The idea, whose father was military conscription and whose mother was the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, was incubated in the Progressive Policy Institute in the '80s, placed in the foster care of the Democratic Leadership Council and then adopted by the [President] Clinton campaign.
"Maintain the Pell Grant program but scrap the existing student-loan program and establish a National Service Trust Fund to guarantee every American who wants a college education the means to obtain one. Those who borrow from the fund will pay it back either as a small percentage of their income over time, or through community service as teachers, law-enforcement officers, health-care workers or peer counselors helping kids stay off drugs and in school."
Would taxpayers really think they were getting a bargain by paying for students' college loans and then paying again to hire these same people in government-financed jobs? Would workers now in health care and education jobs be happy to see the cheeky new government-paid "volunteers" arrive, eliminate private-sector growth in low-skill jobs and drive down the private-pay scale? Would the volunteers really serve society best in such artificial, temporary posts, expending tax revenues, or by getting on with their own careers and contributing to tax revenues?
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IN ONE of those "new studies" that repeatedly illuminate the medical news, we learned recently that genes may be responsible for disposing some people to smoking. This is a development beyond the hopes of America's weed addicts: Suddenly smokers are on their way from being seen as practitioners of a disagreeable vice to becoming the unfortunate victims of a genetic disorder. In America, once that kind of opinion switch is made a freshly established class of victims can start winning arguments and lawsuits. They are no longer accountable for their actions.
In the Age of the Victim, society is always wrong. Some say that a nation founded on individualism is becoming a society of finger-pointing interests, each trying to score off the whole. Actually, we still believe in individualism, it's just that it's an individualism of rights, not responsibilities, and, paradoxically, those rights are now the products of group membership.
For example, our tattered code of individual responsibility would have it that a chronically late employee might expect, eventually, to be fired. But, in "A Nation of Victims," a new book by Charles J. Sykes, the case is related of a Pennsylvania school employee fired for constantly arriving late at work. It seems that the worker then sued for reinstatement because his therapist said he suffered from "Chronic Lateness Syndrome." He won the case, too, though it later was lost on appeal.
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Editor's note: Is Seattle really "the best city for global business in the U.S."? In the current issue of Fortune magazine, a survey of 900 business executives suggests that the answer is yes. By various criteria, Seattle ranked highest among 60 American cities. Of the top five cities on Fortune's list, Seattle surpassed Houston, San Francisco, Atlanta and New York. Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based public-policy organization, is at work on a project called "International Seattle: The Making of a Globally Competitive Community." Examining the Fortune findings in light of this area's international strengths and weaknesses, Bruce Chapman, Discovery's president, and John Hamer, senior fellow, arrived at two different - and provocative - conclusions.
For the past few years the Foreign Trade Division of the U.S. Census Bureau has been compiling export trade statistics on a "state of origin" basis. We now can tell with greater accuracy which states are generating the most exports. And, since metropolitan Seattle accounts for a great bulk of state exports, we can assume that if urban area trade figures were available, we would perform even better in those. We know that the Seattle and Tacoma ports, together, are now the second largest in the United States, after Los Angeles/Long Beach.
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Once more a good idea is taking on a life of its own. The idea is "Cascadia," the concept that the Pacific Northwest of the United States and the two Western provinces of Canada are in reality one international region with a common destiny.
There will be many false starts and half-steps. No body exists to convene this new entity, though the legislators of the Northwest states and Canada's Western provinces have organized the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) that is helping to set out much of the agenda. But even among those who are enthusiastic about greater regional cooperation - which is most of those who have thought about the subject - there is no agreement yet about certain fundamentals:
-- How does regional cooperation express itself in spheres outside of government, such as education, the arts and, of course, business associations? Some of the most interesting moves for collaboration have come through business, including the creation of "PACE" (the Pacific Corridor Enterprise Council), which seeks to lower barriers to cross-border commerce. The Seattle-based nonprofit issues journal, The New Pacific, was bought out by a Vancouver group that is revising its format but expects to keep alive a regional perspective. In sports, fans (and business people) in Portland and Vancouver have rallied to the cause of saving the Seattle Mariners, while many in Seattle, as well, aspire to an eventual "regionalization" of the team. This is not just to build a stronger business base, but to make baseball a tangible example of the growing regional affinity of spirit.
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THE King County Council is about to recommend to the voters that they merge the county government with Metro and make the expanded government "nonpartisan." Bowing to nonpartisan municipal officials, an apparent council majority thinks that ending the role of parties in the county will improve the political process.
Nonpartisan politics makes sense in a small constituency where the voters may be able to keep track of a few candidates, or in narrow-purpose entities such as the port. Even the City of Seattle, at about 500,000 population and growing very slowly, is still more or less comprehensible for voters and elected officials alike.
In King County we are so far from a party-machine system that our two dedicated, but avocational, party chairs have to plead with folks to become precinct committeepeople. They have few inducements to offer in a system with almost no patronage and little recognition. Now the parties stand to lose even their present role in recruiting and sponsoring regional candidates.
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Two decades ago, the Port of Seattle decided to trade with the People's Republic of China, a business relationship that now has positioned Washington as the biggest exporting state to the PRC (nearly $800 million in 1988), and one of the biggest importers from that country (over $1.21 billion).
Puget Sound ports are closer to China than are California's, and Northwest business people have a sustained personable style that results in the long-term trust the China trade requires.
Now comes an opportunity for the Puget Sound region to become the major U.S. gateway for the burgeoning China trade in the 21st century. The PRC has asked to follow up contacts with Washington officials, such as Secretary of State Ralph Munro, and with private citizen groups, such as the Spokane-based Citizen Ambassador Program and the Washington State China Relations Council, and send an exploratory trade mission to Seattle.
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If economic integration in Europe is still a novel topic for most Americans, however, political integration in Europe is truly terra incognita. Political union is the aim of the European Community, and one that many EC leaders are eager to hurry along after 1992.
But the implications of a full political union have not been studied in detail by the United States, they are certain to impinge upon our NATO defense alliance, the West's role in encouraging liberalization in Eastern Europe, and chances for a military understanding with the Soviets.
Political union, Western leaders would agree, must not proceed in a way that damages present defense unity. Should the Soviets think that the North Americans could be decoupled from their European partners, the domestic Soviet rationale for accommodation with the West (``If you can't beat 'em, join 'em'') would be undermined. -- One source of trouble will be neutralism. The European Community includes neutral Ireland, although the Irish are a long way from the Iron Curtain and no one minds their neutrality much, including the Irish. Read More ›