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A4 TUESDAY, JANUARY 23, 1896 THE SALINA JOURNAL OPINION George B. Pyle editorial page editor Opinions expressed on this page are those of the identified writers. To join the conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (913) 827-6363 E-mail: SalJournal ©aol.com Quote of the day "I'm telling you the gospel truth: I never suspected , KO thing." Harlyn Bennett Landlord to Peter Langan and Richard Guthrie, who were arrested last week in conncection with a string of bank robberies By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal There is no sure thing THE ISSUE Gambling in Kansas THEARUGMENT Charities should not depend on betting money W hen is it easier to quit smoking? After your first cigarette, or your thousandth? Certainly the people who offer aid to the less fortunate among us would tell people how much better it is to avoid beginning a bad habit than to try to give it up after years of indulgence. When it comes to receiving money from the state's gambling ventures, it is time for our various charitable organizations to take that advice themselves. Hooked by a few years of good money donated by the state's racetracks, some of those who operate charities in Kansas now back proposals to allow slot machines at those faltering businesses. The charities have gotten used to the money that is skimmed off the top for them, and so they join track operators in worrying that, without slots, the tracks may lose so much business to Missouri riverboat casinos that they will go out of business. Apparently, when Kansans made it a requirement that much of the take from its pari-mutuel racing industry go to charity, we were too clever by half. By getting charities hooked on gambling money, gambling interests gained valuable — and politically clean — support • when they set out to lobby for their expansion plans. Not all charities support the slot machine proposals. They note that many of the people who squander their money on the games of chance are those who can least afford to do so, hurting themselves and their families and increasing the strain on the charities and on government welfare programs. For human service agencies to support more gambling, some argue, is like the Women's Christian Temperence Union investing in Jack Daniels stock. But even leaving the moral question aside, there is a question of simple economic wisdom involved. Those who support the slot machine . idea note that people are going to gamble anyway, so why shouldn't the good guys make a little money off the deal? But the question is, for how long? First Kansas authorized bingo, then the lottery and racetracks. Now we want slot machines. What next? Gover- ment-regulated brothels? While gambling fever is still strong among some public officials and charity managers looking for a painless source of funds, gamblers are not keeping up. The market is saturated. People are wising up and moving to other forms of amusement. Louisiana's great hope casino declared bankruptcy before it even opened. The problem, then, is that gambling, regardless of its moral standing, is just not a wise bet. Those who need money for their good causes should look elsewhere for support. T ESSAY Watching the State of the Union The president must carom his speech off Congress and land the ball in our pockets P I resident Clinton and a small cadre of aides are feverishly finishing the State of the Union address for presentation to an opposition Congress next Tuesday. Here is a guide, nonpartisan to the point of Olympian; providing criteria to help viewers judge the only reporting event mandated by the Constitution. 1. Does he inspire confidence? We remember Reagan for morning-in-America optimism, Carter for eat-your- peas pessimism. With Republicans deliberately downbeat about budget talks, to remind the president of a recession if he fails to make a deal, Clinton must counter with confidence, in rhetoric and demeanor, without misleading. 2. Does he speak to the politi- —•§> dans in the hall or the people at home? In the television era, presidents have used the House of Representatives merely as a colorful forum for a speech to the camera. But this time the oratorical challenge to Clinton, in the midst of the budget negotiations, is to play to both hall and home. People in their living rooms are both the target audience and onlookers at a dramatic confronta- V TORY NOTIONS WILLIAM SAFIRE The New York Times tion; Clinton must be able to carom off Congress to land the ball in our pocket. 3. Does he put the story in the key word? Traditionally the president says "The State of the Union is (fill in adjective)." In hard times, the word is a reassuring "sound"; in better times, the word of choice, in both its senses, is "good." Gerald Ford's assessment in troubled 1975 was stunningly honest: "Not good." Clinton cannot be too honest ("The State of the Union, as we all know, is pretty confused"); more likely, he will go for a< word like "strong." 4. Does he look backward or forward? George Bush's failure of vision in his election-year SOTU made his presidency seem to have run out of gas. Beyond taking credit for a low-inflation economy, for Clinton to offer a litany of domestic achievements in this year of gridlock and shutdown would be risible; this speech must focus on the future, showing why a second term is needed — without insulting Congress to its face. 5. Is he just political enough without appearing partisan? His fall campaign theme will be "Without me and my veto, those GOP richies would savage our helpless old folks, pollute the environment and slam the schoolhouse door." But in next week's dignified setting, he must put his vetoes positively, as invitations to improve legislation to more painlessly bring about an agreed goal of a balanced budget. In this regard — 6. Does he inoculate himself from valid campaign criticism of preserving the failed welfare system? This is the place, looking ahead, to try to redefine "ending welfare as we know it" — when the nation knows he stymied that promised reform this year. 7. Does he in a nonpartisan way exploit the foreign-affairs schism in the Republican ranks? Last weekend's 31-hour photo op in Bosnia, posing in a military jacket, was done just in time to set up a claim of world leadership and defense readiness in this speech. The peacemaker of the Middle East, Ireland and -Haiti will publicly praise internationalists like Dole and Gingrich — they'll smile but hate it — thereby driving deeper the wedge between them and GOP isolationists. 8. Will he develop his centrist theme of personal responsibility or start running prematurely as the defender of the needy against the greedy? If he can remind us of our duties to one another as individuals, and of our collective duty to educate the young and fight crime and respect our differences, then he can stay on that high road until it becomes necessary for him, later in the campaign, to exploit fear and foment class division. 9. Is he straining to milk applause? Fourteen interruptions of applause and one spontaneous standing ovation from Democrats is about right for a 40-minute SOTU. 10. Does he have a heartstrings-lugger in the balcony? Reagan was master of this visual pointmaker. Look for something like a salute to the first lady seated next to our first Bosnian casualty, which may be schmaltzy but is entirely appropriate in this patriotic setting. GOP campaign is teeming with ideas Q LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL P.O. BOX 740, SALINA, KANSAS 67402 'Tributes' to animals but not to ancestors On Jan. 3 one of the headlines in the Hays Daily News caught my eye. It said, "Exhibit pays tribute to 23 primates killed in zoo fire." This was, I presume, a bad accident and it is too bad that it happened. If Farmer Brown's barn burns down and 23 cows are killed, will we also pay tribute to the cows? I guess not, since they are less human than the apes. But, Farmer Brown may have had a close personal relationship with his cows, just as the zoo people had with their two-legged friends. Shouldn't he be entitled to grief counseling from a team of psychologists just as the people at the zoo? In these days of budgetary crises, did anyone think to check to see if some animals rights nut maybe lit the fire to sacrifice a few animals so the charity dollars would flow in to the zoo? Did the headline writer check the dictionary for the meaning of the word "tribute"? When that is done, one might want to check the meaning of the word "con-tribute." Look up the prefix "con" separately, too. Oops, I just noticed that my dictionary is a "Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language." I'll bet that is not in print any more since it would be politically incorrect. It wasn't long till I was musing about how times have changed. A few years before my fraternity days at Ft. Hays, there was purported to have been an incident that had to do with a chicken that became, temporarily, a mascot at the fraternity house. The chicken was affectionately called Sister Chicken. She fell off the sign in the front yard and died. She had apparently consumed more beer than a chicken should. And, there was a funeral and burial with all the black clothes and a procession around the campus and probably a eulogy and some Bible reading. And, the story has it there were a lot of wagging tongues and tsk, tsk, tsking about the blasphemy of those college boys having this tribute to a chicken. There were stories in the local papers and the community and college leaders were embarrassed. My, my, guys — you were just 40 years ahead of your time. Today you might be commended and the leaders might suggest that we fly the flags at half-staff and dismiss classes. But, you wouldn't have gotten to go to the funeral because the animal lovers would have had you locked up for chicken abuse. I see where Connecticut Gov. John Rowland recently came under fire from the Anti-Defamation League for daring to proclaim Thanksgiving week as "Christian Heritage Week" in Connecticut. He said, "It is entirely appropriate to recognize the Pilgrim's first Thanksgiving Tor God's providence as a special time and reason for celebrating our nation's Christian heritage.' The ADL said that this proclamation was "troubling." And, our people still talk about "Judeo-Christian" ethics. We can't pay "tribute" to our ancestors without a fight, but we can pay tribute to apes. Communism is alive and well. It may have another name. Have we been conned? We were warned. Wake up, America. — RICHARD HENDERSON Hays Tax debate makes for the most substantive presidential campaign in memory ' uadrennially, the lament arises: How did we wind up with this boring presidential campaign? This year such keening is nonsense. The marketplace of ideas is teeming — at least in the party that believes in markets and ideas — and is producing the most substantive presidential debate in memory. Steve Forbes, spending substantially less than is spent to introduce a new snack food, has accelerated the debate about taxes, flat and otherwise. Most Americans might soon realize that most Americans already are principally taxed by a flat tax: A majority pay more in Social Security taxes than in federal income taxes. This year's campaign has featured a quantity of detailed economic argument rare in American politics. And the campaign was enriched last Wednesday when Phil Gramm at last showed that he knew how to bring the debate up from economics. He unveiled proposals designed to make Forbes" flat tax proposal seem thin gruel. Gramm's aim is to enkindle more rapid growth, and to make growth serve the country's concern about character. Gramm's centerpiece is a 16 percent flat tax. With a standard family deduction of $22,000 and a $5,000 exemption for each dependent, a GEORGE F. WILL The Washington Post family of four with today's average income (projected to be $49,200 in 1998) would have 65 percent of its income shielded from taxation, a condition not enjoyed since the 1950s. Gramm would end the deducibility of state and local taxes, the better to fuel tax revolts in high-tax jurisdictions. Unlike Forbes, Gramm would preserve the deduction for charitable giving because such giving should be encouraged as the welfare state shrinks. Unlike Forbes, Gramm would preserve the mortgage interest deduction because it encourages home ownership, which encourages conservative attributes (personal thrift, respect for property rights, a sense of a stake in the community) that conduce to social stability. Unlike Forbes, Gramm would tax all income, including investment income, for two reasons. One is that perceptions matter and no argument about economic efficiency can hope to banish the perception that taxing income from wages but not from investments is inequitable. Gramm's other reason reflects the former economics professor's analytic bent. Suppose, he says, you have two children and give one $100,000 to invest and give the other a $100,000 education. Taxing only the income produced by the investment in education would be a disincentive for investment in human capital. Gramm's plan to achieve 4 percent annual growth (the rate has averaged 2.6 percent since 1966) includes, among much else, expansion of free trade; requiring a 60 percent supermajori- ty to raise taxes; balancing the budget in four years and in the next four limiting the growth of government to the inflation rate; establishing a commission, akin to the base closing DOONESBURY commission, that would produce a comprehensive proposal (leading to an expedited up-or- down vote) for pruning regulations. But, again, as important as his proposals is the moral cast he gives them. Gramm believes economic growth has .done more than all the political writings from Locke 'and Jefferson through Milton Friedman to equip ordinary people for freedom. This is because in a society where brisk growth is the norm, "fairness" is understood not in terms of what government gives but in terms of opportunities government does not impede. Gramm-has been faulted by some conservatives for talking too much about economics and too little about "values." (Almost everyone talks too much about "values" rather than virtues; Hitler had values, not virtues.) However, Gramm's economic package is an example of what in another era was usefully called "political economy." It demonstrates that his conservative critics misunderstand him because they misunderstand political economy, which is the devising of economic measures to promote certain, character traits and other social objectives. So far, Forbes has helped Dole by further fractioning the most conservative portion of the Republican nominating electorate, preventing that portion from coalescing around a single candidate possessing more ideological clarity than Dole can provide. However, the dialectic of political competition can produce unpredictable outcomes. Forbes has done Gramm the favor of forcing him to explain his economic program with reference to the sociology of virtue. It remains unclear that anyone can derail Dole, but it is now more likely that if anyone does, it will be Gramm. By G.B. TRUDEAU Zl "PEAR &JY$-tAJHAT<5 IT TAK£ TO&&OM&A 0/6-TJM& COMIC STRIP CHARACTERS." "ISTHERB 50M5KJNP OF TRAIN- IN6THATZ THATRJ6HT, P05&N'TH5, PARTNER? YOUNGSTER, THE0ESTTRA1N- IN6 WUGOULPFOSS/BLYHAVE 15 SCHOOL! TH&&ISNTAOMIG TAL5NTALIV5 WHO PIPtfTSftRT OUTA5 THE CLA95 CLOWN!