History records the power of the ideas that brought us here those 7 years ago-ideas like the individual’s right to reach as far and as high as his or her talents will permit; the free market as an engine of economic progress. And as an ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao-tzu, said: “Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish; do not overdo it.
Well, these ideas were part of a larger notion, a vision, if you will, of America herself—an America not only rich in opportunity for the individual but an America, too, of strong families and vibrant neighborhoods; an America whose divergent but harmonizing communities were a reflection of a deeper community of values: the value of work, of family, of religion, and of the love of freedom that God places in each of us and whose defense He has entrusted in a special way to this nation.”
And let’s begin by discussing how to maintain economic growth by controlling and eventually eliminating the problem of federal deficits. We have had a balanced budget only eight times in the last 57 years. For the first time in 14 years, the federal government spent less in real terms last year than the year before.
We took $73 billion off last year’s deficit compared to the year before. The deficit itself has moved from 6.3 percent of the Gross National Product to only 3.4 percent. And perhaps the most important sign of progress has been the change in our view of deficits.
You know, a few of us can remember when, not too many years ago, those who created the deficits said they would make us prosperous and not to worry about the debt because “we owe it to ourselves.” Well, at last there is agreement that we can’t spend ourselves rich.
Our recent budget agreement, designed to reduce federal deficits by $76 billion over the next two years, builds on this consensus. But this agreement must be adhered to without slipping into the errors of the past — more broken promises and more unchecked spending.
As I indicated in my first State of the Union, what ails us can be simply put: The federal government is too big and it spends too much money.
Ours was the first revolution in the history of mankind that truly reversed the course of government, and with three little words: ‘We the People.’ ‘We the People’ tell the government what to do; it doesn’t tell us.
‘We the People’ are the driver; the government is the car. And we decide where it should go, and by what route, and how fast. Almost all the world’s constitutions are documents in which governments tell the people what their privileges are. Our Constitution is a document in which ‘We the People’ tell the government what it is allowed to do. ‘We the People’ are free. This belief has been the underlying basis for everything I’ve tried to do these past 8 years.
But back in the 1960’s, when I began, it seemed to me that we’d begun reversing the order of things — that through more and more rules and regulations and confiscatory taxes, the government was taking more of our money, more of our options, and more of our freedom. I went into politics in part to put up my hand and say, ‘Stop.’ I was a citizen politician, and it seemed the right thing for a citizen to do.
I think we have stopped a lot of what needed stopping. And I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.