Balance Sheet



Simple Minds. With the help of congressional Democrats, Bill Clinton inadvertently advances the flat tax. The White House wants to get on the tax-reform bandwagon, reports The Wall Street Journal. But Clinton's advisers and Hill Democrats understand a sales tax is regressive and, at politically palatable rates, it won't raise enough money. And they insist on socking the wealthy with progressive rates. Look for the White House to endorse the incredibly unpopular value-added tax and some millionaires' surtax, leaving Dick Armey's flat tax as the only feasible alternative.

Trade Bait. Pressure mounts for ending the trade embargo with Cuba. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S.A. Rice Federation, and such high-profile CEOs as Dwayne Andreas of Archer Daniels Midland and Revlon's Ron Perelman combine with local elected officials like Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards to push trade with Cuba. And despite public assertions that the embargo must stand, says The New York Times, the White House privately suggests it may reconsider the ban.

Second Opinion. Last year's defeat of ClintonCare dooms state-run universal health-care plans. Legislatures repeal or courts overturn centralized medical programs in Washington, Kentucky, and Minnesota.

Debt Heads. House GOP deficit hawks pledge to cut off Uncle Sam's credit cards. Unless the White House signs a budget that will be in balance by 2002, the 154-member Debt Limit Coalition pledges to freeze the federal debt ceiling. The coalition could deliver a majority: Its members include Republican Conference Chairman John Boehner (Ohio) and Policy Committee Chairman Chris Cox (Calif.). By mid-November, the feds might make Social Security payments. But without the ability to issue more debt, every other federal check could bounce.


Singapore Sting. Newt Gingrich finally makes the costs of serious drug prohibition explicit. The speaker will sponsor a bill mandating the death sentence (and allowing only one appeal) for convicted drug smugglers. And what would a drug-free America look like? The model country prohibitionists cite is Singapore, where until recently chewing gum in public was a crime.

Butt Heads. But the feds kinda like some drug abusers. In The Washington Post, Georgetown business professor John Hasnas writes that FDA Commissioner David Kessler has transformed smokers "from a despised and oppressed rabble into the newest legally protected minority." Since the feds now regulate cigarettes as drug delivery devices, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, smokers are addicts, and officially disabled.

Bridesmaids Revisited. Ross Perot. David Boren. Colin Powell. Bill Bradley. Such Beltway mavens as Bill Schneider and Kevin Phillips plead for any centrist independent to mix it up with Clinton, Dole, Gramm, et al. But behind the poll numbers, Perotistas and their none-of-the-above allies hold few coherent political beliefs. Anger is no substitute for a cohesive vision.

Loss Leaders. The GOP's infatuation with small businesses may cost taxpayers plenty. House Small Business Committee Chairman Jan Meyers (R-Kan.) initially quashes any attempt to eliminate the Small Business Administration. And Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Kit Bond (R-Mo.), co-chairman of Bob Dole's deregulation blitz, pushes forward a bill expanding the SBA's guaranteed loan fund by 35 percent, from $7.8 billion to $10.5 billion.