New SAT Reading Practice Test 67: A 1981 speech to Congress

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Adapted from a 1981 speech to Congress, Ronald Reagan states his reasons for a new program for economic recovery.1

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, distinguished
Members of Congress, honored guests, and
fellow citizens:
Only a month ago I was your guest in this
05 historic building, and I pledged to you my
cooperation in doing what is right for this
Nation that we all love so much. I'm here
tonight to reaffirm that pledge and to ask
that we share in restoring the promise that is
10 offered to every citizen by this, the last, best
hope of man on Earth.
All of us are aware of the punishing inflation
which has for the first time in 60 years
held to double-digit figures for 2 years in a
15 row. Interest rates have reached absurd levels
more than 20 percent and over 15 percent
for those who would borrow to buy a home.
All across this land one can see newly built
homes standing vacant, unsold because of
20 mortgage interest rates.
Almost 8 million Americans are out of
work. These are people who want to be
productive. But as the months go by, despair
dominates their lives. The threats of layoff
25 and unemployment hang over other millions,
and all who work are frustrated by their
inability to keep up with inflation.
One worker in a Midwest city put it to me
this way: He said, "I'm bringing home more
30 dollars than I ever believed I could possibly
earn, but I seem to be getting worse off."
And he is. Not only have hourly earnings
the American worker, after adjusting for
inflation, declined 5 percent over the past 5
35 years, but in these 5 years, federal personal
taxes for the average family have increased
67 percent. We can no longer procrastinate
and hope that things will get better. They will
not. Unless we act forcefully—and now—the
40 economy will get worse.
Can we, who man the ship of state, deny
it is somewhat out of control? Our national
debt is approaching $1 trillion. A few weeks
ago I called such a figure, a trillion dollars,
45 incomprehensible, and I've been trying ever
since to think of a way to illustrate how big
a trillion really is. And the best I could come
up with is that if you had a stack of thousand dollar
bills in your hand only 4 inches high,
50 you'd be a millionaire. A trillion dollars would
be a stack of thousand-dollar bills 67 miles
high. The interest on the public debt this year
we know will be over $90 billion, and unless
we change the proposed spending for the
55 fiscal year beginning October 1st, we'll add
another almost $80 billion to the debt.
Adding to our troubles is a mass of
regulations imposed on the shopkeeper, the
farmer, the craftsman, professionals, and
60 major industry that is estimated to add $100
billion to the price of the things we buy, and
it reduces our ability to produce. The rate of
increase in American productivity, once one
of the highest in the world, is among the lowest
65 of all major industrial nations. Indeed, it
has actually declined in the last 3 years.
Now, I've painted a pretty grim picture, but
I think I've painted it accurately. It is within
our power to change this picture, and we can
70 act with hope. There's nothing wrong with
our internal strengths. There has been no
breakdown of the human, technological, and
natural resources upon which the economy
is built.
75 […]
This, then, is our proposal—America's new
beginning: a program for economic recovery.
I don't want it to be simply the plan of my
administration. I'm here tonight to ask you
80 to join me in making it our plan. Together we
can embark on this road.

1Citation: Ronald Reagan: "Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the Program for Economic Recovery," February 18, 1981. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

1. The overall point of this passage is to

  • A. present scholarly research.
  • B. survey popular opinion.
  • C. argue for a call to action.
  • D. persuade economic thinkers.

2. The speaker's tone is best described as

  • A. direct and empathetic.
  • B. haughty and dismissive.
  • C. pessimistic and grave.
  • D. erudite and urbane.

3. As used in line 12, the word "punishing" most closely means

  • A. sad.
  • B. confined.
  • C. disciplined.
  • D. severe.

4. The speaker most directly suggests that unemployed Americans

  • A. would much rather not be in that situation.
  • B. clearly understand the economic causes of their troubles.
  • C. wish that foreign aid could provide needed relief.
  • D. hope that they can receive unemployment benefits for an extended period.

5. Which option gives the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 18-20 ("All . . . rates")
  • B. Lines 21-24 ("Almost . . . lives")
  • C. Lines 28-31 ("One . . . off")
  • D. Lines 57-62 ("Adding . . . produce")

6. The quotation in lines 29-31 ("I'm . . . off") serves to

  • A. give concrete statistics.
  • B. provide anecdotal evidence.
  • C. separate fact from opinion.
  • D. acknowledge likely objections.

7. The speaker most strongly suggests that the underlying structure of the U.S. economy is

  • A. inflationary.
  • B. unsound.
  • C. solid.
  • D. focused.

8. Which option gives the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 12-15 ("All . . . row")
  • B. Lines 21-24 ("Almost . . . lives")
  • C. Lines 37-40 ("We . . . worse")
  • D. Lines 70-74 ("There's . . . built")

9. The speaker primarily uses the paragraph in lines 41-56 to

  • A. share relevant first-hand observations.
  • B. concretely illustrate the severity of a problem.
  • C. verbalize the incomprehensible complexity of a concept.
  • D. highlight the widespread interest in a particular solution.

10. Lines 58-60 ("shopkeeper . . . industry") are intended to illustrate the

  • A. widespread impact of government regulations.
  • B. specific jobs that have been lost in the recession.
  • C. those who will most benefit from the proposed programs.
  • D. primary members of the audience the speaker is addressing.

11. As used in line 66, the word "declined" most closely means

  • A. decreased.
  • B. decayed.
  • C. failed.
  • D. wilted.