Remarks at the Annual
Meeting of the
Thank you very much, and thank you, Ed Donley. And a special thank you to Vice Chairman and Chairman-to-be Bill Kanaga and to President Dick Lesher. And to Chairman Ollie Delchamps -- and I hope he's listening in -- let me say, get well soon, Ollie. We all want to see you back in the saddle and riding tall. And a thank you to my favorite rock group. [Laughter]
know, looking around at you who've been both generals and soldiers in the
crusade we brought to
looking at all of you, I know why we've won so much of our war these last few
years. When the history of our time is recorded, I believe that you, the
members of the United States Chamber of Commerce, will occupy a place that few
can match. I've heard talk over the years about a Reagan revolution, but in
many ways I believe it would be better to call what we've done your revolution.
You gave us your drive. You gave us your support. And let me say to two
personal heroes of mine, Dick Lesher and Richard Rahn [vice president of the chamber] -- and I know everyone
here will second this -- for 8 years here in Washington you have given us
energy, wisdom, intellect, and leadership, and that's why we've come so far.
The victory ribbons on your regimental colors read like a list of the great
legislative battles over economic policy in this decade: Gramm-Latta,
Kemp-Roth, Gramm-Rudman-Hollings. And let me interject
my thanks to all of you for also standing with us in a battle we lost: the
battle to sustain my veto of the
But to return to economics, today perhaps we're a little blase about our incredible accomplishments, but who in 1979 would have thought it possible that in less than a decade the top marginal tax rate on personal income would drop from 70 percent to less than half of that, that the era of high inflation be brought to an end, and that without reigniting the inflation we could light the torch of economic growth and see its lustrous beacon shine for longer than has ever been recorded in peacetime.
Eight years ago, in the now-distant epoch of double-digit inflation, 20-percent interest rates, and official handwringing about the limits of growth and the fatigue of our national economic mettle, we said -- you and I -- that the way to rebuild America was to restore faith in the greatest constructive force of all: the American spirit of enterprise. And to those who called for more government planning, more regulations, and even more taxes, we said that, in a nation, as in a man or a woman, economic success is not a matter of bricks, mortar, balance sheets, or subsidies. No, if a national economy is to soar, first the inventive, enterprising, pioneering, dreaming entrepreneurial spirit of the Nation's people must soar. And that meant not more regulations, but fewer; not more government decoration [direction], but less; and, yes, not higher taxes, but lower taxes.
You know, sometimes I think that government tries to be a little like the politician of the opposite party who was seeking the oratorical heights, and he said, ``If they don't stop shearing the sheep that lay the golden egg, they'll pump it dry.'' [Laughter]
I can't help remembering the fear and trembling and utter disbelief that
greeted the arrival of our creed here in
before we came to
You know, I sympathize with the liberals. When we first started talking about the economy in these terms, they predicted disaster. We predicted growth. And this year more people have been at work than ever before in the history of our country. A greater proportion of the work force has been employed than ever before. And after a decade of a falling roller coaster, real family income has been rising steadily ever since our expansion began more than 5 years ago. Exports are high and climbing. And in industry after industry, American manufacturing is the world leader. Unemployment is the lowest in almost 14 years, and month after month brings new word of hundreds of thousands of new American jobs. And over 90 percent of these new jobs are from businesses that are 5 years old or less; that is, entrepreneurial businesses, just the kind we've been talking about and the liberals dismissed.
You've got to hand it to our critics, though. With all that good news mounting, they didn't give up. When the stock market fell last October, they could hardly wait to dance on the grave. And when I said the economy was strong, they said I was ``irrelevant.'' Well, the first quarter economic figures came out last week. You've seen them. Gross national product, up; domestic demand, up; personal consumption, up; durable goods spending, up; spending on services, up; business, fixed investment, up at a 21-percent annual rate; wages and salaries, up; exports, up. My question is: Who's irrelevant now?
used to be, if you were a liberal and things just weren't going your way here,
you could find friends abroad. Well, even that's getting harder.
Well, yes, it's hard being a liberal today. It's a little like the story of when Mark Twain, at the time a young and relatively unknown writer, first met Ulysses Grant. General Grant was always a man of few words, and Twain was flustered and couldn't think of a thing to say. And after a long silence between them, Twain stammered, ``General, I'm embarrassed. Are you?'' Well, the liberals should be embarrassed.
To an economy that is strong and hearty, they're trying to feed a junk-food diet filled with empty calories. Some of the emptiest are in a box marked the ``Trade bill.'' The plant-closing restriction is the bill's worst provision, although not the only bad one. Mandatory plant-closing notification has no place in Federal law. It's a subject for labor-management negotiations, not government regulation. And before they start to argue with me on that, let me remind them, I was elected president in my union 6 times. And by the way, I'm calling it plant-closing notification because that's what it's called in the press. But it covers wholesalers, retailers, services -- every sector. And it applies to layoffs as well as closings.
You may have seen articles lately saying, ``Well, this restriction is not all that bad.'' Well, yes it is. It's a shackle on smaller companies that want to take the leap and become large -- one more risk, and a big one, if they cross the threshold and fall under the regulation, an important reason to say, let's hold off growing that big for awhile. And it's a ticking bomb in the back seat of any medium-size or larger company that is stripping down and overhauling so it can keep on the track with foreign racers.
The bill's elaborate exemptions that tell who must give notice and who doesn't have to will detonate lawsuits sending managers to the courtroom just when they're most needed in the factory pulling their weight. Whenever the choice is a close call about whether a company is so distressed that it doesn't have to give notice, legalities will swamp the crucial economics of holding customer loyalty and maintaining creditor confidence -- and, so, of saving American jobs.
those who are for the provision insist that it won't
hurt us because, after all, many European countries have similar restrictions
themselves. Yep, and that's among the reasons for
future or the past, that's what's at stake in the trade bill, and that's what's
been at stake in every battle we've fought together these last 8 years. In
essence, our opponents want to move the
We also must get control of Federal spending, once and for all. Congress has had control of the budget process for 14 years and made a mess of it. One thousand page continuing resolutions you can hardly lift -- forget about vetoing by the line, I'm ready to veto by the pound. [Laughter] But it's time to strengthen the President's hand in the budget process. It's too late for me to have the benefit of this, but it's time to give the Presidency what 43 Governors have, what I had as Governor of California and used 943 times without getting overridden once -- a line-item veto. We need a 2-year budget cycle and more privatization. Last year Congress cut the Coast Guard and gave the money to Amtrak. I'd rather stop all subsidies to Amtrak and give those dollars to the Coast Guard to fight drugs. And most important, we need a no-fault insurance policy for taxpayers -- insurance against reckless spending -- a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
Now, this is just a short distance on the path of our unfinished journey. We're like the pioneers who settled this great land, who struggled across the prairie, who braved the mountain passes and deserts, who conquered a vast frontier. It is love and faith that drive us on -- love of the liberty and opportunity that America has offered so many for so long; faith that we, with our strength and our wit, can, like the pioneers and the patriots before us, help build, preserve, and perpetuate that heritage. It is a great gift God has given each of us -- making us Americans. Who knows why some are so blessed. It's a mystery we cannot fathom but can only adore and be thankful for.
these last 8 years you've shown your thanks by helping to rekindle
Note: The President
spoke at at DAR Constitution
Hall. He was introduced by Edward Donley, former chairman of the