Remarks on Signing the Annual Economic Report of the President

February 5, 1985

The President. I think I have a few words here and a little ceremony to go through with. I'm pleased to sign this Economic Report, and I want to commend Bill Niskanen and his staff, here, for the fine job that they have done.

I think we can take pride in the very significant progress that, to our -- that it's hard work and sticking to our principles that transformed a sick economy to one of healthy growth with much lower inflation and interest rates. Now is the time for recommitment. We need the full support of the Congress to end nearly 50 years of deliberate deficit spending by the Federal Government.

Well, one sure path to a balanced budget is to keep the rate of growth spending below the growth of the economy. So, we've submitted a budget that will freeze over all government program spending, while ensuring that the funds crucial to our defense rebuilding program are there.

If the Congress cooperates and helps us reform our tax system and continue reducing unneeded regulation, we can end the burden of overspending and borrowing and leave our children a much stronger future.

And now I'm going to sign the Economic Report.

[The President signed the report.]

The President. For the Senate. For the House of Representatives. And for Dr. Niskanen. There you are.

Dr. Niskanen. Mr. President, the American economy is once again the envy of the world, and you deserve a lot of the credit. And only as a minor compensation for that, we'd like -- [laughter] -- to award you honorary membership in the Council of Economic Advisers and give you something to chop wood in back at the ranch.

[The President was presented with a T-shirt with a copy of the report cover printed on it.]

The President. Well, thank you very much. All right. I appreciate that.

Reporter. Where do you plan to wear it, sir? [Laughter]

The President. He's just told you when I have to wear it -- at the ranch, chopping wood. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, you're a realist, and you're listening to what Capitol Hill is saying. How far are you willing to give on the defense budget, because you must know that you're going to have to?

The President. Why is it that everybody, including so many of you, continue to say that no cuts in the defense budget -- when there've been cuts in the neighborhood of around $30 billion in what was the projected budget for the Defense Department?

I just think that the mistake we made was in making the cuts in advance. We should have sent it up the way it was and let the Congress make the cuts. And then they'd have been happy.

Q. Well, then, has Congress got your bottom line on military spending?

The President. Well, I'm quite sure that we'll be discussing this, going at this. But I think it is unfair to say that there has been no cut. As a matter of fact, the defense budget for 1986, as it's submitted now, is just about where the projected budget of President Carter was when he left office and made his 5-year projections as to what should be spent on national defense.

Q. Mr. President, are you going to take this case to the country soon?

The President. Yes, I think the people have a right to express themselves on this, and they need to have the facts. So, I'm going to try to give them the facts.

Q. How are you going to do that?

The President. What?

Q. How are you going to do that? Are you going to go out and make some speeches and make some appearances on television -- --

The President. I really haven't made any specific plans yet.

Thank you all very much. Thank you.

Q. Mr. Reagan, do you have any reaction to the vote on Mr. Meese today?

The President. Yes -- a happy one. I'm pleased that -- so far, I think there are three or four others of our nominees that were approved also today by the committees.

Q. Any special plans for your birthday tomorrow?

The President. Birthday? [Laughter] Oh, you mean the 35th anniversary of my 39th birthday? [Laughter] No, I've gotten used to that. I just treat it as any other day. It makes me feel better to do it that way. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 1:50 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. Attending the ceremony were Dr. William A. Niskanen and other members of the Council of Economic Advisers.