SANTA BARBARA — President Reagan knew before his 1980 election as President that a key campaign promise--to balance the federal budget within three years--could not be kept, he acknowledged in an interview released Monday.
Reagan said in the interview with Time magazine that he got the bad news from the same economists who had devised his campaign pledge to wipe out the federal deficit with a combination of tax and spending cuts.
"Before the election, those economists came to me and told me that the deterioration (in the economy) had now been so much greater than when they made their study that no, there was no way that we were going to in a few years be able to balance the budget," he said.
"But we put the plan into effect anyway, aimed at whenever it can happen."
The remarks appeared to suggest that the President misled the public on a crucial economic issue. Reagan did not reveal the bleak budget forecast during the campaign, and in fact stuck to his budget-balancing rhetoric long after coming to the White House.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater denied that on Monday, however, saying Reagan's remarks only reflected the realization that Congress would not enact the spending cuts called for in his campaign speeches.
"It became clear when Congress would not pass those spending cuts that the budget would not be balanced," Fitzwater said. "It was never claimed by any Administration authority that tax cuts alone would balance the budget."