Thursday, March 11, 2010

Editorial: Taxpayers might be out of money

The unnamed Courier editor notices that the Chino Valley school override failed, infers that voters simply can't afford the additional tax, and expands that into a victory lap for the idea that any new taxes are bad.

We've certainly been hearing an awful lot of noise lately from people who think they are Taxed Enough Already, and they have a point. But what they and the editor fail to notice is that there's an important group of citizens who draw benefits from our society out of all proportion to their numbers and who are certainly not taxed enough: the rich.

These well-heeled folks have the resources to deflect the media away from themselves and frame the tax debate entirely on their own terms. But informed voters know that during the Bush years the tax burden rose on the middle class to the benefit of the top 20% of earners.

The editor is surely not in the lofty brackets that would have to give up a couple of toys to restore even the gross tax inequities that Reagan brought down on us. But he's clearly bought into the idea that the rich have no responsibility to give back, even where it means less education for our kids.

Letter: Radio electioneering gives undue advantage

Today's letter from Steve Chontos is probably directed at Councilman Steve Blair and his daily for-profit AM show, but it's an issue for me too, since I've been producing a weekly public-radio show with LD1 Rep Lucy Mason for over seven years.

Until last year the FCC allowed elected officials to maintain regular broadcast appearances even during elections if the content did not involve direct electioneering. Last year the rules changed, and now candidates whether incumbent or not are not permitted unrebuttable airtime.

But even at the beginning, under the old rules, I have always been concerned about the perception that the show might serve for political gain, and careful to avoid that sort of conflict.

I designed the show specifically to provide vital public information in the form of regular reports on what our representative is doing at the Legislature. This inevitably involves political opinion as she explains her bills, votes and choices. When she's been up for reelection we have very deliberately stayed clear of any talk about the campaigns, opponents or future plans that might be taken as campaign promises to keep the show clean and, most important, credible and trustworthy. We can't disconnect entirely from the reality of electoral politics, but I think overall we've been very successful in maintaining a public-interest program of high integrity.

In considering this issue, voters should ask themselves what's more important -- direct information from your elected officials on what they're doing and why, or reducing the electoral advantage of incumbents by shutting them up. Carried to its logical end, Mr Chontos' argument would ban any public speech by an elected official that does not include equal time by a political opponent.

Spanish Census banner comes down after complaints

Councilcritters Hanna and Blair seem to be making all the news lately, this time by demanding the removal of a banner in Spanish promoting participation in the census.

Never mind the blatant racism inherent in their indignation over something so benign (and so required by law, by the way). Forget that this entire region of the country was wrested by force from a well established Spanish-speaking culture only 160-odd years ago. What I want to focus on is how this cultural cowardice affects us all in terms of lost funds.

Joanna applies some good research in noting that ten years ago only 400 Hispanic residents of everybody's hometown returned their forms. I'd bet that represents an undercount of around an order of magnitude. I expect that the census professionals were able to fill in some of that with sampling, but it still means a significant loss of funds for the city and underrepresentation for us in both state and federal government for the decade since.

So because a few whiny hotheads are threatened when they see signs they can't read, we all lose money and political clout. In a citizen that's just stupid, but in a public servant that has to amount to nothing less than official malfeasance.

Update, Friday: This is getting some national attention -- Crooks and Liars featured the Courier story today.