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.