Remarks About Federal Tax Reduction Legislation at a Meeting of the House Republican Conference

July 24, 1981

Jack and Bob and Trent, thanks to your efforts and those of the rest of you, we're on the brink of fulfilling the promise we made to the American people. And today we take the last historic steps to provide the first real tax cut for all Americans in nearly 20 years. We have this chance because many of you have been working very hard. But I think our special thanks go to people like Barber Conable and Dick Cheney and Stan Parris and Newt Gingrich.

This tax cut is the most crucial item left on our agenda for prosperity. Last fall, most of us in this room stood out on the steps of the Capitol and pledged to work as a team, united in the goals of our party. We pledged that within the year we would not only cut Federal spending that had grown out of control, we would cut taxes that had stolen the hope for a better tomorrow. We made a solemn covenant with the American people, and today we're within striking distance of those goals.

You and other members of the House and Senate are working out the final details of the largest budget cuts the Congress has ever considered. And today you and your colleagues will begin an historic debate as our final tax cut proposal is introduced.

This is a good and a fair tax bill. It includes incentives to further stimulate our economy. I promise my enthusiastic support, and I think it'll have yours. The choice is between a tax increase or this bipartisan tax cut. The choice is clear, and the momentum is with us. We've gotten this far because we've all stood together. If we remain together during these last critical days, we'll realize the goal to which we pledged ourselves, a goal the people said, actually, they didn't think could ever be reached. Together, we can change the course of history, reverse the decline of America's economic strength, and start her on the road to recovery again.

Now, I said the choice before us is a tax cut or a tax increase. The Speaker boasts that this tax cut of 15 percent gives a bigger break to the worker than our bill. And if you're only planning on living for 2 years, it does. [Laughter] But then bracket creep takes over, and the taxes start going up again.

The other day -- to a bunch of newspaper editors -- I had a chart to show them about this. And of every bracket, from the bottom right on up, those tax brackets -- and their line was dotted and our line was a solid line; I thought that was more appropriate that way. [Laughter] But our line kept on going down in the tax cut. Their line, dotted line, started down and then turned up. And it turns up when they come to the end of that 15 percent, and bracket creep continues to take over.

Now, our bill goes on for 3 years, and then that reduction of 25 percent in the tax rate becomes permanent, because from then on, we index the brackets against inflation.

Now, they claim it's too risky to cut taxes for 3 years ahead; you just can't figure that far ahead. That's for individuals. But it's perfectly all right for business, to offer them a tax cut every year for the next 7 years, which is in their proposal.

In the last 10 years, the majority leadership in the House has given the American people five tax cuts. But in those same 10 years, taxes have increased by more than $400 billion. That's a kind slight of hand at which you and I have no talent. That all belongs to them. When is a tax cut not a tax cut? When they do it.

Now, some things that I know you already know: Our bipartisan tax bill, Conable-Hance bill, targets three-fourths of the tax relief to the middle-income wage earners, indexing to eliminate bracket creep, and estate tax relief that will keep family farms and family-owned businesses in the family. Now, which bill really sounds like a bill for the working people?

I've been concerned lately that rhetoric has begun to blur the sharp edge in this debate, and many people are unaware of the clear choice before them. Now, everyone should know that their taxes are already doomed to rise by 22 percent during the next 3 years because of the built-in tax increase and the bracket creep of inflation. The committee bill offers a 15-percent cut; we offer 25.

It's been said that government performs its highest duty when it restores to its citizens taxes oppressively collected. Well, let us respond to that duty call that we have sounded and rally others here and across America. Let us point out a simple truth. We have worked out between us, all of us here, a tax bill that we believe will provide incentive and stimulate productivity, thus reducing inflation and producing jobs for the unemployed. That is the one and only purpose of the tax bill that we're proposing. What is it that they are proposing? What is their purpose? Well, they have put together a tax bill for the simple purpose of defeating us to provide a political victory for themselves. And that's not good enough for the people.

Now, if there's any question about that, let me point something out. It was only a few months ago that they derided and denounced the very idea of a tax cut at all. They said it would be wildly inflationary in these times. Then as we persisted, and as the voice of the people began to be heard, why, suddenly they also were for a tax cut. But they were just against ours. They wouldn't hear of a 3-year tax cut, no, sir. You couldn't do that. But one day we learned that they thought a 2-year cut might be practical. [Laughter] And now it's 2 years and maybe 3 if some economic standard is met 2 years from now.

Well, as I said the other day, I think the American people have enough cynicism that they don't think that trigger will ever work if you leave that much of an opening for 3 years from now. What we need is for people to look ahead 3 years and be able to plan on the knowledge of a sure thing.

My final word this morning is let us gently point out to the people that the alternative to what we propose was written by people who are better at increasing taxes than they are at reducing them. And no matter how much they call this one a tax cut, it's another increase.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 9:47 a.m. in the Cannon Caucus Room, Room 345, Cannon House Office Building.