As the Clinton presidency has progressed, it has grown fairly clear that America is at a crossroads. One path is big-government socialism, in which Uncle (or should I say Brother?) Sam assumes the responsibility (and power) of taking care of us all. The other is free-market individualism, in which individuals take responsibility for themselves.
Arizona, too, could take either path, and it depends greatly on whom we elect as governor. Fife Symington is a free-market individualist who has rolled back socialism and taken a firm stand for his principles. As for Eddie Basha, when he isn't shapeless, he is decidedly socialistic, a decent imitation of a Clinton Democrat.
First, the tax issue. As he promised to do, Symington has cut taxes for three straight years, for a tax-relief total in the hundreds of millions. In 1992 he pushed for a $60 million personal-income-tax cut and won $12 million of it from the legislature, the first such cut in a decade. He has pledged to eliminate the state income tax altogether, and he has an excellent record of keeping such promises. As for cries that tax cuts will force deficit spending, in 1992 Symington declared that if the legislature did not deliver a balanced budget, he would simply shut down enough state agencies to balance it. I'd trust this man with my Mastercard any day.
As in the Reagan years, the supply-side tax cuts have created a vast economic recovery. 184,000 new jobs appeared, earning an "A" rating from Forbes magazine for job creation. Unemployment dropped from 9.7 to 5.7 percent. All this with budget surpluses and spending cuts.
Critics point out that the '92 tax cut amounted to only $4.50 per Arizonan, which is true. However, (a) the cuts worked for the economy, and (b) any tax cut beats a tax hike hollow. As House Majority Whip Jack Jewett said, "(Symington) got us arguing over the size of the cut, not whether to do a cut." Any tax cut has immense intrinsic value because it returns money to the individuals who earned it and therefore rightfully own it. People, rather than government, are thus empowered.
Symington's individualism also shines through in his get-tough crime policy. He has kept a campaign promise to eliminate parole completely and require criminals to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. He signed a law allowing the law-abiding to carry concealed weapons, a proven deterrent to violent criminals. (Would you try to mug a woman who might have a .357 in her purse?) The governor has made prison-building a top priority, adding 4,000 new beds since 1991 and promising to eliminate the bed deficit by '96.
Symington has balanced the crackdown on existing criminals with programs to keep youth from turning to crime, including school funding, boot camps, more police in schools, neighborhood renewal, and anti-gang units. This balanced approach is notably lacking in Basha's platform, which curtails prison-building in favor of preventive social measures. Pima County Attorney Stephen Neely, a Democrat, has called Basha's stance "naive" and "weak" and has endorsed Symington instead.
The governor also plays hardball for states' rights. He is actually suing the federal government for the costs of illegal immigration and related unfunded mandates. (Basha's mindless retort was, "My preference would be to meet with national leaders . in a cooperative way, to define what our problems are and encourage them to share." Is this a statewide crisis or a therapy session?)
Two areas in which Symington has been attacked are public schools and universities. Setting aside the domination of these institutions by left-wing teachers' unions and administrators, the facts tell a different story.
On the public school issue, Symington has pushed hard for real reform based on local empowerment. Open enrollment, required school "report cards," vouchers, and charter schools transfer power from government/union apparatchiks to the parents. In addition, the governor has increased public-school funding by $147 million this year, devoting 55 percent of the total budget to K-12 education for the largest increase in recent history.
Basha's idea of reform is to oppose vouchers (calling them "the insidious dismantlement of the public school system"Äkind of like the insidious dismantlement of the Soviet UnionÄand insisting that the tax money belongs to the state and not to those stingy parents) and to throw $240 million more at the system. Thus he does Symington one worse in all respects.
As for the state universities, Symington did propose a 0.8 percent cut in '91 and another 0.5 percent cut in '92. But this year, his budget included a boost of about 2 percent for the UA main campus, as well as a 5 percent raise for all state employees.
The real question, though, is whether the universities deserve the funds. Are they doing a good job and providing excellence in research and higher education? Or do they blow the money on "diversity specialists," transsexuality courses, incompetent administrators, etc.? The UA Education Dept. makes Jesse Jackson look like Rush Limbaugh; do we really want to subsidize this? By cutting back, Symington forces university administrators to choose between PC values-adjustment and real learning.
On other issues: Symington opposes gay marriage while Basha is in favor. Symington at least supports informed consent and parental permission for abortions; Basha does not. Basha's health-care plan relies on the vile idea of community rating, in which the responsible pay for the profligate.
In the end, the choice is clear. If you believe in individualism, less government, and principled, intelligent problem-solving, then vote Fife all the way.
John Keisling is a grad student in mathematics.
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