Now We See Why Meg Whitman Hides From the Public

For months now Meg Whitman has hid from the news media as well as the general public here in California, preferring to spend millions of dollars on a TV ad blitz designed to make Californians comfortable with the idea of letting someone buy the governor’s office. Whitman can control the message in a radio or TV ad; whereas she might actually have to engage with the public or the press on someone else’s terms, so she has avoided doing so.

Until yesterday in Lafayette, when she ventured forth from her lair to speak at a Commonwealth Club event. It immediately became clear that she has very little grasp on the problems facing California, and even less ability to honestly confront them. Take, for example, her proposed budget solutions:

Whitman has not released a detailed budget proposal of her own, but on Tuesday said she would favor privatizing some state services such as the work done by janitors and the state printing plant.

She said private companies may be able to do the work more efficiently. Contracting also would relieve pressure on the state’s pension obligations, she said.

“I wouldn’t privatize agencies, but I’d like to look at – are there certain services we can provide more cost-effectively?” she said. “For example, we have a printing plant owned by the government. I don’t know that that makes sense.”

It actually makes perfect sense to print in-house, since there is usually a significant cost savings to doing so. Privatized services are either of much lower quality, or of a higher cost to the public – or in many cases, both, as the contractor seeks to maximize profit by charging higher rates but spending less on the work and the workers.

In any case, privatizing a few services here and there is highly unlikely to accomplish anything useful in terms of the budget deficit. So either she is clueless, or is sowing the ground for a broader privatization push if she wins.

Whitman went on:

“We are going to find $100 million here, $50 million there, $300 million there – and that’s how we’re going to close this budget deficit,” she said. “I can tell you from having managed costs in business for 30 years, there’s never a silver bullet. There’s not a $15 billion cost reduction item in this budget. It’s about being smart about every penny you spend.”

Whitman said the cuts should not come from the University of California system…

“Let’s not destroy this. Let’s fully fund the UC system, let’s fully fund it,” she said.

There’s a lot of nonsense here, including the notion that she can “fully fund” the University of California (but apparently not CSU or community colleges or K-12?) without raising taxes. But more fundamentally flawed is her notion that we can close a $20 billion deficit with small cuts here and there. If that were possible it would have already been done. There simply isn’t $20 billion in small-bore cuts to be found. If she won’t raise taxes, something will have to give. It’ll probably be something like Healthy Families, Cal-WORKS, or K-12 education.

Of course, one might also wonder whether “running the state like a business” – a goal she laid out that she later walked back – is something we should see as positive in an era where many large corporations either failed spectacularly or have grown so bloated and inefficient that the only way they generate “profits” is to use their wealth to manipulate Congress into crush their competition at the expense of prosperity and recovery.

Overall it was a pretty weak performance that indicates Whitman plays a good governor on TV but isn’t actually up to the job and makes up for it by falling back on right-wing ideology. That happens to be the very same set of traits that define our current failure of a governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Yet Whitman is pulling even in the polls with Jerry Brown as she is essentially the only person running for governor, with Brown inexplicably ceding the ground to her as she wipes out Brown’s lead.

Jerry Brown’s campaign remains AWOL, so an opportunity to exploit Whitman’s complete lack of understanding of how to fix California has so far been missed. With plenty of snow in the Sierra, California waits and wonders when he will join the battle.

5 thoughts on “Now We See Why Meg Whitman Hides From the Public”

  1. “Yet Whitman is pulling even in the polls with Jerry Brown as she is essentially the only person running for governor, with Brown inexplicably ceding the ground to her as she wipes out Brown’s lead.”

    Exactly what we saw in the MA Senate race. And we saw how well that worked. What is Brown thinking? Or not?

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