Radio Address to the Nation on the American Family

June 16, 1984

My fellow Americans:

Tomorrow is Father's Day, so naturally our thoughts turn to them and to the well-being of family life in America. Families have always stood at the center of our society, preserving good and worthy traditions from our past, entrusting those traditions to our children, our greatest hope for the future.

Family life has changed much down through the years. The days when we could expect to live in only one home and hold only one job are probably gone forever. Perhaps we will not go back to the old family ways, but I think we can and should preserve family values -- values of faith, honesty, responsibility, tolerance, kindness, and love. And we'll keep on trying to do better, trying to create a better life for those who follow.

This hasn't been easy to do in the last decade. It's become more difficult to raise children than it once was. For example, the dependency exemption on your income tax: The money you can deduct for raising a child or caring for an elderly relative was $600 in the late forties. That's been increased to a thousand dollars now. But if that deduction has been indexed to keep pace with inflation, today you would be deducting more than $3,000 for every one of your children.

Housing became harder to afford. And the cost of private education also became too expensive for millions of middle-income families. By 1980 American families felt the full shock of runaway taxes, inflation, record interest rates, and soaring prices for housing, education, food, and other necessities of life. They saw the golden promise of the American dream disappearing behind storm clouds of economic misery.

Liberals urged huge government subsidies, paying parents for expenses they used to handle themselves. But big government becoming Big Brother, pushing parents aside, interfering with one parental responsibility after another, is no solution. It only makes bad situations worse, raising prices and taxes for everyone.

We came to Washington with a better idea -- help working parents to better provide for themselves and their children by enabling them to keep more of their earnings and help them by making government do its job so the terrifying specter of runaway price increases never returns.

Our tax rate reductions have helped parents, reducing the tax bill that would have been owed by a typical family by over $900 a year. And we've helped parents by reducing the inflation rate by nearly two-thirds since 1980 and by creating more than 6 million new jobs. Things are getting better for American families, but much remains to be done. That's why the Treasury Department is making greater tax fairness and greater tax incentives for families a central consideration in the tax reform proposals they're developing.

We're trying hard to help fathers and mothers in other ways, too. Many innocent children are exploited by those who traffic in the gutter of drugs, child pornography and prostitution. Last month I signed the Child Protection Act of 1984, a key part of our determination to crack down hard on the smut merchants. And this past week, we opened a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help educate parents and authorities on how to protect their loved ones.

We've just launched a nationwide citizen effort to encourage volunteer, court-appointed special advocates in legal cases of neglect and child abuse. Soon, we'll start up a sophisticated detective program to help law enforcement officers identify and capture the so-called serial killers who prey upon women and children. And we've urged the Congress to pass a law that will strengthen and improve child support from absent parents. Children should not be financially abandoned just because they're separated from one of their parents.

We're trying hard to make two other changes. We want to see fewer abandoned, handicapped, or underprivileged children left in perpetual foster care. And we want to see the unborn child given his or her chance to live and to know the joys of life. Adoption is often the best option. Too often, it's been the forgotten option.

We're seeing hopeful signs that our policies are paying off. Family income is improving; infant mortality rates continue to drop. And the crime rate has taken a steep dive. The outlook for families in America is better today than in 1980. And we're determined to make it better still.

Happy Father's Day. Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

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