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Jerry Brown For Governor ^2

| 18 Comments

Today's news is all about Crusty (the nickname that local commentators have given Brown) or one of his aides muttering that eMeg is a "whore" in an inadvertently recorded conversation.

My reaction is a little contrarian on this, for two reasons - I think it's nice to see politicians when they are human (and they're all human) - and I really, really dislike the "cloak of perfection" we expect our candidates to wrap around themselves.

But mostly, it's about substance. The call that Brown was making was to the Los Angeles Police Protective League - the union for LAPD officers - and the issue was that they were endorsing Meg because she carved out an exemption in pension reform for law enforcement.
With evident frustration, Brown discussed the pressure he was under to refuse to reduce public safety pensions or lose law enforcement endorsements to Whitman. Months earlier, Whitman had agreed to exempt public safety officials from key parts of her pension reform plan.

"Do we want to put an ad out? ... That I have been warned if I crack down on pensions, I will be ... that they'll go to Whitman, and that's where they'll go because they know Whitman will give 'em, will cut them a deal, but I won't," Brown said.
So for all the folks hammering on my endorsement of him in the comments below...how do you square that circle??

Here is Brown - doing the right thing and challenging the sacred cows - and here's Meg, milking them.

Brown is a much more complex figure than he is being credited as on the right. And from my point of view - when I make my vote - it's about the bet that Brown is more likely to take on the sacred cows effectively than eMeg, who has shown both that she's likely to be ineffective, and that she's scared of them.
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18 Comments

First rule of holes. You forgot it.

Gosh, Phil - I raise a substantive point challenging what I'm being told, and that's what you've got to say?? Just for fun, what do you have to say about the specifics??

Marc

I say that you'd have been far better off leading with this. Standing alone, it's an actual argument. But as a "contrarian" take from somebody who has been arguing that the reason he's voting for Brown is that Whitman isn't a communicator, you've painted yourself into a corner. Brown and his surrogates have called her a whore and a Nazi. So, your communication argument is dead on arrival - unless you really think that Brown wins that score by Godwining the entire campaign. Thus you find yourself in a hole, as I alluded above. Since you didn't lead with this argument, it's frankly just a stinky little ad hoc rationalization.

Now, as to the specifics of this particular case: from what I can gather, Whitman says she'll require new state employees to enter a defined contribution retirement plan instead of a defined benefit plan, but that public safety employees will be exempted. Now, calling this a pander is fair. But it's a clever pander. She's not only pandering to the powerful police and firefighter unions, she's pandering to her base. Conservatives, after all, like cops and firefighters. I'd say that this particular maneuver gathers like-minded individuals to her to help her accomplish her goals. (I read somewhere recently that's really important).

On the other side of the equation, Brown's position is the following:

Brown has called for pension changes for all new state hires, including law enforcement. But he does not support the concept of moving to a 401(k)-style program for any state workers. [Brown spokesman Sterling] Clifford said Brown believed concessions can be gained through the collective-bargaining process and that legislation imposing massive pension changes was likely not necessary.

In other words, he ain't doing jack if he gets elected. He's not going to 'wriggle out from under' the unions. He's not even going to fight them. Like I said in the previous thread, if you don't know who the mark at the poker table is, then it's you. You're the mark, Marc. You got suckered at the last big table, and you're gleefully drawing to the inside straight again. You're too smart for that. Snap out of it.

You mean he's not going to do squat because he won't make a specific pre-election commitment??

That's the issue?

So he's kind of like Chris Christie then, right?

Look, I get it that both Brown and Whitman are caught in large webs of obligation. And yeah, I'm not enamored of many of the people Brown is obligated to.

But - again - look at his record, and understand that he's not Gray Davis nor Gavin Newsome (who I won't be supporting, btw).

And consider that maybe - just maybe - he might do the right things in the face of massive public sentiment and very real problems. He did back when Prop 13 was passed (opposed it, then enthusiastically implemented it). And what a disaster someone like Meg would be in the face of massive and serious opposition from the labor/Democratic power structure in the state.

Marc

You mean he's not going to do squat because he won't make a specific pre-election commitment??

What? I'm sorry, I've been laboring under the presumption that you speak politician. He just did make a specific pre-election commitment: what Brown's spokesman said was we ain't touching public sector pensions. Brown "does not support moving to [defined contribution plans]." Brown does not believe that "legislation imposing massive pension changes" is necessary, as it can be resolved through the collective bargaining process (NB, this is coming back later).

This is real, real simple. California is in deep trouble. You must cut spending or increase revenues. If you believe that Jerry verschlugginer Brown is going to cut spending, you're the mark. I'll accept your premise that he'll faithfully execute laws that are forced on him by the lawful electorate (as in Prop 13), but there's no damn way he's going to propose or advocate meaningful spending cuts. In fact, let's look at his recent history. Jerry Brown, as mayor of Oakland, raised city employee pensions from 2% per year to 2.7% per year. Oakland has a half a billion dollars in unfunded pension liability. How did all this happen? Through the magic of "the collective bargaining process"!! You remember, the magical unicorn farts that Jerry Brown says will fix California's pension shortfalls.

Look, it's your business who you vote for. Contrary to my tone, I respect that. But all you've done so far to explain your preference is piss on our legs and tell us it's raining. And I don't respect that.

Have a great weekend.

This is what it all comes down to?

Brown is a much more complex figure than he is being credited as on the right. And from my point of view - when I make my vote - it's about the bet that Brown is more likely to take on the sacred cows effectively than eMeg, who has shown both that she's likely to be ineffective, and that she's scared of them.

I'm sorry, AL. You're essentially saying that with Brown, you feel a Hope that he will make a Change. If your semi-regular readers are yelling at you right now, it's because you can't see the parallels - that you're again voting against the Republican and groping for reasons why the Democrat might not be so bad. I've got no problem with you voting against Whitman if you're convinced that she'll be an active catastrophe for your state, but you're insulting our intelligence if you ask us to believe that Brown is Obama II - but this time it'll be different. (To be fair, anyone who tries to sell Whitman as Arnold II gets laughed out of the room, too.)

I might actually entertain an argument that Brown is a long-term, strategic better choice for California than Whitman, the way I entertained a similar argument for Obama - that he'll overplay his hand and precipitate a healthy backlash much earlier than the trench warfare resulting from a Republican executive. But "he can go to China" won't wash, and you're losing your argument by focusing on it.

Cheers
-- perry

Phil, when you say he won't touch pensions, that's just not true .

His answer is different than Meg's; she cuts deeper elsewhere but exempts public safety. Brown cuts more shallowly but covers everyone, and has made a commitment that the pension funds need to be actuarially sound - and that employee contributions and benefit changes are the dials that will be used to make that happen.

As I said, I wide open to being swayed by a genuine reformer from the GOP. Meg is not that person. Given a choice between someone who's heart may be in the right place, but is virtually guaranteed to be a disaster in the job, and someone else - I'll take Door #2.

Good wishes alone are not a qualification for high office (see Ventura, Jesse).

Marc

This isn't purely about what Brown wants to do, even if you posit that he does indeed want to do it.

When the rubber meets the road, will Brown bring the hammer down on the state legislators of his own party and the special interests that will be banging on his door? Because if the answer is no, nothing is going to get done. You don't get points for good intentions.

Mark, completely agree. The risk in this bet is that Brown does nothing b/c he's in thrall to the interests who would be dinged. The counter risk is that Meg tries and can't do anything because she's not up to the job. I'd say the odds of that are close to 100%. What are the odds on the first leg of the bet?

Marc

I'd say there is an advantage to a Whitman failure- it would create a train wreck in Sacramento that would become impossible for the voters to ignore.

On the other hand Brown could well limp along allowing the state to tank further still. Brown is probably charismatic enough to keep the machine running right up until it flies apart.

Fine, Marc. He'll touch them. He'll raise retirement from 55 to 60. He's stated he's going to do it through collective bargaining. What's he going to give back? He's going to change things to a high-3 calculation instead of final year (good lord, how in the world did that happen? If I doubted that California was run by corrupt fools, that settled it). But is he going to increase the multiplication constant by 35%, like he did in Oakland? What is he going to give back to them? You know it will be something; I am not impressed with your reasoning on this topic, but I still believe that you're not a complete and utter fool.

I don't know what your problem is with Whitman; so far your 'reasoning' has gone back and forth between this one, single example which is strongly counterindicated by historical fact; and a silly claim that Brown, he of "whore" and "Goebbels", is a superior communicator. Only the East German judge likes that move.

You don't have an argument. You continue to piss on my leg. It's a bright, clear sunshiny day outside, so stop telling me it's raining.

I'm sorry, one more thing. The fact that you haven't really thought through your argument is pretty conclusively proven by your continued comparison of Whitman to Ventura.

Whitman joined eBay on March 1998, when it had 30 employees and revenues of approximately $4 million. During her time as CEO, the company grew to approximately 15,000 employees and $8 billion in annual revenue by 2008.

The Ventura comparison makes you look foolish.

Why? Both were outsiders who had (or bought) name recognition in order to win office; both of them had zero political experience, and as it turns out, zero political savvy.

I'd say it's an excellent comparison; I'm certainly open to arguments about why it isn't.

Marc

"both of them had zero political experience, and as it turns out, zero political savvy."

I'm sorry Marc, you know I love you, but that phrase is likely to get a candidate more votes at this stage, than the reverse. I personally have no idea who to vote for, since the whole system makes my skin crawl at this point. I wish I had enough mileage points to head to Washington for the rally to restore sanity. At least that would be more fun than depressing.

And quit trying to play fast and losse with my pension, dammit!

Arrant nonsense.

One's a UDT turned pro wrestler who parlayed that into an acting career of sorts.

The other graduated from Princeton with honors, has been a major player for a number of huge corporations, and as I noted before took a $4 million company with 30 employees and turned it into a $8 billion company with 15,000 employees.

There's no comparison. It doesn't even rise to the level of tendentiousness.

A.L.,

I'm having trouble following your argument, here, for two reasons.

First, on the issue of communication, maybe it's because I read different blogs than you do. (I assume-- I assume we all read at least slightly different blogs.) Brown may have managed to attenuate the discussion of the "whore" comments in some media, and among some people, but certainly not among all.

Unless you're nearly superhumanly gifted at communication (Chris Christie, Barack Obama, etc) when someone serves up red meat to your opposition, you really can't do much about it except let it play out. I don't think that level of media skill should be a requirement for elected office-- making it a requirement may actually be harmful because you get people more interested in communication than in execution.

Anyway, it doesn't matter, because neither of them fit the bill, here.

Second, in terms of practical governance, communication is an important skill, but it's important because it's a pathway to a more fundamental skill-- coalition management. If you don't build friendly coalitions or break hostile ones, you don't get anything done, no matter how good your ideas are.

Now, on this pension issue, we seem to have two basic approaches:

Brown wants to spread the pain as evenly as possible, by redefining as many pensions as possible, all at once.

Whitman wans to spread the pain a bit more narrowly, by redefining pensions for everyone except public safety responders.

The coalition in place right now is the entrenched spectrum of interests that wants those pension plans to remain unchanged. Brown's plan only mobilizes that coalition against him, once he's in office. Whitman's plan at least tries to disrupt that coalition. To my eyes, Brown fails at basic strategy, here, whereas Whitman seems to understand the dynamic and wants to exploit it to get something imperfect done rather than nothing.

Marcus Vitruvius,
You're having trouble following his argument because it's nonsense. It provides no workable standard except to safeguard AL's prejudices.

Jeez, Mike.

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