Perot, in TV ad, spells out deficit-cutting plan of tax boosts, spending cuts

October 18, 1992|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- A little more than two weeks before Election Day, the presidential candidate who has built his entire campaign around the need to balance the federal budget finally laid out for voters his ambitious plan of tax increases and spending cuts.

In a 30-minute TV commercial that aired on NBC Friday night and was rerun on ABC last night along with a 30-minute biography, Ross Perot whizzed through a pile of colorful pie charts and graphs, as he did in similar ads the previous week, this time outlining an austere prescription for eliminating the deficit in six years.

"If you want to have it go away, you make it go away," the plain-speaking Texas billionaire said.

His program of "fair-share sacrifice," which he first offered up to Americans in his book "United We Stand," includes higher income taxes for the wealthiest 4 percent of Americans, increased taxes for some Social Security recipients, an increase in Medicare premiums, a 50-cent a gallon increase in gasoline tax over five years and an increase in tobacco taxes.

He also would reduce the cost-of-living adjustments for federal employees, limit the tax deduction for mortgage interest payments to $250,000 and eliminate deductions for second homes.

The independent candidate, trailing in the polls despite a mini-boost from the first presidential debate last week, also prescribed a 10 percent cut in "discretionary" programs, which he defined as "science grants, farm supports, government operations, etc. etc." He proposed a 5 percent cut in undefined "specific" programs and said he would raise $22 billion by cuts in business subsidies.

Seated at a desk and speaking in his no-nonsense style, Mr. Perot said he had traded in his professorial pointer for a "voodoo stick," a reference to what he sees as the "voodoo economics" of the Reagan and Bush years.

"Trickle-down economics didn't trickle at all, folks," he said, renewing his attack on the economic policies of the last administrations. "Maybe now is the time for me to wave the voodoo stick and get rid of the hex. But it'll take a lot more than that. It'll take millions of you showing up on November 3rd to get rid of this hex."

The businessman spent $150,000 for Friday night's ad and $540,000 for last night's hourlong spot.

In the half-hour biography that aired last night, Mr. Perot recalled his childhood and Navy service, emphasizing lessons of hard work and accountability that might qualify him for the presidency. He told story after story, in a rambling manner, of his Depression-era upbringing and the lucky break that sent him to the Naval Academy.

"I can tell you luck stories until, you know, the world goes flat," said Mr. Perot, according to a transcript released before the broadcast.

Mr. Perot has made no personal appearances, with the exception of short post-debate rallies, since declaring himself a presidential candidate this month.

Although Mr. Perot has railed against the two major-party candidates for their failure to address the $340 billion deficit and $4 trillion debt, he has put off spelling out specific solutions for as long as possible. During the last several weeks, he has urged voters to "read my book" when pressed for answers. And during Thursday night's presidential debate, that line evolved into "watch my program."

In his program, Mr. Perot said his economic plan would produce a surplus by 1998 through cuts in spending and entitlements, and through tax increases.

There was "some good news" in his plan, as Mr. Perot said, in the form of proposed spending increases -- $46 billion for research and development, $40 billion for infrastructure, $12 billion for education and $11 billion for aid to cities -- as well as tax credits for worker training and business investments.

Some economists have warned that Mr. Perot's plan is too severe for these economically precarious times -- the equivalent of slamming on the brakes -- and could throw the nation into a deeper recession. Neither President Bush nor Gov. Bill Clinton has promised to retire the deficit in so short a time.

Responding to such criticism, Mr. Perot said, "As I have pledged, to use the terms of Vietnam, we will not destroy the village in an effort to save it. If common sense and the interest of the American people dictates slowing down, we will slow down. Just use your head. But the thing we can't do is do nothing."

One liberal grass-roots group, Citizens for Tax Justice, said Mr. Perot's plan would "sharply increase taxes on middle- and low-income families but let wealthy people and corporations off the hook."

According to the group's analysis, Mr. Perot's proposed tax increases on gasoline and cigarettes would cost a typical middle-income family 2 percent of its income, a poor family 4.1 percent and a rich family only 0.3 percent.

But the billionaire said his plan, specifically his plan to raise $158 billion from gas taxes to build for the future, will require "sacrifice by all of us. . . . Come up with something else more painless that will give us that, we will drop it in a minute and go to that."

The feisty Texan also ran through a list of government reforms he would call for, including a massive cut in White House, Cabinet and congressional staffs, eliminating political action committees and getting rid of "freebies," such as haircuts and gymnasiums, in the White House and Congress.

The man who flies to appointments in his own personal planes also proposed eliminating the federal airplanes used by high-ranking public officials. "Let them get on a commercial airline, have the same experience we have," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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