Dukakis Jabs Gephardt on Taxes; Rival Assails Airline
The two leading Democratic presidential candidates, Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis and Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, tuned up for a series of weekend debates Friday, with Dukakis jabbing at Gephardt’s record on taxes and Gephardt attacking Eastern Airlines as an example of “greed” in corporate management.
Meanwhile, an aide to Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart said Friday that the former Colorado senator will hold a news conference here today to announce whether he intends to stay in the race. Hart got back into the race in December after dropping out in May because of reports that he spent a weekend with Miami model Donna Rice. He has finished last among active candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire voting this month.
Tax Cut Called Big Error
Dukakis, campaigning in Austin, Tex., called President Reagan’s 1981 tax cut “one of the biggest mistakes in recent American history” and asserted that “building walls around America” is a serious mistake.
He did not mention anyone by name but he has strongly criticized Gephardt for voting for the Reagan bill and for sponsoring what critics contend is protectionist trade legislation.
Dukakis, Gephardt and Hart were among the Democrats gathering for a dinner Friday night and a debate today in Atlanta, heart of the South, which dominates the 20-state delegate bonanza on March 8, known as Super Tuesday. The Massachusetts governor and the Missouri congressman split the first four major Democratic contests and have been attacking each other ever since.
Gephardt campaigned in Jacksonville, Fla., making speeches in the second-largest Super Tuesday state. Gephardt blasted Miami-based Eastern Airlines for decisions he said symbolize an attitude among U.S. corporations emphasizing “quick paper profits.”
Met With Eastern Workers
Gephardt, whose campaign has stressed a need to improve corporate productivity, met with employees of Eastern before declaring: “We will stop the attitude that the way to make profits is to take them out of the hides of employees.”
Eastern, which reported a net loss of $181.1 million in 1987, is demanding contract concessions totaling $450 million from unions representing its machinists, pilots and flight attendants.
Gephardt said the management decisions at Eastern, a subsidiary of giant Texas Air Corp., reflect “the dismantling of a great corporation.”
Gephardt stopped short of calling for federal re-regulation of the airline industry. But he said that, if he were elected President, his Administration would enforce the industry’s safety standards and change the way management thinks.
An Eastern spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for reaction.
‘Real Opportunity’ Message
Dukakis, addressing an overflow crowd at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs in Austin, devoted much of his speech to his campaign message of “good jobs and real opportunity” for all, with special emphasis on the need for education and research. “It’s going to take hard workers, not high rollers, to get America moving again,” he said.
If Gephardt’s name was not mentioned, Dukakis’ meaning was clear when he said in his speech that “building walls around America” is a mistake. “We tried that 60 years ago and it gave us the worst Depression in our history,” he said.
Gephardt favors trade legislation that would give the President authority to retaliate against trading partners that failed to open their markets.
He also voted for the 1981 Reaganomics tax cut, which passed with substantial help from Southern Democrats in the House.
“In seven years that one mistake transformed our nation from the world’s largest creditor into the world’s largest debtor,” Dukakis said.
“Reaganomics isn’t an economic theory; it’s theft from our children,” he said. “It’s a felony against the future and it has played the hard-working, taxpaying families of middle America for fools.”
The governor’s speech reflected at least a temporary decision to remain above the fray in an increasingly fierce rhetorical battle. Gephardt sharply attacked Dukakis earlier this week and the governor said Thursday that his rival “better watch out” if he persisted.