BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Former President Gerald Ford defended Monday the Reagan administration's proposed 'New Federalism' and predicted a national economic upswing by summer.
Ford warned a period of increasing economic difficulty may preceed the recovery, but said Reaganomics should produce signs of improvement in time to benefit Republicans in fall elections.
'I'm an optimist,' he said. 'I really believe if the president stays on his course ... by summer, the whole economic picture will be improved.'
Ford, who spoke at a breakfast, held a news conference, then attended classes during a visit to the University of Vermont, said it will take three to six months for the administration's economic package to take hold.
He said it would be catastrophic if President Reagan succumbed to political pressure and veered from the course he has charted.
While acknowledging many people are discouraged because they have not seen signs of recovery, Ford said most Americans share his belief the administration has at least put the economy back on the right track.
'People are feeling both encouragement and apprehension,' he said. 'People basically feel the right decisions have been made, but are apprehensive because they don't see light at the end of the tunnel.'
The longtime Republican leader also praised the current administration's 'New Federalism' proposals.
In his State of the Union message last week, Reagan unveiled a long term plan to have the federal government exchange with the states responsibility for a variety of social programs.
The swap would give Washington responsibility for administering Medicaid, but would return to the states 43 social programs that now cost about $47 billion.
Ford said the swap is the only alternative to a burgeoning federal bureaucracy.
'I fundamentally believe that because of our diversity in this country and because of the faith I have in state and local governments, federalism, if phased in properly, is a better solution,' he said.