THE PEOPLE who have been the most adamant about government spending have been from the business community. I haven't spoken to a businessmen's group in the past three years which hasn't been critical of all the taxpayers' money being wasted by the bureaucrats in Washington.
The only problem with their argument is that, in many cases, the government is big business' major client.
While they all voted for Ronald Reagan because he promised to cut down the cost of the government, big business is starting to have second thoughts about the economics Mr. Reagan is proposing.
I happened to discover this when I stopped by a large computer office the other day that does millions of dollars of business with the government.
The office manager was shaking. "Reagan just put a freeze on all new equipment for government offices."
"That's a good start," I said.
"Are you crazy? Three-quarters of our business is done with the government."
"Well, if you're going to cut government expenditures, you have to start somewhere."
"You don't start with computers," he shouted. "That's false economy. Computers are supposed to figure out ways of saving the government money."
"Maybe we have enough computers now."
"You can't have enough computers in the government. I can see Reagan putting a hold on chairs and desks and carpets. You can run the government without them. But you don't throw the baby out with the bath water."
"I'm sure the people who make furniture for the government feel differently.
They're probably saying furniture shouldn't be frozen, because you can't govern if you don't have chairs to sit on. It seems to me that the president is going to have to make his cuts across the board if he hopes to keep his campaign promises."
"You can say that in your business. But Reagan is going to have to get the economy back on its feet and he won't be able to do that if he won't buy computers. We'll have to shut down our factories if his freeze stays in effect."
"I can see your problem. If we cut down on the size of the government, that means it won't order all the things that big government requires, which will hurt the private sector more than the government."
"Now you've got it. Big business provides the fuel that makes the government go. And the government provides the money to buy the fuel."
"I wonder why Reagan never thought of that when he attacked big government," I said.
"The worst thing is that we never thought of it when we supported him. I just got a call from my boss in the home office and he wanted to know why we weren't moving any computers."
"What did you tell him?"
"I told him we would as soon as I figured out how to put them on a cruise missile."