California: Democrat vs. Democrat

Jerry BrownCalifornia: Where the Democratic Governor Triangulates Against Democrats

Governor Jerry Brown’s veto of the budget passed by the Democratic majority in the legislature, (as Draconian in terms of gutting public resources as any in the nation), has tipped his hand: Jerry’s triangulating. He’s aligning himself with the Republican minority in forging a path forward out of California’s deep crisis. “We need four Republican votes and in the next several days, I’m going to do everything I can,” Brown said. “I’ll move heaven and earth to get those votes.”

No, Jerry, to get those GOP votes you’ll have to lay off more teachers, gut higher education, shred the pensions of public workers, and impose on the state a far-right Republican agenda more akin to what we’d expect from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker than from Governor Moonbeam.

The Governor is willfully pretending that he’s unaware of the fact that the Republican legislative minority is not a serious negotiating partner. They’ve already messed up Brown’s governorship by stringing him along, month after month, play-acting as if they might cough up the four votes, (not to extend existing taxes, but to allow Californians to vote on whether or not we want to extend existing taxes).

Hey Jerry! Meg Whitman spent $160 million and we defeated her and put you in charge. And now you’re pathetically on your hands and knees begging FOUR right-wing white Republican men to allow the state to function?

What the Republican minority in Sacramento is demanding is that California follow the path of Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Florida, Michigan, and New Jersey: a class war against public institutions and public employees. Now apparently Brown has signaled that he’s willing to triangulate against his own party to enable this backward agenda.

With or without the Republican votes the public sector is getting fleeced once again. The “starve-the-beast” strategy of Golden State Republicans is working marvelously. Somewhere, (probably a plush townhouse in Georgetown), Grover Norquist is giving high fives all around. California is the sweetest deal the Republicans got going: even when they lose, they win!

Living in Sacramento it’s hard to turn your head away from the budget spectacle, like seeing a car accident on Highway 99 (or 50 or 80 or 5). The Republican legislative minority bludgeons the Democratic majority. It’s always the same. The Democrats dawdle their time away passing bullshit laws while the state burns. It was horrible to behold back when Arnold “who’s-your-daddy?” Schwarzenegger was governor. But the whole kabuki dance just got a lot more pathetic when you see Jerry Brown, a Democrat, triangulating as the Republicans’ Enabler in Chief.

Staring in the face budget shortfalls brought to us by the Great Wall Street Toxic Waste Dump of 2008, the Democratic legislative majority and the Democratic governor tell us there’s “no choice” but to make “tough” decisions.” And whenever we hear the term “tough decisions” in California (as with the nation) it means only one thing: Democratic constituencies tied to the public sector take it on the chin.

So California’s system of higher education is going to get whacked with a bigger cut than anything Schwarzenegger dished out. It turns out that in addition to the $500 million cut in the California State University system, there’s now going to be at least an additional $150 million cut on top of that one; with probably more savage cuts to follow if Brown continues to “move heaven and earth” to kiss the Republican minority’s ass.

At least if Meg Whitman were governor now we could mount a serious opposition. The labor unions in this state could mobilize a vigorous defense of the public institutions. But with the “liberal” Brown in office, Democrats and their working-class constituents are crouching in a holding position. “He’s our guy,” they say, “we gotta stand behind him,” we don’t want to end up with a Scott Walker wannabe. So go ahead organized labor, cut more checks for the Dems, open up those Independent Expenditure accounts — meanwhile, FOUR Republican white men run the state into the ground. The two-thirds rule (where all legislation that touches revenue enhancement needs a super-majority) is all the more galling when we have a Democratic legislature and a Democratic governor.

California has a reputation for being a place where there’s a lot of whackos. It’s true and the Republican Party out here reflects that stereotype. They’re all blind ideologues and anti-tax zealots dedicated to class warfare and slash-and-burn politics. They don’t negotiate, they obstruct. They gum up the works of the parliament just like we’ve seen far-right parties do in other contexts throughout history. You meet one demand and they got fifty-three more. There’s your “heaven and earth” Jerry.

And the hapless Jerry Brown thinks he can reason with these people. He’s going to have to govern their way or he’ll never get those votes. And if he’s going to govern their way then we might as well have elected “Money Bags” Whitman because at least we’d have an enemy to mobilize against.

The Republican minority won’t give Jerry his FOUR votes, (two from the Senate and two from the Assembly), that’s all he needs — FOUR Republican votes then the revenue enhancement measure could be put to a vote of all Californians. Negotiating behind closed doors, just like during the Arnold Era, they demand multi-year structural reforms to the entire state government to serve their narrow corporate and class interests – deregulation (especially environmental regs), privatization (especially of schools and higher ed), tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations — we’ve heard it all before.

No one questions why holding the state’s budget hostage to attain maximal political goals that have nothing to do with the budget is a legitimate exercise. (The Washington Republicans have taken a page from the California GOP’s book and are now holding the federal government hostage through controlling the debt-ceiling vote.)

Joe PalermoAt the local level we’re getting creamed. The City of Sacramento, for instance, (which has one of the highest crime rates in California), is currently laying off police officers, dismantling its CSI unit,and passing on investigating burglaries and parole violations at a time when burglaries and parole violations are skyrocketing. Meantime, Sacramento County and neighboring counties have laid off about one-fourth of their Sheriff’s departments, and for several years now the local boards of supervisors have been slashing every single program that assisted low-income children and adults who have mental or physical disabilities, closing community centers, swimming pools, and county parks, and laying off hundreds of other personnel. Even the DA’s office is laying off prosecutors. Schools are shutting down, teachers are being handed their pink slips, cops and firefighters (the vaunted “first responders” of the 9/11 attacks), and especially their unions, are being vilified and attacked.

And now we can add to this kind of class warfare a Democratic governor willing to “move heaven and earth” to help this slide into oblivion along.

Joseph Palermo
Joseph Palermo’s Blog


  1. prayforjustice says

    jERRY bROWN SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF HIMSELF ! What he is doing as a govenor is so far out and cruel that he should be recalled, I think he’s gone crazy or maybe he’s just too old and can’t think right he should be in a rest home and not in the Govenors office. We need to get someone who is not suffering from alzhiemer to run the state!!!!!!

  2. Lorelei Shark says

    This is exactly what’s happening in Washington… not enough votes for a super-majority vote, so we have to cow-tow to the minority to get what we need. I don’t see where the author of this piece offers any alternative ideas … just like on the federal level. What are some ideas out of this mess when we don’t have the votes ? I also find it rather demeaning to refer to the Governor as Governor Moonbeam – we’re not in the eighties anymore.

  3. Linda Doran says

    As mentioned above:

    It is the 2/3 rule for revenue increases that empowers Republican vermin (redundant?) and literally makes the State ungovernable.

    We probably need to revisit this issue and mount a new campaign to repeal this law that, in effect, continues to hobble the Legislature. Voters clearly got Props. 25 and 26 confused in the last election.

  4. RonF says

    California is in the situation it is now in because for a very long time it has been creating programs on the basis of “what we should do” vs. “what we have money to do”. If you think that the problem is not that the legislature has been making promises it can’t keep but that the rich are simply not taxed enough, then do the math. Figure out how much money would be needed to fund all programs to the level you desire. Figure out how much money rich people have that can be taxed. Figure out how much money corporations have that can be taxed (before they simply leave the state). What you’ll find is that the former is more than the latter. Even if you take all the rich people’s money and all the corporations profits you wouldn’t be able to pay for the programs. You have to cut. And you have to try to reverse the movement of industry and corporations out of the state by making it attractive for them to stay.

    As Margaret Thatcher once said, the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples’ money. California is at that point. In fact, California is past that point. Again – do the math.

  5. Darrelb says

    “…begging FOUR right-wing white Republican men…”

    Uh, you’ll have to excuse me but is there something wrong with being a white man? If I, as a white man, had something like this I would be skewered as a “racist”. Why is it alright for you to say something like this? Please explain.

  6. Uri Fulla Shytte says

    I believe your analysis is misguided.

    Let me stipulate the following: 1) you are absolutely correct that the cuts proposed are barbaric and should not (in a moral universe) occur. 2) It is the 2/3 rule for revenue increases that empowers Republican vermin (redundant?) and literally makes the State ungovernable. 3) Jerry Brown made a tactical error when he ran by tying any tax increases to popular will.

    That said, Brown also was quite clear in his campaign that unless California was prepared to go into a permanent debt cycle (both illegal and inherently unrecoverable since California cannot do what the Feds can do — print money), then the budget had to be balanced. That is straight talk, tragic, but straight.

    Brown’s veto was the intellectually honest thing to do since the budget was NOT balanced. He did what he promised he was going to do. Brown has also said that if Republicans don’t agree to some tax increases, then they should be (my words:) flushed out in 2012.

    This isn’t over by a long shot. Your comparison of Brown to Scott Walker is not only factually wrong, it’s despicable. Walker is a born again, Ayn Rand cultist, circus freak psychotic who explicitly wants to kill the middle class. Jerry Brown is none of those things, on the contrary, he does not want any of the cuts to social services (including education). But wishful thinking is not going to get us a humane budget.

    We need to focus all of our energy on eliminating the crippling mistakes written into Prop 13, we need to eliminate the 2/3 tax rule, we need to expose the Republicans for the vicious sociopaths that they are and have always been, and we need to find ways to bypass these Republican maggots who have eaten away the fabric of our once prosperous society until we can purge them permanently.

    • Uri Fulla Shytte says

      One more thing, well, two.

      We need a publicly owned State bank, and we need a single payer health care system. This will reduce both interest payments and health care costs of the government (and us).

      • Mike Field says

        No, you don’t need single payer. It’s a big jumps from tax financed universal health insurance to single payer. If you say that “we” “need a single payer healt care system”, then you have to be prepared to defend the idea that single payer is more acceptable than the alternatives. Get with it!

  7. Joe Weinstein says

    I’m glad for articles like this one, taking Jerry to task. We do need to hold his feet to the fire.

    In fact we need to hold all Dems responsible for understanding that, statewide and nationwide, the Republicans now are inplacable free-loaders, and no one who isn’t totally in their camp can truly work WITH them. The only way to deal with them is to be as ready as they are to play ‘chicken’.

    But deep down I not ready just yet to write Jerry off just yet – not until a couple weeks from now anyhow, when those taxes do expire. Unlike Obama he at least seems to know what he wants, and is not giving Republicans a free pass. Likely he still figures that in the impending crunch a few of the most level-headed ones will come to perceive that if they continue to be the grinches then they and their entire party will truly be at risk in this state – not only in 2012 but for many years thereafter; especially so given the newly – and apparently more-or-less fairly – reapportioned state legislative districts.

  8. Craig says

    We’re moving towards collapse in my opinion because corporate America may as well be telling Republicans “what you “no” is worth a lot of money(in campaign contributions).Our money driven electoral system has become even more dysfunctional.

  9. prayforjustice says

    Jerry Brown dosen’t look like he really cares what is really important to fix California , I can’t see how cutting much need monies from education and from vital programs to satisfy prison guards and all the rest of the Republicans that only look for ways of lining there pockets is for the better of California. in fact as I see it will only cause hardships to people that can’t no more afford to have these programs cut, and all for the sake of his damn budget. If he really cared so much about fixing the budget he would release all those prisoners that are too old too sick to cause any harm to anyone like the federal court ordered instead of making excuses and fearmongering the public and basicly lieing to everyone just so he can keep the guards with job security, The guard union bought him at the election by funding his campaign. Now he has plans to build more prisons at our expense while at the same time taking monies away from all of us to pay for them in other word steal from the poor to give to the rich. He could change the mess California is in if he did the right thing no take on a Republican agenda like it seems he wants to do!!!!!!! Then of course we can fix this by recalling him and getting someone who hasn’t being bought and paid for by a bunch of crooks!!!!!!!!!!

    • Big Hunk says

      Im not a fan of Jerry’s at all, but you are taking an extremely myopic view of California’s fiscal emergency by laying it at the feet of only one entity. I recognize that you are passionate against the prison system, probably due to the fact that you have a loved one who is currently incarcerated. If true, this appears to have skewed your view of the circumstances surrounding the state’s troubles. I suggest that you take a step back and take a wider, more objective view of the problem. Once blind emotion no longer colors your perspective, you will no doubt see that the prison system is just one small piece of the puzzle that comprises the total budget, and hence, the fiscal emergency we are now facing.

  10. Linda Sutton says

    And whatever makes Jerry think he can WORK with the Republicans?? Maybe he’s not noticed how successful Obama has been with that strategy???

  11. Linda Sutton says

    I have my VIEW set to the largest type and I can barely read this type. Yes, I know I need new computer glasses, but it would be great if you could increase the font size a bit from the website end. Thanks.///


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *