WASHINGTON -- Hoping to sway the growing national debate on how to spend the so-called "peace dividend," a liberal coalition launched a two-year campaign of television ads, sermons and town meetings to urge that defense 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 yesterday showing "a stunning change" in Americans' thinking on military spending.
While only 26 percent of registered voters supported defense cuts just after the Persian Gulf War, 46 percent 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 percent slashes sought by the coalition, a large number advocated using any savings for domestic spending increases. Of those polled, 32 percent would aid education, job creation and the environment, while 15 percent would boost housing and health care for the poor.
In contrast, 23 percent supported applying any peace dividend to the deficit, while only 19 percent would use it for middle-class tax cuts and 9 percent for business tax cuts.
"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 are the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union; the Women's Legal Defense Fund; Children's Defense Fund; Mexican American Women's National Association; Earth Day 1990 chairman Denis Hayes; former CIA director William E. Colby; and Flynn, who heads the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Page Gardner, executive director of the Campaign for New Priorities, played a 60-second television ad that was to air nationally and in regional markets tomorrow, five days before the president discusses his new budget in his State of the Union address.
Mr. Gardner said that the group plans to hold town meetings, arrange television and radio talk-show appearances, conduct college teach-ins, enlist ministers through the National Council of Churches to preach sermons, brief editorial boards and lawmakers, generate letter-writing campaigns by other groups and provide "model resolutions" for state and local governments to demand changes in national priorities.