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April 21, 1997 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1997-04-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

8- The Michigan Daily - Monday, April 21, 1997


Town hit
The Washington Post
GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Ravaged
first by record flooding and then by
huge fires that spread unchecked in the
swamped downtown district, most of
this beleaguered North Dakota city
was under mandatory evacuation
orders and a 24-hour curfew yesterday.
Authorities threatened to use National
Guard troops to arrest residents who
have refused to leave their homes.
With the city's water supply danger-
ously contaminated and its sanitary
sewer system collapsed after the Red
River of the North spilled over some
dikes and saturated others until they
collapsed, tens of thousands of resi-
dents continued fleeing to emergency
But authorities said hundreds -
perhaps thousands - of holdouts
remained in the flooded downtown
area, parts of which were left with
nothing but burned-out shells of high-.
rise buildings from raging weekend
fires that for the most part were inac-
cessible to firemen because the flood
water there was 10 feet deep.
One four-block area of downtown
had an eerie look that was reminiscent
of Dresden, Germany, after World War
II, with at least 11 multi-story build-
ings destroyed or damaged beyond
recognition. The skeletons of the gut-
ted buildings rose from the muddy
river overflow and, in some cases, con-
tinued to smoulder despite the torrent

Kerrey puts CPI 0
issue in stark
generational terms

North Dakota National Guard troops patrol Demers Avenue in downtown Grand Forks, N.D., early Saturday morning after
dikes and sewers collapsed throughout the town, causing three feet of water to flood the streets.

of water surrounding them.
Grand Forks Fire Chief Richard
Aulich said most of the blazes had
been contained, but firefighters were
still extinguishing "hot spots" using
boats, helicopters and an oversized fire
truck from nearby Grand Forks Air
Force Base that can operate in water 8
feet deep.
Aulich said the cause of the fires
was unknown, but he suspected that
damaged gas pipes had ignited.
Incongruously, it is in this area
where emergency management offi-
cials say a large number of residents
are refusing to leave, despite the wors-
ening and potentially dangerous water
and sewer conditions and no supply of
fresh food. Grocery stores and restau-

rants have been inundated and are
Rescue operations with boats
were stepped up yesterday afternoon
as authorities pleaded with residents
to hang white sheets from their
roofs to identify inhabited build-
"1 have no idea how many people
are left downtown, but there is a very
high level of concern for those people.
We are going to have to get them out,"
Jim Campbell, Grand Forks emer-
gency management director, said at a
news conference at a makeshift opera-
tions center at the University of North
Dakota campus.
Because of continuously rising
water, the operations center had to

be moved twice in the last three
days, and Campbell said even the
university's relatively high ground
is now threatened.
Officials said 3 1/2 square miles
within the city were completely under
water, ranging from a few feet to more
than 10 feet deep.
Campbell said that if residents
downtown continue to ignore the
evacuation orders, "We'll forcibly
remove them for their own protec-
He said some of the residents seri-
ously endangered themselves by going
to rooftops Saturday to watch as heli-
copters and fixed-wing aircraft
dropped water on nearby burning

Senator says small
decrease in Inflation
index will aid future
Bob Kerrey, the debate over devising a
more accurate measure of inflation isn't
a mathematical abstraction.
In his view, the matter boils down to
whether older Americans - political
giants in Washington - will accept los-
ing some of their federal retirement
benefits to help a new generation attend
college without swamping themselves
in debt.
The key element pushing that ques-
tion is a proposal before the administra-
tion and Congress for a slight reduction
in the Consumer Price Index, or CPI.
"We've got to say to people over 65
this adjustment is critical if we are
going to be able to continue to say our
middle class is growing," Kerrey (D-
Neb.) said at a Senate Finance
Committee hearing.
"I think we need to say to people over
the age 65, that unless we make the
adjustment, there are going to be
American children who graduate from
high school who will not be able to
send kids to college."
The hearing was focused on the
Clinton budget proposal's tax incen-
tives for education and ways to reduce
the crushing debts of college students,
which can reach $90,000 or more upon
Kerrey said these debt levels are
destructive to society. He proposed
financing additional college grants and
other aid with savings generated by
reducing the CPI.
Posing the issue as a choice between
the generations puts a novel and dra-
matic spin on the long-running debate
over the Consumer Price Index. The
index is used to make annual cost-of-
living adjustments for Social Security
and other retirement programs and to
adjust the income tax to remove the
impact of inflation.
In December, a panel of promi-
nent economists led by Michael
Boskin found the CPI overstates
inflation. Panel members recom-
mended reducing the index by 1.1
percent annually, a change that
would generate an estimated $1 tril-
lion in budget savings over 12 years.
That enormous sum could be redi-

rected toward a variety of goa*
ranging from tax cuts to social pro-
A CPI reduction is a major unre-
solved issue in this year's budget talks,
with Senate Finance Comnmittee Chair
William Roth Jr. (R-Del.) advocating
using savings from a C0I reduction to
finance deep tax cuts. ' lso favoring
CPI reduction is Sen. Dniel Moynihan
(D-N.Y.) the finance comimittee's rank-
ing Democrat. I
Talk of adopting th' Boskin com-
mission's CPI reduction has riled
powerful lobbies for enior citizens
and labor unions and even became a
theme in last year's p sidential cam-
paign as Presi dent linton blasted
Republicans for Wanting to cut
Medicare spending.
David Certner, jAARP's senior
economics coordinator, said the
over-50s advocacyl group suppo*
an accurate Cons mer Price Index
but believes it shqkild be righted by
the Bureau of abor Statistics,
which publishes it. To Certner,
politicians like K rrey are using the
argument over CPI's accuracy for
other purposes.
"It's nice to be Able to argue accu-
racy, but clearly he has been in favor
of a cut beforei the CPI debate,"
Certner said. "Td say CPI should
lowered to pay ;for education, th
does not say anything about the
accuracy of CPUI'
In 1994, Kerey and former Sen.
John Danforth (R-Mo.) headed a bipar-
tisan entitlement and tax reform panel
that in 1994 recdmmended a number of
long range charges, including a CPI
Certner's American Association of
Retired Perso s has calculated t
trimming the PI, as Boskin propos
would lead td a $5,000 reduction in
benefits for th# average Social Security
recipient over a decade.
Without the change, Kerrey con-
tends, the federal budget rapidly will
become consumed with mandated
spending for seniors and other benefits
Currently, 66 percent of the budget
goes to mandated spending. In fi
years, that 4ill be 70 percent. Seen tI
way, Kerrey regards the CPI change as
critical to the long-term health of the
budget andthe economy's future expan-



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