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Balance Sheet

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Assets

Jaw, Jaw. George Will, George Mitchell, Les Aspin, and Pat Buchanan agree: Before the United States launches an offensive against Iraq, Congress should discuss it. George Bush hesitates, fearing criticism in an open debate. But in a protracted or bloody campaign, naysayers will swoop down on Washington. Congress dodged responsibility for U.S. military policy in Vietnam. Will today's legislators hang tough if they face the critics' ire?

Giant Step. Voters in Santa Clara County, California, turn down tax measures to fund a new stadium for the San Francisco Giants. Fed up with aging Candlestick Park, franchise owner Bob Lurie may move the team out of the Bay Area. (See "Field of Dreams," May 1990.) Meanwhile, 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo wants to buy the Giants and privately build his own stadium for both teams.

Labor Camp. No longer do prison inmates pay their debts to society by stamping out license plates. In Petersburg, Virginia, federal prisoners earn money assembling spare parts for the military. Nearly 14,000 inmates produce goods for federal agencies as employees of Unicor, the government's prison-factory corporation. The idea's going national: A California initiative sets up a similar system for state prisoners.

Perfect Landing. The easiest way to break gridlock at airports is to add gates and runways. The new budget permits passenger facility charges—user fees of no more than $3.00 that an airport can add to each ticket sold. Unlike current federal ticket taxes, the money won't go to the Treasury Department. It has to be spent at the airport where it's collected. Score one for the new federalism.

Liabilities

McGarbage. McDonald's decides to replace polystyrene food containers with coated paper. Environmentalists and the media go wild. But wait a minute: Polystyrene recycles more easily than coated paper and takes less energy to produce. That's why McDonald's went poly in 1975. But coated paper is cheaper than polystyrene. Don't dye Ronald's wig green yet.

Choice Cuts. The Educational Choice Initiative loses big in Oregon. And in Wisconsin, state court throws out the Milwaukee voucher program. (See Trends, July 1990, and "Champion of Choice," Oct. 1990.) The Wisconsin ruling is technical, though—the voucher bill was illegally attached to a spending resolution. An appeal (or a new vote in the legislature) might save the program.

Wall Hanging. If you buy a work of art, you no longer own it. Congress passes the Kennedy-Kastenmeier artists' rights bill. Civil fines will penalize "unauthorized mutilation "of paintings, sculptures, some photographs—and possibly colorized movies. Also, muralists Elaine Yoneoka and Paul Goodnight win lawsuits seeking protection for their works after they've sold them. (See "Postmodern Art Laws," May (1990.) Woodman, spare that wall!

Unconscious Objectors. The all-volunteer armed forces face a new problem in the Persian Gulf: conscientious objectors. Mother Jones defends a Marine supply clerk who refused to go to Saudi Arabia. Listen up, maggots! The Marine Corps is neither a travel agency nor a welfare program for college students. Joining the Marines implies doing that shooting thing. Where's Louis Gossett, Jr., when you need him?