WASHINGTON -- Former President Gerald Ford endorsed President Reagan's handling of the economy Wednesday, but said 'in the real world' it may be necessary for him to compromise to avoid a dangerous stalemate with Congress.
Ford offered several ideas to lessen the $90 billion-plus deficit written into the pending federal budget, but added that while he is unhappy about red ink spending, the Reagan deficit is 'manageable' and would not 'abort economic recovery.'
The former president, in Washington for a meeting of a foundation established to support his presidential library at Ann Arbor, Mich., visited Reagan briefly at the White House.
'I basically support' the economic program Reagan offered and Congress accepted last year, Ford said, 'and I don't believe he should give in to political expediency.'
But, he said, 'in the real world,' both sides in the impasse over the budget 'may have to sit down and work out a solution.'
Ford said he saw no sign of a 'comprehensive solution' coming from Reagan's critics, but warned if something was not worked out, 'the economy and its recovery' might be endangered.
Ford said he could think of several ways to improve the budget situation: to stretch out some defense procurement (even though he supports Reagan's military buildup), to 're-evaluate' the 'safe harbor' tax concession granted business in the 1981 tax cut and to impose an import fee on oil.
But the former president made it clear he is backing Reagan's economic program, saying, 'I am very optimistic the basic economic policy of the administration will take us out of the difficulty we have at this time.'