Balance Sheet

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Assets

Das Cut. Germany's Social Democratic government reverses course and backs budget and tax cuts. The corporate tax rate would be cut to 38 percent and capital gains taxes would be slashed. German businesses react by canceling plans to pack up and leave the country.

Wine Crime. Wine lovers get a champion against state laws prohibiting the direct shipment of wine by out-of-state wineries. The Institute for Justice challenges New York's anti-wine law–and by extension those of 29 other states–in federal court, citing a little document called the Constitution that bars interstate trade wars.

Comp Time. The Clinton administration takes steps to ease the export of both encryption software and super-fast computers. The new trade regs still need lawyers to navigate, but at least recognize the futility of trying to rope off innovation from global markets.

Dressed Down. Three-quarters of 4,519 locals surveyed by the Littleton, Colorado, school district reject a strict new dress code suggested in the wake of the Columbine shootings. The code would ban hats, camouflage, shorts, skirts more than three inches above the knee, and pants with a waist size more than two inches greater than student's waist.

Reich Stuff. Former Clinton secretary of labor Robert Reich blasts the trend to use federal lawsuits to make policy. Reich argues that attacks on guns and tobacco may succeed in the short term, but the strategy makes "our frail democracy even weaker."

Liabilities

Mayberry FreeTV. The Senate Agriculture Committee is the locus of a plan to underwrite $1 billion worth of loans to bring satellite broadcasting to rural communities. Politicians are loathe to consider the alternative for rural TV junkies: They could move or buy their own mini-dishes.

Psychic Fiends. A perfectly sane plan to turn New York City welfare recipients into telephone psychics earning $10 an hour is torpedoed when "real" psychics complain. At least there is a demand for these phony jobs.

Digital Debunk. President Clinton announces a $2 billion plan to help low-income families gain access to digital goodies. Too bad he's a day late and a few dollars long. Given current trends, Arthur Andersen projects 91 percent of U.S. households will be connected to the Internet by 2005 (more than now have cable TV).

Empire Stink. New York state's Health Care Reform Act 2000 will cost $9 billion, much of it coming from a new cigarette tax of $1.11 per pack, the nation's highest. Yet if the higher price discourages consumption, lawmakers will be left without a way to pay for benefits the plan extends to an additional 1 million state residents.

Hot Issues. Fire inspectors find the U.S. Capitol building "a potential threat to human life." The architect of the Capitol concedes that if the venerable structure were a private building, it probably would be closed down. Some 10 years worth of upgrades are needed to bring the dome up to code.

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