Bruce Chapman

The South Rises, Joining the GOP

FOR the century and a quarter of the Republican Party's existence, the largest stumbling block to control of Congress has been the Democratic "Solid South." Along the populated states on either side of the Mason-Dixon line, as GOP analyst John Morgan notes, Americans long voted the way their ancestors fought in the Civil War. In the 11 old Confederacy states the only traditional Republican districts were in the Appalachian hills of North Carolina and Tennessee that once supported the Union cause. Last week's remarkable congressional elections suggest that the South may be uniting again, but this time behind the Republican party. It is enough to make Jefferson Davis spin in his grave - and William Jefferson Clinton chew his nails. In 1960, the U.S. Senate seat vacated by newly elected Vice President Lyndon Johnson was won by Republican John Tower and the present congressional realignment really began. Civil rights controversies and the weight of Great Society programs pushed many Dixiecrats into the GOP column after Barry Goldwater's defense of states' rights in 1964. Read More ›

The Adoption Option Needs Sound Nourishment From Bush

EVEN if the Supreme Court does not change Roe vs. Wade in some way that greatly decreases the number of abortions performed, America faces a rising number of out-of-wedlock births. They are now nearing 900,000 a year - one out of four births in our country. Meanwhile, more than 300,000 children are cycled through foster-care homes, some for their whole childhood. But adoption, the policy, is an orphan, relatively unfunded and poorly advertised. In the Reagan administration, the president sincerely supported adoption, calling it ``the forgotten option.'' Among those forgetting it, however, were key White House aides and most officials at the Department of Health and Human Services. They believed, cynically, that adoption and the abortion issue were synonymous in people's minds, and that such issues should not be raised, except when unavoidable. Adoption and abortion, indeed, are connected subjects, but they also are separable. Adoption has its own history, identity and claims. Those who are ``pro-choice'' certainly should encourage the choice of adoption, especially in light of the huge number of out-of-wedlock births that have developed, even after the Roe vs. Wade decision. ``Pro-life'' people should take responsibility for the children who result when abortion is averted. Adoption alone cannot solve the whole problem, of course, but it can help. Read More ›

The ‘Soft Tyranny’ of Hidden Taxation

THE issues of scandals, term limits, Haiti, Iraq and crime dominate the news and TV ads this campaign season. However something deeper and mostly unarticulated may be doing more to shape the nation's politics. The decisive issue of 1994 could well be people's continuing frustration over their inability to get ahead financially - and their conviction that government is both directly and indirectly hampering them. The large, increasingly middle-aged middle class finds salary increases scarce and restructuring layoffs common. If these are prosperous times, people wonder, what will the next recession bring? With many ordinary families turning over to government at various levels almost half their incomes (roughly 25 percent federal income tax, 15.3 percent Social Security, 8 percent state and local sales tax, plus property taxes and assorted special taxes and fees), it becomes harder and harder for the baby boomers who have so shaped political trends in the past to see how they can afford to send their children to college or save adequately for retirement. Polls show that voters no longer are impressed by politicians' offers to satisfy their personal concerns with still more government programs. That is part of the reason why Democrats, as the party that traditionally defends the utility of government action, are in particular trouble this year. Even now-standard efforts by congressional candidates to avoid a negative national trend by "localizing" campaigns may backfire. Localizing usually means showing how the incumbent can "bring home the bacon." But as voters watch television accounts of this going on all over the country - Sen. Ted Kennedy holding up giant posters of federal checks he is delivering to particular constituencies and Speaker Tom Foley boasting of road contracts and police positions brought to Spokane - they see that it is they who are paying for all that bacon and that the price is too high. Yesterday's bacon is becoming today's pork. Read More ›

The Hidden Fears of High-Tech Learning

IN THE 1920s, President Calvin Coolidge declared, "The business of America is business." In the 1990s it might be at least as true to say that the business of America is learning. Constant adjustment to change - coping with new facts and ways of doing things - has become the norm in commerce as computer hardware and software is introduced, adapted and, later, replaced. Now the high-tech revolution is coming to education. You might think that everyone would be thrilled. The high-tech motto of "better, cheaper, faster" sounds like an admirable aim for general school reform. But talking to many educators, business people, high-tech manufacturers, government officials and even parents, one soon realizes that below the surface many of them are as anxious as they are hopeful. There are new software products that recognize what kind of learning style works best for a student and adjusts accordingly. Some, for example, can help kids get over very specialized reading problems. On the other hand, for the established scholar and writer there is the entire three-volume Oxford English Dictionary on disc for a third of the cost of a hard-cover copy, and the manufacturer throws in several other reference works for good measure. Dozens of new products like these are appearing monthly, many of them produced in the Seattle area. Read More ›

Pass National Service, Cripple Charity

Drawing on a moral tradition going back to the Bible, and wending through the American founding and the young republic described by Alexis de Tocqueville, this ideal has created what some call a "mediating" institution between the profit sector and the government. Now the government proposes not only to compete with this sector (as in the Vista program), but to invade it directly. Under President Clinton's national service bill, politically appointed boards chosen by state governors would funnel federal funds for service jobs to selected private and civic groups. Imagine you run a private charity. If it is chosen to participate in the national service program, you've hit the jackpot financially. But if your charity, like the great majority, is not chosen, your cause will find itself trying to compete with the federal treasury. Americans familiar with the notorious Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of the 1970s should find the prospects for unabashed political patronage, and even corruption, obvious. Incapacitating the nongovernment charitable sector further, the national service bill allows (read, "encourages") the programs it backs to raise additional funds from private sources. Imagine trying to raise money for a private charity when the government's endorsed charities, blessed by your state's governor, can offer donors federal "matching money," prestige and public recognition as incentives to fund them instead. Read More ›

Let’s Get It Straight: The Empire Was Evil

LET'S be blunt: It is necessary to make it clear who was right about the Cold War. The reason is not to glorify the aging Republicans and Henry Jackson Democrats who were derided as "Cold Warriors" during the four decades between Stalin and Gorbachev, nor to kick those on the left who led peace marches and befriended Havana, Hanoi and Managua. The purposes, rather, are, first, to get the history straight, before the regnant revisionists in academia succeed in distorting it, and, secondly, to reflect on the lessons for our current foreign policy. Under the revisionist interpretation, American sacrifices of blood and treasure during the Cold War were largely a waste of both. The West's actions in the Cold War are seen as more or less morally equivalent to those of the Soviets. These remarkable programs should attract heightened interest in Washington state, home of the late Sen. Henry Jackson, a leader of Cold War "hawks," and also home to some of the most militant opponents of U.S. policy during the Cold War. But of greatest immediate interest, Seattle is home to the chief consultant and inspiration of the project, Dr. Herbert Ellison of the University of Washington. (The series was written and directed by an Englishman, Daniel Wolf, with project management provided by the National Bureau of Asian Research in Seattle.) Read More ›

Perot May Have Trapped Himself In His Third-Party Machinery

Ross Perot may have walked into a trap of his own devising. By deciding to set up an official political party instead of merely running for president as an independent candidate, Perot will be subject to all the legal difficulties that beset the two major parties. It will be harder now for him to play the reformist outsider. And the state versions of his new party are almost sure to cause problems. All but the last role have been reduced in the past 30 years, thanks to one "reform" after another. Primary voters, not party regulars, pick most nominees; candidates' organizations, not parties, raise most campaign funds; and patronage - after a century of civil service reform - is down to token numbers, and those few are hired by office-holders without much consultation with their party. And the last role - forming legislative caucuses - is not one that will benefit Perot's Independence Party, since it is unlikely to elect many local candidates. With 50 new state Independence parties will come a certain amount of "independence" for those parties internally. The publisher of the daily political Hotline in Washington, D.C., Douglas Bailey, predicts that "Once Perot creates all these state parties, there is nothing to stop them from running local candidates with their own ideas and their own personal baggage; then Perot loses control." New York's Independence Party, which suggested to Perot that he use its name, already plans to slate up to 1,000 candidates. Read More ›

Bell Street Pier Project A Jewel In Seattle Port Crown

The Port of Seattle's tax rates over the last five years have declined by 33 percent, while its revenues have increased by 34 percent. Incorrect numbers were published in Bruce Chapman's column last Friday on the port's new Bell Street project. Somehow, the Bell Street Pier, a multipurpose, $88 million creation of the Port of Seattle, has managed to go through the whole development process, right up to the interior work now under way, without raising the ire of any economic interest, environmental body or taxpayer watchdog group. But already little bands of potential users are lining up to get a hard-hat tour of a civic facility that is sure to attract international attention. Ordinary folks are beginning to ask about it, too. When a class of fifth graders from the "TOPS" program at Seward School on Capitol Hill walked down to a parking lot above the site recently, they were given a description of the project that left them reporting back like the legendary blind man who encountered an elephant. Each one had a different impression of the beast. Read More ›