Because of a dropped paragraph in an article Saturday, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's response to criticism from Treasury Secretary G. William Miller mistakenly was attributed to Miller. It was Kennedy who said figures on the percentage of gross national product consumed by the federal budget -- figures questioned by Miller -- came from the Carter administration.
In a handwritten note to his Cabinet members, President Carter has reiterated his determination to hold down government spending next fiscal year, and his treasury secretary has taken a roundhouse swing at challenger Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) on the spending issue.
Carter's note, dated Nov. 6, addressed "To Cabinet and agency heads," and almost immediately leaked to the Associated Press, said:
"The FY '81 budget will be very tight. Do not make tentative 'commitments' to special interests, to your own subordinates or to any news medium on spending levels which are likely to be cut by OMB [Office of Mangement and budget] or by me. Hold down expectations because low expectations are the ones likely to be realized for both spending and personnel levels. Thanks. Jimmy Carter."
Carter's budget director, James T. McIntyre, has set a tentative spending target of just under $600 billion for the fiscal year that will begin next Oct. 1. That is about $50 billion more than this year's anticipated spending. But that $50 billion will be taken up by automatic cost-of-living increases for such items as Social Security benefits; higher interest on the federal debt; and increases Carter has promised in defense spending, partly to win votes for the SALT treaty. That means other federal programs would have to be cut to stay below the $600 billion level.
As Carter's note became public yesterday, his treasury secretary, G. William Miller, was lashing out at Kennedy, warning in an interview with United Press International that voters should beward of electing "impetuous, short-sighted operators" as president. Kennedy is challenging Carter for the 1980 Democratic nomination.
"I notice Sen. Kennedy has indicated he would like to have government spending at 18.9 percent of gross national product, which means he's have to have a$60 billion cut in spending," Miller said in an interview.
"I'd like for him to tell us how we can do that, especially when he's encouraging programs all of which require more spending, Miller said.
"So he must be a Houndini if he can spend more money and reduce spending to 18.9 percent of GNP [from the 22 percent it is now]."
"Those who now come into candidacy for the presidency and have instant cures and generalities have never been very specific what they would accomplish," Miller went on.
He said the 18.9 percent figure is the fiscal 1983 projection in the second budget resolution, which is now in conference in Congress. That assumption, he said, was taken from administration figures.
In his campaign speeches, Kennedy has regularly criticized "the big spending programs" of the Carter administration, referring to the $88 billion synthetic fuels program Carter proposed last July. Kennedy says the same reduction in oil consumption could be achieved for "a small fraction of the cost" through conservation.
Miller's remarks were the second time in a week -- and the second major issue -- on which senior members of the Carter administration have challenged Kennedy, in effect accusing him of misrepresenting the Carter record.
Earlier in the week, new Carter campaign manager Robert S. Strauss and others accused Kennedy of exaggerating the price increases that would come from Carter's decision to take price controls off U.S. oil, claiming the senator once voted himself to remove controls from heating oil.