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State of the Union, 1951

- February 1, 2010

In the course of going through some archival notes on the president’s budget message and legislative program (on which some more extended comments soon), I came across a January 1951 memo entitled “State of the Union Message.” It’s from Harold Enarson of the Bureau of the Budget (now OMB) to Richard Neustadt, later the author of “Presidential Power”:http://www.amazon.com/Presidential-Power-Modern-Presidents-Leadership/dp/0029227968/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1265052045&sr=8-1 but at that time a White House staffer to President Truman. His comments still resonate, in various ways.

“The eternal problem of the ‘speechifier’ is to avoid overemphasis,” Enarson wrote. “Maybe civilization is at the crossroads and this is the year of decision — but crisis is now as annual as the budget….This is not in any way a nation presently dedicated to sacrifice and hence our words ought to more nearly fit the facts.”

By the way, the federal government ran a $6 billion (about $58 billion in 2005 dollars) surplus in fiscal 1951.