A full addressing of the entire budget-reduction and tax-increase process will be required in early 1985 - under the direction of the new administration and Congress, whoever is elected.
Reducing deficits of the magnitudes now anticipated cannot be a one-year project. Assuming that the main three-year deficit-reduction packages are enacted (a $182 billion House plan, or the rival $143 billion Senate plan), future deficits will still hover in the $200 billion range.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that if the Senate GOP plan is adopted, projected deficits would still be $181 billion in 1985, $184 billion in 1986, and $198 billion in 1987. Such numbers are unacceptable.
For that reason, the deficit-reduction discussion properly belongs in the developing presidential-election debate. The public will properly want to know what remedies might be taken by the candidates. That was one of the reasons Mr. Reagan was questioned so intently in Texas last week about whether, as part of a ''tax reform'' plan, he would seek an end to the mortgage interest deduction for homeowners. Mr. Reagan said that he would not at this time preclude such a possibility as part of a fundamental restructuring of the tax code.
Mr. Reagan will also be sharply questioned by the heads of states of the major industrial nations when they hold their 10th annual economic summit in London this June. They will want to know how the President - and by implication, Mr. Reagan's Democratic rivals - would reduce high interest rates which they see as the long-range impediment to continued recovery. The main issue at last year's Williamsburg summit was getting the industrial nations out of recession and into recovery. The main challenge at London this summer will be finding ways to protect the recovery.
For the moment, both the political and economic climates in the United States are working to produce the type of cooperative effort that is needed for a deficit reduction package. Politically, all parties involved in the budget debate - Congress and the White House - realize that a package must be signed into law this year to satisfy concerns of the Wall Street financial community. The recent slightly upbeat market performance suggests the message has gotten through. And the economy is now cooling, as recent consumer spending and employment figures show. A slight slowing of the economy puts downward pressure on interest rates and inflation.
What should be the bottom line then, for lawmakers, as they enjoy their momentary vacations? Yes, we can all be grateful that Washington is now hard at work fashioning a deficit package, despite the fact that only a few months back so many people thought such an agreement was impossible during 1984. But at the same time, lawmakers - and the White House - need to be reminding themselves that the work that will be necessary to truly bring down the deficits is far, far from finished.