Two top government economic officials said yesterday that the administration and Congress must compromise on reducing the federal budget deficit to prevent interest rates from choking off an economic recovery later this year.
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul A. Volcker said that, if Congress and the administration can agree on a big enough program of tax increases and spending reductions, lower interest rates would follow.
Volcker, speaking in New York to the Women's Economic Roundtable, said a plan to reduce the budget deficit need not eliminate the 10 percent income tax cut scheduled for July 1983 if enough savings could be found elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Alice Rivlin, director of the Congressional Budget Office, said the 10 percent tax cut that will take effect in July 1982 will help stimulate the lagging economy. But Rivlin told the National Conference of State Legislatures that the federal deficit will face a "disastrous increase" unless current spending and taxing policies are changed.
The administration estimates that, unless budget savings are found, spending will exceed revenues by $180 billion in fiscal 1983, which begins in October.
Rivlin called the negotiations between Congress and the president "crucial," and said she hopes that a compromise can be worked out because both sides realize that the economic situation will get worse unless a joint budget package can be agreed upon. However, Rivlin said a budget compromise is "by no means a sure thing."
Officials of four major business groups met yesterday with White House officials and also appealed for a bipartisan compromise on the budget. The consensus among representatives of the American Business Conference, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Federation of Independent Business and the Business Roundtable was that there will be no decline in interest rates without such an agreement, a participant said.
Yesterday, the House Banking Committee adopted a report that called for the Federal Reserve to raise its targets for monetary growth as Congress acts to reduce the deficit. The committee said by a 26-14 vote that, if the Federal Reserve decides at the next meeting of its policy-setting open market committee that new targets are not necessary, it should report its decision to the committee at once.
Volcker said that the central bank does not intend to change its targets for monetary growth. But he said that, if inflation continues to abate, monetary conditions will ease by their own accord.
"There will be only so much money to go around," Volcker said. "If inflation comes down, some of that money will go toward real growth. If inflation doesn't come down, the available money will go to support inflation." He said this is not the "time for retreat" on money policy.
Volcker said the groundwork is being established for "lasting reduction" in inflation, but said the Fed must continue its monetary policies aimed at controlling inflation because "interest rates won't come down until people have confidence about future wages and prices."
In another development, the Labor Department reported that the number of persons making initial claims for unemployment insurance increased 32,000 to 616,000 in the week ended April 10.
All told, 3.86 million persons claimed unemployment benefits in the week ended April 3, up 37,000 from the week before, the Labor Department said.