This Week

"This Week" Continued...

Issue: "Roe vs. Wade 25," Jan. 17, 1998

Back to the future

The Canadian government issued a formal apology for a centuries-long campaign that attempted to stamp out the cultures and beliefs of the land's Indians and other indigenous peoples. In an official "Statement of Reconciliation," the government expressed its "profound regret for past actions." Along with the apology, the government pledged to establish a "healing fund" for the thousands of Indians forced to leave their homes. Former South African President Pieter Botha will face criminal prosecution for attempting to hinder the work of the nation's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the panel investigating human-rights abuses under apartheid. While serving as president from 1984 to 1989, Mr. Botha is suspected of having mounted a campaign against anti-apartheid opponents that included both overt repression and covert killings. A former South African police general has told the truth commission that Mr. Botha ordered the 1988 bombing of the Johannesburg office of the South African Council of Churches.

Policy wars

Hours after House Speaker Newt Gingrich last week unveiled his 1998 agenda that included modest tax cuts, President Clinton announced that his Fiscal Year 1999 budget proposal to Congress would show a three-years-ahead-of-schedule surplus. The Wall Street Journal reported that whatever surplus is finally unveiled-White House budget director Franklin Raines said it would be "slight"-would be due to growth in the economy "rather than to government action." Stronger economic activity has boosted government tax revenues to the point where taxpayers have apparently finally surpassed Washington's appetite for spending. Not so fast. Even as he announced the surplus, the president began previewing a host of new spending programs in the budget scheduled for official release Feb. 2. The biggest-ticket item is his proposed expansion of Medicare by lowering the eligibility age to 62 from 65. Under the plan, early Medicare entrants would be required to pay $400-per-month premiums, which private analysts doubt would cover all the new costs. Mr. Clinton also outlined his five-year, $20 billion child-care bill. In addition, the president provided a glimpse of his plan to make new taxpayer subsidies available for college education. The supposed "slight" surplus, The Washington Post reported, is actually no surplus at all-because government accounting includes Social Security revenues in the total. Subtracting those revenues, the government will actually run $135 billion in the red in Fiscal 1999. Without mentioning Mr. Gingrich directly, the president said he would resist GOP tax cuts, charging that they would cause a return to deficits. At the same time, Mr. Clinton claimed his new spending initiatives would not bust the budget because they were offset by tax hikes and fees, such as higher taxes on cigarettes that are part of a yet-unapproved legal settlement with tobacco companies. Mr. Gingrich instead urged spending restraint and a gradual reduction of the federal, state, and local tax burden from 38 percent of the average American's earnings to 25 percent. The House speaker also proposed "a World War II style victory plan" to rid the nation of illegal drugs; a crackdown on bad schools, with the threat of getting "rid of the people in charge of them"; and the liberation of students "trapped in bilingual programs where they do not learn English." Mr. Clinton's proposal to increase Medicare costs was opposed by Republicans. House Budget Committee chairman John Kasich said on NBC's Meet the Press, "To add more people to a system that's running out of money doesn't make any sense."

Still standing

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government frayed but didn't unravel, following the resignation of Foreign Minister David Levy. Mr. Levy, protesting a lack of welfare spending in Mr. Netanyahu's 1998 budget, took with him a block of five previously pro-Netanyahu votes in Parliament, leaving the prime minister's coalition with only a 61-59 majority. Analysts predicted it was only a matter of time before the coalition would collapse and force new elections. But Mr. Netanyahu, whose budget passed despite the Levy resignation, said he's been eulogized "at least 18 times in the last 18 months, and look, I'm still here."

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