Balance Sheet

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Assets

Winged Victory. Orbital Sciences Corp. launches two military satellites, proving that small rocket companies can get cargo into space. Orbital's innovative approach—in which the space-bound rocket is hoisted aloft on a B-52 instead of a huge booster rocket—costs $6,000 per pound of payload, less than a third the cost of conventional liftoff. And it gives small satellites, previously relegated to "secondary payloads" on the shuttle or private heavy launchers, a first-class way to fly.

Going Native. Japanese companies in the Midwest play garlic to the recession vampire. They employ 103,000 workers in six states—a 66-percent increase from 1988. Meanwhile, Nissan plans a minivan to be made, start to finish, in America; Honda has similar, though less specific, plans. So much for the theory that Japanese car companies will let Americans build cars (and buy them) but will keep the "good jobs"—design and engineering—back in Tokyo.

Post Mortem. Rebellion against the Postal Service grows. Ralph Nader leads a campaign to stop the proposed rate increase. Big mailers—publishers and direct marketers—are mad as hell and demanding better service. They provide USPS's profitable business but bear the brunt of its high-handed approach to captive customers. (Complain too loudly, and they'll target you for extra-special treatment.) This monopoly, too, will fall.

Class Act. Public-school innovation proceeds, if only by baby steps. Districts learn schools don't have to be standardized to be good. In Miami Berlitz teaches Spanish at one school; another school experiments with the Great Books; black kids in Liberty City flock to voluntary Saturday classes. Now Joseph A. Fernandez, the superintendent who unleashed all this creativity, takes on the ultimate challenge: the New York City schools.

Liabilities

Spent Thrifts. The S&L bailout bill tops $500 billion. That's about a fifth of a year's GNP. How, how, how, did even crooks and wastrels manage to fritter away that much money? Where did they find that many bad deals? And why is the government waiting even a single day to sell the property it has collected? Holding out for some imagined "assessed value" is nuts. We're just losing interest. Get the money back. Now.

Cowed. Minnesota and Wisconsin ban bovine somatotropin (BST), a growth hormone that boosts milk production dramatically. (See "Technology, Ecology, and the American Farmer," Dec. 1989.) Cows produce a virtually identical hormone naturally; chemical companies produce BST using genetic engineering. The stuff is a green bête noir. Since letting farmers use it would make milk plentiful—crashing prices or busting the farm-subsidy budget—banning BST is politically irresistible. Score one for Jeremy Rifkin.

Red Down. The Soviet economy crashes. Real perestroika—private property, markets, profits—is nowhere in sight. Foreign travelers to Moscow are told BYOB (bring your own breakfast, and lunch, and dinner). These are dangerous times.

No Vacancy. Two years ago, when Congress decided to require that all new apartments be handicapped-accessible, REASON asked apartment builders—in the form of several trade associations—what the law meant for new construction. Duh, they said, we haven't given it a thought. Now the law is real—and it's going to cost a bundle, maybe $4,000 per new apartment. Another victory for affordable housing.

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NEXT: Selected Skirmishes: Mario's Choice

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