Jerry Brown Unplugged


He will be fuhrer one day. He will command all of you. Your kids will meditate in school.

Is Jerry Brown Skyping his campaign commercials? Full text of a new bare-bones campaign spot from the former governor of California, sitting state attorney general and Democratic option in the November gubernatorial vote:

Our state is in a real mess, and I'm not gonna give you any phony plans or snappy slogans that don't go anywhere. We have to make some tough decisions. We have to live within our means. We've gotta take the power from the state capital and move it down to the local level, closer to the people, and no new taxes without voter approval. We've got to pull together not as Republicans or as Democrats, but as Californians first. And at this stage in life I'm prepared to do exactly that.

The ad has a bracing pull-yourself-together-dammit tone, but "at this stage in my life" smacks of the airy self-absorption for which Jerry Brown has always, fairly or unfairly, been mocked. And at the risk of being direct, I must note that at Jerry Brown's stage in life, most people are dead [pdf].

Nor is it clear what "no new taxes without voter approval" means. Electoral context in this case is ominous: California voters will be voting in November on Prop 25 [pdf], a taxation trojan horse that would eliminate the two-thirds-majority requirement for passage of state budgets and replace it with a simple majority. While Prop 25, which is backed solidly by government employee unions, claims to retain the supermajority requirement for taxes, both proponents and opponents have acknowledged that it will lead to new fees and taxes (some of which are already included in other measures on the ballot this fall).

If we count ballot initiatives as "voter approval," Brown's statement could mean he sees items like Prop 25 (and its inevitable offspring — an end to supermajority for overt tax hikes), Prop 21 (new vehicle license surcharge) and Prop 24 (tax on businesses) — as voter mandates for new taxes. Pages two through five of the Meg Whitman campaign's counterblaste [pdf] indicate that Jerry Brown has an artful way of saying "No" to taxes, so that it comes out as "Yes."

Update: A description of how Prop 25 will work to jack up taxes from the Fantastic Joel Fox:

While there is a dispute whether taxes can be raised directly through the mechanism of Prop 25, there is no question revenue can be raised to cover the spending in a majority vote budget through increases in majority vote fees, which in many cases are disguised taxes.