Jerry Brown vs. Democrats; Cavanaugh Update On California Veto


Here's my appearance on the Fox L.A. 10 O'clock News last night: 

Gov. Jerry Brown's veto of the unserious Democrats-only budget, which happened very quickly and with some showbiz flair, has succeeded in making Golden State politics interesting after a long dry spell. The heads of both houses of the Legislature are talking about going to war over the budget. The toadying newspapers are already urging Brown to be nice to the Democrats again. State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has put the kibosh on approving new Brown political appointments. Other Democrats are going after the Democratic governor with a vehemence that hasn't been seen since, well, Republicans turned against Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. And that's not even counting the girlyman shoving matches

Darrell Steinberg isn't afraid to hug men.

Ace blogger and frequent Hit & Run commenter Golden State Liberty has a useful lineup of what the big issues are right now. 

Steinberg's complaint that Brown has always refused to articulate his "Plan B" is more support for a thesis I've been knocking around for a few months and sprang on Fox anchor Christine Devine last night:

I don't think Jerry Brown ever believed he was going to get new taxes approved. I think the ascetic career politician, whose favorite boast is "I'm cheap," has known since before he came into office that it is his own party he needs to get under control. The proposal for tax extensions and increases has always been a tool to achieve other purposes, namely to get the Legislature to cut spending. 

This is the only theory that makes sense. The tiny Republican minority has nothing to gain by going along with tax hikes, and the voters have shown no indication of being open to them either. The state's abysmal economy could not handle any new taxes. Meanwhile, school enrollments are dropping, the prison system has been ordered by the Supreme Court to slim down, and tax revenues are higher than anticipated. The case for an all-cuts/no-new-taxes budget is really unassailable, and at some level it's appealing to the governor who sang the praises of an "era of limits" when he held office in the 1970s and 1980s. 

Seen this way, it makes sense that Jerry Brown would devote months to vilifying and being vilified by Republicans, then turn and publicly break with the Democrats. This maneuvering has already helped reduce spending (slightly), and the real cutting can now begin. 

I do not think Jerry Brown is doing this out of any kind of limited-government epiphany or deep inclination to shrink the state. But he comes out of a strong if fading California tradition: belief in efficient, active government that works for the people. There is a substantial mass of Californians who are still steeped in the Kevin Starr version of history, in which good government created the state's golden age. The more observant among these folks are keenly aware of how unions and bloat and waste killed progressive California

Having been elected thanks in large part to organized labor, and coming from a state party that is under tight control by the unions, Brown has a complicated task in shutting down his allies. He is not above throwing the unions more goodies.  But he knows this problem has to be dealt with, and I think we're starting to see how he aims to make that happen politically. 

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48 responses to “Jerry Brown vs. Democrats; Cavanaugh Update On California Veto

  1. I think Brown was willing to test the waters on tax extensions initially. Of course, when talks with the Repubs collapsed in March, any sane observer would’ve concluded that the issue was dead. His insistence on the extensions since then reflects, in my view, either an inability to embrace smaller government or simple political cowardice. Don’t forget, his original plan was to switch to an all-cuts budget if the first plan failed. When that didn’t happen, he basically wasted 2 months pushing for the hikes, until the unexpected tax revenue gave him an excuse to push for higher taxes and higher spending.

    In other words, positing a broader plan for austerity on Brown’s part is, I think, giving him a little too much credit.

  2. “I don’t know his strategy but if I were in his shoes…”

    It sounds like someone is laying the groundwork for a run in 2014, if not sooner in a gubernatorial recall election. The resale value on the governor’s mansion shouldn’t be too bad.

    1. Tim has a chance, but only if Gallagher doesn’t run again.

    2. As long as Gallagher doesn’t run again, Tim has a chance.

      1. For a magazine called Reason, it sure has crappy servers.

        1. I prefer the second phrasing anyway.

        2. For a magazine called Reason, it sure has crappy servers

          I heard that.

  3. Well, we all know it’s “Bush’s Fault” ™

  4. And, BTW, Kevin Starr is a star-gazing statist, while Jerry Brown is a lying sack of shit.
    Ask Jerry about that freeway interchange hung in the air over San Jose while he signed the Dill act, mandating public unions.

    1. Kevin Starr is a star-gazing statist

      I could forgive him that if he’d ever write a book that’s shorter than a million pages. (And with small hard-to-read type to boot.)

  5. Jerry Brown is the anti-Elvis.

    1. Anne Gust gave birth to my two-headed love child!

  6. How is this thesis consistent with Jerry’s gift to the prison guards? He has seemed adamant and sincere about his tax increases all along. Seriously Tim, your idea is that a politician is only acting about his desire to raise taxes?

    1. Oh, I think his desire to raise taxes is sincere. I just think he knows it’s not possible.

      They’ve already done the full-court media press in favor of tax hikes. All the statewide MSM were on board arguing for the wisdom of new taxes. That totally failed to budge the polling. (It’s why you were seeing this big fuss being made over polls that indicated voters were in favor of letting voters vote. But even that lame attempt at bamboozlement went nowhere.)

      1. I agree that he should know it’s not possible. But why not bust out the all-cuts budget and force the Dems to act on it? That’s the one step he’s absolutely refused to take.

        1. The problem with an all cuts budget is that it might work. California public employees are overpaid so much, and the economy so bad, that we could have 30% across the board cuts and nobody would quit.

        2. Supposing there’s anything to my theory, he would want the all-cuts budget to look like something he arrived at with great regret after tough negotiations with all stakeholders blah blah blah, rather than something he came up with himself. (Not that I’d hold my breath waiting for the Republicans to come up with something that works.)

          1. I moved to Santa Monica from Idaho last month and am pretty amazed at the little bubble this place is in context of wider LA. You can almost sense Johnny Depp in a purple top-hat summoning all the Mexican umpa-loompahs as they do all the landscape work and disappear before the progressive minority-loving white people go jogging every morning. A truly magical, hypocritical place.

            Anyways, with a more keen sense of CA politics these days, I appreciate your grasp of theatrics as a motivator in whatever it is Jerry Brown is up to. Most commentators overlook the showbiz angle and camera-fascination motivating modern big-market politicians.

            1. I spent a summer working in Santa Monica a few years ago; I can’t argue with anything you say, but I did have a great time there. And SM is like Galt’s Gulch compared to San Francisco’s lunatic, hypocritical politics.

              1. Santa Monica is a really fun place. And nobody’s from here; everyone seems to have come a long way to be here. But some of the ironies I’ve encountered are pretty funny.

                Like a week ago, I notice bumper stickers on this car going by. It was liberal talking points. Already had Obama ’12, Alliance for Climate Protection…

                The car was a Ferrari 458 Italia. Just priceless shit like that is all over around here.

                1. Priceless!

                2. Oh yeah, only in LA. I remember seeing Zack de la Rocha (of the “Marxist” band Rage Against the Machine) driving around Los Feliz in a Mercedes once.

                  On a related note, anyone who puts a bumper sticker on a Ferrari should be immediately executed.

            2. Santa Monica is a warped place, even in the context of Los Angeles.

            3. I like Santa Monica. It’s like the gay cousin I wish I had.

  7. Looking at that second picture inspired me to wonder if we’d be better off if legislators were replaced with ventriloquist dummies.

  8. How long would it take to minimize California’s governmental reach to constitutional/minarchistic proportions? Any guesses?

    1. The California constitution has some pretty strange stuff in it. For example, Article 9.

      1. By “constitutional”, I meant “constitutionalist” (strict libertarian to minarchist, depending on flavor). Apologies.

        1. 100x, please, in neat, legible handwriting.

          “The Founding Fathers were not Libertarians”

          1. In fact, they were. That’s not a reason not to move away from their proto-Austrian/anarchist vision of society, especially Jefferson’s.

            1. Especially not a reason to move away from their warning about foreign entanglements.

            2. They would have us pay for roads and establish public coinage! Government regulation of interstate commerce! I mean, my God, granting monopolies on intellectual property! Monsters like that wouldn’t be allowed within a hundred feet of truly true libertarianism!

              1. Silly twit troll is silly twit.

                1. Ooops, didn’t see the end of indent.
                  What the hell, applies to Tony and silly twit troll.

    2. How long would it take to minimize California’s governmental reach to constitutional/minarchistic proportions?

      That would take a balls to the wall collapse/crisis. How long until that happens is anybody’s guess. Once it happens, whether it will lead to minimalist government or maximalist government, well, I know which way I would bet. If it goes our way, it will happen quickly, because that’s how crises work.

  9. “But he comes out of a strong if fading California tradition: belief in efficient, active government that works for the people.”

    Unlike the libertarian tradition of belief in an inefficient, inactive government that works only for a handful of people with wealth and property.

    1. It’s a descriptive belief, not a normative one.

      1. I think MNG understands constitutionalist/libertarian ideology the same way amoebas understand inorganic chemistry — that is, not at fucking all.

        1. I think he may not understand libertarianism, but libertarians rarely give a person cause to understand that anyway.

          On the other hand, he understands libertarians just fine.

          1. An Intrusive Reality|6.18.11 @ 12:33PM|#
            “I think he may not understand libertarianism, but libertarians rarely give a person cause to understand that anyway.
            On the other hand, he understands libertarians just fine.”

            Boring troll is boring.

            1. Copypaste commenter is shaky on the use of HTML tags and comment board etiquette.

              1. A Broken Symmetry|6.18.11 @ 3:15PM|#
                “Copypaste commenter is shaky on the use of HTML tags and comment board etiquette.”

                Sanctimonious troll is still boring.

                1. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

                  1. Stupid shit is stupid shit.
                    Stupid shit.

  10. My opinion is that Jerry Brown is a third term governor who doesn’t give a damn whether he’s a fourth-term governor, so he’s willing to show some balls to try to stop Democrats and Republicans from screwing things up.

    1. At 73, I doubt he’s looking ahead that far.

  11. I surprisingly like Brown’s budget. If only someone was proposing something that serious on the federal level.

    And it doesn’t include tax increases. It includes a public referendum on them. Which I believe will be voted down.

    The Republicans are being petty here.

    1. Not exactly. At issue is the fact that the current tax extensions expire this month, and the earliest they could come before the voters is November. Since March (and in earnest since May), Brown has been pushing the Legislature for a so-called “bridge tax” to keep rates elevated until that referendum. Which is a bad idea for different reasons. But Brown is technically asking Republicans to extend taxes without the voters. And we all know how “temporary” tax hikes are in California.

      As to your other point, yes, it would be a breath of fresh air to see anything like Brown’s budget at the federal level.

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