Issue 207 * January 22, 1999
The National Center for Public Policy Research
Amy Ridenour, President
777 N. Capitol St., NE, Suite 803 * Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 507-6398 * Fax (301) 498-1301
Bulletin Board: Publications, statements,
activities and plans of conservatives in Washington.
A battle between corporate giants could stop Internet access from becoming hundreds of times faster, says Amy Ridenour of The National center for Public Policy Research, in a new National Policy Analysis #229 paper, "AOL May Put Speed Bump on the Information Superhighway."
The fight is between AT&T and the cable TV's TCI, which want to combine to offer faster Internet access by sending Internet signals through TV cable, and America Online, which wants both the federal government and thousands of local governments to prohibit AT&T/TCI from offering this service unless they give a piece of their cable network to AOL.
If AOL wins, companies like AT&T and scores of others investing in technological improvements will have less incentive to do so.
AOL would like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to mandate that AT&T/TCI must let AOL have access to the AT&T/TCI network. Although the FCC has yet to rule on AOL's request, the FCC doesn't seem inclined to do so.
AOL is also lobbying local governments against the AT&T/TCI merger. Because local governments approved TCI's right to provide local cable TV services, AOL reasons, local governments can prohibit AT&T from merging with TCI to provide Internet and telephone access through those same cables.
So far only Portland, Oregon has agreed with AOL, but most cities have yet to decide. AOL is lobbying hard, so it can't be assumed that AOL won't win in many cities. AT&T has responded by filing suit in federal court in Portland, saying that, under the terms of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, they can't be prohibited from using their own cable network exclusively. But this suit, filed in mid-January, has yet to be heard.
In any city in which AOL wins, consumers will be denied faster Internet access and improved TV and telephone options. If many cities agree with AOL, the effect will be national, as fewer companies will be willing to invest in technological improvements.
In a recent poll, Americans said that increasing the Internet's speed and efficiency was their number one technology priority. It would be ironic if this popular goal was thwarted by America's largest Internet provider, American Online.
For copies of this paper contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 or visit http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA229.html.
President Clinton's decision, announced during his state of the Union speech, to instruct the Justice Department to file suit against tobacco companies is bad policy, says Amy Ridenour of The National Center for Public Policy Research.
"President Clinton says the purpose of the lawsuit is to raise money," said Ridenour, but the Constitution plainly states that "all bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives. By suing tobacco companies, President Clinton is clearly trying raise revenue while bypassing the legislative branch, which is reluctant to raise taxes to the higher level President Clinton prefers."
"What's more," said Ridenour, "Congress is right not to raise taxes, including tobacco taxes. Taxes are already the highest they've ever been in American history. And tobacco taxes are notoriously regressive. According to the Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation, 53% of tobacco revenues come from people making under $30,000 and a 97% come from people making under $75,000. If President Clinton really believes the federal government needs more revenue, he should not look to the poor and the middle class to finance it."
Ridenour concludes: "If President Clinton's lawsuit is successful, tobacco companies will be forced to raise prices. This is essentially a tax by another name. President Clinton claims to be motivated by health concerns, but if he truly was, he wouldn't want the federal government to keep money taken from tobacco companies. Instead, he'd use any money he gets from tobacco to fund tax cuts for low and lower-middle income Americans. This policy would achieve the President's goal of raising cigarette prices without hurting lower income Americans. But the President isn't interested in this option. He'd rather keep the money."
Ridenour has written several papers examining government lawsuits against tobacco firms, each of which has been partially reprinted by major newspapers nationally. Recent papers include: National Policy Analysis #201, "80% of the Public Isn't Wrong: Big Law is Overpaid," NPA 198, "Ironies of the Tobacco Wars," NPA 195, "Lawyers' Fees in Tobacco Case Should Be Capped," NPA 186, "Maryland's Stack-the-Deck Legal Approach is Not in Taxpayers' Best Interest," NPA 175, "Government Use of Contingency Fee Lawyers Works Against Public Interest," NPA 171, "Without Reform, Trial Lawyers, Not States or Individuals, Will Be Biggest Winners from Tobacco Settlement," and others. The National Center's other papers on the tobacco issue include NPA 220 "A Taxing Proposition: Should the Working Poor Finance New Government Spending," by Faye Anderson, NPA #149 "Demon Tobacco," by Doug Bandow, and NPA 147, "Food and Drug Administration Takes on the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments," by Nate Stewart.
For copies of these papers, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 or visit http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA# (with # being the number of the National Policy Analysis paper desired).
Persons following the President's impeachment defense, and, in particular, the arguments made before the Senate by White House Deputy Counsel Cheryl Mills, may want to read the House Subcommittee On National Economic Growth, Natural Resources, And Regulatory Affairs's October 1998 report, "Investigation Of The Conversion Of The $1.7 Million Centralized White House Computer System, Known As The White House Database, And Related Matters." The report says, in part, "The committee found substantial evidence that Deputy White House Counsel Cheryl Mills perjured herself in testimony before the committee about her decision, made in concert with White House Counsel Jack Quinn, to withhold important documents responsive to the committee's requests." To read the full report, including more details about the allegations against Mills, visit http://www.house.gov/reform/neg/reports/whodb/whodb.htm for access to both the html and pdf versions of the report.
A new survey conducted by a joint Republican-Democrat pollster team and announced by the Generation X group Third Millennium and Oppenheimer Funds on January 21 finds that 52% of Americans believe it is more likely that a pro wrestler will be elected president than likely that they will collect all the Social Security funds they are entitled to.
Other findings in the survey include:
* 50% think a Super Bowl bet is a better investment than Social Security
* 70% believe Social Security should be reformed while 10% believe Social Security should be scrapped and started over
* 66% believe Washington should "act now,' while 28% want more public discussion
* 76% want privatization -- more than any other reform option
* 77% said they are concerned about having a financially secure retirement
* 54% said they might face a retirement crisis
* 56% said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who opposed changing the Social Security system
* 85% are confident of their own ability to manage their own retirement account
* 46% said Social Security was their 1st or 2nd most important retirement savings
For an information kit about the survey, including more results,
contact Richard Thau at 202/939-0077. To read the results of past
surveys, visit http://www.thirdmil.org.*