President Carter, stepping up his anti-inflation rhetoric, said yesterday that a continuation of "the age-old policy of pork-barrel allocations" by Congress would set a "horrible example" for the country that he will not tolerate.
At a nationally televised news conference, Carter linked government spending with the rise in interest rates that has been fueled by actions of the Federal Reserve Board, and said that only if spending is curtailed can the Fed be expected to relent and interest rates be expected to decline.
"I am going to be very persistent in my own role as president in holding down unwarranted spending in individual bills that come to me from the Congress," he said.
"I think the time for wasteful spending is over," he added. "And I think if we can show that we can get inflation under control through those actions by me and the Congress, that would be an inducement for the Federal Reserve to start bringing the interest rate down."
The president stopped short of threatening specific vetos, although that clearly was the brunt of his message. Several bills to which he has already express opposition include the just-passed public works appropriations bill and the pending tuition tax credit and tax cut measures.
Carter called the public works bill, which he is expected to veto in a matter of days, "completely unacceptable to me." The measure includes funds for a number of water construction projects that the president sought to kill last year. It was to this bill that he referred when he denounced "the age-old policy of pork-barrel allocations."
"I think that we have got to establish a policy in Washington, the Congress and I, particularly in these crucial days when inflation is our number one concern, at least on the domestic scene, that will be an example for the rest of the nation," Carter said.
The president also referred to an apparently abortive attempt by some House members to link the public works bill to the administration's natural gas legislation - in effect threatening the White House with the loss of the gas bill should Carter go through with his veto threat on public works.
"I don't believe they will do that," Carter said. The proper way for the Congress to express its displeasure over the veto of the public works bill is to override the veto."
He promised "to do the best I can . . . to get enough votes to sustain my veto."
On Capital Hill yesterday, reports circulated about attempts to resolve the public works dispute. It would involve a prearranged agreement under which Carter and Congress would negotiate a compromise on public works spending so that a new bill could be quickly enacted and no attempt would be made to override a veto of the measure passed earlier this week.
The news conference was the president's first since the Camp David summit conference, and he reflected the growing sense of cofidence that has permeated the White House since the Camp David peace accords were reached.
His assertive attitude came through strongly when he was asked about former president Ford's criticism that he had concentrated too much on reducing unemployment rather than inflation.
"President Ford left me with a $66 billion deficit," he replied sharply. "We have tried to turn that around and cut down deficit spending. We have been remarkably successful."
Carter's anti-inflation rhetoric was also in keeping with his recent remarks and a likely preview of the main message he will be delivering this fall while campaigning for Democratic congressional candidates.
However, the "tough" new anti-inflation measures that he has promised still appear to be a few weeks away from being announced.
In speaking of interest rates, the president said that the Federal Reserve's discount rate - the interest the Fed charges its member banks to borrow from it - "is too high, and I wish it was lower." The discount rate is now at a record high 8 per cent.
Carter, however, has not been a consistent critic of the increasingly higher interest rates that have accompanied the rise in inflation. Several weeks ago he said he hoped interest rates would rise no higher. But when the Fed shortly thereafter announced a new boost in the discount rate, the White House issued a statement praising the action as an understandably necessary curb on inflation.
On other domestic topics during the news conference, the president:
Said of the Camp David summit that "obviously, my own reputation was enhanced by that agreement . . ." But, echoing a theme his aides are pushing, he added that his rise in the polls is more a result of "the culmination of our efforts" on other matters, such as the natural gas and civil service revision legislation.
Reaffirmed his support for the Humphrey-Hawkins so-called full-employment bill, but once again rejected suggestions that he call a "Camp David summit" on unemployment. "I would guess that his might never again occur," he said of the extraordinary Middle East peace negotiations at the Maryland presidential retreat.
Carter also endorsed efforts to root out welfare fraud, in answer to a question about the indictment earlier this week of 15 employes of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
He said that in a "gross case" of welfare fraud "I would favor them going to jail."