Cap on a Hot Tin Roof

Congress is cool on boosting defense while freezing social programs

Buckets of dry ice sent vapors swirling through the Government Printing Office. As the cold steam rose around them, White House aides swathed in heavy sweaters and long scarves handed journalists advance copies of the federal budget for fiscal 1986. For mood music, they piped in the sound track from The Big Chill.

Alas, this valiant attempt to find something funny about the endless columns of figures was already outdated. The sound-and-sight gag did dramatize what Ronald Reagan considers the theme of the budget he was scheduled to present formally to Congress on Monday: the painful necessity of virtually freezing overall...

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