Washington Watch


Airline Regulatory Reform

Persistence, persistence…perhaps it will pay off. The House held hearings on the issue in October (Aviation Subcommittee of the Public Works Committee) and may be ready to pass out some legislation in January. The Senate Commerce Committee finally marked-up and passed an airline regulatory reform bill. Letters to your Senators are definitely in order. If the Senate passes the bill it will put some pressure on the House to act.

Letters to your Senators may be addressed to US Senate, Washington, DC 20510. Letters to Rep. Glenn Anderson and some other important members of the Public Works Committee (Bud Shuster, R-PA; Gene Snyder, R-KY; Elliott Levitas, D-GA; Ray Roberts, D-TX) would be helpful (US House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515.)

I know I've been harping on this issue for about a year. But the anti-reform interests, combined with the strength of inertia and ignorance, are difficult to overcome. We have a good chance for significant reform, but the Congresspersons need to hear from constituents.

The bill to mention in the Senate in S. 689. In the House, Glenn Anderson, chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee, has introduced H.R. 8813.

Tax Reform

Carter's introduction of tax "reform" legislation has opened up some opportunities to suggest other types of tax reform. The National Taxpayers Union has sought an end to double taxation of dividends and taxation of capital gains. Rep. Jack Kemp (R-NY) is pushing for an across-the-board tax cut along the lines of the Kennedy tax cut of the early 1960's. Libertarian Advocate has urged the Ways and Means Committee to lower taxes and consider instituting a tax "ballot" whereby taxpayers would be able to direct the government how their tax money should be spent.

The next session of Congress should see serious consideration of some form of tax "reform," and since it's an election year, taxes will be on Members' minds (to the extent that they believe their constituents are outraged). Letters in support of whatever method of lowering, reducing or eliminating taxes appeal to you would be in order.

Gold Clause Possible

Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) has introduced legislation which would make it legal for individuals to include clauses in contracts making liabilities payable in gold. This is a natural extension of legalization of gold ownership (and has been sold that way to Senators, without mention of how it could undermine the fiat money system). The bill is S. 2003 and contains other amendments to the International Monetary Fund legislation. The Office of Management and Budget has given approval to the legislation. Other sponsors include Stone (D-FL), Cannon (D-NE), McClure (R-ID), Domenici (R-NM), Stevens (R-AK), and Schmitt (R-NM). Letters of support to these Senators, and letters urging a "yes" vote on S. 2003, would be in order.

New Bank Regulations

The Bert Lance affair may give new impetus to a bill which would vastly increase the power of federal regulatory agencies to snoop into how banks run their businesses. S. 71 was already receiving serious consideration before Lance was skewered. It would give regulatory agencies broader power to issue "cease-and-desist" orders, including orders to individual officers and employees. It could even allow regulatory agencies to force management to fire specific individuals. The possibilities for abuse are manifest.

Letters opposed to S. 71 may be sent to your Senators.

ICC Reform?

Rep. Steve Symms (R-ID), in conjunction with the American Conservative Union and National Taxpayers Union, is preparing a comprehensive bill to reform the Interstate Commerce Commission and eliminate some of the more outrageous trucking practices. Insofar as we know details, the bill is short of libertarian hopes (abolish the ICC, dynamite and burn the building, and sow the ground with salt), but it would improve surface transportation substantially.

If airline reform is successful, the ICC is next on a lot of peoples' "hit list." Symms' bill is likely to be better than most proposals from Congressional leadership, and serious consideration of it would most likely be beneficial. We'll let you know more details as we learn them, or you could write to Symms (Washington, DC 20515) asking for particulars.

Coal Conversion

It is sometimes astounding how blind politicians assume people are (and disheartening how often the politicians are right). An example is the Coal Conversion Act (S. 977). This bill, a modified version of the Carter plan, would provide various carrots and sticks to urge industry to move toward coal energy, including prohibiting new plants from burning oil or natural gas after 1990.

The amazing thing is that the proponents of this legislation admit that it would force consumer prices up in a broad spectrum of goods and services. It is estimated that electric utility rates would go up 2.5 percent, industrial goods prices up 1.4 to 2.1 percent with some goods rising much higher (petrochemicals up 6.2 to 9.3 percent and aluminum up 4 to 7 percent). All this from a single piece of legislation which its proponents are trying to sell as "consumer-oriented." And there is little or no outcry against it, except from oil and gas interests who can easily be dismissed as self-serving. Hopefully a few REASON readers will be moved to action on this one.

Rumor Department

It is suggested that Congress and the Administration may use the illness of Sen. Hubert Humphrey to drum up emotional support for the potentially disastrous Humphrey-Hawkins bill, which would set up the framework for national economic planning and outrageously increase government economic controls. We'll keep you informed on how close the rumors come to being reality. There is widespread skepticism even among liberals about this legislation, but if a "win one for the Hump" mentality emerges it could be dangerous.