Leslie Wexner's op-ed piece of Sept. 11 on the textile, apparel and footwear bill {"How Congress Raises the Price of Your Clothes"} confuses most of the major issues in the debate over this legislation and adds a new layer of class-bashing. Advocates of this bill are trying to save jobs and limit worker displacement.

Mr. Wexner, who is chairman of The Limited Inc., cites estimates that current protection is costing consumers $250 per family, but these estimates are irrelevant here, since Congress is not discussing dismantling the current system of protection. His reference to the $85 billion cost to consumers of the proposed bill is the apparel retailing industry's estimate of consumer costs over the next 10 years (not a few years). William Cline, of the Institute for International Economics, has produced more reasonable, independent estimates suggesting that the cost of protection in the first five years of the bill will average $1.72 billion per year, or about $20 per family per year.

All of these analyses ignore data that suggest that trade protection has helped increase the efficiency of U.S. textile production (now second in competitiveness only to Italy, according to Mr. Cline. As a result, real textile prices in the United States have been falling in recent years, benefiting consumers.

Contrary to Mr. Wexner's assertions, trade protection has not enriched mill owners, who suffer from below-average profit rates, even in the protected U.S. market. Over the past 10 years publicly traded firms in the industry earned an average, after-tax rate of return on stockholders' equity of 8.5 percent. This represents less than half the rate earned in the women's apparel industry (19 percent) and less than a third of the average after-tax rate of return earned by The Limited Inc. in this period.

About 1.8 million people were employed in the U.S. textile and apparel industries in 1989. Their interests cannot be cavalierly dismissed, as they are by Mr. Wexner. The debate over the textile, apparel and footwear bill would be better served by more balanced treatment in the pages of The Post.

ROBERT E. SCOTT Assistant Professor of Business and Public Policy College of Business and Management University of Maryland College Park