigh interest rates -- are now being attacked at their roots. Inflation is down to 4.8 percent. Interest rates have dropped by nearly 50 percent, and taxes on the people are being cut.

A woman from California wrote me. ``As a homemaker,'' she said, ``I'm the one who shops and budgets for our family. I'm the first one to notice that my dollars are buying more. Little by little, I find I can breathe easier. For the first time in 5 years, I feel I can do some much needed repairs in our home.''

Well, her letter reflects the growing confidence in our country. As more and more Americans see daylight ahead, our economy will grow stronger. We're seeing it begin to happen. Last month, new home sales rose by 24 percent, and new orders for capital goods also increased. Personal savings reached a 6-year high, which helped bring down interest rates and fuel the historic advance in our stock and bond markets. This will provide American industry more capital to invest in our future, and that means better productivity and more jobs.

The groundwork is being laid for the rejuvenation of our economy and the return of millions of Americans to our country's work force.

That wonderful Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes teaches us that ``to everything there is a season.'' Well, my fellow citizens, I've never believed more strongly that America is beginning a season of hope, a genuine hope that springs from the vitality of the American spirit. Now we must seize our opportunity and live up to the principles of courage, hard work, and economic responsibility that made our country great in the first place.

I know our people will not fail America. They never have. Our task is to be sure our leaders do not fail the American people.

Thank you for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House.