Dispatches > The Buzz

Flash Traffic

Political Buzz from Washington

Issue: "Showing the alternative," April 21, 2001

"When are we doing something on Social Security?" President Bush asks his top advisers in a recent strategy meeting ... the answer is unclear due to internal disagreements ... with the economy slowing and the stock markets down, some in the administration-notably Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill-suggest the president should cool talk of making personal investment accounts part of Social Security reform ... not a chance ... "This was my third biggest campaign promise," reminds Bush ... Three senior officials-chief of staff Andrew Card, economic adviser Larry Lindsey, and policy director Josh Bolten-want the president to appoint outside experts to a new bipartisan Social Security reform commission ... but Nick Calio, the administration's congressional liaison, says only members of Congress should participate ... Former Sen. Bob Kerrey is telling friends he'd like to serve on the president's Social Security commission ... but not many other Democrats seem interested, or qualified ... Sen. Tom Daschle and Rep. Dick Gephardt fiercely oppose personal accounts ... and have no enthusiasm for a commission ... now an unlikely new player is emerging to challenge his party's resistance to reform ... Andrei Cherny, former senior speechwriter for Vice President Gore and author of The Next Deal, is stunning colleagues ... he's sharply criticizing "Treadmill Liberals" for opposing new ideas ... and urging his party to give all Americans "the freedom to choose to invest a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes as they see fit" ... Bill Bennett releases a new Index of Leading Cultural Indicators ... first, the good news: Since the original was published in 1993, violent crime is down 30 percent ... welfare rolls are down 50 percent ... teen suicide is down 20 percent ... now the bad news: Out-of-wedlock births are up 18 percent ... single-parent families are up 13 percent ... the marriage rate is down 9 percent ... the average child now spends 4H hours a day watching TV ... the percentage of Americans who rarely or never read the Bible has surged from 24 percent in 1978 to 41 percent in 2000 ... 18 million Americans have used the antidepressant Prozac since 1987 and sales top $2.6 billion annually ... Pro-family conservatives now hold a growing number of key Bush administration posts ... Wade Horn is the new assistant secretary of health and human services for family support ... most recently, Horn was president of the National Fatherhood Institute ... Mike Gerson is the president's chief speechwriter ... Gerson, an evangelical Christian, previously wrote speeches for Chuck Colson, Sen. Dan Coats, Jack Kemp, Steve Forbes, and Bob Dole ... Pete Wehner is now the deputy director of presidential speechwriting ... Wehner, also an evangelical, has been Bill Bennett's top aide since the early 1990s ... Tim Goeglein is a top aide in the White House Office of Public Liaison ... Goeglein, yet another evangelical, previously worked for Sen. Coats and Gary Bauer ... Republican leaders worry they'll be outflanked on health care in 2002 ... so House Majority Leader Dick Armey joins forces with Democrat Rep. Bill Lipinski to introduce the "Fair Care for the Uninsured Act of 2001" ... it creates a tax credit worth up to $3,000 per family-and up to $1,000 for individuals-to purchase private health insurance ... President Bush nominates Eugene W. Hickok to be undersecretary of education ... a pro-parent, pro-school choice conservative, Hickok was once a Bradley Fellow at The Heritage Foundation ... since 1995, he's served as Pennsylvania's secretary of education ... creating nearly 70 charter schools ... 22,000 children are currently participating ... 12,000 more are on the waiting lists ... Hickok also supports vouchers for low-income parents in poorly performing urban school districts to choose public, private, or parochial schools ... Still hot under the collar about all the time it took you to fill out your IRS tax forms this year? ... you're not alone ... economist Scott Moody of The Tax Foundation estimates Americans spent 4.3 billion hours filling out tax forms this year ... "That's the equivalent of a work force of over 2,083,000 people, more than work in the auto industry, the computer manufacturing industry, the airline manufacturing industry, and the steel industry combined."

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Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg

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