Balance Sheet



Nifty NAFTA. A study by the International Trade Commission concludes that the North American Free Trade Agreement will boost sales of American auto parts, computers, and textiles (!). With NAFTA in place, the ITC says, national income will rise slightly here and in Canada but by as much as 16 percent in Mexico.

Cease Fire? Bill Clinton downgrades the drug war. He cuts the Office of National Drug Control Policy staff from 146 persons to 25. Potential drug czars include C. Everett Koop, who emphasizes treatment rather than enforcement, and former Rep. Ben Jones, a.k.a. "Cooter" in The Dukes of Hazard. Fumes former czar Bill Bennett, "They're now going to turn [this office] into a prop."

Breaking Waves. At last, Bill Clinton borrows a substantive idea from Ronald Reagan: auction off part of the airwaves. Clinton would sell portions of the electromagnetic spectrum that aren't in use. Selling the airwaves will both fatten the federal treasury and rush HDTV, pocket telephones, and other new technologies to consumers.

Lecture Free. Greenpeace, Nader organizations, and other left-wing groups have long used mandatory student fees at state universities to finance lobbying and other political activities on college campuses. The California Supreme Court now rules such coerced political funding unconstitutional.


Rip-Off City. Don't get lost in Portland. On a typical day, police there seize between 16 and 18 cars from drivers they believe are soliciting prostitutes. Even if a car owner isn't charged, he must pay for towing, storage, and court costs. Governing reports that Washington, D.C., Long Beach, and Milwaukee have similar laws; officials from 60 other cities are considering their own auto-forfeiture programs.

Oxycute It. Carbon-monoxide levels across California dropped by 33 percent last winter. But less than one-third of that improvement—10 percent—resulted from the use of oxygenated gasoline. (See Trends, Mar.) The Air Resources Board says winter storms removed twice as much carbon-monoxide from the atmosphere as the costly, low-mileage fuels.

Speech Code. A bill introduced by Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) would make the Fairness Doctrine law. Repealed by FCC chairman Dennis Patrick in 1987, the Fairness Doctrine required radio and television stations to air "discussion[s] of conflicting views on issues of public importance." Radio fans who want to hear Rush Limbaugh may have to put up with Jim Hightower, too.

Ties Die. The next time you visit the nation's capital, bring plenty of lunch money. D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly wants to raise the annual license fee for street vendors from $150 to $1,500. Many of these entry-level entrepreneurs, who sell food, umbrellas, neckties, and souvenirs at rock-bottom prices, barely survive as it is. Want a chili dog with relish? Try RFK Stadium—during football season.