Karen Bass’ Past Matters

Congresswoman Karen Bass has defeated developer Rick Caruso, the California Globe reports, becoming Los Angeles’ first African American mayor since 1993. Bass is also the first woman to hold the position—something of a stepdown for her.

In 2020 Bass was being vetted to be a running mate for Joe Biden. Bass had been in Congress since 2011, and supporters cite her experience as Speaker of the California Assembly from 2008-2010. At that time, tax reform was on the table. 

California gets about half of its income-tax revenue from the top one percent of earners, which makes for high revenue volatility during an economic downturn. In 2009, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger set up the Commission on the 21st Century Economy to deal with this problem. The Commission recommended cutting tax brackets to two and replacing the corporation and state sales tax with a 4 percent tax on business activity. 

Karen Bass was willing to work with Gov. Schwarzenegger on the project. Still, the Speaker never brought the recommendations to a vote. The reform effort failed and California’s revenue system remained highly volatile. Recurring Gov. Jerry Brown was unable to tackle the problem. 

Incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed, “volatility is not our friend, it’s our enemy,” and claimed, “I am not going to neglect this issue.” So far, he has. During the rigors of the pandemic, with unemployment on the rise, Californians received no relief from some of the nation’s highest sales and income taxes. 

That is partly due to Karen Bass, who failed to call a vote on the first meaningful tax reform in decades. Residents of Los Angeles should know that their new mayor holds some rather strange views on leadership. 

After the death of Fidel Castro in 2016, Bass said in a statement, “The passing of the Comandante en Jefe is a great loss to the people of Cuba.” It wasn’t. One generation out of Spain, the white Stalinist dictator, drove a formerly prosperous nation into abject poverty. Cubans must endure food rationing and the most brutal repression in the hemisphere. Maybe someone will bring that up at a city council meeting. 

Meanwhile, mayor Bass must also deal with city councilman Kevin de Leon, a former California Senate boss. Leon recently compared an African American child to a Louis Vuitton bag. City Council president Nury Martinez said the child “parece changuito meaning, “he’s like a monkey.” Martinez has resigned, but de Leon refuses to step down. Angelenos are now gathering signatures for a recall

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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