Our freak of a governor


We all know this, but I have to say it again: Jerry Brown is one strange agent.

His State of the State address was blessedly short: Jer doesn't waste a lot of time. In fact, a few minutes in, the crowd in the state Assembly chambers was applauding for the second or third time, and he told them to stop; "this is my longest speech and we're not going to get out of here." I clocked it, applause and all, at about 16 minutes.

But lordy, lordy, what a crazy amalgam of stuff he packed in. From Montaigne to the Little Engine that Could, the Ten Commandments to Pharoh's dream about the seven cows, Franklin Roosevelt to Gaspar Portola ... all over the map would be a gentle way of describing it.

And that was the political message, too: We can do great things, spend billions on a massive underground peripheral canal and high-speed rail -- but we can't backfill the cuts that are leaving tens of thousands in poverty because we have to live within our means. The mandate for renewable energy is great, but we shouldn't just keep on passing laws:

Constantly expanding the coercive power of government by adding each year so many minute prescriptions to our already detailed and turgid legal system overshadows other aspects of public service. Individual creativity and direct leadership must also play a part. We do this, not by commanding thou shalt or thou shalt not through a new law but by tapping into the persuasive power that can inspire and organize people. Lay the Ten Commandments next to the California Education code and you will see how far we have diverged in approach and in content from that which forms the basis of our legal system.

Serious, Guv? "Constantly expanding the coervice power of government?" That's channelling your inner Ronald Reagan, no? Oh, and weren't you the mayor of Oakland who let the cops do pretty much anything they wanted in the name of public safety -- and who is the darling and best pal of the prison guards union? Talk about the coercive power of government. And one of the bills you've never supported is Assemblymember Tom Ammiano's effort to legalize marijuana -- eliminating a particularly troubling "coercive power of government" -- because you're worried that we can't compete with China if everybody's stoned.

I like high-speed rail, and investing in education, and I agree that there's too much emphasis on one-size-fits-all standardized tests and measurement tools in the public school system. The school funding formula is, generally, a good idea. And I am utterly on the side of our tightwad leader in the battle to keep tuition from rising at CSU and UC.

So on some of the substance, Brown's speech made sense. But I've been a Jerry watcher for many, many years, and he never ceases to baffle me. I supose that's part of his point.

Let's remember: Brown grew up in a wealthy patrician family, and he's never had to worry about working for a living or finding an affordable place to live. He's way out of touch with what millions of Californians face every day -- and that's why it's easy for him to sit up in Sacramento and talk about "living within our means."


I had hoped that, given his age and the chance he wouldn't want to run for a second term, Jerry would break the mold and get California going again. Instead, he's just another shill for public employees. Our highest tax rate is now 13.3% to help pay for an oversized government.


Posted by The Commish on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 11:39 am

he lost his nerve when the unions whined at him. The budget deficit is better than it was, but conveniently omits addressing the "pay and benefits" fiscal cliff. And of course that is why the unions are so cared, which of course tells us that that is what Brown should attack next.

He's had his tax hike - now let's start trimming the fat and blubber.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 11:58 am

It is what is - and remarkable how none of the state's major newspapers will even report on the state's debt crisis. You'll have to check the NYT for that.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

The idea that you can a "man on the street" and put him in the governor's mansion is silly.

And yes, Brown is eclectic Even though he is white - in joke about Haley's faux pas yesterday). If he gave either the left or the right everything they wanted, I'd be a lot more worried.

A pushback against excessive government is necessary, on fiscal grounds as well as ideological grounds. Brown sees the need for balance and, as such, he's a moderate. No wonder you hate that, because nobody would call you a moderate.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 11:49 am
Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 12:16 pm

a State-wide election with a much more conservative electorate is as close to zero as makes no odds.

Campos, a fortiori.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 12:38 pm

We need a tough lady governor to make hard choices and restore monies that keep fellow Californians in poverty. No more mealy-mouthed platitudes about "living within our means." I share Tim lust for hot burning expenditures and increased taxes - tell it to Californians! We're man/womyn enough to take it!

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

Not a real electable issue there.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

I agree with most of Tim's criticisms of Jerry Brown, and as a former resident of Oakland (during Brown's tenure), I thought he was the worst mayor ever. But after watching him in action at the UC Board of Regents meetings, I have become something of a fan. Certainly, he is a politician, and we need to push him to do the right thing, just like any other pol. Still, it appears that Brown has a real moral sense of obligation that you don't often see in a pol, and seldom if ever among the 1%. For instance, he has proposed that low-income school districts receive more money from the state than wealthier districts. And he genuinely appears to have a conscience about the growing divide between rich and poor in this state.

You could see the difference between Brown's mindset and the mentality of the members of Board of Regents at the Jan. 17 meeting in stark display. Brown made it clear to the board that he didn't want any further tuition increases by reminding the regents that they make too much money and have never trimmed their own salaries, yet expect others to do so. When Leslie Tang Schilling protested that they (the regents) "have families to support" (as if students, faculty and staff don't?), Brown responded,
"There's a moral issue here... Maybe I spent too long in the seminary, and I did take a vow of poverty. The pope absolved me from executing that, but it's still around my head. It's not that I want to make anyone poor. But you have to be mindful. ... No one in this room has the answer." Bravo and thank you for standing up to the regents, Governor Brown!

Like Tim, I would like to see most of the cuts restored, and we should certainly apply more pressure on the Guv concerning this issue. But as far as his advocacy for the schools has gone, I am impressed (and frankly, a little surprised). I don't know any other governor who has taken the time and cared enough to get this involved. So I think we should give credit where due. Just saying.


Posted by Ana on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 3:03 pm
Posted by anon on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 3:19 pm

Brown isn't doing anything about the huge underfunded pension obligations for state employees past and present.

He is letting that timebomb tick.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 3:19 pm

just started. The budget rules only require Brown to balance the budget for the current year. he is not required to make prudent provision for the ongoing unfunded liabilities.

It's the elephant in the room.

Posted by anon on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

He's just sold out in his old age. He used to be a visionary; now he's just a conventional corporate democrat who gives cops and developers everything they want.

When a corporatist talks about the "coercive power of government," they don't mean they want to curb the coercive power of government over the individual. Oh, no. They want more of that. They just want big business to make money unobstructed by regulation.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

state unless things are going his way, the coerce away.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

I think you're talking about the "visionary" Jerry Brown who was on KPFA's "Living Room" years ago. He was given five one-hour programs per week on KPFA, replacing five of those "purged," including the late Mama O'Shea's show time slot. *That* Jerry Brown died a long time ago, probably not long after his show ended.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 9:03 pm

Remember when Brown ran as a populist president and had Gore Vidal write speeches for him?

Brown ran the state first time around fiscally responsibly, other than the public employee union thing.


Brown is probably a populist of sorts that goes with the zeitgeist, not that I think that is all that great. Tim is a dinosaur who goes with what he learned from his first reading of Atlas Shrugged... I mean the Chomsky reader.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 24, 2013 @ 6:56 pm

For me he is a normal person with some good ideas. We should give him a chance!

Posted by Daniel on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 12:15 am