If Jerry Brown doesn’t bamboozle Californians into supporting his tax-raising initiative (assuming it qualifies) on the November ballot, his governorship, whenever it ends, will almost certainly be considered a failure. Even if the tax increase passes, Brown would appear headed for a failed incumbency because of his unwillingness to say no to the source of the state’s problems – the unions and very liberal Democrats in the legislature.
Jerry likes to play the “row a bit on one side of the canoe, then row a bit on the other side” moderate, but he is nothing of the kind. Like his predecessor Ah-nold, Brown lied during his election campaign by promising to be a fiscal disciplinarian. The record of his first year and a half shows him to be deep in the pockets of those who think Greece and Italy have economic plans we should follow. California’s budget makes the Greeks and Italians look like misers.
Jerry’s father Pat was also a liberal Democrat, or at least what passed for one in the 1960’s. He, however, was a patriot who feuded throughout his two terms with the far-left fringe of his party, represented by Alan Cranston. He was also one who believed that government revenues existed to help – not hinder – our citizens.
Pat Brown was a builder – of the state aqueduct, dams to feed that aqueduct, much of the U.C system and much of the state highway system. Jerry Brown is a control freak and a destroyer – of personal freedom, economic freedom and what’s left of the California dream. His father Pat would be appalled. It is worth noting that both Pat Brown and the other “liberal” icon of the time Jesse Unruh would be considered far too conservative to win a Democrat primary election today.
Pat Brown’s last budget proposal called for spending $4.7 billion, which translates to a $33 billion budget in today’s inflation adjusted dollars. The state then had a population of 19,000,000. Jerry Brown’s current budget calls for spending $132 billion to serve a population of 37,000,000.
For the mathematically challenged, this means that while our population has not even doubled our “real dollar” spending has quadrupled. Population increased 94.7 per cent while spending has increased almost exactly 300 per cent.
To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, are we better off than we were when spending per capita was a quarter of what it is now? Are our roads better? Are our schools doing a better job of educating? Do our workers have an easier time finding jobs? Do companies that might provide those jobs have a smoother path to opening their doors in California?
The answers of course are all “no”, and frankly the Democrats want it that way for most Californians. For the past 20 years Liberals have executed a conscious plan to drive the middle class out of the state. They are succeeding wildly.
Steve Greenhut of The Orange County Register recently wrote about a study out of USC showing the state’s annual growth rate had slowed to one percent, found here. He reports demographer Joel Kotkin pointing out that four million more people have left California for other states in the past two decades than have come here from other states.
Those leaving have been middle class Californians, our small businesses, their workers and their families. That’s fine with our liberals. What miniscule growth there has been has come from immigrants and in-state births.
Greenhut quotes Kotkin, who he describes as “an old line liberal”, as saying that the state is now run for the very rich, very poor and public employees. Precisely correct and this is exactly the outcome the Democrats want. Liberals don’t understand business and wealth creation, don’t understand or like the middle class and hate its bourgeois values.
Were Jerry Brown made of sterner stuff, were he not the strutting popinjay and poseur he has become, he could stem the tide. He would stand up to the ultra leftists in his party who are putting the last and fatal torpedoes into an already foundering ship of state.
His father built a state that well served all Californians, that honored hard work, job creation and the middle class. Jerry is a pale imitation of his father. He would rather pose and preen than fight the battles that, if won, would get California back on the path to prosperity. We are all suffering for that.
(William E. Saracino is a member of California Political Review’s editorial board.)