Budget Deficit

eMeg Will Use Skill Set to Dissect California

Meg Whitman's plan for the Golden State is too grown-up for its own good


Readers who push through to the final pages of MEG 2010: Building a New California will finally get an answer to the 48-page policy agenda's most persistent riddle: How did California end up with this Rockefeller Republican running for governor? In the biographical sketch we learn at last, in the kind of apologetic phrasing former eBay CEO Meg Whitman has mastered during this campaign, "Although Meg was born and raised on Long Island, New York…"

All grown up.

No shame in that! Many of us come from far away and fall for California. But there must be some explanation, if not geographical maybe sociological, for the Whitman platform's timid tepidity. If you think extreme times call for meager measures, Whitman is the governor for you.

Book reviews are supposed to put the nice stuff first, so here goes: MEG 2010 [pdf] starts out with a strong rant about California's abysmal business climate. Whitman does not engage in California exceptionalism and provides helpful comparisons with practices in other states. Whitman promises to impose a moratorium on new regulations and a review of existing regs. She proposes putting overtime schedules on a 40-hour-week basis rather than an eight-hour day. MEG 2010 contains a pledge to defend the two-thirds majority requirement to pass budgets and tax increases. Whitman wants to fire 40,000 government employees. The platform also contains some nice wish-list items that have been kicking around Sacramento for years: matching growth of government spending to growth of the state's economy; making the legislature part-time; running the state lottery "more like a business" (Gov. Schwarzenegger used to talk about selling it); eliminating most categorical education grants and instead giving the money directly to local school districts, etc.

But while MEG 2010 speaks repeatedly about offering "grown-up" solutions, Whitman's proposals are pre-pubescent. Faced with a business-strangling tax burden, Whitman starts off her "Create Jobs" blueprint with a column explaining why she won't consider an across-the-board tax cut. "[W]e have to be strategic and effective in the tax relief we provide" because while "marginal tax cuts do create greater revenue….the state must first start seeing growing state revenue from an economic recovery." This is bass-ackward. The Laffer Curve was invented to describe situations exactly like California's, where the revenue-depressive effects of taxation are observable in business deaths and relocations.

Anybody who follows state house shenanigans in this land knows what's coming next. "Meg has a better, more realistic plan: spark job growth now by quickly enacting targeted tax cuts that are affordable and immediately impact key sectors of our economy to create new jobs." Some of these targeted cuts make sense—witness the elimination of the deadly $800 startup tax.

But the collective hodgepodge features all the worst aspects of central planning. Why do the state's public universities need to be surrounded by new "academic empowerment zones" that will "be focused on hiring workers, promoting research and development, increasing access to state funds and loans and encouraging a close collaboration with universities." You could get a better result by compelling California's university systems to sell off some of the vast chunks of real estate that they have acquired around their campuses. The proposed $10,000 home buyer tax credit is scandalous. The tax credits for green tech job creation and water conversation are probably inevitable, but that doesn't change the central fact about tax credits: They don't work here or anywhere else [pdf].

"My team and I have dissected the California economy," Whitman writes, by way of explaining all this micromanagement. But Whitman would do better to channel some of the cold water she threw on Jerry Brown's green jobs hokum during Tuesday's debate—when she noted that non-green jobs account for 97 percent of the state's economy. Yet her plan seems to be to let that 97 percent of the economy keep treading water while building more boutique subsidies for her fellow technocrats—in a state that's already got plenty of those.

Worse still is the plan to "bring more efficiency to state revenue," the main plank of which is to "get California's fair share from Washington, D.C." It's true that California is a donor state that receives, according to the Tax Foundation [pdf], only 79 cents in federal spending for every dollar in federal taxes its residents pay. But the state has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. For Whitman to be bragging that she will continue or accelerate the game of Washington lobbying leaves little hope for a governor who will be focused on California. Unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger, Whitman is eligible to become president. (They even let Long Islanders in now.) Which capital—Sacramento or D.C.—would you focus on making friends in if you were in Whitman's sensible shoes?

This national purview shows up throughout the document. Did you know that the governor of California can issue H-1B visas, complete the construction of the federal government's border wall, and "increase the federal government's investment in new port infrastructure?" I didn't either, but maybe if a governor had superpowers? But then if Whitman had those she'd be making some actual bold proposals. In those places where Whitman's heart is in the right place (an OK education plan and a general acknowledgment that businesses create more wealth than governments do), her ideas are lukewarm. Can you get excited by a "Sunset Commission" to examine old laws (rather than just a sunset law that would automatically terminate laws that don't get reaffirmed)? Then how about an "Economic Development Task Force" staffed by a "dedicated team of development professionals" charged with "selling the state's positive attributes to new businesses and existing ones"?

Actually, there is one area where Whitman seems determined—a punitive statewide immigration plan that contans one good idea (opposing subsidized higher education for illegal immigrants) and plenty of bad ones. The gubernatorial hopeful envisions securing California behind an "Economic Fence" that uses an enhanced e-verification system. And what will the lucky folks on the inside of that fence have to look forward to? Workplace inspections of suspect businesses "modeled after drug seizure raids," seemingly permanent National Guard mobilization, and a lawsuit to get Washington to give Sacramento more money.

Most disappointing of all is Whitman's proposal for government employee pension reform. Starting from an attractive place—establishing a two-tiered system where new hires come in with 401(k)-style defined contribution plans, and upping contributions by existing employees—Whitman then undermines her own plan by exempting cops and firefighters, who represent about a fourth of the total pension pile and are among the state's most energetic pension featherbedders. On the stump Whitman talks a good game about the pension crisis; it's a crowd-pleaser this year. But this could actually be an area where Jerry Brown (whose proposals we'll take a look at in the future) has a more serious read on the situation. (Don't get your hopes up: He still crows about all the endorsements he gets from police associations, so you can be sure he won't solve the problem.)

Whitman refers to her unique "skill set," which she says "fits the dire times of our state." Whatever that is, it has not been visible in her public campaigning. And it is entirely absent from her middle-managerial official policy agenda, a document that is about as trustworthy as work papers signed by Nicky Diaz Santillan.

Tim Cavanaugh is a senior editor at Reason magazine.

NEXT: Barbara Boxer Against Chinese People Having Jobs

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I don’t care….about her proposals, plans, what have you! I just can’t look at that face anymore!

    1. I know … she was actually attractive in the picture above. What happened? I can’t recall a more funereal politician running for state office, and the most recent one with that kind of a dour appearance was Rudy Giuliani.

  2. Whitman’s proposals are pre-pubescent. Faced with a business-strangling tax burden, Whitman starts off her “Create Jobs” blueprint with a column explaining why she won’t consider an across-the-board tax cut.

    Something like: “I know I have a sinkhole a foot from my house and this is the reason I am not moving:”


    Uh, still, it’s better than Jerry “I never knew a budget-busting pension I don’t like!” Brown

  3. Well, she was cute when young…

    1. I’d hit that.

  4. But Matt, if she told the truth and actually offered a real program that might fix things, her liberal friends up in San Jose wouldn’t like her anymore. People would call her names and say she was like Sarah Palin. It would be hard. Come on. She shouldn’t have to do anything hard or that might offend someone.

    1. “People would call her names and say she was like Sarah Palin.” Meg Whitman is for forcing women to give birth in cases of incest and rape????

      1. Meg Whitman is for forcing women to give birth in cases of incest and rape????

        Or allowing the babies to live. Depends on your POV.

        1. You are obviously a troll.

    2. She shouldn’t have to do anything hard or that might offend someone.

      It’s called politics. What did you expect?

  5. Most politicians wouldn’t know Hayek from a hand-job. It’s probably unreasonable for sentient Californians to hope that Whitman knows Mises from miso.

    1. Politician #1: What’s a Hayek?

      Politician #2: Twenty bucks, same as downtown.

      1. What if I want a Whitman?

        1. That’ll cost ya extra.

        2. Do you want to bid or go for the Buy It Now price?

          1. That depends. Are you a top-rated seller?

  6. Meg doesn’t seem too promising. Brown is a known disappointing quantity. Enough with Coke vs. Pepsi. Check out Dale Ogden for Governor: http://www.dalefogden.org/

    1. Why is it that libertarian candidates have to have websites that look like they were designed in 1998? Did he just update his old geocities page when he decided to run?

      1. No shit. That’s hard on the eyes.

      2. So are you saying you value style over substance? Many have pointed to that quality as having been responsible for some disastrous electoral decisions of recent years.

        Maybe you could contribute time or know-how to overhaul the site. Contributing only criticism isn’t very helpful.

        Or maybe you can toss some money toward Ogden and hook him up with your favorite web-designer.

        At very least, you might want to suggest that the national LP buy Ogden’s site a makeover, with some of the over $250K they have taken in so far in online contributions to “help get Libertarians elected in 2010.”

        Finally, you might consider (perhaps even appreciate?) that someone who is making accurate and useful info available about himself and his candidacy but obviously not spending a lot of money to do so, might be just as frugal with tax revenues. Those are, at least, some of the thoughts that came to my mind. I have nothing to do with the campaign or the candidate, except my general preference for voting Libertarian.

        1. But all the above being said, thanks for at least looking in on the website. I hope that others will not be deterred by your comments, and will decide to see for themselves.

          1. There’s more than style wrong with that web page. It doesn’t present the information efficiently or effectively. It’s a clusterfuck from the ground up.

            There is a difference between “frugal” and “I just whipped up this shit in Word in 20 minutes.” A decent book (from the library) and a few hours and he could have constructed a page that doesn’t immediately turn readers off AND helps people get the information he wants out there.

            If he can’t bother with that, how the hell is he going to run the state, much less fix it?

          2. James… It really isn’t just about style over substance, communicating ideas effectively and getting one’s message across in a way that is well-received by a broad audience is really the whole point here.

            It’s certainly been my experience that libertarian candidates tend to massively fail at those kinds of things and it frustrates the hell out of me because there are people like me who exist to create legitimate media on the behalf of those kinds of ideas (i.e. http://www.citizenamedia.com)

            And yet… It’s hard to get the people who need better media (and websites) to put up the necessary resources to make it happen. It’s really kind of a shame.

        2. So are you saying you value style over substance? Many have pointed to that quality as having been responsible for some disastrous electoral decisions of recent years.

          It’s all a disaster! It’s not that difficult to manage a little “Style” on a webpage!

  7. Nothing is going to change in Cali until the cities and counties start withholding our property tax payments and various other fees to the state. There is no reason the state budget could not be reduced drastically if cities and counties could be left alone to manage their affairs with the money we pay locally.

  8. Extreme times do call for extreme measures! If Meg Whitman has been in Lenin’s shoes, there wouldn’t have been a Russian Revolution! If Meg Whitman had been in Hitler’s shoes, there wouldn’t have been a Third Reich! Give us extreme measures, or give us another silly article by Tim Cavanaugh.


    2. H&R’s pet yorkie:


    3. And if Meg Whitman had been in FDR’s shoes, our constitution might still be intact.

    4. I love playing the Hitler card!

  9. our property tax payments”

    “the money we pay locally”

    Comrade! You speak as if your little community is immune to and exempt from the concerns of the State! Might we suggest that you put aside your selfish, personal problems and focus on the needs of your fellow Citizens?

    1. But, but I want to be my brothers cheaper keeper!

      1. Amazing how liberals use the “my brother’s keeper” line, and out of the other side of their mouths use the “separation of church and state” line…

        1. I once stole my brother’s Trapper Keeper.

          1. Was it the Dawson’s Creek trapper keeper?

  10. I don’t think there’s much question that Meg isn’t the solution to our problems–but if ever there were a case where “But Governor Moonbeam would have been worse!”, then this is it.

    If somebody thinks that Governor Moonbeam is about to do what Richard Nixon did to his anti-Communist zealot supporters when he went to China, then now’s the time to make that case.

    If we’d sent Jerry Brown to China instead of Nixon, he’d probably have come back wearing a Mao suit and carrying a little red book…

    Governor Moonbeam is a crime against the people of California. …and that makes Meg the law.

    As Attorney General, Brown sued San Bernardino County (and every other county in California by extension) to force them to account for every new project’s impact on global freaking warming in their EIR. You can’t build anything bigger than a few houses without accounting for the construction traffic’s impact on global freaking warming–because that’s the way Attorny General Jerry Brown made it.

    If Jerry Brown gets elected, he will make Barrack Obama look like a moderate by comparison. The reason Brown didn’t go further as Attorney General was only because he couldn’t go further as Attorney General.

    There is no telling how stupid things will get under Governor Moonbeam. It’s a bottomless pit of stupidity.

    1. “Governor Moonbeam”

      Really? I’ll need you to step out of the car, sir.

      1. “Governor Moonbeam”

        Really? I’ll need you to step out of the car, sir.”

        That’s what everybody calls him.

        I bet more people recognize him as “Governor Moonbeam” than recognize him by his other name(s).

        “Zen Economics”? Are you kidding?! “Governor Moonbeam” is about the nicest thing people call him…

        I’m kinda partial to “Zen Fascism” myself, but in some kind of double reverse weirdness, calling Governor Moonbeam a “Zen Fascist” makes people not want to take us seriously!

        When you see him, always remind yourself–he’s totally holding back. You remember back when Tom Cruise was like the coolest guy around, and then one day he decided to fire the publicist he’d had for a decade–and hire his Scientologist sister instead? …and then next thing you know, Tom Cruise is denouncing Brooke Shields and equating the practice of psychiatry with Auschwitz. …he’s jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch, and all of a sudden you realize–wow, his publicist of ten years–was like the greatest publicist in the world! ’cause she somehow managed to keep the world from knowing exactly how batshit freakin’ insane Tom Cruise was all that time!

        Well whoever’s running Governor Moonbeam’s campaign? Should get the Nobel Prize for Bullshit because that’s the greatest public reinvention I’ve seen since they turned that bloodthirsty torturer/executioner Che Guevara into a t-shirt.

        1. I bet more people recognize him as “Governor Moonbeam” than recognize him by his other name(s).

          Lord of the Flies!

          1. I googled it and that’s apparently a pretty close second…

            Going back to his Malathion Denialist days (People > Fruit Flies), but let’s not go there–that puts him in a positive light…

            The fact of the matter is that Meg may not be the right answer–but she’s not as wrong as Governor Moonbeam. …and that’s all it comes down to for me. “California Uber Alles” had it right then, and it’s the same thing now.

            The only things he ever did that made any sense to me were comin’ out against spraying all of California’s suburbs from helicopters with pesticide like we were in Vietnam or somethin’ and Linda Ronstadt.

            But any idiot should be able to figure those two out…

            Should I keep spraying my voters with pesticide against their will?

            Should I do Linda Ronstadt?

            Anybody with an IQ above room temperature should be able to figure those two questions out.

        2. That’s what everybody calls him.

          Review the GP’s handle.

          1. Sometimes the cliche fits. That was my point.

            Governor Moonbeam? That says pretty much everything you need to know…

            The rest of it is just a question of whether eMeg could possibly be worse.

            And the answer is no.

            1. So far as you know. But we BOTH know politicians are typically shit-eating rat bastards who will screw anything up given half-a-chance

    2. I don’t think there’s much question that Meg isn’t the solution to our problems–but if ever there were a case where “But Governor Moonbeam would have been worse!”, then this is it.

      All any thinking person needs to know is that the legislature is controlled by Democrats. Elect a Democrat governor and you get no solutions but raising more taxes. Elect the Republican (Whitman in this case) and you *might* get something better. Personal characteristics take a back seat.

      1. Except in this case, I think we may have somebody who deep down in his heart really truly believes that government employee unions–are the answer to our problems!

        Why isn’t that relevant?

        The man seems to think that the turmoil California is going through really is just another step in his own personal growth cycle…

        Why isn’t that relevant?

  11. Its incumbent open-season, that all those who oppose immigration enforcement must be discarded, so legitimate lawmakers can take their places. Immigration law comes down to the main matter and that’s money? It’s the costs that American taxpayers have to bear, to subsidize anybody who slips past the border agents, or deceives the federal inspector at the airport. Costs to support illegal immigrants is substantial and the politicians, open border lobbyists don’t want the true costs to be revealed to the American public. If the–REAL–fences had been constructed the full length of the US/Mexican border, Arizona would never have needed to enforce its own immigration laws. The whole cheap labor invasion has always been about money, throughout the most highlighted 30 years. Both parties must be held responsible, for this invasion.

    But nothing can be done about those who already have violated our laws, except mass deportation or the permanent operation of verifying the legal status of labor, by using highly upgraded E-Verify. The (FAIR) Federation for American Immigration Reform (an activist group concerned in reducing immigration to the U.S.), used the U.S. INS (ICE is the new merged version) statistics on how many illegal immigrants have illegally settled in each state. The U.S. Dept of Education’s current overheads per pupil by state, and found the estimated cost of educating illegal immigrants students and U.S. citizen children of illegal immigrants in 2004 was $29.6 billion. Seven years later the amount appropriated as currently cannot even be imagined? In 2008, about 344,000 babies were born to parents of whom at least one was an illegal immigrant. These babies were given legal status, under the Fourteenth Amendment , as American citizens.

    These offspring represented eight percent of the 4.3 million births in the United States that year. These figures are just estimates of illegal immigration to the United States, and there is very little data on the dollar value placed on taxpayers. However, one thing is a 100 percent for sure the cost of supporting foreign nationals and their broods, far outweighs what they pay in taxes or any other expenditure and is still spiraling upwards. This is why all incumbents must not be given a second chance, beginning with Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). Reid like all the others has turned a blind eye to taxpayers in subsidizing millions of illegal aliens. His own state of Nevada as with California is overwhelmed with illegal aliens and the taxpayers have grave concerns for their sinking economies. We need representation of new Governors, Mayors and elected officials, who are opposed to any kind of Amnesty, such as the Dream act or the subtle description of a path to citizenship.

    I’m not overly fond of Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina but she at least won’t sacrifice California taxpayers as Jerry Brown to adjoin with other pro amnesty entities. The majority of Democrats are pro-amnesty, although a few Republicans are corrupted by special interest groups to attain the goal of allowing–ALL-to stay. I repeat that business owners in the majority find no responsibility in paying for health care, education or a mixture of other freebies. Barbara Boxer of California is a strong advocate for Amnesty, so is Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many others, who if are returned to their Washington seat will aggressively seek another negative reform. This retaliation against all incumbents is the measure of proof that they have ignored the interests of all Americans, who have not been indoctrinated by the lying of the Liberal media or the open border fanatics. American voter’s message is clear– that it’s time for you to adjourn and go back to a private job or just retire on your copious benefits.

    Think about this–if we were not forced by law to pay taxes, to support the illegal household’s, we would have more than enough money to concentrate on our own impoverished American people. My guess the unions do not want billionaire Meg Whitman in office, because they will not be able to influence her as Jerry Brown with questionable monetary favors and campaign contributions? Let’s face it–after a whole year has passed, this elusive illegal alien female maid comes out the woodwork to accuse Whitman, of all sorts of improprieties. This lady has already admitted she broke immigration laws by using false identification, and then she suddenly comes forward to denounce Meg Whitman. Unions and other entities have plenty of money to spend, to deceive the Public with their own ideological premise? Incidentally–Gloria Allred has a ominous agenda and a political appointee of Bill Clinton. It’s my opinion as an Independent that its all a fabrication.

    Call up your Senator or Congressman at 202-224-3121. Remember if we don’t speak up for ourselves–NOTHING WILL EVER CHANGE. Lastly, keep a intelligent eye on the polling stations as illegal immigrants who have given us the finger on our immigration laws, will think nothing of violating our sovereign citizen’s rights in fraudulent voting, especially with absentee ballots in states with slipshod laws.

    1. Illegal immigrants!

      Blah, blah, blah–woof, woof!

    2. Settle down, Francis.

      1. “Stripes” Reference FAIL.

        “Lighten up Francis.”

        1. Close enough. Not everyone has time to google their Stripes references. Maybe there’s a business opportunity there.

          1. maybe not….

  12. This is a very cute picture but she didn’t age well. She is only 54.

  13. Anyone who stays in California after realizing it has a poor business climate has poor judgement.

    If you are thinking of voting for Meg or another cantidate, just go somewhere else instead. CA isn’t worth defending.

  14. #1) Which major-party candidate is better?
    Can’t tell; Moonbeam loves unions, Meg thinks the government should keep gays from marrying.
    #2) Should I waste my vote (assuming I bother to do so) on either one?
    Nope. There is a Libertarian candidate.

    1. I’m at the point where voting seems to be part of problem…

      It isn’t a question of who to vote for anymore, at least it isn’t for me. It’s a question of who to make fun of the most and when.

      I’ll make fun of eMeg when she wins, until then? I consider a steady stream of pure ridicule focused on Governor Moonbeam is my solemn libertarian duty–the man’s Obama^3 * 10.

    2. I thought you didn’t want to waste yuor vote? Voting for a libritarian is useless except as a form of protest.

      1. I am fucking sick of the “wasted vote” argument.

        Voting for someone who shares less than 50% of your ideals is wasting your vote. If you vote for someone who agrees with you 33%, on the grounds that the other main candidate agrees with you 25%, what have you “won”? You helped (in however small a fashion) put someone in power who is going to work against you 67% of the time. If that’s not wasting your vote, the phrase has no meaning.

        I will vote for those who I agree with 51% or more (weighted for issues I feel strongly about), and if there’s no one in the race who fits that description, I will not vote for anyone. I don’t care if the person I vote for only gets .5% of the vote.

        1. That’s why I’m focusing on ridicule.

          Ridicule is never wasted on a politician.

        2. Voting is a sham that has the effect of misdirecting what little energy and resources are out there for the advancement of liberty. The USSR had 100% voting and look how that worked out for them. Voting is the magician’s hand drawing your attention with a flourish and a flower while his other hand is actually doing something. The USA will not change via the political process; Democrats and Republicans are factions of the same party, who wile they disagree over a lot of things have agreed that only their joint party shall ever hold power and have cooked the rules to make sure that that stays that way.

          Don’t waste your time being concerned with voting. Find another way to advance liberty.

  15. Meg sounds a lot like Schwarzeneggar to me… says some good things and if elected will be crushed by the machine & absolutely powerless to accomplish any of it. But she sounds acceptable from my perspective here in NY – where the race between Cuomo II, riding the usual express train from pit-bull attorney general to the governor’s mansion, and populist-in-all-the-wrong-ways Paladino will if anything be interesting to watch despite the fact we lose big time no matter who wins.

  16. I use eBay a lot. It is great. Meg built it. I suffer the sleazy govt bureaucracy that Jerry built and supports.

    1. Maybe we’ll be able to use eBay to bid on the value of government services. Actually, politicians should have to submit bids for our tax dollars. Who agreed to this no-bid social contract in the first place?? That’s a Halliburton conspiracy if I ever saw one.

  17. Hi, allow me invite you to my community: The site named –S ugarMommyDate– (where mature women and men who like cougar find love). Best Cougar dating site in the world! It’s where cougars and younger men can meet(Cougar is the slang for woman who is mature, experienced and want to date with a younger man). No matter you are looking for a NSA or serious relationship, please do check it out!And also you may find yourself more compatible with young men. For young men, dating an older woman has numerous advantages. You can sometimes learn valuable advice from her on how to conduct himself in a difficult situation. She is your best listener and supporter.Join us and contact tens of thousands of cougars and cougar admirers!

    1. For the last time, we’re not interested in Whitman.

      1. Hold on… I might be interested in Whitman if it’s a No Strings Attached (NSA) relationship. A lack of strings is an intriguing quality in a governor… tell me more.

  18. Check our http://www.conversationswithmegwhitman.blogspot.com for targeted information on Meg’s plan for creating jobs in California.

    1. Yeah…I’ve heard she’s really interested in hearing from us about our ideas….

      Away with you PoliTroll.

  19. eBay had its 15 minutes of fame 10 years ago. Amazon is so much better. I mean, how many people really want the hassle of going through an auction just to buy something? Plus you have to do your own advertising on eBay — Amazon lists the product for you. Unless you’re trying to sell something that is totally obscure or unwieldy, Amazon or even craigslist are often better alternatives. If craigslist ever figures out how to go national and beefs up their search tools they could bury eBay.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.