Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D.-Mass.) says he favors a charting of all government tax subsidies as a better way to attack the problem of federal spending.
In a recent interview about his views toward business and the economy, Kennedy said that if the government's tax expenditures are well-scrutinized, billions of dollars could be added to federal coffers, thus cutting the federal deficit.
Kennedy apparently is advocating a comprehensive monitoring of all subsidy programs, along the same lines as the congressional budget process.
"Clearly, mortgage deductions are in the national interest as a vastly superior way to divert appropriations," Kennedy said. "But all our tax expenditures ought to be well-scrutinized."
An adviser admitted that Kennedy, in the course of spelling out his economic policies as his presidential campaign emerges, must develop ways to demonstrate a commitment to fiscal restraint.
Nevertheless, Kennedy said he has yet to develop a program for handling what may be the nation's most politically sensitive economic problem -- inflation.
"I don't believe we can come up with a two-point program to eliminate inflation within 30 days," Kennedy said.
Kennedy has committed himself publicly to supporting incentives for capital formation, revamping the nation's patent system, providing financial support for small-business research and development programs.
Further, a Kennedy economic program would stress the benefits of transportation deregulation, particularly passage of the pending and controversial trucking deregulation bill.
In addition, Kennedy's economic plans would emphasize the value of vigorous enforcement of the antitrust laws, a program that would be aided, Kennedy said, by passage of his legislation to curtail dramatically the ability of large corporations to acquire other businesses.
"We're trying through deregulation to take a sector-by-sector approach to eliminate restrictions placed on competition," Kennedy said.
Kennedy said he is watching closely the economy's reaction to the Federal Reserve Board's recent moves to raise interest rates and tighten the nation's money supply, for now, he supports the Fed's moves.
He also is unwilling to call for a tax cut at the present time and believes that Congress should attempt to strengthen the powers of the Council on Wage and Price Stability before he is willing to consider mandatory wage and price controls.
But despite Kennedy's wait-and-see attitude toward the economy and his eagerness to talk of fiscal restraint, deregulation and cuts in government spending, he prefaces many discussions about economics with a reminder of his activist approach to government policy-making.
"I'm most interested in being a problem solver and finding innovative and creative ways of dealing with economic problems, while maintaining a fundamental belief in providing relief to the needs of people," Kennedy said. "But I believe very strongly that government interference ought to be the last resort."