Beltway Beat: Economic update

Posted: May 01, 2002 12:00 AM
James Carter, former senior economist with the Joint Economic Committee, has his work cut out for him at the White House, where he now serves on the National Economic Council. From his stack of incoming mail and memorandums, Carter came across these "Rare Moments of Fiscal Candor Throughout History," which he thought Beltway Beat readers would enjoy: 1407: "You have gold and I want gold; where is it?" - King Henry IV of England 18th Century: "Let them eat cake!" - Attributed to Marie Antoinette, Queen of France 1938: "We will spend and spend, and tax and tax, and elect and elect." - Harry Hopkins, director, Public Works Administration. 1954: "It's a terribly hard job to spend a billion dollars and get your money's worth." - Treasury Secretary George Humphrey. 1963: "There is one difference between a tax collector and a taxidermist - the taxidermist leaves the hide." - Mortimer Caplin, commissioner, U.S. Internal Revenue Service. 1984: "Mr. Reagan will raise taxes and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did." - Vice President Walter Mondale. 1995: "Probably people in this room are still mad at me, at that budget, because you think I raised your taxes too much. Well, it may surprise you to know that I think I raised them too much, too." - President Clinton April 2002: "We will also never bring up the permanent tax cut the president is advocating." - Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. POW TO CITIZEN We've just finished reading "Citizen McCain" (Simon & Schuster, May 13), by Washington author Elizabeth Drew. Its contents are so current they include the recent final passage and presidential stamp of approval of Sen. John McCain's hard-fought campaign finance reform bill. Up until the final votes were cast, says McCain, he tried to hold his emotions in check, never once "confident" of the bill's passage, only "hopeful." "I learned from prison, you don't go too far high because then you go down," explains the Arizona Republican and 2000 presidential aspirant. "While I was in prison, in 1968, LBJ stopped bombing in North Vietnam, and a peace conference was convened in Paris. All of us - all of us - were very high. The ensuing months and years taught us otherwise. "Never get too happy or too depressed," he says. "I try to maintain a tight rein on my emotions when in difficulty ever since." NUKE FORT KNOX A House vote to move forward with making Nevada's Yucca Mountain the nation's primary nuclear waste depository is being applauded by the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste. The decision comes after Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn vetoed Uncle Sam's initial decision to move forward on Yucca. The decision came after two decades of scientific analysis and political wrangling over where and how to deposit and store nuclear waste. "After spending more than $6 billion to determine the safest and most secure site, the government has correctly concluded that it is safe to bury nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain," says council President Tom Schatz. "In addition, keeping the waste at its current location at nuclear plants around the nation wastes taxpayer dollars." How many dollars? Estimates put the price tag of such hazardous storage at more than $60 billion. In addition, several federal court decisions in recent years have found the Department of Energy has violated the law by failing to construct a permanent nuclear waste site. But it is September 11, says Schatz, more than anything else, that has taught this country a lesson about its potential weak spots. "Currently, a terrorist has over 100 chances in 39 states to breach security where nuclear waste is stored, and there are scores of sites - power plants, old reactors, etc. - where nuclear material now resides," he says. "The shallow nuclear storage pools built in the 1970s were only designed as a temporary measure and are often located near major U.S. cities. "Putting most or all nuclear waste in one facility that can be carefully documented and guarded, like Fort Knox, ensures high security." SENATOR FOLEY It's not every day that a congressman is invited to sit alongside a senator while the latter is conducting a Senate hearing, but that was the seating arrangement last Friday during a hearing to examine abuses in the funeral industry. After Republican Rep. Mark Foley finished testifying on funeral-related abuse in his state of Florida and elsewhere, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat chairing the hearing, invited the congressman to step up and sit next to him. "We're now calling him Sen. Foley," spokesman Chris Paulitz tells this column. And the senator's, er, congressman's reaction? "We're denying comment since he's a senator," Paulitz replies, "so if you want a response, forget it." TURBULENCE Best-selling author and ABC television aviation analyst John J. Nance tells us he won't be flying aboard a commercial aircraft to reach his book launching party at Cafe Milano in the Georgetown section of Washington next Monday (May 6). This is one veteran pilot who prefers to fly his own plane - at least until the airline industry corrects major problems regarding safety and security. While numerous changes have been made to improve aviation security since September 11, Nance believes the recent arrests of dozens of illegal alien employees at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport - many with full access to tarmacs and aircraft - are inexcusable. As for the author's latest thriller, "Turbulence," Publisher's Weekly writes: "It's unclear why anyone who's read a Nance novel is willing to board an airplane." In a recent letter to Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, Nance wrote: "I am deeply distressed and thoroughly alarmed by published reports this past weekend that the emerging requirements for airport screeners under the new congressionally mandated federal program (are) being 'dummied down' to dangerous levels. "Those of us who know this system as veteran airline professionals and, in my case, as safety analysts, have made it crystal clear that the wholly dysfunctional excuse for a screening system with which we have been afflicted for some 30 years will never be substantially fixed unless, and until, the personnel doing the screening are possessed of adequate education, acceptable English skills, and balanced professionalism." No word on whether Mineta plans to attend the book signing.