A 1981 "people's budget" -- very different from that offered by President Carter -- is emerging from Republican leaders in Congress. This proposed budget, like that of the President, will be balanced. But similarity ends there.
Republicans, say House minority leader John J. Rhodes (R) of Arizona, want to cut taxes by $32 billion, while Mr. Carter's newly revised budget -- according to GOP reckoning -- boosts taxes by an average of $1,000 per worker.
Republican lawmakers arrive at this figure by lumping together the impact on the 1981 budget of "tax initiatives" during the Carter administration.
These include $28.7 billion in higher social security taxes; $15 billion from the just-passed windfall profits tax on oil companies; another $15 billion in taxes from workers pushed into higher brackets by inflation; $12.6 billion from Mr. Carter's new oil import fee; and $11.7 billion in "miscellaneous" tax measures.
Higher social security taxes, most experts agree, were needed to keep the system solvent. Also, without a windfall profits tax, that extra $15 billion would accrue to the oil firms.
TAx cuts now, the President asserts, would be inflationary and should only come after Congress has passed a nailed-down, watertight, balanced budget for fiscal 1981, beginning Oct. 1.
How can Republicans balance the budget and still cut taxes by $32 billion?
By reducing government spending even more sharply than the $15 billion worth of cuts proposed by the President, seems the answer.
So far, House Republican leaders have only partly flicked aside the veil from their alternative budget, variously called a "people's budget" by Mr. Rhodes and a Republican "budget of prudence" by Rep. Bud Shuster (R) of Pennsylvania, chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee.
Full details await disclosure before the House after the Easter recess. But enough is known to indicate that the "people" Mr. Rhodes has in mind appear to be primarily middle-and upper-income Americans.
Republicans use as a starting point for comparison the 1981 budget proposed by the House Budget Committee, as well as the revised version submitted to Congress by Mr. Carter:
* Defense: The President suggests $150.5 billion in outlays, compared with $ 147.9 billion by the House Budget Committee. The Republican budget is $152.4 billion.
* Natural resources and environment: The President, $12.5 billion; House Budget Committee, $12.4 billion; Republicans, $12.2.
* Energy: Mr. Carter, $6.9 billion; House Budget Committee, $7.1 billion; Republicans, $6.2 billion.
* Health: The President, $61.9 billion; House Budget Committee, $61.8; Republicans, $60.9 billion.
* Education, training, employment, and social services: Mr. Carter, $30.6 billion; House Budget Committee, $30.7; Republicans, $27 billion.
* Income security: (This category includes social security, food stamps, child nutrition, unemployment insurance, and other payments.) The President $220 .1 billion; House Budget Committee, also $220.1; Republicans, $214.1 billion, a cut of $6 billion.
"Each transfer payment program is good in itself," said economist Alan Greenspan, "and, taken in isolation, we all would approve it." Cumulatively, however, he added, the weight is too much for the economy to bear.