Balance Sheet

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Assets

? Open Season. Sen. Spence Abraham (R-Mich.), new chairman of the immigration subcommittee, strikes back at restrictionist conservatives. At a Silicon Valley event, he assures backers of family- and business-based immigration that no major cutbacks will occur on his watch. And he calls for considering the separation of the Immigration and Naturalization Service into two agencies, one to process applications and another to enforce the law.

? Salary Cap. A late January "living wage" initiative that would have given Houston the highest minimum wage in the country goes down in flames. By a margin of 76 percent to 24 percent, voters in the nation's fourth largest city reject the proposed $6.50 per hour mandate.

? Corporate Welfare Reform? House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich (R-Ohio), backed by a left-right coalition including the Cato Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, Friends of the Earth, and various Naderite groups, targets $3 billion in annual federal subsidies to businesses. The main opponents: groups like the Business Roundtable that enjoy the federal gravy train and the White House, which wants to limit tax breaks rather than handouts.

? Intellectual Freedom. Quotas lose their luster inside the ivory tower. A nationwide Roper poll of 800 faculty members commissioned by the National Association of Scholars discovers that nearly two in three oppose race and gender preferences. Sixty-four percent oppose preferential treatment in campus hiring and 61 percent oppose it in student admissions even though more than 70 percent say their universities use such discriminatory policies.

Liabilities

? Web Stringers. Tired of crawling across the World Wide Web? It's not all America Online's fault. An FCC regulation limits the amount of power modems use when they send data across a standard telephone line, making transmissions faster than 28.8 kbps dicey. FCC foot-dragging prevents US Robotics, Lucent Technologies, and Rockwell from developing dependable transmission standards for 56.6-kbps modems and their even swifter successors. As a result, few of the hot boxes currently advertised really run as fast as you'd think.

? Child Abuse. Despite labor union and Clintonista demands to extend Medicaid coverage to all children, the National Center for Policy Analysis discovers no crisis of uninsured kids. Using U.S. Census figures, the NCPA finds about 13 percent of native-born children lack medical insurance, a figure that's been steady for a decade. Around one-third of foreign-born children have no health insurance, but most of them would never qualify for Medicaid in the first place.

? Safety Dance. The estimated 1,700 lives "saved" by air-bag usage, reports The Wall Street Journal, is little better than a random guess by federal regulators. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials confess they don't track how many accident survivors in cars with air bags wore seat belts. Seat belt use, which now exceeds 70 percent, likely saves more lives than air bags ever could.

? Wing Nuts. Last year "family-friendly" conservatives savaged the flat tax for allegedly undervaluing "human capital." Now the Family Research Council's Gary Bauer attacks Social Security privatization. In a New York Times op-ed, Bauer praises the benefits Social Security lavishes on wives and widows who never take jobs outside the home. Privatization, he fears, will only encourage women to go to work.

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