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Liberal Panel Urges Domestic Spending


WASHINGTON — Hoping to sway the growing national debate on how to spend money saved from defense cutbacks, a liberal coalition Tuesday launched a two-year campaign of television ads, sermons and town meetings to urge that the savings be used for struggling domestic programs, not for tax cuts and deficit reduction.

To help support their position, the Campaign for New Priorities, spearheaded by labor unions and women's groups and endorsed by Boston's Democratic Mayor Raymond L. Flynn, also released a poll showing "a stunning change" in Americans' thinking on military spending.

While only 26% of registered voters supported defense cuts just after the Persian Gulf War, 46% did so early last month, according to Democratic pollsters who conducted the survey for the new group.

Although voters were still cautious about the size of such cuts--overwhelmingly rejecting 50% slashes sought by the coalition--a large number advocated using any savings for domestic spending increases. Of those polled, 32% would aid education, job creation and the environment, while 15% would boost housing and health care for the poor.

In contrast, 23% supported applying any peace dividend to the deficit, while only 19% would use it for middle-class tax cuts and 9% for business tax cuts.

The survey taken Dec. 2 to 6 also found that "an extraordinary 76%" believed that the country is "on the wrong track" and only 40% approved of President Bush's job performance, a slightly lower rating than in more recent polls.

The survey of 1,000 voters, conducted by Washington pollsters Stanley B. Greenberg and Celinda Lake, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The pair conducts frequent polls on behalf of various Democratic candidates.

"It's time to use defense dollars to begin the job of rebuilding America. To use tax dollars in Boston instead of Berlin, in Tacoma instead of Tokyo," Gerald W. McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said at a news conference marking the start of the new-priorities campaign.

Also backing the effort were the National Education Assn., the nation's largest teachers union; the Women's Legal Defense Fund; the Children's Defense Fund; the Mexican American Women's National Assn.; Earth Day 1990 chairman Denis Hayes; former CIA director William E. Colby, and Flynn, who heads the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Flynn said that working families and needy people have suffered for more than a decade "while the rich got massive tax cuts, the greedy savings and loan speculators got massive bailouts and Western Europe and Japan got billions for defense, courtesy of the American taxpayer."

Despite a dramatic reduction in the Soviet threat, the Boston mayor added, the President and Congress apparently plan to do little more than tinker with the federal budget, providing "some capital gains cuts for the rich and famous, token tax reductions for the rest of us and a few nickels and dimes for a few good programs. . . .

"That is why we have come together to push Washington for a fundamental change in our national agenda."

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