Plot against Ronald Reagan was nearly...

THE ASSASSINATION

February 17, 1992

THE ASSASSINATION plot against Ronald Reagan was nearly the perfect crime. What has blinded us until now is the survival of the intended victim.

Think about it. Was John Hinckley, that deluded loner obsessed with Jodie Foster, competent to overcome the invincible security that surrounded President Reagan?

Of course not! Hinckley was a dupe, possibly an innocent bystander. Note that he has been conveniently stashed in an asylum.

But if not Hinckley, who? Think some more. Who stood to gain from the death of Ronald Reagan?

Of course.

The bankers.

Recall the defining campaign promise of Mr. Reagan's politics: a balanced budget. In those early months of his presidency, Mr. Reagan had followed up rhetoric with the first actions that would have brought the budget into balance by the end of his first term.

But whose interest (pun! pun!) was at stake? The bankers'! A balanced budget would mean no borrowing to cover a deficit. Interest rates would fall. The bloated profits on which bankers feed would sag like a failed souffle. Mr. Reagan had to be stopped.

And so, one dire day in March, 1981, gunshots rang out on a Washington sidewalk. Though the president survived in body, he got the message. The dream of a balanced budget exploded like child's birthday balloon. The plot had succeeded.

* *

FIRST THE GOOD news. Property assessments are being lowered for 8,800 Baltimore homeowners whose property values have fallen, not risen, during the recession that has gripped this region. State assessors discovered the values they had placed on these homes was substantially higher than the actual sales prices.

So the government assessors decided to cut the value for tax purposes on these homes by an average of 10 percent. That's known as righting a wrong.

Now the bad news: In notifying homeowners of this money-saving decision, state bureaucrats winded up wasting taxpayer dollars. Instead of sending out the revised assessment notices in an ordinary envelope requiring a 29-cent stamp, officials opted for an oversized envelope necessitating a 39-cent stamp. That cost taxpayers $880 more than it should have.

Efficiency in government? Not this time.

* * *

ONE OF THE little-noted economic success stories in Asia bTC concerns Malaysia, a country sandwiched between financially overheated Thailand and booming Singapore.

This is no surprise to people who have handled Malaysian money. It's called Ringgit.

Smart investors simply ringgit to the bank.

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