The Surly Bonds of Jerry Brown


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If you were among the millions moved when California Gov. Jerry Brown didn't get an upgrade to business class last week, John Wildermuth has some bad news for you. Writing at Fox & Hounds Daily, Wildermuth notes that Flying Southwest and cutting off state employee cell phone accounts won't do much to close the state's $25 billion budget deficit.  

When Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor, he often flew across the state in his private jet, paying the tab from his own very deep pockets. Cost to the taxpayers: zero.

When Gov. Jerry Brown flew from Sacramento to Burbank last week to push his budget plan before the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, he flew by himself on Southwest Airlines. The bill for the state: $126 for the roundtrip fare (it's normally $160, but Brown gets a senior discount).

In this case, it's not the reality of the money but the symbolism of the plane ride that counts and there's no politician better at using symbols than Jerry Brown.

Newspapers across the state wrote about the speech, but they paid even more attention to Brown's mode of travel. "Thrifty governor charms Californians in coach" read the headline in the San Francisco Chronicle and no, there's not enough money in the state's coffers to buy that sort of publicity (Of course there's not enough money in the state's coffers to buy much of anything).

The problem isn't just that this kind of gesture is purely symbolic. The symbolism itself is open to question. Thirty-four years ago, Jimmy Carter ushered in his own era of frugality by walking to his inauguration. And look how that turned out.

NEXT: How Much Does Government Cost?

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  1. Don’t you see Tim, he flies coach like a regular joe. He’s one of us, or at least he was before he died and was reanimated for the gubernatorial campaign.

    1. Not regular enough. Fucker ought to live in a duplex next to some proto-hippies, clip coupons, and be forced to get his e-mail at the library.

    2. Jerry Brown is a zombie? California can finally live out the story of Night of the Comet! Yes!

  2. WTF? Slow news day?
    1. evil if he flies private
    2. evil if he flies public
    3. evil+ if he walks?
    You forgot to mention travelling by hovering skateboard

    1. $500 billion worth of forgone seat upgrades?

      I would put the traveling by hovering skateboard thing past him. Seriously, he might suggest that him traveling that way would help dig us out of the ditch we’re in.

      …and if he did, would it be okay if we pointed out that won’t have any affect whatsoever on the $500 billion in unfunded pension liabilities we have in California?!

      …because him traveling coach isn’t about to put a dent in that either!

      1. I don’t get it-does he not have to travel? Is this a man thing, and you criticize him no matter what he does? Does he get a chance, or his he personally responsible for inherited debt?

    2. You follow?!

      Nothing he’s selling is about to address the problem.

      And that’s not Cavanaugh’s fault.

    3. Evil if he sells Californian’s down the budgetary sewer of public debt while he says “I’m doing something about it! I flew coach!”

    4. Hovering skateboards only exist in the far away future world of 2015.

  3. This reminds me of that episode of “Yes Minister!” in which Hacker announced an economy drive after receiving “advice” from Humphrey, which was really meant to distract the minister from other cuts.

    Many of California’s budget proposals remind me of the “non-proposal-proposal” that Hacker used in another episode in which Hacker is given the impossible job of creating a transportation policy (impossible because he would have to fight the automobile, rail, and airline industries/unions/departments/lobbies. Basically, he and Humphrey decide to propose massively painful cuts to the Prime Minister’s home constituency in order to get the government to drop the issue from their department entirely.

    Whenever the government proposes to cut something completely irrelevant (in terms of cost) or something that the voter’s feel is really important, you should ask the question: What cuts are they REALLY hiding from us…?

  4. Jerry Brown is a two-faced liar.
    If he ever once does what he claims he’ll do, I’ll think about changing my opinion.

  5. “Hello Operator?”

    “I’d like to make a collect call to Madison, Wisconsin?”

    “To a Governor Scott Walker?”

    “My name is Governor Jerry Brown.”

    “Yes, I’ll hold.”

  6. Oh come on! Jerry Brown is not the one who made a big deal about flying tourist class. If he had flown first class, it would have been important to Fox & Hounds and the other partisan hacks.

    Get a life, Tim!

  7. “The problem isn’t just that this kind of gesture is purely symbolic. The symbolism itself is open to question. Thirty-four years ago, Jimmy Carter ushered in his own era of frugality by walking to his inauguration.”

    Jerry Brown did the same kind of stuff back in the ’70s.

    He refused to move into the governor’s mansion, and he refused to ride around in the governor’s limo. He would drive himself around in a Chevy Vega back then as I recall.

    He hasn’t changed. He’s done all this before.

    1. “He would drive himself around in a Chevy Vega”

      Slant-six Plymouth I think. And while passing Dill, he left a three-level overpass high overhead with no connections since we couldn’t afford the ROADS.

      1. Thanks!

    2. All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again

      Are you suggesting he has a plan?

  8. How is the symbolism open to question? What do you mean by that?

    1. For a symbol to have meaning, it has to stand for something, doesn’t it?

      What’s skipping the business class upgrade symbolize? That they’re really doing something to fix the problem?

      They aren’t doing anything to fix the problem! Wisconsin’s doing something to fix the problem. When we see thousands of state workers barricading the streets of Sacramento? Then we’ll know that somebody’s doing something to fix the problem.

      Jerry not taking an upgrade isn’t symbolic of anything real.

      1. The ante is in, and the stakes have been raised.

        1. In Wisconsin, I think they’re arguing over about a $3 billion deficit this year…

          In California, we need another $500 billion in stakes to cover those unfunded pension liabilities.

          I think Jerry’s conflating his personal integrity with the austerity we all need to get out of this mess. It’s a common theme with him…

          This isn’t about him personally–and the importance he always puts on his personal integrity seems way out of proportion to the task at hand.

          $500 billion worth of forgone seat upgrades?

          He can’t expect us not to notice the futility of that exercise. It’s spit in the ocean. …an empty gesture is an empty gesture–even when it’s comin’ from the heart.

  9. Does he have a security detail, and if so, how many people & how much does it cost them to fly?

  10. LOL, the dude comes off as being a bit full of himself.

    1. good one.

    1. This is the Central Scrutinizer…

  11. Last time I checked Southwest didn’t have business class, or any class except “remember to check in early”.

  12. The author is either ignorant, or a propagandist.

    Schwarzenegger traveled with a huge CHP security entourage, costing the taxpayers $38 million in 2007–triple his predecessor.
    It rose to $43.3 million in 2009.

    Brown has cut his security detail drastically.… He imposed a 25% spending reduction within his own office.

    Brown is a notorious cheapskate. He is careful with the taxpayers money. It goes way beyond symbolic gestures.

    Brown is who he says he is. The guy walks the walk.

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