Archive for the ‘National Politics’ Category



Press Clips: Fox (Mis)Fires, Oligarchs on the March

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Joel Fox is a temperate and thoughtful guy whose online opinings usually skip the fact-free cant and bombast that mark so many offerings from elsewhere in California’s conservative blogosphere.

So imagine our surprise when Fox fired his latest broadside at Calbuzz over at Fox and Hounds, a truly woeful – or was it willful? – misreading of our recent dispatch chronicling the state and nation’s steady march from democracy to oligarchy.

Filled with straw men, fatuousness and borderline hysteria, our friend Joel’s ravings served up a pungent hash of off-point platitudes, boiler plate bromides and red herring reasoning that did everything but attack our ancestors — while managing to utterly avoid addressing the central argument of our thesis.

Other than that, it was a helluva’ piece.

Dr. Corey meet Dr. Fox: We’ll spare you most of the gruesome details, except to note that, among other things, Fox fabricated his own premise for our argument (“Calbuzz…claim(ed) the way to save California is to tax the rich and tax businesses”); misrepresented the thrust of Jerry Brown’s 1992 presidential campaign (it wasn’t the flat tax, as Fox claims, which was only one issue that Brown employed to make the broader point that the political system is rigged to redistribute wealth upward – but what do we know, we only covered it); and leaned on sweeping, unproven assertions in lieu of evidence to make pre-cooked points (Tiger Woods and the tennis-playing Williams sisters prefer Florida to California because of tax laws, he says, and they “are just the tip of the iceberg” – Ah, the old ipso facto iceberg sum proof – Irwin Corey would be proud).

We could go on, but shooting at life boats ain’t our style. Except sometimes.

We’re political writers, not advocates like Fox, so we bring this whole thing up because we’re still scratching our heads about why he mysteriously neglected in his bashing to even mention, let alone critique, the analysis that we actually proffered.

Namely:

1-There has been a massive shift in wealth in the U.S. over recent decades, to the overwhelming benefit of the richest one percent of the population and the detriment of almost everyone else.

2-This shift has occurred – and been enabled by – 30 years of policies based precisely on the tax-cut, low-regulation ideology that Fox and his cohort just love, and which they continue to champion, despite the fact its real-life impact has been to trigger the greatest recession since the 1930s.

3-Awareness of the accumulating evidence of how and why wealth is becoming more and more concentrated in the hands of a tiny, oligarchic class is growing; as it moves into the mainstream, this awareness over time will change the terms and framework of political debate dramatically:

Paradoxically, the recent idiocy of Capitol Republicans, who blocked a popular vote on whether to extend a few modest taxes and fees that would  affect almost all Californians, has now made the GOP’s natural base among the very wealthiest taxpayers a far more narrow, rich and inviting target for pols and interest groups who are looking for Plan B to balance the budget while heading off even more cuts to education and other services; Plan B’s  Exhibit A is last week’s announcement by the California Federation of Teachers that they will push for a 1% income tax hike on the state’ richest 1%, a proposal that a new Ben Tulchin poll shows is backed by nearly three in four voters.

Such a proposal would find fertile political ground, in part because the dramatic national trend of growing wealth inequality is, if anything, more pronounced in California.

Which, of course, would hardly be a boon for bumper sticker, anti-government orthodoxy or the cozy “taxpayer advocate” political network that’s so well served the interests of Fox et al. since Howard Jarvis was still stumbling around in a boozy haze.

Hey, maybe that’s why he didn’t mention what we said.

Recommended reading:

– Here’s a nifty infographic primer on what’s actually happening to real people in the U.S. economy.

–Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a professor at Cal, writes about the implications of the oligarch economy in a clear, accessible, frequent and timely way, as in this recent essay on the subject.

–Also this and this or this. Or this or this and this.

Rip Van Calbuzz: Not sure how this one got by us at the time, but the eagle-eared Steve Harmon had an intriguing scooplet on Sacramento’s budget mess that mysteriously seems not to have been picked up.

Mike Genest, the finance director under ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, had a revealing comment in a wide-ranging budget discussion on Capital Public Radio today.

Genest, now a political consultant advising Republican senators who are in talks with Gov. Jerry Brown, was asked if Brown’s tax extension should be placed on the ballot. He said:

“As a Republican, I kinda hate to say it but our tax burden is less now because of recession. The amount of the economy going to state government is lower than it has been for several years. Except for right at the bottom of the recession, you go back 30 years to find tax revenues at this low a level. So, there is a case to be made that we might need to keep those taxes at a higher level for a while.”

He went on to say, however, that Republicans “shouldn’t lose the opportunity while contemplating doing this. We ought to take that opportunity to get serious reforms.”

Politics is all about exploiting opportunities, but the brazenness of the ask couldn’t have been clearer. A Republican who is advising GOP senators in talks with Brown, acknowledges that the tax burden is low and the current rates should be continued — but that they might as well extract as much as possible since they have the leverage of a two-thirds vote that’s required to put a tax issue on the ballot (with the goal, of course, of, as Genest said, “helping the economy grow”).

Guess that’s why Genest hasn’t moved to Florida with Tiger, Serena and Venus.

Where’s the Inquistor when you need him: Genest isn’t the only Republican talking out of school: we can only imagine what torments right-wing talk show host Eric Hogue will endure on the rack for uttering this heresy, suggesting that the children of illegal immigrants are actually, um, people.

For Republicans to spend time in crafting legislation that refuses qualified, achieving high school graduates is highly corrosive. Granted, Americans are rightfully frustrated with the lack of attention from the federal government toward illegal immigration and its impending fiscal costs placed upon taxpayer supported state and federal budgets – not to mention the effects (good and bad) illegal immigration has upon our private sector economy. But we must learn to restrain ourselves from legislation and ballot initiatives that do nothing but evolve into political wedge issues and cultural ‘cat nip.’ Funneling any initial state reforms through the children of illegal immigrants (to get back at the parent’s illegal behavior) is mean-spirited, politically corrosive and wrongheaded.

Fleischman! Fox! Hogue and Genest to the dungeon at once!

Why Tax-On-Millionaires Measure Is a Slam Dunk

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Vanity Fair, the monthly organ of opulence that chronicles,  celebrates and caters to the self-indulgence of the uber rich, seems a strange place to encounter a learned and astute analysis of wealth inequality in America.

VF’s current issue, however, features just such an insightful piece, by Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who not only  presents the latest evidence that the world’s oldest democracy is morphing rapidly into the biggest oligarchy on the planet, but also dissects the unhappy social implications of this economic and political transformation.

It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent.

One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone.

All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow.

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The case in California: Since our last discourse on the subject, the massive gap between the wealthiest 1% and everyone else in the population has gained more traction as a political issue in California.

Paradoxically, the recent idiocy of Capitol Republicans, who blocked a popular vote on whether to extend a few modest taxes and fees that would  affect almost all Californians, has now made the GOP’s natural base among the very wealthiest taxpayers a far more narrow, rich and inviting target for pols and interest groups who are looking for Plan B to balance the budget while heading off even more cuts to education and other services; Plan B’s  Exhibit A is last week’s announcement by the California Federation of Teachers that they will push for a 1% income tax hike on the state’ richest 1%, a proposal that a new Ben Tulchin poll shows is backed by nearly three in four voters.

Such a proposal would find fertile political ground, in part because the dramatic national trend of growing wealth inequality is, if anything, more pronounced in California.

The Legislative Analysts’ most recent substantive report on the matter, published in 2000, found that in the previous 15 years, the adjusted gross income of the wealthiest 1% of Californians tripled, from 7% to 20%; while the overall wealth of the top one-fifth of taxpayers increased during the period, from 18 to 33%, it declined for the other 80% of taxpayers, at a time when governments were routinely cutting income and capital gains taxes for the wealthy and for corporations.

Talk about the government picking winners and losers.

Self vs. selfish interest: Beyond the moral queasiness such statistics brings on for social justice types, there are many practical reasons, based upon rudimentary self-interest, why this state of affairs represents a clear and present danger to the country and the state.

For starters, the tax-cut, no-regulation policies that have accelerated income disparity in recent decades also triggered the financial meltdown that set off the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Also, the steady, decades-long decline of inflation-adjusted incomes for the middle class shrinks the pool of confident consumers, keeping dollars out of the economy and making recovery more halting and problematic. More broadly, the wealth gap does violence to what Stiglitz recalls Alexis de Tocqueville labeled America’s “self-interest properly understood.”

The last two words were the key. Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being. Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook—in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business.

For much of its recent history, the U.S. has been a place where the government literally provided the concrete underpinning for economic expansion and growth. Now that the no-taxes-ever-again crowd is gaining ascendance and – amazingly – recycling failed economic policies that crashed and burned the economy, the public-private partnership model that underwrote widespread business success for decades has fallen apart:

A modern economy requires “collective action”—it needs government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology. The United States and the world have benefited greatly from government-sponsored research that led to the Internet, to advances in public health, and so on. But America has long suffered from an under-investment in infrastructure (look at the condition of our highways and bridges, our railroads and airports), in basic research, and in education at all levels. Further cutbacks in these areas lie ahead.

None of this should come as a surprise—it is simply what happens when a society’s wealth distribution becomes lopsided. The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy become to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security—they can buy all these things for themselves.

In the process, they become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they may once have had. They also worry about strong government—one that could use its powers to adjust the balance, take some of their wealth, and invest it for the common good. The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in truth they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes.

Why it matters: In California, the impact of these “lopsided” policy changes are seen most visibly in public education or, more accurately, in the decline of public education. With the state financing 40% of the cost of public schools, which have seen the real dollar amounts of that support decrease for several years, policy shops from PPIC to UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access and the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting at California Lutheran University have described and analyzed the destructive impacts that reductions in education and training programs have on the California economy.

At present, California completely fails its lower class population.  It begins with an educational system that many don’t complete, while many of those who do are often unprepared to participate in a 21st century economy.  It ends with a lack of opportunity and upward mobility.

California’s K-12 program is a failure.  Dropout rates are extraordinary, and those who finish are often unprepared for employment or college.  The failure continues when the few who do manage to prepare for college find that the price has gone up and is now unaffordable for many.  Just as bad, classes are often not offered at times that are convenient for working students.

The arguments against: To be sure, there are policy arguments to be made against increasing the taxes on the rich, as the CFT proposes, starting with the fact that it may create an incentive for them to pick up and leave (although another PPIC study has presented data showing this is not the huge problem the Coupal/Fox axis would have us believe ).

Politically, however, that’s beside the point: if Republicans and conservatives hew unwaveringly to their unserious, I’ve-got-mine refusal to help govern the state, both the pressure on, and the demonization of, their core constituency will only increase.

Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1 percent, perhaps the greatest is this: the erosion of our sense of identity, in which fair play, equality of opportunity, and a sense of community are so important. America has long prided itself on being a fair society, where everyone has an equal chance of getting ahead, but the statistics suggest otherwise: the chances of a poor citizen, or even a middle-class citizen, making it to the top in America are smaller than in many countries of Europe. The cards are stacked against them.

It is this sense of an unjust system without opportunity that has given rise to the conflagrations in the Middle East: rising food prices and growing and persistent youth unemployment simply served as kindling. With youth unemployment in America at around 20 percent (and in some locations, and among some socio-demographic groups, at twice that); with one out of six Americans desiring a full-time job not able to get one; with one out of seven Americans on food stamps (and about the same number suffering from “food insecurity”)—given all this, there is ample evidence that something has blocked the vaunted “trickling down” from the top 1 percent to everyone else.

All of this is having the predictable effect of creating alienation—voter turnout among those in their 20s in the last election stood at 21 percent, comparable to the unemployment rate.

The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.

Jerry Brown, meet Bob LaFollette: Having been bitch-slapped on budget negotiations by legislative Republicans, Jerry Brown has belatedly taken our earlier advice and is going on the road to campaign on behalf of his balanced plan to ease the deficit. Given the above, don’t be surprised to see him strike a populist tone, ala his “We the People” winter soldier 1992 campaign for president.

It’s worth recalling that shortly after the 1900 election, in which Robert La Follette was elected governor of Wisconsin, our hero Lincoln Steffens, the native San Franciscan who had become America’s greatest muckraking journalist, visited the “little giant” to write about what he expected to be a corrupt, demagogic, socialist, dictatorial boss, as he had been portrayed by the Establishment Republicans of the day.

After spending some time in Milwaukee and Madison, however, Steffens came to a very different conclusion:

La Follette from the beginning has asked, not the bosses, but the people for what he wanted, and after 1894 he simply broadened his field and redoubled his efforts. He circularized the state, he made speeches every chance he got, and if the test of demagogy is the tone and style of a man’s speeches, La Follette is the opposite of a demagogue.

Capable of fierce invective, his oratory is impersonal; passionate and emotional himself, his speeches are temperate. Some of them are so loaded with facts and such closely knit arguments that they demand careful reading, and their effect is traced to his delivery, which is forceful, emphatic, and fascinating.

As a political matter, it’s time for Jerry Brown to reach for his inner La Follette and start sounding some good, old fashioned, Wisconsin style populism. Instead of going after the railroads, as La Follete did, however, Brown should aim at the ultra-wealthy, the oil companies and other greedy corporate interests who have a) allowed the California Republican Party to gridlock the budget process and b) fought to keep special corporate loopholes, including outrageously low property tax rates from Prop. 13.

Sic temper tyrannis.

Convention Wrap: CA GOP Seems Headed for the Cliff

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Like a herd of wooly mammoths at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, the California Republican Party is on the verge of extinction.

It may still recover. The CRP has come back from near death before. And redistricting, alongside the top-two primary system may yet revive it. But judging from the infighting, narrow thinking and rigid ideological positioning on display at the party’s organizing convention last weekend in Sacramento, the signs are not good.

As former GOP Assembly leader Bob Naylor put it succinctly Sunday morning, “It’s on life support.”

The party did pull back on some issues that would have help drive it off a cliff. And there’s a new chairman — Tom Del Baccaro, a bright, attractive fresh voice who hopes to connect with a broader range of voters than the 20% to which the GOP usually speaks.

“We have a message problem, folks,” Del Beccaro told delegates. “Quite frankly, we have trapped ourselves into talking to the converted instead of inspiring a new generation of voters.”

Which, of course is true, but not to the point. The GOP’s fundamental problem is that the content of their message on too many key issues is simply unacceptable to the vast swath of moderate California voters.

Moreover, the mass message his party seemed to endorse at the weekend organizing convention essentially was: “Love Us or Leave Us.”

“We’re just a party of narrow ‘no,’” said conservative radio talk show host (and fellow Buckeye) Eric Hogue, who, along with the rest of the news media was only allowed to attend the noon keynote speech after reporters angrily protested. “The California Republican Party is on its way to becoming the third party in California, behind Decline to State,” said Hogue, whose rants from the right sometimes would make Attila blush.

“They’re very set in their ways,” said a 29-year-old Latino delegate from the Inland Empire who was afraid to let his name be used. “They say, ‘That’s the way it’s always been,’ whether it’s on immigration or the environment or marriage,” said the U.C. Davis graduate whose grandfather came to California as a bracero.

In short, the CRP shows no signs of intending to adopt the pragmatic  and doable five-point plan Calbuzz laid out back in November for the Revival of the California Republican Party.

The troglodyte wing of the party – the California Republican Assembly – withdrew its resolution to censure, denounce, expel and castrate any legislator who votes to put Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax extensions on the ballot. But as CRA president Celeste Greig herself noted – the point was made: this is a pup tent party.

And despite much drama and name-calling, the party adopted a rule for endorsements that essentially respects the top-two primary system until 2014, when they intend to run a vote-by-mail primary for Republicans. Of course, that was after state Sen. Sam Blakeslee (the only one of the five GOP senators who are negotiating with Brown to attend the convention) was verbally bitch-slapped at a Rules Committee meeting (of course he did accuse the other side on the endorsement issue of “thuggery”).

There was a lot of lip service from party leaders to “reaching out” to Latino voters, but not even a suggestion of moving toward creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants – the sine qua non for Mexican-Americans in California. The prevailing attitude at the convention seemed to be the Republicans lost every major statewide race and have been reduced to a strident minority because Republican candidates were too weak on conservative principles and besides,  people are lazy and stupid.

This was nicely summed up by Karen Klinger, a delegate from Sacramento, who declaimed, “We need Republicans with balls . . . People don’t know who their party is any more.” Voters don’t align with the GOP these days because “people automatically want to be subsidized . . . (but) Republicans stand for hard work.”

CRP members cheered John Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, who said he is “considering” running for president and who, after calling President Obama’s foreign policy “pathetic,” said he’d have unilaterally attacked Libya.

They also were smitten with Fox News fake pollster Frank Luntz, who advised a party that is reviled by Latinos to reward immigrants who came here legally and punish those who came her illegally. Don’t ever vote for tax increases — ever — Luntz advised (contrary to those pinko former governors like Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson.)

And they delighted in the message from Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour who demanded someone should explain to him “How do businesses thrive and hire when government is sucking up all the money?” (Pithy note on Gov. Barbour from GOP wiseman Allan Hoffenblum: “How likely is it that the governor of Mississippi is going to defeat the first black president of the United States?”)

Over and over, the Republicans talked about the “opportunities” they face but nowhere was there an attempt to address some of the, um, facts, provided to Calbuzz  by troublemaker Bob Mulholland, the former political director of the California Democratic Party:

– There are 7,569,581 registered Democrats (44%) and 5,307,411 registered Republicans, (31%). This is the lowest GOP percentage in the history of California.

– Democrats hold 123 of the 187 partisan seats in California (66%).

– Democrats won all nine statewide races last November and now hold all 10 state offices (including both U.S. Senate seats). Since 1988, Democrats have won all five presidential races and all eight U.S. Senate races.

– President Obama won California by 24 points (61% to 37%) or by 3,262,692 votes.

– Democrats hold 34 of 53 House seats; 52 of 80 Assembly seats and 25 of 40 State Senate seats.

To this, we might note, there are also 3,507,119 DTS voters (Decline To State a party) (20%) – double the percentage from 1994. Polling and voting data find that these voters — by and large — think and act more like Democrats than Republicans on electoral issues most of the time.

It’s not as if ideas aren’t available to the GOP to maintain its principles but make itself less odious to Latinos and moderates. Consultant Patrick Dorinson, the former communications director for the party who calls himself the “cowboy libertarian,” for example, said “what scares these folks is that if all those immigrants become citizens, they’re going to vote (for Democrats).”

So, he suggested, the party could adopt a stand supporting the notion that any illegal immigrant who wants to vote as a citizen would have to go back to Mexico and come back legally, but those who just want to stay and work could become permanent legal residents, without the right to vote.

Delegate Michelle Connor of Solano, 33, had another idea: “If you go into the armed forces and you’re willing to die for your country, you should be able to become a citizen. Or if you graduate from college and pass your citizenship test.”

Right now, we suspect, the first response a lot of party Republicans would have to such ideas would be: “What would John and Ken say?”

Quiet conversations with several Republicans confirmed what GOP finance chairman Jeff Miller was saying: that donors “think the party is on the brink of irrelevance . . . They think the party focuses most of its time speaking to 30% of the state rather than the majority of the state . . . (donors are watching to see if) we’re going to continue to focus on eating our own, as opposed to focusing on electing more Republicans.”

Or as Dorinson put it: “Only a buzzard feeds on its friends.”

Convention Notes

An accounting from our advancer:

1. As noted above, the cave people did not exactly win since they withdrew their resolution to rub out anyone who helps put a tax extension measure on the ballot. But if getting publicity for their tiny strike team of reactionaries was the goal, they triumphed handily.

2. The GOP 5 couldn’t be tarred and feathered because only one showed up and while he didn’t get the medieval treatment, he was accused of  “selling us out on taxes” and made to understand that should he ever wander out of his district, the right wing will jump his ass.

3. Sutter Brown and Grover the Norquist did not make appearances but there was plenty of doggy doo and more than a few delegates stepped in it.

4. The Stalinistas failed to pass their plan to give a cadre of party purists the authority to anoint candidates in the top-two primary system.  U.S. Rep Kevin McCarthy and others put the squeeze on to keep the party — as he said at Saturday night’s dinner — from bringing back the back room.

5. Comrade Jon “Josef” Fleischman, who was working the hallways, salons and bars like a cheap hooker, never bought one lousy drink for any reporter that we’re aware of, despite the fact that the news media have literally made his name a household word.

Other notes: Chairman Del Baccaro, who is young and good looking, was literally mobbed by GOP women Saturday night at his reception where he signed baseballs. Why did he sign baseballs when he never played hardball? “It’s the team thing,” he told Calbuzz, which got its own autographed ball.

Certain numbnuts in the party tried twice — at the Rules Committee meeting on Friday and the Saturday luncheon with Fox Poll Clown Frank Luntz — to keep reporters out. That is so stupid. First, too many of us would just sit there and demand to be arrested and why do you want to make it look like you’re doing secret business?

Somebody at the L.A. Times needs to lighten up a bit and let poor Seema Mehta and Maeve Reston skip boring, unremarkable speeches and meetings when Calbuzz party time is happening. Same for B people re. Torey “Don’t Call Me Tulip” Van Oot. We spent time on the road with some of their bosses and they never missed trial fun for crapchurn.

He will be missed: Sadly, Doug McNea, 64, of San Jose, collapsed while dancing and died at Kevin McCarthy’s party Saturday night. Our condolences to friends and family of the longtime leader of the  Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association.

Notebook: eMeg, DiFi, Gay Rights, Pensions, Districts

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

The week’s most distressing political post comes from the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire, reporting that Meg Whitman says she is “definitely not” running for the U.S. Senate in 2012.

Say it ain’t so, Meg.

As the rumor mongers who first proposed the notion that Her Megness should challenge Dianne Feinstein for Senate in 2012, we were disappointed beyond measure to read the piece, filed by Cari Tuna of the Journal’s San Francisco bureau. Beyond our pride of political authorship on this one, let’s face it, a Herself vs. Herself match-up between these two would be one of those once-in-a-lifetime campaigns we’d pay to cover.

Although eMeg threw cold water on our dream scenario, a close reading of the WSJ piece shows that she didn’t slam the door shut, either. Consider:

1-“Definitely not” ain’t exactly a Shermanesque statement, and it leaves her plenty of wiggle room down the road.

2-Even at that, there’s no full quote from Whitman saying she won’t run. The headline and the lede both attribute the fragment phrase “definitely not,” to eMeg, but she doesn’t utter those words inside the story.

3-In fact, her quotes suggest she remains quite interested in public office:

“I want to stay involved in public policy,” Ms. Whitman said in an interview Friday evening. “Now I see things in a way that I” had not prior to running for public office, she said.

4-The aforementioned Ms. Tuna went to Yale, ferhevinsake.  Boola frickin’ boola.

Yeah, we understand that taking on DiFi at this point looks like an absolute  fool’s errand. She’s the most popular pol in California, and the only survey taken on potential match-ups shows her skunking every possible Republican foe, including eMeg, 55-to-35 percent. Plus, the current lineup of loony tunes, losers and snoozers in the GOP’s 2012 presidential field won’t make such a run any easier.

But  eMeg is and, to us, always will be, a special case. Some key factors that make a Senate bid worth her consideration:

1-Despite spending $144 million to lose to Jerry Brown, Whitman’s net worth stayed steady, as the reliable Seema Mehta reports, leaving plenty more where that came from.

2-While Feinstein eked out a win against mega-bucks Michael Huffington in 1994, she still has scars from that campaign, and the prospect of another year-long brawl against a free-spending zillionaire at this stage of her career is not a happy one.

3-Whitman doesn’t have to hire Mike Murphy this time.

4) While eMeg got badly burned in the governor’s race because she illegally employed Nicky Diaz, Feinstein back in the day had her own, murky,  undocumented worker situation, as the late, great Susan Yoachum reported, which could neutralize the issue in a second Whitman statewide run.

5-Whitman’s business record, from eBay to Goldman Sachs, got a pretty fair airing last year, but it’s been a while since reporters and Republican oppo types took a close look at the financial dealings of Feinstein hubby Dick Blum, which could make for some interesting campaign reading, not to mention TV attack ads.

6) Most importantly, a Senate run would afford Her Megness a splendid second chance to have dinner with Calbuzz, thereby reversing the biggest blunder of her failed campaign for governor.

We’re just sayin’.

DiFi update: Feinstein meanwhile has been staking out a very high-profile position on behalf of gay rights. Our old friend Hank Plante, the former longtime political editor of KPIX-TV, reports:

“Senator Feinstein on Wednesday introduced legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a target of the gay rights movement since it was passed in 1996.

The law, which DiFi voted against when it was enacted, blocks the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples:

‘My own belief is that when two people love each other and enter the contract of marriage, the Federal government should honor that,’ she said.

Her move is the latest twist in her long evolution on the rights of gays and lesbians. Feinstein was one of the first San Francisco politicians to actively court gay voters when she first ran for the Board of Supervisors in 1969.

In 1982, as the city’s mayor, however, she angered many in the gay community by vetoing the city’s first domestic partners’ bill, saying the bill was poorly drafted.  Later in her term, however,  Feinstein’s AIDS budget for S.F. was bigger than President Reagan’s AIDS budget was for the entire nation.

‘Of all the big-league Democrats in the United States, Feinstein’s was undoubtedly the most consistently pro-gay voice,’ the late Randy Shilts wrote in “And the Band Played On,” his history of the AIDS epidemic.

In 2008, Feinstein became the most prominent political voice opposing Proposition 8, the ban on California’s same-sex marriages. She said that her views on gay marriage had ‘evolved’ over the years from originally not supporting it, to enthusiastically supporting it today.

At her Wednesday press conference, DiFi cited the 18,000 same-sex couples who were legally married in California before Prop. 8 passed. DOMA prevents those couples, and other legally married lesbian and gay Americans, from receiving survivors’ social security benefits, from filing joint federal income taxes and from taking unpaid leave to care for a sick partner.

Her bill now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Feinstein is a long-time member.”

New Field Poll: California voters now believe pension benefits for public employees are too generous and strongly support a host of reforms – but oppose the idea of taking away their collective bargaining rights as part of a budget deal.

The new findings are certain to sharpen the Capitol debate over public pensions, which not only  is a key issue in negotiations between Governor Gandalf and Republican lawmakers, but also the focus of a war of words between Treasurer Bill Lockyer and the Little Hoover Commission, which recently recommended many of the reforms tested in the Field survey.

Field honcho Mark DiCamillo reported that a 42% plurality of voters believes that pension benefits for public workers are too generous, while 34% say they are about right and 14% that they are not generous enough. This represents a marked shift from 2009, when just 32% of registered voters told Field benefits were too generous, 40% said they were about right and 16% not generous enough.

Significantly, however, 50% of voters oppose combining a deficit reduction measure with legislation that would take away some collective bargaining rights of unionized public sector workers, a move that was taken by Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, and set off a volatile political battle between labor and Republican politicians across the country. In California, 42% say they would support an effort to limit public employee collective bargaining.

The complete Field Poll can be found here after about 6 am today.

Partisanship and Redistricting: While Republicans squawked at the notion of hiring Karin MacDonald of the  nonpartisan Statewide Database at UC Berkeley to draw new district lines, they’re suddenly silent about the only other candidate for the job — Republican Douglas Johnson,  a fellow at the conservative Rose Institute and the head of National Demographics, Inc. Wonder whyHere’s an idea: hire them both and make them split the contract and agree on a proposal — like newspapers do when they hire a Democratic and Republican pollster.

Press Clips: Why Class Warfare is the Next Big Meme

Friday, March 4th, 2011

We suppose it’s just one more sorry sign of the gloomy times for the news biz that the Indianapolis Star didn’t bother to send one of their own political reporters to cover Mitch Daniels, their Republican governor who’s weighing a run for president, make a recent speech-making swing through Cincinnati.

After all, it’s 115 miles away.

Reporter: What do you mean we can’t go with him? Southwest Ohio’s the most important target for Republicans in the biggest battleground state of 2012, and every other GOP wannabe’s already been through there.

Editor: Hey, I already told you – no travel, no overtime. And what do you need a new notebook for – did you write on both sides of that other one? And where’s those three blog posts and Sunday thumbsucker you owe me?

Fortunately for the Star, where Calbuzz once labored, when mastodons roamed the earth, both it and the Cincinnati Enquirer are owned by the Gannett Corp. (you get extra points for being old if you remember when the really big threat to newspapers was chain ownership), so the paper was able to run a little story from its sister publication on Daniels the next day.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t much of a story (we withhold the name of the reporter to avoid embarrassing her family) as she managed to bury the lede 13 paragraphs into an 18-graf feel-good yarn. That’s what you get when you sub out your  wet work:

So when he brought up collective bargaining reform in Ohio – an issue that’s drawn thousands to hearings in Columbus in the last two weeks – people listened.

“There may have been a time when government employees needed protection and needed reform, but that was a long time ago,” Daniels said.

He called the unions “the privileged elite.”

Daniels — whom we actually knew when he was Dick Lugar’s aide — is the Republican flavor of the week for some GOP propeller head pundits, who apparently never got over plucky Steve Forbes falling short of the White House.

With his “privileged elite” comment, he perfectly defined the political war now waging throughout the Midwest, as he and other Republican governors are fiercely fighting to bust public employee unions. The remark didn’t get much attention at the time (perhaps because it was IN THE 13th GRAF!!!) but when Daniels repeated it on Fox over the weekend, it got picked up everywhere, a kind of short hand  signifier in the labor battle.

Apres moi, c’est moi: Daniels’ formulation recalls Anatole France, who famously said that, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

At a time when 1 percent of Americans control nearly one-fourth of the country’s wealth – and as much as the bottom 50 percent of people combined – the union bashers bring a whole new meaning to the phrase “class warfare,” as they channel Monsieur France without seeming to realize he was making a joke.

It’s instructive that labeling teachers, cops, firefighters, nurses and janitors “the privileged elite,” today is considered an important and serious political argument, a marker for how far to the right the center of the economic debate has moved over the last 30 years.

Try as we might to find some insightful MSM illumination of this calculated effort to pit those with little against those with even less, we were left to rely once again on “The Daily Show” to examine the hypocritical absurdity (absurd hypocrisy?) of all the railing about “class warfare” on CNBC and Fox.

Disgusting. The Democrats have pitted the top two percent against the lower 98, when the Republicans know that the real battle should be fought within the middle class, preferably amongst neighbors.

From Punch to Pinch to Punt: Calbuzz is hardly alone in its disappointment in the MSM’s performance in Madison, Wisc. Abe Sauer of the venerable site The Awl filed a splendid press clips report:

If the events in Wisconsin prove one thing, it is that the mainstream media has become journalistically irrelevant when it comes to national issues and coverage. Broadcast media is incapable of explaining anything outside a macropatriotic framework and has proven allergic to anything that puts off even the slightest whiff of the class warfare that scares away big-market advertorial. Meanwhile, the other side is cable news’ partisan echo chamber of regurgitated self-assurance, where no blow is too low and no fact needs sourcing before being leveraged to make a prearranged point. Cable news reporting on Wisconsin is like going to a whorehouse and then bragging to your buddies about this girl you seduced.

Jason Linkins over at Huffpost picked up one of the threads of Sauer’s reporting to churn out a must-read detailing how the mighty New York Times lurched into a major and embarrassing blunder. Deliciously, the story in question was filed by A.G. Sulzberger, one of its newer reporters, who happens to be the son of Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

A bit of a shaggy dog, it boils down to Sulzberger the Younger penning a front page piece so favorable to Governor Scott Walker that Walker gushed about it in his now-in famous phone call with a blogger posing as oligarch David Koch. Only problem was that Sulzberger committed what you like to call your glaring factual error. His primary source, on whom he hung his thesis, was “a union guy” who bitterly complained about public employees – privileged elites! – getting too much in benefits and pension; except…he wasn’t…a union guy, and the paper had to run a big correction.

David Brooks takes a dive: The week’s best unraveling of the political-policy-media nexus of the class warfare issue came in a superb takedown of the insufferable David Brooks, the Times’ self-righteous center-right columnist, filed by Slate blogger Tom Scocca:

Crisply titled “The politics of entitlement – David Brooks will decide when it’s time for you to die,” Scocca’s 1800-word piece masterfully exposes the blind-spot reasoning of elitist advocates for austerity like Brooks and other over-paid windbags in pink shirts and purple tie. Brooks never tires of calling for others to “sacrifice” and this week actually wrote, “The country’s runaway debt is the central moral challenge of our time,” a sentence so wrong-headed it made Scocca’s head explode:

The experts—serious, competent, thoughtful, constructive experts—have studied the problem. The solutions are going to be unpleasant. “The sacrifice should be spread widely and fairly,” David Brooks wrote.

Is wide fair? …Everyone, simply everyone—whether they have money or not—will have to make do with less. Peter G. Peterson, the self-appointed chief of the debt fighters and entitlement reformers, includes a “Personal Responsibility Primer” on his foundation’s website (“Teach children the importance of planning, saving, budgeting, investing, and using credit responsibly”).

Peter G. Peterson is a billionaire twice over, so rich he can pledge a billion dollars to charity. All he really understands about Social Security and Medicare is that it is impossible that he, himself, will ever die broke and alone. When his time comes, he can die on a mattress stuffed with gold-plated rose petals, if the whim strikes him.

What happens when there is no money to give to the people who have no money? That is the moral question. It’s fine to say that the old people should have saved more, they should have worked an extra job, they should have done without cable TV, they should have invested more wisely. Saying that doesn’t change the fact that there will be old people who do not have money. These old people will believe that they need food and shelter and medical care.

Will they get it? At the arch-plutocrats’ end of things, the Koch brothers’ end, the end occupied by the most devout worshipers of Ayn Rand, the answer is: no. That’s the goal. It’s long since time for the sloppy, implicit, badly supported social contract to go away. Rich people have been trimming their contribution to the general revenue for decades now. They are not interested in paying the premium that keeps old people and ailing people or just backward people out of the streets. If the day comes that they have to travel to and from their various compounds in armored helicopters, they can afford the helicopters. It’s not their problem.

Great stuff.

Calbuzz: A Charlie-Sheen free zone. All the best late night stuff is here.