Transportation Transformation What sort of transportation policy can we expect from the Reagan administration? If the transition team's recommendations are followed, expect little short of a revolution in federal policy. As leaked to the Wall Street Journal, the new policy would:
• Close down Conrail, selling off its viable lines to the private sector and abandoning the rest
• Cut out Amtrak's money-losing long-distance routes
• Stop funding such boondoggles as subways and downtown people-movers
• Stop subsidizing the operating expenses of local transit systems
• Encourage jitney service and other forms of private transit
• Close down the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has "done enough" to promote auto safety
• Make road users pay their full shares of road construction and maintenance via gasoline user taxes
• Close down the Civil Aeronautics Board prior to its 1985 termination date, and speed up decontrol of trucking and railroads by the Interstate Commerce Commission.
The first sign that the Reagan people may be serious about this agenda occurred during the lame-duck session of Congress in December. Pressure from GOP Senators succeeded in killing a five-year $25.5 billion mass transit aid program, despite heavy lobbying by urban interest groups. Had the bill passed, it would have made it impossible to cut back transit spending in the dramatic ways contemplated.
Airline Safety, Revisited Some time ago this column presented data on the comparative performance of US domestic airlines in violating federal safety rules (see "Which Airlines Are Safest?" Trends, Dec. 1979). Legitimate questions were raised by several readers regarding (1) whether safety-rule violations were the best measure of actual risk to passengers and (2) whether revenue passenger miles was the best normalizing factor. We are pleased to present the results of an alternative approach to the problem.
MIT researchers Arnold Barnett, Michael Abraham, and Victor Schimmel recently reviewed the problem on an international basis, comparing the safety of 58 major airlines, 18 domestic and 40 international carriers. As a safety measure, they decided to use the number of fatal accidents over a long period of time. As a normalizing factor, they chose the number of flights performed over the period. Using these measures they define an "average fatality quotient—AFQ" which is the probability that a person choosing a flight from among all the airline's flights over the period would die in an accident.
What are the results? Looking first at the 18 domestic carriers from 1957 to 1976, the researchers found differences among them, but they were not statistically significant. Of interest is the finding that the industry-wide AFQ has decreased steadily during the two decades under review.
Internationally, however, the picture is sharply different. Very large, statistically significant differences in AFQs exist, with US and other Western airlines generally being far safer than Third World and Soviet-bloc airlines. Of the 40 international carriers, the best and worst are the following:
The airlines with AFQs of zero had no fatalities at all during the entire 1960-1975 period. The researchers point out that if United Airlines had the same rate of accidents as Malev and Egyptair, it would have one major crash every eleven days.
Interestingly, Pan Am and TWA fall somewhere in between the best and the worst, though close to the best: their respective AFQs are 3 and 4. Data for the Soviet airline, Aeroflot, are not made available by the USSR.
Cable TV Competition How many times have you turned off your TV, in despair at the paucity of program choices? You read about all the exciting new cable and pay-TV services—but your local cable monopoly doesn't seem to carry them. If only you had a choice.…
Such choices may not be far off, however. On December 23, 1980 a California Superior Court judge in San Diego County declared unconstitutional an exclusive cable TV franchise in the city of Vista. In dismissing a suit brought by one cable firm against a competitor, Judge Anthony Joseph ruled that the state constitution provides for competition in certain fields, including communications. That, said the judge, "unquestionably precludes monopolies in those fields."
The attorney for the would-be competitor, Pala Mesa Cablevision, argues that First Amendment considerations are also at stake. "It's no different than if you granted a franchise to the Los Angeles Times to be the sole distributor of newspapers in the city of Vista." In Massachusetts, the same freedom-of-the- press argument has been raised by Cape Cod Cablevision in challenging the state cable TV commission's authority to regulate rates. It is no different from having a "federal newspaper commission" set rates for newspapers, says Cablevision's attorney George Shapiro.
Actually, the majority of cable TV franchises are awarded on a nonexclusive basis already—though few people realize this. Because of the inherent economic advantage of being the first operator in an area, competition from new entrants has been limited. But it does sometimes occur. Somerville, South Carolina, for instance, has two firms competing for cable subscribers, with most of the competition occurring at boundary areas. A similar situation exists in San Luis Obispo County, California. In the Vista, California case, Pala Mesa Cablevision was attempting to wire the homes in a major new housing development being built within the city limits, despite the citywide franchise granted to Times-Mirror Cablevision in 1966. If Pala Mesa's challenge to exclusive franchising is upheld on appeal, there may not be revolutionary changes, but the threat of competition could spur cable operators to offer more choices and to hold down rates more effectively than government regulation ever could.
Rethinking the Categories Are Americans really divided into liberals, moderates, and conservatives? The pollsters apparently still think so, but a number of political scientists believe such a breakdown obscures more than it reveals. Two such thinkers are William S. Maddox and Stuart A. Lilie of the University of Central Florida.
In a paper presented to the Midwest Political Science Association annual meeting in 1979, Maddox and Lilie isolated four distinct ideological belief systems, based on combinations of support for or against expanded individual liberties and support for or against government economic intervention:
When people are categorized in this way, they found, their positions on a wide range of issues made up consistent sets nearly three quarters of the time. What is especially interesting is how the groups so categorized compared. Libertarians, for example, top the other groups in income levels, education (extent of advanced degrees), and extent of political involvement, with populists ranking at the bottom of all three categories. In age group, those who matured during the Depression are heavily conservative and populist, those maturing in the '50s encompass all four groups about equally, the '60s generation tends toward liberalism, while the '70s group has its largest components as liberals and libertarians. Regionally, it is interesting to note that populism dominates not only the South but also the Northeast (explaining, perhaps, the Kennedy phenomenon). Given the coherence of these categories and their greater explanatory power, one hopes the pollsters and mass media will take notice.
No More Arts Subsidies? This seems to be a time for "thinking the unthinkable" in a whole variety of fields. And among the sacred cows now being held up for serious scrutiny is the idea of federal subsidies for the arts and humanities. Last year economist Milton Friedman raised the issue; speaking at Texas A&M University, he questioned the justification of both the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Public Broadcasting System. Soon after, articles in Policy Review by Kingsley Amis and Ernest van den Haag questioned federal arts funding, as did a Harper's cover story called "The Ministry of Culture" on the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The latest salvos have come from the Heritage Foundation and the Reagan transition team. In what the New York Times described as a "harshly critical report," a Heritage study team attacked both the National Endowment for the Arts and NEH. The former, says the report, "spends millions of dollars yearly to fund programs and policies which are unconcerned in any way with enduring artistic accomplishments; the best of these projects do no more than fossilize the popular culture of the past, and the worst are little more than high-flown welfare and employment schemes." The NEH, says another section of the report, has become thoroughly politicized. Example: a 1980 humanities grant of nearly $200,000 was given to Working Women: National Association of Office Workers to hold classes and film forums on "the struggle of office workers for improved conditions."
The transition teams on NEH and NEA include members of the Heritage Foundation study group. Although they reportedly recommended substantial reform rather than abolition of the agencies, the Times reports that another segment of the Reagan camp feels "there is now no alternative but to abolish them altogether," returning arts funding to private and corporate contributors.
Florida Deregulates In the first major application of its Sunset Law, the Florida Legislature allowed the state's truck and bus regulatory apparatus to expire last June 30. Opponents of deregulation predicted chaos, cutthroat competition, and the abandonment of small towns. But in a review of deregulation's first six months, Orlando Sentinal Star reporter Larry Lipman has found the actual results to be quite different.
Contrary to the predictions of the large truckers, there has been no chaos, and the large companies are not devastating the small ones. On the contrary, it is the large statewide truckers who are feeling the pinch of increased competition—from aggressive small firms and from large national carriers that can now enter the intrastate market. As far as customers are concerned, competition has led to discounts for truckload shipments and for big-city shippers, while small-town and low-volume shippers—who cost more to serve—are paying somewhat more. And although large truckers have abandoned some small towns, new small firms are springing up to provide replacement service.
The same thing is happening with bus service. Greyhound has dropped 110 small stations, but the average distance from abandoned stations to points retaining Greyhound service is less than 10 miles. Trailways dropped only 31 locations, an average of 22 miles from another Trailways station. But small bus companies are moving into the breach, buying new equipment and expanding services. Charter operators are expanding rapidly, too. "The people that are losing out in deregulation are the lawyers that represented people before the Public Service Commission," says Eric Annett, a small bus operator in Sebring. "The customer is coming out quite good [sic]."
What the Florida experience demonstrates most clearly is that regulations of this sort need not be phased out gradually. Florida's "cold-turkey" withdrawal is working quite nicely.
New Age Enlightenment As John McClaughry noted in his review of New Age Politics in these pages (Aug.), there's more to the "New Age" movement than meets the eye. What might appear to the casual observer as a collection of leftover hippies from the '60s and '70s—preaching peace, back-to-the-land, and soft energy paths—is actually far more complex than that. And, as is becoming increasingly evident, the movement is quite amenable to arguments for the efficacy of the free market and private property.
An excellent demonstration of this thesis is the "transformation platform" of the recently formed New World Alliance—a coalition of New Age/decentralist groups. Among the many detailed proposals in this document, one finds advocacy of widespread private property ownership, a genuine free market, a sound currency and repeal of legal tender laws, a balanced federal budget, state and federal spending limits, an end to corporate bailouts, an audit of the Federal Reserve System, deregulation of transportation and communications, repeal of barriers to free trade, prohibition of price controls, and replacement of mandatory licensing with voluntary certification. NWA favors a simplification of the tax system and decentralization of welfare. It backs the leasing of public lands to private groups, the phase-out of farm subsidies, full-cost pricing on federal water projects, and a provision for land owners to bring inverse condemnation suits "whenever a police-power regulation destroys more than one-fourth of the value of their land." At the local government level, the platform backs experimenting with Enterprise Zones, privatizing zoning and building codes, and contracting out public services. In education, NWA urges adoption of a voucher system, ending forced busing, and reducing compulsory education to age 14. On health issues, backed are freedom of choice in drug therapies and modes of health care, voluntary certification of health professionals, freedom of elective abortion, and decriminalization of drugs.
To be sure, there are whole sections which seem inconsistent with these principles: a rhetorical commitment to the "new international economic order," the usual call for abandoning nuclear power, and unilateral cutbacks in military programs. Many detailed points still look to government to control, direct, and redistribute. Nevertheless, the NWA document is a remarkable demonstration of the extent to which free-market ideas are being accepted throughout our culture.
Deregulating Long-Distance The trend towards letting competition regulate the telecommunications market instead of bureaucrats continues apace. In December the Federal Communications Commission voted six to one that it has the authority to define common carriers and need not regulate companies which don't have the power to dominate their markets. That policy statement is aimed at allowing the FCC, later this year, to cease regulating the independent firms providing long-distance voice and data service in competition with the Bell System (AT&T) and firms providing domestic satellite service. Only local telephone monopolies and the Bell System's Long Lines Division would remain under FCC control.
The FCC is still trying to deregulate the telex market—messages sent between teletypewriter machines. Last August a federal court said the agency had no authority to allow Western Union into the international telex market, because Section 222 of the Communications Act had permitted WU to buy up its domestic competitors years ago on condition that it steer clear of the international carriers. What the FCC had been trying to do was to substitute competition for regulated monopolies: by letting the international carriers (ITT, RCA, WUI, etc.) into the domestic telex market and letting WU into the international market. The FCC's latest try is to let AT&T into the international telex and telegraph market, while allowing the international carriers to compete with AT&T for overseas phone service, currently a Bell System monopoly. In the meantime, there is "growing sentiment in Congress," according to Business Week, for repealing Section 222, thereby letting WU into the international market, too.
All this ferment has already had benefits for consumers. Between July and December, international telex rates dropped by 20 percent.
Space Lasers Urged One of the most important defense efforts of the 1980s could be the development of space-based laser weapons, able to destroy ICBMs before they re-enter the atmosphere (see "Ending Missile MADness," REASON, January 1979). And according to a conference held last November, such a weapons system could be operational by 1989.
Sponsored by First Albany Corporation, an investment firm, the conference brought together key Defense Department and aerospace personnel with members of the investment community. It reviewed the basic technology of laser and particle-beam weapons, the state of the art, and their projected utility both within and outside the atmosphere. Although air- and ship-defense missions are considered feasible, laser weapons in space would be 10 to 20 times more efficient than in the atmosphere, and could be used over ranges of thousands of kilometers. What's required for a space-based system is a scale-up of present technology, by a factor of 10, according to Pentagon participants. But the pay-off—making Soviet ICBMs obsolete without threatening Soviet lives—is so large that the effort was viewed as worth undertaking.
In December President-elect Reagan was briefed on space-based laser weapons by Sen. Harrison Schmitt, incoming chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee's science, technology, and space subcommittee. According to Aviation Week, the Reagan transition team is considering a $500-600 million 1982 program to speed development of such a system—more than doubling current spending.
A dissenting voice has come from MIT physicist Kosta Tsipis. In a study released in December, Tsipis called deployment of space lasers impractical, too expensive, and likely to trigger an all-out nuclear war. Aside from questions of technological feasibility (on which Tsipis seems to be in the minority among scientists), his basic argument seems to be that deployment of such a system would be seen as provocative by the Soviets, leading to an attack on it which could trigger an all-out nuclear war. The same argument, needless to say, could be used against any substantial increase in US defense capability.
Licking Stamp Costs Rep. Barry Goldwater, Jr. (R-Calif.) thought he was proposing a novel idea when he introduced legislation that would allow US businesses to bid for the right to advertise on postage stamps late last year. But way back in July, 1966, the always innovative Mad magazine ran a three-page spoof on that very same idea. Sample stamps included soap opera stamps, which would be sold in monthly chapters.
The real-life Free Enterprise Postage Stamp Act, Goldwater claims, is no laughing matter. It would save the US Postal Service $1.2 billion annually through the sale of advertising on all six billion stamps, charging 20 cents per stamp. A minimum of one million stamps would be available to each interested company.
There is one ticklish point: Goldwater concedes that a policy board would have to be created to arbitrate on matters of "public taste," as in the acceptability of particular political, religious, or pornographic ads (the latter notion being, of course, highly relative). The proposal has another antecedent: it seems the British government sells advertising space on the booklets its stamps are sold in.
Some stamp collectors are already fighting the proposal. Their main concern doesn't seem to be that noncommercial stamps will become a rarity and hence quite expensive, but that, as International Stamp Collectors Society Executive Director Israel Bick huffed, "His proposal would wipe out stamp collecting as a hobby…one of the last remaining American traditions. Goldwater is a family man. Why would he want to destroy something that has united millions of American families in an enjoyable hobby?" How about because of the USPS's expensive annual deficit?
Incidentally, Goldwater—whose father, Senator Goldwater (R-Ariz.), is sponsoring the bill in the Senate—said he may call on Mad artist Al Jaffee, creator of the 1966 spoof stamps, to testify when committee hearings begin on the bill. What, him worry?
Capitalist Comrades For the time being only, they explain, "to each according to his work" is going to replace "to each according to his need" as the officially acceptable economic slogan in China—and, less explicitly, in Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam too. These four countries, as we have noted in these pages before, are being forced to turn to capitalist tools to achieve their egalitarian ends.
Cuba, which recently allowed private farmers to market their produce (Trends, Nov.) in private markets, has conceded the importance of profitability in determining which state-owned enterprises should survive. Excepting, of course, those unprofitable enterprises which are nevertheless "politically necessary." Workers who indulge in "anti-revolutionary" behavior, such as drinking or goofing off, can now be fired by administrators, and the government may ease away from the rationing system to the price mechanism for allotting goods. These desperate steps may be in preparation for the eventual cutback in the hefty annual subsidy from Russia.
Vietnam has also had to learn to tolerate the return of private merchants in the city of Saigon. The merchants mostly sell goods that have been brought in by the single daily Air France flight. The communist government has found no other way to alleviate the 25 percent unemployment in that city alone. Most of the country is forced to give up electricity one day a week to help fuel the war in Kampuchea (Cambodia), besides having to survive on a radically lowered gasoline ration.
Neighboring Laos has also tolerated free market trading in fresh food and consumer goods—this seems to be the common first concession to the wisdom of capitalism. Communal tilling has lost out to privately-held plots. The communist government says the lapse into capitalist tendencies is merely a temporary measure to help it survive economic stagnation and the refugee labor drain. The Laotian economy is in such bad shape that the government survives largely on foreign aid from Eastern Europe and, aggravatingly, the United Nations. This aid came to about $94 million in 1979.
China is also seesawing up and down on how best to achieve economic progress without giving up too much political power. While the acceptance of the principle of competition seems to be unchanged, a more cautious attitude toward lifting centralized control is evident in the ranks of the Communist Party and the bureaucracy. Some changes, however, will remain: workers can still elect their company officials and in one case can buy shares of stock in the company; enterprises may have to go to banks for loans rather than to the State; and workers' productivity will continue to be rewarded with cash bonuses. As a Chinese economist in Peking explained, "We have about 700 staff members of our State Planning Commission. How can those 700 manage to run the 380,000 enterprises we have in our country?"
AEI Urges Less Regulation The American Enterprise Institute and its magazine Regulation recently sponsored a symposium of regulatory experts to offer "advice to the President-elect." Symposium Chairman Murray Weidenbaum said the panel's suggestion of a one-year moratorium on new government regulations would provide a "breathing spell" during which government regulation of the economy could be slowly reduced. Weidenbaum further called for the abolition of the Regulatory Council created by former President Carter, composed of representatives of 38 regulatory agencies, and recommended getting rid of the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Federal Maritime Commission as well.
The panel also asked for the revision of such "unrealistic" statutory goals as zero water pollution and zero risk in drug marketing. It further proposed that such agencies as the Occupational Health and Safety Administration be required to prove that expected benefits exceed costs before imposing regulations, that a lower minimum wage be provided for teenagers, that auto industry fuel-economy and emission standards be relaxed, and that automobile passive restraint requirements (such as air bags) be revoked.
Out of the Closet: Black Iconoclasts The election of Ronald Reagan has suddenly made it acceptable to publicly acknowledge a group that most people, at a loss, tend to label "black conservatives." Conservatives and not, what this collection of people have in common is an interest in getting rid of political placebos and in spreading economic independence among blacks via, most agree, the free market.
Among the pet liberal "we're doing this for their own good" projects the group would rather see abolished are rent control, forced busing, the minimum wage, affirmative action, and the welfare incentive "to stay disadvantaged," as Thomas Sowell puts it.
A group of 100 such economists, academicians, and executives recently met at a San Francisco conference on black leadership and problems sponsored by the Institute for Contemporary Studies. A top Reagan advisor, Edwin Meese III, attended the conference, and perhaps he will take back these words by Henry Lucas, a San Francisco professional: "We hope [Reagan] will turn toward these types of people for advice rather than the old-line black leadership."
Reagan might also heed the advice of economic writer Tom Bethell, who, in a recent piece in the Journal of Socioeconomic Studies entitled "Real Welfare Reform," argued that fraud and abuse are not the real issues in welfare reform. To decry fraud and abuse, he warns, is to imply that the welfare system itself is fine and dandy and merely needs some stricter controls. Bethell argues that the real wrong in the welfare system is the work disincentive effect it has on people. It is silly to expect people to give up welfare for a low-paying, probably unpleasant job that will pay them a lower net income than welfare benefits because of taxes. Bethell also speaks of the demoralizing effect such a system creates, first, by handing over unearned cash to the recipient, and then, by giving away more money than that person could probably earn, thus removing his personal incentive and feeling of responsibility. A recent "60 Minutes" feature on a semi-private effort to train welfare mothers in skilled and often nontraditional jobs showed the vast difference in self-respect and pride that such work gave the women—the feeling that their efforts mattered.
Because of this, Bethell urges in his study that welfare benefits be lowered, that welfare should not be too "comfortable." We should not index welfare payments for inflation, he writes, because the reduction of fixed-dollar welfare payments through inflation may be the only politically acceptable way to lower benefits. And the worst thing about welfare, Bethell says, "is that it prevents people from getting onto the bottom rungs of the ladder of economic achievement, thus locking them into the welfare system." We all have to start somewhere.
What's Best for Small Business In 1979, according to columnist Jack Anderson, a Small Business Administration special loan program gave out about $1.1 billion of tax money to 62,000 applicants who had failed to get loans either from conventional or normal SBA sources. And with good reason, it turns out, as the overwhelming majority have failed to keep their SBA-financed projects going.
And now President Ronald Reagan's small-business task force has essentially proposed the removal of all special advantages granted to small businesses by our magnanimous government, arguing that government should be neutral in the competition between small and big businesses. It should instead, the 15-member group headed by Institute for Contemporary Studies chairman H. Monroe Brown urged, allow an atmosphere where both types of businesses can prosper.
Since the new chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, Senator Weiker (R-Conn.), has said that eliminating the SBA "would be disastrous for small business," it will be interesting to see whom Reagan will choose to listen to.
Private Guards, Private Water Empirical evidence that private companies can provide cheaper and more efficient services over government has surfaced again.
In Oakland, California, the Army has hired a private security service to guard the Oakland Army Base. Stovall's Security Services Inc. signed a three-year contract that will pay $3.5 million—a savings of almost half the $6.5 million it would have cost the Army to provide the service. Aside from the financial savings, the Army contends, the switch will also allow military personnel to concentrate on combat and Army-related duties. Studies are now underway for a similar change at major Army bases nationwide.
It was accounting chaos, on the other hand, that prompted Washington, DC's city government to hire a Dallas-based firm to untangle its water and sewer billing system. Optimum Services Inc. will be paid $243,000 over the next 10 months to bring all bills current and to begin collecting delinquent charges of about $12 million. The root of the problem, says Department of Environmental Services Acting Director William Johnson, is the city's overworked computer system. The private firm's contract specifies that its computer be fully operational 97 percent of the time, or it must pay damages to the city. And if the 10-month experiment works, Johnson foresees an extension of the contract.
Milestones • Hope for Housing? A task force set up by California Governor Jerry Brown has recommended measures that would reduce local red tape on low-priced housing. Delays in the issuance of subdivision permits, for example, would be minimized by reducing the authority of local planning commissions, boards of supervisors, and city councils to intervene.
• Drug Rulings Conflict. Hours after a federal district court in Ohio overturned three city ordinances banning drug paraphernalia, a federal district court in New Hampshire upheld a similar city ordinance based on the same Drug Enforcement Administration model. The Ohio court noted that the ordinances fail the "test of precision demanded by the First and 14th Amendments."
• Second Inheritance Initiative On. California State Assemblyman Don Rogers's Initiative to Help Ensure the Right to Inherit Without Tax will probably be on California's 1982 ballot, as his group turned in almost twice the number of signatures necessary to qualify. Rogers's measure would go into effect the day after being voted in, while another initiative that has already qualified for the same ballot would make the measure retroactive to January 1, 1981.
• Sale of Airport Slots Urged. The Justice Department has advised the Civil Aeronautics Board to auction take-off and landing slots at four congested airports (Kennedy, LaGuardia, O'Hare, and National) rather than continue to allow airlines to allocate them. The Department pointed out that new entry at the National Airport in Washington, DC has been precluded for the past 11 years, to the benefit of a few entrenched insider airlines.
• Colombia Nays Pot. A measure that would legalize the growing of marijuana and put its sales under government control has quietly died in Colombia's congress.
• ARCO Joins Olympic Sponsors. The Atlantic Richfield Company is the latest to join eight other private firms (Trends, Nov.) in financing the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. ARCO pledged $9 million to put in a new track and refurbish the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and to install six Olympic training tracks at selected schools. A total of about $69 million has been raised thus far in sponsoring revenues, and LA Olympics President Peter V. Ueberroth says he will not accept government financing for the 1984 games.
• Book-Burning by Taxation! It's the battlecry of the publishing community, which is protesting an IRS ruling that warehouse stock can not be depreciated unless it is disposed of or its value reduced. The Senate Finance Committee, however, is trying to push through a one-year moratorium granting the book industry an exemption from the ruling for that period at least.
• Anti-Billboard Law Nixed. Maine's three-year-old law banning commercial and political roadside billboards has been struck down as a restriction on free speech by a federal appeals court.
• New Coal Process. Avco Everett Research Laboratory and the Japanese Ebara Corporation have separately devised a method of removing sulphur and nitrogen oxides from stack gases by using an electron beam. The new process is 40 percent cheaper than current scrubbers, and the easily gleaned byproducts ammonium sulfate or ammonium nitrate can be sold to the fertilizer industry. The two firms have joined up in a venture to sell the product.
• Draft Registration Klunker. Judge Gerhard A. Gesell ruled in late November that the Selective Service System's use of Social Security numbers for draft registration violates the Privacy Act of 1974. Those who have already registered can request in writing that their numbers be deleted from their forms.
• Survey Vetoes Bailouts. A survey of the chief executive officers of companies listed on the mid-range American Stock Exchange showed that 80 percent of those polled are against government help to financially troubled major or mid-sized firms. Even more (94.5 percent) held that federal assistance should not be given to companies threatened with financial collapse. Meanwhile, federally-assisted Chrysler Corporation refuses to gracefully withdraw from the competition and is asking for an additional $1.3 billion in bailout money from the federal government, the United Auto Workers, banks, and suppliers. Even the Los Angeles Times (Dec. 21) ran an editorial advising Chrysler head Lee Iacocca to choose bankruptcy now over bankruptcy later, as did the Wall Street Journal (Dec. 11).
• Nuclear World News. The United States now ranks only tenth in electric nuclear capacity (9.2 percent of total electric capacity), with Switzerland at 17.5, Taiwan at 16.6, Belgium at 16, Sweden at 14.6, Japan at 12.2, Germany at 12, France, Britain, and Finland at 10 each (figures provided by Dr. Petr Beckmann). Communist China, meanwhile, is negotiating with France for the purchase of two nuclear power plants.
• Profits Tax Challenged. The so-called "windfall profits" tax is being challenged in federal court by a coalition of the Independent Petroleum Association of America and 30 groups representing thousands of royalty owners and oil producers on the grounds that the tax is not applied uniformly and that it contravenes the Fifth Amendment.
• Your Play, Mr. Reagan. A nationwide survey commissioned by the New York Stock Exchange showed 93 percent of those polled believe that Ronald Reagan should be given a chance to try his economic policies—even those they disagree with—since nothing else has worked. Some 83 percent said they would accept a program that made things difficult in the short run if it could reduce inflation.
• Biomedical Waste Deregulated. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission plans to remove the radioactive classification label from certain low-level biomedical wastes and thus help alleviate the radioactive waste disposal problem. The change would reduce the volume of wastes shipped to federally approved burial sites by 50 percent. The NRC further plans to raise the limit of radioactive material that is water-soluble that can be poured down the drain from one to seven curies of radiation per year.
• More Taxes = Less Work. J.D. Hausman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has produced econometric proof that the progressive tax system has reduced the manhours worked by married men by about eight percent compared to what they would be under a proportional tax system. Hausman's figures end with 1975. Since bracket creep has raised the average man's nominal pay, and since each additional dollar earned is taxed more than the subsequent one, one can expect reduction in manhours to be far worse today.
• Portuguese Prime Minister Named. Moderate Francisco Balsemao was named Portugal's new prime minister by recently reelected President Antonio Ramalho Eanes. Balsemao replaces former Prime Minister Francisco Sa Carneiro, who was killed in a plane crash after his reelection. Sa Carneiro had announced before his death that he would resign if Eanes won the presidency (Trends, Jan.).
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Trends".
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.