- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2001

An accounting fiction

Robert Reich, an unapologetic liberal who served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, says Democrats and Republicans alike have "reached a new low" with their arguments over the budget surplus.

"The Bush administration should state flatly that it doesn't matter if the so-called Social Security surplus erodes this year, or even next," Mr. Reich writes in the Wall Street Journal.

"The Social Security surplus is an accounting fiction. It didn't even exist until about 18 months ago, when some Democratic advisers thought such an invention might be a good bulwark against candidate Bush's proposed tax cut. In light of swelling surpluses, merely to 'Save Social Security First' wasn't enough of a defense, so Democrats raised the rhetorical bar to 'Save the Social Security Surplus First.' Republicans were cowed into agreeing that we should put the surplus some place where it couldn't be touched.

"This fictional 'lock box' was harmless enough when the economy was booming, but makes no sense when it's slowing. The White House should be clear with the public: Under current conditions, it's perfectly permissible for total government expenses to rise relative to total revenues, including revenues from payroll taxes and current payouts for Social Security. And Democrats should stop their bellyaching about 'raids.'"

No lies, please

No one has yet succeeded in banning lies from politics, but they may give it a try in San Francisco.

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick this week proposed the Truth in Political Campaigning and Advertising Ordinance, which would prohibit campaigns either knowingly or with reckless disregard for the truth — from printing false statements about candidates or ballot measures within 90 days of an election.

"Deliberate misstatements of fact poison the water for voters and are difficult, if not impossible, to recover from near the end of a campaign," Mr. McGoldrick said.

He has already secured the support for his legislation from a majority of his colleagues, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Those who break the law could be fined as much as $5,000. In addition, a court could issue a restraining order or injunction to halt the distribution of the campaign literature.

Mr. McGoldrick, who ran for office last fall in the city's Richmond District, said he was the victim of lies in campaign mail sent out by his opponent, incumbent Michael Yaki, regarding his attendance while serving on the city's Rent Board.

However, in an illustration of the difficulties in separating the truth from lies, Mr. Yaki's campaign manager said the information on the mailer was culled from Rent Board minutes, which detailed absence, tardiness and leaving early.

Forever is a long time

Bill Clinton told an audience yesterday in Sao Paulo, Brazil, that the constitutional amendment that limits U.S. presidents to two terms was reasonable, but that he still regretted giving up the job after eight years.

"I would have liked being president forever, because I love the job," Mr. Clinton told some 400 Brazilian college students.

The former president deflected a question on whether he would return to the White House through his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, Agence France-Presse reports.

"My wife has just been elected. She has been doing a great job. I'm very proud of her," he said. "I believe just now her main concern must be doing her job as a senator."

Mr. Clinton's visit to Brazil was organized by the Armando Alvares Penteado Foundation.

Simply uneducated

The following item was culled from James Taranto's "Best of the Web Today" at www.opinionjournal.com .

"The Washington Post's Thomas Edsall, writing in the journal Public Perspective, notes a recent poll that shows 'only a fraction of the media identifies itself as either Republican (4 percent) or conservative (6 percent).' Result:

"'The press, in the course of the past four decades, has been blindsided by some of the most significant political developments because so few members of the media share the views of the voters who have been mobilized by these movements.

"Examples include the white, working class reaction in the North to the civil rights movement, starting in the late 1960s; the emergence of Richard Nixon's "silent majority" in the 1970s; the conservative upheaval of 1980 that produced Ronald Reagan and the Republican takeover of the Senate; the rise of the Christian Right; the Gingrich revolution of 1994; the popularity of welfare reform in the 1990s; and the unexpectedly conservative appointments and legislative priorities of the current Bush administration.'

"Edsall himself succumbs once or twice to those biased liberal assumptions. He asserts, for instance, that 'the educational requirements for admission to the field' help create a distinctively liberal journalistic work force. Oh, those uneducated conservatives!"

'The Scream'

CNN's Jeff Greenfield, in his witty and informative book on the 2000 presidential election, "Oh, Waiter! One Order of Crow!" quotes CNN political director Tom Hannon on what it was like at sometime after 3 a.m. on election night when Voter News Service and its major media subscribers held a conference call. It already was apparent that something had gone horribly wrong with VNS' numbers and the television networks' subsequent Florida-for-Bush projections.

"If you could have eavesdropped on Hell, that's what it would have sounded like: fear, anguish, everybody desperately trying to find out. People are yelling, 'Can you guys tell us what the hell is going on?' And they couldn't. It was like you know the woodcut? Munch? 'The Scream.' That's what it was like."

Still friends

"Actor Billy Baldwin, who recently accused Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of 'censorship' for trying to curb sex and violence in movies, has apparently gotten over it," New York Post reporter Vincent Morris writes.

The New York Democrat and former first lady "is billed as the guest of honor at Baldwin's shindig next month for the Creative Coalition at Sotheby's," the reporter said.

"The event is aimed at drawing attention to the issue of filming overseas to take advantage of cheaper labor. The nonprofit Creative Coalition is a group that represents actors and their interests.

"The party comes on the heels of a separate reception Baldwin held for Clinton and others in D.C. a few weeks ago. "

"Baldwin spokeswoman Kym Spell says the actor, who even pleaded with President Bush to help him fight Clinton, still disagrees with the senator on the issue, but 'wants to work with her.'"

Richest 1 percent?

President Bush said his $1.3 trillion tax-cut plan, including rebate checks for federal taxpayers, could help the sagging economy. And at least one liberal dot-com — no friend of Mr. Bush — hopes its own gloomy financial prospects will get a boost.

Salon.com, a San Francisco-based left-leaning Web journal whose stock has dropped to 41 cents a share, yesterday displayed a banner ad for its new $30-a-year "premium" service: "Let the government pay for your subscription. Use your tax rebate and sign up for Salon Premium."

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