This Week

Issue: "Louisiana's Buy-You-Election," May 17, 1997

Tobacco road

Ten days after a federal district judge OK'd the Food and Drug Administration's plan to regulate tobacco as a drug, a Florida jury found R.J. Reynolds, the nation's second-largest tobacco company, not liable for the death of a woman who smoked for more than 30 years. The verdict came as marathon negotiations continued in Dallas between Big Tobacco and a group of state attorneys general. Twenty-five states are suing cigarette makers to recover costs of treating smoking-related sickness. The industry reportedly is offering to set up a $375 billion fund to cover health costs if given immunity from future lawsuits.

Neutrality and morality

Saying Swiss &quotneutrality collided with morality," U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce Stuart Eizenstat released a scathing report on Switzerland's role as a trading center for gold looted by German Nazis from conquered nations and Jewish holocaust victims. The report said Switzerland sustained Adolf Hitler's war machine by serving as Germany's chief foreign source of credit and equipment during World War II. In its annual report on worldwide terrorism, the State Department said Iran remains at the top of its list of terrorist-sponsoring nations. Also cited: Cuba, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, the Sudan, and Syria. Terrorist attacks in 1996 killed 311 people.

Nuking the nuclear family

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An alert staffer at the Family Research Council last week, wading through that morass of dead tree pulp otherwise known as the Federal Register, made a startling discovery. A new executive order on the environment published April 21 contained a line repealing one of a previous president's orders-one that had nothing to do with the environment. Repealed was a pro-family order of President Reagan, written by FRC head Gary Bauer, then a domestic policy aide. Mr. Bauer says the order required government to consider its policies in light of whether they advanced or harmed the family unit. He says the order blocked &quotsome of the worst schemes of government bureaucrats in the last 10 years." The order required bureaucrats to ask these seven questions before implementing any policy: (1) Does this action by government strengthen or erode the stability of the family and, particularly, the marital commitment? (2) Does this action strengthen or erode the authority and rights of parents in the education, nurture, and supervision of their children? (3) Does this action help the family perform its functions, or does it substitute governmental activity for the function? (4) Does this action by government increase or decrease family earnings? Do the proposed benefits of this action justify the impact on the family budget? (5) Can this activity be carried out by a lower level of government or by the family itself? (6) What message, intended or otherwise, does this program send to the public concerning the status of the family? (7) What message does it send to young people concerning the relationship between their behavior, their personal responsibility, and the norms of our society? While we're in question mode: Why did this need to be repealed? Mr. Bauer, who understands how the left works, sees dark motives. He is calling upon Congress to reinstate the order and force President Clinton to veto it-if he wants to-in the light of day.

Assuming balance

Hours before the grand budget compromise between the White House and Congress was struck, the top aide to the House Budget Committee pressed the Congressional Budget Office to revise its projections of how much new revenue Washington could expect from the taxpayers. The Washington Post reported that the aide had hoped for a new CBO projection assuming larger-than-anticipated tax receipts-an ace in the hole he could use in case budget negotiation broke down. But word of the expected additional revenue leaked and quickly flooded Capitol Hill. &quotThe smell of extra money prompted holdouts to clamor more insistently for concessions," the Post reported. That &quotextra money&quot-$225 billion-bridged the differences between congressional and White House negotiators, and everyone got something. On May 2, the two sides made the deal public: &quota balanced budget with balanced values," declared President Clinton; &quotthe completion of the Contract with America," declared Speaker Newt Gingrich. But the five-year balanced budget compromise rests on three uncertain assumptions: (1) President Clinton keeps his promises on restraining the growth of Medicare and Medicaid; (2) the economy remains strong; and (3) the newly elected president and Congresses don't raise spending above the currently agreed-to levels. The compromise does not have the force of law. Congress must each year approve specific legislation to reach a balanced budget by 2002-beginning with this year. GOP leaders on May 6 announced an ambitious plan to approve the tax cuts and Medicaid/Medicare savings by July 4. Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) denounced the budget deal as &quottoo much to be true," complained of the spending increases each year of the agreement, and warned that &quota lot of people are going to be disappointed&quot-particularly if (as he predicts) Republicans fail to deliver all the promised tax cuts. Bracing for a budget showdown, Republican senators, voting along party lines May 8, OK'd an amendment to the emergency flood relief bill that would prevent a government &quotshutdown" like that which occurred in 1995 and early '96. The provision would automatically fund government at 1997 levels if the White House and Congress fail to reach agreement on FY 1998 appropriations bills. Democrats denounced the amended flood bill, which President Clinton has vowed to veto, on the grounds that such a freeze would drop spending below the levels agreed to in the budget compromise. The objection bolsters conservative Republican complaints that the budget deal hikes spending and relies chiefly on greater tax revenue to achieve balance.

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