? From the most advanced of all people's democracies comes astonishing news about the New Frontiers conquered by Socialist Man. Writing in the February 1981 Harper's, Soviet expert George Fiefer finds: "The preoccupation with acquiring food has reduced even people who had thought themselves well beyond this to a more primitive mode of living. A studious, highly successful technocrat with the title of Senior Engineer takes a knapsack with him to work every few days, for expeditions to food shops. 'The loss of energy and work hours foraging for groceries has become tremendous.' A former university friend takes her laboratory seat briefly in the morning, then leaves to scout 'something decent to eat. Women do this almost openly. If you strike it lucky, you buy as much as possible for reselling or bartering back in the lab.'" Obviously, a few capitalist roaders remain to be exterminated.
And sometimes The People really have to scramble to outfix these reactionary elements! "Buying and selling, resorting to the black market, working an ingenious variety of beat-the-system machinations have been part of Russian life since I first sampled it (in 1959). Now they are a central part.…Even the most 'politically conscious' among my former fellow students do no more than mime their civic and professional duties.…People describe the general extent of cheating as 'fantastic,' 'colossal,' and 'staggering.' …The pretty cosmetics-factory chemist whom I met at a friend's studio put the products of her stealing to fine use on her own face, and sold the rest. Her summary was like dozens I heard, and of which I heard no contradictions: 'If you asked 10,000 people in positions like mine to describe the economy's chief characteristic, it wouldn't be socialism, the Plan, or public ownership. They would name fraud, manipulation, some kind of deceit. These have become so much a part of the system that only people with good memories remember concepts like honesty, integrity, and truthfulness at work!'" (And those who do had better mind their manners!)
? Americans are fed up with Japan. We have had it. And for good reason: not only are they selling us things like cars and steel and stuff too cheaply, but now they are buying things from us, as well! Can you believe it? Up in the Pacific Northwest, where our timber companies are hard at work to satisfy American paper consumers (and especially the needs of those prolific paper consumers who make our Great Nation work, the Washington, D.C., efficiency team), our US paper is being sent to Japan. They are paying us for it, of course, but—and this is really unbelievable, wow—they won't even let our own American-educated work force slice up the logs and grind it into paper products for them. They think they can ship the trees all the way to the Far East and do it cheaper themselves! American paper companies are screaming for a halt to this nonsense. Let's cut 'em off, right now, today! Write your Congressperson: "No More Yen, Not Another Log."
? Everybody who has any sense at all, we know, is in favor of all of Ronald the Magnificent's tax cuts…and a whole lot more. And Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wisc.) has any sense at all. He wants the Pres, to go literally Bonzo on the budget, with much deeper cuts than even this Hollywood personality dared to ask for. But…but…everybody's got a but.…And Senator Proxmire's but belongs to the dairy farmers. Yeah, that's right, you heard it: Senator Golden Fleece is attacking the administration's request to reduce milk money payoffs to the Cheese State. While it ain't too tough to spot a motive, the scholarly Mr. Proxmire is clever as always, phrasing his principled defense of milk price supports on a University of Wisconsin (good source) study showing that the average farm couple works 130 hours per week (65 per spouse) and makes a return of but $2.89 per hour. But then, Mr. Budget-Cutter, the answer is not to continue the dairy farmer welfare program, but to call the cops: These folks are violating the minimum-wage laws!
? Remember cute little Amy Carter? Oh, boy, was she ever something else. Well, just before Nancy Reagan kicked her (and the rest of the Carters) out of the White House, she had this funny homework assignment—a question on the industrial revolution. It was a Friday, and she had 'til Monday to figure it out. She couldn't. So she asked her Mom. Rosalyn didn't know. She didn't ask her father. (She must have known that he wouldn't know.) And Billy was out of town, so the family was really short on brains. But they still lived in the White House. And so Amy's Mom called over to the Department of Labor, asking if they might know. And they did. About Sunday mid-afternoon, a van pulls up in front of the White House and begins unloading a formidable mountain of computer print-outs, data, and scholarly research. Thinking the request was from Himself, Labor had a special computer unit working overtime—at a few hundred thousand dollars. And Amy? She got a "C."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".