Funds are routinely looted

  Dear HCN,


Jon Margolis often has interesting insights, but his article titled "The Land and Water Fund waits to be tapped" naively misses the bigger picture (HCN, 2/16/98). It is true that the Land and Water Trust Fund is not managed like a trust fund dedicated to conserving land and water.


But the misuse of federal trust funds is typical.


As I write, S. 1173, which reauthorizes the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), authorizes $50 million for parkways and $20 million for wildlife refuges. Some highway users must wonder why environmental lobbyists are pressuring Congress to "loot" the Highway Trust Fund to purchase wildlife habitat. This is fine with me, but I cannot complain about mismanagement of the Land and Water Trust Fund and ignore the mismanagement of the Highway Trust Fund.


Margolis failed to observe that the granddaddy trust fund - the Social Security Trust Fund - is a joke. There is no trust fund and there are no trustees. The taxes deducted from workers' pay checks today are used to pay current obligations of retired folks and the remainder is spent on all manner of things, including national defense, welfare and the salaries of federal employees.





Craig S. Harrison


Washington, D.C.








The writer is an environmental attorney.


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