Jerry Brown Is Trapped In 1978

Carla Marinucci caught up with the once and future governor Jerry Brown after Arnold Schwarzenegger’s State of the State address to get his take on the budget solutions. What she found is a man who is still trapped in a 1978 mentality, and who has not yet grasped the present day political realities that will shape his third term, should he win it in November:

On how he would close the current budget gap as governor: “What is most important is that people act as Californians.. not as members of the two parties….we have a state that has tremendous riches. I love the way that Arnold is so optimistic. But now, he’s got to knock heads together.”

In other words, Brown has no plan for the budget deficit. If he thinks Republican legislators will put aside their partisanship he’s going to get an even ruder awakening on that subject than Barack Obama did in 2009 – and he’ll have even less excuse than Obama does, since Republican budget obstruction is as clear as day to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to Sacramento. California Republicans are one of the most ideologically right-wing Republican legislative caucuses in the nation, have been for some time, and will be for the foreseeable future. If Brown really thinks he can get them to come together on any budget solution that isn’t a completely wingnut solution, he’s out of his mind.

On his own experience as governor during the last taxpayer revolt: “There’s a big difference. The last crisis, we had a $6 million surplus. Now the trouble is, we’ve been spending it. And now, we have the same crisis, but we have no surplus….there is no easy answer. The main point is, don’t hide the ball. Level with the people and tell them, “This where we are. We didn’t get here overnight, and we’re not going to get out of it (overnight).”

One of the problems here is Marinucci’s framing of 1978 as the “last” taxpayer revolt, assuming there’s going to be another one.

If so, I’m not seeing it. A funny thing happened in 2009 – California raised taxes, and hardly anyone noticed. Teabagger efforts to recall GOP legislators who voted for the tax increases were embarrassing failures. The public hasn’t reacted with great vengeance or furious anger, there was NO taxpayer revolt in 2009 and none seems to be brewing in 2010. Voters didn’t approve the extension of those taxes at the May 19 special election, but that was largely because they were tied to a spending cap.

Brown’s answer to Marinucci’s question was basically babble, so let’s see what he had to say on taxes in particular:

On increasing taxes: “I would never approve of a tax increase unless the voters themselves called for it and voted on it.”

As I explained above, this is totally unnecessary, since there was no voter revolt against the February 2009 tax increases. Polling from 2009 shows that there IS majority support for some tax increases, so Brown has no political need to punt to the voters.

The only reason he would do so is that he is still living in 1978, and not in 2010. Here in 2010 it’s clear that Sacramento can raise taxes and “get away with it” especially when the taxes help fund vital and popular services. There’s no inherent taxpayer revolt waiting to gobble up a governor who raises taxes, since voters are in a very different place in 2010 than they were in 1978.

In 1978, voters believed they could maintain the prosperity they had AND the services they liked AND cut their taxes. This was a foolish belief that has been proved catastrophically wrong. And while that belief still has its adherents 32 years later, a majority of Californians has rejected it, realizing that things like quality and affordable education, job creation, and guaranteed health care are more important than keeping taxes as low as possible.

Jerry Brown as governor would have an opportunity to lead the state in that direction – to end the 1978 mentality and create a progressive 21st century vision for California. And perhaps that’s his plan, given the way he phrased his comments on taxes. But he’s not going to get there by being coy about it. Brown needs to move beyond 1978 if he’s going to win and have a successful third term.

7 thoughts on “Jerry Brown Is Trapped In 1978”

  1. A few thoughts:

    1.  Californians are not in the mood for more taxes.  Less than eight months ago Prop. 1A went down to defeat 65% to 34%.  It was not supported in any county in the state.

    2.  Higher taxes do not help job creation.  To the contrary, higher taxes result in fewer jobs and, in this economic climate, may result in significantly fewer jobs.

    3.  You have a very government-centric view of the world.  It’s true that government provides services to people.  But it’s also true that most of the goods and services in people’s lives are purchased directly.  Money to fix the state budget is money that comes from the family budget.  I’m quite certain that people will get more benefit from spending their own dollar than from sending that dollar to Sacramento for the politicians to spend on their behalf.

  2.  However we did approve some taxes recently. Framed the right way it can be sold.

    On DW this morning I saw that Merkel wants to give tax cuts to Germans. You know what? Even with their current economy which has double digit unemployment, 38% supports Tax Cuts, 69% including the business-friendly Free Democrats don’t want any tax cuts because they understand it leads to additional reduction of services. Seeing they had to beat Merkel over the head and shoulders about underfunding the Universities over there, while we have students revolting increases in tuition here, I think the 69% point become very clear.

    Nobody minds paying for something they’ll get benefit out of, witness the High Speed Rail Bond Measure. It was something a majority of Californians want. There won’t be much grumbling about SB810 if its signed by Jerry Brown, that would give us Single Payer, something the Federal Government has trouble even bringing up the subject.

    Jerry Brown better put his Progressive Hat on, sure nobody can stop him from getting a 3rd term, however we might need to BURN his feet.

    I’m watching The Ed Show and Istook is complaining about solar and wind energy and how it would drive up cost. I laugh, we get most of our power from Nuclear Energy, Geo-Thermal, Wind and Solar. Yeah I know we burn a mighty amount of Natural Gas too, but still.

    That is something ELSE Brown better get on-board with, Renewable Energy, we can whoop the rest of the countries arse in this arena.

    Gosh when does he officially run and where’s the first debate, I want the mike!


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