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In Brief

News highlights from around the world

Issue: "Sex, lies, & audiotape," July 27, 2002

Deficits are back-and once again the problem is spending

The federal government is in the hole again after four years of "surpluses." The Bush administration blames this year's $165 billion deficit on costs related to the war on terrorism and a steep decline in revenue from capital gains taxes and other receipts linked to the volatile stock market.

There is another cause the administration is reluctant to mention: outrageous, unwarranted, self-serving congressional spending. Democrats and Republicans are exploiting the war on terror to pass record new spending measures.

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Citizens Against Government Waste keeps tabs on unnecessary spending. In a June 14 essay, CAGW President Tom Schatz wrote, "The federal budget this year contained $159 billion in total pork, corporate welfare and general waste"-approximating the size of the deficit.

According to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, last year was the first time in a decade that members of both parties in both houses of Congress had net average agendas that would increase federal spending. Of 5,501 bills introduced in 2001, just 50 would reduce spending, says the NTUF. The GOP, supposedly the party of smaller government, lower taxes, individual freedom, and reduced spending, has few members who still believe in such things.

As Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth, wrote in The Wall Street Journal, "Over the past year and a half, government has been the single fastest growth sector of the economy. It has grown faster than construction, services, housing, and even consumer spending." Mr. Moore notes that in 2001, the private sector, which suffered from the recession, grew a paltry 0.5 percent, but government spending was up 6 percent for the year. For the first quarter of this year, data indicates that private-sector activity rose by 5 percent as the economic recovery kicked in.

But government's spending soared twice as fast.

President Bush has a unique opportunity in an election year to challenge Congress to do the patriotic thing and stop this gross misspending. But he'll have to convince congressional Republicans to go along. He should recall the words of Ronald Reagan, who observed that we have a deficit not because the American people are taxed too little, but because their government spends too much. | Cal Thomas (©2002 Tribune Media Services, Inc.)

American made

While some Americans want reparations for the descendants of long-ago slaves, others are calling for compensation for living former slaves. Those former slaves are aging World War II veterans who are suing such Japanese companies as Mitsubishi and Mitsui for forcing them to perform slave labor as prisoners during the war. But the State Department wants the suits thrown out. The agency's lawyers say a California law that allows such suits interferes with U.S. foreign policy and is unconstitutional. The lawsuits, they say, violate a 1951 treaty that waived any rights to reparations from Japan. California Deputy Attorney General Angela Sierra argues that the law only extends the statute of limitations for past crimes and has "nothing to do with the present Japanese government." A ruling is expected this fall. "This really isn't about money. It's about holding them accountable," 84-year-old ex-POW Joseph Della Malva said. "We paid a penalty greater than anybody understands ... and then our own government tells us we don't deserve that. Can you believe it?" Only 5,300 of the 36,000 American servicemen captured by Japan are still living.

Faith works

President Bush's promotion of charitable choice-welfare legislation that permits faith-based social-service programs to receive government funding-seeks only to "regularize and expand what [already] is an existing public-policy practice," university researchers found in a recent study of welfare-to-work initiatives. The study examined 500 such programs in Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Among its findings: Faith-based programs accounted for about a quarter of those studied, and nearly half of them integrate religious elements into the services they provide. About half receive government funding, including more than four in 10 that integrate faith in their programs. Few of those that receive government grants reduce their religious emphasis afterward. Also: One in five faith-based programs that applied for government funding were turned down, compared to only 7 percent of similar applications by secular nonprofits. And faith-based programs use far more volunteers in a typical month than do the secular nonprofits. The details are in a report of the study, "Working Faith: How Religious Organizations Provide Welfare-to-Work Services," by Stephen V. Monsma, a political science professor at Pepperdine University. The Center for Research on Religion and Urban Society at the University of Pennsylvania carried out the study. | Edward E. Plowman

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