WASHINGTON — Former Democratic presidential candidate Paul E. Tsongas and retiring Sen. Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.) criticized the economic agendas of President Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton on Tuesday, claiming their proposals do not seriously address the nation's deficit.
Tsongas and Rudman, who are heading a bipartisan coalition dedicated to deficit reduction, praised independent Ross Perot for bringing the national debt to the public's attention, but pledged their personal support to their respective parties' nominees.
"Perot had the right message, but I think he's the wrong messenger," said Rudman, who is leaving the Senate in part because of the government's failure to reduce its red ink.
Tsongas and Rudman, along with Peter Peterson, who was commerce secretary in the Richard M. Nixon Administration, last month announced the formation of the Concord Group, an organization they hope to use to educate the public about the deficit. The men view the deficit as immoral because it takes money from future generations.
Speaking before the National Press Club in Washington, Rudman and Tsongas said the economic proposals made by the major party nominees rely on overly optimistic assumptions and will be difficult to carry out without running up the deficit.
"My problem with the Clinton plan (is that) the numbers are wildly optimistic," said Rudman, a chief sponsor of deficit-reduction legislation that was approved in 1989 but has had little effect.
Tsongas criticized Bush's "no new taxes pledge," labeling it a classic example of an attempt to get elected.