California Needs Higher Taxes, Part 1 - September 29, 2003

Times Watch for September 29, 2003

California Needs Higher Taxes, Part 1

As California Gov. Gray Davis chances of keeping his job diminish (judging by the most recent Gallup poll) Charlie LeDuff attempts to raise doubts about the current leader, Arnold Schwarzenegger. LeDuffs Monday story from the campaign trail characterizes the Republican actors campaign push as a feel-good exercise that ignores the need for tax hikes: Promising deliverance without sacrifice and a balanced budget without tax increases, Mr. Schwarzenegger made it clear he considered the recall race in its final days to have boiled down to two choices: himself and Mr. Davis. Embarking on a salt-of-the-earth and baby-hugging tour across California today, the Republican action-movie hero depicted the election as a referendum on Mr. Davis's tenure, and painted a bleak picture of the state's financial condition, with businesses and residents pouring out to seek better lives in the Nevada desert.

For more of LeDuffs take on the Schwarzenegger campaign, click here.

California | Charlie LeDuff | Recall | Arnold Schwarzenegger | Taxes

California Needs Higher Taxes, Part 2

LeDuff isnt the only Times reporter suggesting Schwarzenegger would have to raise taxes as governor. Dean Murphys Sunday Week in Review piece deals with the California recall from a budgetary angle, focusing on Proposition 53, which according to Murphy would set aside up to 3 percent of the state's general fund for things like new roads, sewer improvements and public building renovations.

Murphy calls it a quintessential example of California's propensity for ballot box budgeting, a trend that when matched with the state's formidable obstacles to raising taxes, has tied Mr. Davis's hands in keeping the state fiscally afloat. Over the summer, confronted with a $38.2 billion deficit and a Republican legislative caucus refusing tax increases, Mr. Davis was forced to make unpopular cuts in spending while also papering over much of the crisis until next year.

As of the summer of 2003, Davis had been California governor for nearly five years. Surely he bears some responsibility for the increase in the deficit over that time (such as the hiring of over 50,000 additional state employees). As staff writer Beth Barrett notes in the Los Angeles Daily News, Under Gov. Gray Davis, California went on its biggest spending spree in at least 50 years, driving up the cost of the government by 22 percent and the cost to each resident by 20 percent.

Instead, Times reporter Murphy fingers formidable obstacles to raising taxes and the stubborn anti-tax hike Republican caucus as obstacles to fighting the deficit. Never mind that Democrats dominate Republicans 48-32 in the California state assembly and 25-15 in the state senate, making an overall pro-Democratic margin of over 60%.

Murphy concludes by seeing a bright spot on the horizon; a Schwarzenegger win could mean a tax hike! If Mr. Schwarzenegger were elected with a broad base of support that extended beyond Republicans, he might be able to persuade enough Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature that a tax increase was the only way out. Mr. Schwarzenegger's aides don't like to talk about that possibility.

Murphy even cites former California governor Ronald Reagan to bolster the pro tax-hike argument: But there would be ample historical precedent. As governor, both Pete Wilson, who is a chairman of Mr. Schwarzenegger's campaign, and Mr. Reagan, who is one of Mr. Schwarzenegger's political idols, presided over some of the biggest tax increases in California history.

For the rest of Dean Murphys story on Californias budget crisis, click here.

Budget | California | Gov. Gray Davis | Dean Murphy | Recall | Taxes

Seine Fever

Its Seine fever in the Sunday Times Week in Review, with two articles defending France against allegations of anti-Americanism. First up is Paris-based correspondent Elaine Sciolino, who interviews French President Jacques Chirac and concludes that the current spate of French-U.S. unpleasantries boil down to a lack of communication: What is often missed is that the French just haven't been very good at telling their side of the story. In the softball interview, she says of Chirac: No one has ever accused the French president of being an intellectual or a strategic thinker. He is a down-to-earth leader who looks at the world through the prism of the practical, not the ideological.

In the interview, Chirac reveals that Algeria shapes his thinking on Iraq-an ominous sign, considering what France was accused of doing in their former colony. As the BBC noted in a story from 2001: It has long been common knowledge that French troops tortured Algerians, but France has never acknowledged it publicly. But Sciolino doesnt raise that touchy issue, nor does she note that France invested substantially in Saddam's regime for over 30 years, a point that makes Chiracs leadership look more amoral than merely practical.

For the rest of Sciolinos interview with Chirac, click here.

Anti-French Frat-Boy Frenzy!

Another Sunday Week in Review story also comes to Frances defense. In For Americans, Its French Sissies Versus German He-Men, Nina Bernstein wonders why the U.S. picks on France while leaving Germany alone. Her answer: Sexism.

She complains of an anti-French frat-boy frenzy sweeping the U.S.: No one poured schnapps down the toilet, renamed sauerkraut or made prime-time jokes denigrating German manhood. Only France can evoke that kind of frat-boy frenzy. To support her argument, Bernstein quotes Ann Douglas, a Bush-bashing cultural historian at Columbia University: A female France, seen as the bastion of sensual pleasure and elite cultural refinement, is a made-to-order enemy for the Texan in the White House, Ms. Douglas contended. With a sagging American economy, and the fear of appearing weak that often underlies aggressive masculinity, she said, French-bashing has new political appeal. I think George Bush is carrying around a tremendous amount of anger, Ms. Douglas added, and a lot of men are tapping into that.

For the rest of Nina Bernsteins story on the French-German double standard, click here.