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Clinton takes credit for deficit's fall

With Election Day looming, President Clinton seized on news of a further drop in the federal deficit to demand that his administration receive more credit for its economic record.

Clinton said preliminary estimates for fiscal 1994 showed the deficit shrinking to $203-billion, down from $290.4-billion in 1992, and headed for a projected $167.1-billion in the next fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

The decline was the largest two-year drop in U.S. history, Clinton said, contending that it disproved critics' talk of his administration's "dangerous" economic course.

When his five-year budget was enacted in 1993, critics predicted "the economy will collapse, the deficit will explode, middle-class taxpayers will be bankrupt _ this will be the end of the world," Clinton said Monday in a speech to the City Club of Cleveland.

Instead, he contended, the economy's growth and the deficit's decline show "we are on the right course, and we should continue in this direction."

The deficit news offered Clinton a useful opportunity to assert again that much of his economic record has been overlooked. But it also pointed to the dilemma Clinton is facing as federal agencies are considering the administration's fiscal course for the next year.

The success of the deficit reduction could encourage some of the public to ask for more, but increasing costs from Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement spending will make further reductions difficult.

In other somewhat heartening news Monday, an ABC-News/Washington Post poll found Clinton's approval rating had climbed to 49 percent, hardly robust but up from a low of 44 percent in August and September. The poll, taken Oct. 20-23, had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

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