Dispatches > The Buzz

QuickTakes

Issue: "Don't have a cow," Aug. 11, 2001

STOP THE PRESSES: Bill Clinton's arrival in Harlem garnered an amazing amount of media coverage, considering it wasn't much of a story. It even took Gary Condit out of the news for a brief moment, noted Tony Blankley in The Washington Times. The former Newt Gingrich spokesman-turned-columnist pointed out that The Washington Post gave the office opening the front-page, above-the-fold treatment. It quoted an aide saying: "This is not about getting ready for 2002 or 2004. This is about the next 20 years." MSNBC headlined with "Ex-president sets up shop in nation's premier black enclave, and a long love affair continues." Mr. Blankley concluded: "Somehow I doubt it was a tough network decision to cover an ex-president opening up his office rather than a major speech by the sitting president.... [T]he American public has never seen the ritual opening of an ex-president's office before. Of course, all of our other former presidents simply wandered into their new offices and sat down. Only Bill Clinton would alert the media. And only our dear media would respond to the call." GOING POSTAL: The post office is in a fix. Estimates say the United States Postal Service could lose $2 billion this year even after two rate hikes. Another increase could be coming next year, columnist Thomas Sowell believes, but the real problem is that the USPS is a government-run monopoly. Because Congress controls it, necessary downsizing such as layoffs or station closings becomes a Beltway political battle. In addition, the Postal Service wants to expand into other businesses that compete against the private sector. "The net result is that the Postal Service is not only a rare privileged monopoly, it is an even rarer money-losing monopoly, due to such politically imposed inefficiencies," Mr. Sowell noted. "That is what is behind the constant rate increases and the threats to cut back service." RAUNCH RISING: TV got raunchier last year. The so-called family hour featured even more explicit humor and language than in 1999, according to the Parents Television Council. The PTC's annual survey covered 200 hours of programming on the major networks during the first hour of prime time-8 to 9 p.m. on the East and West coasts and 7 to 8 p.m. in the Central and Mountain time zones. This bloc on the schedule is supposedly reserved for family-friendly programming. The amount of violence was up substantially. Sexual content declined but what aired was much rawer: references to oral sex, homosexuality, pornography, masturbation, and other practices, which had been kept off the air in previous years. PTC chairman Brent Bozell stressed in an Associated Press interview that the study covered ordinary broadcast TV, "not late-night, obscure cable" programs. "I don't think enough parents realize just how awful it's become," he said. "Some of the worst programming is now being put on during that hour and it's being directed deliberately at children." Specific shows noted for violence: WB's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, UPN's Seven Days and WWF Smackdown!, ABC's Two Guys and a Girl, and NBC's DAG were cited for sexual dialogue. PAY ME NOW OR PAY ME NEVER: Will Social Security go broke in 2016 or in 2038? A bipartisan presidential commission predicted the early date and some critics gave the latter. "The system is broken," concluded the commission chaired by former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and AOL Time Warner executive Richard Parsons. Its draft report said Social Security cannot meet its promise to future retirees without reducing benefits, increasing taxes, or borrowing massive amounts from the government. By 2016, Social Security will collect less in payroll taxes than it will pay out in benefits. After that, it must turn to a trust fund of government bonds, which is projected to run out in 2038. Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute's Project on Social Security Privatization wrote in the Houston Chronicle that most Americans pay more toward Social Security than income tax, which means they have a harder time saving and investing on their own. Plus they have to live very long lives to get their money back. Blacks, women, the poor, and other groups considered "disadvantaged" are the hardest hit. Mr. Tanner pointed out that since the taxpayer "has no ownership of those benefits, they are not inheritable. If he dies prematurely, all the money he has paid in is simply lost. He can't pass that wealth on to his children." Even if Social Security were "solvent forever," this is still a crisis.

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