LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Tightening ranks with Bill Clinton, former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas joined the Democratic nominee here Monday in a broadside blast at President Bush's economic plan, charging that "there is no capacity on the part of George Bush to feel any outrage about the deficit."
Appearing with Clinton at a news conference on the grounds of the Arkansas Governor's Mansion, Tsongas said Bush's acceptance speech last Thursday night "proved beyond any doubt that any hope of generational morality in our economic policy is not going to exist with George Bush as President."
Tsongas has already endorsed Clinton, who tangled with him over economic policy during the Democratic presidential primaries. On Monday, Tsongas said he cut short his vacation to stand beside his party's nominee in an effort "to reach out to the people who supported me and who care about the deficit."
"George Bush gave a speech Thursday night with a program he knows will never pass," Tsongas said, a brief flash of anger displacing his monotone delivery. "There's no possibility of it passing because it has no coherence and it has no support. So what you got Thursday night was a promise of four more years of gridlock."
Clinton noted that "on the day after the Bush speech, number one, the stock market dropped and number two, the American dollar dropped against the German mark. The people whom you would expect to be constituents of this Republican Administration were sending a signal. They voted that day about what they thought about that plan."
In his acceptance speech, Bush proposed new tax cuts, matched by reductions in federal spending, over the next five years. But he did not define which programs would come under his fiscal scalpel, saying he would elaborate in a budget submitted to a new Congress in 1993.
Clinton has promised deficit-reduction during his first term, but has emphasized a need for $220 billion in new federal programs to "rebuild America," targeted at infrastructure and making industry more competitive.
The Democrats' increased spending would be paid for by cuts in defense programs, trims in federal administration costs, a tax increase on wealthy individuals and tightening of corporate tax loopholes.
During his hard-fought primary campaign, Clinton promised a middle-class tax cut, but substantially scaled back the proposal in June. During the primaries, Tsongas had argued that such a tax cut would do nothing to promote long-term economic prosperity.
Reminded of his ardent opposition to Clinton's economic programs earlier in the year, Tsongas said: "I have very strong feelings on the economy. I took those feelings to the country and the country made a decision on them."
But even so, Tsongas said he felt his campaign altered Clinton's economic policies.
"I campaigned rather strenuously against the middle-class tax, and as you know there has been an evolution in that policy," he said.
"Yeah, that's a way of saying it," said Clinton, who said the deficit grew from $250 billion to more than $400 billion during the primaries and that situation required his making an adjustment in the campaign's economic proposals.
Tsongas said the differences are wide enough between Clinton and Bush that voters will have a real choice between the candidates. "One . . . says here is my plan, we'll work with the Democratic Congress, hold us responsible," he said. "The other one gets up with nonsense that I think goes beyond any reasonable boundary of, not only good economics, but I think, generational morality."
Tsongas also attacked Bush's proposal to allow taxpayers to check off a portion of their taxes for deficit-reduction as "a gimmick, it was something to fill the space. It's the kind of thing you do in the absence of a strategy."
The President's speech "crossed the line" and revealed he "is no longer capable of decision making" on the economy, Tsongas said.
As if to buttress Tsongas' bold charge, Clinton campaign officials--ever ready with reams of paper printed with facts and figures in support of their candidate--produced a three-page leaflet that claimed Bush had in effect promised $1.02 trillion in federal budget cuts.
"Even before his acceptance speech, George Bush had to find $274 billion in entitlement cuts to meet his deficit target of $117 billion for 1997," the document stated.
"On Thursday night, Bush promised at least $735 billion in new tax cuts and new spending over the next five years," the Clinton team calculated. "Today he promised another $10 billion in spending," referring to Bush's plan to expand job-training programs over the next five years."
"To fulfill his trillion dollars in promises and his $117-billion deficit target by 1997, President Bush would have to cut $1.02 trillion from the federal budget," it concluded.
Campaign aides described the document, which was distributed to reporters during the news conference, as "a conservative analysis" of how Bush would deliver on all of his campaign promises.