Reagan's proposed tax cuts: a break to business now, individuals later

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

By the first week of February President elect Reagan hopes to unveil an overall economic plan bound to affect the daily lives of millions of Americans. Details remain scarce, partly because Mr. Reagan's strategy still is being thrashed out by leaders of his economic team and key members of Congress, including the chairmen of the Senate and House budget committees.

From what can be gleaned, underpinnings of the plan will include:

* A tax cut for individuals and for business, although lower taxes for individuals may not take effect until mid-1981.

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Original plans called for a 10 percent across-the-board tax cut for individuals, effective Jan. 1. Since then the deficit of the current government budget has ballooned from $30 billion to an estimated $60 billion.

The US Treasury, under President Reagan, will need all the tax revenues it can lay its hands on, to prevent the shortfall from climbing even higher.

Thus, American families may have to rest content with half of a loaf, so far as tax relief in 1981 is concerned.

Business tax cuts are another matter, because -- in the Reagan view -- incentives to business should spur modernization of the economy, boost productivity, and, hopefully, lower inflation.

"It is more urgent," said a key source, "that business tax cuts be retroactive to Jan. 1. It is less important that personal tax cuts be so early."

* Sharp cuts in government spending are certain to be proposed by Reagan, with almost all programs except social security and defense coming under a magnifying glass of scrutiny.

Some Americans, who may find themselves peeled off the list of eligibility for government payments, will look on David Stockman, Reagan's director-designate of the budget, as a modern-day Scrooge.

Yet the whole Reagan entourage, bolstered by Republican support in Congress, sees no way to put a cap on the growth of federal spending without cuts in some social programs.

"The idea," said a US senator centrally involved in the decisionamaking process, "is not to throw beneficiaries to the wolves, but to provide evn more money for the truly needy, while striking those less deserving from the rolls."

"Only by changing the rules by which these programs grow," he said, "and perhaps by eliminating some programs, can this be done."

Under current law, a vast array of "entitlement" programs -- social security, medicare and medicaid, food stamps, federal pensions, and many others -- grow automatically year by year under formulas established by Congress.

"Some very good American programs," this senator said, "are not going to have enough money to spend if we don't find some way to alter the growth of entitlement programs."

Such programs now consume 56 cents of every budget dollar -- 48 cents in direct cash transfers to millions of Americans, and another 8 cents through federal grants to state s and localities.

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