This Ronald Reagan Speech on a Balanced Budget Is One Every Politician Needs To Hear


Conservatives need to call out Republicans when they’re not being particularly conservative. And, as February’s budget numbers showed, two years of a Republican president and a Republican Congress hasn’t produced results that one might call uniformly conservative.

“The U.S. posted its biggest monthly budget deficit on record last month, amid a 20 percent drop in corporate tax revenue and a boost in spending so far this fiscal year,” Bloomberg reported last Saturday.

“The budget gap widened to $234 billion in February, compared with a fiscal gap of $215.2 billion a year earlier. That gap surpassed the previous monthly record of $231.7 billion set seven years ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“February’s shortfall helped push the deficit for the first five months of the government’s fiscal year to $544.2 billion, up almost 40 percent from the same period the previous year, the Treasury Department said in its monthly budget report Friday. The release was delayed a week by the government shutdown earlier this year.”

Of course, lower corporate taxes are generally a good thing for economic growth, and the United States has a robust economy. There’s not a single line of conservative thinking that you can find where tax cuts also oughtn’t be accompanied by spending cuts.

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But that’s not happening: “The federal government spent $1,822,712,000,000 in the first five months of fiscal 2019, the most it has spent in the first five months of any fiscal year since 2009, which was the fiscal year that outgoing President George W. Bush signed a $700-billion law to bailout the banking industry and incoming President Barack Obama signed a $787-billion law to stimulate an economy then in recession,” CNS News reported Tuesday.

In that department, both Congress and the president haven’t been able to stand up to Democrats. Now the opposition party controls the House, where spending bills initiate. Thus, the window of opportunity to play hardball on the budget has closed substantially.

That’s why the words President Reagan spoke on July 12, 1982, ought to resonate with Republicans a bit more loudly.

The remarks, given in the Rose Garden of the White House, are hardly Reagan’s most famous. In fact, they were profoundly brief. He was there to talk up a proposed balanced budget amendment with Vice President George H.W. Bush and members of Congress.

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However, what he had to say about the importance of a balanced budget is something every politician in Congress ought to be forced to watch on YouTube as if it were a training tape of some sort. If Walmart employees have to watch a 45-minute spiel on how to properly handle customer complaints, after all, I think the people in charge of our nation’s budget ought to listen to this three minutes and 34 seconds of fiscal wisdom:

“All over America, citizens are asking each other the same question: Why is this government incapable of doing what their families, municipalities, and state governments do as a matter of course — spend within the limits of their revenues?” Reagan said.

“Twenty-one unbalanced budgets in 22 years is proof that our federal budgetary system needs fundamental reform. We must not and we will not, permit prospects for lasting economic recovery to be buried beneath an endless tide of red ink.

“Americans understand that the discipline of a balanced budget amendment is essential to stop squandering and overtaxing. And they’re saying the time to pass the amendment is now.

“And with that, just a ‘thank you’ to these gentlemen here with me and to their colleagues for all that they’re doing to make this come about,” he concluded. “And we intend that it shall come about once and for all.”

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Of course, the sad fact is that Reagan didn’t succeed. The amendment didn’t pass and deficit spending soared, in no small part thanks to the budgetary priorities of congressional Democrats — who simultaneously accused the Reagan administration of immeasurable cruelty toward the indigent and chided it for being unable to constrain spending.

Yet, Ronald Reagan tried. This administration needs to try as well. There cannot be more capitulation on expensive omnibus bills and horse-trading to secure other campaign priorities. This is an issue where conservatives have to insist that Republicans act like the party of conservatives, not just Democrat Lite.

The government should do what we all have to do: live within its means. There are worse places to start that process than by listening to Reagan’s words.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture