Julius Caesar was, I grant, a bit bossy. Not at all the sort approved by the League of Women Voters, he had a Caesar complex, and when he was not hounding Vercingetorix, he was trying to solder together Gaul's three parts. But Ronald Reagan's budgetary problems would vanish if he would do what Caesar did. That, however, would first require undoing what Pope Gregory XIII did exactly (if one can say "exactly" of anything connected with the calendar) 400 years ago.
The day after Oct. 5, 1582, was Oct. 15, 1582. Why? Because Gregory said so. He was a toughie (the Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre made him so merry he accepted the severed head of the Huguenot leader), so when he said Caesar's calendar must go, it went.
Before Caesar, Rome's calendar had a 355-day year, which meant that the months and seasons slipped out of synch. A Roman mother would say to little Flavius, "It's Ianuarius, so wear your mittens," and little Flavius would remonstrate, citing the unseasonable warmth of Ianuarius.
To slide things back where they belonged, Caesar packed extra days into 46 B.C. It wound up 445 days long -- about as long as a U.S. election year seems. Then to keep the seasons from again swimming around in the calendar, Caesar decreed that the calendar year would be 365.25 days long.
But Caesar was a silly goose. Everyone with a wristwatch knows that the average year is only 365.242199 days long. Many's the New Year's Eve I have felt thankful that the year is 11 minutes and 14 seconds shorter than Caesar thought.
Under Caesar's calendar, the seasons slipped 1.5 days every century, or about a week every millennium. Gregory XIII reasoned that, in time, this slippage would mean that religious festivals (Easter, the World Series) would crop up at odd moments. So Gregory said: henceforth the calendar shall be for a year of 365.2422 days.
(That still is longer than the solar year by 0.0003 days, or 3 days every 10,000 years. If you have library books due in 11,982 A.D., make a note. But because of tidal friction, the Earth's rotation is slowing, so the length of the year is diminishing -- good news for all who dislike the hurly-burly of modern life.)
To get Easter back from where it had wandered, to its proper relation to the vernal equinox, Gregory lopped 10 days out of October 1582. This caused a frightful row, and some riots, in Protestant countries, where feeling ran high against allowing a pope to shorten everyone's life by 10 days. England and its colonies did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1752. Russia did not conform until 1918, when Lenin made Feb. 1 become Feb. 13.
Lenin probably would have rejected a calendar so tainted with religious associations, but for the mess made by the French Revolution. France's revolutionaries (including those little old ladies who sat knitting at the foot of the guillotine) called 1792 the "first year of liberty." They decided that there should be 12 months of 30 days each. The leftover five days would be used in September for five festivals: for genius, labor, actions, rewards, opinions (the Feast of St. Gallup?). Every fourth year there would be a sixth, the Festival of the Revolution. Fortunately, the French found their system inconvenient because the world found it unintelligible. The Gregorian calendar survived even in Gaul.
But now is the time for a little creative Caesarism. Ronald Reagan should do as Julius Caesar did, and stuff, say, three extra months into 1983 -- before Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends. One result would be something for which Americans clamor: a balanced budget. At least, it would be if Congress would appropriate for a 12- month Gregorian year, and Americans would work and earn -- and pay taxes -- for a 15-month Reagan year. This would generate an extra 25 percent in revenues, which would mean a balanced budget, a plunge in interest rates and bliss ever after.
There are, of course, other ways of balancing the budget. Congress could cut the large benefit programs (because they benefit primarily the middle class). Or Congress could raise taxes paid by the class that has the lion's share of American wealth: the middle class. Since neither of those alternatives is politically palatable, there is a continuing campaign to amend the Constitution to proscribe unbalanced budgets.
No need to rake up the dead past, you say? I say, rake away, all the way back to Caesar. It is better to fiddle with the calendar than with the U.S. Constitution. If we get the calendar out of whack, we may have the World Series in Ianuarius (sorry, I mean January), which is not good. But if we bollix up the Constitution, we can have chaos from one end of the year to the other.