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Putin puts his money on FIFA’s embattled boss

The governing body of world soccer, FIFA, can count on the support of at least one major global corporation in its efforts to retain sponsors and survive corruption charges: Gazprom, the Russian state-owned natural-gas supplier. That’s because Russia views U.S. prosecutors’ charges against FIFA as an attack on its interests. Gazprom’s reaction to the FIFA […]

Here’s why doctors quit

WASHINGTON — About a decade ago, a doctor friend was lamenting the increasingly frustrating conditions of clinical practice. “How did you know to get out of medicine in 1978?” he asked with a smile. “I didn’t,” I replied. “I had no idea what was coming. I just felt I’d chosen the wrong vocation.” I was […]

Defense spending bill should draw Obama veto

President Barack Obama should stick to his word and veto the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill if congressional Republicans attach an extra $38 billion to the so-called Overseas Contingency Operations account, which pays for fighting and counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. As passed by the House – and by the Senate Armed […]

May 28, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged , | 1 Reply

China a major economy but run like a minor one

Zhou Xiaochuan is governor of the People’s Bank of China. But among some financial types, he’s earning another, less enviable title: the killer of weekends. Zhou on May 10 announced a surprise interest rate cut, forcing anyone with a stake in the Chinese economy to put a premature end to what had likely otherwise been […]

Iranian negotiations become liberals’ nightmare

“France’s foreign minister says Iran wants 24 days before international inspectors could visit its nuclear sites in the event of a suspected violation of a deal with world powers over its atomic program.” That is an actual news item, not a punchline from the Onion. The report coincides with recent remarks from Iran’s supreme leader, […]

Income taxes a volatile yet growing share of state revenue

During the first year of Jerry Brown’s first governorship, 40 years ago, the state collected $9 billion in general fund revenues and the sales tax was the biggest source at $3.7 billion. This year, the state is collecting more than $110 billion in general fund revenues and two-thirds of it comes from the personal income […]

Court ruling undercuts UFW

Thirteen years ago, the Capitol’s Democrats tried to resuscitate the United Farm Workers Union’s moribund efforts to organize California agriculture by enacting a union-friendly mediation process. The bills that Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson and Senate President Pro Tem John Burton carried and Gov. Gray Davis signed empowered the Agricultural Labor Relations Board to order mandatory […]

Government never just ‘asks’ for money

In a recent panel discussion on poverty at Georgetown University, President Barack Obama gave another demonstration of his mastery of rhetoric – and disregard of reality. One of the ways of fighting poverty, he proposed, was to “ask from society’s lottery winners” that they make a “modest investment” in government programs to help the poor. […]

Fighting immigration boosts global inequality

Keeping immigrants out has become a top priority for many countries and, partly as a result, the flow of money from migrant workers to their families in the developing world is about to stop growing. That’s like freezing aid from developed countries to poorer ones and it may not ultimately benefit the richer nations. European […]

You want hypotheticals? Here’s one

WASHINGTON — Ramadi falls. The Iraqi army flees. The great 60-nation anti-Islamic State coalition so grandly proclaimed by the Obama administration is nowhere to be seen. Instead, it’s the defense minister of Iran who flies into Baghdad, an unsubtle demonstration of who’s in charge – while the U.S. air campaign proves futile and America’s alleged […]

Yellen takes back seat to China

Traders have been panicking over the sudden rise in global bond yields triggered by the expected tapering of the Federal Reserve’s stimulus programs. But an unlikely savior may emerge to limit the damage: China. That’s the view of researchers at Oxford Economics, who think the world’s second-largest economy is starting to eclipse the United States […]

Are we really short on defense spending?

WASHINGTON — Celebrations memorializing the end of World War II in Europe should remind us that in the 70 years since victory was declared, this country has been preparing for the next great war while actually fighting smaller ones. The Dec. 7, 1941, surprise Japanese attack so embedded itself in the American psyche that avoiding […]

Can Scott Walker capitalize on Jeb Bush’s stumbles?

The 2016 presidential race took an unexpected turn. Jeb Bush took an agonizingly long time to get to the obvious answer on Iraq: “Here’s the deal: If we’re all supposed to answer hypothetical questions – knowing what we know now, what would you have done – I would have not engaged. I would not have […]

Brown correct not to squander windfall cash

The state’s revenue system is, as we should all know by now, increasingly dependent on taxes from a relative handful of high-income Californians. When they generate big returns on investments, state revenue soars, and when capital markets slow, revenue plunges. The Capitol tends to spend like the proverbial drunken sailor when money pours in and […]

Huckabee, Carson, Fiorina won’t matter much in 2016

None of the three candidates who recently joined the Republican presidential contest last week – Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson – will win the nomination. That’s the view of politically smart strategists who nevertheless say that all three, especially Huckabee, could play important roles in shaping the race. First, here’s why these latest […]

Poverty center stage in Capitol

The Legislature’s majority Democrats have claimed poverty as this year’s spotlight issue – with good reason. By the Census Bureau’s alternative poverty measure, California has by far the nation’s highest rate with nearly a quarter of its 39 million residents impoverished. The high poverty rate is the product of two powerful economic trends – stagnation, […]

Knowing what you know now, Mrs. Clinton …

The media have had great fun asking the Republican presidential candidates whether they would have gone to war in Iraq had they known there were no weapons of mass destruction. Whenever the media can corner Hillary Clinton, they might ask some what-if questions: If you had known the Islamic State would rush in, would you […]

Time for GOP to save Obama

WASHINGTON — That free trade is advantageous to both sides is the rarest of political propositions – provable, indeed mathematically. David Ricardo did so in 1817. The Law of Comparative Advantage has held up nicely for 198 years. Nor is this abstract theory. We’ve lived it. The free-trade regime created after World War II precipitated […]

May 15, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged , | 1 Reply

Australia’s unambitious tax misses mark

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has found a new way to plug Australia’s budget hole: targeting multinationals. A so-called anti-avoidance law, which his government rolled out in its latest budget, aims to stop multinational corporations from diverting the profits they earn in Australia to low-tax jurisdictions. It’s a sound plan, especially at a time when Australia’s […]

May 14, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged , | 1 Reply

British vote calls for Labour reinvention

Shy Tories! Neil Kinnock, former leader of the Labour Party and a world authority on ignominious defeat, warned just before the British election that the polls might be underestimating support for Conservatives because of the “shy Tory” factor. How right he was. The idea is that a lot of Brits are embarrassed to tell pollsters […]

Get rid of crackpotism: GOP should call out charlatans

Republicans are taking a certain amount of glee in watching the Democrats’ ethical contortions as they try to back Hillary Clinton without accepting her self-dealing as business as usual. But Republicans have their own problem: They tolerate far too many crackpots. Ben Carson joins fellow presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in refusing to accept that Supreme […]

Here’s how health care subsidies fight could play out

We don’t know whether the Supreme Court’s decision in the King case will be to take away subsidies for people who signed up for insurance through healthcare.gov, the “Obamacare” exchanges. If that is what happens, however, the legislative politics of a fix are increasingly clear. The case is about whether Congress did or didn’t authorize […]

May to bring state budget picture into better focus

Every state budget cycle has its own narrative, but this year’s version is in a class by itself. An expanding state economy and a temporary sales and income tax increase are flooding the state treasury with money, at least $4-plus billion more than the current budget assumes, and maybe even $5-plus billion. Through April – […]

May 13, 2015 | Posted in State, national columnists | Tagged , | 1 Reply

How record spending will play out in 2016 election

The role of money and politics in the 2016 presidential election is a conundrum. Humongous sums will be spent; the effect on the outcome could be minimal, but in time the flood of cash may produce Watergate-level money scandals. Spending by candidates, parties and outside groups and individuals may approach $10 billion. Both Hillary Clinton […]

War over taxes may be in the works

A political war over taxes that’s been brewing for nearly four decades finally erupted Thursday – maybe. A union-led coalition of liberal groups launched a campaign to change Proposition 13, the iconic 1978 property tax limit, seeking billions more in revenue from commercial and industrial property owners. The coalition, Make It Fair, declared its intention […]

Race, politics and lies

Among the many painful ironies in the current racial turmoil is that communities scattered across the country were disrupted by riots and looting because of the demonstrable lie that Michael Brown was shot in the back by a white policeman in Missouri – but there was not nearly as much turmoil created by the demonstrable […]

Free Willy!

WASHINGTON — We often wonder how people of the past, including the most revered and refined, could have universally engaged in conduct now considered unconscionable. Such as slavery. How could the Founders, so sublimely devoted to human liberty, have lived with – some participating in – human slavery? Or fourscore years later, how could the […]

Clinton vows extremism on immigration

If you like President Barack Obama’s constitutionally dubious expansions of presidential power, you’ll love President Hillary Clinton. Obama has repeatedly insisted that the Constitution poses limits on his ability to set immigration policy, and then has repeatedly blown through those limits. In 2011, he was asked to grant “administrative relief” from deportation to immigrants who […]

HSBC should not delay in returning to Hong Kong

In retrospect, HSBC’s decision in 1993 to abandon Hong Kong for London’s Canary Wharf was one of modern history’s worst business moves. It seemed perfectly wise at the time, just four years ahead of Hong Kong’s return to China and amid the early stages of Europe’s common currency boom. When the 1997 Asia financial crash […]

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