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