CNN’s State of the Union featured California’s Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown, the man who was my governor when I entered state service in 1976. He’s no longer Governor Moonbeam. He’s now a mainstream Democratic leader, which is much worse.
His comments on Washington politics and the stark choices Californians and all Americans face were typical of the defeated, resigned, and morally bankrupt posture of the Democratic Party. I don’t know why these people bothered to run for office.
Brown said he was alarmed at what’s happening in Washington. He told Candy Crowley he thinks the country is in danger from political rigidity, but blamed both the uncompromising Republicans refusing to consider new taxes and the unwillingness of Democrats to explain that all our entitlements have to be cut back. You would never know that America is an immensely rich country, but the richest 1 percent were capturing 25 percent of the income and 40 percent of its wealth and they’re still looting the country, hollowing out the middle class. You’d think a Democrat would want to point that out and organize the posse.
Americans want a lot, Brown said, but they’re not willing to pay for it. Apparently, the polls showing the public more than willing to impose taxes to avoid cuts in Social Security and Medicare have not reached the West Coast. The public is willing when the choice is honestly set before them; it’s the Republicans who are not.
But when Crowley asked whether that meant he advocated higher taxes — something Brown has tried to put on the ballot to let the people decide — he said “well, I wouldn’t say it that way.” Huh? Then he mumbled something about tax breaks and loopholes.
Crowley then showed him a quote from the LA Times remarking that the budget Brown reluctantly signed, with no taxes, cut spending by 23 percent, slashing schools and universities, health care and safety nets, closing 70 parks, and shutting other government services. It’s what he had to do, they say.
So why not ask for federal help? Why not borrow? “I’d don’t like borrowing,” he said. “I don’t like debts.” So instead of stimulus funds, he’s seeking waivers to allow him to slash Medicaid, but Washington is resisting. Yes, if only the Feds would allow states to let more people go with less care.
How is it possible for a Democratic Governor — and he’s hardly alone — to be that clueless? His state exists in a national monetary union, like Italy or Ireland. California can’t print dollars, can’t devalue its own currency and thus move trade in the state’s favor; it can only play beggar-thy-neighbor by stripping workers of bargaining power and looting their pensions — like New York’s Cuomo — and offering more corrupt bribes to corporations than South Carolina offers.
His state is in a near depression, with unemployment over 11 percent and foreclosures at record levels. Grover Norquist, Prop 13, and the anti-tax zealots have put California in a fiscal straight jacket, the same one the Tea-GOPs want to impose on the federal government through a balanced budget amendment. Then the federal government could be like California, and we could close or sell off Yosemite.
The only hope California has is not what he does there but what the national economy and the federal budget do. His life support in the meantime depends on federal deficit spending to rescue budget strangled states, to pick up more of their Medicaid and other safety net spending, to help get homeowners out from underwater mortgages, and to boost the national economy in ways that reduce unemployment. But how often do we hear a Democratic governor say that?
The intellectually bankrupt leaders of the Democratic Party are telling us that with 25 million people under- or unemployed, with borrowing rates at historically low levels, with trillions in needed infrastructure crying out for investments, what states need to do is slash public services. And like Brown, they don’t like borrowing even though the money’s almost free and the rates tell us the markets are begging to lend it.
Jerry Brown represents a dying Democratic Party. Judging from its corrupt behavior and mind-numbing statements, the Party apparently sees its responsibility as something between a slightly more benevolent caretaker for America’s decline and a respectful mortician. They’ve become the hospice party.
If you think the patient is dying and there’s nothing to stop it, providing hospice care is a humane, honorable role. But this patient is not dying of natural causes. It’s being strangled and its wealth systematically looted.
Brown and his Party seem unable to explain to the public that the death of government functioning in the broad public interest is not inevitable. It is rather a choice that should be resisted with every breath and every weapon we have. It has become the calculated strategy of a determined, anti-democratic and deeply corrupt oligarchy and their crazed and manipulated followers. We’re in a war, and no one is fighting back for our side.
It’s time for the Democratic Party leadership to get out of the way so we can fight back.