President-elect Ronald Reagan received an economic strategy from top advisers today, including a long list of possible spending cuts to restrain a budget that the advisers say is "out of control."
Neither Reagan nor the group of leading economists and former Republican Cabinet members would discuss specific targets for spending cuts in the Reagan administration due to take office Jan. 20. Casper Weinberger, the Reagan adviser who has headed the task force on spending reductions, told reporters today that he had not meant to say Saturday that he or other advisers favored cutting the cost-of-living increases in federal payment programs for individuals, such as retirement benefits.
"There are a lot of things on the list . . . . I certainly did not intend to say that any one item was on the list," said Weinberger, a former director of the Office of Management and Budget.
In brief comments to reporters at a federal building here, Reagan said that the budget-cutting strategy was not aimed at "depriving people . . . . We're still talking in the areas of extravagance."
"These are plans for . . . reducing the cost of the tax burden on the people and getting a prosperity that will be shared by all," said Reagan, who met with the advisers this afternoon. Reagan aides had no word on when the president-elect, who arrives in Washington on Monday for a five-day-stay, will act on the lengthy recommendations he was given today.
While they refused to discuss specifics of the advisory group's proposals, both Weinberger and George P. Shultz, chairman of the group, emphasized the need for a tough program of spending cuts and indicated their program answered that need.
"Our report has a lot of socko in it," said Shultz, who was secretary of the treasury in the Nixon administration.
Shultz noted that total spending in the 1981 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, has jumped from the $633 billion estimated last summer to current estimates of between $648 billion and $655 billion.
"So the whole thing is out of control," Shutlz said. "I don't want to get into the details of what should be done on the budget. I think it's quite clear, however, that the budget is hemorrhaging."
Shultz and Weinberger both used the word "hemorrhage" to describe the increase in federal spending.
Shultz added. "I think the situation the governor will inherit is gloomy. The economy is in very bad shape . . . It's a very bad scene."
But he added, "I think it's quite possible that strong and decisive things could be done . . . and have an electric effect around the world."
Although the report's contents are not known, the views of many of the advisory group's members are. There is strong support among them for Reagan's proposal for a 10 percent cut in tax rates for individuals for each of the next three years and other tax cuts for business to increase capital investment.
Weinberger told reporters that if the new administration makes sharp cuts in spending in fiscal 1981 and 1982, it will still be possible to balance the federal budget by fiscal 1983. "We want to do everything possible to keep that date," he said, but added, "We don't want to do anything now to make that goal more difficult."
Weinberger said the new administration would not be tied irrevocably to a spending figure of $620 billion for the 1981 fiscal year -- a target proposed last September. "I don't think anybody's wedded to that," he said. His statements today seemed to back away from earlier statements in which he indicated that the $620 billion figure would be a firm target for the new administration.
But Weinberger also suggested that it was not in Reagan's nature to duck tough political decisions on cutting budgets, as he said Reagan's record as governor of California bears out.
"Almost everybody tells the governor why each of these items can't be done and why each of these spending reduction areas won't work and is impractical and is bad politics. One of the reasons that we're all here today is because the governor never paid any attention to advice like that when he was in California," Weinberger said. "Keep that in mind."
In addition to Shultz and Weinberger, who both are senior officials of the Bechtel group of companies, the advisers who met with Reagan today were former treasury secretary William E. Simon; former top treasury officials Charls E. Walker and Murray L. Weidenbaum; economists Arthur F. Burns, Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan and Paul McCracken; Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.); geologist and petroleum entrepreneur Michael T. Halbouty; former secretary of housing and urban development James T. Lynn; Citicorp chairman Walter B. Wriston, and Kenneth Oshman, president of ROLM Corp. c