Dr. Feldstein's facts squeeze Reagan as political '84 warms
Martin Feldstein won't keep quiet about the budget deficit, and they don't like it upstairs at the White House. The chairman of President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers may be fired, though his statement of support for the President's program, Wednesday, has apparently saved his job for now.
What led Dr. Feldstein into trouble is a series of speeches pointing to budget spending trends and the hefty federal deficit. His numbers aren't being challenged, but they do imply - though Dr. Feldstein doesn't say it in so many words - that growth in defense spending and debt costs are a major factor behind the deficit. This is embarrassing because the White House has been trying to blame Congress for the deficit.
There is plenty of good economic news, of course. Inflation is running at a low level. Unemployment has come down faster than anticipated. The recovery is far stronger than most economists - including Dr. Feldstein - predicted. The leading indicators for October, released by the Commerce Department Wednesday, indicate the recovery will continue.
But the deficit won't go away, and the White House is wondering about Mr. Reagan's political vulnerability on this score. The Democrats may point out that the President originally promised to eliminate the red ink no later than in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.
Further, Dr. Feldstein has been saying that the deficit will remain huge without further spending cuts or tax increases, or some combination of these. He usually mentions the tax increases called for by the President in this year's budget proposal.
In the meantime, the President has decided that prior to the 1984 election he doesn't want any tax increase. Thus the White House doesn't appreciate Feldstein's emphasis on contrary policy in a manner that may be taken, also, as ''official'' government policy.