Jerry Brown vs. Charlie Sheen; Higher Ed Hypocrisy


As Jerry Brown prepares to hit the road to campaign for his tax plan, our Department of Political Tour Logistics and Grateful Dead Wannabes has drafted a strategy memo with seven key words of advice for the governor:

Try not to act like Charlie Sheen.

As Tom Meyer illustrates today, there are eerie similarities between the  governor’s upcoming tax extension road show and the whack-job actor’s current “Violent Torpedo of Truth” tour.

Both men are scions of a famous father who paved the way for his son’s success in the same profession; both now face an epic crisis that may define his career; both are seeking to escape his predicament by trying to get his hands on other people’s money – Brown in order to finance public schools and health care while cleaning up the state’s fiscal mess, Sheen to make up what he lost by being fired from his highly-rated TV show for the purpose of maintaining his party hearty jones for coke and hookers.

As Brown heads off to far-flung locales in a bid to bring pressure on Republican lawmakers, however, he’s well advised to avoid the blunders Sheen committed in venturing onto unfamiliar turf, far from Mulholland Drive orgies and sensory delights, for his disastrous opening night appearance in Detroit:

1-Don’t refer to women as goddesses. When Sheen hit the stage, he swiftly introduced his self-styled “goddesses,” the porn star and the alleged actress with whom he lives, who promptly locked lips, to wild applause.

Although Anne Gust Brown, Brown’s wife and most trusted adviser, would probably appreciate deification, the other most important woman in his life, Department of Finance director Ana Matosantos, would surely find it unprofessional, if not a matter for the EEOC. More broadly, Brown needs help from every women voter, the most likely group to back his pitch for public schools, and acting like a drooling degenerate creepo sleaze would run the risk of losing their support.

2-Don’t threaten to pummel Bob Dutton. Sheen keeps boasting about his “fire breathing fists,” and how he plans to use them on his former producer and his ex-co-star, as well as Dr. Drew of “Celebrity Rehab,” who said the actor should be on psychiatric medication (“I think me and [Dr. Drew] should jump in the ring and he should see how unstable these fists of flaming fury are,” responded Sheen).

As much as ex-boxer Brown might justifiably harbor similar feelings for Dutton, the whining menopausal GOP senate leader,  he’s probably better off maintaining a veneer of bipartisanship, at least in Dutton’s Rancho Cucamonga  district.

3-Don’t say “I’ve already got your  fucking money, dude.” Sheen used those very words to bait a booing audience member in Detroit, as others loudly demanded refunds. On his tour, Brown no doubt will face folks who are understandably suspicious of politicians treating the public treasury as a  personal bank account, so the governor needs to avoid sounding entitled, while selling his tax plan as an extension of his skinflint cheapskate brand.

In the end, the biggest difference between Governor Krusty and Crazy Charlie is this: Brown (who has never claimed to have tiger blood in his veins) lives in a world based on facts, and will appeal to voters on the basis of rational argument, while Sheen (a self-described warlock) lives in a la-la-land world of fantasy, much like, oh say, most legislative Republicans.

In the California GOP’s world, truth is whatever they say it is. The laws of arithmetic don’t apply, the poor and destitute are invisible, workers don’t have rights, education can be fixed in a jiffy with vouchers and home schools, and corporate loopholes and business-biased tax policies are crucial characteristics of “free markets.”

Selling tax extensions in Inland California is not an easy task for Brown – employing facts, figures and hard evidence to win over citizens whose elected representatives and anti-tax “advocates” have for decades  cynically fed them a steady diet of failed ideology, flat earth sloganeering and Fox News bloviation.

Be careful out there, governor.


I’m studying for a Ph.D in Poltroonery: Calbuzz yields to no one in our support for California’s system of higher education: we have not only studied but also worked in the system ourselves, we have kids and friends on campuses throughout the state and we staunchly believe that high-quality public universities, colleges and community colleges are crucial to the civic and economic health and future of the state.

So it pained us to see that 250 administrators from public universities and colleges descended on Sacramento Tuesday to argue that they should under no circumstances be asked to absorb any more than the $1.4 billion in cuts they’ve been given because of California’s budget deficit.

“We have done our part,” CSU Chancellor Charles Reed told a crowd outside the Capitol at the start of a day of lobbying. “But you know what? That’s enough.”

Oh really? And if there are no tax extensions or other new revenue sources approved, who should suffer further cutbacks: widows and children, the elderly, blind and disabled? Please, oh self-interested scholars, spare us your self-pity.

Where were Charlie Reed, UC President Mark Yudof and community college Chancellor Jack Scott when the crucial need was rounding up two Republicans in the Assembly and two in the Senate to put tax extensions on the ballot to head off doubling the universities’ $1.4 billion haircut?

Where were the organized legions of trustees, boards of directors, alumni associations*, lobbyists and cronies putting the screws to GOP legislators? They didn’t have the guts to come out, push and pressure for tax extensions and now they want to be protected? What unmitigated gall.

Had the higher education lobby worked and argued fiercely and publicly for extending taxes and fees, they’d be in a far stronger position to fight against further cuts and scenarios of turning away 400,000 community college students, more from CSUs and UCs, not to mention raising tuition and slashing whole programs, institutes, courses and offerings.

Instead, the fainthearted “leaders” of the higher education community let Brown and the legislative Democrats do all the heavy lifting on the overall budget strategy while they singularly argued for more revenue only for California’s once-great system of higher ed. And now, caught once again in the divide-and-conquer budget trap, they call for special treatment.

All of which brings to mind the words of our most venerable mentor, sage and metaphysical consultant, the great Calbuzzer, Confucius:

To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice.

*UPDATE: Thanks to Adrian Diaz for informing us (after our post) that the Cal Alumni Association DID press its members to push for tax extensions with this letter:

Dear Cal Alumni and Friends,

On February 18, the Cal Alumni Association (CAA) Board of Directors, in an unprecedented action, voted to support placing Governor Jerry Brown’s current proposal for maintaining existing taxes on the June 2011 ballot.

Why did the CAA Board take this action? Without the maintenance of existing taxes, the excellence and access of UC Berkeley will be jeopardized by further drastic budget cuts.

In 2009-2010, all departments at UC Berkeley, including academic departments, took a permanent budget cut averaging 19 percent. Last year, approximately 600 staff positions were eliminated. Another 280 are slated for elimination this year. State funding for UC Berkeley is now less than federal funding, less than student fees, and less than private donations.

What can you do? Before Californians can vote on the maintenance of existing taxes, the measure first has to get on the June ballot. The State Legislature must decide by March 10, 2011 to get the measure on the ballot.

Please send an email telling your legislator to put a revenue measure on the ballot, so California voters can decide whether to maintain existing taxes that will help save UC Berkeley.

Governor Brown’s budget already includes a $500 million cut to the UC budget. Without the tax extensions, the Legislative Analyst Office predicts that the UC budget could be cut by an additional $500 million. Of this $1 billion reduction, $160 million could be cut from the UC Berkeleycampus alone.

Californians face a difficult choice — do we balance the state budget by cutting expenditures alone or do we minimizing the damage to one of our greatest educational institutions by balancing the budget with a combination of expense reduction and revenue generation?

While we recognize that no one likes to pay taxes, we are also assured that the Governor’s current proposal does not include any new taxes, only an extension of the existing taxes. Please send an email telling your legislator to put a revenue measure on the ballot, so California voters can decide.

Join the Cal Alumni Association in our efforts to ensure the excellence of our alma mater for today’s Cal students and future generations of Golden Bears.

Fiat Lux,

Alan C. Mendelson ’69
President, CAA Board of Directors

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There are 7 comments for this post

  1. avatar tonyseton says:

    It has been said that we should pay our grammar school teachers the most and the 7-12 grades teachers well. People who teach — and administrate — at the college level should thrive on the privilege of preparing the next generation to take the reins.

  2. avatar Ernie Konnyu says:

    What a Rip City marathon you are running today. Like wild and crazy guys, you are mixing realism with dope-spun smoke curled ideas.

    Looking at your mess from a distance I guess I have to write that some boys just have to have their periods.

    Yes! I know! A new day will come at the next sunrise. But try to take a bit less of your medicine next time before you write.

  3. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    True, but too limited: “In the California GOP’s world, truth is whatever they say it is. The laws of arithmetic don’t apply, the poor and destitute are invisible, workers don’t have rights, education can be fixed in a jiffy with vouchers and home schools, and corporate loopholes and business-biased tax policies are crucial characteristics of ‘free markets.'”

    Why limit the comment to the California GOP? Congressman Ryan would have us believe that his tax cuts will drop unemployment below levels any of us have seen in our lifetimes–even the lengthy lives of the Calbuzzards. This is despite 8 years of evidence to the contrary when statistics show that corporations that got the biggest tax cuts also cut the most workers. Smaller companies, that got practically no cuts (and no help either), added the most jobs. Which left the country overall, millions of jobs down.

    As tax cuts failed to raise employment, vouchers have also failed to raise test scores–though they did raise revenues for private providers. Always a winner with the GOP.

    Workers, on the other hand, are invaluable to any true market-based economy. Not only do income earners help cut deficits, but we pay for services used by citizens and companies alike. We’re also the consumers that drive revenues.

    So, if the GOP really wants to support a market-based economy, and are truly concerned about cutting the deficit, they’ll do something that really does support job growth. Not something that has already demonstrably failed. Now, since businesses also require a functional infrastructure to keep operating, and ours is observably crumbling, putting money into upgrading it would make far more sense than cutting taxes again. Businesses that got the contracts to do the work would make money and pay taxes–thereby cutting the deficit. Businesses that use the infrastructure would be happy to have it upgraded. American voters would get much-needed jobs. This would enable them to pay taxes–again cutting the deficit. And decrease their dependence on services that are straining state budgets. It would also prime the economic pump as people with jobs spend more money, which puts more revenue into more businesses–creating more jobs.

    But I guess this concept is too tough for a supposedly smart guy like Ryan. Personally, I didn’t finish college and never took an economics course. But I’ve owned more than a few businesses. And I guarantee you it will work.

    I realize reality can be an inconvenient thing. But, unless you’re a Republican, it’s also damn hard to ignore.

  4. avatar OC Progressive says:

    I’ll also add that my friend who is a local Community College Trustee was in Sacramento lobbying Republican legislators to approve the tax legislation, as were members of the staff, faculty and students.

    It’s just that the Republican legislators prefer to listen to Grover Norquist instead of their own constituents. One local Assembly Member added that his tiger blood allowed him to hear voice that their human ears could not discern.

    • avatar GeoHagop says:

      Ha! And that was the voice of the Committee of Hedge Operations Progenitors? It sure looks like the CRP is in with the national Republican conspiracy to fully get away with ripping off pension funds to bail out hedge funds. They’ve gotten away with stealing the money, now when people notice that it’s not there anymore, like when, say, the USG shuts down, they’ll say, “Whoa, horsey! Sorry, folks! Money’s all gone!”

  5. avatar Moravecglobal says:

    (The author who has 35 years’ consulting experience, has taught at University of California Berkeley, where he was able to observe the culture and the way senior management work.)

    Recently: Chancellor Birgeneau pays ex Michigan governor $300,000 for lectures; NCAA places Chancellor Birgeneau’s Cal. men’s basketball program on probation

    Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau’s ($500,000 salary) eight-year fiscal track record is dismal indeed. He would like to blame the politicians, since they stopped giving him every dollar he has asked for, and the state legislators do share some responsibility for the financial crisis. But not in the sense he means.

    A competent chancellor would have been on top of identifying inefficiencies and then crafting a plan to fix them. Competent oversight by the UC Board of Regents and the legislature would have required him to provide data on inefficiencies and on what steps he was taking to solve them. Instead, every year Birgeneau would request a budget increase, the regents would agree to it, and the legislature would provide. The hard questions were avoided by all concerned, and the problems just piled up to $150 million of inefficiencies….until there was no money left.

    It’s not that Birgeneau was unaware that there were, in fact, waste and inefficiencies. Faculty and staff raised issues with Birgeneau and Provost Breslauer, but when they failed to see relevant action taken, they stopped. Finally, Birgeneau engaged some expensive ($3,000,000) consultants to tell him what he should have known as a leader or been able to find out from the bright, engaged Cal. people. (A prominent East Coast university was accomplishing the same thing without expensive consultants)
    Cal has a problem and we need to address it now. Merely cutting out inefficiencies will not have the effect desired.
    But you never want a serious crisis to go to waste. Increasing the budget is not enough; take dead aim at the real source of Cal’s crisis by transforming University of California Berkeley senior management, Birgeneau, Breslauer
    We heartily agree

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