Today, eight months after the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, we have traveled the hardest part of the distance toward revitalizing our free enterprise economic system. We have moved three-quarters of the way. Now, we must move the final quarter. That means difficult, even painful, choices in spending for defense and most other government programs.

During the eight months just past, we have put in place the steps necessary to set our national fiscal house in order.

We have been able to do so both the president and Congress have refused to yield to the lobbying of those who continue to seek economic advice from counselors whose ideas have long since proved to be bankrupt.

Consider what we have done thus far with President Reagan's leadership:

We have reversed the formerly entrenched philosophy that only the federal government can solve every problem of every citizen. In doing so, we have struck at the heart of the deficit-financing approach that has brought the nation's economy to the brink of ruin.

We have insisted that responsible fiscal policy requires that taxes can be reduced only when counterproductive federal spending is also reduced sharply.

We have moved vigorously to eliminate costly regulations that have crippled the free enterprise economy by making it difficult -- if not impossible, in many cases -- for merchants and industries to take full advantage of their creative energies.

But as we look ahead, it is clear that the fate of the president's economic program rests ultimately on taking additional steps when Congress returns from its summer recess.

It is easy to see the dramatic alteration of course that the president and Congress have made when we look ahead to 1984. If we had followed the path set for America by former president Carter, the government would have collected $915 billion in taxes in 1984, and spent $889 billion.

Under the leadership of President Reagan and with the support of Congress, the federal government will collect $770 billion and spend $760 billion.

Even the gloomiest of the economic prophets ought to realize that the American people will be better off by approximately $145 billion in 1984 taxes under President Reagan than they would have been under President Carter.

I believe that the economic future of America and the welfare of our people in the near term hinges now on both the confidence of the people and the president's willingness with the help of Congress, to go the last quarter of the race.

If the public believes in this program and if Wall Street believes in it, then the world will believe it.

This can occur only if the president moves forward with the boldness he has so far shown to the country and the world.

Of course, we must maintain, as the president insists, a level and quality of national security that is a full match for its economic strength. But the military establishment must accept the reality that it, too, must share the budget reductions that are inevitable if the president's program is to be accomplished.

The real tragedy would be to falter now in the drive for both the enhancement of our national security and the stability of our economy. The foundation has been well laid to lighten the tax load of all Americans and to provide the taxation incentives to revive business and industry. These steps will spur increased employment and productivity, both of which are essential to our full recovery.

We also have acted decisively to pick and choose among the literally thousands of federal aid programs to scrap those not worth saving, and to improve those of clear benefit to the American people.

If we do not flinch now, we will have turned American to a new course, one that will carry us proudly and securely into the 21st century, instead of downward and backward.