Robyn Gearey

Recent Articles

Devil in the Details

HERITAGE HYPOCRISY I It's no secret that the Heritage Foundation is conservative, but there's a significant distinction between advocating an ideology and actively assisting a candidate for political office. Doing the former is common among tax-exempt nonprofit groups like Heritage and its liberal counterparts; doing the latter is illegal. Heritage's support of Bob Dole's presidential campaign dangles right on the edge of illegality. In exchange for Dole's signature on a fundraising letter, Heritage gave the candidate one-time use of its mailing list for his own fundraising purposes. The Internal Revenue Service prohibits tax-exempt organizations from attempting to influence the outcome of an election. Giving something of value, like a mailing list, to a political candidate would certainly violate this regulation. John von Kannon, a Heritage spokesman, argues that it was a fair trade, and thereby legitimate. "We have determined that the value of his signature is equal to the value of...

Devil in the Details

QUANTITATIVELY CHALLENGED I n a March 28 editorial, the Wall Street Journal commented that "'Learning disabled' is one of those ephemeral but handy categories . . . particularly handy, it turns out, for well-heeled high schoolers hoping to score well on their college boards." The editorial referred to reports questioning whether the waiver of time limits on SAT exams for learning-disabled students was being abused. Using figures from the Educational Testing Service, the Journal notes that the number of learning-disabled students taking the SAT has risen from 18,000 in 1991 to an estimated 30,000 this year. "To qualify as 'learning disabled,'" the writer says, "you need parents who will foot a $1,000 bill to get you the certificate." Are rich kids really buying learning-disabled status to get more time to finish the test? Look again: Since the total number of students taking the SAT has gone up in the last five years, it's not surprising that more learning-disabled students are taking...

Devil in the Details

FLAT FOOTED I t wasn't all that long ago that the nation was chuckling over Jerry Brown, his 800 number, and his 19 percent flat tax. But this time around, the Republican presidential candidates proposing similar plans seemed to win respectful attention. Supposedly, the idea commanded broad popular support. As proof, the right touted an article published in Reader's Digest (Rachel Wildavsky, "How Fair Are Our Taxes?" February 1996) citing an extensive October 1995 poll. Based on the poll, Steve Forbes, Phil Gramm, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and company contended that all income groups backed a flat tax. The Reader's Digest 's summary of the poll conveniently left out a few things. It reported that the people surveyed thought that 20 percent was a fair tax rate for everyone, regardless of income. But a look at the full text of the poll, conducted by Everett C. Ladd of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut, revealed that when...

Devil in the Details

TIMING IS EVERYTHING R epublicans want to make sure voters have a proper appreciation of their efforts in time for the 1996 elections. Under the budget plan they approved this past November, tax cuts would apply partially to 1995 and checks for special refunds on 1995 taxes would be mailed out in--guess when--October 1996. On the other hand, the elderly would not see higher Medicare premiums reflected in their Social Security checks until January 1997. Under the pending telecommunications legislation, cable television rates would be deregulated, but a little-noticed provision delays any rate increases until just after November 1996. Now you've noticed. WELFARE FOR BANKS, ONE MORE TIME R eaders of this column may recall the Republicans' disdain for direct lending, a popular Clinton administration reform of the student loan program. [...

Cosmopolitics

G eorge Washington famously disdained faction. In his farewell address, he warned the nation against the "baneful effects of the spirit of party." This dislike for partisanship may be the only connection between Washington and his namesake, the magazine George. Editor John F. Kennedy, Jr. describes George as post-partisan, an effort to engage more people in civic life by making politics more fun. George , of course, has been widely ridiculed by its media peers, as " Cosmo without the intellectual content." Boston Globe media critic Mark Jurkowitz dubbed it "a political fanzine . . . clearly mired in an adolescent worship of glitz and glamour." Harper 's editor Lewis Lapham referred to George as "the political magazine from which the politics had been tactfully removed." The New Republic accused young Kennedy of "squander[ing] the most valuable remainder of his father's legacy," namely the elder Kennedy's belief that public figures should display dignity, at least in public. But the...