Have you recently been exclaiming ''hot dern''? No? Strange. In Dothan, Ala., President Reagan said ''the American people'' are caroling ''hot dern,'' so blissful are they about tax reform.
But everything, especially bliss, is written on water. And the following could be written on newsprint 28 months from now:
''Nov. 10, 1988 -- As President-elect fill in the Democrat of your preference begins Cabinet-making, pundits, with 20-20 hindsight, are seeing that the seeds of Democratic victory were sprouting in the summer of 1986, when Gramm-Rudman-Hollings and tax reform intersected.
''Tremors of the political earthquake that reduced Republican presidential hopes to rubble began in mid-August 1986, when, as required by Gramm-Rudman, Congress was presented with a 'snapshot' estimate of the fiscal 1987 deficit. The picture was not pretty.
''In January 1986, the Reagan administration had predicted 4 percent growth of the economy for the year. By late July 1986, growth was 2 percent and capital investment, even in the non-oil sector, was deteriorating.
''In the summer of 1986, House-Senate conferees on tax reform got into a genteel bidding war to see who could do most for the 'middle class.' Soon that class was defined capaciously to include all families earning up to $60,000. Only 15 percent of all families earn more than $50,000. Two-thirds earn under $35,000. The median income is about $24,500.
''Tax treatment of IRAs was kept generous. Deductibility of sales taxes was retained after all. These concessions to the middle class were paid for by further burdening business with taxes.
''President Reagan approved, although three years earlier he had suggested eliminating business taxes because it is unclear how they are raised -- from what would otherwise be employee compensation, or from stockholder dividends, or passed along in the cost of the product. The Reagan administration was even willing to sacrifice preferential treatment of capital gains in order to preserve the 27 percent top rate for individuals -- a rate that by July 1986 had become a full-blown fetish.
''By July 1986, the stock market had risen 40 percent in nine months and had doubled in four years, adding $1 trillion to investors' wealth. But one July Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average plunged 61.87 points, knocking $74 billion off the value of stocks. This was followed, in August, by a big sell-off as investors took their capital gains before the higher tax rate hit. The sell-off fueled the bearish psychology of business.
''In July 1986, the Federal Reserve Board cut interest rates, but the economy stayed flat. By July 1986, consumer installment debt had risen 20 percent in two years. The tax bill that was signed into law by Labor Day 1986, was suited to extend the expansion a few more months by pumping money into the pockets of middle-class consumers -- by, that is, making the national savings rate even worse.
''By spring 1987, oil prices were rising as was inflation. Because the new tax law ended tax breaks in January 1987, but did not cut rates until July 1987, it involved a one-year tax increase of $20 billion in 1987 -- another drag on the sagging economy.
''In July 1986, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the Gramm-Rudman trigger mechanism. So in August, Congress used the fallback mechanism: it legislated the across-the-board deficit-reduction budget cuts and sent the order to the president for him to sign.
''But he vetoed it.
''He had always said his defense program took precedence over budget-balancing. By July 1986, Congress had already slashed his original fiscal 1987 defense request. The August 1986 'snapshot' showed that even with 'creative bookkeeping' and 'innovative accounting' (underestimating farm-support costs; counting the receipts from the sale of the unsold Conrail, etc.), the deficit estimate was going to trigger Gramm-Rudman's guillotine. That blade makes half of its cuts in the 28 percent of the budget that is defense.
''By vetoing Congress' cut order, Reagan blew up the Gramm-Rudman process. That convinced American investors and the watching world that $200 billion deficits did indeed stretch as far as the eye could see.
''In July 1986, the 44th month of the slowing expansion, the Reagan administration had acknowledged that the deficit for fiscal 1986, ending Sept. 30, would top the 1985 record of $212 billion, perhaps hitting $220 billion. The fiscal 1987 deficit was as bad. By August 1987, when the 'snapshot' showed that the fiscal 1988 deficit would be $125 billion over the $108 billion Gramm-Rudman target, the reaction in Congress was, 'What's a Gramm-Rudman?'
''The confusion of the autumn of 1986 produced a Democratic Senate, and the recession of 1987-1988 produced the presidential landslide that today has blissful Democrats exclaiming, 'Hot dern!' "