A hyperbole bill of rights

PRESIDENT REAGAN warrants credit for reminding Americans - as he did in his holiday weekend remarks - about the need for everyone to share more fully in the general prosperity. Unfortunately, there are doubts about whether Mr. Reagan's specific agenda, which he dubs an ``economic bill of rights,'' would benefit most citizens. Among the main elements of the President's plan are calls for a balanced-budget amendment; a line-item veto; a so-called ``truth in spending'' law to spell out how new spending measures affect taxpayers; a requirement for a more restrictive vote on tax bills than is now the case; and finally, more deregulation and more privatization - turning federal programs over to the private sector. Where have we heard all this before?

A number of distinguished economists - the conservative Martin Anderson, for example - have sought an ``economic bill of rights'' that would include some of the points raised by Reagan. But isn't what's needed now genuine action - meaningful compromise - regarding this year's federal budget, as well as compromise on altering existing trade law? Reagan's agenda is not so much constitutionally suspect as irrelevant.

White House chief of staff Howard Baker says the President remains eager to negotiate with Congress on this year's budget if acceptable ``rules of the game'' are set. But we've seen little to indicate the President is serious about compromise. Trotting out old war horses like the balanced-budget amendment sounds hollow coming from a White House that has yet to offer a balanced budget of its own.

Washington should adopt another ``bill of rights'' - a ``hyperbole bill of rights'' - meaning that Americans could not be subjected to economic platitudes until the nation's political leaders first dealt squarely with the issues at hand - like getting a compromise budget enacted.

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