Radio Address to the Nation on Economic Growth

February 9, 1985

My fellow Americans:

Last Wednesday night I spoke to you about the great days that lie ahead for America if we do what we must to continue our economic expansion, creating new freedom and opportunities for people and uniting across party lines to keep bringing government spending growth down.

Since the beginning of 1983, when all the elements of our tax program were finally in place, our economy has burst ahead with 2 straight years of economic growth, leaving inflation and all the experts' pessimistic predictions in the dust. America did not win such a dramatic victory just to declare defeat.

Today we're poised on the launching pad of the future. We can make these next 4 years the greatest victories for growth, opportunity, and freedom America has ever known. Let me repeat what you know in your hearts and what has been the great guiding force of our philosophy from the very beginning: There are no limits to growth, no constraints on how strong America can become if all of you are set free.

You elected us to get results, and we, as leaders, must show courage and imagination worthy of you: leadership for a growth economy that provides new and greater incentives and keeps inflation and interest rates heading down; leadership to bring forth economic opportunity in the inner cities, resurgence in our industrial heartland, new productivity and technological breakthroughs, and help for farmers in distress from past government failures in this time of transition to a market-oriented economy.

Already we're hearing old, familiar voices telling us to slow down, prepare to slash the defense budget, and raise taxes -- all in the name of reducing projected budget deficits. Well, those arguments were rejected on November 6th. The single best deficit program is an all-out push for economic growth.

As I said Wednesday night, each added percentage point per year of real gross national product growth will lead to a cumulative reduction in deficits of nearly $200 billion over 5 years.

So, let's make one thing plain at the outset of the new term. We're raring to go. We have no intention of sitting at the starting gate. We're going to begin working now and pushing hard, in the Congress and across the country, for initiatives like tax simplification, enterprise zones, and the youth employment opportunity wage to help America reach her full potential.

As we lift America onto a stronger growth path, with more businesses starting up, more investments made, and more people employed and paying taxes, we will reduce the need for government spending on many of today's support programs.

But we must do more. We must also face up to the legacy of some 50 years of overspending, born of a deliberate policy that told us planned deficits and inflation would be good for us.

The budget I've sent to the Congress this year calls for an absolute freeze on overall government program spending at the fiscal 1985 level of approximately $804 billion, excluding debt service costs. Now, I know that there'll be differences of opinion on how to achieve this freeze. But if the Congress will work with us in a spirit of cooperation and compromise, then together we can bring our budget under control without damaging the economy or endangering national security. I urge the Congress to move quickly on a spending cut package that will reduce overall government spending growth. I hope our energies will be spent finding ways that we can reduce spending, rather than finding reasons why we cannot.

Other reforms are needed. I've often mentioned a constitutional amendment mandating a balanced budget and a line-item veto to cut individual items in overall appropriation bills. But elsewhere, our efforts to reduce bureaucracy through efficiencies and reductions in unnecessary personnel have been thwarted by congressionally mandated employment levels for certain programs. Our managers could get the job done just as well with fewer employees, but their hands are tied.

The executive branch has also been thwarted by legislative restraints from having its commercial-type activities -- cafeterias and the like -- handled by private businesses, which can run them less expensively than government.

And a President's power to limit spending himself is also restricted to the Congress. Once an appropriations bill has been signed into law, the President must spend all that money, even if he believes certain items are unnecessary. I continue to urge the Congress to give me the authority for line-item vetoes.

This week we've begun a new journey. If Congress works with us, we can accomplish great things for America. But the time to act is now.

Till next week, thanks for listening. God bless you.

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