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Beltway Books: A shelf full of scandal

Books | Life on the dole, two lifeless candidates, and a lively debate

Issue: "Vouching for Vouchers," Aug. 17, 1996

A lot is at stake in the upcoming election, though you wouldn't guess it from listening to the candidates. Helping to illustrate what is at stake is the Government Assistance Almanac, an 870--page volume detailing more than 1,370 federal programs with $1 trillion available for the well--connected. If you want to live off of the federal government, this is the book for you! There are program descriptions, agency addresses and phone numbers, and a comprehensive index.

Lest anyone tell you that Uncle Sam is starved of necessary revenue, just leaf through the 136 pages of grants available from the Department of Health and Human Services. There's money for state courts, refugees, job training, community schools, the homeless, food and nutrition, violence prevention, child care, child support, health research, "research centers in minority institutions," student loans, alcohol research, family planning, occupational safety, "surveillance of the complications of hemophilia," the Indian health service, the "junior health careers opportunity program," and much, much more. And these are the programs for just one department.

That the approaching election does not address what is at stake is evident from The Choice. Woodward, a star editor at The Washington Post, presents a well--researched and well--written volume about the presidential race up through Bob Dole's departure from the U.S. Senate. It's informative and entertaining, but reveals the emptiness of both major candidates.

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Receiving surprisingly little attention is Partners in Power. Roger Morris is no conservative, but he presents a picture of chronic corruption, criminality, and sleaze surrounding the First Couple. Mr. Morris's credible and well--researched book charges that Gov. Clinton was aware of cocaine-- and gun--running out of Mena, Ark., in the early 1980s; his political campaigns were funded through laundered money; in Little Rock he was an avid participant in activities that may be best described as illegal decadence; and the Clintons' curious investments ended up victimizing hapless retirees. Nor was the latter Hillary's fault. Writes Mr. Morris: "[C]ommonly said to care little about making money, an impression he casually cultivated, the governor was privately avid in his own financial pursuits."

One of the ongoing scandals of American government is the race--consciousness pervading so many federal and state programs. The Ironies of Affirmative Action explains the inexplicable: how a racial spoils system was foisted on Americans despite the clear opposition of a majority of blacks as well as whites. The process illustrates bureaucracy at its best-no single decision, but instead "incrementally, unintentionally, in behind--the--scenes meetings of White House officials and meetings of adminstrators, and in pragmatic, nickel--and--dime court decisions."

One of the most tenuous, but most important, of today's political alliances is that between moral traditionalists and economic libertarians. A great modern thinker who advocated the "fusion" of the two was the late Frank Meyer. Liberty Fund has collected some of his best writings, which remain as persuasive and relevant as ever. They offer one of the best roadmaps available for the future direction of the conservative movement.

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