Radio Address to the Nation on Budget Reform

June 20, 1987

My fellow Americans:

Recently, Washington has been covered by miniplagues of insects. First, there were boll weevils and gypsy moths in '81 and '82; they were good guys. Now there are cicadas. Cicadas, it seems, come in cycles. Their larvae bury deep into the ground and only hatch out every 17 years. They're big, awkward, flying things and, in large numbers, make a loud, screeching sound that reverberates in the humid Washington air. I think most everyone would agree things will be much more pleasant when the cicadas go back underground.

Well, I'm afraid that, like the cicadas, the big spenders are hatching out again and threatening to overrun Congress. For awhile, they seemed to have gone underground. The deficit reduction law, Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, helped keep them under control and, well, nobody wanted to repeat the mistake of one Presidential candidate who called for higher taxes. Now, however, the tax-and-spend crew is back, and they seem to have lost all embarrassment about taking your money on a spending spree. And one Congressman has called for so many tax increases since January that his colleagues derisively refer to his Tax of the Month Club.

Last Monday, I called on Congress to come up with a responsible budget. Well, the House-Senate conference committee reached an agreement on a budget all right, but responsible it isn't. Forty-one billion dollars in increased domestic spending, with essential defense programs held captive to a $64 billion tax hike -- book-balancing gimmicks that will actually cost you $2 billion in the long run. And, by their own estimates, they're not even close to Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit limits. We're willing to work with those in Congress who will work with us in good faith. But this budget is as bad as they come -- like a bad sequel to the tax-and-spend follies of the 1970's.

Let me give you a few examples of the brazen waste of your money that's been going on in Congress. Take the [Urban Development Action Grant] UDAG program -- $5.7 million will go to build rental units in a development in Palm Beach County. Five million dollars will go to develop a hotel, a lakefront restaurant, office space, and condominiums on Seneca Lake. More millions will go to help build luxury apartments in Newburgh, New York, and residential housing in the Riverside section of Detroit. But some of the waste is even more absurd. Did you know that your Congress wants to spend millions of dollars to purchase submerged lands? That's right, thanks to your Representatives, the Federal Government could become the proud owner of a thousand acres of underwater property.

I've spoken frequently of the so-called demonstration projects in the highway bill, which don't demonstrate anything but the ability of some in Congress to bring home the bacon. But today I want to let you in on a naughty, little secret about agricultural subsidies: One of the biggest recipients of agricultural subsidies in America isn't even an American. He's the Prince of Liechtenstein, and he happens to own a few hundred thousand acres in Texas. Do you think that you and your hard-earned tax dollars should be feathering his bed?

And all of this is just the tip of the iceberg -- or the top of the pork barrel. The deeper you go, the worse it gets. Yet some in Congress can still stand up with a straight face and say that they can't find anywhere to cut except, of course, national defense. And, so, your taxes will have to be raised.

Some say the deficit is the responsibility of the President. Well, the fact is, according to the Constitution, the President can't spend one nickel. Congress appropriates every cent in the budget and every single cent that makes up our deficit. Every year we consult with the people in the Cabinet and the agencies, the people who actually run these programs. We ask them what they need and then put together a responsible budget. Each year, Congress announces -- sometimes before they even see it -- that our budget is dead on arrival. Then they put together their own budget. I have a choice: Take it, pork and all, or veto it, and see the entire United States Government grind to a halt.

This is no way to run a country. This is why, in the coming weeks, I'll be taking my case to you, the American people, asking for your support to bring fiscal sanity back to our government. I'll be talking about your economic bill of rights. The right not to be overtaxed, overspent, and overregulated -- and the mechanisms that can ensure those rights, like the balanced budget amendment with a tax limitation clause, the line-item veto, and other reforms of the budget process. I'll be counting on your support. Like tax reform, we can, and we will, win this one. Let's make the cicadas in Congress go back underground.

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

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