Balance Sheet

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Assets

Checks and Balances. Social Security loses sacred-cow status, as Pat Moynihan's tax-cut proposal puts the system in play. A plan by Rep. John Porter (R–Ill.) to let taxpayers own their "contributions" wins serious consideration, even from the ever-prudent president. (See Trends, Dec.) And in a Harris poll, 90 percent of those ages 30 to 39 say the benefits they'll receive won't be worth the taxes they've paid.

Right Choice. AT&T crashes nationwide. Operators won't tell customers how to reach the competition—but at least the competition exists. Choice is all the more important in an emergency. (Sprint got me through to South Carolina after Hugo.) Meanwhile, Pacific Bell proposes allowing competition on local toll calls in the nation's largest market, California.

Way of the Wolf. Letters from REASON readers change Defenders of Wildlife's mind about turning over its wolf-insurance program to Uncle Sam. The program compensates ranchers for livestock lost to wolves. (See Trends, Jan.) "Defenders of Wildlife has decided to limit government involvement in our program to a very small role," writes group representative Hank Fischer. "We have decided that handling the administration of the program ourself—and signing the checks—only serves to underscore our desire to assume responsibility."

Hanging Tough. The White House inner circle—John Sununu, Richard Darman, and Michael Boskin—wages a brave, and so far successful, holding action against the forces of industrial policy. But Commerce, Defense, Silicon Valley, and a credulous press line up to endorse central planning. It's going to be a long struggle.

Liabilities

Show Trial. After two-and-a-half years on duty, the McMartin Preschool jury concludes the obvious: The evidence that Ray and Peggy McMartin Buckey molested children is mighty questionable. But, after the ensuing trial by talk show, prosecutorial ambition triumphs. Ray Buckey will stand trial again on 13 counts that the first jury couldn't decide. After all, we've already spent $15 million, six years, and dozens of lives—why not do it all again?

No Secrets. The Supreme Court rules that universities must open their tenure files to investigators ferreting out evidence of discrimination. The decision is unanimous, inevitable, and depressingly understandable. The result will be a chilling effect on all frank evaluations, since the files are no longer confidential. But there's no such thing as a confidential recommendation or a right to hire and fire at will in any other area of American life. Why should universities be special?

Talking Head. Sign of a coming Soviet crackup or crackdown: Vladimir Pozner, the Brooklyn-accented Soviet spokesman, is back on "Nightline." When they want to be quasi-honest, they put on the guys who sound like Russians. If Gorby goes, expect Pozner to declare his new boss the greatest humanitarian and reformer since Martin Luther King.

Green Genes. Bomb threats, Green politicians, and green-influenced courts run biotech plants out of Germany. In a verdict binding on all West German states, a court rules that because the law doesn't "expressly permit the application of genetic engineering, such facilities may not be built and operated." Pharmaceutical makers bring their operations to the United States. Will history repeat itself?

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