Radio Address to the Nation on Deficit Reduction

February 28, 1987

My fellow Americans:

When I asked John Tower, Edmund Muskie, and Brent Scowcroft to investigate the Iran affair, my attitude was: Let the chips fall where they may. I told you, the American people, that I wanted all the facts to come out. Well, the Board's effort is a demonstration of my commitment to find out what was wrong and fix it. Two days ago, as you know, the Tower board presented me with their report. I'm still studying it and continuing to consult with members of my Cabinet, the Congress, and other advisers. After a full evaluation, I'll speak to you again, midweek, about this issue in detail and about how we can move forward from here.

I also want to note that, after 6 years of outstanding service beginning as Secretary of the Treasury and then as Chief of Staff, Don Regan indicated to me some time ago that he would like to return to private life. So, yesterday I regretfully accepted his resignation. Don's been a friend and a valuable and trusted member of the administration. I'm pleased that Howard Baker has agreed to serve as my Chief of Staff. He's served our country with distinction as majority and minority leader of the Senate and a leader of the Republican Party. I've known Howard for years and have enormous respect for his abilities and talents. He'll be here next week, and we're going to be wasting no time preparing for another 2 years of aggressive work.

And I want to talk to you today about one of the most important issues we'll be confronting. Over the last 2 years, as I campaigned steadily for tax reform, I spoke to you often about the need to rid our tax system of the special interests, those interests who put their advantage above the good of the Nation as a whole. Well, with bipartisan support we achieved a remarkable victory with tax reform, lowering rates and making it fairer for all Americans. But now that we've done that, another part of our government stands out in even starker contrast.

I'm talking about our budget process, which today is as rife as it ever was with favoritism and special pleading. My friends, this problem is crying out for reform. We got the special interests out of the tax code, and now it's time to get them out of the budget process. Until then, our economic prosperity will never be safe. The pressures for more and more Federal spending will grow until they burst through all remaining constraints. We'll be back where we were 7 years ago with Federal spending running wildly out of control. And you know what will happen then: As surely as night follows day, huge new tax burdens will be thrust on the American people. Inflation will come back in force. And our economic expansion and the millions of jobs we created -- well, that'll only be a memory.

That's not a happy scenario, and we must do everything we can to keep it from occurring. As you well know, Gramm-Rudman-Hollings is today the most important check on congressional overspending. Its guidelines promise us a gradual phaseout of the deficit and a balanced budget by 1991. When it was passed in 1985, it was hailed by both Democrats and Republicans as a legislative triumph. Finally, Congress seemed to be serious about getting its budget house in order. But now some in the Congress want to back away from their commitment to cut deficit spending. Some have even suggested that we cancel the second round of tax rate cuts scheduled to take place in 1988 as part of our tax reform bill. Well, let me say this as plainly and simply as possible: That's just not acceptable. We must keep our promises to the American people. There's no going back on either Gramm-Rudman-Hollings or tax reform. I have submitted a budget that meets the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit limit for fiscal year 1988. It's a good budget, a sound budget. It will keep us on track toward eliminating deficit spending and help build the foundation for a continued economic expansion with low inflation, high job creation, and a reduced trade deficit.

So, don't believe them when they say it can't be done. Congress can keep its Gramm-Rudman-Hollings commitment if it wants to; it only has to want to. And that's where you come in. Speak out loud and clear. It's time to rise above politics and self-interest. It's time once and for all to end deficit spending. That's why I have long supported passing a constitutional amendment that would make balanced budgets mandatory. Then we wouldn't have to fight this battle all year, every year. America could greet the future confident that the monster of deficit spending was locked away forever in its cage.

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

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House.