WE'VE ALL HEARD of Carternomics and Reganomics, but how about Andersonomics? What does anyone know about the economic policy of the independent candidate for president, John Anderson? The answer is, very little -- although, if the truth be told, Carternomics and Reaganomics, as they bend easily in the political wind, sometimes defy definition.
In any event, I wrote after the Reagon-Anderson debate that the white-haired congressman from Illinois had come up -- in my mind -- with some of the same tired phrases about fiscal integrity in seeking the solution to inflation. I argued that the nation, instead, desperately needs an "incomes policy" -- that is, the frank intervention by the government to hold down prices and wages.
That brought a pained response from Anderson, who insisted that he does, in fact, support such a policy, although he failed to mention it during the debate.
SEATED AT HIS desk in the Longworth House Office Building, Anderson gave me what I think is a complete rundown on his economic views, which defy categorization as "liberal" or "conservative." This is a summary of Andersonomics:
Wage-price intervention. Anderson would rely on the use of the tax system, as suggested by the late Arthur M. Okun and others , to encourage compliance with government standards on wage and price increases. "I would be willing to accept a greater degree of intervention than either Carter or Reagan would admit is necessary," he said.
Industrial policy. He favors, rebuilding uncompetitive sectors of U.S. society through loan guarantees, but stops short of bailouts. (He voted against the Chrysler loan.)
Trade and protectionism. Anderson says he opposes high tariffs and quotas on imports. But in the current domestic auto crisis, Anderson backs a voluntary agreement to hold back Japanese imports.
Tax cuts. We must forego them in 1981 because there are more important national goals, such as "addressing poverty in the inner cities," or rebuilding the nation's transportation system, which is in "scandalous" shape. He says, "I just don't but fundamentally the argument that (high tax levels) are what is responsible for the poor performance of the American economy." But he favors changes in the tax law to encourage capital investment, rather than "ginning up the economy with a general tax cut that will cause people to buy more. Buy more what?"
Monetary policy. There is excessive reliance on monetary policy "as the sole and exclusive tool that is now being used to try to control inflation."
Energy. His proposal for a 50-cent-a-gallon tax on gasoline is well known. Beyond that, he would encourage investment in rebuilding urban transportation systems, as part of a comprehensive conservation program. He also would put pressure on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to maintain stable prices, and support efforts to develop new energy sources in the Third World.
International aid. Anderson complains that the United States gives only one-quarter of one percent of its gross national produce as aid for the poor countries. He says he regrets that at a recent United Nations meeting, "we somehow got painted into a corner whereby we were the fellows wearing the black hats. That shouldn't be. We should be demonstrating that the Western capitalist world is willing to try with transfers of tecnology and more generous capital flows to make it possible for these countries to build up their economies. I think we are misreading some very clear signs of how grim the future can become."
Economic advisers. Who would be the kind of economic advisers Anderson would bring with him to Washington? As a secretary of Treasury or chairman of the council of economic advisers, Anderson says he likes New York banker Felix Rohatyn, although Rohatyn has recently jumped to Carter, saying Anderson can't be elected. He likes the ideas offered by conservation Harvard University economist Hendrik Houihakker on producitivity, and the liberal ideas of Robert eisner of Northwestern University relating to the use of wage credits to tackle the problem of chronically disadvantaged youth.
WHAT DOES all this add up to? Anderson regards himself as neither liberal nor conservative in the usual sense, but eclectic. A tax-based incomes policy goes beyong what Carter has been willing to buy so far, (although some noises are being made about looking at it next year if the president is reelected). He is thoughtful, and exceptionally well-informed. He can run off the appropriate economic statistics in a manner reminiscent of, say, Jimmy Carter.
On the other hand, there is a lot of hard-nosed fiscal conservatism in Anderson's makeup. He's not selling Reagan's laissez-faire line, but he'd like to cut out federal government largess that permits, for example, "the construction of too many convention centers and shopping malls."
And how does he deal with the argument that an independent could not get an economic, or any other, program through congress? on that Anderson seems sure of himself. He says, "I really believe that something as dramatic as the election of an independent would signal to all members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, that the country wanted a change, a very fundamental change -- one that would take the kind of consensus we haven't had until now."