President Carter said yesterday that he will postpone submission of his tax revision plan to Congress until next year and that the flurry of domestic and foreign policy proposals that has marked his first nine months in office has come to an end.
Clearly seeking to quiet fears that his administration is foundering under the weight of its own early undertakings, the President told a nationally televised news conference:
"I was thinking the other day about what new major innovative proposals might be forthcoming next year and the year after. I can't think of any. I think we have addressed all of the major problems already."
For this year the President said his priorities remain enactment of energy legislation and a Social Security plan, both of which have major tax components that will affect the economy and the final shape of a tax revision proposals.
Immediately after the news conference. White House press secretary Jody Powell rushed to tell reporters than Carter was not abandoning his as yet unfulfilled campaign promises. He mentioned specifically the President's pledges to develop a "national urban policy" and national health insurance legislation.
"What he meant was that there is not going to be anything coming out of the blue," Powell said. He was not limiting himself just to these things we've already sent to Capitol Hill."
In spite of this disclaimer, Carter's words, and his decision to break his self-imposed deadline for submission of the tax revision legislation, were clearly designed as a soothing reassurance to the country, and particularly the business community, that the administration has a clear sense of its priorities, limitations and direction.
On Wednesday, a leading exponent of the business viewpoint. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Arthur F. Burns, criticized administration economic policies as ineffective and said and administration itself had eroded business confidence and slowed investment and economic growth. By proposing so many initative, in so stort a time.
"I strongly suspect that the ability of businessman to assimilate new policy proposals into their planning framework has now been stretched pretty far." Burns said in a speech.
Yesterday, the President had only kind words for Burns, although he said he had not decided whether to reappoint him when Burns' term as chariman of the Federal Reserve Board expires in January.
"I think Mr. Burns' primary concern is that we have created uncertainty in the business community by our major proposals, and this is a concern which I share."
But, Carter added, the alternative was to ignore several major problems.
"I believe these kinds of criticisms that might have come from Mr. Burns, that the volume of proposals might have created uncertainty, are just honest differences or opinion," he said. "I think I made the right decision."
The President announced the postponment of the tax revision plan at the end of an opening statement at the news conference, which he used to make another pitch for enactment of his energy program.
He said he wants to make final decisions of the tax proposals after he has more information about the state of the economy, and that the leaders of Congress agree with the postponement decision.
Asked if he might give a higher priority to tax cuts, designed to stimulate the economy, rather than revisions in the tax code, Carter said:
"No, I think the tax reform package has got to fulfill three basic elements. One is improved equity, which means more progressivity, and an end to many of the unnecessary tax incentives and loopholes; secondly, to create investment capital; and third, greatly to simplify the entire tax structure.
"The degree to which we will have tax cuts to stimulate the economy can only be assessed after we see how much of a drag on the economy the increased Social Security taxes might be and the rate of growth of the economy."
The Social Security financing legislation includes sharp increases both in the Social Security payroll tax rate and the wage base on which the tax is levied.
Postponement of the tax revision package represented a departure in Carter's style as President and a tacit acknowledgement of the growing criticism that he is trying to do too much too soon. Earlier, he had imposed and kept - despite grumbling within the administration - deadlines for developing a national energy plan, welfare reform proposals and other initiatives.
But in recent weeks, the President has been under pressure from his advisers, including Vice President Mondale and Treasury Secretary W. Michael Blumenthal, to back down on his promise to produce a tax revision package this year. They feared an early announcement would give opponents additional time to snipe at his proposals and that the proposed tax revisions might easily become entangled with the energy legislation, leading to a series of congressional trade-offs.
Carter appeared exceptionally selfassured at the news conference, smiling broadly as he listened to questions he had clearly anticipated.
Asked about the general criticism of his administration - that he has not been able to cope with the number of issues he has raised himself - the President gripped the lectern, paused longer than usual and replied:
"I remember in this room last May, someone asked me if my administration was all image and no substance, or all style and no substance. Lately, the criticisms have been that there is too much substance and not enough style."
While it might take years to settle the initiatives begun this year. Carter said, "I think it is better to get it on the table" and begin debating the issues.
"And I don't see anything wrong with it or anything that I would have done differently," he added.
Following the news conference, Carter told reporters he expects to spend Christmas at his home in Plains, Ga.