In a sharply worded speech to a Hispanic audience, Vice President George Bush today defended the Reagan administration's economic program against criticism that the tax and budget cuts would hurt the poor and help the rich.
"To suggest we are insensitive to the poor is unfair," Bush told the national convention of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), whose leaders have been among the most outspoken in their opposition to Reagan's program.
Bush urged Hispanics to join the administration in the fight to end inflation and create jobs, but warned that any relationship must be on new terms.
"Don't bring us the old agenda," Bush said. "Don't bring us old programs. Don't bring us old ideas. Don't bring us [programs] that have failed us in the past. The status quo is not enough for this administration." f
Noting the growing political power of Hispanics in this country, Bush urged LULAC and other Hispanic groups to use their clout at the state and local level to compete for funds that are distributed in Washington.
"You'll have a better share of the action if you use your political power to lean on" mayors and governors, Bush said.
In several departures from his prepared text, Bush pointedly defended the administration against it Hispanic critics. "This administration is not going to abandon the country's historic commitment of the past to equal justice and equal opportunity," he said.
Acknowledging that many in the audience opposed the Reagan program, Bush said the concept is in "the best tradition of the Hispanic people: a concept of hard work, a concept of self-help and faith in the strength of families and the guiding wisdom."
Ruben Bonilla, outgoing president of LULAC, promising "much civil debate," said Bush's speech offered only hope but no specifics and said the vice president's assertion that Hispanics are capable of competing for funds at the local level was absolutely untrue.
"Hispanics are the most disproportionately underrepresented group in the country," Bonilla said. "To speculate that we can impact the local level overstates the benevolence of local officials."
Bonilla said he was especially disappointed that Bush had failed to pledge support -- or even mention -- extension of the Voting Rights Act, which he said affected everything else Bush had talked about.