President Reagan today abandoned his muted appeal for a "revived federalism" in favor of a bluntly worded attack on Democrats critical of his out-of-balance budget, which he defended as the only hope for economic recovery.
"We have in place an economic program that is based on sound economic theory, not on political expediency," Reagan said in a speech to the Indiana legislature. "We will not play hopscotch economics, jumping here and jumping there as the daily situation changes. We have faith in our program and we are sticking with it. To the paid political complainers, let me say as politely as I can, 'Put up or shut up.' We have a solid plan already in place. What do they have? Either give the American people a better alternative or join with us in our effort to set the economy right."
Earlier, in an address to a joint session of the Iowa legislature in Des Moines, Reagan eliminated some passages of his speech that celebrated the achievements of Franklin D. Roosevelt and replaced them with a challenge to present-day Democrats to support his economic policies, some of which are aimed at undoing New Deal programs.
"The budget we have proposed is a line drawn in the dirt," Reagan said. "Those who are concerned about the deficit will cross it and work with us on our proposals or their alternatives. Those who are not concerned about deficits will stay on the other side and simply continue their theatrics."
Reagan vowed that he would stick to his plan to reduce income taxes and raise the defense budget in fiscal 1983 despite a deficit his budget office has put at $91.5 billion and many critics say will be much higher.
"We must hold firm to our tax cuts and reduce the budget even more," Reagan said in Des Moines. "We have much to do before we will see the light, but I think we are at last and at least approaching the bend in the tunnel."
Reagan was equally firm about his insistence that the defense budget must be increased. The budget he submitted to Congress Monday calls for an 18 percent rise in defense spending.
"Studies indicate that our relative military imbalance with the Soviet Union will be at its worst by the mid-1980s," Reagan said. "As president, I cannot close my eyes, cross my fingers and simply hope the Soviets will behave themselves. Today a major conflict involving the United States could occur without adequate time to upgrade U.S. force readiness. It is morally imperative that we take steps to protect America's safety and preserve the peace."
Reagan did not back off from the federalism plan he advocated in his State of the Union address under which the federal government would assume Medicaid costs while responsibility for food stamps, Aid to Families with Dependent Children and 40 other programs would be given to the states. But he said that submission of legislation embodying his "revived federalism" plan would await extensive consultation with the nation's state and local officials.
Reagan denied that his federalism plan was "a mere diversion from our economic problems" or a subterfuge for cutting the budget. He said that the proposal "stands on its own merits" and "is too important an issue to be treated as a distraction."
A dominant theme of Reagan's two-day trip to three Midwestern states was a renewed derisiveness about the federal government reminiscent of the partisan speeches he gave as a candidate for governor in California and as a challenger to President Ford in 1976. Often, he talked about the federal government as if someone else were running it and he drew laughter from the Indiana legislators with criticisms of federal grants and programs.
"Federal grants are like rabbits--they multiply like crazy and once they're out, you can't catch them," the president said. Other phrases--a reference to Washington as the home of "the puzzle palaces on the Potomac," for example--were lifted directly from his first campaign for office in 1966.
What was also evident during the president's first political foray of 1982 was that opposition to his policies is growing. Demonstrators, most of them waving placards calling for creation of more jobs, lined portions of the motorcade route in both Des Moines and Indianapolis. And Reagan was greeted in Indianapolis with a news story in the usually friendly Indianapolis Star that quoted Indiana Republican Sens. Richard G. Lugar and Dan Quayle as advocating cuts in the defense budget to reduce the budget deficit.
Reagan fluffed a few lines along the way, saying "1941" when he meant "1981" and "depression" when he meant "recession" in a Minneapolis interview Monday night. Today, he referred to Iowa Sen. Roger Jepsen as "Robert."
Overall, however, the president and his advisers believe that he has recaptured the political initiative with his challenge to opponents to join in support of his programs or to stop making what Reagan termed "knee-jerk criticisms" of them.
On returning to Washington, Reagan addressed the 39th annual meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters.
"I do not agree with those who accuse you of trying to impose your views on others," the president told those attending the broadcasters convention, many of them members of the "religious right" who supported his presidential candidacy.
"The First Amendment was not written to protect the people from religious values but to protect those values from government tyranny," he said, drawing hearty applause from the 3,500 people present.
Although the president drew several ovations, he was met with silence at two points--when he said "racial bigotry and religious bigotry have no place in our nation" and when he asked the group to take the lead in "our crusade to restore our tradition of neighbor helping neighbor."