? As Nicolas von Hoffman notes, 1980 is a year with three born-again candidates for president. It is also the year of the dirtiest campaign in over 100 years. Among the lowest of the low, for instance, was President Carter's suggestion that Ronald Reagan, his Republican challenger, had "suggested that participation in the Social Security system not be required by all who work, but be made voluntary." While Reagan had offered, on October 25, 1966, that "we could explore whether a man who could do better on his own" should have the right to provide private insurance, he was quick to point out the presidential smear. That long-ago statement did not mean his plan was "totally voluntary," Reagan made clear. And a good thing, too. For neither disputed Carter's claim that if Social Security were made voluntary "that would destroy the system." If this is confusing, give up. It takes a very particular sort of intelligence to understand that saying that a program would collapse unless citizens were forced to act against their own interests is an argument in favor of retaining the program. You have to be born with it. Let's hope.
? High meat prices have distressed the noted Egyptian leader and Barbara Walters pen-pal Anwar Sadat. He has not boffed around like our lil' Jimmy, though. The forceful Mideast peacemonger has taken action: he outlawed meat for one whole month. This may well send the price of meat in pyramid country plummeting, but if you can't eat any, why will you care? (Only those who cheat and eat meat will realize the fruits of the meatout.)
? The world of art is still celebrating one of the highest triumphs in centuries: the magical genius of artist Tom Otterness has turned 29 minutes of blank videotape into a fabulous "Shot Dog Film." A cable television enterprise in New York City ran the tour de force, wherein Monsieur Otterness is shown "tying a small dog to a post and shooting it to death," to squealing art lovers in the Big Apple. The Advance for Mankind was paid for by…the National Endowment for the Arts.
? The "free-enterprise system" got another shot in the arm recently, when it was announced that the US League of Savings Associations will bring the issue of banking deregulation to the public with a three-month campaign of intensive advertising in the nation's magazines, television, and newspapers. The commercials will cost millions…for the purpose of defeating any move to lessen government protection of the industry—oops, well, we mean, of course, government protection of consumers. "Deregulation has a nice ring to it, smacking of consumer protection and other good things," a public-spirited S&L man admitted, "but the kind of deregulation facing the S&Ls will have an adverse affect on housing finance."
? Christmas comes in September for the US government (the one in Washington that's been helping you out with your problems, n'est-ce pas?). On September 29, 1978, to take a wild one, the Pentagon took $187,631 out of Santa's little bag to pay for construction at a base that was already targeted for closing. The same cheery month saw the Youth Conservation Corps gift-wrap "1,000 pairs of riding chaps, 4,000 pairs of gloves and 181 chain saws for a YCC camp with only 300 enrollees." You don't need to hire a consultant to figure out the reason why (although, yep, the Department of Interior actually did!): federal funds not spent by midnight, September 30, the last day of the fiscal year, go back to the Big Kitty (the US Treasury, not the taxpayers, silly). Money not spent in year A will undoubtedly be cut in year B. The Federal solution? "Every year since 1965 the Office of Management and the Budget has issued memos stressing that agencies must not 'spend or obligate funds for the sole or even primary purpose of keeping them from lapsing'"! So rest assured, the answer is blowin' in the wind.
? Cheer up. C'mon now. That old-fashioned American spirit of entrepreneurship is not dead. James and Pamela Green of Frenchtown, New Jersey, are alive and kicking. The local authorities are too, however, and have charged the Greens with "endangering the welfare of a child and selling a child." The indictment arises from the Greens' attempt to do business with Italo Patinella, proprietor of Patinella's Auto Sales in Baptistown, New Jersey. The Greens wanted Patinella's $8,000 used 1977 Corvette in exchange for their only slightly used demo-model baby boy of 14 months. The car dealer nearly went for the offer but held out for a better trade-in, wondering, "How could this boy cope with life knowing he was traded for a car?" But the Greens may be in for far more serious prosecution. Federal authorities could well be investigating the situation at this very moment for evidence of price-gouging. A Chevette might have been a "fair" price, but a hot and soupy Vette roadster model? Maybe it is time for Windfall Profits Tax II.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".