Charles Krauthammer calls Republicans ''A Brain-Dead Party'' {op-ed, Nov. 2}, saying that ''on domestic policy ... Republican thinking has collapsed completely.'' He then goes on to portray his real problem with Republicans, arguing, ''Republicans were insulated {during the Reagan years} from ever having to face the real question of governance: choosing who gets taxed and how much.''

Well, there you have it. Whether knowingly or not, Mr. Krauthammer has offered the best distinction I've yet seen between Democrats and Republicans on domestic policy. To Mr. Krauthammer, the levels and source of government revenues are the real question of governance. This is why he readily associates with the Democrats on domestic policy and so poorly understands what Republicans seek to accomplish by their actions.

The spending side of the ledger is the issue that defines governance for Republicans: what gets spent, how much, on whom, for what purpose, in what way and by whom. If you want to understand the source of decades long Republican opposition to increased taxation, understand that Republicans find a number of Democratic-inspired programs in need of a massive overhaul. Mind you, the issue isn't waste, fraud and abuse, although there is plenty of that. No, the issue is what is government doing with the money it has. Republicans say: ''Not one dime for more of the same,'' and then suggest different approaches. Mr. Krauthammer chooses to focus only on the ''not one more dime'' part of the message and concludes that Republicans offer few, if any, policy ideas.

Many examples illustrate my point. Republicans have had major initiatives in the past five years in nearly all areas of domestic policy: in child care, worker retraining, housing, education choice, welfare reform, health and retirement, among others. Indeed, the bulk of the just passed huge increase in federal support for child care was proposed and supported by Republicans. Mr. Krauthammer would have his readers believe that Republicans are ''brain dead'' because Republicans first ask about the means and ends of government action before seeking to swell further the government's coffers.

Well, if this means Republicans are brain dead, so be it. But, given his logic, where does that leave Mr. Krauthammer? STEVEN HOFMAN Silver Spring

George Will accuses Democrats of "intellectual felonies" in the wake of President Bush's adventure in federal budgeting {"Whose Tax Burden?" op-ed, Nov. 1}. Mr. Will's arguments, however, merely lengthen his own rap sheet.

The Democrats have charged that Ronald Reagan's tax cuts contributed to today's deficit. Mr. Will claims that this could not be so because federal tax revenue increased by leaps and bounds in the 1980s. But deficits are the difference between receipts and outlays. If Mr. Reagan's 1981 tax cut decreased revenue below what it would otherwise have been, then it must have contributed to the deficits that followed.

Mr. Will's only escape from this logic is the belief that the tax cut "paid for itself" by expanding the income tax base sufficiently to offset the effects of the rate decreases. But he does not let on whether he has fallen under the spell of this old black magic, and in other columns he has expressed proper skepticism about such claims.

Mr. Will also disparages the Democrats' assertion that social spending in the 1980s decreased. He offers numbers to demonstrate that such spending increased in the 1980s. But after a short climb between 1980 and 1984, federal domestic spending as a share of GNP fell without interruption; today it is a smaller fraction of GNP than it was 10 years ago.

It is only right to consider domestic spending in light of the size of the economy and the population because it is only this type of comparison that illuminates the growth in public service needs. Mr. Will and other conservatives are offended by such a procedure, so they try to stigmatize any increase in spending requirements, as if providing twice as much bread for division among three times as many people is an improper expansion of the role of government. One has only to note conservatives' tooth-and-tong assault on the Medicare program.

If, relative to GNP, federal receipts are about the same and social spending is down, then whence came the deficit? The singular development in federal budgets of the 1980s was not domestic spending growth but the military budget explosion, the ensuing increase in our public debt and the yearly interest payments required to service that debt. That's how under the Reagan regime our national debt as a share of GNP increased from 27 percent to 42 percent.

Third, Mr. Will denies the charge that tax policy in the 1980s favored the rich, pointing out that the rich contribute a larger share of tax revenue now than a decade ago. But the tax burden is the extent of sacrifice one undertakes in meeting tax obligations. If you and your neighbor both pay the same percentage of your income in taxes, and then your neighbor's income doubles while yours remains the same, your neighbor is not bearing a greater tax burden on that account, although he is contributing more to total tax revenue. In other columns Mr. Will himself has noted the growth in income inequality, which naturally increases the amount of taxes the rich pay.

Besides accusing the Democrats of intellectual felonies, Mr. Will brings an indictment for "moral smugness." But the force of this charge can be no greater than the strength of Mr. Will's dubious case. MAX B. SAWICKY Economist, Economic Policy Institute Washington