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Posts Tagged ‘Fox and Hounds’



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!

Sacto Dysfunction Mirrors Whacko Views of Voters

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Just six weeks before Jerry Brown rolls out the long-awaited opening of “Krusty: The Sequel,” the most fundamental problem the new governor faces  is neither the $25 billion state deficit nor the utter  dysfunction of the Capitol: it’s California’s dual personality disorder.

As much as politicians, government geeks and bureaucrats — not to mention “the media” –  get blamed, deservedly, for the mess the state is in, there stands a mountain of evidence showing that the polarized partisan gridlock in Sacramento perfectly reflects the sentiments of the electorate.

The plain fact is that California’s litany of problems is underpinned by an everything-for-nothing ethic among voters that is both conflicted and contradictory.

We first took note of the over-arching importance of this dynamic back before the earth cooled (“Calbuzz: The Prairie Years”) when we analyzed the confounding perspective of the electorate in advance of the disastrous May 19, 2009 special election. In that debacle, Governor Schwarzmuscle and the Democrat-dominated Legislature tried to have it both ways with a series of five initiatives that, variously, raised taxes and imposed some cuts in several popular programs.

But we’d be remiss if we didn’t also call out our fellow voters, who exhibit a maddening syndrome of self-canceling impulses about how to pay for their government.

What do policymakers see when they look at such data? Voters, pointing a gun to their own heads, screaming “Stop, before I shoot!”

This self-destructive, self-canceling world view of voters has grown both more acute and more chronic since then, as illustrated by some new data in  the most recent LA. Times/USC poll.  Among the findings, the survey found that:

–By a huge plurality – 44-6% — voters said they would rather cut spending than raise taxes to address the deficit (another 44% opted from some murky, unspecified combination).

–But by even larger margins, voters said they would either a) not support any cuts or b) favor more spending on K-12 education and health programs – the two largest items in the budget (for schools, 37% oppose reductions and 34% want more spending while 36% are against cuts and 20% want to spend more on health). The only area of the budget where there is strong sentiment for reducing expense is on prisons, where 71% favor cutting a great deal or some of current spending.

–Most troubling of all, by 70-24%, voters said that “there is enough waste and inefficiency in government spending that we can reduce most of the state deficit by cleaning up programs without cutting programs like health care and education” –  the fairy tale scenario that Meg Whitman tried to peddle, ranking up there with Santa showing up with the Great Pumpkin and the Tooth Fairy in tow. That’s how he rolls.

Our friend Joel Fox took a run at the Great Dichotomy the other day over at Fox and Hounds and offered a pretty good succinct synopsis of the problem.

So what to make of the California electorate’s pro-government, no more taxes dichotomy? Can we say that Californians have big hearts and small wallets? Or is something else going on here?

Many people believe in the California Dream. The notion of California as a place of opportunity cuts across demographics and ethnicities and is a thread that binds people in this most diverse of all states. Californians support proposals that will give people access to opportunity. I suspect that is why those polled would support avenues to citizenship and open doors at educational establishments and government programs to give people a hand up.

However, while supporting a basic framework of government support, voters clearly don’t want to pay for too much. Those responding to the survey think they already pay too much when they say the best avenue to a balanced budget is to cut spending.

Voters don’t trust government to deliver the opportunities they believe in… There is a strong sense amongst the electorate that those in government take care of themselves first.

During the campaign, Brown’s big proposal for addressing the budget mess was to lock all the legislators of both parties in a room and browbeat them with sweet reason until everyone agreed on solutions.

As a political matter, that seems to us to be 180 degrees wrong in dealing with the size, scope and depth of the problems the state now faces: Instead of spending his time in backrooms with Sacramento pols, Brown needs to get out of the Capitol and travel energetically around the state, conducting what amounts to a one-man basic civics education campaign, so that Californians truly understand a) what services state government actually provides; b) how much they cost; c) how they’re paid for.

Above all, he needs a full-blown strategy to build a shared public awareness of the simple facts of California’s predicament by breaking through the bumper sticker clichés and well-worn grooves of the political arguments that have straight jacketed California for a generation. Anything else is just tactics.

Labor Day Preview: Actual Facts About Job Creation

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

By Michael Bernick

Over the past year, I’ve been engaged in a research project on the transformation of employment in California since World War II. The project has involved research on the shifting employment relations in California (particularly the breakdown of the employer-employee relation and rise of contingent employment) as well the ebbs and flows of job creation and employment.

The chart below shows the growth and decline of total payroll jobs in California during the five recent Governors, beginning with Jerry Brown …

Among the storylines:

1. Job growth has been strong during the 35 year period under all Governors: Despite several ups and downs during the past 35 years, overall job growth has soared from 7.7 million payroll jobs in January 1975 to a high water mark of 15.2 million payroll jobs in July 2007, and around 14 million payroll jobs today. Job growth has been strong under all of the Governors, including Governor Schwarzenegger, until the current Recession.

2. Job growth was strongest during the 8 years of Jerry Brown’s Administration: The greatest job growth in absolute terms was during the eight years of Governor Deukmejian, when 2.7 million jobs were added. However, the more revealing job number is California’s job growth as percentage of national job growth. This was highest during the 8 years of Governor Brown, when California’s job growth of nearly 2 million jobs totaled 17% of the total payroll jobs added in the United States. California’s percentage of job growth has not been as high since that time.

3. Each of the 5 Governors has seen job growth in California undermined by major downturns in the national economy: In the last year of the Brown Administration, the national economy encountered its worst economic downturn since World War II, with national unemployment climbing to 10.8% in December 1982 (and California unemployment at a corresponding 11%). Similarly, Governor Wilson saw state unemployment climb to 9.9% in December 1992, as the national unemployment rose to 7.4%. For the first nearly three years of Governor Schwarzenegger’s tenure, job growth averaged over 235,000 jobs annually. Since the current national Recession started in mid-2007, California has averaged over 300,000 jobs lost annually, and unemployment today stands at 12.3%, following the rise of the national rate to 9.5%.

Marc Lifsher of the Los Angeles Times recently made reference to the job numbers noted above in a short posting in the newspaper’s online edition. This posting immediately brought forth claims of partisanship by the Whitman campaign, which has been trying to portray Brown as a “job killer”. Fair enough. If the Whitman campaign can show that these numbers are inaccurate or misleading, such should be done.

I have known and periodically supported Jerry Brown since serving as a summer law school intern in the office of his State and Consumer Services Secretary, Leonard Grimes, in 1978. I recall well the job debates and policies of the 1970s and early 1980s. There was then and remains today a real and destructive anti-business wing of the Democratic Party in California. But Brown was not a part of it then, and he is not remotely part of it today.

Michael Bernick is the Former California Employment Development Department Director and Milken Institute Fellow. This piece was first published at Fox & Hounds.

eMeg’s Charm Offensive (Take 47); Foxy & Brown

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Meg Whitman’s new ad, “130 Miles,” is an attempt to use the glamor of Silicon Valley to reboot eMeg’s image as a can-do business executive whose skill is needed to repair California’s “mismanaged, ineffective” government. It’s polished and – if you knew nothing else about her, Silicon Valley or how government works – a persuasive 30-second argument.

But alas, reality bites. Give eMeg’s ad minions props for drawing a sharp line between Sacramento and Silicon Valley, which “gave us Apple, Intel, eBay.” Of course, as Jerry Brown’s campaign noted in its response, “At least eight Fortune 500 companies were founded in California during Brown’s governorship,” including Apple, Oracle, Amgen, Symantec, Electronic Arts and Sun (purchased by Oracle in 2009).

BTW, the choice of Apple, Intel and eBay is clever cherry-picking, but actually, the largest Silicon Valley companies in terms of 2009 sales were Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Cisco, Intel, Oracle, Google and Sun, in that order Then came eBay.

Calbuzz: The Prairie Years (With Actual Longhorn)

Brown can quibble but can’t really refute the ad’s assertion that Whitman “started with 30 people, led them, managed them, executed the plan that grew this main street company to 15,000 employees and made small business dreams come true.” But they did come up with a nice little gotcha: seems the eBay small-business success story featured visually in the ad – EasySale – is based in Arlington, Texas, and isn’t licensed to do business in California. Go Longhorns! Oops.

But we digress. What this very slick ad does not address is perhaps the most important question facing Whitman’s candidacy for governor: Even if she was a smashing success in Silicon Valley (and there’s certainly debate about that), what does that have to do with governing in Sacramento?

Since at least half of your Calbuzz team cut his teeth in Silicon Valley, we know that there are plenty of big fish who’ve come out of the Valley – Larry Ellison, Jerry Sanders, John Scully, Frank Quattrone, Mark Hurd, Steve Jobs, Scott McNealy to name a few – who don’t belong in politics. (Note: We’re not even mentioning Carly Fiorina.)

Running a company, answering to venture capitalists or a board of directors and shareholders, placing profit at the core of your soul, issuing commands to underlings, laying out an action plan and ordering people to implement it – these skills may serve the bottom line. But they don’t remotely resemble the abilities a governor needs: civic vision, coupled with facility for cajoling, compromising and co-operating, to name a small part of the collaborative, consensus-building skill set required of an effective political leader.

That 130 miles between Silicon Valley and Sacramento is indeed more like the distance between two planets. It’s Whitman’s challenge to demonstrate that she can do more than yammer about how she understands what it takes to create jobs. She needs to convince Californians that she could actually govern.

One more intriguing note: In this new version of eMeg’s Charm Offensive (she’s trying to get her favorables up from 40%) there are shots of her from four different magazines but no live footage of Her Megness Herself.  Guess they just ran out of time.

Department of burning pants: As we noted Wednesday, state Republican leaders are spinning like Schwins the claim that the GOP statewide ticket represents not only a breakthrough for their white man’s party, but, more broadly, a stirring display of never-before-seen diversity in the history of California politics.

The latest reporter to bite on this story is Araceli Martinez Ortega, writing at the Spanish language site Impre.com. Here’s a bit of a translated excerpt eblasted by the GOP:

As never before in its history, Republicans have managed to put together a formula that represents the diversity of the state – two female candidates, a Latino, and an African-American – with the goal of winning the general election in November…They face a Democratic ticket consisting primarily of Caucasians (emphasis ours).

Sigh. Ortega can probably be forgiven for peddling this canard; after all, for her him to have discovered that the two party tickets have exactly the same numbers of men, women, whites and minorities would have taken incredible effort, on the order of the complex and wide-ranging investigation Calbuzz conducted by counting up the demographic traits of those on the ballot.

But the state party is a different story.  They sent this stinky cheese around the state, knowing full well that the claim of an ethnic and gender difference between the two slates is a total crock.

For that we’re awarding them a copy of the shortest book ever published – “Richard Nixon’s Guide to Telling the Truth” (Introduction by Meg Whitman).

Out-foxed: There’s no bigger sacred cow in politics these days than small business (the phrase “small business is the backbone of the economy” Google generates 469,000 results).

Just now, for example, folks in Washington who favor extending the Bush tax cuts to the richest one percent of Americans constantly cloak their position in the self-righteous and cynical argument that anyone who opposes such an  outrageous homage to oligarchy is a pinko socialist determined to ruin poor old Uncle Chester’s hardware store, a stance that happens to be a lie.

In California, few are the equal of the wily Joel Fox in hoisting the small business fig leaf to disguise the big balls corporate beneficiaries of such policies. The resourceful Anthony York was the first to offer a glimpse behind this political pretense of plucky Main Street merchants, with a post detailing the actual sources of contributions to the Fox-run Small Business Action Committee PAC:

The SBAPAC revealed Tuesday evening that it received more than $1 million from alcohol, tobacco and real estate groups. Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, donated $500,000. Anheuser-Busch, which brews Budweiser, gave $200,000 and the Wine Institute chipped in another $50,000. Los Angeles-based Cypress Management Company gave the group $250,000.

Ah yes, Anheuser-Busch, your favorite neighborhood brewer, and good old Philip Morris, who runs the family farm out on the old River Road. Sheesh.

The $1 million detailed in the SBAPAC’s new spending report is only a fraction of the total amount of contributions to the group. That’s just the money earmarked for campaigns over two ballot measures, Propositions 25 and 27, in which corporations are fighting to preserve their sacred right (in California, anyway) to avoid being taxed just because a mere majority of lawmakers elected by the voters thinks it’s a good idea. Perish the thought.

What the SBAPAC report does not account for is another $3 million in contributions now being used to air ersatz “issue ads” whose clear purpose is to rip Jerry Brown’s face off on behalf of poor little rich girl eMeg.

Fox’s group uses a gaping loophole in the law to avoid disclosing those special interests donations, an avoidance he’s tried to tart up in the flag, the First Amendment and the Boston Tea Party several times over at his Fox and Hounds web site (we’d link to his recent pieces but F&H appears to be crashed at the moment).

Your Calbuzzards, however, think he got much closer to the nut of the matter when he told York: “I’ve got two lawyers who have looked at all of this, and there are different rules for the PAC. This has all been lawyered to death.”

We just bet it has.

Why Carly and eMeg Aren’t Like Thelma and Louise

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

This just in – GOP admits women: Barring a political miracle, around 8:01 p.m. next Tuesday, Meg Whitman will be declared the California Republican party’s nominee for governor. Not long after, it appears today,  Carly Fiorina will win the GOP slot in the Senate race against Barbara Boxer.

It will be an historic evening, if all goes according to form, as the two uber rich  former Silicon Valley executives become the first Republican women ever nominated for either of the two offices, let alone performing the feat in the same election, factoids confirmed by state party spokeshuman Mark Standriff.

In a year when Sarah Palin is crisscrossing the country, calling for the election of GOP “Mama Grizzlies,” the eMeg-Carly narrative will no doubt prove as irresistible to the national media as the “Thelma and Louise” storyline did back in 1992, when Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer pulled off a similar historic trick by simultaneously winning election to the U.S. Senate in what was then hyped as “the year of the woman.”

It was our late, great colleague Susan Yoachum who memorably pinned the movie moniker on Babs and DiFi, but before the brilliant Beltway Wizards latch onto such a narrative line with Carly and Meg, Calbuzz feels duty bound to quash any such non-analogous comparison to what Herb Caen once dubbed “Bitch Cassidy and the Sundress Kid.”

Two working-class women seeking to break away? Not. Strength through sisterhood? No friggin’ way. Feminist rage? C’mon.

Just one example knocks it down: “I won’t let California fail”  – eMeg’s hubris-infected assertion — just doesn’t have the power of Louise’s famous “You get what you settle for.”

Even Ridley Scott and Callie Khouri couldn’t turn these two wealthy, privileged, and uptight business execs into a pair of gun-totin’ road-runnin’ outlaw fempals. They may wind up flying off a cliff, but even if they do, they’ll land softly on their big fat bank accounts and their elitist lives.

Whitman and Fiorina have pandered and slummed, lurched and lunged so far to the right to win their party’s favor, that the big action for them from June to November will be trying to convince independents, moderates, women and Latinos that they didn’t really mean all those knuckle-dragging statements they made in order to win the primaries.

As the Schnur Turns: Politics writers up and down California were weeping, wailing, tearing their hair and rending their garments Tuesday after word emerged that Gov. Arnold Schwartzmuscle has named our friend Dan Schnur to finish the seven months remaining in Ross Johnson’s term as chairman of the Fair Political Practices Commission.

“Where will we go for a clever quote,” one reporter wondered. Whined another: “Who can I call on deadline who will say what I want to say myself but can’t unless it comes from a source’s mouth?”A third cried out: “But I don’t know any other Republicans!”

Schnur, former media adviser and spinner for John McCain, Pete Wilson and others, has worked to put his partisan past behind him for several years as a lecturer at UC Berkeley and, most recently, as head of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.

Not Dan Schnur

Not Dan Schnur

As chairman of the FPPC, Schnur will oversee the agency that enforces state campaign finance and campaign disclosure laws. He’ll fill out the term of former state senator Johnson, who stepped down for health reasons, and plans to return to USC in January.

Schnur said his partisan past will be no more of an impediment than it was for Johnson or former Chairwoman Karen Getman, a Democratic campaign lawyer who served under Gray Davis. “Both did an excellent job of setting aside their personal political leanings,” he said.

Yo, Dan! We’re still waiting for the punch line.

We need to talk: Calbuzzers who fondly remember Al and Tipper snogging over breakfast in the Dunster House dining hall back in the day (this just in: he did inhale) couldn’t help but get a little misty Tuesday at word that ex-vice president and former Second Lady Gore are breaking up.

Even those who don’t know the couple or,  for that matter, never really gave them much thought, felt a pang of rainy day sadness  as they processed the news that the Gores’ 40-year, kissy poo marriage was outlasted by the Clintons, fercrineoutloud.

While wits like Andy Borowitz set about thinking up fake N.Y. Post headlines for the split – “Global Cooling!” (h/t Jim Bettinger) – more gimlet-eyed types at L.A. Biz Observed quickly turned their focus to more bottom line matters:

Now that Al and Tipper have announced plans to separate, they’ll have to deal with their $8.8 million Montecito home that was purchased a couple of months ago. It has an ocean view on 1 1/2 acres with a swimming pool, five bedrooms, nine bathrooms, six fireplaces, a family room, wine cellar and spa. Montecito, of course, is quite the spot for the rich and famous: Oprah Winfrey, Michael Douglas, and the golfer Fred Couples, among many others.

Talk about your inconvenient truth.

Head Fake of the Day: After sitting happily on the sidelines while Republicans Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner fire at one another, Democrat Jerry Brown slapped together a cheesy 30-second spot decrying all the money being spent on negativity while Sacramento is still broken. Calbuzz tried to get Brown Boys Glazer and Clifford to say how much actual TV air time this sad little puppy will see. No comment, basically. So we figure it’s nothing but a web ad that will have no effect on the race for governor. If you want to see it, here’s the link. If they decide to put it on television, we’ll take it seriously. They did manage to bamboozle the online ops at the SF Chronicle, LA Times and Sac Bee into declaring it Brown’s first TV ad, before they caught on that it was just a head fake. (The boys over at Calitics gave it the back of their hand, too.)

Hounding Fox: Hey Joel — saying an opinion poll “was correct” because it reported numbers three weeks ago that happen to be in the ballpark as those found today is a little like saying that the Giants beat the Dodgers because they led 1-0 in the first inning. As the cliche goes, polls are snapshots in time, and we’ll stand by our snarky comments about yours.