Reagan's first 50 days: blitz of policy changes
"It's a real blitzkrieg. The speed, scope, and fullness are the surprise, not the direction of his policies." This is how one White House scholar sums up President Reagan's first 50 days in Washington.Skip to next paragraph
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"None of the things that are being done, not just on the economy, are out of sync with what Reagan's been saying for 15 years," observes Thomas E. Patterson, director of Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. "The surprise is that he's attacking on so many front at once."
On the receiving side of the Reagan blitz there is dismay.
"Things are crazy," says Leon Shull, executive director of the arch-liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) -- the group Ronald Reagan backed with cash in 1948, before his political conversion.
"It's a shame, it's irresponsible for the people on the Hill not to speak up, " Mr. Shull says of Congress's early acquiescence. "Reagan's going to get most of his program through. The politics of the situation is such Congress doesn't feel they can oppose it."
The scope of Reagan's initiatives is expected to continue to expand in the second half of his first 100 days in office, starting this week.
Apart from the tax and spending cut proposals, here are some of the new initiatives on a variety of fronts:
* In appointments, Reagan is naming anti-abortionists to posts that could affect the wide range of sensitive family-planning and youth sex counseling programs.
* Legal aid to the poor would be scrapped in the new Reagan budget, the details of which are to be spelled out March 10. The American Bar Association already has protested the legal services cut, under which some 5,000 lawyers handle routine cases such as divorces. But these lawyers also press class action suits and welfare rights cases that have annoyed conservatives.
* Reagan wants to drop the judicial selection process President Carter employed to bring more women and blacks into the higher courts.
* "Workfare" welfare rules would shift more of the cost of things such as child care to working parents under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program.
* Some 40 other federal social programs, ranging from black lung clinics for coal miners to migrant health care and alcohol treatment centers, also would be dropped in the new budget.
Then there are the new voluntary Japanese auto import accord expected this week, revised Amtrak and mass transit financing in the Northeast, and a possible new immigration policy toward Mexicans that would open the Southern border or give two-year work permits.
Congress is feeling a crush of new directions in one policy area after another, with more to come. The regulatory arena, through questions such as easing auto emission and hazardous waste rules, will be slower to warm up, if only because the problems are so complex. Reagan soon will ask Congress to speed up deregulation of natural gas prices.
"These are all straight-down-the-line Reagan policies and preferences," says Syracuse University's Patterson.
But if Reagan can keep his surprising early momentum, he stands a better chance than did Jimmy Carter of making his early flurry of initiatives stick.