Balance Sheet



?Tyrannus Ex. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler, Washington's most zealous opponent of individual liberty and innovation (breast implants, tobacco, health information, medical devices) resigns. Good riddance.

?Relief Pitches. While tax reform (i.e., a single-rate system) may be a nonstarter in the 105th Congress, tax relief seems likely. Rep. Chris Cox (R-Calif.) will again propose repealing the estate tax, a measure endorsed by the White House Conference on Small Business. Bill Clinton will also face relentless pressure for broad-based cuts in capital-gains tax rates rather than reductions targeted solely to home and small business owners.

?Current Wisdom. Reviewing 500 studies and 17 years of peer-reviewed research, the National Research Council concludes that exposure to electromagnetic fields does not cause cancer. (See "Shock Journalism," Jan. 1995.) The California Supreme Court also bars plaintiffs' attorneys from suing utilities for damage "caused" by EMFs. The court says the state Public Utility Commission has jurisdiction over lawsuits against utilities. The PUC has also found EMF exposure harmless.

?Eviction Notice. New York's rent control laws, which affect some 1.2 million apartments in the Big Apple, head for the dumpster. State Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno (R-Brunswick) sends tenant advocates an ultimatum: Work with him to phase out rent control over the next two years or he'll let the laws sunset when they expire June 15.


?Gag Rule. The Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to make the Clean Air Act tougher flunks any objective cost-benefit test. Lowering the acceptable ozone standard from 120 parts per billion to 80 would add $33 million a year in health benefits to Chicago residents but could cost an extra $7 billion to enforce, notes Kenneth W. Chilton of the Center for the Study of American Business.

?Inflated Claims. In 1979, GM warned then National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator Joan Claybrook that air bags could injure or kill children. The Ralph Nader disciple would have none of it. She forced auto makers to incorporate such "passive restraints" in new cars. NHTSA now says children might be safer if parents disconnected their air bags.

?Food Fright. Bureaucrats and population-control activists at the U.N.'s World Food Summit forecast mass starvation. Member nations respond by pledging $17 billion for population control. Yet birth rates are already falling, notes Alex Avery of the Hudson Institute. The problem, he writes in The Washington Times, isn't too many people but government policies that impede food production and distribution. Freer trade and broader use of modern farming techniques would avoid a genuine population crisis.

?The Impossibility of Socialism. After a crippling 12-day strike by truckers closes nearly half the nation's gas stations, the French government capitulates to union demands. The Chirac administration hoped to nominally reduce government pensions, but no–truck drivers can now retire at age 55 rather than 60. They'll also get a one-time bonus of $600. Look for other union shops to demand similar concessions.