GORE STILL LEADS FLA. RECOUNTS. Newspaper reports still show Al Gore apparently won the Florida vote, only to have the election stolen by order of the US Supreme Court, but news media continue to give more attention to the right-wing legal advocacy group Judicial Watch which announced distorted results from a partial recount. Judicial Watch noted March 22 that there were 62,205 undervotes in Florida, but after counting 42,724 of them, it concluded that George W. Bush would have gained between 107 and 116 votes, depending on the standard used. Based on these partial tallies, Judicial Watch claims that "a statewide recount of the Florida undervotes would not have changed the outcome of the presidential election," according to the Associated Press. But Democrats.com's running tally of media recounts showed Gore had gained 1,773 votes, giving him a lead of 1,236, as of March 10. "Even using Judicial Watch's higher number of 116, Gore still leads by 1,120 votes," said Democrats.com co-founder Bob Fertik.
Meanwhile, in Boca Raton, Fla., city council candidate Susan Saxton, a Republican, sought a hand recount of 11,009 ballots after her two-vote loss March 13. Her lawyer, Brigham McCown, helped George W. Bush's successful effort to stop hand counts of punch-card ballots.
SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE DOING BETTER. Medicare and Social Security trustees reported March 19 that the programs are in better financial shape because of the recent strong economy. The Medicare trust fund for hospital expenses is now projected to remain solvent until at least 2029, four years longer than previously estimated. The Social Security trust fund gained an extra year, to 2038, before its funds are projected to be exhausted under pessimistic economic projections that are subject to political manipulation.
Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post noted that the trustees -- who include the secretaries of treasury, labor and health and human services -- predicted economic growth in the next decade will be much lower than the historical average of the past 30 years. That is a much more pessimistic assumption than the one used by the White House budget office to predict record budget surpluses in the next 10 years to justify tax cuts. Those tax surpluses would disappear under the economic predictions used by the trustees. Under a more optimistic scenario, assuming normal economic growth and slow gains in life expectancy, both trust funds would be flush for the next 75 years, the trustees admitted.
Democrats said that the findings undercut the Bush administration's bid to fundamentally change the old-age programs. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) noted that the new report projects "the longest period of solvency in Medicare's entire history," which he said shows "there is no need to condition passage of a prescription drug benefit this year on passage of radical changes to the underlying Medicare program."
BUSH: BURN MORE OIL. While the Bush administration pursues an energy policy that is geared toward increasing oil production, a recent study by five national laboratories under the Department of Energy found that energy efficiency policies, like tax credits for fuel-efficient vehicles, could reduce the growth of energy demand by a third through 2010, the New York Times' Joseph Kahn reported March 25. George W. Bush's budget framework envisions cutting funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs by 30%, Congressional experts who have been briefed on the planned cuts said. In what seemed a case of "smash-mouth budgeting," Kahn said, the administration has even suggested linking funding for efficiency programs to royalties from Arctic drilling.
Meanwhile, the Independent System Operator, which runs California's power grid, reported that generators overcharged the state's utilities, which distribute power to consumers, by more than $6 billion over a 10-month period, while the state's power purchases for two struggling utilities could cost $23 billion by the end of next year, leaving customers paying as much as 50% more for electricity, the Associated Press reported.
Electric utilities and their executives and employees last year gave $18.4 million to candidates and parties, of which $12.4 million went to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign research group. Dan Morgan of the Washington Post noted that Republicans got 88% of the coal industry's contributions and the investment is paying off, as Bush has reneged on a campaign promise to require coal-burning power plants to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, revoked a Clinton administration crackdown on arsenic in drinking water, and reportedly is taking aim at more than two dozen pending rules regulating substances from coal mine dust and ozone to diesel particulates. In the GOP-controlled Congress, lobbyists are mobilizing behind tax credits, subsidies and regulatory exemptions for coal-burning utilities.
Vice President Dick Cheney promoted renewed use of nuclear power in March 21 remarks and said new nuclear plants could help cut greenhouse gases that cause global warming better than a ''seriously flawed'' Kyoto treaty. "If you want to do something about carbon dioxide emissions, then you ought to build nuclear power plants. They don't emit any carbon dioxide. They don't emit greenhouse gases,'' Cheney said on MSNBC's Hardball program.
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham told Fox News on March 25 the Bush administration will not go "begging the OPEC countries or anybody else" to increase oil production as long as the United States has untapped reserves, such as those under the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, that could ease an energy pinch. Critics noted that the arctic reserves would add only marginally to the nation's oil supply and production would not be available in any case for a decade.
BUSH PLANS CUTS IN KIDS AID. George W. Bush intends to propose cuts in programs that provide child care, prevent child abuse and train doctors at children's hospitals, the New York Times' Robert Pear reported March 23. Budget documents from the Department of Health and Human Services show that Bush plans to cut child care grants by $200 million, to $1.8 billion, as part of the budget he will send Congress early next month. The documents also show that spending for programs dealing with child abuse would be reduced by $15.7 million, or 18%. That would leave $71.8 million for federal grants to the states to prevent and investigate child abuse and neglect. About 900,000 children are victims of abuse or neglect each year, federal data show, based on reports of cases investigated and confirmed by the states.
BUSH EXAGGERATES SMALL BIZ TAX RELIEF. George W. Bush on March 16 told small business owners that more than 17.4 million small business owners and entrepreneurs stand to benefit from dropping the top rate from 39.6% to 33%. But the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted that a Treasury press release issued the same day stated only that "many" of these 17.4 million individuals pay the top rate. In fact, the Center noted that fewer than 5% of those 17.4 million paid the top rate in 1997, the latest year for which these data are available.
FREE TRADE FIGHT MOBILIZES. The fight against Free Trade Association for the Americas is maturing, according to Michael Dolan of Global Trade Watch. "Of course, we need to get through the Fast Track fight first, with our momentum intact." An FTAA "Campaign of Inquiry" Packet can be downloaded from www.tradewatch.org or contact Alesha Daughtrey, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, phone 202-454-5103. Also see the FTAA Guide at www.soaw-ne.org and links to local action at www.stopftaa.org.
The Bush administration is seeking to lure Congressional Democrats to support fast-track negotiating authority for the president by including other provisions, such as aid for poor countries and a trade pact with Jordan that links trade sanctions to labor rights, despite Republican resistance to including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements. The Wall Street Journal on March 16 reported that 28 House Democrats sent a letter to Bush calling US Trade Rep. Robert Zoellick's bundling plan "a serious mistake" that would "derail action in Congress." Congress Daily on March 16 reported that more than 50 House Democrats sent a letter to Bush urging him to release documents related to upcoming talks on the eventual establishment of the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
VOTER RIGHTS MARCH. Voter Rights Marches to Restore Democracy will be held May 19 in Washington, D.C., and in San Francisco, as individuals from coast-to-coast voice their outrage over the fraud and disenfranchisement of voters that occurred in election 2000 as well as the right-wing agenda pursued by the new administration. The East Coast march will organize at the West Capitol steps and proceed from 12:00 noon to 6:00 p.m. The West Coast march will be held at the Civic Center in San Francisco from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For more information see www.votermarch.org or contact Louis Posner, founder of Voter March, by phone at 646-349-3757 or email email@example.com.
CABINET SEES TAX REPEAL WINDFALL. George W. Bush's proposal to abolish the estate tax would provide more than $100 million in tax benefits for himself and his Cabinet, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., noted in a March 23 column for the Washington Post. Bush's heirs would save between $5 million and $11 million if the tax were repealed, based on his financial disclosures, while Dick Cheney's estate would save between $10 million and $41 million. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill would benefit the most, saving a combined $61 million to $168 million. On average, members of the Bush Cabinet would save $5 million to $19 million each. The 50 wealthiest members of Congress would see a combined gain of more than $1 billion. The estate of the richest congressman stands to gain more than $300 million, according to Waxman.
CHAO MOVE COULD DELAY AID. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao has asked the White House to shift the responsibility for a new program to compensate sick nuclear workers from her agency to the Justice Department, eliciting a bipartisan round of criticism from lawmakers who say such a move could badly delay disbursement of the funds. Chao said the Labor Department does not have the infrastructure to administer the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program, passed by Congress last year with an initial appropriation of $60.4 million. According to Ben White in the March 23 Washington Post, Chao argued that Justice should run it because the department already makes payments to uranium miners and people who live downwind from nuclear test sites. But members from both parties argued they intended Labor to run the program because it has administered similar workers' compensation programs for nearly a century, including the Longshore and Harbor Workers Act and the Coal Miners Black Lung Disease Act.
LIBERTARIANS HURT GOP. The National Review noted that Libertarian Party candidates are seriously hurting Republicans. In both 1998 and 2000, a Republican candidate for Senate lost to a Democrat by a margin much less than the Libertarian's total vote. The most recent victim was Slade Gorton of Washington, who lost to Maria Cantwell by 2,228 votes. Libertarian candidate Jeff Jared hauled in 64,734 votes. Two years earlier, Republican John Ensign lost to incumbent Democrat Harry Reid in Nevada by only 428 votes, in a race where Libertarian Michael Cloud drew 8,044 votes. Libertarians also arguably cost the GOP two House seats last fall, as Rep. Steve Kuykendall of California lost re-election against Jane Harman by 4,452 votes, while Lib Daniel Sherma got 6,073 votes, and in New Jersey, Democratic Rep. Rush Holt beat Republican Dick Zimmer by 651 votes, while Lib Worth Winslow attracted 1,225 votes.
CLINTONISTAS GET TANKED. Former Clinton White House counsel Jack Quinn became notorious as a lobbyist who used his friendship with Bill Clinton and knowledge of White House legal procedures to procure a last-minute pardon for fugitive financier Marc Rich. But Franklin Foer of The New Republic noted that Clintonites have largely eschewed lucrative, access-driven jobs on K Street and Wall Street in favor of academia, philanthropy, or further policy work. Clinton economic adviser Gene Sperling plans to spend the bulk of his time at the Brookings Institution, where he plans to agitate for greater funding of African schools. Chief of Staff John Podesta is establishing a center for technology policy at Georgetown University Law Center. Domestic policy chief Bruce Reed went to the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Sylvia Matthews to the Gates Foundation, speechwriter Michael Waldman to Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and budget chief Jack Lew to Georgetown's Public Policy Institute. And Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers did a short stint at Brookings before accepting the presidency of Harvard University.
'BEST CORPORATE CITIZENS' LISTED. Procter & Gamble, Hewlett-Packard, Fannie Mae, Motorola, and IBM topped the list of 100 public companies ranked by Business Ethics magazine according to corporate service to various stakeholder groups, including employees, customers, the community, stockholders, the environment, and overseas stakeholders. Because methodology was changed to include more stakeholder groups, 31 companies dropped off the "100 Best Corporate Citizens" list from last year, including Anheuser-Busch, Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, Washington Post, and Wal-Mart. New companies this year include Freddie Mac, Corning, Apple Computer, McDonald's, Dow Jones, Eastman Kodak, and H.B. Fuller. For the complete list see www.Business-Ethics.com.
Good corporate citizenship means serving a variety of stakeholders well. Some examples:
* Procter & Gamble serves overseas stakeholders -- who bring in half its revenues -- with generous international grants, including earthquake relief in Turkey, community building projects in Japan, contributions for school computers in Romania, and shore protection in France.
* Hewlett-Packard serves employee stakeholders with profit sharing representing 12% of pre-tax profits, and a stunning 52 weeks maternity leave. HP was also the only large computer company to avoid large-scale layoffs through the 1990s.
* Fannie Mae serves customer stakeholders with $2.9 trillion in mortgage financing provided since 1968 for over 35 million families, many of them minorities or moderate-income families.
The "100 Best Corporate Citizens" appears in the March/April issue of Business Ethics, which is based in Minneapolis. For a free sample call 612/879-0695.