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First, There Was The Mayflower
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Press Release

First, There Was The Mayflower

The first Thanksgiving is an amazing story. Almost four hundred years ago, a small community of Anglican reformers sought the freedom to worship God in their own way. They left their friends and family in Europe to make a dangerous journey to a strange land none of them had ever seen. And, they would soon learn, Massachusetts winter was merciless. Of the 102 settlers who came to Plymouth Rock on the Mayflower, half died during that first long hard winter. But these people, or literal and spiritual forefathers, were tough, and we still owe them a lot.

11/27/2002
Member Made Right Call in Voting Against Textbooks
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Member Made Right Call in Voting Against Textbooks

In casting the lone vote against social studies textbooks earlier this month, State Board of Education Member Dan Montgomery not only showed courage, but followed Texas law. In 1995, the Legislature stripped board members of authority to decide content and shifted textbook decisions to local school districts. The 15-member elected board is supposed to approve all textbooks that contain at least 50 percent of curriculum standards, meet manufacturing codes and are free of factual errors. Instead of focusing on whether the books met curriculum standards, the board became consumed with whether they adhered to certain ideology or whether they adequately represented Latinos and African Americans in Texas history. The latter is a legitimate point that should have been taken up with publishers at the start of the textbook process to ensure that books complied with what is being taught in public schools. Forcing publishers to make additions at the end of the process -- other than to correct errors -- amounts to editing content. The board's long-running battle over ideology is the reason lawmakers stripped the board of its once-unlimited authority to decide textbook content. Despite the law, board members have found a clever but dubious way to circumvent the law. They declare facts to be "errors," then proceed to "correct" them. For instance, after pressure from the conservative Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, publishers changed references in books to characterize global warming as theory rather than fact, despite agreement by the scientific community that global warming is real. The board approved such revisions without input from scientists or experts regarding their validity. By spinning facts into errors, board members have put Texas' 4 million public school students at a disadvantage, especially on national tests and college entrance exams that won't use the same political lens to test students on their knowledge of economic systems, history and environmental issues. On our pages this week, Montgomery confirmed the board's improper actions on textbooks. "I talked with the president of one of the major publishers. He said he discovered long ago that the (education board) is intent on driving content, and he admitted that his company has deleted what it considers factual information and has added material deemed erroneous to appease some board members." In other words, publishers are replacing facts with errors in books that students will use for the next six years. Montgomery said he will try to halt the practice -- a noble goal that is unlikely to pass the board. We urge the Legislature to strip the board of all textbook authority so it can do no more damage to Texas students.

11/27/2002
Turkey of the Year
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Press Release

Turkey of the Year

Enron. WorldCom. Adelphia. Tyco. The press was outraged. Investors were outraged. President Bush was outraged. Even John Sidgmore, interim CEO of WorldCom, was outraged. By a 97-0 vote, the Senate voiced its outrage by making unspecified corporate offenses punishable with 20 years in the slammer. Rep. Mike Oxley was so outraged that he ditched his own corporate reform proposal to pile on to the senate bill in conference, thereby renaming it the Sarbanes-Oxley “Corporate Accountability Act.”

11/26/2002
Mid Term Election Turkeys
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Press Release

Mid Term Election Turkeys

During the post-election celebration and finger-pointing season, commentators, pundits, and Democratic legislators all claim that lack of a clear and contrasting voice to Republican policies was the reason for the Democrats’ defeat. This assertion is true to an extent. For instance, on tax issues, some Democrats supported repealing the 2001 tax cuts (Ted Kennedy, MA), some wanted them kept as is, and some didn’t know what to do. On foreign policy, 29 Democratic senators voted for the Iraq war resolution while 21 in the party voted against; and in the House, then Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi (recently elected Minority Leader) led 125 other Democrats to vote nay as 81 in the party voted yea. Voters simply didn’t know where Democrats stood. On other issues, however, Democrats did take a stand. Throughout the election, for example, it was apparent that Social Security clearly divided both parties. Both parties had a clear and consistent message that differed from their opponents’. Case in point: Weeks prior to the election, the Democratic National Campaign Committee posted a cartoon on their website depicting President Bush (and by association Republicans) pushing a wheelchair bound senior off a cliff. This humdrum scare tactic misleadingly illustrated the consequences of Republican reform of Social Security. Further, if you watched any television you were certainly inundated with political ads highlighting the gulf between the two parties on the issue. Hitherto, Democrats have had success employing dishonest and deceptive tactics to scare voters – especially seniors – to win their votes. It’s a bread and butter campaign strategy for them; unfortunately as exemplified by the 2002 midterms, it’s now a losing one. In the end, a majority of Democrats who reiterated by-gone rhetoric and, perhaps more importantly, those Republicans who avoided the issue altogether, lost their races. The fact that many Republicans lost because they shirked the Social Security issue merits some attention. Most Republicans who stood toe-to-toe against their Democratic contenders and withstood the barrage of played-out Democratic demagoguery actually won. Republicans counterpunched with a steady flow of reform language, and importantly, they offered voters details and plans instead of tired scare tactics. Republican senatorial candidates like John Sununu of New Hampshire, Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, and House candidates like Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida all deftly rebutted Democrats’ Social Security message and won their respective races, some by wide margins. In debate after debate, John Sununu hammered away at Jeanne Shaheen’s proposal to create another commission to study the Social Security problem. He simply let voters know that Shaheen didn’t have a plan. Likewise, during a debate between Elizabeth Dole and Erskine Bowles, Dole waived a blank piece of paper in reference to Bowles’ absent plan. Pat Toomey, a champion in the U.S. House for Social Security reform, withstood a barrage of Social Security attack ads, and easily defeated his opponent in a Democrat-leaning and heavily senior citizen district. These candidates won because their message calling for change resonated with voters. Notably, under heavy Democratic scare tactics used during debates, and in radio, web, and television ads, these winning Republicans continued to firmly support personal retirement accounts (PRA). For those Republicans who lost, many of them shirked talking openly about reform and PRAs. George Gekas of Pennsylvania, John Thune of South Dakota, and Connie Morella of Maryland all either denied the looming bankruptcy or refrained from talking about it altogether. One has to wonder how many more seats would be in Republican hands if these and other contenders openly discussed Social Security with voters instead of running from the issue. The 2002 election proved that pols and candidates could touch the “third rail” of politics, Social Security, without being shocked. In fact polls indicate that, if allowed, a majority of voters would invest a portion of their Social Security tax dollars in PRAs. Though it may seem like Democrats didn’t have a clear message for voters, they did stick to their talking points on Social Security; unfortunately, it didn’t stick with the electorate. Voters elected a majority of candidates who in debates and stump speeches talked about reform and PRAs. Now it’s time for Congress to listen up and to do something to save Social Security. There will be new faces in the 108th Congress but the same issues will rule the day. Let’s hope that the momentum from the midterms, and the lessons from the campaign trail, result in real action and reform.

11/26/2002
A Bountiful Harvest?
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Press Release

A Bountiful Harvest?

Thanksgiving gives pause for reflection. For taxpayers and consumers, the year has seen a few bright spots, but a great deal happened in Washington that most will find unpalatable. While a sluggish economy has shaken consumer confidence, Washington continues to spend and government continues to grow. As always, the tension between big government solutions and markets frames the policy debate in Congress. A review of the year’s policy questions suggests that Washington continues an agenda with a big-government bias that may be out of touch with consumers and taxpayers:

11/26/2002
A Victory Worth Giving Thanks For
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Press Release

A Victory Worth Giving Thanks For

President Bush achieved his second post-election victory over Congress late last week. As taxpayers, we should all give thanks. After winning passage of the Homeland Security bill, President Bush returned to a long running fight over federal spending his administration has had – with Republican appropriators. The Republican appropriators finally blinked and agreed to the reduced spending levels requested by the President all year long.

11/26/2002
The Hot New Americans Get Hotter
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The Hot New Americans Get Hotter

BY Richard Morin and Claudia Deane

Can the New America Foundation possibly get any hotter? Three of its scholars made the list of new thinkers proclaimed "the best and the brightest" in the current issue of Esquire. Now comes word that all but one of the 13 policy essays in a 36-page special section to appear in the January/February issue of Atlantic Monthly magazine are by writers closely associated with New America. What's more, New America and the Atlantic plan to make the jointly produced "State of the Union" feature into an annual event. "We want this to become an occasion where we assess the real state of the union, what the empirical situation is and ways we can do better to meet the country's needs," said Scott Stossel, Atlantic senior editor. "The actual [presidential] address has become an occasion for empty pomp and circumstance . . . a distillation of the two parties talking past each other. We wanted to cut through that." David Bradley, the policy impresario who owns the Atlantic, National Journal and Hotline, suggested the special relationship with the nonpartisan New America. Bradley is a pal of Ted Halstead, the founder of New America (Halstead also writes the introduction to the section). James Fallows, the Atlantic's national correspondent and its marquee writer, is the chairman of New America's board of directors and writes the concluding essay. In between, a dozen New Americans hold forth on a potpourri of policy prescriptions. Katherine Boo, a senior fellow currently on leave from The Washington Post, offers a battle plan for winning the war on child poverty; the ubiquitous Jedediah Purdy, the New America fellow who has been featured in both the New York Times Magazine and a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, declaims on "social trust"; and Senior Fellow Shannon Brownlee asks whether Americans get too much health care. The only non-New American to make the cut: Jonathan Rauch, a columnist for National Journal and a writer in residence at the Brookings Institution. The writers will be paid standard contributor's rates, Stossel said. New America gets nothing, other than beaucoup exposure, which of course is priceless. The magazine had briefly considered going to Brookings or another nonpartisan tank for talent. But Brookings "is a bit more staid, and we wanted access to fresh and innovative thinking; many of [New America's] fellows are youngish, under 40," Stossel said. "Their basic policy stances squared with ours and they had new, young talent we wanted to take advantage of."

11/26/2002
No More Excuses
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Press Release

No More Excuses

© 2002 Copley News Service, 11/25/2002 It's no secret that I have supported accelerating the phase-in of President George W. Bush's tax cuts or that I have enthusiastically advocated relief from the double taxation of dividends. I also am on record supporting shorter depreciation schedules in general and 100 percent first-year write-off of investment in plants and equipment by telecom and technology firms, not to mention lower capital gains tax rates.

11/25/2002
Letters to the Editor Concerning the Textbook Debate
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Press Release

Letters to the Editor Concerning the Textbook Debate

Letters from our readers AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN Sunday, November 24, 2002 THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION AND OUR CHILDREN'S TEXTBOOKS Textbook irony The irony about the would-be textbook censors at Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy -- whom the editorial board correctly excoriates -- is that they profess, on the one hand, a commitment to free markets, yet, on the other, want to increase the monopoly power of government, through the State Board of Education, to edit and select textbooks.

11/24/2002
U.S. Consumer Groups Call Weyerhaeuser Proposal to Tax U.S. Lumber Consumers Up to 25 Percent 'The Wrong Idea At The Wro…
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U.S. Consumer Groups Call Weyerhaeuser Proposal to Tax U.S. Lumber Consumers Up to 25 Percent 'The Wrong Idea At The Wro…

An alliance of American Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH), formed to oppose continued quotas or taxes on softwood lumber imports from Canada, today called a proposal from Steven R. Rogel, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Weyerhaeuser, the wrong idea at the wrong time. Rogel has proposed that the Canadian government impose a border tax of as much as 25 percent on lumber going into the U.S. Currently, the U.S. is imposing countervailing and antidumping duties of 27 percent on imports, which were implemented last May. "This is a wrong idea at the wrong time," said Susan Petniunas, spokesperson for ACAH. "Canada has won its cases several times in the past in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and under the North American Free Trade Agreement, and has already had significant victories this time. We believe that Canada will win again, and that it should pursue free trade and open markets in lumber between the U.S. and Canada." "ACAH believes that if the cases are handled expeditiously in the WTO and NAFTA, decisions should be announced within the next several months, possibly as early as February or March from NAFTA," Petniunas said. "If there are no appeals to drag the process out, a resolution to this lumber war can be achieved," Petniunas added. Because there are not enough trees available to produce lumber for home building in the U.S., Canadian lumber imports are absolutely vital for the construction of affordable new homes and to make improvements on existing homes in America. The U.S. relies on Canada and other sources for approximately a third of the lumber it needs. Led by International Paper, Potlatch, Plum Creek, Sierra Pacific, Temple Inland and southern landowners, the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports filed petitions with the U.S. Commerce Department more than a year ago alleging that domestic lumber producers had been harmed by Canadian softwood lumber imports and asking for countervailing and antidumping duties. The International Trade Commission approved the Commerce Department's action, and duties were imposed at the end of May. More than 110 members of the U.S. House and Senate have signed resolutions or have written letters to President Bush over the past year opposing duties and indicating their support for free trade in lumber between the U.S. and Canada. Workers in the lumber consuming business outnumber jobs in lumber production 25-1. The 27 percent duties already in place could add as much as $1,000 to the cost of a new home, and price as many as 300,000 families out of the housing market. ACAH has opposed those taxes. ACAH members represent more than 95 percent of the lumber consumption in the U.S. Members include American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance, Catamount Pellet Fuel Corporation, CHEP International, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Consumers for World Trade, Fremont Forest Group Corporation, Free Trade Lumber Council, The Home Depot, International Mass Retail Association, International Sleep Products Association, Leggett & Platt Inc., Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform, Manufactured Housing Institute, National Association of Home Builders, National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, National Retail Federation, and the United States Hispanic Contractors Association.

11/20/2002

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