Joint Economic Committee unveils 4-point plan to trim deficits
Democrats and Republicans seemed more in agreement than ever that something ought to be done quickly about the federal deficit, but they are no nearer to an accord on what to do.
Democratic members of the 20-member Congressional Joint Economic Committee issued an annual report proposing a four-point program to cut budget deficits $ 200 billion over the next three years and $500 billion through 1989.
''Action is needed,'' declared Democratic committee leader Rep. Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana. He called the plan balanced and fair - ''For every dollar of tax increases we propose a dollar of spending cuts.''
In cautious response for committee Republicans, Sen. Roger W. Jepsen of Iowa agreed that action is necessary. But he warned against ''quick fixes'' and argued that the economy is improving. Primarily, the government should spend less, he said, and he supported three proposals to give the President greater power: a constitutional amendment requiring balanced budgets; a line-item veto to widen his control over spending; and the establishment of a bipartisan panel, or commission, to make specific recommendations for reducing deficits.
Introducing the four-part Democratic program, Representative Hamilton said, ''Democrats agree that more than a deficit down payment is necessary. Action is necessary in 1984.''
The Democratic program is aimed to:
1. Increase military spending by 4 percent annually, 1985 through 1989, after adjustment for inflation.
2. New tax proposals ''adopted to broaden the tax base and restore fairness''
3. Review of entitlement programs generally and in particular to ''restrain the rapidly rising cost of health care.''
4. Instructions to the Federal Reserve Board, after the initial points, to change ''monetary policy to assure sustained economic growth.''
Politically, Washington regards the Democratic program as a platform with enough for most nominees. It is felt significant that an increasing number of congressmen feel positive action on the deficit is needed.
The economic recovery ''is in trouble,'' the Democratic reportsays. It is critical of the Reagan administration. Some of the Democratic argument, in condensed form, follows:
Real gross national product from 1982 through 1984 will be more than 5.5 percent less than promised in 1981. Corporate profits in 1983 were 32 percent less than Mr. Reagan forecast; unemployment last year was three points higher. ''And the deficits which were projected to be zero in 1984 will exceed Reagan's estimate by about $200 billion.
''Only inflation is better than forecast. In every other respect this administration has missed its own economic targets by a wide margin.''
The Republicans shot back with their own counter criticisms and proposals. Few here think a constitutional amendment requiring an annual balanced budget will get far. More attention goes to the proposal for a line-item veto. The President at present can approve or veto a complete bill but not go through individual items in detail. Four-fifths of the states give governors the line-item power, the Republicans note: ''This is a major reason why most state governments have been more successful than the federal government in achieving fiscal discipline.''
Republicans offer another proposal.
Many big controversies are turned over to a outside commission, they note: why not the issue of the Federal deficit itself?
''We recommend that Congress establish a full-fledged national commission. . . . Such a commission should include private members appointed by the President as well as congressional appointees.''
Congressional groups seemed as far apart as ever over how to deal with the budget deficit.
The Democratic proposal to cut the deficit $200 billion in three years by imposing a form of flat-rate tax and holding down military expenditures is about twice as much as President Reagan's request for a $100 billion ''down payment'' on the debt over a three-year period.