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Lowers Fight the Good Fight Most liberal members of Congress are so limp and spiritless as to be almost unrecognizable. Whatever life there is in Washington exists at least on the liberal side among a few key Congressional staff personnel and in some of the consumer and environmental lobbies. Their main function is to keep the information flowing, keep giving propaganda transfusions \(meant in a nice way, since it is our In this group, none are more important than Dr. Milton Lower and his wife Ann. It was from them that most of the information in this article was obtained. They are fascinating Texans and, since they are chain smokers and therefore probably won’t be with us long, you’d better get to know them fast. Milton grew up in Wichita Falls. At the age of 12 he discovered that it was legal for somebody besides Franklin Roosevelt to be president, but still thinks it’s a bad law. He got his BA in political science from the University of Texas in 1954 and then, after wasting four years in the Air Force defending Eisenhower’s America, he returned to UT to pick up an MA in sociology. Naturally, that didn’t lead anywhere, so he next embarked on a PhD in economics and became a protege of the legendary gadfly Clarence Ayers. Along the Way Dr. Lower spent a couple of years in Chile and Mexico on fellowships, taking due note of the blessings brought to the Latin world by multinationals, and then taught at the University of Maryland and the University Educational Program in Texas-Oklahoma-Arkansas, he joined the House subcommittee on consumer protection, where he uncovered some entertaining stuff about an assortment of crooks. These days he is economist for the House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, and has for some time been specializing in energy affairs. Whenever Chairman John Dingell of the House Committee on Energy comes out swinging a fistful of statistics about how the oil companies are cheating us, those statistics have usually come from Milton. Ann is a native of San Antonio. She got her BA in history from UT in 1959, and did enough graduate work in economics at San Francisco State and at UT to get her PhD, if she ever finishes her dissertation. My guess is that she won’t because she is too much of an activist to sit still for that much writing. Her forte is running political campaigns. In 1972 she elected Ron Waters to the Texas legislature from Houston, and she was one of Houston Mayor Fred Hofheinz’s top political advisors from 1971 until 1976. In that year she became Congressman Bob Eckhardt’s administrative assistant and campaign director, and wore those two hats until he was buried under a ton of oil money in 1980. When Mrs. Lower moved over to become director of information for the Consumer Federation of America, that staid old outfit began to show life again. .I11111111111111111=1, windfall tax on the surging profits that will accompany decontrol. But Reagan the frustrated budget-balancer needs a windfall tax in the worst way. With it, he could cream off $20 billion or so and still leave the natural gas industry wallowing in its new riches. Unfortunately for Reagan, he shot off his mouth last July, when he was trying to get Oklahoma Congressman Glenn English’s vote in the budget battle, and promised English that he would “with pleasure” veto any bill that had a windfall profits tax in it. That promise was highly publicized. Reagan could not go back on it without losing face. So how is he to get around it? Mrs. Lower gives us the answer: “The only way, of course, would be for the oil companies themselves to urge Reagan to support a windfall profits tax. And that is what happened. In November, 3,000 or so oil men in Chicago and lo and behold the press headlines immediately blossomed with headlines like: ‘Majority of Oil Supports Windfall Profits Tax.’ Reagan can now say, ‘I didn’t want to do it the Devil made me.’ So with his coalition just about in place and oil supporting a windfall tax, the only thing in question is the date the legislation will take effect. come after the congressional elections is one position. Apparently some in the Administration feel that they can join the issue just as long as people aren’t yet feeling the pinch. Others argue they want the effective date set upon enactment. And still others want it retroactive to January 1, 1982.” Why would the oil and gas fellows be willing to accept even urge a windfall profits tax on the natural gas profits? Because they have found from pleasant experience remember the windfall profits tax Carter passed? that such taxes are nothing more than an inexpensive public relations gimmick. The U.S. Treasury got only a piddling fraction of the amount that Carter promised the tax would provide. A glance at the opposing lobbies shows how unequal the battle will be. On the people’s side are a few consumer organizations, such as Ms. Lower’s; the increasingly impotent AFL-CIO; public power associations, whose members are municipal ga”s companies; and about four dozen large private utilities. The Hit Men But boy oh boy, look at those musclebound hit men lined up against us: Of course there is the American Petroleum Institute, the loudest voice of the oil industry, with 350 corporate and 7,500 individual members, 500 employees, and an annual budget of $30 million. The API is some lobby. And then there is the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, all the heating oil dealers and the entire coal industry \(who see higher gas prices a sure way to help many of those fat producers in the Natural Gas Supply Association. One lobby on the enemy’s side worth special mention is the Chemical Manufacturing Association, whose members are the largest industrial users of natural gas. In a gesture that was supposed to mean it was putting the nation’s welfare over its own, the CMA informed Congressman Phil Gramm of Texas, who is the Administration’s front man on this issue, that it would support gas price deregulation even though it would mean much higher prices for CMA’s members. As Mrs. Lower points out, “What the CMA did not mention in its letter to Gramm was that, unlike utilities, chemical manufacturers can more easily pass increased costs on to the little consumer.” If natural gas prices are de-regulated, who will be hurt, and how much will it 12 JANUARY 29, 1982