Where have you gone, Otis Chandler?

Your recent support of a bill to ban real estate transfer fees is just the latest example of the Times' editorial board siding with the business community and against the public's interest.

Supporting the bill is the California Association of Realtors. Opposed are the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters. Need I say more?

If limited to non-profit entities that purchase land for the public's benefit, these real estate transfer fees are completely justified. Times reporter Diane Wedner recognized that alternative approach in a story that ran on the front page of your real estate section this past Sunday.

The Times, by choosing to throw its hat in with private special interests, has apparently adopted Ronald Reagan's mantra that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." These words were uttered at his first inaugural address in 1981.

Conservatives are good at railing against government. Yet, It is that very fact that makes them so inept at running it. Example: In 2001—20 years after Reagan's speech—more than 100 people died as a result of accidents caused by faulty Ford Explorer tires manufactured by Firestone/Bridgestone. And the federal agency responsible for overseeing traffic safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has seen its budget decline by 36 percent when adjusted for inflation since 1980, the year before Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency. The NHTSA rule-making staff shrank from 103 to 62 during the same time span. Calls from consumer advocates to give the agency the power to order recalls have been met by stony silence in Congress where, until the Democrats seized control of both Houses, members often sided with the auto industry in its battles with the NHTSA. And there is little doubt that such authority in this case would have saved lives. Just how many lives is open to question.

Yes, there's a big price to pay for government bashing. The opinion section's open hostility to government regulation and oversight ignores the importance of one of government's primary obligations: ensuring public safety.

None of us should forget that the government of the United States has substantially reduced the number of elderly in poverty, landed a man on the moon, helped conquer fascism, built interstate highways, made loans to homebuyers and students, insured bank deposits, and led the most successful anti-smoking campaign in the history of the planet. Even now, it works to make certain that unsafe drugs do not reach the market, and it had—at least until George Bush became President—helped out those who are the victims of natural disasters.

The eight-hour day, the minimum wage, the conservation of natural resources, free trade unions, old-age pensions, clean air and water, safe food—all these began with citizens. These issues won the endorsement of mainstream politicians only after long struggles and bitter attacks from right-wing Hearst newspapers.

Some on your editorial board would return the United States to the days of radical laissez-faire, when there was no social contract, when the strong took what they could and the working poor were left to their own devices. Other examples of this view include your steadfast opposition to a local living wage ordinance; your unwavering support for all free trade agreements, including those completely lacking adequate labor safeguards and protections; and your opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act.

Hopefully, the naming of Jim Newton as the new editor of these pages will result in a shift in your core mission and philosophy. I, for one, long for the days of Otis Chandler. Instead, the readers are getting Norman.

Roy Ulrich is a Santa Monica public interest lawyer and consumer advocate and host of "Morning Review" on KPFK.

Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World