Balance Sheet

Assets

Crossed Wires. Fast action prevents parts of the House anti-terrorist billearlier removed from the congressional calendarfrom sneaking through Congress. A provision to fund wiretap -friendly telephone technology mysteriously slips into the budget-reconciliation package. Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), along with civil liberties organizations and business groups, press the budgeteers to remove the wiretap funding. Within 72 hours of discovering this scheme, Barr's coalition forces the provision out of the budget.

Calculated Risk. Five years after the collapse of Soviet communism, the Clinton administration finally allows U.S. manufacturers of supercomputers to sell overseas. Computer makers can sell to Europe, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand without first obtaining a govern ment license. Sales to Iraq, Iran, Libya, and North Korea remain off limits.

Class Dismissed. Republican governors balk at implementing Goals 2000, the Education Department's attempt to establish de facto national curricula for elementary and high schools. Govs. George Allen (Va.) and Stephen Merrill (N.H.) refuse to accept federal dollars to fund Goals 2000. Fob James (Ala.) and Marc Racicot (Mont.) initially take the money but later send it back to Washington.

Tax Break. Now buckling under Washington's fiscal squeeze: the IRS. Congress plans to cut the agency's enforcement budget by $500,000. As a result, the IRS abandons its plan to check on tax compliance by conducting more than 150,000 random, super-persnickety "audits from hell." Even so, better save those receipts.

Liabilities

Talk Stoop. Declining educational standards. Teenage drug abuse. Rap lyrics. Jerry Springer? National nanny Bill Bennett joins Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) to denounce what Bennett calls the "cultural pollution" of daytime TV talk shows. (See "Freak Parade," Apr.) Lighten up, guys. As Jim Glassman suggests on CNN's Capital Gang Sunday, the former drug czar has way too much time on his hands.

War Crimes. Bill Clinton signs a bill maintaining jail sentences for crack cocaine that are 100 times tougher than those for identical amounts of powder cocaine. (See Trends, Aug./Sept.) Overruling a recommendation by the U.S. Sentencing Commission that would equalize penalties for crack and powder, Clinton says "some adjustment is warranted" in reducing the disparity. His answer? Ratchet up penalties for powder cocaine.

Shop Talk. Kicking the constituent-service habit is tough. House transportation committee chairman Rep. Bud Shuster (R-Pa.) offers a bill to do away with the Interstate Commerce Com mission. But one part of the bill, reports The Washington Post, would prevent Conrail from contracting out any of its repair work without union approval. And where does Conrail house one of its biggest union shops? Altoona, Pa., home of Bud Shuster.

Shrieking Tent. Colin Powell may not be running for president. But in the days before his decision, Beltway conservatives continued to demonstrate a blind faith in the ultimate power of the White House. At an anti-Powell press conference, David Keene, Paul Weyrich, and Gary Bauer pitched a hissy fit, claiming that Powell's stance on social issues would derail the Republi can revolution. Get a grip, folks. The GOP Congress did more to change Washington in the first 10 months of 1994 than Republicans accomplished in the eight-year Reagan administration. And who is the GOP alternative to Powell? Bob Dole, tax collector for the welfare state and architect of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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