Washington Watch


Education Tax Credits

Education tax credits remain the best opportunity in this session of Congress for a victory with which libertarians can feel really comfortable. It will not be an easy one. The public education establishment and its allies in government and the media have mounted an impressive lobbying campaign against it. Perhaps they feel the same sorts of possibilities are inherent in any scheme to allow people more freedom of choice in education which some of us feel, except in reverse.

Letters to your Congressman and Senators are very important at this juncture. The education lobby is able to generate tremendous amounts of mail, and they have legislation, the Administration proposal for more grants and scholarships, which they can claim will give parents some relief from the high cost of education. However many legislators can see the superiority of a simple tax credit system compared to adding yet another layer of bureaucracy and spending more taxpayers' money. They may need only a few letters on the tax credit side to counterbalance the organization-generated mail on the other side. But they may be getting little mail on that side now, compared with a large volume from the teachers unions and their allies. So your letter could be extremely important.

(US Senate, Washington, DC, 20510; US House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515.)

Gun Control by the Back Door?

The US Treasury's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has published a proposed regulation, scheduled to go into effect May 22, which looks like a big move toward national registration of all firearms. The regulations, if they are allowed to go into effect, would require all transactions of firearms within existing federally licensed commerce to be reported quarterly to the BATF. This involves 688,000 quarterly reports a year from licensed dealers (at a cost to dealers of about $8 million per year), and computerizing between 35 and 40 million firearms transactions each year.

In 1975 the Treasury Department told Congress that it should not act to centralize existing records without new authority from Congress. At that time, BATF estimated it could trace a firearm in 27 minutes if the priority were high enough. The only justification for this centralization is expansion of bureaucratic authority and a real desire to register firearms.

Many people are speculating that this move is Carter's means of putting de facto gun registration in place without having to get a vote for it in Congress. This may not be formal gun registration, but if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck.…

Congress can act to nullify these regulations if there is enough pressure. Please write to your Congressman and Senators protesting the new BATF firearms regulations.


The House passed the final version of the Humphrey-Hawkins national economic planning bill in March, and the Senate Human Resources Committee is now working on a Senate version. The amendments passed in the House indicated Congressmen are really living in fantasyland, dreaming that the economy will respond as desired if only you pass laws mandating progress. An amendment to set a specific inflation goal of 3% was replaced by one with vaguer wording. An amendment proposed by James Jeffords (R-VT) did prevent the Administration from using public service jobs as real jobs in figuring unemployment levels. But another amendment would include maintenance of farm income at 100% parity as one of the goals of Humphrey-Hawkins. Amendments which failed in the House but may be brought up in the Senate include a requirement for tax cuts, a balanced budget, and one which changes the reporting of unemployment to a system more closely resembling reality.

The important point to get across, in letters to Senators, is that Humphrey-Hawkins embodies several basic fallacies, and is not capable of being perfected by amendment. The notion that the federal government should assume paternalistic responsibility is widespread, but nonetheless wrongheaded, not to mention being one of the major sources of the economy's present travails. Humphrey-Hawkins, besides the enormous expense involved, would enshrine in law the germinal institutions of centralized economic planning. Similar types of planning, whether compulsory or "indicative" have proven disastrous in other countries.

Without more effective opposition, I am afraid Humphrey-Hawkins will pass in a relatively noxious form. There is still a chance that the Senate will "committee it to death" and not vote on it this year. But Senators need to hear from the opposition. If Humphrey-Hawkins passes, we will pay for it dearly in years to come.

Airline Regulatory Reform

The Senate has passed the Kennedy airline regulatory reform bill, in a slightly stronger version than that brought forward by the Commerce Committee. This action places a bit of heat on the House Aviation Subcommittee, which has been sitting on a similar bill. There seems to have been some motion in the House in the last month or so, but letters to your Congressman would be especially helpful.

Incidentally, Rep. Elliott Levitas (D-GA) who proposed the substitute which would call for little reform now but abolition of the CAB in 1983, professes to be horrified that people saw this as a ploy to derail the reform movement. He really is sincere about wanting to abolish the CAB, he claims. This is encouraging, but one must doubt whether Congress would really let it happen unless the climate of opinion changes dramatically between now and 1983 (which we hope it will, of course, but one can't be sure.)

A What?

Rep. John Breckenridge (D-KY) thinks we need a horse census. He's pushing a bill to require the Agriculture Dept, to take a count of both farm and nonfarm horses to help the horse industry know what its market is.

The American Horse Protection League, which tries to prevent commercial exploitation of horses, opposes the bill, noting that it would cost taxpayers about $2.5 million per year to do market surveys for the horse industry.

Contrary to rumors, the bill does not stipulate that the census will be taken by counting the legs and dividing by four.