DES MOINES, Iowa -- A more responsible Congress would improve the nation's economy more than a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget, former President Gerald Ford said.
Ford outlined his opposition to the amendment Monday during a fundraising reception and luncheon for David Readinger, the 4th District congressional candidate. He said he would favor the amendment only as a last-ditch effort.
'Basically, I would oppose the proposed constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget at this time,' Ford told reporters. 'It may at some later date as a last resort be necessary.'
The nation's 38th president said that even if Congress passed the amendment this year, it would be four or five years before the measure would be implemented.
'The more important things for us to do right now is to elect members to the House and Senate who will immediately when Congress convenes act more responsibly in fiscal matters. They could do something in 1983.'
Ford said he supported other efforts of the Reagan administration. He blamed former President Jimmy Carter for the current economic woes and said Reagan has not had adequate time to make improvements.
When he left office, Ford said unemployment was 7.5 percent, the rate of inflation was 4.8 percent and the prime interest rate was 6 percent. He said when Carter left office, unemployment was 7.4 percent, inflation was 13.5 percent and the prime interest rate was 21.5 percent.
'So the Democrats who controlled the White House and Congress during that four-year period screwed things up,' he said. 'There's been progress since Republicans took over.'
Ford explained that since Reagan took over, the prime rate has dropped from 21.5 percent to 15 percent and the rate of inflation has declined from 13.5 to 5.5 to 6 percent.
'The only problem was the patient was very ill on Jan. 20, 1981,' he said. 'It takes a little time to cure economic illness as bad as the one President Reagan inherited. We were well on the road to solid prosperity in the country before the Carter administration blew it.'