Those Win buttons finally are working. Yesterday's economic figures sharply higher unemployment, sharply lower inflation rate -- suggest that President Carter's economic policies may be creating the desired, albeit risky, political effect. WIN, of course was a Republican acronym: the buttons symbolized Gerald Ford's 1974 attempt to Whip Inflation Now Carter's Democratic critics have accused him of adopting Ford-like economic policies, a charge that is difficult to contradict. Carter's political calculation is straightforward: he reckons more potential voters are upset about inflation than about unemployment, so he is willing to let more people lose their jobs if inflation can be brought down in the process. And now, Carter can claim an important accomplishment, one confirmed (however shakily) by yesterday's producer price index. "We've turned the corner on inflation," Carter told a group of Democratic state party leaders at the White House yesterday. The ominous ring of 18 percent annual inflation -- the rate for the first three months of 1980 -- has been replaced by more comforting figures. Ford, too, calculated that curing inflation was more important than worrying about unemployment, partly because he misunderstood the signs of an impending recession late in 1974. When that recession materialized, Ford abandoned his WIN campaign with alacrity, and turned instead to pump-priming fiscal policies of the kind usually identified with Democrats. In 1976 campaign, Carter attacked Ford for moving too timidly to conteract the recession., In 1980, as in 1974, a president and his economists underestimated the momentum and gravity of a developing recession. But the Carter administration insisted again yesterday that it will not follow Ford's example -- it will stick up to its goals of cutting government spending, balancing the budget, controlling the money supply and thus slowing down the national economy. Trreasury Secretary G. William miller and Charles Schultze, Carter's chief economic adviser, said yesterday it would be "inappropriate at this time" to discuss a tax cut to restimulate the economy. As unemployment rises and the recession deepens, the stick-to-itiveness is bound to further anger the moderate and liberal Democrats who already deplore Carter's economic policies. The political question, then, is whether Carter can afford the anger of those Democrats or resist their pressures for new pump-priming as November's election draws near. Douglas A. Fraser, president of Untied Auto Workers union, summarized Carter's problems with traditional liberal Democrats yesterday. "If you look back in history, any time we [Democrats] were successful in politics we had the issues of high unemployment, high interest rates and high inflation. We don't have those issues this time. Our historical, traditional issues now belong to the Republican Party." Fraser, a supporter of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass) for the presidency, was asked if the new economic situation would enhance Kennedy's all-but-hopeless quest for the Democratic nomination. "Ni," he replied. "It enhances [Ronald] Reagan's chances." If unemployment continues at or near 8 percent until election day, Fraser predicted, "It will probably destroy" the Democrats. Fraser and many other liberals predict that poplar concern about unemployment will more than overtake whatever political benefits come to Carter for his anti-inflation efforts. In the general election campaign this fall, economic issues will be colored by the fact that Regan already is committed to a tax cut. Reagan has been saying for months that it should not be necessary to throw people out of work to control inflation. He favors 10 percent tax cuts in each of the next three years to stimulate economic activity of all kinds. So Fraser's contention that the Republicans have captured the Democrats traditional issues could prove to be literally true, at least if Carter sticks to his present course. In Congress, meanwhile, the consensus of recent months that a balanced budget and reduced inflation are of paramount importance continues to hold, but some sources see signs it is weakening. A political consultant who is working with a number of young Democratic House members from marginal districts who face tough reelection campaigns predicted last week that Congress will pass a tax cut some time before the election. By his reasoning, congressional Democrats running for reelection will be intimidated by Reagan's tax cut campaign, and will insist on preempting the issue next fall. As it stands now, Carter's 1981 budget provides for an effective tax increase of $50 billion, including the new excise tax on oil production, previously scheduled increases in Social Security taxes and additional income taxes produced by inflation, which pushes most Americans into higher tax brackets. Several economists noted in interviews yesterday that public opinion polls have shown that most Americans have regarded inflation as the graver issue. A new Harris-ABC News poll released yesterday showed that more Americans (68 percent) thought unemployment would be rising steadily during the next six-months than believed prices would be going up "as fast or faster" as they are now (56 percent). Whether such attitudes will translate into greater concern over unemployment than inflation remains to be seen.