President Carter's plan to balance the 1981 budget, now unveiled in detail, almost certainly will be challenged by political forces on the left and right. Liberals, dismayed by proposed cuts in social spending, already are demanding higher taxes on the rich to provide more government help for the poor.
Republicans in Congress are expected to offer just the opposite -- tax cuts, to relieve a growing financial burden on middle-
Hoping to steer a safe course between these contending forces, Mr. Carter claims his budget is "fair, not balanced on the backs of the poor."
For example, says budget director James T. McIntyre Jr., payments for social security, medicare, medicaid, and aid to families with dependent children will not be reduced.
As for tax cuts, there will be none, says Treasury Secretary G. William Miller, "until the priority of balancing the budget is met."
"A budget balanced by tax increases," said Mr. McIntyre, "would not be credible. The real problem is the rate of growth of overall [government] spending."
This being the White House view, the task was to chop enough spending out of the fiscal 1981 budget to balance it by cuts alone.
To this end the President proposes $15 billion worth of program cuts, designed to push the budget into a modest $500 million surplus.
Mr. Carter then offers two tax increases, which -- if approved by Congress -- together would provide an extra $16 billion in revenues, enough to "post a [ budget] surplus of $16.5 billion, the largest in US history."
These extra receipts, says the President, will not be used to balance the budget, or to substitute for spending cuts. Rather they will be held apart, as "a margin of safety, [to] ensure that the budget will remain in balance if estimates change in a way that cannot be predicted now."