Drug Bust. In 1973, New York state had 13,000 persons incarcerated; there are now 66,000 in state prisons. More prisoners are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses than for violent felonies. New Gov. George Pataki proposes overturning Nelson Rockefeller's tough mandatory sentences for repeat nonviolent drug offenders. Pataki would give judges discretion to sentence some inmates to treatment, community service, or house arrest.
Trade Bait. Business Week gives two reasons not to sweat the "record" trade deficit. Last year, it reports, the U.S. economy "grew almost twice as fast as the economies of our major trading partners." American consumers demanded products the U.S. economy alone couldn't produce. And there's better news to come. The surge of imports is fueled by capital goods and raw materials American firms are converting into PC components and telecom equipment—tools that will make U.S. companies and employees even more productive.
Direct Dial. In India, where more than twice as many people own satellite dishes as telephones, the government opens its telecommunications monopoly to outside investment. AT&T, Fujitsu, and Siemens bid for half the scheduled $7.5-billion expansion in telecom. The government will announce the winning firm before April.
Fare Deal. After a state law opens the market, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission makes Freedom Cabs the first new taxicab operator in Denver since 1947. (See Trends, Aug./Sept.) The PUC permits Freedom Cabs to issue licenses for 50 new taxis this year and another 50 in 1996. Cincinnati also opens its taxi market: After passing safety inspections and meeting an insurance requirement, anyone can now legally own and operate a cab.
Bad Swap. Rep. Bill Archer (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, vows to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and replace the income tax with some type of consumption tax. Unfortunately, Archer will never get enough votes for his first wish, a flat-rate national sales tax. Instead, look for a multi-rate value-added tax that will use high rates to pummel all sorts of politically incorrect items, including guns, ammunition, tobacco, and alcohol. Better to retain the 16th Amendment than lose the Second.
Block Party? Religious conservatives threaten to hamstring welfare reform. Led by the Christian Coalition, social conservatives line up to veto any changes in welfare law, including block grants and other "devolutions," that don't penalize illegitimate births. Time for conservatives to choose: Dismantle the federal welfare state or continue to micromanage it from Washington.
Borrowed Time. Accumulated federal debt gets scary. Barring major spending cuts, the national debt will reach $6 trillion by fiscal year 2000. Interest on the debt will exceed $260 billion next year, more than the entire 1973 federal budget.
Foreign Powers. Self-styled free-market Republicans and Democrats back big-time quotas on immigration, which would impose huge enforcement burdens on employers in border states. Rep. Bob Stump (R-Ariz.) and Sonny Callahan (R-Ala.) reintroduce the Immigration Moratorium Act, which would cut the number of legal immigrants in half, to "the traditional U.S. average of about 297,000 a year." Among those traditional opponents of regulation who would regulate new arrivals are Reps. Bill Zeliff (R-N.H.), Joe Barton (R-Tex.), and James Hansen (R-Utah).