Former presidential economic adviser Walter W. Heller presented an eight-point alternative Democratic program yesterday that he said will help restore economic health, calling the Reagan tax cut "a time bomb" that will explode in later years."
Heller, speaking for the Center for National Policy, a Democratic think tank, summarized the views of papers written by Richard A. Musgrave, adjunct professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Harvard University Professor Francis M. Bator during a speech at the National Press Club.
In broad terms, the Heller-Musgrave-Bator proposal is for the White House, Congress and the Federal Reserve to declare an "economic armistice" under which the president and Congress would agree to abandon some of last year's excessive tax giveaways, the Fed would agree to lower interest rates, and everybody would agree to "a modest program of wage-price restraint."
"This would mean that the president would have to stop hugging monetarist Milton Friedman, as cuddly as he may be," wise-cracked Heller, now at the University of Minnesota.
The three Democratic economists would defer the 1983 income tax cuts and later indexing, which Heller said would pick up $100 billion in revenue by fiscal 1987. They would terminate the All Savers certificate and the "rent-a-deduction" part of the depreciation schedules, and drop the 10-5-3 program in favor of expensing of capital outlays, while junking the investment tax credit.
One revenue booster would be a new 30-cent-a-gallon tax on gasoline at the pump, phased in over three years.
Bator argues that "for good or ill," the American economy remains much more Keynesian, with imperfectly competitive markets, than what he calls a "C economy," for Classical-Competitive-Chicago. He says that Reaganomics has been a disaster because the president mistakenly believed he was dealing with a C economy.