Office of Management and Budget Director David A. Stockman got a warm, if not wild, reception here today in the home district of Robert H. Michel, the House Republican leader who endorsed him as "indispensable" to President Reagan's economic program.
In a fund-raising appearance scheduled before Stockman's doubts over the program were published in The Atlantic Monthly, the budget director seemed to remain a still-credible spokesman for the White House on fiscal policy.
"I think he went over real well," said a contributor to the party, in a typical comment. "He's a capable guy. I'll grant he's done some political dumb things, but he knows the numbers."
Stockman, referring to the "woodshed" as a metaphor for the private rebuke he got from Reagan, said the applause "sure beats the kind of warm sensation I had in another type of building a while back."
The longest applause followed his description as "confiscatory" and "counterproductive" the 50 percent tax bracket familiar to many of the diners at the $60-a-plate brunch.
Sponsors of the affair had hoped to sell 600 tickets, but today the chairman said about 500 were purchased, while the catering manager at the Holiday Inn noted a 450-seat guarantee. "As you know, this isn't the greatest time of year for getting people interested in political meetings," said Camille Gibson, the local Republican chairman, referring to Christmas shopping.
Michel, in introductory remarks, said Stockman "still is, in my opinion, indispensable to the process if we're going to continue to make it move. He's been courageous, brilliant, as he took on the entrenched bureaucracy."
Stockman likewise chastised the media's preoccupation with the recession as "capable of focusing only on the economic weather of today and yesterday." He predicted that the inflation rate, as measured by the consumer price index, would fall from this year's estimated 9 percent to 7 or 8 percent in 1982.
"It's not a trickle-down policy," he said of the Reagan program, invoking another phrase from the Atlantic article. "It's a flood-tide policy," one that will save $135 billion in taxes through 1984 for filers with the low-median income.
"Everything he said was sound politically," said Ray A. Neumann, a former Republican state central committeeman, who conceded: "Politically, it's awfully hard to explain it to the man who's out of work." The area's largest private employer, as well as the state's, Caterpillar Tractor Co., this week announced another round of layoffs set for early next year.
In another development, Stockman said his proposal to merge the Head Start program for preschool children by placing it into a community services block grant "is not reneging on Reagan's promise" to retain a social safety net. "We are not proposing to do away with it," he said