Program Seeks to Cut Reliance on Foreign Economies : Dukakis Backs Science Study Plan

Times Staff Writer

Michael S. Dukakis on Monday broadened his proposals to boost the nation’s science and technology studies, as part of an overall program to free the United States from overreliance on foreign economies.

Under the $510-million program Dukakis unveiled, school science studies and teaching techniques would be revamped, teaching standards would be upgraded and efforts to train workers in new technologies would be undertaken.

The science program was the centerpiece of a speech Dukakis delivered Tuesday morning before spending an afternoon preparing for Thursday’s debate with Vice President George Bush. Dukakis arrived in Los Angeles last night.

Key Element


Portraying the need to boost science and technology studies as a key element in the effort to rebuild the nation’s posture in the world economy, Dukakis declared:

“We need a second Declaration of Independence in this country--independence from the budget deficit that has made us the world’s greatest borrower, independence from the trade deficit that is making America a shopping mall for foreign investors.”

The nation’s budget defict is approximately $150 billion this year--down considerably over the last two years but still twice what it was when President Reagan took office. The trade picture is similar: The July deficit was $9.5 billion, the lowest monthly level in 3 1/2 years, but still more than four times the monthly average at the start of the Reagan Administration.

Speaking to students at Tufts University, just outside Boston, Dukakis mixed jabs at Bush and his running mate, Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle, with a broad-brush treatment of his proposal to restore the nation’s standing in science and technological development.


‘Right Wing and Prayer’

“Dan Quayle wants us to believe that if he ever had to fill in for George Bush, America could get by on a right wing and a prayer,” Dukakis said, prompting laughter from the students as he sought to keep alive the difficulty Quayle had in his debate with Democrat Lloyd Bentsen last Wednesday when asked what he would do if he suddenly became President.

The speech was the only public event Tuesday on Dukakis’ schedule, which is carefully tailored this week to lead up to the debate at Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus. With most polls showing Dukakis trailing Bush but still within striking distance, Dukakis and his advisers are searching for some way to land a stunning blow during the debate that will help the Democrats to start moving up in the final weeks of the race.

But short of a knockout punch, they are seeking a difficult balance: to persuade voters that Dukakis can be both tough and pleasant. Dukakis rehearsed for the debate with Robert Barnett, a Washington lawyer, playing the role of Bush, as he did before the first debate.

Specific Issues

In his limited public appearances this week, meanwhile, Dukakis has been offering proposals on specific issues, while seeking to portray Bush as the candidate of slogans who is being programmed by campaign handlers--a theme of one recent series of Dukakis television commercials.

“George Bush is satisfied with today and complacent about tomorrow. The Republican campaign song seems to be ‘Don’t Worry. Be Happy,’ ” Dukakis said. “I want us to be happy, but I also want us to be concerned.”

After listing such concerns as those involving home ownership--a focus of a Dukakis speech on Monday--health care, jobs and education, the candidate said at Tufts:


“We’ve begun to get the campaign out of the flag factories and out from behind the balloons, the symbols, the slogans. We’re beginning to address those issues.”

Economic Development

The science and technology proposal that Dukakis unveiled grows out of a previously announced program to join industry, universities and government in stimulating economic development through an emphasis on new technologies.

“A commitment to science, technology and science education is something that is an essential part of our future,” Dukakis said. “We have to make America No. 1 in science education. We’re going to set some important national goals and we’re going to aim high.”

It is time, he said, to sell compact discs and automobiles to the Germans, Japanese and Koreans, “not arms to the ayatollah.”

Backing up the candidate’s proposal, Dukakis aides distributed an outline of its elements, as well as reporting that American 14-year-olds ranked last in science education in a recent survey of 17 countries, and that the average Japanese high school student scored higher than the top 5% of American students. Campaign adviser Peter Edelman said the data was compiled for the National Science Foundation.