Billion at a time

John McCaslin
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Posted: Oct 09, 2003 12:00 AM

House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) insisted the fiscal 2004 budget resolution include instructions for each committee chairman to find at least 1 percent of savings in mandatory spending within their jurisdictions.

Three committees - Armed Service, Resources, and Science - failed to provide reports. (Their penance is pending.)

However, the remaining committees that followed directions identified $85 billion to $100 billion over 10 years in waste, fraud, and abuse - some of the biggest savings coming from Medicare.

Tom Schatz, with Citizens Against Government Waste, calls Nussle's initiative an excellent first step, although more needs to be done to chip away at the $480 billion deficit.

MEDISCARE

Medicare-reform legislation now in conference assumes that, if given the green light, insurers will eagerly offer policies that cover seniors' prescription-drug costs only.

But at this week's Heritage Foundation briefing on Medicare reform, Robert Laszewski, a leading expert on health policy, told Hill staffers that he's yet to find one insurer that has any intention of offering drugs-only coverage for seniors.

HOLD THE ANCHOVIES

A General Accounting Office study of challenges facing the Department of Agriculture has caught the eye of Washington Waste Watchers, in particular the finding that 12 different federal agencies have authority over 35 food-safety laws.

For instance, the study found, the Agriculture Department inspects pizzas with meat, while the Food and Drug Administration inspects pizzas without. (There is no truth to the rumor that pizzas with anchovies are inspected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.)

POLITICAL ANIMALS

A stray-animals advocacy group in Washington was surprised to be victimized this week by one of their own.

"Dear Caring Friend," said a posting on the group's Web site. "Retired General Wesley Clark, a brand-new presidential candidate ... called for an independent review of the (Bush) administration's 'possible manipulation of intelligence,' including information used to justify war with Iraq and the possible leak of the name of a covert CIA agent."

The animal advocate went on to post that war in Iraq "put Americans in danger and may be criminal."

The group's reaction?

"People on the list get very politically involved on local animal topics, but not nationally," says one member, who assures us "the writer has been banned from the list for violating list rules against off-topic posting."

Still, the posting remains in the site's archives.

RIDE THE READING

Washington, D.C. resident Peter Barton will compete for $15,140 - the amount of money in a standard Monopoly game - as well as the opportunity to represent the United States in the 2004 World Monopoly Championship.

First, Mr. Barton has to beat 47 other U.S. Monopoly finalists later this month in Atlantic City, the city that inspired the Monopoly game. He and the other players will travel to Atlantic City by train - dubbed, fittingly enough, Reading Railroad.

SOUTHERN ODDS

Every Democrat who has become president since 1963 has been from the South. The roster includes Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, Jimmy Carter of Georgia, Bill Clinton of Arkansas - heck, even Al Gore of Tennessee received more popular votes than George W. Bush.

Similarly, since 1952, the following Northern liberal Democrats have lost the presidency to a Republican: Adlai Stevenson (1952 and 1956), Hubert H. Humphrey (1968), George McGovern (1972), Walter F. Mondale (1984) and Michael S. Dukakis (1988).

That said, South Carolina state Sen. Robert Ford of Charleston asks: "Who among us really believes that an antiwar, Northern liberal Democrat can be elected president of the United States and, equally as important, win the 2004 general election?"

"In our lifetime, when Democrats have won the White House, it has been only when the Democratic nominee has been from the South," he says. "Southern Democrats, let's get real."

That in the Democratic senator's mind means supporting "native son" Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina (he was born in South Carolina) for president.

A bonus to Edwards' candidacy: "He can bring 10 (percent) to 15 percent of Southern Republicans back to the Democratic Party," says Ford, noting that the South is the most conservative region of the United States.

There has been a tremendous flight by conservative Southern Democrats to the Republican Party in recent years.

MILITARY VIRUS

We told you earlier this year that the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision by a federal judge against voluntary, nondenominational prayer offered before meals at Virginia Military Institute.

Both the Lexington college and Virginia's attorney general have vowed to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, while at the same time the American Civil Liberties Union is trying to silence voluntary prayer at the nation's other federal military academies.

The ACLU, for example, has called upon the U.S. Naval Academy to reconsider its 148-year tradition of offering a prayer before lunchtime.

Now, seeking to "draw a line in the sand," Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has introduced legislation to give deference to "our military authority" when it comes to prayer.

"Our aim is to exercise the power of Congress to 'make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces,' and in doing so give the superintendent of each academy the authority to have a voluntary, nondenominational prayer at academy activities," says Jones, a Catholic graduate of Atlantic Christian College.

The congressman isn't alone in his opinion. He cites the strongly worded dissent of 4th Circuit Judge Paul V. Niemeyer, who said the April panel opinion "regrettably treats religion as a virus that somehow will infect the public square if acknowledged in even the most unobtrusive of circumstances."

MILITARY RANKS

Retired and active members of the U.S. military were asked by USAA Magazine to vote for their all-time favorite war movies. Here are the results:

1. "Twelve O'Clock High" (1949) starring Gregory Peck

2. "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957) starring Alec Guinness and William Holden

3. "The Longest Day" (1962) starring John Wayne, Richard Burton and Henry Fonda

4. "Patton" (1970) starring George C. Scott and Karl Malden

5. "The Deer Hunter" (1978) starring Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken

6. "Saving Private Ryan" (1998) starring Tom Hanks and Matt Damon

7. "We Were Soldiers" (2002) starring Mel Gibson

Films that didn't make the cut, but got a big thumbs up: "Paths of Glory," "The Guns of Navarone," "In Harm's Way," "The Dirty Dozen," "Apocalypse Now," "Das Boot," "Top Gun," "Schindler's List," "Band of Brothers" and "Tora! Tora! Tora!"