national opinion

Monday Column
Carol Platt Liebau

[go to Liebau index]

Latest Column:
Stopping the Meltdown
What Beltway Republicans Need To Do

Subscribe to CRO Alerts
Sign up for a weekly notice of CRO content updates.

Jon Fleischman’s
The premier source for
California political news

Michael Ramirez

editorial cartoon

Do your part to do right by our troops.
They did the right thing for you.
Donate Today

CRO Talk Radio
Contributor Sites
Laura Ingraham

Hugh Hewitt
Eric Hogue
Sharon Hughes
Frank Pastore
[Radio Home]

















Bill Leonard - Contributor

Bill Leonard is a Member of the State Board of Equalization

A Week Under the Dome...
Bah humbug, econ stats and taxes and taxes..

[Bill Leonard] 12/22/04

Too Many Bah Humbugs

Last week’s comments about the Governor calling the state “Christmas tree” exactly that instead of a “holiday tree” provoked comment from a few Leonard Letter readers. My response to those who asked was that state leaders can, do and should acknowledge that religions exist and are part of our culture. Continuing in that vein last week, Governor Schwarzenegger participated in the 11th annual Menorah Lighting Ceremony on the west steps of the Capitol Building.

It is sad to me that the news lately has been filled with tales of carols being banned at schools and other bah-humbug reactions to expressions of Christmas or Hannukah. But it is not just about the holy holidays. Rather, there seems to be a concerted effort to attack all public expression of faith, or anything that resembles it.

Consider Stephen J. Williams, a fifth-grade teacher in Cupertino. He is suing his school district because he believes it has blocked him from distributing supplemental materials about the religious aspects of American history to his students. The offending documents? Samuel Adams ’ “The Rights of Colonists,” William Penn’s “Frame of Government of Pennsylvania,” and excerpts from the Declaration of Independence.

My friend Bill Evers, a professor at the Hoover Institution and a recently elected school board member who helped write the state’s Content Standards for history, reserves his opinion of Mr. Williams and his district until the facts come out in court. However, he reminds us in general terms that, “The official Content Standards say California wants fifth-grade students to know about William Penn’s goals in colonizing Pennsylvania, the Puritans in New England, Catholicism in colonial Maryland, the role of religion in American’s founding, and the reason for the Establishment Cause in the First Amendment. Students of American history do need to learn about the role of religion. To teach about religion is not to teach religion.” And to display a Christmas tree or light a Menorah at the state capitol is not to demand that Californians be Christian or Jewish.

Econ Stats are Good Holiday News

The San Francisco Chronicle featured a report on Friday from the Mortgage Bankers Association that the percentage of California homeowners behind on their mortgage payments in the third quarter is at the lowest level in 25 years. Same for the foreclosure rate. I suppose history could record these times as the last of the real estate bubble, but I doubt it for two reasons. First is demand. California's Department of Finance estimates we have been underbuilding residential housing by at least 100,000 homes per year over the last decade. That is a lot of pent up demand. Second, I contend that Americans are a lot smarter than the experts give them credit for. People sense we are entering a major inflationary cycle. We also have historically low rates. What is not to like about buying a home -- even at a premium price -- in an environment such as this? Given the phenomenal growth in credit products and the extraordinary access ordinary Americans have to large amounts of credit, declining delinquency and foreclosure rates would seem counter-intuitive. These stats should be seen as a very big story.

The Not So Special District Taxes

In an era where the public is demanding less burdensome tax collection with simpler, shorter and on-line returns, the sales tax program is taking the opposite tack with the special district tax. Many recent sales tax elections in cities and counties create special district taxes. Such taxes are collected by the BOE but are distributed to local district entities for transportation, public safety, hospital or other purposes. There are now 46 of these districts in the state and two more are scheduled to come on line as of January 1, 2005. One district is multi-county; 30 districts are countywide with some counties having multiple districts; 15 districts are citywide. These districts require approximately 40 lines on quarterly returns. The Board recently heard a case where a San Diego health food company sold products and had sales agents throughout California. Since the company had sales agents in almost every area of California, it was required to determine if the customer shipping address was in any one of the district areas. If so, the company had to report the sales on the proper line on its return and remit the appropriate taxes. This is a tremendous burden on retailers even with the right computer software. Just to make it worse for California’s retailers, last November's elections saw the passage of 23 tax measures for 17 additional districts and six existing districts. Approximately 25 more lines will need to be added to the return form, bringing the total lines for district taxes to about 65. This gives new and ironic meaning to the term “short form.”

An Invitation to Pay

I am working to alert taxpayers to the tax amnesty program that runs until March 31, 2005 in California. The Board is joining the Franchise Tax Board in sending notices to taxpayers who may benefit from the amnesty program and avoid high penalties. Despite the seriousness of the issue and amounts of money involved, I had to laugh when I read that the FTB is calling those 2 million notices “invitations.” Even though taxpayers could end up paying less, I doubt any of them will look upon amnesty notices in the same enthusiastic way they might consider a real invitation. Maybe it’s a crafty plot by the FTB to get more taxpayers to read their mail.

Tax Court Unpopular on Another Front

I have long argued that California does not need to create a Tax Court. Not only is it unfair to taxpayers with cases (who would then have to hire attorneys) but it is also bad news for taxpayers without cases (who would then be footing the bill for yet another state agency). A poll last month by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin and Associates tested voters’ thoughts on a Tax Court. Fifty-nine percent of people did not want to cede oversight to judges or require taxpayers to hire attorneys to make their case. Only a minority were critical of the BOE. A better way to save money, help taxpayers and make tax administration more efficient would be to consolidate all the taxing agencies into a state Tax Commission governed by a board of elected officials accountable to the voters for their decisions.

Got Humility?

Some of you might have seen this in your in-box recently. The London Spectator published a piece that is another illustration of the declining standards and expectations we have for young people. However, interpreting it in that limited way is depressing and boring. Rather, what struck me as I reviewed the questions below is what a tremendous gift the human intellect is. Clearly, our minds are capable of great feats, and as the new year approaches, we should resolve to make a greater effort to feed our own brains as much as future leaders of the British Empire had to do in Victorian England.

The Spectator printed these exam papers taken by 11-year-olds applying for places to King Edward's School in Birmingham in 1898. The exam is too long to reproduce in total and many of the questions are too uniquely British to be of use here, but I offer this sampling to make the point:


1. What kings of England began to reign in the years 871, 1135, 1216,1377, 1422, 1509, 1625, 1685, 1727, 1830?
2. Give some account of Egbert, William II, Richard III, Robert Blake, Lord Nelson.
3. State what you know of: Henry II's quarrel with Becket, the taking of Calais by Edward III, the attempt to make Lady Jane Grey queen, the trial of the Seven bishops, the Gordon riots.
4. What important results followed: the raising of the siege of Orleans, the Gunpowder plot, the Scottish rebellion of 1639, the surrender at Yorktown, the battles of Bannockburn, Bosworth, Ethandune, La Hogue, Plassey, and Vittoria?
5. How are the following persons connected with English History: Harold Hardrada, Saladin, James IV of Scotland, Philip II of Spain, Frederick the Elector Palatine?


1. Multiply 642035 by 24506.
2. Write out Length Measure, and reduce 217204 inches to miles.
3. Find the greatest common multiple of 13621 and 159848.
4. Subtract 37/16 from 51/4; multiply 63/4 by 5/36; divide 43/8 by 11/6; and find the value of 21/4 of 12/3 of 13/5.
5. Subtract 3.25741 from 3.3; multiply 28.436 by 8.245; and divide .86655 by 26.5.
6. Simplify 183/4 22/3 ÷ 11/5 31/2 x 4/7.
7. Find the square root of 5,185,440,100.


1. Where are silver, platinum, tin, wool, wheat, palm oil, furs and cacao got from?
2. Name the conditions upon which the climate of a country depends, and explain the reason of any one of them.
3. Where are Omdurman, Wai-Hei-Wai, Crete, Santiago, and West Key, and what are they noted for? CRO




Blue Collar -  120x90
120x90 Jan 06 Brand
Free Trial Static 02
ActionGear 120*60
Free Trial Static 01
Applicable copyrights indicated. All other material copyright 2003-2005