Treasury Secretary Michael Blumenthal, under a self-imposed injunction not to "scoop" President Carter, yesterday said that the administrtion's forthcoming anti-inflation program would have "no shock mechanism" to affect wages and prices.
In a speech to the National Press Club, Blumenthal said that the program, to be announced Friday at a presidential press conference, would call instead for "a collaborative effort" by business, labor and government over a period of years.
But he implied that the program would be based on rhetoric rather than regulation.
"You all can pick at it and suggest what it does not do," Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal said that the program would concentrate on "the causes, not just the symptoms, of inflation," and that the President would set out "where he thinks the economy ought to be going in a number of years."
The President thus might express the belief that wages and prices ought to come down gradually. But it appeared unlikely that there would be formal targets against which the public could test business and labor performance.
Carter long has promised that he would not resort to actual or stand-by wage and price controls. He also has abandoned a post-inaugural trial balloon for "voluntary" pre-notification of wage and price increases.
Blumenthal reiterated these promises yesterday, saying that Carter's stand "is not ideological. He simply believes - we all believe - that controls and coercion would not work anyway."
The Treasury official noted that inflation does not stem from a single cause. Because the origins of the problem are complex, there must be "a willingness to stay with the solution over a period of time," he said. "The President's program will address the problem in that light."
"Additional authority for the Council on Wage and Price Stability, the existing wage-price monitoring agency, to study how to break materials bottle-necks is likely to be one part of the program. Another will be an effort to cut governmental redtape and other regulations that add unnecessarily to costs.
Some from of nationwide labor management committee, charged with ways of increasing productivity, is another element of the planned Carter program. But it will be made clear that such a committee will not provide a convenient framework for presidential "jawboning."
Any advance discussions by business and labor with government officials of wage and price plans are likely to be highly informal and in no sense binding.
According to administration sources, the intention of the program is to influence a gradual decline in average annual wage increases running about 8 per cent, and a consumer inflation rate of 6 per cent.
Initially, Bluementhal had suggested that the administration set forth annual targets by which these numbers would be reduced - say, to 7 per cent and 5 per cent in 1978.
But a debate has raged within the administration on the use of any numbers that might be interpreted as "voluntary guidelines." Influential business and labor leaders have counselled Carter to stay away from any program, however mild, that might be interpreted as the forerunner of actual wage-price controls.
In assessing the current economic status of the nation, Bluementhal said there had been some changes since the stimulus program first was designed prior to the inaugural, but that the nation - suffering from high unemployment and unused industrial capacity - still needs a fiscal stimulus.
He conceded that the $50 rebate was "not the most popular part of the program", but predicted it would pass the Senate after the Easter recess.