- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2002

The Jersey taxman

How long did it take for New Jersey's new Democratic governor, James E. McGreevey, "to turn to tax hikes as the way to fill a sizable budget hole?" the New York Post asks.

"Two days," the newspaper noted in an editorial.

"Despite his campaign promise reiterated the day after his election that he would 'not consider any tax increases,' McGreevey last Thursday announced that his pledge would be limited to income and sales taxes.

"Which means that New Jersey's property-tax rebates likely will soon be history. And a host of sin taxes and other user fees will be winding their way through the Democratic-controlled state Legislature.

"'Literally every option is on the table, with the exception of increasing sales and income taxes,' said the new governor on his second day in office.

"And to ensure that he lives up to both ends of the Democrats' wholly justified 'tax and spend' label, McGreevey used his first executive order to mandate the use of union labor by state agencies.

"That not only excludes from government contracts the 80 percent of New Jersey workers who don't belong to labor unions, it also will probably boost the cost of public construction projects by 20 percent… .

"In his first hours in office, McGreevey seems to be following the course of New Jersey's last Democratic governor, who also said 'never mind' after vowing not to raise taxes.

"Trenton's new chief executive might want to give some thought to what happened to Jim Florio the next time he had to face the voters. It wasn't pretty."

The forgotten state

Amid all the attacks on George W. Bush in Democratic Chairman Terry McAuliffe's speech Saturday to the party's national committee, "one issue was noticeably absent: Not once did McAuliffe say the word 'Florida,'" Byron York writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

"In fact, he made no reference to the election of 2000 at all, and mentioned Al Gore just once, almost in passing, when he praised the 'values that powered the Clinton-Gore agenda.'

"Indeed, the disputed election, which was such a crowd-pleaser just a year ago, disappeared nearly completely from the podium on the final day of the DNC winter meeting. House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt briefly urged Democrats to make sure 'that the kind of elections we had in Florida and other places around this country last year in 2000 don't happen again.' But otherwise, Florida was gone. Even the T-shirt and button sellers didn't seem to care, beyond pushing a few 'Re-Elect Gore in 2004' bumper stickers," Mr. York said.

"It was obvious well before September 11 that the general public no longer cared about the disputed election and the alleged illegitimacy of the Bush presidency. What was striking about the DNC winter meeting was that it was no longer necessary even to give lip service to Florida when speaking before the party's hardest-core, most die-hard activists.

"Yes, the war is a factor, but it didn't stop McAuliffe from attacking Bush on taxes, Social Security, Medicare, and other issues. Instead, it seems that McAuliffe and Democratic strategists have realized that after public indifference, a fizzled media recount, and failed books on the topic, there is simply no evidence that even the party faithful care about Florida anymore."

Bad farm policy

"When the Senate resumes its session this week, boosters of the Daschle-Harkin farm bill, supported by almost the entire agriculture lobby, will demand the bill's swift passage. This would be a serious public-policy mistake that would harm most farmers and their fellow citizens," Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, wrote yesterday in an op-ed piece in the New York Times.

"Passage of the Daschle-Harkin bill would halt attempts to reform America's distorted agriculture policy. It would, indeed, commit still more money to that policy: adding $73.5 billion over 10 years, on top of the $98.5 billion that would go to maintaining current programs. Such huge increases are out of line at a time when the United States is fighting a sluggish economy and a life-or-death war on terrorism," Mr. Lugar said.

"Ineffective agriculture policy has, over the years, led to a ritual of overproduction in many crops and most certainly in the heavily supported crops of corn, wheat, cotton, rice and soybeans and the protected specialty products like milk, sugar and peanuts. The government has provided essentially a guaranteed income to producers of these crops. So those farmers keep producing more crops than the market wants, which keeps the price low so low that these farmers continually ask the government for more subsidies, which they get."

Weary of war

Political posturing "only goes so far in explaining the current Enron enthusiasm," USA Today columnist Walter Shapiro writes.

"The truth is that four months after the worst terrorist attacks in history, both the nation's political elite and the press pack have grown weary with the war against al Qaeda," Mr. Shapiro said.

"Maybe the cause is the truncated attention span that accompanies the 24-hour news cycle, or maybe it's the chilling knowledge that we're a long way from eradicating terrorist threats. But what is unmistakable is that the television logos heralding 'America's New War' now look old.

"Yet this is precisely the wrong moment to change channels in search of diverting scandal coverage. The ease of the victory over the Taliban should not lull citizens into believing that Afghanistan is now pacified or that the American strategy has been fully vindicated."

An off-the-wall report

"Afghans may have danced in the street and ripped off their burkhas when the war on terror liberated them from the Taliban. But judging from the latest survey by Human Rights Watch, the world might have been better off had the Taliban liberated Washington, D.C., instead," the Wall Street Journal observes in an editorial.

"We exaggerate only slightly. In its annual survey of rights around the world, released last week, Human Rights Watch devotes at least three times as much critical space to America as to any other country. And it treats the war on terror as a far greater threat to humanity than terrorism itself. Many of our liberal friends have been bragging that the blame-America-first left has vanished since September 11. Well, it's back, and running Human Rights Watch," the newspaper said.

The newspaper added: "We hardly think the U.S. is immune from criticism, and as a rich democracy it should be held to the highest standards. But this report is off the wall. It harks back to the kind of left-wing moral equivalence we haven't seen since the fall of the Berlin Wall. A Democrat who wants to be president would be smart to slap it down hard and publicly.

"All the more so because the real loser here is the cause of human rights itself. Human rights are about universal moral standards, not someone's narrow political agenda. This report is all about the latter and its cynicism will only make people skeptical whenever they hear the phrase 'human rights.' Maybe the authors need to spend a week or two with the Taliban to relearn some basic moral distinctions."

Same old Moyers

Bill Moyers has a new program on PBS, but viewers got the same old liberal pontification they've come to expect, the Media Research Center's Brent Baker writes.

"On Friday night, PBS debuted its new weekly news program, 'Now with Bill Moyers.' He used it as a platform for a liberal lecture about how 'America's richest and most polluting companies' are 'sitting pretty' thanks to the Bush administration they bought and paid for while the environment is suffering," Mr. Baker noted.

"'Even some Washington conservatives are outraged' at Vice President [Richard B.] Cheney's 'adamant secrecy' in not divulging who his energy-policy task force consulted, Moyers maintained as he showcased a 'staunch conservative' on his side: [Judicial Watchs] Larry Klayman."

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