Page 4 Pharos-Tribune, Logansport, Indiana, Monday, March 21, 1988 Opinion The free exchange of ideas is the greatest protection of liberty. IRS: They offer little help Having trouble figuring how much income tax you owe under the new tax law? Don't worry. Help is just an 800 number away. Or is it? The Internal Revenue Service provides free telephone assistance to taxpayers. To help taxpayers cope with the new tax law, the IRS this year hired extra people and installed additional phone lines to handle an expected increase in taxpayer inquiries. Unfortunately, the advice these IRS employees provide often is worth exactly what it costs. Two government tests of the IRS phone banks demonstrated that taxpayers often would be better off not asking the IRS for help. A General Accounting Office study found that 39 percent of taxpayers who call the IRS are given incorrect information. A separate IRS study shows the agency doing a little better. The agency study says its telephone tipsters are wrong about 25 percent of the time. What's outrageous is that, by either measure, the error rate is higher than found in a similar study last year. Congress and the public hit the ceiling last year, when they learned the IRS provided wrong information 21 percent of the time. Embarrassed IRS officials promised the agency would do better this year. Instead, it has done much worse. How can the IRS expect taxpayers to understand the law when its own employees don't? How can it justify the high error rate among its so-called "advisers"? It can't. What's more, taxpayers have no recourse if, as a result of IRS misinformation, they make a mistake on their return. IRS officials have said, however, they won't assess penalties against taxpayers who relied on bad advice from the agency. But it will be difficult for taxpayers to prove their claims and, more important, the IRS lacks the legal authority to waive the penalties even if its bad advice did cause the error. Congress should grant the IRS that authority and should instruct the agency to give taxpayers the benefit of the doubt on disputes arising from the IRS' misinformation campaign. Public Forum Pope has insight On March 10, Jef fery Hart flippantly challenged, as "bizarre," the Pope's and our Church's views on economics, politics and warfare. Much consultation went into the "encyclical" in question -- on world economics. U.S. Catholic economists and administrators contributed much of the input for the document. The Pope's personnel travel around the world, and his contacts with, not just the elite, but people at all levels, including minorities, and the needy and the suffering, surely seems to qualify his view as rather comprehensive. As for "historical and intellectual experience," the Church has several thousand years of dealing with governments and economies, including Judean experiences. The Church's mission is necessarily concerned with the whole person, body and spirit; and so, also with society. It maintains a non-partisan position regarding structures of governments. Unless one is blind, or biased toward the injustices of monopolistic economics, or swayed by the crass materialism of some of the media, and the greed of multi-national self-interest corporations, the Pope's recommendations for reform cannot be lightly set aside as "meaningless." His appeal for fairness and respect for the dignity of the individual can come only from an awareness of a world situation needing some crucial changes. He challenges the abuses of capitalism as well as of communism. When capitalism tends to concentrate the wealth into the hands of a few unjustly, while many are forced into substandard living, it is inhuman and wrong. High-pressure "consummerism" is similar, in that it encourages excessive credit usage and indebtedness, enslaving the unwary consumer. Some multi-national corporations have contributed notably to the corruption and violence in "third world" countries, overriding ordinary citizens. A chance at private enterprise is almost nil. The Pope "dislikes poverty," and that form of "socialism" that locks in poverty in those countries. He advocates equal opportunities, and a just return for work done. This Pope admires and praises the world's ability to create new wealth, but questions its ability and willingness to distribute it fairly. Such sincere concern for humanity, and the practical recommendations are hardly "bizarre." Francis Ziegler Rt.2 In The Past Ten Years Ago CBs were installed in school buses in the Southeastern School Corporation. Twenty Years Ago Quell, a chemical tear gas spray, was available for use by the Logansport Police Department. Public Forum Policy LJ ETTERS intended for publication should be addressed to Public Forum, 517 E. Broadway, Logansport, Ind., 46947. Each letter must be signed and must include the writer's address and a telephone number where the author can be reached. The Pharos-Tribune reserves the right to edit letters for clarity, spelling errors and libelous statements and to limit the number of letters from an individual author. "Thank-you" letters are not accepted for publication. Public Forum letters must be limited to 400 words or less. James J. Kilpatrick Child Care: 'ABC BUT isn't the solution ike those famous dogs of Dr. Pavlov, members of Congress develop conditioned reflexes. They salivate when a bel] rings. This season teh bell is "child care," and almost every mouth on Capitol Hill is watering with anticpation of political rewards. A Senate subocmittee began hearings last week on what is known as the "ABC Bill," by which is meant the Act for Better Child Care Services. Its principal sponsor is Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut; Rep. Dale Kildee of Michigan has sponsored a companion bill in the House. A rival bill, much more modest in scope, comes from Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah with help in the House from Rep. Nancy Johnson of Connecticut. It's not fair to say that everyone has jumped aboard one or the other of these locomotives, but the idea of a federal role in child care has gained impressive steam. At least in the form of the Dodd-Kildee bill, it is a thoroughly bad idea. Dodd is proposing a brand-new, full-blown, gilt-edged entitlement program. He seeks $2.5 billion for the first start-up year. After that, he would hit the Treasury for "such sums as may be necessary" through 1992. Dodd's bill is in the classic pattern of such measures. It begins with copious findings about the children of single-parent families. Generally speaking, these children lack "quality chDd care." This unavailability is "critical." It is therefore necessary to establish an elaborate program of grants, loans, subsidies, certificates, licenses, William Rusher inspections and regulations, all to be administered by the states subject to the overriding decree of a new federal administrator of child care before whoem every knee must bend. The bill envisions a vast array of committees. Each state is to have at least two advisory committees of 15 to 30 members. One committee is to advise on advice; the other is to advise on standards for licensing. As a practical matter, these state committees are for dumb-show. The committee that matters is the National Advisory Committee on Child Care Standards. It is to have 15 members, six of whom will not attend a single meeting after the opening photo opportunity. The rules and regulations will be drafted by staff from the Department of Health and Human Services. After the usual perfunctory hearings and comments, these minimum standards will be imposed upon the states. What standards? The superior wisdom of Washington would fix minimum standards for a ratio of children to teachers, minimum standards for the "qualifications, training and background of child care personnel," minimum standards of health and safety, minimum standards for the minimum age 'or care-givers, and so on. Any deviation below these standards would cost a state its allocation of federal funds. Plainly, Dodd's initial $2.5 billion appropriation is a merchandising gimmick. The average cost to keep a child in a child care center is about $2,000 a year. Roughly 16 million children of low-income and middle-income families are thought to be eligible. We are talking of a program that swiftly could soar out of sight. These prospective costs alone are sufficiently alarming. A greater objection lies in the whole idea of pervasive state control over the lives of little children. As the bill itself recites, the years from birth to age six are of crucial importance to a child's development. The bill contemplates development of "curricular and resource material'' that would be certified for use in the certified centers. All this has the innocently ominous ring of a sudden quiet in the playroom. What in the devil are they doing in there? The bill speaks of providing "a diversity" of services and "a variety" of arrangements and options, but in Sections 19 and 20 the bill contradicts itself. It first prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, and it then grossly discriminates on the basis of religion. The bill would deny benefits to parents who now make use of nearly 2,500 child care centers and other educational programs that are maintained by churches. These would be absolutely excluded. No certificates for them! Yes, there may be a constitutional problem here, but it is a problem that should be worked out before a bill is seriously considered. Let us ponder where we are going with this bill. My own thought is that the states respectively should experiment for a few years with their own ideas of child-teacher ratios, curriculum materials, licensing requirements and the like. Day care is a serious problem in our changing society. No one doubts it. But a nationally imposed solution may be no solution at all. Democrats! Still looking for new ideas l . f nothing else, the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination is proving a rich source of new formulations for the old Democratic themes. As far back as 1983, Gary Hart recognized that his party desperately needed to come up with some "new ideas." He even went so far as to claim that he had a couple — although, as some wit remarked, the only new ideas he ever actually came up with were his name and his age. By the time the current campaign got under way, it had been pretty well conceded that genuinely new ideas are rare in politics, and that the Democrats would have to settle for re-bottling their traditional snake oil: taxing money from any source that had some and handing it out to various constituencies that could be counted on to vote right. For rhetorical purposes the tax target was always referred to as "the rich," though in practice it was invariably the middle class and quite often, in various subtle ways, the poor. The lucky recipients of the Democrats' largesse tended to be any bloc capable of shouting loud enough — and willing, of course, to join the Democrats' bulging coalition. And that is still the basic ploy. What the 1988 nomination race has contributed is some fancy new ways of saying the same old things. A couple of years ago the uproar du jour was over "hunger in America." A liberal Harvard professor (forgive the redundancy) got a tremendous amount of attention in the media for his assertion that hunger was rampant in Ronald Reagan's America. That promising theme, however, seems to have all but disappeared this year, to be replaced by "homelessness." (Perhaps we are to assume that, if somebody is homeless, he is probably hungry too; whereas the reverse isn't necessarily true.) Of course, there has always been a core population of alcoholics and ne'er-do-wells who technically had no homes. Those who hung out in the big cities were called bums; those who kept moving around the country were known as hobos. Then in the 1960s the development of tranquilizing drugs made it possible to release a large proportion of the patients in mental hospitals, and many of these wound up on the pavement. Some of them can be seen on street corners in New York today, arguing loudly with imaginary adversaries. Finally, in the 1970s, the welfare machinations of the Great Society wound up destroying the black family and dumped hundreds of thousands more of the destitute onto the streets. These are the people, collectively dubbed "the homeless,'' on whom the Democratic candidates have settled as among the lucky new beneficiaries of their loudly advertised compassion. But there are still cleverer things to call spending. For example, how about "investing"? A promise to increase the salaries of teachers and school administrators — probably the most powerful single political bloc in America — can be packaged as "investing in the education of our children." (Similarly, the enormous federal subsidies to the dairy industry are disguised as "free milk" under the school lunch program.) Gradually, the Democratic contenders are reaccustoming us to think of the federal government as a huge beneficence from which all sorts of blessings flow -- or, as H.L. Mencken put it in the palmy days of the New Deal, as "a gigantic milch cow with 125 million teats." But this time they won't call it the Welfare State, "welfare" being in some disrepute these days. Instead, I predict we'll be hearing a lot about the Service Society. Your friendly federal government has lots of "services" it, wants to perform for you. Isn't that nice? And you won't mind paying for them, will you? Rusher writes his column for Newspaper Enterprise Association. Legislators' Addresses SENATE DAN QUAYLE — 447 Federal Building, Indianapolis 46204, phone 1-317-269-5555; 524 Hart Of f ice Building, Washington, D.C. 20510, phone 1-202-224-5623. RICHARD LUG AR - 447 Federal Building, Indianapolis 46204, phone 1-317-269-5555; 306 Hart Office Building, Washington D.C. 20510, phone 1-202-224-4814. HOUSE JIM JONTZ -104 W. Walnut St., Kokomo, 46902, phone 1-800-544-1474 or 1-317-459-4375, or 302 Lincolnway, Valparaiso, phone 1-219-642-6499 in Indiana. His Washington office is 1005 Longworth House Office Building. His phone number in Washington is 1-202-225-5037. JOHN T. MYERS -107 Federal Building, Terre Haute 47808, phone 812-238-1619; 2372Rayburn House Office Building, Washington D.C. 20515, phone 1-202-225-5805. INDIANA SEN ATE WILLIAM JUSTICE - (District 18) Statehouse, Indianapolis, Indiana 46202; phone 1-800-382-9467 (toll free); Rt. 2, Logansport, Box 189, 46947, phone 1-219-652-2236. KATIE WOLF - (District 7) Statehouse, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46202; phone 1-800-382-9467 (toll free); Country Club Fairway, Monticello, 47960; phone 1-219-583-4758. STEVE JOHNSON - (District 21) Statehouse, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46202; phone 1-800-382-9467 (toll free); 2515 GreentreeLn., Kokomo, 46902; phone 1-317-453-1485. JOSEPH W. HARRISON - (District 23) Statehouse, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46202; phone 1-800-382-9467 (toll free); Box 60, Attica, 47918; phone 1-317-762-2481.
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