Newsbits


In Whose Best Interest?

One bill that has been proposed as part of the "Contract with America" would limit punitive damages awarded in civil suits to $250,000 or three times the amount of actual damages awarded, whichever is greater. Punitive damages are awarded by juries on top of actual damages to express outrage or punish defendants for flagrant misconduct. Jury awards for such factors as pain and suffering would also be limited to $250,000 in medical malpractice cases. If such an amendment were in force, women would have been blocked from getting awards for damages for such problems as those caused in the 1950's and 1960's by DES, a drug that had been widely prescribed for morning sickness in pregnant women but resulted in severely defor-med babies.

Give to the Rich (Take From Guess Who?)

The House Ways and Means Committee has already approved billions of dollars in spending cuts for child welfare, food stamps, school lunches and other programs that mostly benefit the poor. Further cuts in Medicare and Medicaid are expected to be approved soon. Republicans in the House intend for these spending cuts to help pay for cutting taxes by almost $200 billion over the next five years. Proposed tax cuts include: Decreasing the top tax rate on capital gains, the profits from the sale of securities and other investments, from the current 28 percent to 19.8 percent. More generous depreciation rules for businesses with capital investment. Repeal the alternative minimum tax as it applies to businesses, an item in the tax code meant to make sure that profitable firms with large write-offs still pay some taxes. Lower estate and gift taxes.

Stamping Out Food Stamps

Twenty seven million people get food stamps. Benefits average $69 a month for each person, and total $23 billion of the annual federal budget. Currently, a family of three is eligible to receive food coupons if the family's monthly income is $1027 or less. House Republican proposals would cut $20 billion from the program over the next five years. People 18 to 50 years old without dependents would be denied food stamps after 90 days unless they were working at least 20 hours a week or were participating in a workfare program, according to House GOP documents. In workfare programs, people perform public service work in return for food stamp benefits, but the Republican proposal does not require states to operate such programs or provide money for them. Only half a dozen states have workfare, and the programs have a total of less than 10,000 participants nationwide. The bill would also deny food stamp benefits to legal immigrants.

Welfare For Who?

Counting mortgage interest and other home ownership tax breaks, the government spends more than four times as much on middle and upper income families than it does on poor families. While the money going to poor people has been shrinking over the past 25 years, the amount going to higher income people has increased. Here are a few of the numbers: In 1994, taxpayers spent $51 billion in direct subsidies to business and lost another $53 billion in special tax breaks for corporations, while spending $25 billion in food stamps and $15 billion for Aid to Families with Dependent Children. The Mortgage Interest Deduction, which goes almost entirely to wealthy Americans costs taxpayers $49 billion a year. Almost 90% of this amount goes to people with incomes over $40,000 a year. Over $30 billion a year is paid out to individuals or couples with annual incomes of over $100,000. In 1994, taxpayer subsidies to agribusiness amounted to $29.2 billion. The AFDC budget amounted to 1% of the savings and loan bailout expenditures.

No Homo Promo! (The Right Says Hetero is Bettero)

In step with renewed Republican frenzy in mandating (heterosexual) "Family Values," two bills were introduced in the House on February 8th which would prohibit the use of federal funds to "promote" homosexuality. One of the bills specifically purports "To stop the waste of taxpayer funds on activities by Government agencies to encourage its employees or officials to accept homosexuality as a legitimate or normal lifestyle." Such bills could be used to deny funding for schools which include homosexuality as any part of their curriculum, to deny grants to organizations who merely recognize same sex relationships, to deny sponsorship of artistic material which uses homosexuality as a subject, or to deny government benefits from same sex spousal equivalents that are routinely provided to heterosexual married couples. House of Representatives HR 862 IH: "...No Federal funds may be used directly or indirectly to promote, condone, accept, or celebrate homosexuality, lesbianism, or bisexuality." Senate S 317 IS: "...No funds appropriated out of the Treasury of the United States may be used by any entity to fund, promote, or carry out any seminar or program for employees of the Government, or to fund any position in the Government, the purpose of which is to compel, instruct, encourage, urge, or persuade employees or officials to (1) recruit, on the basis of sexual orientation, homosexuals for employment with the Government; or (2) embrace, accept, condone, or celebrate homosexuality as a legitimate or normal lifestyle."
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