House Majority Leader James C. Wright Jr. yesterday suggested remedying the acute financial difficulties of the Social Security trust funds by dedicating some existing federal revenues to the benefit of the program and by offering older workers tax credits if they postpone retirement.
Speaking on "Meet the Press" (NBC, WRC), the Texas Democrat said that $25 billion in federal expenditures might be saved in the next three years if one-third of the country's older workers were enticed to stay on the job by the "carrot" of tax credits.
"Why shouldn't we . . . let each person who at 65 chooses to continue working enjoy a $1,000 tax credit?" Wright asked. "That credit could be raised to $1,500 at age 66 and $2,000 at age 67," he said.
While opposing any "marked slowdown" in current cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients, he suggested bolstering the troubled Social Security trust funds with other federal revenues, mentioning specifically the revenues from offshore oil drilling leases and from a possible 50-cent increase in the $10.50 tax on a gallon of distilled spirits.
"So far as taxes are concerned," Wright said, "there are any number of sources from which taxes could be gained if necessary to make the Social Security trust fund solvent forever."
The old-age trust fund, the Social Security trust fund facing an acute short-term cash crisis, is already running short and had to borrow from the disability fund last Friday.
The Interior Department projected $18 billion in revenue from the sale of offshore oil drilling leases in fiscal 1982, a figure that is expected to drop by several billion dollars when the actual sales are totaled, according to Bob Kerr, a private consultant who until recently directed a subcommittee staff of the House Interior Committee.
The administration's last budget proposal projected about $6 billion in revenues each year from the alcohol excise tax in fiscal years 1982 and 1983.
Wright also said that congressional Democrats "should expect to accomplish relatively little" in the upcoming lame-duck session "unless the president and the Republican leadership in the Congress are willing to enter into a cooperative and conciliatory agreement whereby we could jointly seek some solutions to get people off these unemployment rolls and back onto productive payrolls as quickly as possible."
Referring to the latest figures that show 10.4 percent of the work force is out of a job, Wright promised "an immediate initiative" on a public-works bill to put 200,000 unemployed workers in jobs repairing the country's highways, dams and sewer systems and a housing initiative to stimulate the home-building industry to build 225,000 new houses.
Wright suggested that the money to pay for this could be obtained by reducing planned increases in defense spending.
This concept of a "jobs bill," however, was strongly opposed by Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), speaking on "Face the Nation" (CBS, WDVM).
"I'm not against jobs; I'm against jobs that would require higher taxes and more federal borrowing and higher deficits . . . . The best jobs program is to get those auto workers and steel workers back to work and get this economy back on the road."
One way of accomplishing this, Kemp added, would be congressional action to direct the Federal Reserve to move away from its past emphasis on holding down the supply of money in the economy.
"The change taking place pragmatically should be institutionalized by the Congress now directing the Fed to abandon its monetary target and start giving us . . . stable purchasing power and give confidence to our financial markets."
Kemp also said he did not believe that the new Congress would want to eliminate the final portion of the president's three-year tax cut, due next summer, a cut based on legislation that Kemp originally co-sponsored. Wright, however, said he felt the final year's tax cut should be canceled.
Kemp also said:
* He felt the "stay the course" theme by Republicans this year was bland and misdirected. "I think people voted . . . on the basis of getting this country back to work."
* His expectations that President Reagan would run for a second term were reinforced by the appointment of Reagan's friend, Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.) as "general chairman" of the GOP national committee.
* "You probably can find some way to cut defense spending prudently but I don't think you're going to be able to get the deficit down significantly just by looking at major programs in the Defense Department."