Radio Address to the Nation on the Management of the Federal Government

 

October 29, 1988

 

My fellow Americans:

 

Not long ago a certain candidate for President said that this election is not about ideology; it's about competence. I'd like to take a few moments to talk about competence: competence in the Government and what we've done to improve it over the last 8 years.

 

When George Bush and I arrived in Washington, we found a grossly mismanaged Federal Government. To give you one example, in the last year of the previous administration, Federal spending was increasing at the dizzying rate of 17 percent a year, which is to say almost two times as fast as the economy as a whole.

 

Now, with the cost of the Government growing that fast, you'd think those in charge would have been keeping track of exactly how much each dollar was spent. But in fact, at that time, the Government did not know until long after the fact how much was spent. And even when it knew how much it had spent, it couldn't say for certain exactly what it had spent your money on. This, together with excessive regulations; deteriorating services; evidence of rampant waste, fraud, and abuse in a number of agencies, pointed to a government that was too big and out of control.

 

Look at how we changed things -- start with excessive regulations. We set up a task force headed by Vice President Bush. Its job? Identify and eliminate unnecessary Federal regulations. The results? We've cut by over 600 million man-hours a year the time that businesses, State and local governments, and you and I as ordinary citizens have to spend filling out Federal forms and doing other Federal paperwork. This achievement has been even more important than many of us realize. A leading historian has written that ``government intervention and regulation was among the principal reasons for America's economic stagnation in the seventies.'' Under George Bush's leadership, we lifted the weight of excessive regulations, and that played a major role in getting our economy to really fly.

 

We also set up the Private Sector Survey on Cost Control led by Peter Grace -- almost 200 top business executives. This Commission spent months looking at every part of the Government, finding out where modern business practices could eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in the Government. When they were through, they'd come up with 2,478 suggestions. And almost every recommendation we could put into effect without congressional action has been implemented. And we've saved close to $80 billion. We're hoping that the next Congress will pitch in and do its part.

 

Within the administration, we set up the Council on Integrity and Efficiency. Thanks to the Council, the Government has saved, or put to better use, over $100 billion in the past 6 years. For example, it's put in computers so that we can now identify bid-rigging contractors or catch con artists who take out loans from many Federal agencies and default on all of them.

 

And we've initiated the largest management-improvement program ever: Reform '88. By installing governmentwide cash, credit, financial, personnel, payroll, and productivity systems, we've brought common sense to the way we handle over $2 trillion that pass through the Government annually. Most of these improvements are now up and running right on schedule, and the result is that we're now doing a much better job than has ever been done of managing every single dollar the Government spends to make sure it's spent in the very best way it can be.

 

As a result of our many reforms, the Government does all of its many jobs better and faster. For example, in 1980 it took 7 weeks to get a Social Security card; now it takes 10 days. It took 43 days to get a passport; now it takes 10 days. It took 75 days for an export license; now it's 5 days to some countries and no more than 17 days for any. And processing a claim for a title I Department of Housing and Urban Development loan has dropped from 100 days to 22.

 

Yes, the results speak for themselves. But there are other results, too, results that show competence. These results include the longest peacetime economic expansion on record, more new jobs created than Europe and Japan combined, while cutting inflation to a third of what it was and interest rates in half. Come to think of it, I'll stack our record of competence against any, any day of the week, because you see, our ideas work, and they work for you. Yes, the leader of the other ticket says ideology doesn't matter, but of course it does. He says he's on your side, but he's wearing the liberal team's tax-and-spend jersey. Maybe it's just that, fourth quarter with the 2-minute warning sounding, he wants you to think he switched sides. But he hasn't changed; he hasn't changed his ideas. Look at the record, and you can see who's on whose side.

 

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.