More support for a delayed tax cut aimed at stimulating business investment rather than personal consumption came yesterday from government officials past and present in testimony before Congress.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Al Ullman also expressed his reluctance to write a tax bill this year. He said that "one way out of the dilemma" might be to write a tax reduction into the budget resolution that is to be acted on in 1981.
Committees in both the House and Senate are considering whether to draft legislation for a tax cut this year. So far the Senate Finance Committee appears more in favor of the idea than the House Finance Committee.
Administraton officials do not want Congress to act before the election. But they have made it clear that the government almost certainly would favor a tax cut for next year which would include aid to business, at least a partial offset for the payroll Social Security tax increase in January, and some other reductions in personal tax rates.
Most doubtful about a tax cut yesterday was Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Vocker. Speaking to the Senate Budget Committee, he criticized the present high level of government spending and said that a tax cut now would be "tomorrow's headache" for voters. "on the basis of figures I see now, the budget is not an inviting position for tax cuts in my opinion," Volcker said.
Charles Schultze, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, cautioned yesterday that "we have to be very, very careful how they (tax cuts) are related to spending." "Speaking to the House Budget Committee. Schultze added, "Anything we do now isn't going to affect the beginning of next year."
He agreed that some tax cuts were necessary to raise business productivity, but said that some of the tax proposals circulating in Congress would be inflationary.
Treasury Secretary G. William Miller, in his testimony to the Senate Budget Committee, said that economic performance in the United States in the next five years will be critical in determining whether the United States achieves "an unparalleled standard of economic wellbeing or a slow drift to mediocrity.
Volcker reaffirmed to the House Ways and Means Committee that he does not believe that the necessary conditons for a sensible tax cut are present. However he had said earlier to the Senate Budget Committee that he would not in the end object if Congress passed a very small tax cut this year, provided this was aimed at business and did not assume growing revenue loss in years to come.
His predecessor, Arthur Burns, urged Congress not to enact an election-year tax cut that would fuel inflation. But he gave support to the Republican-backed 10-5-3 plan for boosting depreciation allowances. Burns said that Congress should pass legislation that would have only a small impact next year and the year after, but would become more and more important, ans that the 10-5-3 plan would have a much bigger effect on revenue in later years.
Burns was supported by Henry Fowler, secretary of the Treasury under President Johnson. Burns is chairman and Fowler is vice chairman of the recently formed Committee to Fight Inflation. In testimony yesterday morning before the House Ways and Means Committee, both men stressed the need for careful planning of new tax legislation. They said it should be aimed at encouraging business to invest and become more productive, and at fighting inflation.