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The 1958 Budget – American Forum – NBC Radio – May 26, 1957 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Capitol Hill and the budget, and almost yearly ritual of shock, outrage, quiet agreement and back to business as usual. In 1957, President Eisenhower proposed a budget of some $73 billion ($661 Billion in 2021 money). And, true to form, it sent shock waves all over Washington – with the ever-familiar chorus “How Do We Pay For This Thing?” Truths to tell, it was the largest peacetime budget proposal ever; $73 billion was an unheard of sum at the time.
As President Eisenhower laid it out at the time (January 1957):
The figures contained in this budget for the fiscal years 1957 and 1958 are not precisely comparable to the actual figures for prior years. Under the provisions of legislation enacted last year, the financial transactions for the greatly expanded Federal-aid highway program are included in a self-liquidating trust fund and are not in the budget totals.
Revenue policy.–It is my firm belief that tax rates are still too high and that we should look forward to further tax reductions as soon as they can be accomplished within a sound budget policy. Reductions in tax rates would give relief to taxpayers and would also release funds for the activity and investment necessary for sustained economic growth through private initiative. However, the reduction of tax rates must give way under present circumstances to the cost of meeting our urgent national responsibilities.
For the present, therefore, I ask for continuation for another year of the existing excise tax rates on tobacco, liquor, and automobiles, which, under present law, would be reduced next April 1. I must also recommend that the present corporate tax rates be continued for another year. It would be neither fair nor appropriate to allow excise and corporate tax reductions to be made at a time when a general tax reduction cannot be undertaken.
In the area of taxation, I am especially interested in the problems of small business. Last August the Cabinet Committee on Small Business made a series of carefully considered recommendations in this field. Some relief in the tax burden affecting small business, as recommended by that Committee, which will give help with a minimum loss of revenue should have early consideration by the Congress. Any changes involving substantial loss of revenue should be considered at a later time when a general tax reduction is possible.
The present estimates of budget receipts for 1958 are based on the assumption that the Nation will continue to have a high level of business activity with increasing national income, and that the present tax rates will be continued. They are the best estimates we can make at this time, but, since they relate to a period 6 to 18 months away, significant changes may take place before the fiscal year 1958 is ended.
On hand for this discussion on the proposed Eisenhower 1958 budget is Senator George A. Smathers (D-Florida) and Senator John Sherman Cooper (R-Kentucky). Here is that program as it was originally heard on May 26, 1957 over NBC Radio.
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