A good response
Too many headlines have stressed criticism of the President's economic package when the news is that it has drawn a remarkable degree of cooperative reaction. By sustainign this spirit, the United States can use its system of checks and balances for the swift, responsible action of which it is capable when obstructionism is set aside.
The nation needs a rallying point. This is what the bold Reagan program provides beyond all the nuts and bolts to be debated. It has the thrust, as a corporate chairman said, to stimulate the economy immeidately "because of an improved public attitude." Indeed, an improved public attitude -- a renewed sense that no problem is too tough for Americans to solve -- is basic to making the new package work in whatever form it emerges from Congress. The President put his finger on it at the end of last week's speech: "The people are watching and waiting.They don't demand miracles. They do expect us to act. Let us act together."
Echoes of the solid congressional applause for those lines have been heard in the days since. Credit the administration's saturation public relations campaign for some of the supportive response at local, state, and congressional levels. But we detect also a widespread yearning to take the occasion for a joint stride forward in national progress.
Even many critics have been displaying temperance. While some labor leaders fire off salvos against what they see as the program's inequities, the official AFL-CIO executive council pronouncements are reported as "uncharacteristically mild." While some Democrats have targeted parts of the package for revision, the congressional leadership has welcomed the Reagan offer of partnership. Wasn't House majority leader Wright speaking for the nation when he said: "There is much in the President's program that most of us can enthusiastically embrace."
It is this enthusiasm and goodwill that must be preserved in order to meet the fast timetable promised by Senate majority leader Baker. A perception of shared goals ought to be maintained even by the coalition of trade union, civil rights, and social welfare organizations being formed to resist budget cuts affecting the poor. Mr. Reagan clearly does not want to make things worse for those who are already the worst off. Conciliation rather than confrontation should mark the congressional evaluation of spending cuts -- on whether, for example, those disadvantaged by them will be more than compensated, as Mr. Reagan intends, through the betterment of the private economy for all. The same applies to evaluating tax cuts -- not only for the immediate large or small benefits to individuals but for the potential to provide jobs and other benefits for the common good.
Further tests of the national willingness to get together will come at this week's meeting of governors in Washington. The Reagan team can play its part in the cooperation game by listening to their needs as well as continuing to sell its shiny wares.