RICHARD M. NIXON State of the Union Address 22 January 1971
As this 92d Congress begins its session, America has lost a great Senator,
and all of us who had the privilege to know him have lost a loyal friend.
I had the privilege of visiting Senator Russell in the hospital just a
few days before he died. He never spoke about himself. He only spoke eloquently
about the need for a strong national defense.
In tribute to one of the most magnificent Americans of all time, I respectfully
ask that all those here will rise in silent prayer for Senator Russell.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin my formal address, I want to use this opportunity
to congratulate all of those who were winners in the rather for leadership
positions in the House and winners in the Senate and, also, to express
my condolences to the losers. I know how both of you feel.
And I particularly want to join with all of the Members of the House
and the Senate as well in congratulating the new Speaker of the United
To those new Members of this House who may have some doubts about the
possibilities for advancement in the years ahead, I would remind you that
the Speaker and I met just 24 years ago in this Chamber as freshmen Members
of the 80th Congress. As you see, we both have come up in the world a bit
Mr. Speaker, this 92d Congress has a chance to be recorded as the greatest
Congress in America's history.
In these troubled years just past, America has been going through a
long nightmare of war and division, of crime and inflation. Even more deeply,
we have gone through a long, dark night of the American spirit. But now
that night is ending. Now we must let our spirits soar again. Now we are
ready for the lift of a driving dream.
The people of this Nation are eager to get on with the quest for new
greatness. They see challenges, and they are prepared to meet those challenges.
It is for us here to open the doors that will set free again the real greatness
of this Nation-- the genius of the American people.
How shall we meet this challenge? How can we truly open the doors, and
set free the full genius of our people?
The way in which the 92d Congress answers these questions will determine
its place in history. More importantly, it can determine this Nation's
place in history as we enter the third century of our independence.
Tonight I shall present to the Congress six great goals. I shall ask
not simply for more new programs in the old framework. I shall ask to change
the framework of government itself--to reform the entire structure of American
government so we can make it again fully responsive to the needs and the
wishes of the American people.
If we act boldly--if we seize this moment and achieve these goals--we
can close the gap between promise and performance in American government.
We can bring together the resources of this Nation and the spirit of the
In discussing these great goals, I shall deal tonight only with matters
on the domestic side of the Nation's agenda. I shall make a separate report
to the Congress and the Nation next month on developments in foreign policy.
The first of these great goals is already before the Congress.
I urge that the unfinished business of the 91st Congress be made the
first priority business of the 92d Congress.
Over the next 2 weeks, I will call upon Congress to take action on more
than 35 pieces of proposed legislation on which action was not completed
The most important is welfare reform.
The present welfare system has become a monstrous, consuming outrage--an
outrage against the community, against the taxpayer, and particularly against
the children it is supposed to help.
We may honestly disagree, as we do, on what to do about it. But we can
all agree that we must meet the challenge, not by pouring more money into
a bad program, but by abolishing the present welfare system and adopting
a new one.
So let us place a floor under the income of every family with children
in America-- and without those demeaning, soul-stifling affronts to human
dignity that so blight the lives of welfare children today. But let us
also establish an effective work incentive and an effective work requirement.
Let us provide the means by which more can help themselves. This shall
be our goal.
Let us generously help those who are not able to help themselves. But
let us stop helping those who are able to help themselves but refuse to
The second great goal is to achieve what Americans have not enjoyed
since 1957--full prosperity in peacetime.
The tide of inflation has turned. The rise in the cost of living, which
had been gathering dangerous momentum in the late sixties, was reduced
last year. Inflation will be further reduced this year.
But as we have moved from runaway inflation toward reasonable price
stability and at the same time as we have been moving from a wartime economy
to a peacetime economy, we have paid a price in increased unemployment.
We should take no comfort from the fact that the level of unemployment
in this transition from a wartime to a peacetime economy is lower than
in any peacetime year of the sixties.
This is not good enough for the man who is unemployed in the seventies.
We must do better for workers in peacetime and we will do better.
To achieve this, I will submit an expansionary budget this year--one
that will help stimulate the economy and thereby open up new job opportunities
for millions of Americans.
It will be a full employment budget, a budget designed to be in balance
if the economy were operating at its peak potential. By spending as if
we were at full employment, we will help to bring about full employment.
I ask the Congress to accept these expansionary policies--to accept
the concept of a full employment budget. At the same time, I ask the Congress
to cooperate in resisting expenditures that go beyond the limits of the
full employment budget. For as we wage a campaign to bring about a widely
shared prosperity, we must not reignite the fires of inflation and so undermine
With the stimulus and the discipline of a full employment budget, with
the commitment of the independent Federal Reserve System to provide fully
for the monetary needs of a growing economy, and with a much greater effort
on the part of labor and management to make their wage and price decisions
in the light of the national interest and their own self-interest-- then
for the worker, the farmer, the consumer, for Americans everywhere we shall
gain the goal of a new prosperity: more jobs, more income, more profits,
without inflation and without war.
This is a great goal, and one that we can achieve together.
The third great goal is to continue the effort so dramatically begun
last year: to restore and enhance our natural environment.
Building on the foundation laid in the 37-point program that I submitted
to Congress last year, I will propose a strong new set of initiatives to
clean up our air and water, to combat noise, and to preserve and restore
I will propose programs to make better use of our land, to encourage
a balanced national growth--growth that will revitalize our rural heartland
and enhance the quality of life in America.
And not only to meet today's needs but to anticipate those of tomorrow,
I will put forward the most extensive program ever proposed by a President
of the United States to expand the Nation's parks, recreation areas, open
spaces, in a way that truly brings parks to the people where the people
are. For only if we leave a legacy of parks will the next generation have
parks to enjoy.
As a fourth great goal, I will offer a far-reaching set of proposals
for improving America's health care and making it available more fairly
to more people.
I will propose:
A program to insure that no American family will be prevented from obtaining
basic medical care by inability to pay.
I will propose a major increase in and redirection of aid to medical
schools, to greatly increase the number of doctors and other health personnel.
Incentives to improve the delivery of health services, to get more medical
care resources into those areas that have not been adequately served, to
make greater use of medical assistants, and to slow the alarming rise in
the costs of medical care.
New programs to encourage better preventive medicine, by attacking the
causes of disease and injury, and by providing incentives to doctors to
keep people well rather than just to treat them when they are sick.
I will also ask for an appropriation of an extra $100 million to launch
an intensive campaign to find a cure for cancer, and I will ask later for
whatever additional funds can effectively be used. The time has come in
America when the same kind of concentrated effort that split the atom and
took man to the moon should be turned toward conquering this dread disease.
Let us make a total national commitment to achieve this goal.
America has long been the wealthiest nation in the world. Now it is
time we became the healthiest nation in the world.
The fifth great goal is to strengthen and to renew our State and local
As we approach our 200th anniversary in 1976, we remember that this
Nation launched itself as a loose confederation of separate States, without
a workable central government. At that time, the mark of its leaders' vision
was that they quickly saw the need to balance the separate powers of the
States with a government of central powers.
And so they gave us a constitution of balanced powers, of unity with
diversity-- and so clear was their vision that it survives today as the
oldest written constitution still in force in the world.
For almost two centuries since--and dramatically in the 1930's--at those
great turning points when the question has been between the States and
the Federal Government, that question has been resolved in favor of a stronger
central Federal Government.
During this time the Nation grew and the Nation prospered. But one thing
history tells us is that no great movement goes in the same direction forever.
Nations change, they adapt, or they slowly die.
The time has now come in America to reverse the flow of power and resources
from the States and communities to Washington, and start power and resources
flowing back from Washington to the States and communities and, more important,
to the people all across America.
The time has come for a new partnership between the Federal Government
and the States and localities--a partnership in which we entrust the States
and localities with a larger share of the Nation's responsibilities, and
in which we share our Federal revenues with them so that they can meet
To achieve this goal, I propose to the Congress tonight that we enact
a plan of revenue sharing historic in scope and bold in concept.
All across America today, States and cities are confronted with a financial
crisis. Some have already been cutting back on essential services--for
example, just recently San Diego and Cleveland cut back on trash collections.
Most are caught between the prospects of bankruptcy on the one hand and
adding to an already crushing tax burden on the other.
As one indication of the rising costs of local government, I discovered
the other day that my home town of Whittier, California-- which has a population
of 67,000-- has a larger budget for 1971 than the entire Federal budget
was in 1791.
Now the time has come to take a new direction, and once again to introduce
a new and more creative balance to our approach to government.
So let us put the money where the needs are. And let us put the power
to spend it where the people are.
I propose that the Congress make a $16 billion investment in renewing
State and local government. Five billion dollars of this will be in new
and unrestricted funds to be used as the States and localities see fit.
The other $11 billion will be provided by allocating $1 billion of new
funds and converting one-third of the money going to the present narrow-purpose
aid programs into Federal revenue sharing funds for six broad purposes--for
urban development, rural development, education, transportation, job training,
and law enforcement-- but with the States and localities making their own
decisions on how it should be spent within each category.
For the next fiscal year, this would increase total Federal aid to the
States and localities more than 25 percent over the present level.
The revenue sharing proposals I send to the Congress will include the
safeguards against discrimination that accompany all other Federal funds
allocated to the States. Neither the President nor the Congress nor the
conscience of this Nation can permit money which comes from all the people
to be used in a way which discriminates against some of the people.
The Federal Government will still have a large and vital role to play
in achieving our national progress. Established functions that are clearly
and essentially Federal in nature will still be performed by the Federal
Government. New functions that need to be sponsored or performed by the
Federal Government--such as those I have urged tonight in welfare and health--will
be added to the Federal agenda. Whenever it makes the best sense for us
to act as a whole nation, the Federal Government should and will lead the
way. But where States or local governments can better do what needs to
be done, let us see that they have the resources to do it there.
Under this plan, the Federal Government will provide the States and
localities with more money and less interference-- and by cutting down
the interference the same amount of money will go a lot further.
Let us share our resources.
Let us share them to rescue the States and localities from the brink
of financial crisis.
Let us share them to give homeowners and wage earners a chance to escape
from ever-higher property taxes and sales taxes.
Let us share our resources for two other reasons as well.
The first of these reasons has to do with government itself, and the
second has to do with each of us, with the individual.
Let's face it. Most Americans today are simply fed up with government
at all levels. They will not--and they should not--continue to tolerate
the gap between promise and performance in government.
The fact is that we have made the Federal Government so strong it grows
musclebound and the States and localities so weak they approach impotence.
If we put more power in more places, we can make government more creative
in more places. That way we multiply the number of people with the ability
to make things happen--and we can open the way to a new burst of creative
energy throughout America.
The final reason I urge this historic shift is much more personal, for
each and for every one of us.
As everything seems to have grown bigger and more complex in America,
as the forces that shape our lives seem to have grown more distant and
more impersonal, a great feeling of frustration has crept across this land.
Whether it is the workingman who feels neglected, the black man who
feels oppressed, or the mother concerned about her children, there has
been a growing feeling that "Things are in the saddle, and ride mankind."
Millions of frustrated young Americans today are crying out--asking
not what will government do for me, but what can I do, how can I contribute,
how can I matter?
And so let us answer them. Let us say to them and let us say to all
Americans, "We hear you. We will give you a chance. We are going to give
you a new chance e more to say about the decisions that affect your future--a
chance to participate in government--because we are going to provide more
centers of power where what you do can make a difference that you can see
and feel in your own life and the life of your whole community."
The further away government is from people, the stronger government
becomes and the weaker people become. And a nation with a strong government
and a weak people is an empty shell.
I reject the patronizing idea that government in Washington, D.C., is
inevitably more wise, more honest, and more efficient than government at
the local or State level. The honesty and efficiency of government depends
on people. Government at all levels has good people and bad people. And
the way to get more good people into government is to give them more opportunity
to do good things.
The idea that a bureaucratic elite in Washington knows best what is
best for people everywhere and that you cannot trust local governments
is really a contention that you cannot trust people to govern themselves.
This notion is completely foreign to the American experience. Local government
is the government closest to the people, it is most responsive to the individual
person. It is people's government in a far more intimate way than the Government
in Washington can ever be.
People came to America because they wanted to determine their own future
rather than to live in a country where others determined their future for
What this change means is that once again in America we are placing
our trust in people.
I have faith in people. I trust the judgment of people. Let us give
the people of America a chance, a bigger voice in deciding for themselves
those questions that so greatly affect their lives.
The sixth great goal is a complete reform of the Federal Government
Based on a long and intensive study with the aid of the best advice
obtainable, I have concluded that a sweeping reorganization of the executive
branch is needed if the Government is to keep up with the times and with
the needs of the people.
I propose, therefore, that we reduce the present 12 Cabinet Departments
I propose that the Departments of State, Treasury, Defense, and Justice
remain, but that all the other departments be consolidated into four: Human
Resources, Community Development, Natural Resources, and Economic Development.
Let us look at what these would be:
First, a department dealing with the concerns of people--as individuals,
as members of a family--a department focused on human needs.
Second, a department concerned with the community--rural communities
and urban communities-- and with all that it takes to make a community
function as a community.
Third, a department concerned with our physical environment, with the
preservation and balanced use of those great natural resources on which
our Nation depends.
And fourth, a department concerned with our prosperity--with our jobs,
our businesses, and those many activities that keep our economy running
smoothly and well.
Under this plan, rather than dividing up our departments by narrow subjects,
we would organize them around the great purposes of government. Rather
than scattering responsibility by adding new levels of bureaucracy, we
would focus and concentrate the responsibility for getting problems solved.
With these four departments, when we have a problem we will know where
to go--and the department will have the authority and the resources to
do something about it.
Over the years we have added departments and created agencies at the
Federal level, each to serve a new constituency, to handle a particular
task--and these have grown and multiplied in what has become a hopeless
confusion of form and function.
The time has come to match our structure to our purposes--to look with
a fresh eye, to organize the Government by conscious, comprehensive design
to meet the new needs of a new era.
One hundred years ago, Abraham Lincoln stood on a battlefield and spoke
of a "government of the people, by the people, for the people." Too often
since then, we have become a nation of the Government, by the Government,
for the Government.
By enacting these reforms, we can renew that principle that Lincoln
stated so simply and so well.
By giving everyone's voice a chance to be heard, we will have government
that truly is of the people.
By creating more centers of meaningful power, more places where decisions
that really count can be made, by giving more people a chance to do something,
we can have government that truly is by the people.
And by setting up a completely modern, functional system of government
at the national level, we in Washington will at last be able to provide
government that is truly for the people.
I realize that what I am asking is that not only the executive branch
in Washington but that even this Congress will have to change by giving
up some of its power.
Change is hard. But without change there can be no progress. And for
each of us the question then becomes, not "Will change cause me inconvenience?"
but "Will change bring progress for America?"
Giving up power is hard. But I would urge all of you, as leaders of
this country, to remember that the truly revered leaders in world history
are those who gave power to people, and not those who took it away.
As we consider these reforms we will be acting, not for the next 2 years
or for the next 10 years, but for the next 100 years.
So let us approach these six great goals with a sense not only of this
moment in history but also of history itself.
Let us act with the willingness to work together and the vision and
the boldness and the courage of those great Americans who met in Philadelphia
almost 190 years ago to write a constitution.
Let us leave a heritage as they did--not just for our children but for
millions yet unborn--of a nation where every American will have a chance
not only to live in peace and to enjoy prosperity and opportunity but to
participate in a system of government where he knows not only his votes
but his ideas count--a system of government which will provide the means
for America to reach heights of achievement undreamed of before.
Those men who met at Philadelphia left a great heritage because they
had a vision--not only of what the Nation was but of what it could become.
As I think of that vision, I recall that America was founded as the
land of the open door--as a haven for the oppressed, a land of opportunity,
a place of refuge, of hope.
When the first settlers opened the door of America three and a half
centuries ago, they came to escape persecution and to find opportunity--and
they left wide the door of welcome for others to follow.
When the Thirteen Colonies declared their independence almost two centuries
ago, they opened the door to a new vision of liberty and of human fulfillment--not
just for an elite but for all.
To the generations that followed, America's was the open door that beckoned
millions from the old world to the new in search of a better life, a freer
life, a fuller life, and in which, by their own decisions, they could shape
their own destinies.
For the black American, the Indian, the Mexican-American, and for those
others in our land who have not had an equal chance, the Nation at last
has begun to confront the need to press open the door of full and equal
opportunity, and of human dignity.
For all Americans, with these changes I have proposed tonight we can
open the door to a new era of opportunity. We can open the door to full
and effective participation in the decisions that affect their lives. We
can open the door to a new partnership among governments at all levels,
between those governments and the people themselves. And by so doing, we
can open wide the doors of human fulfillment for millions of people here
in America now and in the years to come.
In the next few weeks I will spell out in greater detail the way I propose
that we achieve these six great goals. I ask this Congress to be responsive.
If it is, then the 92d Congress, your Congress, our Congress, at the end
of its term, will be able to look back on a record more splendid than any
in our history.
This can be the Congress that helped us end the longest war in the Nation's
history, and end it in a way that will give us at last a genuine chance
to enjoy what we have not had in this century: a full generation of peace.
This can be the Congress that helped achieve an expanding economy, with
full employment and without inflation--and without the deadly stimulus
This can be the Congress that reformed a welfare system that has robbed
recipients of their dignity and robbed States and cities of their resources.
This can be the Congress that pressed forward the rescue of our environment,
and established for the next generation an enduring legacy of parks for
This can be the Congress that launched a new era in American medicine,
in which the quality of medical care was enhanced while the costs were
made less burdensome.
But above all, what this Congress can be remembered for is opening the
way to a new American revolution--a peaceful revolution in which power
was turned back to the people--in which government at all levels was refreshed
and renewed and made truly responsive. This can be a revolution as profound,
as far-reaching, as exciting as that first revolution almost 200 years
ago--and it can mean that just 5 years from now America will enter its
third century as a young nation new in spirit, with all the vigor and the
freshness with which it began its first century.
My colleagues in the Congress, these are great goals. They can make
the sessions of this Congress a great moment for America. So let us pledge
together to go forward together--by achieving these goals to give America
the foundation today for a new greatness tomorrow and in all the years
to come, and in so doing to make this the greatest Congress in the history
of this great and good country.