Political Hay

Gray Hounds

Blind to the chaos he's created, Gray Davis and his business backers predict chaos if he's thrown to the wolves.

By 7.11.03

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Leading California businessmen warn of "chaos" if Davis is recalled, reported the Los Angeles Times on Thursday. They "denounced the proposed recall of Gov. Gray Davis as a threat to the state's economy." Having pumped millions into Gray Davis's re-election, these blue-chippers are loath to cut the strings on their battered puppet now.

Davis owes his career to this cynical business roundtable. Businessmen know that he is ideologically anti-business but have given him millions anyway for the sake of protection and perks. Since 1973, Davis has collected over a $100 million through fundraising, much it from businessmen eager for a spot at the state trough.

Chris Martin, managing partner of the Cannery marketplace in San Francisco, told the San Jose Mercury News last fall that at an interview for a state commission slot "he was grilled by the governor's first appointments secretary about his political donations." Martin said the first question in the interview was "How much did you donate to the governor?" and the second was "How much did you give to the other guy?"

Understanding this message, businessmen shoveled cash to Davis. His recall may mean "chaos" for them -- they lose a powerful pol bought at great price -- but it is hard to believe his recall would create any more chaos for Californians than already exists under his administration.

The businessmen quoted in the Times say Davis's recall threatens the state economy. Have they not noticed what he's already done to it? California's economy is groaning under a $38 billion deficit, thanks to his 37% increase in state spending and habitual mismanagement. California ranks as one of the most inhospitable places to do business in the country. Businessmen, of all people, should view his recall as a reprieve.

During the electricity crisis, Davis showed his anti-business colors starkly and comically when he threatened to punish business owners for outdoor lighting he deemed excessive. While he intimidated business owners into coughing up cash for his reelection, he denounced them as "greedy."

Nor should businessmen forget his business-destroying paid "family leave" bill, Davis's pre-election gift to noisy anti-family feminists and activists. This bill made California the first state to establish a compulsory program for paid leave. Under it, employees get six weeks of paid leave for emergency "family" reasons, which include tending to the needs of a "domestic partner" and "bonding" with a new foster child.

Davis's departure can only renew interest in California's economy. Entrepreneurs and businesses will feel less reluctant to enter the state.

That a recall could cripple an economy already damaged isn't the only counterintuitive argument Davis and his defenders are trying out. Davis told an exasperated Judy Woodruff on CNN Sunday morning that a recall is an unseemly drain on the state budget. It just tears him up to think that taxpayers will have to finance a recall that could cost up to $45 million. It was amusing to watch a governor who has created a $38 billion deficit -- after starting with an enormous surplus -- so frightfully worried that the costs of the recall could undermine the state's "general fund." But apparently this faux concern is polling decently, so Davis is likely to stick to it. The Times says that his line -- the costs of the recall "will come out of the same general fund that pays for teachers, police officers and health care" -- is "one of perhaps seven or eight key messages that the Davis team expects to resonate with voters."

Unnecessary spending has never displeased Davis before. Californians should remember, especially now that Davis intends to triple their car tax, Davis's costly horn-blowing earlier in his term after the car tax was lowered. Davis spent millions on an utterly gratuitous mail notice announcing that the car tax had been cut. The notices were a purely political expenditure, an attempt to ingratiate himself with Californians. Needless to say, Davis won't be sending out notices by mail announcing that he is tripling the car tax.

His deep-pocketed business defenders speak of impending "chaos," a "perfect storm for economic disaster." Fortunately, most ordinary Californians know it has already hit.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author, with Phyllis Schlafly, of the new book, No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.