The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio on October 10, 1991 · Page 13
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October 10, 1991

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The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio · Page 13

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Thursday, October 10, 1991
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A-14Comment THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER Thursday, October 10, 1991 f t A wm... pi- w I i THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER WILLIAM J. KEATING Chairman and Publisher GEORGE R. BLAKE Editor, Vice President THOMAS E. DUNNING Managing Editor THOMAS S. GEPHARDT Associate Editor DARRYLW. EVERETT Vice President, Advertising WILLIAM R. JOHNSTON Vice President, Circulation MARK S. MIKOLAJCZYK Vice President, Production JAMES A. SCHWARTZ Vice President, Finance GERALD T. SILVERS Vice President, Marketing Services A Gannett Newspaper uclear arms N ! Superpowers now are engaged iin nuclear disarmament race it' i r: ii Vi r.' s if i L 11 Gorbachev or, for that matter, Russian Republic President Boris Yeltsin fell from power. The Soviets' main nuclear arsenal is in the Russian Republic. And there's no Soviet or Russian immunity from coups. ! The U.S.-Soviet race for nuclear-! arms cuts should have no losers. But I an atomic weapons-free world is by no means imminent. Even if both super-j powers eliminated all their more than ; 50,000 nuclear arms, other countries ; have thousands more. China, for example, has I never offered to remove a ! single weapon from its nucle-!ar arsenal. Beijing was conspicuously silent, moreover, 'on Soviet President Mikhail J Gorbachev's announced plan ;for atomic-arms reductions ; more sweeping than those of ; President Bush. ; Nevertheless, the U.S.- Gorbachev ,led effort for huge cuts in nuclear farsenals is encouraging. The Soviet limove is driven as much by economics, !of course, as by altruism. Nothing "would rejuvenate the Soviet economy ore than for Moscow to abandon the arms business altogether. Its military-industrial complex, as a factor in the Soviet economy, dwarfs the United States'. ; Gorbachev's proffered dramatic reductions in long-range and Ishort-range nuclear arms were bound to influence congressional thinking on 'President Bush's proposed six-year U.S. defense spending plan. But it ;shouldn't give rise to a rush for ;"peace dividends." The Bush plan shouldn't be altered much without concern for what could yet happen if in of Congress The congressional check-bouncing and food-bill scandals have unleashed volcanic anger across America and almost certainly generated new support for term limits. Clearly many House members sense that they can do no wrong, that they're exempt from rules applying to ordinary people. National outrage moved the House to close its bank, which let members get away with the banking equivalent of murder. They could write huge checks $1,000 or more and not worry about whether they had sufficient funds in their accounts. The federal audit that uncovered the practice reviewed a pre-1991 period, but that didn't stop Southwest Ohio constituents of freshman Republican Rep. John Boehner from ridiculing and kidding him. A call to name names Boehner, to his credit, became one of a group of Republican first-termers demanding, unsuccessfully, that House Speaker Thomas Foley, D-Wash., identify the check bouncers. To their credit, 29 House members confirmed in USA Today that they were among the bouncers. Relatively small checks were involved with most of these, though one, by Rep. Peter Kostmayer, D-Pa., was for a $5,000 Visa bill. Many members either' had no comment or failed to return repeated phone calls. The General Accounting Office (GAO) found 8,331 checks bounced in a 12-month, 1989-90 interval, with 581 for at least $1,000. The New York Times said a spokesman for Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., confirmed the congressman wrote a check for around $4,000 for a District of Columbia property-tax bill with insufficient funds in his account. House bank depositors faced none of the penalties their constituents customarily do when they overdraw accounts. Even as public anger rose over the check-bouncing disclosures it was revealed members owed the House restaurant around $300,000 for their subsidized meals. Some had bills years overdue. Anyone refusing to pay restaurant bills would seem a doubtful choice for trustee of the nation's business. The check-bouncing and food-bill episodes attest the arrogant unconcern of many congress- Thomas hearings ! Senate must try hard to restore j truth, dignity and credibility But clearly the Gorbachev call for a superpower summit soon to make even deeper cuts in U.S.-Soviet nuclear arsenals should receive a positive U.S. response. Both sides have arms sufficient to destroy each other many times. Continued reductions would be altogether appropriate for the new era of good feeling between the Soviets and Americans. The superpowers' agreement to take their long-range nuclear-armed bombers off alert won't reduce arms stockpiles but was a major confidence-building step. The Bush plan to remove U.S. short-range nuclear weapons from Europe and Gorbachev's response in kind were also heartening. Europeans have long felt and feared they would be struck first any U.S.-Soviet nuclear exchange. While it may not eliminate that fear, the removal of Europe as a short-range nuclear target should minimize it. The universal fear of atomic war, for that matter, should recede as the superpowers reduce their stockpiles history's most awesome weapons. is the truth? The allegations against Judge Thomas were known to some senators on Sept. 10. Yet no effort was made to resolve the question while the Judiciary Committee hearings were in session. One inevitable inference is that the charges were leaked in a desperate, last-ditch effort to derail the confirmation. The responsibility rests now with Sen. Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He has promised fair and open hearings, so that the vote of the full Senate, scheduled for 6 p.m. on Oct. 15, can go without a hitch. So far, all that's been ascertained is that the Senate confirmation process is out of whack. Senator Biden must salvage what he can of this round. Then he must commit himself to repairing the process, as promised. trast, the council says, about 45 of students in public community colleges graduate. Overall job-placement rates for private schools 81 are about the same as those for community colleges. Private schools in Ohio typically embrace poor, female and minority students who haven't scored high on academic ability tests but who have talents and abilities that can be tapped and honed. These schools, moreover, say they provide education at less cost to the public than the community colleges with which they compete. Whatever the costs, Ohio's 290 private schools employ more than 6,000 people in the education and training of 87,740 students a year. Ohioans may not hear much about most of these schools. But they're doing their job and doing it well. looking out Robert Webb men with accepted standards of behavior. To be sure, anybody may unintentionally write an overdraft, but normally with a stiff financial penalty from his bank. Immunity from penalty would clearly tempt many depositors to carelessness. Many House bank depositors, however, presumably knew they were kiting checks. The latest scandals should move the House, as well, to consider whether members shouldn't surrender some of their perks. Few Americans, for example, get a haircut for $4.50. Nor do many get free airport parking, as members do at National Airport. With their subsidies, U.S. taxpayers, moreover, enable members to eat well at relatively low prices in House restaurants. But even those prices were apparently too high for some, so they just don't pay them. If a member needs a prescription drug, meanwhile, he gets it free. He and his family pay nothing for care at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. No need to worry with medical-claim forms or insurance company demands for more information. Health clubs in the House and Senate are also free. Even parking tickets in Washington are fixed for House members, though no longer for senators. Rep. Bill Gradison, R-Ohio, says in USA Today, "There's a growing public feeling that Congress is out of touch with the average American family. Many constituents don't see how we can understand their problems." This is not to suggest all congressional perks should be eliminated, though under the circumstances it was surely proper to close the House bank. But at least one perk free health care for members and their families has grown over the years. Can a congressman receiving free health care for himself and his family really sympathize with Joe Doe as he wrestles with huge medical bills? House William Satire public says "jump," it should and does say "how high?" In this case, the answer is: a little higher. Forget about the petty embarrassment of members who inadvertently took small interest-free loans erroneously described as "bounced checks"; that's penny-ante stuff. Instead, the sleepy public-integrity section at the attorney general-free Department of Justice should zero in on the kiting recidivists and big borrowers who deserve censure, if not prosecution. Something is rotten in the office of the sergeant-at-arms. It goes deeper than the fixing of parking tickets, or extending interest-free credit of $20,000 to members who follow their leader, or influencing of local banks to make political loans. Jack Russ, Rep. Dan Rostenkowski's protege, is shyly declining interviews presumably because he will be asked about the $10,000 he took out a couple of years ago. That ain't fishbait. Who directed him to take out that money? To which member did he give the $10,000 in cash? For what blackmail, gambling or compassionate reason? Did the member ever give him the money back? Or did somebody else reimburse the sergeant-at-arms if so, who, why, and were any taxes due? for No. 1 members hit annually with higher healthcare insurance premiums might be more in tune with and more able to address an issue pressing many Americans. Thir ty-seven million lack health insurance, with many in constant dread of medical bills that could impoverish them. 1 hose with health insurance worry about rising premiums. Some perks may have been justified in an era when congressional pay was lower. But members should live well enough on $125,000 a year, even if they had to pay for their health insurance. Many, of course, have outside income from law practices, investments or other sources. The bank-and-food bill affairs are only the latest in a long line suggesting abuse of the public trust by many in Congress. Political action committees (PACs), with their hefty treasuries, may well exert too much influence on Congress. Gradison refuses PAC funds, but he is an exception. Whom would JFK profile? The impression has grown over the years that too many members of Congress are chiefly concerned with their re-election and rely too heavily on special-interest PACs. If John F. Kennedy were alive and updating Profiles in Courage, whom might he choose from the past 30 or 40 years? Who has risked his political future with a courageous stand on a public issue? The irony is that the power of incumbency, with its access to media and money, is such that few members, reelected at least once, need ever worry about defeat. But most, apparently, do. That's doubtless because occasionally an incumbent does lose, as Cincinnati's longtime Rep. Donald D. Clancy, Rv did to Thomas A. Luken, D., in 1976. Clancy was the last area incumbent defeated. Incumbency could lose some of its re-election power, however, with more scandals. The arrogance and elitism of government officials in Eastern Europe, after all, were major factors in the tides that finally swept them from office. Robert Webb is a member of The Enquirer's editorial board. the House These are questions about only one incident that the FBI and IRS apparently have deemed too sensitive to investigate. With the folks at home aroused, clean members will now lean on the House Ethics Committee to get tough on the corrupt. Perhaps we can get the momentum of congressional self-discipline to extend to the most egregious example of nest-feathering: the abuse of the franking privilege. This enables incumbents to advertise with self-serving, junk-mail newsletters at a cost to the public of tens of millions each year. Ah, say the perpetrators of frank abuse, but the voters need to be informed of how wonderfully we're serving them. Kick that phony argument Here is how to kick that phony argument in the head: Require every mailing in an election year to offer "stuffing privilege" to the candidate of the opposition party or to any challenger who can come up with a thousand signatures. A single-page flier, not printed at taxpayer expense, would add nothing to the cost of the mailing. But incumbents with the free-mail edge would suddenly lose the lust for paitisan "voter education" at public cost. Accountability is on a roll. Hooray for the responsive legislators: Term limitation is the specter that is haunting the House, and scandal is the 2x4 that gets the attention of the most mulish member. William Safire is a Pulitzer Prize-winning, nationally syndicated columnist. ; Under the circumstances, the Senate could do nothing other than delay its vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. But that further underscores the problems in the confirmation process. ( No one should be picked apart little by little with innuendos and unconfirmed allegations. No civil libertarian ;would have stood by and let that happen to a convicted criminal. I The charges of sexual harassment against Judge Thomas by law professor Anita Hill are troubling and per-"plexing. On the one hand, they raise serious questions about why the charges were withheld from public scrutiny until just prior to the full Senate's confirmation vote. They are perplexing because they have elicited such contradictory stories from two very credible people with a demonstrated respect for the law. What and where Education Thank goodness for Private trade schools perform a useful role for Ohio's young WASHINGTON: Observe the stutter-step of political scandal. First, troubling news breaks. The charges are brushed aside as trivial by late-waking media or are stonewalled into silence by grim-faced authorities. Then scandal coverage develops a second wind, whipping up a firestorm that sucks in coverage' down to the talk-show level, which sets in motion investigations that bring reform to the political process and sweep out rascals. Finally, the scandalmongers are derogated by historians as making much fuss over nothing. Glory of U.S. democracy What has Housegate, or Rubbergate, or Kitegate any gate in a firestorm taught us? Mainly this: Thank God for the House of Representatives. It is the glory of American democracy. No sarcasm intended. When Speaker Tom Foley responded to the wave of revulsion and ridicule by putting an end to the corruption of the House bank last week, he demonstrated a truth that the Founders intended: The House is the political institution most closely in touch with the people. If a similar display of arrogance leading to corruption had been exposed in the Senate, that Club would have closed ranks on the files. If it had happened in the White House (also exempt from Freedom of Information disclosure), the president's counsel would discreetly put a stop to it, with nobody punished. But the House, as a body of readily accountable officials, felt the voter heat and saw the ethical light. So hats off to the House; when the Clearly not all private technical or trade schools operate properly. Some have been set up to siphon off public student-aid and other funds. But most private schools, particularly in Ohio, perform needed services and do it well. Such schools provide 50 of the post-secondary vocational education in the United States. : They graduate people in occupations ranging from hotel-motel managers to tool and die designers. They train legal assistants, nurses' aides, secretaries, truck drivers, barbers, hair stylists and court reporters. They help workers earn, advance and thus become productive members of society. The Columbus-based Ohio Council of Private Colleges and Schools says 71 of the students of its member institutions graduate and 72 of graduates land jobs immediately. By con- ( h b

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