Focus Point – Clearing Up Fuzzy Math

A decade ago, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics backed something called "fuzzy math." Its purpose was for kids to understand what they were doing, rather than to get the right answer. Now, though, they've changed their mind: they're for accuracy. They've even recommended — gasp — memorizing math tables.

Clearing the Air About the Bush Environmental Record

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush's environmental record as Texas governor has come under heightened scrutiny for two reasons. First, his record could indicate the types of policies he would pursue as president. Second, his likely opponent, Vice President Al Gore, is closely associated with environmental causes. Gore wrote a book warning of an impending environmental crisis, was chosen as President Clinton's running mate in 1992 largely to garner the environmental vote and is often touted as an environmental leader by groups pressing "green" issues.

Should the Fed Raise Margin Requirements?

On March 21, the Federal Reserve raised both the federal funds rate (the interest rate banks charge each other on loans) and the discount rate (the interest rate the Fed charges banks) by another 25 basis points (1/4th of 1 percent). In the wake of this latest increase, growing numbers of economists and politicians are starting to question the Fed's action. They are asking why farmers, small businesses and home buyers must be punished when the Fed's principal target appears to be the stock market. They are urging the Fed to raise margin requirements (the maximum percent of an investment that can be made with funds investors borrow from their brokers) instead of raising interest rates.

Focus Point – Two Tax Notes

Two tax notes, in case you missed them. Six years after the republicans took over the house, the tax bite continues to rise. In its annual report, Americans for tax reform tells us tax freedom day comes later again; the average American now works until may 3rd to pay his taxes, and only after that begins working for himself. Since 1992, the year Bill Clinton was elected, the date has moved from April 20th. So despite the rollicking prosperity of the '90s, you're still paying more taxes. Tax cut anybody?

Focus Point – Why Local is Better

A remarkably candid report from the United Nations development program has admitted what many people have known for a long time: that poverty is often the result of bad central government. And good local government is the best way to fight poverty.

Focus Point – Gas Price Follies

Conservatives are demanding the government cut the gasoline tax. Liberals say we can't afford to cut the tax because Washington needs the money, and besides, the only way to cure Americans of their evil addiction to cars is to raise gas prices, not lower them.

Focus Point – Turning Off Electric Cars

One of the most ill-advised, scientifically dubious, politically driven environmental moves of recent years may be headed for the ash bin of history. California may be backing down on its early-'90s initiative to require sales of battery-powered electric cars in the state. California has a mandate requiring that the equivalent of 10 percent of cars and light trucks sold in the state, as of 2003 emit no pollution. That would total 22,000 battery-powered vehicles each year.

Focus Point – Child Labor

It's the classic liberal reaction: the United States should do good by attacking child labor in other countries, where child labor is often the difference between a family's eating and starving.

Focus Point – Saving Social Security

I have good news and bad news. The good news: the nation's economy grew at an unbelievable 7.3 percent in the last quarter of '99. The bad news: the boom has pushed Social Security's bankruptcy date back three years, to 2037.

A Successful Educational Melting Pot

The Dover Elementary School in Richardson, Texas, a Dallas suburb, presents its teachers with a different type of challenge from most schools. For almost half of Dover's 450 students, English is not the first language. That's not so unusual any longer in many parts of the United States. What is unusual is that they speak 27 different first languages.