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February 05, 1983 - Image 4

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1983-02-05

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4

OPINION

Pcge 4

Saturday, February 5, 1983

The Michigan Daily

Gie am itu ga aiLyi
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Vol. XCIII, No. 104

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
Toxic delay from the EPA

N THE BATTLE over Anne Gorsuch,
the U.S. House won a big victory
Wednesday that may eventually
provide relief for thousands whose
health is threatened by toxic waste
dumps.
A federal court judge dismissed a
suit filed by the Reagan adminisration
on behalf of the embattled Environ-
mental Protection Agency head. The
suit had challenged a contempt of
,Congress citation levied on Gorsuch
because she had withheld information
from Congress.
The House had subpoened thousands
of documents detailing how Gorsuch is
spending a multi-billion dollar super-
fund earmarked for toxic waste
cleanup. After conferring with
President Reagan, she decided to
withhold several documents essential
to the investigation.
The affair, especially Gorsuch's
delaying tactics, raises some
interesting questions about what is and
isn't being done to clean up the
thousands of toxic waste sites - many
of them in Michigan - that threaten
the health and safety of hundreds of

thousands of people. Is the
following through on orders to
these sites up? Is Anne Gorsuch
her job?

EPA
clean
doing

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The only way Congress can answer
these questions is by looking at the
documents Gorsuch is withholding.
Her reasons for not complying with the
House request are flimsy at best. Tur-
ning over these documents will hardly
hinder the EPA's efforts to hasten the
clean up operations, unless, of course,
Gorsuch is hindering the process her-
self.
The Reagan administration has been
less than friendly towards just about
every sort of environmental concern.
The administration has already cut
funds used to investigate the effects of
acid rain (so as to cripple that
project), and unleased James Watt on
the nation's offshore and wilderness
areas. Could it be the administration is
now guilty of complacency in cleaning
up deadly toxic waste sites?
Perhaps the documents Gorsuch is
hiding provide some concrete proof of
this complacency. In any case, the
people deserve to know where their
money is being spent.

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4

f

Who needs OPEC?'
Maybe everyone does

4

Guns for
T STARTED off as a protest against
a federal hike in fuel and road use
taxes, but since then the independent
truckers' strike has degenerated into a
deplorable level of violence.
More than 500 trucks have been at-
tacked by gun- and club-toting
truckers trying to coerce their less
militant counterparts to join them.
Already, one person has been
:uthlessly killed. And yesterday
marked the first strike-related arrest
in Michigan of a man who allegedly
slot at a truck and car in Detroit.
What the truckers want is for
Congress to scrap or at least reduce
the measures they claim will hike their
federal taxes more than 300 percent.
The government has put the figure
closer to just double what truckers pay
now, but the independents insist the in-
dustry will be devastated when the
taxes take effect April 1.

dthe road

Beyond all the bickering about the
relative effects the taxes will have, few
are questioning the truckers' right to
strike or lobby Congress. But by
calling a strike now, nearly two mon-
ths before the law takes effect, and en-
forcing it with guns, they have aban-
doned the very process that was meant
to serve them.
The battle that was originally begun
and fought out in Congress back in
December, belongs in the political
arena, not on the roads. Guns should
not be used to force the trucking in-
dustry off the road, nor do they have
any place in influencing congressional
decisions.
But instead of relying on political
processes, simple-minded zealots have
brought them out and used them in-
discriminately against innocent people
where the only real influence they can
have is to terrorize and outrage.

By Franz Schurmann
There is no major international
organization, not even the Kremlin Politburo,
which is so loathed by the U.S. public as
OPEC. Thus, when the Geneva OPEC
meeting to set world oil output and prices fell
apart into bitter wrangling in late January,
much of the American reaction was gleeful:
Let the band of thieves cut each others'
throats-and lift millstones off the necks of
depressed consumers allover the world.
So much the better if the finely attired co-
conspirators of this oil Mafia, the big-oil
executives, saw their stock and profits take a
nosedive. And if the monopoly power of
OPEC and the oil corporations were broken,
the big banks might finally get out of the in-
ternational financial game and resume exten-
ding investment credit to small businesses
and ordinary citizens.
LOATHING OF foreign capital, big cor-
porations, and mighty banks is a good old
American tradition. Around the beginning of
this century, rising populist sentiment broke
much of the monopolies' power through anti-
trust legislation. There is no denying that it
worked then: The United States rapidly ex-
perienced a mighty upsurge of production and
consumption, reflected in the evolution of the
automobile from an expensive toy for the rich
to a daily necessity for most people.
But there are good grounds for concluding
that it is not going to happen again this time in
the same way.
A look at the experts' reaction to the Geneva
fiasco finds some analysts arguing that the
expected price drop will be good for the
economy, others that it will be bad. Common
to just about all the comments, however, is
that any precipitate drop in prices now would
be just as catastrophic as the 400 percent
price hike in late 1973 was for the world's non-
Communist economies.
BUT ISN'T competition always the name of
the game in capitalist economies? Absolutely
not. As Thornton Bancroft, former president
of Atlantic Richfield Company, observed
many years ago, there has never been a free
market in oil.
For years the state and treasury depar-
tments have refused to launch antitrust ac-
tions against the big oil companies. Never-
theless, all the evidence indicates that these
companies formed an international oil cartel
very similar to OPEC.
Traditionally, evidence of monopoly is a
price rigidity which would be impossible un-
der normal competitive conditions. But as
figures released in the early '70s by the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) showed, world oil
prices from 1950 to 1970, aside from,.one tiny
blip, formed a near ruler-perfect line. The
slight instability blip occurred at the time of
the 1958 crisis that resulted in U.S. Marines
being dispatched to Lebanon.
IN A SENSE, what some refer to as oil's
"historic price stability" is a politer way of
saying "monopoly pricing." Yet before suc-
cumbing to American-as-apple-pie populism,

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1970, so quietly that only the readers of
business journals were aware of the
development. The goal was a smooth transfer
of stewardship over world oil prices from an
Anglo-American cartel to one essentially
dominated by two good friends of the United
States and Britain: Saudi Arabia and Iran.
It was the political and military turmoil of
the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war that
sparked the oil shock, not OPEC greed. By
the mid-1970s, OPEC indeed began to function
smoothly, like a cartel, and predictably oil
prices stabilized. They were only disrupted
again by a political event: the Islamic
revolution in Iran in November, 1978. And
though prices rose then, beginning in 1980
they settled back down, finally stabilizing and
even falling as a result of a Saudi-engineered
oil glu1t.The stocmarket took noteof this as

it-went on its euphoric spree last August, just
as it reacted with a drop when the Geneva
talks broke down.
The warning signs therefore are clear. If
OPEC were to dissolve into the band of
thieves so many Americans seem to think
they are, the results- for the consumer would
more likely be disastrous than delightful. Oil
is bought in large bulk by giant organizations,
planning for the long term. With so many of
them already on the brink of financial
disaster, the collapse of OPEC could well
ignite the 1930-style global depression which
people have been openly dreading for several
years.

I

Schurmann wrote this article for the
Pacific News Service.

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