Deficit challenge

The challenge for Congress and the Reagan administration to reach agreement on a package to reduce the budget deficit is admittedly difficult. Agreeing on almost any legislation is often hard enough. Add in the factor of a presidential election campaign, and the difficulties mount. The important point, however, is that such a deficit reduction package is absolutely essential for the economic well-being of the United States.

In that regard, it is encouraging that several key congressional committees - apparently acting quite on their own - are now working flat out to come up with a comprehensive tax increase and budget-reduction plan. The Senate Finance Committee has now approved a $100 billion goal for tax increases and spending reductions over the next three years. The House Ways and Means Committee, meanwhile, begins work this week on a $51.2 billion revenue bill.

What is not so encouraging is that participants from Congress and the White House involved in the bipartisan negotiating talks under way between the two sides have tended to blame each other for an inability to come up with a consensus on an overall deficit package. The American people deserve far more from their elected officials at this time than posturing and bickering - much of it deliberately aimed at the evening TV newscasts.

It surely cannot be lost on Washington that there is increasing reason for the need to reduce the deficits.

* The highly respected Congressional Budget Office has now buttressed the concern of many private economists about future deficits. The CBO says its own analysis indicates that administration fiscal policies are likely to produce deficits in the range of $250 billion a year through the rest of the 1980s, if no new steps are taken to reduce them. That is far more than the deficits estimated by the administration. In fact, the CBO reckons that the White House has underestimated deficits over the next five years by more than $300 billion, mainly by underestimating future interest rates.

* Wall Street continues to be troubled by the deficits, underscored by the ups and downs on the stock market recently. As investors pull back from investing in equities, that means less money available for new plants and other corporate expansion efforts by some companies.

* The US Census Bureau, meanwhile, concludes that due to inflation and recessions, poverty in the United States has risen steadily since 1979, even when non-cash support benefits, such as food stamps, are counted.

Social agencies dealing with the poor believe that any significant slowing of economic growth down the road could push additional numbers of Americans below the poverty line. Most private economists insist that there is no real threat of recession this year, or even going into 1985. The problem is in future years. Rising interest rates next year and beyond could considerably slow the nation's economic growth rate and boost unemployment.

The Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee are proving that agreement is possible in finding ways of putting together a deficit reduction package. Now it is up to the White House and Congress as a whole to join the bandwagon.

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