House Democrats, stung by Republican charges that the Democratic Party has run out of ideas, released yesterday an ambitious blueprint for an alternative to Reaganomics. It calls for overhauling business and income tax laws, subsidizing new technology research and rebuilding the nation's transportation network.
The 23-page document, entitled "Rebuilding the Road to Opportunity," is the product of more than a year of work and laborious negotiations among liberal, conservative and moderate members of the House Democratic Caucus.
"For the first time, the Democrats have a coherent, integrated program that looks over the next five to 10 years," said Rep. Timothy E. Wirth (Colo.), who wrote the report with Rep. Gillis W. Long (La.) and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.).
"Before, we've always acted in an ad hoc and reactive fashion, without determining our commitment, priorities and scheduling. Now when people ask, 'What are the Democrats for?' we can say, 'Here's our package,' " Wirth said.
The economic report is one of seven major policy statements by the House Democratic Caucus. The others, dealing with national security, crime, housing, small business, women's economic issues and the environment, are to be released Tuesday.
"Reaganomics must -- and will -- be repealed," the economic report contends.
"Our party must once again promote bold approaches to gain control of our economic future. The Republicans have proven once again they are not up to the task. Once more, they have chosen to pursue the discredited policies of trickle-down economics."
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the program envisioned in the document would cost $35 billion to $42 billion a year for five years. That would include $14 billion to repair the nation's roads, bridges and water systems, which could be raised largely through user charges such as gas taxes or barge levies.
About $8 billion to $11 billion a year in funds for research and development would be matched by an equal amount from private industry. That program is aimed at countering foreign competition in high technology growth industries with large job-creating potential.
An increase of $11 billion to $17 billion in education spending would provide financial aid to needy students, reduce faculty shortages in key areas such as engineering and computer training, provide computers to secondary schools and retrain workers in declining industries such as automobiles and steel for jobs in new technology companies.
Wirth said the economic package would increase national productivity by 1.2 to 1.5 percent, according to CBO estimates, which translates into an increased national output of $30 billion to $40 billion a year.
Costs also would be offset by another proposal to transfer more of the burden of defense to allies such as Japan and West Germany, he said.
More funds would be raised through tax reforms, including incentives to encourage savings, thus accumulating capital for business investment; elimination of writeoffs and deductions and unproductive tax shelters "that favor the rich," and depreciation provisions allowing businesses to recoup the cost of their investments in the year they are made. Other proposals in the report include:
* Promoting the United States as a major coal exporter by rebuilding ports and other facilities.
* Establishing an Economic Cooperation Council to gather data, map national economic strategy and marshal resources to install it.
* Achieving deficits under $100 billion and eventually balancing the budget by strengthening the congressional budget process.
* Considering a new high technology mission, such as renewable energy technology or bioengineering, for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
* Raising funds through an oil import fee or a gasoline pump tax with provisions to equalize regional burdens they would cause.