The political terrain on Capitol Hill in 1981 was indeed rocky. With the Senate under Republican control and the House under Democratic (sort of) control, the attempt was made to put together a budget which bore some semblance of bi-partisanship (that word again). The problem was, the budget Reagan had submitted was rejected by conservatives as having too large a deficit and rejected by liberals as having its priorities askew.
So it was up to Congress to come up with a series of compromise budgets in the hopes of getting some sort of consensus and a budget passed. As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. James Jones (D-Oklahoma) drafted a bill that came to be known as The Jones Budget. As a former member of the Johnson administration, it was hard to justify all the cuts and slashing that would take place for many of the programs enacted by The Great Society, which Jones had been part of. In an interview done of Face The Nation on April 12, 1981, he was asked just that question.
Bruce Morton (CBS News): “You were an aid in the Johnson White House during the Great Society when a lot of these social programs that are now either shrinking or disappearing came in, I wonder if . .was that a mistake then or have the times simply changed, how do you feel as you see some of these go down in flames now.”
Rep. James Jones: “Well let me make a couple of observations; first of all, I think the goals that were behind those programs were very laudable. To try to make all parts of this country participants in the economic wealth of this country. And I think as a result of that, you found our middle class has actually improved considerably over the past fifteen years, More people into the middle income areas. There is more personal wealth than there has been . .than there was before that. I think the main problem we had in those days was that we . . .there were so many ideas being put on the law books so rapidly, and that the administrative apparatus could never catch up with it. And then in the decade of the 1970’s, it became just a self-perpetuating sort of program and a lot of people lost sight of the fact of what they were there for. They were there to try to help people instead of trying to build bureaucracy or build bigger government. And so I think it’s time now to take a look at it, to look at those programs that should be continued or retained in some fashion and I think that’s all proper, and I applaud the Administration for taking a hard look at it.”
In the end, the Jones Budget was defeated 253-171 and the budget battle continued for several more weeks. The result was one of the biggest tax hikes in history.
But that's all politics, smoke and mirrors.