Radio Address to the Nation on the Economy
October 16, 1982
My fellow Americans:
There's an old saying that ``no news is good news.'' Well, I guess that's true sometimes. But still, it's good to be talking with you after a week of good news for the average American family.
This troubled economy of ours isn't out of the woods yet. It takes more than 21 months to undo the piled-up damage of more than 20 years. But with your help, we're getting there.
Last Wednesday night, on television, I tried to paint the big picture, to show where we are, how we got here, and what we're doing to make America well again.
As I pointed out, from day one of this administration, we've been working hard to solve five big economic problems. Problem number one, government was taking too much of your money in high taxes. Number two, government was spending and borrowing too much money, including service on a trillion-dollar debt. This led to number three, backbreaking inflation, which added so much to the burden of millions of Americans trying to make ends meet. And, of course, inflation and government borrowing led to a fourth problem, the high interest rates that made it hard or impossible for people to afford the homes, the cars, the other purchases that keep our economy moving and provide jobs -- the final problem.
Well, step by step, we're licking those problems. We fought for and won a tax break that will bring down your income tax rates a total of 25 percent when the final installment goes into effect next July 1st. We've reduced the rate of increases in Federal spending by nearly two-thirds. What we're aiming for is to get the annual increase in spending below the annual increase in revenues which takes place as our economy grows.
We've driven inflation back down into the single digits, from 12.4 percent in 1980 to just 5.1 percent so far this year. This has helped bring down those paralyzing interest rates from a peak of 21\1/2\ percent in 1980 to 12 percent today.
And just yesterday, we had another piece of good news. The Producer Price Index went down one-tenth of a percent last month, for an average of only 3.1 percent so far this year. If we can hold that rate steady through December, it will be the best performance in 10 years, and another important step toward the inflation-proof recovery we're all working so hard for.
All of this means new hope, new cause for confidence, not just for the nearly 100 million Americans who are working today, and their families, but for retired citizens and others on fixed incomes who've suffered so much from inflation in recent years.
As for the 11 million Americans still out of work, they will find jobs as the economy continues to heal.
I don't mean to minimize the very real plight of the unemployed. But when we're told over and over again, as we have been in the last few days, that as of September 25th, 682,500 new claims for unemployment insurance were filed, shouldn't we also be told that at the same time 618,000 left the lists?
We're winning the battle on four out of the five problems causing this recession. We've already floored inflation and sent those high interest rates reeling. And as surely as single-digit inflation started the interest rates tumbling, getting those interest rates back down to single digits will drive unemployment back down to single digits, too.
Once we've done that, we'll have delivered a knockout blow to this bitter recession, the latest in a long series of recessions brought about because, until now, our leaders resorted to quick fixes and politics as usual, to treating the symptoms instead of the disease.
Well, as I said last Wednesday, at my age I didn't come to Washington to play politics as usual or sweep problems under the rug where they would only get worse for those who came after. I came here to solve problems, not to add to them. And with your patience, faith, and, yes, courage, we've been able to lay the groundwork for a lasting recovery that will leave America stronger than ever and spare our children and grandchildren some of the things that we've had to endure because of the mistakes of the past.
I don't use that word ``courage'' lightly. To me, one of the most inspiring things about this job is the chance it's given me to see how bravely Americans from all walks of life have responded to the problems we face. Your courage is one of the most precious gifts as a people, and it's seen us through many a storm. This is not the time to lose that courage -- just when it's beginning to pay off.
One man summed it up best nearly 50 years ago, when America faced a far deeper economic crisis than the one we're working our way out of today -- the Great Depression of the thirties. ``The only thing we have to fear,'' said Franklin Roosevelt, ``is fear itself.'' He spoke that line in his Inaugural Address in March of 1933. We've been told that line was not intended to be a major point in his address. Still, those were the words more than any others on that March morning that gave back to the American people their courage, their faith in themselves and in this blessed country. It is the best remembered line of his speech.
In times of trouble, fear is a disease of the spirit that can slow recovery and be exploited by those who are more interested in taking advantage of our problems than in helping to solve them. And there are such people. Some are seeking political profit, and others are just naturally given to doomcrying.
Now, I'm not just whistling past the graveyard; nor am I trying to belittle the grief and pain of you, who through no fault of your own, are out of work. I'm saying the downbeat chorus we're being subjected to by so many these days can rob us of our courage. We must not let that happen. Unemployment such as we have now is a terrible thing, but it may not be our number one problem. Our number one problem may be fear -- fear that we're adrift, that there is no plan, that no one is doing anything to make things better.
Well, that's not true. The improvement in inflation, interest rates, the increase in real wages, in savings and in retail auto sales, up 8\1/2\ percent in September, the surging stock market -- all these are the result of a plan, a plan that is working and that offers hope to you who are unemployed. Hang in there. I know from personal experience how tough it can be, but don't give up. And don't listen to those crepe hangers who are howling like a dog sitting on a sharp rock. They howl, but they haven't proposed one thing they'd do to make things better. The truth is things are being done with no help from them, and things are getting better.
The time for confidence, the time for courage, is now. Thanks to you, we are nearing the end of a long and painful ordeal. With your prayers and support, with your confidence and courage, we can make the difference -- not just for ourselves, but for generations of Americans to come.
Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.
Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, Md. The address was broadcast live on nationwide radio and television.