Balance Sheet



Lint Trap. The House sustains President Bush's textile-bill veto. (See "Wooly Bullies," Dec. 1990.) Negotiations with Mexico on a free-trade bill move ahead. "Competitive" nations no longer manage trade—they work out free-trade pacts. Another victory for Cobden and Bright.

Pinching Poachers. Despite the international trade ban on ivory (or perhaps because of it), poaching remains a problem. (See Trends, Feb. 1990.) Scientists from the United States and South Africa have now developed an isotope-tracing method that pinpoints where a piece of ivory comes from—legal elephant kills or poachers. Isotope tracing will nail poachers and still permit a legal ivory trade. The African nationals that still trade tusks may set up an independent agency to certify ivory before they sell it.

Photo Finish. A Cincinnati jury acquits museum director Dennis Barrie in the Mapplethorpe case. Jurors consider the explicit photographs "art" deserving constitutional protection. The real issue is: Can a private museum (such as the Contemporary Arts Center) show whatever will attract patrons? We'll need another court case to find out.

Hip Readers. Through all the bungled budget compromises, George Bush provides a true national service: He shows that, in a pinch, pragmatism loses to principles (even bad ones). This lesson won't help the rudderless president. He will probably face a tax-cutting challenger from the GOP in '92. And President James A. Baker III? Forget it.


Jealous Zealots. Urgh! Left-liberalism, with green eyes blazing, is back. (Some say it never went away.) Excellence and economic growth are out, rich bashing and "fairness" are in. Tax-reform architect Dick Gephardt now rages about the excesses of the '80s. Bob Kuttner claims we can balance the budget by confiscating "all the private wealth of the richest Americans outright." Want some malaise on that sandwich?

Breathless. California's Air Resources Board adopts the toughest auto-emissions standards in the world. Relying heavily on alternative fuels and electric cars, the rules will line the ARB'S pockets but have little impact on air quality. (See "Going Mobile," Aug./Sept. 1990.) These regulations (and the bureaucrats to enforce them) will be coming soon to an air basin near you.

Bracket Creeps. The most important tax reform of the '80s was indexing, which kept those sneaky feds from raising everyone's taxes by inflating the currency. To raise revenues, the Democrat-sponsored House budget package suspends indexing for one year. The House-Senate conference may dump the proposal. But if Congress can vote for it once, it can do so again. And you thought the Democrats wanted to soak only the rich.

Oily Conservationists. The $2 billion Exxon spent to clean up Prince William Sound proves insufficient. The state of Alaska and the Department of the Interior are suing Exxon. To help estimate how many animals were killed by the Valdez spill, government agencies spent $600,000 to kill several hundred birds—along with river otters, deer, and other mammals. If Exxon loses in court, where will damage money go? To preserve wildlife in Alaska.