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THE STATE OF THE UNION : Reagan's 'Technicolor View' Isn't Answer to Problems, Democrats Say

January 26, 1988|JOSH GETLIN | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Democratic congressional leaders, sounding the themes they hope will help their party recapture the White House, blasted President Reagan's "Technicolor view of society" in their rebuttals to his State of the Union speech Monday and said that they offer a "tougher, more realistic" approach to foreign and domestic problems.

In separate speeches, Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia and House Speaker Jim Wright of Texas denounced the Administration's fiscal policies and outlined a wide-ranging legislative agenda for 1988 focusing on education, jobs and family issues.

They also set the stage for acrimonious battles with the White House over further military aid to Nicaragua's Contras and legislation to reform the nation's trade policies.

'Slogans Have Gone Flat'

"The dark side of the Reagan years has only begun to loom," said Byrd in remarks broadcast from the Senate chambers. "We've come to the end of an era. The (President's) 'feel good' slogans have gone flat with time."

Byrd, criticizing the Administration's "mystical formula of supply-side economics," said that "instead of a balanced budget, he (Reagan) has presided over a doubling of the national debt in seven years. . . . We have surrendered economic leadership in markets around the world."

Although Reagan has tried "to make us feel good with images of morning in America, the time has finally come for us all to face the hard truths that once gave us our self-reliance and world leadership: Hard work . . . pay as you go, no free lunches, no running away from the bills due," Byrd said.

The nation's fiscal problems have worsened, he said, because the President has failed to cooperate with Congress on long-range solutions. Even though congressional leaders and the White House agreed last year on a $76-billion deficit-reduction program after the stock market crashed, "that budget summit should have been called seven years ago," Byrd said.

Calls on National Will

"We've long understood that line-item vetoes and balanced budget amendments" sought by Reagan "are no substitute for national will. To palm off our debts to the next generation must not be an option for our own," he added.

Meanwhile, Wright criticized Reagan for his unceasing efforts to arm the Contras, which he said undermined peace efforts in the region and laid out a Democratic legislative agenda for 1988 focusing on clean water, highway construction, education, trade reform, housing and health care.

Reagan's vetoes of clean water and highway bills last year were overridden by Congress, Wright said, because the two actions "cut back on" the nation's commitment to a safe environment and sound highway system.

Wright also criticized the White House for its opposition to a Democratic-sponsored trade bill, which would in some cases require U.S. retaliation against Japan and other countries that run large trade surpluses with this country.

'Not a Sign of Strength'

"In spite of what the President says, the trade gap has risen sharply every year for the past seven years, and was higher last year than ever in our history," Wright said. "This has made America the No. 1 debtor country in the world. That isn't a sign of strength."

The bill, which is currently being discussed by a House-Senate conference committee, would also strengthen the ability of U.S. firms to compete by spurring modernization of America's aging industrial plants and re-education of workers so they are not condemned to lower-paying jobs, he said.

"We can't build a vibrant economy by just delivering pizzas to each other," Wright said, adding that the trade bill would be sent to the President for his signature shortly.

Finally, Wright predicted that Congress would approve major housing and education bills this session and called on Reagan to support them. The President's request for a "28% cut" in federal aid to education last year was "beyond foolhardy," he said.

"In each year of his presidency, he has called for major cuts in education," Wright added. "In an age when our children will have to cope with semiconductors, supercolliders and international competition, America will not survive unless they are better educated than we were."

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