Radio Address to the Nation on the Economic Recovery Program

March 17, 1984

My fellow Americans:

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all of you. You know, this is a day when those of us of Irish descent have an opportunity to boast a little and, like good Irishmen, celebrate a lot. Because of the Irish, America today is a richer, brighter, freer, and, yes, a bit noisier land than it otherwise would have been.

But today all Americans can take pride in the rich diversity of America's ethnic heritage -- especially the Irish American contribution to that heritage. It's one reason why Nancy and I were delighted to host a lunch here at the White House yesterday for Prime Minister FitzGerald of Ireland. We all had a roaring good time, but there was some important business done as well.

The Prime Minister and I urged all Americans not to give support of any kind to the terrorist IRA elements in Northern Ireland. Believe me, it was a call heartily endorsed by all the Irish American political leaders who were present.

And second, the Prime Minister brought us a message of hope about peace and reconciliation of the problem of Northern Ireland. After all the tragedy in Northern Ireland, it was cheering to hear about groups who are working toward mutual tolerance, and peaceful and democratic solutions.

Here at home, as we prepare to greet the first days of spring, there is also reason for confidence and cheer. Good economic news is bursting out all over, and America's economy seems to be saying, ``This is celebration time.'' Optimism is being bolstered by vigorous new growth, continued low inflation, and better prospects for reducing budget deficits.

Just yesterday we learned that the Producer Price Index rose only four-tenths of 1 percent in February, a smaller rise than in January, and a solid sign that inflation remains in check. We're determined to keep the nightmare of runaway inflation from ever coming back. Housing starts reached 2.2 million units in February, the highest level in nearly 6 years. That's an 11-percent increase from the January level, which was revised up to 1.9 million units. And building permits, a signal of builders' intentions, also registered a strong increase, so that means continued housing strength in the months to come.

Combine these signs of economic confidence with a strong recovery in one industry after another -- 15 consecutive monthly increases in industrial production, business investments stronger than expected, growing research in science and technology, and a welcome rebirth of productivity growth, and we can understand how the United States economy created nearly 5 million jobs in the last 15 months and has become the engine for a new era of worldwide economic expansion.

We're also making progress towards reducing projected budget deficits. For one thing, the sheer strength of America's economic growth, as measured by all those new jobs created in the last 15 months, means more people are supporting themselves and paying taxes, and fewer people need government assistance. As I've said again and again, strong and steady economic growth is the best way to reduce deficits.

And as you may have heard, I've just reached agreement with the Republican leadership in the Congress on a deficit reduction package totaling some $150 billion over the next 3 years. Just Thursday night, shortly after we reached agreement, the Senate Finance Committee concluded its work on a major portion of our package. I'm hopeful the entire package will be passed promptly by the Senate.

This $150 billion downpayment deserves strong bipartisan support in the House because it will reduce the deficit in a way that's effective, responsible, and fair, by targeting $43 billion of savings in nondefense spending, $57 billion in defense authority reductions, and by raising some $48 billion in revenues, primarily from closing certain tax loopholes of questionable fairness.

Now, make no mistake. The defense cuts will slow our defense buildup somewhat, but not to a point of unacceptable risk. There will be no increase in tax rates on American families and no tax increases that would threaten the economic recovery. Continued strong growth with the prospect of deficits coming down and without renewed inflation spells a brighter future for America's economy, provided the Congress will just stick with our program.

Some might attribute our success to the ``luck o' the Irish.'' Well, maybe we have enjoyed a bit of luck. But believe me, the real reason is an economic recovery program based on common sense.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.