SEN. ROBERT DOLE (R-Kan.) wants Ronald Reagan to declare a national economic emergency as soon as he becomes president. Appearing on Meet the Press Sunday, Dole came up with the idea that Reagan could declare this emergency and then follow it up with concrete action "to really shock the American people." Added the senator: "In my view, he needs something to dramatize the problem we have in America. Maybe he can declare an economic emergency on the 20th of January."
This is the kind of suggestion that, gripping though it may be in the imagination of Dole, doesn't go far enough toward solving the problem. Dole did not have detailed suggestions for the dramatic action President-elect Reagan might take, so let me help out. After declaring an economic emergency on the 20th of January, the president should immediately declare April 15th to be National Economic Recovery Day and the first week of June to be National Economic Emergency Week. The kids will still be in school then and the whole week can be devoted to studying the decline and fall of the American economic system. Public libraries could cooperate by holding continuous showings of Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times" and the legislatures of all the states could pass resolutions condemning economic problems. Now that's what I call dramatic action, and if it doesn't go far enough toward shocking the American people, the Republican National Committee could take a full page ad out in National Review declaring that it is still committed to getting America back on its feet. None of these proposals alone would get this country moving again, as we say, but taken all together, this is the kind of administrative thrust that could turn the country around. (Sorry. A political speechwriter temporarily took over this column, and wrote that last sentence.)
Being from Kansas -- also known as The Heartland -- Dole probably knows a lot more about what America's thinking than do those of us living around Washington. He's obviously more in touch, and if he thinks the American people need to be shocked into the realization that we have an economic emergency on our hands, so be it. But I can tell him that the last thing those of us living on the banks of the Potomac need is another shock about the economy.
There is a roast in my freezer that we have been saving for a special occasion. It is called an eye of the round roast and it cost more than eight dollars and it is about seven inches long. I take it out and look at it sometimes, turning it over and then putting it back in when my hands get cold, and reaching instead for something else. Remember the pet rocks? This is my pet roast. No occasion seems special enough for it. Wait till they find out about problems like that in the heartland.
Of course, those people out there are clever and they will figure out that if meat is too expensive there are plenty of substitutes. There is always fish and eggs and dairy products such as cheese. Has anyone looked at the price of cheese lately?
I also have a mortgage. Back when we were looking for a house -- I say we only out of habit since I was doing the looking and my husband was complaining that we couldn't afford it -- I envied people who had 5 and 6 percent mortgages. If only we'd bought in 1972 or 1973 we, too, could have had 5 to 6 percent mortgages instead of something wild like 8 or 9 percent. Now, of course, people who are looking at a 15 percent mortgage and would give their eye teeth to get anything less. Wait till they find out about problems like that in the heartland.
Remember when $5 would buy a tank of gas? I pulled into a gas station the other day with the tank nearly empty and asked the attendant for $5 worth of gas. That was all the money I had. He gave me a peculiar look, shurgged, pumped the gas, and about 30 seconds later came back to collect the money. The pump was registering $5.00, my gas gauge was registering a quarter full and I, once again coming up against the American economy, was registering shock.
I was registering the same kind of shock we've all been registering for the past several years every time we go to buy a tank of gas, a gallon of milk, a house or a cup of coffee. We've been in a state of constant shock at what's happening to the American economy, which is one of the reasons we are now saying President-elect Reagan instead of President-reelect Carter. Your average American is not your average Harvard economist, but your average American is also no longer totally ignorant about the state of the American economy. He may not understand the intricacies of the Kemp-Roth tax bill, but he has every right to expect something a lot more substantive than a declaration from the incoming president that we are in deep trouble and are herewith in a state of national economic emergency.
We declared that on Nov. 4.