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Editorials June 16

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A point for Beebe Mike Beebe and Asa Hutchinson disagree over whether the property tax should be used to improve the public schools. They’ll have many more disagreements if Hutchinson wins the Republican gubernatorial nomination. (Beebe seems to have placed the Democratic nomination in that lockbox Al Gore used to talk about.) And Hutchinson will usually be wrong. Attorney General Beebe was an acknowledged leader of the Arkansas legislature for many years, before he was term-limited out. He didn’t always lead in the direction we would have preferred but he did lead. He understands state government and how to pay for it. As congressman and bureaucrat, Hutchinson has been a follower, a yellow-dog Republican who obeys his party bosses unreservedly. The bosses of the contemporary Republican Party are not much interested in helping the public schools — they prefer private, church-related schools — nor in fair taxation. “Give the rich people more breaks” is what passes for Republican tax policy these days. Hutchinson has never questioned it. Beebe told the Associated Press that if substantial new revenue was needed for the schools, as the Supreme Court may rule, the property tax was a likely place to get it. Arkansas property taxes are among the lowest in the nation. Because of complexities in the Arkansas Constitution, raising the property tax is difficult. As Beebe said, leadership will be needed. That won’t come from Hutchinson, who says the property tax must not be raised, no matter what. The property tax is not the only source that could be tapped for the schools. Every gubernatorial candidate should support the closing of the loopholes that allow corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. This would not only raise revenue, it would bring some equity to the tax system. But in a state where most politicians are corporation-huggers, taxing the corporations may be even harder than taxing property. The real bias Despite a mob of right-wing commentators on the Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio, conservatives still complain that public broadcasting has a liberal bias. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s own chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, an appointee of President Bush, is one of these malcontents. A House subcommittee has gone further, voting last week to slash funding for public broadcasting. But audience surveys have consistently shown remarkably high levels of confidence in public broadcasting. The most recent poll found an 80 percent “favorable” rating for PBS and NPR. More than half of the respondents said PBS was more “trustworthy” than ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and FOX News. It’s not public broadcasting that’s out of step with mainstream America, it’s the right-wing extremists.

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