Wright calls for economic 'summit'
Washington — Concern over the US and world economies is producing startling political proposals.
House majority leader James Wright (D) of Texas, likening the current economic stalemate to the approach of the depression in 1929, urges an immediate bipartisan ''summit'' meeting to address the crisis.
The development comes when President Reagan's prestige is threatened by criticism in his own party. After a year of post-election euphoria, rising unemployment and high interest rates are causing deep-seated uneasiness.
Congressman Wright specified that his proposed ''hideaway get-together'' of top legislative and executive leaders would include Paul A. Volcker, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. He is raising the plan with House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. (D) of Massachusetts. Wright told a breakfast group of reporters here that colleagues he's talked with have looked favorably on his proposal.
When contacted by the Monitor, Senate majority leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R) of Tennessee extended a warm welcome to the Wright proposal. ''I'm glad to hear Jim say that,'' said Senator Baker. ''We cannot pass any program if we cannot have bipartisan support.''
At the same time the majority leader said that he is now at work on a Republican alternative to the President's budget. Baker said that he hopes to have a set of options ready by the end of the week.
However, Baker, chief point man for the President on Capitol Hill, carefully sidestepped criticism of Mr. Reagan, saying only ''the President is standing by his package, and I understand that.''
The majortiy leader also said that Mr. Reagan has ''come a long way in saying he's willing to listen, to consider, to hear (other) ideas'' on the budget.
Speaker O'Neill questions the value of Wright's proposal - unless the President shows some flexibility on the budget. ''If he (the President) wants to compromise, we'd be willing to go to Camp David or anyplace else,'' O'Neill told reporters. However, he said that there is no sense in such a meeting ''if the President's going to stonewall it.''
The move by Wright is the latest sign of growing uneasiness over deteriorating economic conditions and the administration's response to them. In widely reported comments that could cost him his job as chairman of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, Sen. Robert Packwood of Oregon recently implied that Reagan is inattentive to appeals for economic justice in the current situation.
Wright, choosing his words carefully, praised Reagan for personal qualities but said that his economic approach is old-fashioned. The political-economic situation seems just at the point where it might develop into bitter personal acrimony like that against Herbert Hoover in 1930-32, or it might be diverted into a coalition emergency action as proposed by Wright.
Wright said the economy is in ''a very desperate situation that is getting worse rather than better.'' His proposed meeting of House, Senate, and other government leaders ''in some secluded place'' would work out a national recovery program.
He would like his proposed conference to extract a promise from Fed chairman Volcker to restrain interest rates. But the House majority leader did not say how this would be accomplished.
''I am pleading for a meeting with an open mind,'' Wright said.