Washington Watch


Victory on Gold Clause Legislation

A quiet monetary revolution may be in the making. The House and Senate have passed, and President Carter has signed PL 95-147, the "gold clause" amendment, which makes it legal for people to include in contracts and other documents a clause stipulating that obligations involved shall be payable in gold. Proponents of the legislation have promoted it as simply a logical and reasonable extension of recent legislation allowing Americans to own gold. Some of us see a potential for undermining the government's fiat paper money system and creating, in effect, an alternate form of currency. It is difficult to see how the Treasury Department, which approved the legislation, failed to see this possibility.

The opportunities for creating alternative monetary systems through the use of gold clauses may, however, be severely limited by subsequent regulations which might be issued should the practice of including gold clauses in contracts become widespread. Agencies which might issue such deterrent regulations, probably quietly and with little public debate, could include the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Reserve, and the Comptroller of the Currency. We don't know exactly what regulations would ensue, but we'll keep an eye on how this issue develops.

Credit for promoting and developing arguments for the gold clause amendments should go in large measure to Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) and to the Institute on Money and Inflation (314 East Capitol St., Washington, DC 20003) which provided Sen. Helms with a great deal of background and research material and may now have one of the most extensive libraries in existence on the gold clause issue. The Institute welcomes inquiries.

Carter Proposes Truck Regulatory Reform

President Jimmy has endorsed a modest reform of surface freight regulation (that's trucking and the Interstate Commerce Commission). This will be a biggie. If anything, the case for deregulation of trucking is stronger than the case for deregulation of the airlines. But the opposition is better organized and more firmly entrenched. The American Trucking Associations and the Teamsters Union are firmly opposed to any changes in their cozy regulated environment.

Letters to your Senators and Congressmen supporting trucking deregulation, noting that Carter's proposal is a good first step, but falls far shorter than what needs to be done, would be helpful. But be ready for a long siege on this one. The ICC is the oldest of the regulatory agencies and won't give up power easily. These are only the first skirmishes in what promises to be a long fight.

Airline Regulatory Reform Starts to Fly

The Senate Commerce Committee has finally cleared the airline regulatory reform measure over which it has labored so long this session. The bill underwent a record 22 mark-up sessions in committee, and was subject to intensive lobbying on both sides. The Ad Hoc Committee for Airline Regulatory Reform (411 East Capitol Street, Washington, DC 20003) now has 29 active members and claims membership within constituent organizations totaling more than 30,000,000 people. Not all of them are as committed to reform as you and I, which is the ongoing problem we face in this area but the support is growing.

Final Senate floor action is expected when the Senate returns in January. Letters to all Senators urging support of this bill will be helpful. It might also be a good idea to deplore the Commerce Committee's removal of the "reversal of the burden of proof' provision from the final bill. As things now stand, when an airline seeks a new route it must prove to the CAB that such a route is required by the "public convenience and necessity." The original bill had a provision which reversed this situation, requiring the CAB or a challenger to the new route authority (such as a competitor) to prove that the new route authority is not needed. It would have been a good provision, and there is still a chance that somebody will try to insert it from the floor of the Senate.

In the House, the Aviation Subcommittee completed hearings on HR 8813, which is similar to the Senate bill. This subcommittee and the full Public Works and Transportation Committee are expected to work in earnest on the legislation in February, especially if the Senate passes it. The House may be a tougher nut to crack than the Senate; more opposition to regulatory reform is expected. So cards, letters and telephone calls to your Congressmen and to Glenn Anderson (Chairman, House Aviation Subcommittee) and to Harold Johnson (Chairman, House Public Works and Transportation Committee) would be advisable. (US Senate, Washington, DC 20510. US House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20510.)

Medical Freedom of Choice

Rep. Steve Symms' legislation (HR 54, which would eliminate the provision in the 1962 amendments to the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act which requires the FDA to determine that drugs are not only safe but "efficacious" in the judgment of the bureaucrats) now has 115 cosponsors, including a spectrum from Larry McDonald (D-GA) to Shirley Chisholm (D-NY). But it seems to be bottled up in committee. Letters to Paul Rogers, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment, US House of Representatives, might help loosen things up.

Energy to Remain Important

It is becoming apparent that the tussle over President Carter's energy tax program (it's been delightful to see the establishment press using this formulation, by the way) was only the opening round. There was a good fight in the Senate over deregulation of natural gas prices but the motives involved were somewhat less than purely libertarian. Most of the pro-deregulation Senators and the oil and gas lobbies which fed them material and support, seemed more interested in higher prices than in reduction of control. The general willingness to compromise the decontrol position to get higher prices seemed a little eager.

Meantime, the energy issue still seems like a logical cutting edge in the campaign to increase still further the power of bureaucrats to impose the suffering involved in the "moral equivalent of war" on the people. The energy crisis is losing some of its credibility, but don't underestimate the staying power of Carter-Schlesinger et al. It really doesn't matter whether it's a Trilateral Commission plot or just the natural tendencies of governments and bureaucracies. These people want to increase their power over us, and they think they can be successful by keeping us worked up over the energy shortages which past government policies have created.