Still Ahead of the Bell Curve
The state budget’s five weeks overdue, going on six. Candidates are working the campaign trail. The public is on vacation — physically . . . and politically, I suspect.
Still, there’s action in the governor’s race. This week, it’s a data dump — an 18-report economic analysis — dumping on Meg Whitman’s recovery plan, courtesy of the by the advocacy arm of the Center for American Progress.
A word about this.
First, this is what the Center for American Progress does. Founded after the Clinton President by former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta, the think tank runs left of center, and likes to run down Republican candidacies. Here’s a release from back in September 2008 — “How John McCain’s Economic Plan Fails Blacks and Hispanics”. Subtle, huh?
Second, this is what political campaigns do in this day and age. You trot out a group of “experts” and try to set off a fire alarm. Thus a Democratic gubernatorial campaign in California turns to left-leaning economists to take a shot at the Republican campaign’s economic legitimacy, just as a GOP presidential campaign would trot out — oh, say, a group of retired generals — who would have you believe we’d all be speaking Russian in four years if we elect the soft-on-defense Democrat.
Drills like this are par for the course in modern politics. They’re far too familiar, and thus tiresome. And they reek of partisan intent. I’m guessing the public largely doesn’t care — just as they won’t care a month from now when the Brown or Whitman campaign trots out a group of educators/environmentalists/doctors/cops/firefighters to have you believe the enemy camp is going to foul our waters, dumb down our kids, spread disease, squander our treasure and basically allow California society go to hell in a handbasket.
But I would be concerned about what Jerry is doing re. pensions. Specifically, it’s expanding the AG’s office’s investigation into the growing Bell scandal by subpoenaing past and present city officials for income tax returns and other paperwork tied to income and investments.
In addition, Brown said the AG’s office is setting up a voter fraud hotline for folks who think they were conned in the election that enabled Bell’s politicians to falsely inflate their salaries.
Brown’s a smart politician and, as a veteran pol who’s lived through a lot of ebbs and flows, he may best appreciate that California’s electorate is (a) angry and (b) not angry for any one specific reason, but a lot of contributing factors — a hodgepodge of bad policies, bad politics or politics who seem to exist only to underwhelm and underachieve.
In the 2003 recall election, the last time voters were in this foul of a snit, the anger was focused: the vehicle license fee increase, drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens, rolling blackout, budget deficits. Just as it was in 2004: crime and illegal immigration.
What the Bell scandal may provide is the tip at the end of the spear . . . a focus for voters’ anger, and a convenient metaphor for all that’s wrong in the Golden State. That’s why it’s smart for Brown to be on top of the scandal, and ahead of the political pack. It’s also why it might make sense for Whitman to add some variety to her job-centric public event schedule and ponder a back roads tour of California — to the dozens of towns statewide beset by soaring budget deficits, rising pension costs and appalling political ineptitude.