Dukakis' 'Massachusetts Miracle' A 'mirage,' Bush Says

Posted: September 16, 1988

SAN FRANCISCO — Dismissing the "Massachusetts Miracle" as the "Massachusetts Mirage," Vice President Bush ridiculed the economic record of Michael S. Dukakis yesterday and said the governor deserved a gold medal in the "tax-and-spend competition."

The speech to the Commonwealth Club of California marked Bush's first frontal attack on Dukakis' assertion that his performance in managing the economy of Massachusetts qualifies him for the presidency.

In addition, it provided an infusion of new material for Bush, whose rhetoric had seemed stale and repetitive this week - to the point that the Republican candidate had all but disappeared from the television networks' evening newscasts.

Bush's basic charge was that the Dukakis record, as opposed to the Dukakis rhetoric, reveals that the Massachusetts governor is just another big- spending, liberal Democrat who "would drive our economy into decline."

"My opponent ranks first in spending increases. Second in tax hikes. If this were the Olympics, his composite score would make him the gold medal winner in the tax-and-spend competition."

Dukakis responded during a visit to Yellowstone National Park by defending his record and challenging voters to compare it with "what's happened under Mr. Bush and the administration of which he's been a part and the kind of fiscal mess that I'm going to inherit as the next president of the United States."

In his campaign, Dukakis has generally avoided proposing costly new federal programs and has stressed, far more than Bush, the need to reduce the federal deficit. He has said he would consider raising taxes only as a last resort.

Bush, citing census figures, charged that Massachusetts, under Dukakis' stewardship, increased taxing and spending at a faster rate than any other state. And he said Labor Department numbers show that Massachusetts has lost manufacturing jobs since Dukakis began his second term as governor in 1983 and ranks 40th among the 50 states in overall job growth.

Statistics supplied by the Bush campaign show Massachusetts gaining 328,000 jobs between early 1983 and May 1988.

In addition, Bush characterized the governor's efforts this summer to balance his state's budget, through higher cigarette taxes and shifts in funding for the state's pension system, as the same kind of behavior that took New York City to the edge of bankruptcy in the mid-1970s.

"Right now," Bush said, "that state is approaching a fiscal fiasco that might best be described as a budgetary Three Mile Island . . . a budgetary meltdown."

In a speech stuffed with statistics, Bush did not mention that the unemployment rate in Massachusetts consistently has been the lowest of any industrial state. Nor did he devote much attention to the federal budget deficits rolled up during the Reagan-Bush years.

"No question, Massachusetts did benefit dramatically from the national recovery - but there is no Massachusetts 'miracle,' " Bush said. "If there's any miracle, it's that Massachusetts did so poorly in an era of unprecedented nationwide growth, while huge defense dollars were being pumped into that state."

After the speech, Bush traveled to suburban Concord for a question-and- answer session with students at a local high school. Among the questions, many of which were skeptically worded, was whether he would pardon former national security adviser Oliver L. North, who has been indicted for his role in the Iran-contra affair.

Bush refused to speculate on what he might do, but added, "I hope he's found innocent."

If Bush's tone yesterday was sharply partisan, his tone Wednesday night was thoughtful and reflective. Appearing at a $1,000 per ticket Republican fund- raising dinner, he chose to talk to his wealthy audience about children who are poor and homeless.

"I find myself almost haunted, as I grow a little bit older, by the lives being lived by the children of our inner cities," he said, "children growing up, some of them in a loveless environment, children growing up amidst violence and horror. What's to become of them?

"Government can't solve the problems, we've seen that," he said. ''Government, when it tries to do it itself, somehow makes it a lot worse. But the children are there and are waiting and we've got to help. And one of the things I intend to do as president is to see what I can do as a leader, as a gentle persuader."

But outside, as well-dressed Republicans struggled to enter the hotel, the atmosphere was not gentle. Several protesters denouncing Reagan administration policies were clubbed when riot-equipped police moved them.

Among those injured was Dolores Huerta, 58, a vice president of the United Farm Workers union, who was hospitalized with three broken ribs and a ruptured spleen, her husband said yesterday.

The roughly 500 demonstrators were removed forcibly by 100 police officers, and several were hit with billy clubs. None of the protesters was arrested.

Daniel Silva, the chief investigator for the Office of Citizen's Complaints, said Mayor Art Agnos has made the incident a priority investigation.

"We are gathering information and eyewitness accounts," Silva said. "We also have available to us the officer that has been identified as being involved in the incident."

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