Precede SAN DIEGO Clinton in LA: There’s No Free Lunch
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ President Clinton said today the higher taxes in his budget plan were necessary because the ″free lunch crowd″ that ran the country the past 12 years had allowed the federal deficit to balloon out of control.
″No new taxes,″ a heckler yelled as Clinton spoke to students at a Los Angeles community college.
″We tried it your way for 12 years and look what it got us.″ Clinton quickly retorted, winning applause from his student audience. ″The no-new- taxes crowd had it their way for 12 years. ... The free lunch crowd has had its chance. I’m telling you there is no free lunch out there.″
Clinton visited Los Angeles the morning after a televised town hall in San Diego that was dominated by questions about the economy and other domestic issues, to the delight of Clinton and his advisers.
His advisers hoped that a renewed focus on the economy - even with a tinge of criticism - would help the president sell his budget plan. The White House wants to convince voters that the economy is Clinton’s top priority, and that his deficit-reduction package relies as much on spending cuts as on tax increases.
Clinton began his day jogging on the beach at San Diego, with about a dozen members of the elite Navy Seals force, before traveling to Los Angeles to tour the area of the 1992 riots and to promote his job training initiative at Los Angeles Valley College.
He got a chance to touch on both subjects at the town meeting in San Diego when gang member Ariel Zuniga told Clinton ″a lot of people want to get out of gangs,″ but they have no alternatives.
Looking tired at the end of a long day on the road, a sad-eyed Clinton said the answer is more jobs. ″A lot of these places would not have as many gangs if people could get up every day and try to make a living,″ the president said.
Self-employed businessman Lorne Fleming opened the town hall meeting by thanking Clinton for allowing ″common folks like us″ to speak to him. ″It’s an honor and a privilege.″
Without skipping a beat, he then accused Clinton of reneging on his campaign promise to cut taxes for the middle class. He compared the state of the economy to ″the Carter era,″ and asked Clinton ″can you name one country that has ever taxed and spent itself into prosperity?″
Clinton said: ″I can’t. But you can’t fairly characterize my program as that.″
The president said it was ″just a big myth″ that he had not proposed real spending cuts, saying his $500 billion in deficit reduction over five years was split equally between cuts and taxes, with the bulk of the taxes falling on the rich.
The middle-class tax cut was scuttled when the budget deficit turned out to be higher than he expected, Clinton said.
″I’ve got four years. Give me four years to try to deliver on the middle- class tax cut,″ Clinton said. ″But the first thing we need to do is drive the deficit down with cuts and some prudent revenue increases.″
The audience at the hour-long town hall peppered Clinton with questions about health care, welfare reform, trade and his plans to ease the pain of defense cuts in San Diego and other communities.
The White House said it had no control over selection of the audience, and questions were not restricted by television station KGTV, which made the selections. The administration asked only that the audience be diverse.
Nobody asked about Bosnia, but the White House said a Bosnian woman happened to be in the audience. The television moderators did not select her to question Clinton.
Clinton set the tone by outlining several initiatives and saying he is spending most of his time ″working on two things - the economy and the health care issue.″ He said any new employer mandates in his coming health care plan would be phased in.
Bosnia was mentioned only once, when a woman shouted out from a crowd of 20,000 people in Los Alamos, ″Go into Bosnia.″ Clinton did not respond.
He toured the Los Alamos National Laboratory to promote his plan to get government more involved in helping defense-based industries use their technology for civilian projects.