The writer Gertrude Stein’s famous quip about her hometown of Oakland — there is no there there — increasingly seems to apply to the fellow who was Oakland mayor a few years ago and is now, alas, governor of California. I listened to Jerry Brown’s post-mortem on the first year of his third term as governor and was flabbergasted at how consistently our alleged Zen master gov offered up slick disinformation about what ails California, then reiterated the Dem-media conventional wisdom that our problems would be solved if only taxes were higher. In so many key ways, Jerry Brown = Gray Davis. A Gray Davis who talks funny.
Steve Greenhut did a great job shorthanding the press conference:
At his press conference … Gov. Jerry Brown declared: “I’m not a declinist. I do not believe California is in decline.” He said California is leading the nation in many economic areas. He claims to have fixed about half of the state’s budget problem. He said that the state’s 33-percent mandate for renewables is a key source of job growth. Brown said that it costs more not to build high-speed rail than it does to build it. He said that California, although not in danger of becoming a third-world nation, is displaying a disturbing skepticism toward public service if its voters do not increase taxes. He said voters will almost certainly approve the new taxes he and his union supporters are placing on the 2012 ballot. He expressed skepticism toward school reform, stating that the problem is one of family breakdown, not of poor-performing schools. He called himself a reformed school reformer. He said, “Just because a bill is useless doesn’t mean I should veto it.” He claimed that being for the people’s right to vote on the tax increase he supports is not the same thing as supporting a tax increase.
Steve’s post was headlined “So Many Delusions, So Little Time.” If Jerry is remotely as smart as we’re supposed to believe, a more appropriate headline would have been, “Lie After Lie After Lie.”
1. Brown is right that California leads the nation in some economic areas, but they are minor niches. It is pure spin to look at this economy and imply in any way that California is a model for the nation. Given that state unemployment has been over 11 percent for two years-plus, this spin is callous, self-serving nonsense.
2. The requirement that the state switch to 33 percent renewable energy is a key source of job growth is such a load of manure. President Obama’s energy secretary, not right-wing wackos, said a broad switch to cleaner but much costlier forms of energy to try to stop global warming only made sense if it were a policy broadly adopted by much of the world. Otherwise, Steven Chu said in March 2009 in congressional testimony, the nation that switched to costlier energy would be at a economic disadvantage because its energy cost so much more. How severe a disadvantage? Chu said if the U.S. adopted such a switch and its trading partners didn’t, it should impose sanctions against its partners. How long can Brown ignore this fact? The policy he’s embraced has been called an economic killer by the U.S. energy secretary — a Democrat from UC Berkeley!
3. The idea that it “costs more not to build high-speed rail than to build it” isn’t just manure, it’s rancid manure. We have seen virtually every key claim about the bullet train debunked, yet Brown pretends this debunkathon never happened. Yo, Jerry: The elegantly named Roelof Von Ark says the bullet train is not a mass-transit system. If the bullet train boss says this, how can you depict it as a mass-transit project? Yo, Jerry: Do you still believe the old claim that the bullet train would carry four times as many passengers as Amtrak, which operates in 46 states. It “costs more not to build high-speed rail than to build it” is a statement whose idiocy rivals “we had to destroy the village in order to save it.”
4. The assertion that Californians’ opposition to higher taxes reflects a “disturbing skepticism toward public service” is staggeringly cynical spin that ignores central realities about the Golden State. We have among the highest income, sales and gas taxes in America, and the highest corporate taxes in the West, and yet we’re told we’re grossly undertaxed. As we contemplate this claim, we look at our underperforming schools, at tenure-protected mediocre teachers, at ridiculous pension policies, at declining services and pothole-strewn roads, and we rightly wonder where our high taxes go. Yet instead of acknowledging this disconnect between how much Californians give the state and what they get in return, the governor instead depicts those who are upset about this disconnect as having a character flaw. Jerry Brown, you’re a piece of work.
5. Here’s maybe the worst of all. What’s wrong with schools? Brown just gives up on the idea of reform, and says “family breakdown” is the key. Yo, Jerry: Are you seriously arguing it makes sense to pay all teachers based on a one-size-fits-all approach based on seniority and accumulation of worthless graduate school credits instead of performance? Are you seriously arguing that the present system isn’t hugely flawed? Are you seriously arguing that it is no big deal that so many school districts are controlled by political factions who are dedicated to protecting the interests of adult employees, not students?
Jerry Brown depicts himself as an old wunderkind, someone who knows the ins and outs of California better than anyone. But at his press conference the other day, if you boil away his rhetorical flourishes and oddities, here’s what Jerry is: the guardian of the status quo. Honesty about the downside of AB 32? Honesty about the bullet-train boondoggle? Honesty about why Californians are leery of higher taxes? Honesty about California’s adults-first K-12 education establishment?
Jerry can’t bring himself to tell the truth about any of this. Instead, he is just the latest front man for a Sacramento establishment whose top priority, year in and year out, is always higher taxes to sustain the status quo.
Great, just great.