Balance Sheet



Trustbusters Revisited. The Supreme Court unanimously rebuffs postal unions and permits private delivery of overseas bulk mail. DHL already delivers "urgent" letters abroad; now other carriers can compete for less-urgent missives. Writes Chief Justice Rehnquist: "The postal monopoly…exists to ensure that postal services will be provided to the citizenry at large, and not to ensure employment for postal workers." Cliff Clavin had better look for a job.

Reach! The District of Columbia Council repeals its product-liability law against gun manufacturers. (See Balance Sheet, Mar.) Not because of any fondness for the Second Amendment, mind you: Congress threatened to cut off $100 million in subsidies for the District unless it voided the law.

Sounds Fishy. Environmentalists in the Pacific Northwest claim salmon's an endangered species. So why can you find it, reasonably priced, in most restaurants? Thanks to salmon farming, Forbes says, the North Atlantic catch has grown 22-fold the past decade. In the wild, only 3 of the 10,000 eggs each salmon lays becomes a mature fish; farm-bred salmon raise 4,500 fish per spawning. Because farmers can raise bigger, cheaper fish, the farms may save wild fish from extinction.

Good Credit. The Environmental Protection Agency proposes limits on the Superfund liability banks incur when they foreclose mortgages on contaminated property. (See Trends, Mar.) Lenders have at least six months to sell the land if they foreclose. And the Wall Street Journal reports that banks can provide financial advice to borrowers without incurring Superfund liability. Behind the changes of heart: congressional complaints.


Fools Rule. Davis-Bacon goes private. In the San Francisco area, communities require builders of large private projects to pay prevailing union wages. Surveys show union workers get twice the nonunion pay. U.C.-Berkeley economist Bill Dickens says nonunion workers aren't skilled enough to avoid on-the-job hazards. Cut the paternalism: Many of the workers are recent immigrants who'll never pay union dues.

Contributions Welcome. A sting operation in Arizona implicates seven key legislators, with more indictments on the way. On discovering he got a lower bribe than a colleague, one legislator declares, "I sold way too cheap." Since most of the bribes were campaign contributions, the always relevant ACLU says law enforcement officials violated campaign spending laws.

Sore Losers. Left-liberals will blame anything, even the Gulf War, on deregulation. Mark Shields and Tom Wicker, among others, say dependence on cheap foreign crude caused Desert Storm. On "The Capital Gang," Shields says he'd rather see gas lines than body bags. Wicker calls the 1980s "a foolish decade" that led to the country's "gas-guzzling addiction." Get a grip, guys. Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter are history. Deal with it.

Book 'Em. The U.S. Sentencing Commission's long-awaited corporate sentencing guidelines, says former commission economist Mark Cohen, will increase fines "tenfold, twentyfold, thirtyfold: It's impossible to say precisely." (See "Junior Varsity Congress," Jul.) And the Wall Street Journal notes that "Prosecutors will be more likely to seek multimillion-dollar fines for crimes"—such as financial-reporting errors—"that go unprosecuted today." So much for a kinder, gentler America.