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Why Killing AB32 is a Long Shot and Other Bad Bets

Mar29

We happen to have in our hot little Calbuzz claws some summary results from a February poll by FM3 (Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz) for the defenders of AB32 that found that after voters are read the Attorney General’s title and summary for the measure to repeal AB32 they oppose it 46-37%.

According to the survey — 600 likely November voters, +/- 4% — opposition grows when voters realize oil companies are behind the drive to overturn AB32. Which won’t be hard to argue because it’s TRUE, as the Sac B Minus and others have noted. In fact, says Steve Maviglio, who’s hacking and flacking for the save AB32 forces, more than 72% of the money behind the effort to overturn AB32 has come from — Michael Huffington drum roll please — Texas oil companies you just can’t trust.

Another reason to like the opposition on this one: since the creation of initiatives in California, “no” has beaten “yes” two-thirds of the time. The only other polling we’ve seen was back in July, when PPIC asked whether people support the state law reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Support for what is a description of AB32: 66% favor, 23% opposed.

We’re not sure what the effect will be of having Gov. Schwarzenegger — who has long been a defender of AB32 — suddenly skim back his support by calling for a “more carefully phased approach” in implementing the law. But as we get deeper and deeper into the campaign season, Gov. Schwarzmuscle becomes increasingly less significant. And we expect Crusty the General Brown to hammer on the climate-change issue relentlessly — in part because the environment is an issue that resonates with moderate, non-partisan voters who will ultimately decide the election.

Dumb and dumber: One of the dumbest, and most common, mistakes committed by political writers the world over (even Calbuzz may have succumbed once or twice) is to assume that the future will look like the present.

As Walter Shapiro notes, arguing persuasively in Politics Daily against over-interpreting the impact of health care reform on the mid-term election, the issues that are hot at the end of a campaign are seldom those that pundits focus on in spring or summer:

Cable TV news and hyperdrive Internet publications like the Politico tend to divine major political implications from everything, with the possible exception of Starbucks introducing a soymilk Frappuccino. The institutional bias that governs this type of political coverage is to overreact to the here and now. The working assumption is that the future will be just like the present except for the addition of a few random fluctuations to enhance the story line.

The Shapiro Thesis is, of course, the operating assumption underlying the apparent equanimity of Steve Poizner’s handlers in the face of eMeg’s 8,000 point lead in the Republican primary, and of Jerry Brown’s Zen-like shrugs at the sight of Whitman surging past him in the polls, on the strength of her all-eMeg-all-the-time TV offensive.

While Her Megness so far has had the luxury of framing and defining the election on her terms, should she turn out to be the Republican nominee for governor, things are likely to look very different down the road a piece.

Here’s a look at three low-radar factors that may mushroom into major matters in Whitman’s November match-up with Jerry Brown, or even the final weeks of Poizner’s uphill struggle against Ms. Head and Shoulders Potato Head:

The CEO factor – For now, eMeg keeps gaining traction for her core message that executive business experience is just about the perfect fit for what ails the government of California. But as we’ve noted repeatedly from the first weeks of the campaign, running a business has almost exactly nothing to do with managing the day to day political cross currents and rip tides of Sacramento, a point that is well amplified in a must-read piece by Newsweek’s Andrew Romano and Michael Hirsh:

Very little that happens inside a corporate suite is like governing a state or a country. CEOs, like generals, can issue orders and expect them to be carried out. Jobs and budgets can be pared by fiat, with little public controversy. It’s not nearly as simple for governors or senators—even presidents. Their authority is never absolute. They are constrained by the separation of powers and forced to ride the tiger of public opinion; they must persuade, cajole, and arm-twist to get their way.

As Harry Truman once said about his presidential successor, Dwight Eisenhower: “He’ll sit there all day saying do this, do that, and nothing will happen. Poor Ike—it won’t be a bit like the Army.” Beyond that, there’s rarely been a time in American industry when CEOs have been so discredited. The last “CEO presidency”—George W. Bush’s—ended up in a ditch. The CEOs of Wall Street have provoked outrage by awarding themselves record bonuses during the worst recession in decades—a recession they mainly caused.

The Goldman Sachs scandal – eMeg’s past shady, and legally questionable, dealings with the world’s largest greed head investment firm is the case study
that precisely makes the point about the dangers of CEOs grabbing the levers of government power, which is one major source of the seething resentment of voters across the nation.

What kind of business relationship can Californians expect their state to have with Goldman Sachs and firms like it if Meg Whitman becomes governor? Here’s a clue: In a report called “Corporate cash boosts Whitman,” the Associated Press reported that “The biggest donations came from New York investment bankers, hedge fund managers, attorneys and others.” If there’s one thing these guys know it’s how to prime the pump.

Not that Whitman’s old pals at Goldman haven’t already been profiting off California’s misery. They were hired to manage some multibillion dollar state bond offerings but, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, millions in fees didn’t stop Goldman from secretly undermining California’s credit rating. That hurt the very sales they were hired to manage. As the Times states, the firm “urged some of its big clients to place investment bets against California bonds” by “proposing a way for … clients to profit from California’s deepening financial misery.”

Ideology – The unintended consequence of Poizner running so hard to the right in the primary is that, for the moment at least, Whitman often appears to be a moderate Republican and, thus, a more attractive and more formidable candidate for the general election race against Brown.

But Press Corps Elders George Skelton and Peter Schrag have dug into eMeg’s much-trumpeted 48-page policy agenda (which the nit-picking Dan Morain estimates actually to be only about 20 pages, after subtracting the page presentation gee-gaws and glam shots of Herself) and concluded that any moderation perceived in eMeg’s views is mostly accidental, a perspective Brown has already seized on in his recent populist pronouncements.

Meg Whitman’s Republican rival calls her a liberal. He’s not even close. Political writers often describe her as moderate. That misses the mark too.

Supporting abortion rights — even state funding of abortions for the poor — doesn’t automatically make her a moderate. Not when she’s prepared to whack benefits for welfare moms — slash almost any program — to avoid raising taxes.

She opposes same-sex marriage but supports recognizing those unions allowed before Proposition 8 passed. That doesn’t make her a moderate either. Not when she insists on eliminating 40,000 state jobs.

Calbuzz bottom line: It’s usually a mistake to confuse rookie phenoms of spring training with the veteran ballplayers who usually make the big plays in the World Series.

Fuck you, you fucking fuck: Kudos to Carl Cannon for putting into clear historic context Joe Biden’s healthy cussing kudo to the President moments before Obama signed the health care reform legislation, a usage much panned by the prudes and prisses of the internets and cable TV. As Cannon notes the f-bomb has a proud and rich history in American politics, not least as used by his own father, the renowned Lou Cannon, upon beholding the beauty of a Sandy Koufax perfect game.


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There are 4 comments for this post

  1. avatar CAJobsInitiative says:

    When voters hear all the facts about what AB 32 will cost in terms of jobs and higher energy prices, they’ll likely be far less inclined to support the California Air Resources Board’s go-it-alone climate change policies. A million jobs and billions of dollars is a high price to pay for regulations which alone, in CARB’s own words, “cannot avert the impacts of global climate change.”

    Less biased evaluations of public sentitment can be found in last week’s Field Poll, which revealed that almost half of Californians support cutting state spending on enviromental regulations, and January’s Pew poll that ranked global warming last among the public’s priorities, overwhelmingly eclipsed by the economy and jobs.

    The California Jobs Initiative will merely give the people paying the bill a chance to adjust the timetable for AB 32 implementation until our state’s unemployment situation improves. That’s a common-sense approach voters should find attractive,

  2. avatar CACleanEnergyandJobs says:

    The only jobs the sponsors of the initiative want to protect are those of the Valero oil executives in Texas. (The company just gave its CEO a raise to $10 million last week.)

    Study after study provides that there are job gains from AB 32 and consumer savings of billions of dollars. The industry-paid for studies that the “yes’ campaign are using to paint a doomsday if AB 32 is fully implemented have been described as “useless” by the LAO.

    The yes campaign is deceptive in that the economic conditions it requires for implementation have happened just three times in 30 years. And nothing is worse for business than the uncertainty that the initiative would cause as to when AB 32 would go into effect.

    Whether it’s PPIC (66 percent approval) or the poll here on Calbuzz, Californians are smart enough to know that we can have clean air and good jobs. It’s not an either/or choice.

  3. avatar Charlie Peters says:

    Money available to clean the air

    Charlie Peters, Clean Air Performance Professionals, March 22, 2010

    The Smog Check issue has been under continuous legislative debate since 1993. AB 2289 by Eng is an opportunity to improve program performance and public support.

    We at the Clean Air Performance Professionals propose “reasonably available control measures” to improve California Smog Check performance. Consider a Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) quality audit to improve smog check performance.

    We propose using the CAP cars and funds to provide a random quality audit (or secret shopper) of smog check providers. Audits that result in the car’s not being in compliance should be handled similarly to the former Consumer Repair and Education Workforce program. The Bureau of Automotive Repair program did not fine the licensees nor did it involve coercion. But when the question of “what would you like to do?” was asked, the shop took care of business and usually elected to fix the car.

    The average smog check failure repair is about $ 150.00 state wide. The motorist pays about the same at the average repair station and the CAP station. The average CAP repair is about $350.00. Many cars are not brought into compliance.

    To level the smog check failure repair playing field so more cars meet standards after repair, the whole smog check market should be subject to a CAP random audit.

    Around 1985, BAR started a “missing part” audit. In 1991 that program was stopped, The difference was a 300 percent change in result in finding the missing part.

    When BAR ran less than one audit per station per year, the result was a change in behavior that started at more than an 80 percent rate, but moved to less than 20 percent rate of noncompliance.

    The difference was a 300 percent change in result in finding the missing part. If the CAP audit was addressing the issue of repair compliance rather than just finding a missing part, the results may be the same or a 300 percent improvement in compliance. With the missing part program, a follow-up audit with increasing demands lift the stations no options but to find the missing part or be removed from the game.

    There are huge inconsistencies from Smog Check station to station and with BAR representatives. For BAR to decide a car is not in compliance, rules of Smog Check must be clarified. Money is available for the CAP program. It can be used for contracted scrap and repairs, or some of the funds can be used to evaluate and support improved performance of licensed small business. The cars and funds are the same, but the results may be credit for 2,000 tons per day in pollution prevention credit in the State Implementation Plan, rather than our current credit of fewer than 400 tons per day.

    The governor and state Legislature would get the credit for improved performance. Performance improvements would be accomplished at a cost of less than $500.00 per ton. And program illusions would be reduced in 1 year.

    Charlie Peters is president of Clean Air Performance Professionals.

    CAPP contact: Charlie Peters (510) 537-1796 cappcharlie@earthlink.net

  4. avatar Andy says:

    Excellent…now the lobby-speak has even infiltrated the comments section of blogs…is there noplace we can be safe?

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