Opinion The Salina Journal Tuesday, January 21,1986 Page 4 Tl £5feillliiiiife.i T 1 1 he Journal Founded in 1871 HARRIS RAYL, Editor and Publisher KAY BERENSON, Executive Editor SCOTT SEIRER, News Editor LARRY MATHEWS, Assistant News Editor LORI BRACK, Weekend Editor JIM HAAG, Night Editor MARY JO PROCHAZKA, Associate Editor Handle with care More than 100 people turned out on a recent weekend at Wilson Lake in hopes of spotting a bald eagle during the Army Corps of Engineers' annual Eagle Day program. They got their wish. Two of the great birds showed up. Such sightings might be impossible today if not for restrictions placed on the use of pesticides, especially DDT, during the 1970s. When it first appeared on the scene during World War II, DDT was considered a chemical miracle that promised pest-free agriculture. But as its use became widespread, problems arose. The insect pests targeted by DDT users developed a resistance to the chemical. At the top of the food chain, the chemical seriously hampered the ability of birds of prey, such as the bald eagle, to reproduce. As a result, the populations of these birds dwindled. The problems led the government to ban most use of DDT in 1972. Since then, the bald eagle population has rebounded. The populations of the prairie falcon, northern goshawk, merlin and gyrfalcon are up as well, according to the National Audubon Society's annual Christmas bird surveys. The DDT story deserves repeating, for it contains a lesson that has proved hard to learn. In our hurry to "improve" on nature, too often we think we see simplicity where there is really complexity, or impenetrable mystery. We invent a "miracle" fix such as a new pesticide or food additive or drug, apply it before we fully understand it, and then regret the consequences. Needed is more humility in our laboratories and among those who apply science's creations. Nature has good reasons for being the way she is. When we must meddle, we should do it with care. Tougher standards The federal government may give in again to special pleading from the nation's two largest automakers, General Motors and Ford. The two firms say they can't meet federal fleet-average fuel-efficiency rules set for 1987 and 1988 model cars. They have asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to waive the standards. The agency probably will go along, though it shouldn't. It has already caved in once. Last September it dropped a requirement that 1986 models average 27.5 miles per gallon and settled for 26 mpg. Now the agency proposes to continue the 26 mpg figure for two more years. A final decision will be made after public hearings next month. The important goal of national energy independence is fast withering. Americans and their govern- ment are forgetting the lessons of the energy crisis of the 1970s. Today the world is awash in oil, OPEC is in retreat and petroleum prices have fallen. Instead of using this breather to reinforce our defense against political coercion by foreign oil producers, we act as if today's happy conditions will last forever. We should know better. GM and Ford have only themselves to blame for their inability, or refusal, to meet the standards. They should have emulated Chrysler, which has been much more successful in switching to fuel-stingy cars. Chrysler today supports the tougher fuel standards. The government should kill its proposal to back off from the 27.5 mpg requirement. The national interest demands further gains in energy efficiency. What others say Joan Finney's idea At this stage of the Kansas gubernatorial race the highest marks must go to State Treasurer Joan Finney, Democrat. She has actually made a solid proposal to help with the state farm problem. You may kick the proposal, bruise it or curse it, but this candidate has put a proposal on the table. The idea is aimed at helping to prevent farm foreclosures. It involves a credit review board to renegotiate loans and use interest earned on the state's unclaimed property fund to buy down interest rates.... Any candidate running for governor in this state who fails to come up with these kinds of solid ideas on the farm problem should be rejected.... Joan Finney deserves our attention because she's proposing Kansas solutions to Kansas problems. The rest of the candidates and potential candidates are not yet out of the starting blocks. Lt. Gov. Tom Docking is playing the old crony approach. He's got Norb Dreiling, the Hays kingmaker, in his corner. But we don't know yet why Tom wants to be governor, what if any of John Carlin's policies he would continue, or even when we're likely to find out. On the Republican side, House Speaker Mike Hayden's candidacy announcement was a disappointing performance.... Hayden had no answers. No proposals about the farm problems; no proposals for the economy at large. All Hayden had was a glib answer to Carlin's call for tax increases to fund needs in the state. "The idea that government can spend itself to prosperity is ill founded," Hayden said. Cute. But it doesn't address the needs in education, just to mention one area. Hayden said it was time in Kansas for innovation and creativity but backed that up with not one proposal about anything. Maybe later. Right now, talk is cheap. And cheap talk is about all Kansans are getting. Politics as usual. Who's strong in Johnson county, who's strong in Wichita, how will it play to the rural folk, do enough people remember Bob Docking to vote for his son? What Kansans need are ideas and proposals. And that's why, as of this date, top marks go to Joan Finney. —The Olathe Daily News Sell Postal Service? Did you know that the Reagan administration is thinking about selling part of the federal government? True. To meet spending cuts required by the Gramm-Rudman law (deficit reduction and balanced budget by 1991), the Office of Management and Budget has a hit list for the auction block. Want to buy an airport? You can get Dulles International for about $750 million. How about the U.S. Postal Service for $6.3 billion or regional power administrations, Bonneville Power in Pacific Northwest for one, for $16 billion. It's all just talk now, and nothing would happen without Congress' approval, but it is interesting to speculate about what Reag- anites call "privatization." For example, who would want the Postal Service, which requires a $1 billion annual sudsidy? The answer is that no entrepreneur in his THK DEXVKR PntiT Modern 'sin taxes' punish unhealthy behavior BOSTON — There was a time when we used to call them "sin taxes." In that earlier and moralistic age, the government was encouraged to punish smokers and drinkers for their sins by slapping them with a stiff excise tax. This national pay-as-you-go-to-hell program lasted well into the mid-20th century with time out for Prohibition. Then, gradually, sin began to go out of fashion. Today, smoking is no longer the hallmark of a loose woman except in retrospective Virginia Slims ads. Not even the Salvation Army describes alcoholics as sinners anymore. But there is a movement in the land to raise up the excise taxes from the half-dead. One coalition of groups is lobbying to tax cigarettes at a higher rate and now another wants to up the federal ante on alcohol. This time they aren't crusading to tax people for the sake of their souls. They are campaigning to save their bodies. Last week, the National Alcohol Tax Coalition—one part Women's Christian Temperance Union, ten parts medical establishment—introduced its plan. It is not, they insist, the same "old- fashioned 'sin taxes.' " Their hopes are labeled "health taxes." The coalition makes a good case for an alcohol tax increase on purely economic grounds. Doubling the tax on hard alcohol would restore it to 1974 levels, when you adjust the value of the dollar. Their other proposal would tax the alcoholic content of beer and wine so that it would be on a par with hard liquor. They estimate that the whole thing would bring in $12 billion a year to cut the deficit. But the motive is more subtle than the price Ellen Goodman WASHINGTON POST tag. The modern demon in rum is its health effects. The alcohol taxers hope, as do the cigarette taxers, that raising the costs will lower the consumption, especially by the young. As Michael Jacobson, head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says upfront: "We're interested in reducing drinking, not stopping drinking. We're not teetotalers, but we want to promote the public health while raising tax revenues." Well, I support this argument and these new taxes. But I can't help noticing the shifting grounds on which the new arguments rest. Today we are less likely to apply a moral measure to human behavior than a health measure. We have switched from damnation-prevention programs to sickness prevention. It is particularly true of smoking and drinking, but not exclusively. When was the last time that anyone accused an overweight friend of the sin of gluttony? We may talk about willpower, the bakery may name its best-selling dessert "Chocolate Sin," but it's the rare person who says that being fat is being bad. We say, albeit piously, that it's bad for you. Nor is sloth any longer a sin against God. It has become a crime against your heart vessels. We no longer win or lose points for the life in the hereafter but for extending the here and now. The new chosen people are those who rate high on the cardiovascular fit- parade charts. Even premarital sex has undergone a slight shift. Once we believed that God would punish those who committed the act. Now many Americans are less anxious about the immorality than about catching a sexually transmitted disease. I suppose that some of this is the fallout of psychology. As good modern pyscho- babblers, we talk less about right and wrong and more about healthy and sick behavior. If some acts are condemned on public-health grounds, others are justified as "good for you." Screaming, for example, has been described as a "healthy outlet" for anger. Marrying a younger (presumably, second) wife, was identified by one researcher as an aid to a longer (presumably, male) life. I have strayed a bit from smoking and drinking. But not onto altogether foreign turf. By all means, we should raise the taxes on smoking. Raise them on drinking. If the young get hit in the purse or pocketbook, they may not get hit later in the liver or lung. Let the heaviest users make their contribution to the national debt on the way to the doctor.. But don't try to change the name of the tax. Smoking may be described as an addiction and alcoholism as a disease. But these are still "sin taxes." It's just that we've changed the nature of sin. The unforgivable misbehavior of contemporary life is whatever makes us sick. In modern America, illness is hell. Gramm-Rudman computers hack senselessly right mind would be interested, unless he could eliminate unprofitable areas of the country — rural America, where homes are miles apart and the costs of mail delivery are high. That would mean the government would have to get back in the act with a fat subsidy to guarantee mail to all Americans. We'd be back to square one. It isn't likely that the Postal Service will be sold anytime soon. But according to Newsweek, OMB Director James Miller is said to be "dead serious about privatizing the service, even though in the short run, it may well be that only specialized services like parcel delivery will be put on the auctioneer's block." This bisiness of selling off the government's nonessential and less efficient assets is an interesting concept. Is Congress for sale? —The Garden City Telegram WASHINGTON — More than 300 reporters turned out last Wednesday for a press briefing on the first round of blows under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Act. I have attended some strange press conferences over the past 45 years, but this one was in a class by itself. Nobody spoke much English. Oh, the words were English words, all right, but the words had been robbed of meaning. Nobody spoke in terms of billions of dollars, or millions of dollars, or even thousands of dollars. They all spoke a kind of pidgin point talk. What's the present guess on outlays for the current fiscal year? "Nine hundred ninety- six point five." What about revenues? "Seven seventy-six." So the deficit is? "Right. Two- twenty point five, less the eleven-seven being sequestered, for a net of two-oh-eight point eight. That's against the target of one seventy-one nine." They were talking about billions of dollars. Billions! I cannot comprehend even $1 billion, let alone $996.5 billion, and that was all they talked about for a solid hour. They tossed around billions. The only figure I understood in an inch-thick document was a cut of $5,000 in funds for maintaining Vice President Bush's official residence out at the Naval Observatory. This I could grasp. Hard tunes, George, but we must all make do. The purpose of the press conference was to announce $11.7 billion in "sequestrations" from the current fiscal budget. Half the cuts come from defense, half from non-defense. The law mandates these cuts for fiscal 1986 Doonesbury James Kilpatrick UNIVERSAL PRESS because the anticipated deficit of $220 billion far exceeds the target fixed by the act. To arrive at the cuts, item by item, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) put together a list of 3,500 accounts for national defense and about 800 accounts for non-defense. Together, OMB and CBO estimated probable outlays for these accounts. Then, across the board, they multiplied these probable outlays by a factor of 4.9 percent for defense and 4.3 for non-defense. You will understand that no judgments whatever entered into this process. By way of example, estimated outlays for the National Botanical Garden were $2,060,000. The cut is $80,000. The Department of Agriculture had expected to spend $401 million on research. It will spend $17.2 million less. The National Park Service had a budget of $502 million; $21.6 million has now been sequestered. It is this aspect of the act that is so maddening. There is no human responsibility anywhere. Congress did not decree these particular cuts in spending. The president did not order them. OMB and CBO had no discretion. Who did it? The computer did it! Computers are the most obedient devices ever invented, but they have no political judgment. The computer got to a budget of $3.2 billion for the Internal Revenue Service. It multipied 3.2 by 4.3, and behold: The budget for the IRS will be cut by $139 million, including $100 million for examination and collection of income tax. Now this is dumb. Stupid. Incredible. IRS agents produce roughly $8 in revenue for every $1 of their expenses. In any sensible allocation of federal funds, the IRS would not get $100 million less. It would get $100 million more, but this dumb act does not work that way. Thus the computer hummed away. It killed $792,000 in books for the blind, $176,000 in maintenance of the White House, $4.4 million for the Peace Corps, and $7 million at the Bureau of the Census. The computer nibbled away at flood control along the Mississippi, at Indian health and education, at the naval petroleum reserve, at the Bureau of Mines. The FBI will be cut by $45 million, drug enforcement by $14.6 million. The computer knocked 4.3 percent off budgets for rail safety, highway safety, air safety and boat safety. All these cuts added up to $11.7 billion. I was about to write "only" $11.7 billion, but that is pidgin point talk. It is one awesome amount of money. But you know what? To get to the 1987 target of $144 billion deficit, the computer will have to make cuts of at least $50 billion. As Al Jolson used to say, you ain't seen nothin'yet. CARRI& ALONG BYGENTLB TKAP6MNPS OFF HAITI., 1-21 ..A SOLITARY FLY..
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