Radio Address to the Nation on Economic Growth

 

August 30, 1986

 

My fellow Americans:

 

This weekend we mark the 92d observance of Labor Day, a day when we celebrate the strong backs, keen minds, hard work, and dedication that have made America the mightiest nation on Earth. We celebrate this land of immigrants and their descendants, the men and women who came to this land in search of freedom and hope and the opportunity to make an honest wage. We honor the laborers who built our great cities brick by brick, who poured the concrete, laid the macadam, riveted the steel girders, the worker in the factory and the farmer in the field, the secretary at a desk and the trucker at the wheel of a semi hauling freight from coast to coast.

 

And today we also celebrate good news for America's workers. We've seen 45 months of economic expansion and the creation of over 10\1/2\ million jobs -- 1.6 million in the last 7 months, 200,000 just last month alone. Employment figures have never looked better: 61.2 percent of all Americans 16 years old and up, male and female, are working. That's the highest employment ratio since they started keeping records.

 

Because we cut taxes and squashed inflation, America's workers once again can have faith in the future. They know they'll get a fair reward for their labor and that more and more of their paycheck won't be swallowed up by big government. The Census Bureau reports that real median family income rose in 1985 for the third year in a row. Inflation is the lowest it's been in more than 20 years. And interest rates continue to drop, making home ownership possible once again for average Americans -- average-income Americans, I should say. In other words, more Americans are working, they're earning more, and their money is going farther. More good news: Economic growth is winning against poverty. In the past, big government policies of high taxes mixed with high inflation pushed millions into poverty. Well, we turned that around. Poverty has dropped for the second year in a row, as jobs and opportunity conquer dependence and hopelessness, once again proving that a growing, vibrant economy is the best antipoverty program there is.

 

Now, some workers in some sections of the economy haven't benefited from our prosperity. I'm thinking especially of some of our farmers who, after years of government interference in agriculture, are having difficulty adjusting to a noninflationary economy. Record levels of farm supports are helping farmers weather hard times, and we're committed to helping them move to a market-oriented farm economy. Also, the changing face of industry has left some workers without jobs. Where unfair foreign trade practices is the culprit, this administration will continue to be the most aggressive ever in protecting the rights of American workers, making sure that free trade is also fair trade.

 

Our Job Training Partnership Act has also helped over 2 million workers find new jobs. But the best answer is tax reform. By cutting tax rates we're going to rev the engines of entrepreneurship and job creation. We're raising exemptions for dependents and giving families a long-overdue break, and we're dropping millions of working poor off the income tax rolls altogether. Tax reform will be the best thing to happen to the American worker since -- well, since our tax cut in 1981. That's why I urge Congress this Labor Day to remember our responsibility to America's working men and women and waste no time passing tax reform when they return to Washington.

 

You know, some people say it's America's natural resources that make our country so great, but the greatest resource of all is our working men and women -- their skill, hard work, guts, and determination. It's like the fellow who took some land down by a creek bottom all covered with brush and rocks. And he cleared the brush, and he hauled the rocks away. And then he started cultivating, and he planted. And finally he had a beautiful garden. He was so proud that one Sunday after the church service he asked the minister if he wouldn't come see what he'd done. So, the minister came by. And when he saw the corn that had been planted there, he said he'd never seen any corn so tall and the Lord had really blessed this land. And then he looked at some melons, and he said he'd never seen any as big as that and thank the Lord for that. And he went on praising the Lord for everything -- the squash and the beans and everything else. The farmer was getting a little fidgety. Finally, he interrupted and said, ``Reverend, I wish you could have seen this place when the Lord was doing it all by himself.''

 

Well, I've always liked that story because it makes an important point. God gave us this great and good land, but it's up to us to make it flourish, to preserve its freedom, and to see it grow in greatness. And this Labor Day, thanks to the American people, our country is growing stronger every minute. I just have one final thing to say: Keep it up, America. You're doing great!

 

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

 

Note: The President spoke at 9:06 a.m. from his ranch in Santa Barbara County, CA.