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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - November 17, 2005, New Braunfels, Texas Page 6A — Herald-Zeitung — Thursday, November 17, 2005 FORUM Our Opinion Don’t bet against these Unicorns New Braunfels High School once again is a strong contender to win the state girls volleyball title. AS I JLBi fter a three-year break, the New Iraunfels girls volleyball team is back where it feels at home — in the University Interscholastic League state tournament. Reaching state had become commonplace for the Unicorns during the late 1990s and early part of this century. New Braunfels made it to state in 1995,1997,2000 and 2002, winning the championship in 2000. But the road was a bit rockier the last three years. Despite having dominant regular-season teams in 2003 and 2004, the Unicorns fell early in the playoffs. Last year, things were even worse, as New Braunfels failed to make the playoffs. But rather than feel sorry for themselves, the Unicorns went back to work. Under the senior leadership of Sam Lingamfelter, Rachel Brown, Deanna Dahse and Chelsie Fowler, a young Unicorn squad grew quickly this year. With Phyllis Fowler providing her usual steady guidance, New Braunfels roared through district play with only one hiccup — a loss at Canyon. But while playing their best match of the season, New Braunfels cruised by the Cougarettes in the regional finals to return to state. In Texas, just reaching the state tournament is a major accomplishment. When the Class 4A playoffs began, 96 teams were competing for a state tide. Just four teams remain as the state tournament begins today. Regardless of what happens this weekend, New Braunfels already has had a memorable season. A team made up largely of sophomores and juniors has re-established itself as one of the best in Texas. But simply being one of the best is not the Unicorns’ ultimate goal, and to accomplish that, New Braunfels needs two more wins. The field in San Marcos this weekend is strong, and winning a state tide will be difficult. But after everything the Unicorns have accomplished thus far this season, we would not bet against them. Today in History By The Associated Press Today is Thursday, Nov. 17, the 321st day of2005. There are 44 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Nov. 17, 1800, Congress held its first session in Washington in the partially completed Capitol building. On this date: In 1869, the Suez Canal opened in Egypt. In 1934, Lyndon Baines Johnson married Claudia Alta Taylor, better known as "Lady Bird.” In 1973, President Nixon told Associated Press managing editors meeUng in Orlando, Fla.: “People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook.” In 1979, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the release of 13 female and black American hostages being held at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. LETTERS POLICY ■ Letters must be 250 words or less. ■The Herald-Zeitung reserves the right to edit all submissions. ■ Guest columns should be 500 words or less and must be accompanied by a photo. ■ Address and telephone number must be included so authorship can be confirmed. Mail letters to: Letters to Editor do Herald-Zeitung RO. Drawer 311328 New Braunfels, TX 78131-1328 Fax them to: (830) 606-3413 e-mail them to: news@herald- Herald-Zeitung Serving New Braunfels and Comal County since 1852. New Braunfels Zeitung was founded 1852; New Braunfels Herald was founded 1890. The two papers merged in 1957 and printed in both German and English until 1958. Managing Editor Jeremy Pafford Editor and Publisher Doug Toney Circulation Director Jeff Fowler Advertising Director Neice Bell Business Manager Valerie Shields News Editor David Rupkalvis In hindsight, tax cuts didn’t work AUSTIN — One of our better political commentators, Tom Tomorrow, has boiled down our entire current political debate to one question: "Are they stupid, or are they lying?” This seems to me pretty much how it goes, each side reduced to accusing the other of living in an alternate reality. Let’s see if we can’t find a way to frame the question that would allow an answer from empirical evidence both sides can agree on. When it comes to many actions of the Republican Congress, there is now a substantial track record of results. The evidence is in. For five years now, the Republicans have promised us that business tax cuts would strengthen the economy, create new jobs, spur growth, foster investment and bring beer and Skittles for everyone. Over five fiscal years, the tax cuts have had a direct cost to the treasury of $860 billion — with interest, $929 billion. Lee Price of the Economic Policy Institute points out: “The fact that all major economic indicators are higher today than in early 2001 does not mean the tax cuts have been beneficial. Since the Great Depression, the resilient U.S. economy has always had gains over such four-year periods. The appropriate question to ask is: How well has the economy performed compared to similar periods in the past? If the last four years of tax cuts had worked as promised, the economy should have done better than in previous cycles, when taxes were either not cut or cut much less.” We all down for that? Unfortunately, the EPI concludes, “By virtually every measure, the economy has performed worse in this business cycle than was typical of past ones, including that of the 1990s, which saw major tax increases.” In 2001, the economy entered a recession not long before the first Bush tax cuts — what the economists call a “shallow recession” (why don’t they ever talk to the people whose unemployment insurance ran out?). The economy has been in an expansionist phase since November 2001. EPI found an annual growth rate of wage and salary income of 1.3 percent, below all six previous cycles and nearly 2 percentage points below their average 3.2 percent growth. As for the cuts supposed to spur investment: "Business investment in structures, equipment and software (so-called ‘nonresidential investment’) was only 3.6 percent higher in the second quarter of2005 than it had been in the first quarter of2001. That is less than half of the 8.2 percent growth found in the worst of the six prior cycles, and but one-eighth of the 27.5 percent growth rate in the strongest prior cycle.” The EPI study goes on to provide charts, bells and whistles measuring all this six ways from MOLLYIVINS Molly Ivin is a columnist for Creators Syndicate. She also does occasional commentary for National Public Radio and the McNeil/Lehrer program. Sunday. The series of major tax cuts enacted in the past four years has not strengthened the economy. Every broad measure — gross domestic product, jobs, personal income and business investment — has fared worse over the period than in previous cycles, contrary to Republican predictions. It turns out the one tax cut that really did help snap the recession early was that middle-class tax rebate the Democrats stuck into the Bush bill. OK, bad news. So, what did happen to all that money from tax cuts that was supposed to go into investment? It didn’t go into higher wages — that’s the factor that accounts for the generally dismal public perception of this economy. Well, shareholders got more. Executives continued to get staggering pay packages. I’ll say this for America’s corporate executives: They certainly weren’t cowed by the Enron, Tyco, etc., scandals. Well, I’m sorry it didn’t work out the way the Republicans thought it would — that’s why many argued against such cuts in the first place. The question now is, so why do it again? Why give the oil industry more tax breaks? Why do they keep doing it? Is it ideology, or is it stupids ty? Corporate tax revenues are now at historic low levels as a share of federal revenue, going back to the 1930s. That means individuals have a much larger share of the total tax burden. One of my favorite tax cuts was the six-month, one-time special on foreign profits. Passed in 2004, this monumentally stupid piece of corporate pork was a special favor to drug and high-tech companies who had been storing their profits offshore. Then-Sen. John Breaux said at the time, “The company that left Louisiana is going to pay a 5 percent tax on the widgets they make overseas, and the company that stayed in Louisiana is going to pay a 35 percent tax. If that isn’t an incentive to leave, I don’t know what is.” The Republicans specifically rejected an amendment to that break that would have required the companies to invest the money. So did all those foreign profits flow home and get invested in new plants and create lots of jobs? minimum mm w cornier United States Government PRESIDENT ■ George W. Bush 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, D.C. 20500 SENATE ■ Kay Bailey Hutchison Russell Senate Office Building Room 284 Washington, D.C. 20510 Telephone: (202) 224-5922 Fax: (202) 224-0776 Web: (Send e-mails through Web site.) SAN ANTONIO OFFICE: 145 Duncan Drive, Suite 120 San Antonio 78226 Telephone: (210) 340-2885 Fax: (210) 349-6753 ■ John Cornyn Russell Senate-Hart Room 517 Washington, D.C. 20510 Telephone: (202) 224-2934 Fax: (202) 228-2856 Web: (Send e-mails through Web site.) AUSTIN OFFICE: 221 West Sixth St., Suite 1530 Austin 78701 Telephone: (512) 469-6034 Fax: (512) 469-6020 SAN ANTONIO OFFICE: 600 Navarro, Suite 210 San Antonio 78205 Telephone: (210) 224-7485 Fax: (210) 224-8569 CONGRESSMAN ■ Lamar Smith Rayburn House Office Building Room 2184 Washington, D.C. 20515 Telephone: (202) 225-4236 Fax: (202) 225-8628 Web address: (Send e-mails through Web site.) SAN ANTONIO OFFICE: 1100 NE Loop 410, Suite 640 San Antonio 78209 Telephone: (210) 821-5024 Fax: (210) 821-5947 ■ Henry Cuellar 1404 Longworth House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515 Telephone: (202) 225-1640 Fax: (202) 225-1641 Web address: SAN ANTONIO OFFICE: 1149 E. Commerce St., Suite 210 San Antonio 78205 Telephone: (210) 271-2851 Fax: (210) 277-6671 HOWTO CONTACT Texas Government i mn ii ! ‘1 1! • GOVERNOR ■ Rick Perry State Capitol, Room 2S.1 P.O. Box 12428 Austin 78711 Telephone: (800) 843-5789 Fax: (512) 463-1849 STATE HOUSE ■ Carter Casteel 254 E. Mill St. New Braunfels 78130 Telephone: (830) 627-0215 E-mail address: [email protected] STATE SENATE ■ Jeff Wentworth 1250 NE Loop 410, Suite 720 San Antonio 78209 Telephone: (210) 826-7800 WHILE IN AUSTIN: Telephone: (512) 463-0125 E-mail address: jeff. Wentworth ■ Judith Zaffirini RO. Box 627 Laredo 78042-0627 SAN ANTONIO OFFICE: 12702Toepperwein Road #214 San Antonio 78233 Telephone: (210) 657-0095 Fax: (210) 657-0262Campaign needed to free student debtors from punitive interest rate policy DICKMORRIS Dick Morris was an adviser to Bill Clinton for 20 years. Special-interest legislation doesn’t get much more obnoxious than the bill now making its way through Congress to clamp down on students and former students who want to refinance their loans at lower interest rates. They are about to be severely punished for seeking not only an education but a debt-free life afterward. While homeowners can refinance their mortgages as often as they want and relieve themselves of high-interest debt when rates cycle downward, student and former-student debtors are only permitted to refinance once for the lifetime of the loan. And now the House is considering legislation that would stop students who are in school from keeping their current interest rate of 4.75 percent and would instead force them to pay 7.9 percent, creating a lifetime burden entirely unjustified by the lending market. Many students are locked into rates that approach 9 or IO percent, reminders of the grim economic days of the early 1980s, and find themselves with no flexibility. Frequently, students use their once-only refinancing option shortly after graduation and find themselves helpless as the market interest rates drop ever lower. Home-mortgage refinancing, often similarly guaranteed by Fannie Mae, has become a huge industry and has given many families alternatives to bankruptcy as they face huge debt burdens. But student loan refinancing — beyond the one shot now permitted — is blocked by special-interest regulation and legislation. The legislative efforts by special interests reflect the power of the once quasipublic body Sallie Mae (Student Loan Marketing Association), which has now cut off all connection with the government and instead become a profit-making company unrelated to the government called the SLM Corp. With a 25 percent share of the student loan market — more than six times that of its rivals — SLM has cashed in on federal guarantees against defaults on the one hand and blocked student refinancing on the other. As a result, according to columnist Terry Savage, writing for, SLM has made a profit of I percent over its loan volume of $100 billion — $1 billion in profit. Since student loans constitute one-quarter of all outstanding loans, SLM has huge market power that it has not hesitated to translate into political clout through campaign contributions that water and nourish the Republicans who control the legislative process. In all, the SLM PAC contributed almost $140,000 to the members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee to lock in their preferential treatment. Once SJ^M abandoned its federal charter and went into business for itself, this public-private hybrid should have lost its quasi-governmental status and been forced to compete in the private marketplace like anyone else. All regulations restricting refinancing or consolidation should be repealed. If there was ever an area in which the Republicans should effectuate their rhetoric and deregulate, this is it. Student loans are the shackles that most young people take into the rest of their lives after leaving school. Keeping this debt hangover large and rendering it inflexible is about as antifamily a policy as you can get, forcing young people to postpone starting families because of the load of debt with which they begin life burdened. Yet it is the Democrats, led by Sen. Ted Kennedy (Mass.).^ho are most vociferous in battling for deregulation. For President Bush, desperately seeking traction with which to regain his popularity, a crusade on behalf of student debtors, announced in his State of the Union speech, might be just the ticket. Bush could help himself get out of political red ink by mitigating the financial red ink in which an entire generation finds itself mired. / ;