Reagan calls in private-sector for help on budget-cutting
Washington — President Reagan says he is naming a private-sector task force to ''control the uncontrollable in runaway government spending.''
The announcement came at his press conference on Thursday, Feb. 18.
In that forum, Mr. Reagan seemed to be trying to turn the nation's attention to his efforts to decrease the size of federal government - and away from concerns about high interest rates, rising unemployment, and a growing number of business failures.
Mr. Reagan, asserting that members of this private-sector panel will ''roll up their sleeves and search out waste and inefficiency wherever it is to be found in government,'' was emphasizing the theme that got him here to Washington. And it was his way of reasserting his resolution to stay on course with his plans for tax cuts and further government spending cuts.
Other areas touched on in the President's news conference:
* Relations with the Federal Reserve. Reagan appeared to offer an olive branch to the Federal Reserve Board. He said he has ''confidence'' in the Fed's monetary policies, including their money supply growth targets for 1982. During his last press conference, his comments about the Fed were lukewarm at best. This fueled speculation about a widening rift between the independent agency and the administration over high interest rates in an economy struggling to climb out of recession.
The President reaffirmed his belief that the Fed's policies, combined with his budget and tax measures, will keep deficits down ''over the next few years'' - a turn of phrase that seemed a concession that there is little likelihood of achieving his campaign goal of a balanced federal budget very soon. All these deficit-moderating measures will contribute to economic recovery, he added, if Congress approves his fiscal 1983 budget.
* Central America. Asked if the President was planning to send US troops to El Salvador, Reagan replied that ''there are no plans to send American combat troops into action anywhere in the world.'' He said that he would not make the mistake of past administrations in outlining US actions in advance. ''To do so, '' he said, ''is giving away things that reduce your leverage.'' He dismissed any parallel between US support of the government of El Salvador and US involvement in Vietnam.
He said the administration is ''convinced'' that arms are being shipped to Nicaragua ''by way of Cuba.'' He said the US had evidence of the biggest weapons buildup in Cuba since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. Asked if shipment of Soviet jet fighters to Cuba constituted a breach of the ban on shipment of offensive weapons to that island nation, the President said the situation was ''under review and discussion.''
Mr. Reagan injected a note of humor into his press conference. He joked that the only incident that might bring about use of US troops in El Salvador would be ''if they dropped a bomb on the White House.'' In that event, he added, ''I might get angry.''
* The Middle East. Reagan said that contrary to reports, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger returned from his Middle East trip ''without any request having been voiced'' by Jordan for more arms. He added, ''Again, I have reassured Prime Minister Begin . . . there is no change in our approach to Israel.'' The President also said that reports of a rift between Mr. Weinberger and Secretary of State Alexander Haig were baseless. He said the two men were in frequent contact and had no policy differences.
* Polish default. Asked if the US would again step in and keep Poland from defaulting on its debt to Western banks, he said no decision had been made. The earlier US payment on interest owed to Western banks was made so that ''we retained our leverage'' with Poland and kept that nation from further reliance on the Soviet Union, he said.
* College loans. Reagan said he does not believe that students who truly need college loans will be affected by reductions in the federal student loan program. He said administration of the program had become so loose that people were using the government loan money to reinvest at a higher interest rate and make a profit.