Liberal Republican John B. Anderson uttered some conservative-sounding words about the federal budget today but preserved his reputation as an iconoclast by offering specific recommendations of federal spending reductions to meet his budget goals.
Campaigning hard through northern Illinois, not far from the district he has represented for 20 years in Congress, Anderson said at a press conference that he wanted to launch a national debate on economic steps to deal with "the inflation crisis."
The candidate noted that all his oponents for the Republican presidential nomination has called for large-scale cuts in federal spending but that none has provided a specific list of the cuts he would favor.
Anderson, who has advertised himself as "the different Republican," then revealed a list of 37 specific cuts he would favor. His proposals would reduce the budget President Carter submitted to Congress in January by $11.3 billion.
Anderson's roster of budget cuts could almost make him look like a right winger. He recommended what he called "a modest $200 million cut" in the defense budget, but focused most of his budget-cutting attention on social programs.
The biggest reduction Anderson would propose in the Carter budget is a change in the indexing of federal pensions programs which would result in $3.5 billion reduction in Social Security, veterans and Civil Service pension increases.
Anderson also called for a $1.4 billion cut in federal aid that helps low-income families buy heating oil. He called for a $500 million reduction in federal jobs programs and suggested that cost-of-living adjustments for federal retirees should be made annually rather than twice a year; he said this would save $800 million.
In addition to these spending reductions, Anderson proposed two new federal taxes that he said would bring in about $10.7 billion. This would come from a 10 percent tariff on oil imports and a one-year surtax on 5 percent on the corporate federal income tax.
Anderson noted when he made the proposals that anybody who calls for specific spending cuts is likely to get in trouble with special interest groups. But, he said, "I think it is irresponsible to call for cuts . . . without specifying precisely how those cuts are to be made."
As often happens with candidates who get down to specifics, Anderson found himself backtracking slightly almost as soon as he made his plan public. Reporters challenged him about his call for reductions in grants to low income families to pay for home heating oil and in spending for the Consumer Cooperative Bank. Within an hour, his press secretary announced the candidate would try to find ways to fund both programs after all.
Budget cuts were not the only politically dangerous subject Anderson addressed today. In a feisty exchange with an antiabortion questioner at Northern Illinois University here, Anderson offered an impassioned defense of the principle of free choice.
"When the fundamental issue is pierced, it is this," he said over the shouts of his questioner. "The most fundamentally private decision an individual can make . . . is when a woman decides to end a pregnancy, and I feel the individual has to be free under our system, free to choose."
The energetic, high-spirited candidate made it clear that he believes his forthright stance of difficult issues will win him more support than it will lose him.
And so he explained to crowds here that he had called former-president Gerald Ford Thursday to discuss Ford's possible entry into the Republican presidential race.
"I told him that I understood that his rationale for possibly running was that Ronald Reagan could not be nominated and that he was the only Republican who could win in November," Anderson related today. "I said I agree with you on the first proposition, but I disagree with you on the second. John Anderson can be elected."
Both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times endorsed Anderson today, the Tribune saying he 'best represents the qualities needed to win nomination and election." The Sun-Times said Anderson "far surpasses his opponents in terms of courage, integrity, humanity and proven ability."