Washington Watch


The Draft: "Standby" Status A Little Less Deep

Quiet preparations to return to a system of registration and classification for a potential new draft have been perceptibly accelerated. Selective Service Director Shuck in late 1977 testified that there are now four major plans being developed within the system having to do with registration, organization and mobilization.

President Carter's proposed budget for 1979 also reveals a $2.9 million increase in the Selective Service system budget, up from its present level of $6.6 million. The additional money is supposed to provide ten area headquarters, and the system is apparently prepared to ask for an additional $17-20 million to do a full registration and classification procedure.

Most of the standby plans for a new draft call for everybody to be classified 1-H, with no opportunity to register Conscientious Objector claims until inductions had started and they were classified 1-A. The National Interreligious Service Board for Conscientious Objectors (550 Washington Bldg., 15th St. & New York Ave., Washington, DC 20005) provides counseling service, and advises young people to write to them, get Form No. 150 and information on filing the C.O. Claim now.

Meantime, a letter to your Congressman and Senators, and especially to Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) registering your objection to compulsory service in whatever form, would be a good idea. (US Senate, Washington, DC, US House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515).

Airline Deregulation Off The Track

Airline regulatory reform, still the most conspicuous issue around offering solid hope of quasi-libertarian gains, continues to be marked by frustrations and delays. The Senate decided to postpone a vote on the committee-passed measure until after debate on the Panama Canal treaties had been completed. Chances of Senate passage are still better than even, but it is difficult to make hard-and-fast predictions anymore.

Especially after what has happened in the House. In the Aviation Subcommittee, partisan wrangling and jealousies have postponed progress quite substantially. Committee Republicans, apparently miffed that they had been excluded from the conferences leading to a rather good compromise bill, voted overwhelmingly for a substitute offered by Elliott Levitas (D-GA). With this full Republican support and some Democrat votes, the Levitas substitute, which calls for no reform now, but abolition of the Civil Aeronautics Board in 1983, passed the subcommittee. The compromise measure, similar to the Senate measure in allowing greater flexibility in route entry and exit, pricing and management/market decisions, was simply shelved.

It is momentarily encouraging to see any Congressional committee vote a majority for a bill which calls for outright abolition of any government agency. But unfortunately this was not the real purpose of the substitute. If it became law, it would mandate that there would be no reform now, and would postpone any serious discussion of airline regulatory reform for five years, until the Congress decided whether or not it was really serious about abolishing the CAB. As the deadline approached, the decision would almost certainly be made not to go through with it, but perhaps to institute some minor housekeeping reforms.

Social Security: A Possible Opportunity

Constituent pressure has apparently persuaded many Congressmen that at least some gestures should be made toward rescinding or softening the recent $227 billion increase in Social Security taxes. This pressure, combined with the fact that the original vote to increase taxes arose from a genuine financial crisis within the system, may offer libertarians the opportunity to push for substantial changes in the Social Security system.

The National Taxpayers Union, whose members have provided much of the pressure on Congress, is moving toward endorsing a proposal which would take all income redistribution and transfers out of the Social Security system and reinstate payouts strictly related to contributions. Once that system was established, the citizen, while still forced to save, could be given the option of using the refurbished Social Security system or an approved private plan.

Whether this system or some more voluntary variant is pushed, the Social Security crisis should offer us a real opportunity to begin the process of getting the Social Security monkey off the nation's back. In letters to your Congressmen, we suggest that you not only complain about the unwarranted increases in taxes, but demand that substantial changes in the system itself be made, in the direction of more voluntarism. Unless the system is radically and fundamentally altered, continuing higher taxes are inevitable. We need to exploit that contradiction.

Tuition Tax Credit

If you haven't yet written a letter to your Congressman and Senators supporting the tuition tax credit proposal (Moynihan-Packwood seems to be the best approach which is politically feasible) please do so. The pressure for some kind of tuition relief seems inexorable, and the Carter administration along with most of the public education establishment is applying tremendous pressure on Congress to adopt the alternative proposal, which would involve more tax money for government-administered grants, loans and scholarships. The tax credit proposal has a good chance of passing, but a lot of constituent pressure will be necessary to counteract the pressure from the other side.

The American Enterprise Institute has reprinted the Senate Finance Committee testimony of Antonin Scalia, University of Chicago law professor, on the Constitutionality of tuition tax credits, highlighting the utter confusion which the Supreme Court has spread on the issue. The booklet is available from AEI for 35¢ (1150 17th St., NW, Washington, DC 20036).

Small Business Proposal

The Ripon Society has issued an interesting Policy Paper called "How to Reinvigorate Small Business," written by Ripon Forum editor John C. Topping. It contains an excellent critique of regulation as a deterrent to small businesses, and proposes that the Small Business Administration get out of the business of making loans and become instead, a watchdog for the interests of small business, with special reference to representing small business interests during the regulation-writing and rulemaking procedures of other government agencies.

This would be an interesting reform toward a more market-oriented business climate. For copies of the Policy Paper, you may write to The Ripon Society, 800 18th St., NW, Washington, DC 20006.