Preliminary peaks at the pain pills Ross Perot was about to prescribe for the sickly American economy should produce instant nostalgia for the campaign that might have been. Compared to the smoke-and-mirrors budget plans of George Bush and Bill Clinton, the Perot plan is a model of fiscal responsibility. Even if its bitter ingredients would have insured the Texas billionaire's defeat and alienated many of his enthusiasts, it would have set a worthy standard by which to measure what the established party candidates have to offer.
Mr. Perot, if he had stayed the course, would have attacked such sacred-cow entitlement plans as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and farm subsidies whose soaring costs are pushing the country ever deeper into debt. He reputedly would have lowered cost of living increases or, in the case of retirement benefits, treated a larger share of them as regular income subject to income taxes.
This has long been seen as a major step to bring the budget under control, but the gray-power lobby has intimidated politicians wanting to do something about it. President Bush, in his budget, raised the prospect of putting a cap on entitlements but not in the convincing fashion of the reported Perot proposals. Governor Clinton is merely calling for a $4 billion cut in programs that by 1996 may cost an astounding $900 billion.