Quoting from a speech he gave for Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater in 1964, President Reagan yesterday continued his effort to build public support for conservative economic and welfare programs that have been stymied in Congress.
Addressing the Kiwanis International Convention here, Reagan appealed for the "Economic Bill of Rights" he said is the wave of the future. Reagan said the choice facing Americans is "between freedom and increasing state control," the same phrase he used recurrently during the Goldwater campaign.
"It is time that we ask ourselves if we still know the freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers, and if we will pass on to these young people the freedoms we knew in our youth, because freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction," Reagan quoted himself as saying 23 years ago before the same service organization. "It has to be fought for and defended by each generation."
When Reagan stumped for Goldwater, his complaint was that Democrats had allowed the government to grow excessively and had strayed from the intentions of the constitutional framers. He called then for massive reductions in government spending and a rollback of the "Great Society" proclaimed by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson.
But Reagan's words yesterday had a different purpose. Instead of calling for a return to old verities, the president appealed for enactment of a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget and a "super majority" vote for any tax increases.
This proposal, denounced as unrealistic and unneeded by many Democrats, is the cornerstone of the "Economic Bill of Rights" proclaimed by the president in a speech last Friday at the Jefferson Memorial.
The national debt has doubled during Reagan's seven years in the presidency, and none of his budgets have proposed the revenue necessary to pay for the programs he wanted. But Reagan placed full blame on Congress for what has occurred.
"Make no mistake -- we face a clear and present danger in Congress," Reagan said. "The momentum of big government, which we've managed to hold back these last few years, has only been gathering steam, getting ready to burst through all the restraints that we've imposed upon it."
The president said his proposed balanced budget amendment is needed "to ensure that this generation and the next will enjoy the fruits of their labor, will continue to live in a land of hope and opportunity, where big government no longer blocks the doors to progress."
Reagan entered and left the Washington Convention Center out of range of reporters so that he could not be questioned about problems facing the administration, including the testimony of fired national security aide Oliver L. North, scheduled to begin today.
White House chief of staff Howard H. Baker Jr. said Sunday that he and the president "look forward" to North's Capitol Hill testimony because there has been "so much speculation" about it.