- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2000

Gore Web site takes credit for Republican budget

Politicians often take credit for what other people have done, but Vice President Al Gore takes the cake. His Web site has a chart that shows the budget deficit turning into a surplus, with the caption "They said it couldn't be done."

If he were honest, Mr. Gore would say, "We said it couldn't be done." The Clinton-Gore administration and other Democrats said the budget could not be balanced.

In 1996, fully three years after he took office, President Clinton forecast a deficit of $200 billion for the foreseeable future. When Republicans insisted that they would balance the budget by 2000, Mr. Clinton replied that it might be possible to balance it in 10 years or maybe in eight years or possibly in nine years.

When the Republicans showed that they meant it, that they really would balance the budget, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan responded by lowering interest rates. That move helped the economy and resulted in increased tax revenues, which helped balance the budget.

The Republicans did it; now Mr. Gore takes credit. What chutzpah.

SPOTSWOOD BOWERS

Grantham, N.H.

World Bank should be held accountable to all nations

Texas Gov. George W. Bush wants the World Bank to be more accountable ("Gore backs greater U.N. role; Bush wouldn't let it lead GIs," Aug. 30), but he does not say how or to whom. The World Bank has many member nations, but its actions affect mainly people in poor countries, so it should be accountable to them as well.

Most U.S. citizens would consider it unacceptable for the rich to have more votes than the poor or for only the rich to decide how to deal with poverty and social security. These issues quite rightly are debated openly by representatives elected by the people, rich and poor alike.

The World Bank, however, is a public-sector body in which votes are based on wealth. The United States already has the biggest say in the World Bank. The Republican presidential candidate should be calling for the World Bank to be accountable to the people of the world on an equal basis, similar to the way the U.S. government is accountable to all Americans under the Constitution.

Charter 99 is conducting a worldwide campaign for democratic accountability. Our organization welcomes support from all sides of the political spectrum. Accountability is an anvil of democracy, and the more international institutions can be made accountable to the people, the more responsive and effective they will become.

TITUS ALEXANDER

Chairman, Charter 99

London

Article mistaken about Libya oil embargo?

Regarding the Sept. 4 Commentary column "Extra-special sellout delivery," I think A.M. Rosenthal is mistaken about an oil embargo on Libyan crude. While flights to and from Libya were suspended (sea transport to and from Malta was not) during the latest round of U.N. embargoes against Libya, European oil companies continued to buy and ship Libyan crude. The Italian state-owned company AGIP, for one, and Veba, a German company, were just two. American companies and individuals, however, have been precluded by an executive order that predated the U.N. embargo by several years from doing business in Libya. U.S. companies' purchases of crude oil that could have had Libyan origins have been subject to chemical analysis by U.S. government agencies from time to time.

Many companies and individuals, including myself, have been prosecuted under this presidential fiat. Some of the companies have paid fines, while individuals, in some cases, have done hard time. At least one case involving Americans doing business with Libya is pending in the Southern District of Texas.

Just as before the U.N. embargo of flights to Libya, the only companies and individuals affected by the executive order of the late 1980s proscribing contact with Libya are U.S. companies (not including their foreign subsidiaries) and what the Department of Justice identifies as U.S. persons.

Throughout the U.N. embargo about which Mr. Rosenthal writes, Libya continued to export to Europe, through European companies, more than 1 million barrels a day of very high-grade crude.

LARRY R. DUNCAN

Maracaibo, Venezuela

'Union only' Wilson Bridge criticisms on weak foundation

Your Aug. 29 editorial on project labor agreements ("No 'Union Only' Wilson Bridge") is as filled with factual errors as it is with disdain for the workers who contribute their brains, their backs and sometimes their lives to such massive public-works projects.

Project labor agreements do not "guarantee the bulk of the work to organized labor" or lessen competition. In public projects such as this, bidding is open to union and nonunion contractors alike, and project managers are bound by law to accept the lowest bids. The result invariably is a mix of contractors on the Boston Harbor cleanup in my hometown, there have been 257 subcontractors, 155 of them union and 102 nonunion, or open shop, contractors and that's in a heavily unionized state.

Project labor agreements don't "pay a premium" to union workers to get them to abide by a construction contract. In fact, many PLAs provide for the payment of prevailing local wages for workers in each craft.

Also, project labor agreements don't cause overruns or increase costs. Most of them bring the kind of stability, craftsmanship and productivity that bring projects in on time and on budget (in the case of Boston Harbor, under budget). Compare this to the current Springfield interchange project, five miles from the Wilson Bridge and the most expensive highway project in this region's history. This project was undertaken without the work-force protections and stability provided by a project labor agreement. The price tag on this project has risen by 45 percent.

What project labor agreements do accomplish is bringing together workers from many different crafts under a common set of work rules, working conditions, hiring practices and methods for settling disputes usually with the stipulation that there will be no strikes by labor and no lockouts by management. This frees project managers from wrestling with the details of many different local union contracts so they can concentrate on controlling costs and keeping the project on schedule. Project also are assured of a steady supply of highly skilled workers union and nonunion alike who want to work in a conflict-free atmosphere.

That's why even conservative public officials, such as Gov. George E. Pataki of New York, encourage PLAs and are willing to say, "A properly structured PLA can save money, ensure labor harmony and permit large-scale projects to be completed on expedited timetables."

That's why business executives such as Frank C. Rothern, vice president for nuclear work services for Northeast Utilities, are willing to say, "Project labor agreements are win-win for labor, contractors and owners."

That's why public agencies in trend-setting states such as California and New York have joined private corporations, including Disney, Weyerhauser, Arco and FedEx in using more and more PLAs to manage their contruction projects.

EDWARD C. SULLIVAN

President

Building and Construction

Trades Department

AFL-CIO

Washington

Colombia aid for oil?

In sealing the deal to give $1.3 billion to Colombia, President Clinton defensively denied accusations that imperialism was a motive. The money goes primarily to the Colombian military. Why? Clinton says to fight the drug war. But is that the real reason?

Earlier this year, Occidental Petroleum Corp. chiefs lobbied hard for this aid, according to Reuters News Agency. Guerrillas regularly target excessive foreign involvement in Colombia's oil industry. And Venezuela, on Colombia's eastern border, is the No. 1 U.S. oil supplier. This money is not aimed at fighting drugs; it's aimed at keeping the region safe for U.S. oil interests.

MARJORIE COHN

Professor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

San Diego

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