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Posts Tagged ‘Steve Harmon’



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!

Calbuzz at Two: Wild Parties, Lady Gaga & a Field Poll

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

From Sydney Harbor to the Taj Mahal and Tiananmen Square, from  Big Ben to the Eiffel Tower and the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, raucous crowds numbered in the tens of millions gathered Wednesday amid pomp, pageantry and majestic bombardments of M80s and Megabangers to wildly cheer and celebrate the Second Anniversary of Calbuzz.

“Ich kann es nicht glauben,” murmured staff psychiatrist Dr. P.J. Hackenflack, weeping openly as he listened to reports of the global revelry on a transistor radio in his mom’s basement. “When we started this brave journey, there was no one who believed Calbuzz would still be around two years later, least of all me.”

There were no injuries.

As Tom Meyer released a limited edition cartoon commemorating the founders of Calbuzz celebrating the great day, the site’s Department of Archival Inquiry and Dewey Decimal System Research reported that the must-read web site has soared to Number 1,074,351 among the list of all the blogs in the world (you could look it up).

More: Amid reams of deep-think policy reporting on such fascinating subjects as the Sinclair Paint decision, the Parsky Tax Reform Commission and the Tranquillon Ridge offshore oil drilling project, Dr. H is pleased to  report that our all-time, nothing- else is-even-close,  first place most hits ever, popular post was the one and only piece that carried a headline that included Lady Gaga (you could look it up).

God, we love us some internets.

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.Note to Neanderthals: the most important finding in the Field/UC Berkeley poll out today is that six in 10 voters – including more than half of Republicans — support Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for a special election on tax and fee extensions to close about half the state’s $26 billion deficit.

And providing evidence for why the anti-tax jihadists are so adamant about NOT allowing Brown’s plan to reach the ballot, 58% of voters – 69% of Democrats and 66% of independents but just 35% of Republicans – say they’d vote to approve those extensions.

These are some of the findings from a survey in English and Spanish by the Field Poll and UC Berkeley of 898 registered voters Feb. 28-March 14.

Only a handful of voters – 11% — prefer to deal with the state’s deficit mostly through raising taxes and just 32% prefer using mostly spending cuts. Rather, the favored approach – by 52% — is a mix of budget cuts and increased tax revenues.

Moreover, as Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll put it: “By a 55% to 43% margin, Californians say they are not willing to pay higher taxes for the purpose of helping the state balance its budget. However, by a 61% to 37% margin, voters agree with the statement, ‘I would be willing to extend temporary tax increases enacted several years ago to help the state balance its budget.”

Grover Norquist, Jon Fleischman, Jon Coupal, John and Ken take note: California voters would rather extend some minor tax and fee hikes and cut spending by about $12 billion than slice, dice and decimate schools or health care for the poor, elderly and disabled. You may have no heart but the voters of California do.

Of 14 areas suggested for budget cutbacks, only two – courts and prisons – receive majority support. And voters are vehemently opposed to cutbacks in some areas that would almost surely have to be slashed if tax extensions are not placed on the ballot and approved, including public schools, law enforcement and police, health programs for  low-income and disabled Californians, higher education, child care and mental health programs.

By far, the most contentious issue in Sacramento right now is whether the Legislature should place a special election on the June ballot. This requires a 2/3 vote which means Brown and the Democrats need two Republicans each from the Assembly and Senate to agree to the special election.

The most conservative voices in the GOP are threatening legislators with expulsion from the Republican Party and fevered opposition if they even vote to place Brown’s plan on the ballot. Yet the Field Poll/UC Berkeley study finds that registered Republicans – a more diverse group than the anti-tax crusaders – would prefer that approach as seen in the chart above.

As your Calbuzzers told you back in January, the whole battle is about whether Brown’s proposal is seen as extending or increasing taxes.

[Calbuzz gets the Field Poll from sources because one of the survey's big subscribers has complained that we should not be allowed to pay for a subscription on our own (which we actually offered to do). Since we don't have the proper link at post time, here's a link to the Field Poll's list of surveys which ought to have this one up by the time you read about it here. Here's the link to the survey]

One-way street: As Jerry Brown’s talks with the GOP 5 teeter, it’s tough to disagree with the sentiments of the Republicans’ top negotiator, Senator Bob Huff, as reported by Steve Harmon:

But Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, the lead GOP budget negotiator who has been aiding the GOP 5, said Republican backlash isn’t a concern. Republican activists would credit them, Huff said, if they forced Democrats to place pension and regulatory reforms, as well as a spending cap, on the ballot.

“They are asking us to cast a vote that separates us from our base,” he said. “So, Republicans would like to see Democrats going to the ballot with something that separates them from their base.”

Faced with the torches and pitchforks of state GOP wingnuts and crazies, the Republican lawmakers who have been hunkered down with Brown are putting it all on the line: at some point, he needs to man up and give something in return.

Budget talks add: Nice work by the Sacbee’s Torey (Don’t call me Tulip) Van Oot in churning out a set of mini-profiles of the GOP 5, about the only thing we’ve seen that tells people who these guys actually are.

Must-see TV:

-UCLA scholar demonstrates why there are so many dumb blonde jokes.

-What Sarkozy’s marital woes and Yeltsin’s tennis shorts have in common.

-How does he get these women to do such things?

-Second greatest buzzer beater of all time.

-Greatest buzzer beater ever.

Happy Anniversary all!

The Death and Possible Re-Birth of Negotiation

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Whether or not the dozen California Republican legislators (more than enough for a minyan!) who have refused to join the politically suicidal Taxpayers Caucus are all modern day Pharisees, Gov. Jerry Brown was not far off the mark comparing them to Nicodemus ben Gurion, the prominent Jewish elder who is said to have met with Jesus under cover of night to avoid the risk of ostracism.*

“I’m not going to blow their cover,” Brown said of the individuals he’s been meeting with – those who have declined to drink the Kool Aid being dispensed by the Grover Norquist-inspired Ostrich Phalanx and henchmen, like our pal Jon Fleischman.

The small band of savvy Republicans appear to get that a) they are in a position to extract at least some of their cherished goals in exchange for merely voting to put Brown’s tax extensions on the June ballot and b) their old world is rapidly changing, because of the new rules of redistricting and the top-two primary system, so they can’t afford to stand in the doorway and block up the hall.

As Rob Stutzman, the Republican strategist who advised Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor, put it: “They have more leverage than they’ve had at any time arguably over the last decade.” But then guys like Stutzman and Jim Brulte, the former legislative leader, are old-school pols who believe, like Ronald Reagan did, that you negotiate to reach agreement and that agreement – i.e. governance — is a good thing.

At a time when “compromise” has been stricken from the actions and vocabulary of Tea Partiers in Washington and the intransigent governor of Wisconsin (except as a pejorative to attack those who disagree with their rigid stances), the efforts to strike a deal by a handful of GOP legislators in Sacramento is a smart and responsible move, both as policy and as politics.

By bucking the unrelenting pressure of no-compromise apparatchiks and no-tax ideologues in their party’s extremist wing, these Republicans – like Sam Blakeslee, Anthony Cannella, Bill Tom Berryhill, and Bob Huff, to name a few — have set the stage for a political counter-narrative to the bitter union-busting drama being played out in Madison, and the looming threat of a federal government shut-down by Congress under Weeper of the House John Boehner.

If the GOP’s Responsible Caucus can wring enough legislative concessions from Brown to justify the intraparty flak they’ll take for helping him pass the key element of his plan – a statewide vote on extending $12 billion in temporary higher taxes and fees – they also will have a dealt a major blow to the politics of deadlock that have dominated California for a generation.

Urging them on – with visions of business-friendly reforms dancing in their heads – are groups like the Bay Area Council, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and even the California Chamber.

It should be noted, by the way, that Brown’s problem is not just with Republicans. Forces on the Democratic left are extremely upset about the massive spending cuts Brown has already extracted and, if the Republicans seeking a deal overplay their hand and some interest group – the California Teachers Association, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, Service Employees International Union, or any other – decides to oppose whatever deal Brown negotiates, the whole thing could explode.

A way out — our sources are betting — is at best a 50-50 proposition.

As Steve Glazer, Brown’s senior adviser told Calbuzz over the weekend: “We’re sitting on bar stools in a foot of gasoline and everybody’s got a match.”

The ossification of Sacramento was created by a battery of political circumstances, including some so-called “reforms,” that together had the unintended consequence of bogging down the Capitol in the gridlock of polarization and partisanship. The key ingredients in hardening the political cement are 1) diminished party registration 2) non-competitive elections and 3) term limits.

Add to these closed primaries, campaign contribution limits that don’t apply to interest groups and a cable-driven coarsening of political dialogue and you have a recipe for impasse. That’s how we arrived at a situation where negotiation is seen as collaboration and compromise is regarded as capitulation.

Ironically, the sudden willingness of at least a few members of the minority to consider compromise, negotiation and deal-making to be useful and acceptable tools, in place of the just-say-no obstructionism that has long marked the GOP position, may itself have been triggered by two new reforms: a new, non-partisan citizens commission that is redistricting the state and a new “top-two” primary system are both designed to encourage more moderate politics; they may be working even before they’ve fully taken effect.

“With open primaries in redistricted seats in a presidential election all the old rules are out the door,” said Brulte.

Diminished party registration, wherein moderates and those with loose party affiliations have registered in ever greater numbers as Decline to State (independent of a party), has meant that those who still vote in their party primaries are the most ideological, the most partisan and the most intractable voters in any particular political jurisdiction.

In October 1994, Democrats had 49% of registration, Republicans 37% and DTS 10%. In October 2010, Democrats were 44%, Republicans 31% and DTS 20%. Who left the Democratic and Republican parties (or chose not to join them)? Moderates who didn’t want to be part of the left and right wings of the electorate.

So those who won their party primaries – and thus those eventually elected to the Assembly and state Senate – reflected (and shaped) the ideological cast of their districts.  Legislators who refuse to negotiate toward an agreement are, in many cases, perfectly reflecting the narrow electorate – in existing districts — who sent them to Sacramento. It’s the hard core who’s voting.

Non-competitive seats, partially a function of gerrymandering and partly a function of living patterns of the California population, have ensured the election, re-election, and re-re-election of the same voices and interests year in and year out.

One liberal may replace another; one conservative may follow a predecessor, but the ideological shape and tone and color remains the same. The general election means little in most cases because all the action is during the primary. If an incumbent – or a candidate who appears to be an incumbent because he or she served in a different office – is in the race, you can all but forget about it.

Few seats are actually competitive and where they are, it’s almost always just in the race to see who gets to represent the party in November.

Term limits have a compounded negative effect. On the one hand, they drive those just elected to spend ever greater amounts of time planning for their re-election and advancement to another seat in a different house. On the other hand, they leave Sacramento with a neophyte corps of legislators who have no institutional knowledge, no long-term commitment, no real power base in their own communities and less knowledge than the permanent legislative staff and the army of lobbyists who are always on the case.

Moreover, leadership is a joke: it’s almost impossible to enforce caucus discipline, it’s increasingly difficult to speak with one voice for either party, “leaders” are in place long enough to get a cup of coffee and replaced before they’ve found the secret drawer in the big desk or learned the name of the janitor who empties their trash can.

Coupled with campaign contribution limitations that don’t apply to interest groups, term limits mean that instead of the special interests needing the lawmaker, it’s the other way around – legislators need the special interests more than the pleaders need them.

And Now for Something
Completely Different

The handful of GOP legislators who are quietly (secretly) negotiating with Gov. Brown just may get this: by the end of August, the non-partisan redistricting of California legislative boundaries should be completed and the next round of elections will not involve party primaries but a top-two system of electing candidates.

We may even see big labor begin to play a role in what used to be Republican districts. Sources tell Calbuzz there’s talk in the labor community about spending in districts where particular legislators have made it a point to work against their interests.

Candidates who are identified as obstructionist or worse, responsible for massive teacher layoffs, shorter school years, public safety cutbacks, closed state parks, etc., are going to have one hell of a time picking up enough moderate and independent votes to keep their offices. They will NOT be running in tailored districts and they won’t have a free shot at a party position.

You gotta wonder how smart it is to rely on right-wing operators, who ask, like FlashReport’s Fleischman, if “The CalChamber is Ready to Betray Taxpayers Again?” As a Republican, just exactly what is your base if you can’t include the Chamber of Commerce?

No wonder Flash and his cronies on the right are hoping at the GOP convention to change the Republican Party’s rules to give central committees the power to dub candidates official GOP standard bearers. That may their only weapon and frankly, we’re not sure, even if they can adopt this Soviet Rule, that it would do the trick for their people.

As Steve Harmon of the Contra Costa Times so ably noted, the notion that Republicans who voted for tax hikes under Gov. Arnold Schwarzmuscle were driven from office is mostly bunk. “Of the six Republicans who voted for taxes (in 2009), only one later went on to defeat in a Republican primary. Two captured GOP nominations in statewide contests, another was elected to a county post and two others dropped out of politics.”

And that was before redistricting and the top-two primary system. And before Brown, who was allowed to dispense his vows of poverty and chastity in order to leave the seminary, offered dispensation to any Republicans who signed the GOP anti-tax pledge.

* It was to Nicodemus, as reported in the Gospel of John (3:16), that Jesus, after saying that man must be reborn in faith, offered this central concept: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Know Nothings and the Death of Political Compromise

Monday, February 28th, 2011

President Ronald Reagan often compared leaders of the Soviet Union to the movie producers against whom he once bargained as president of the Screen Actors Guild. That early experience, Reagan told serial biographer Lou Cannon, was where he “learned to negotiate.”

“The purpose of a negotiation,” Reagan added, “is to get an agreement.”

What a quaint notion.

The conversation, related by Cannon during a forum sponsored by UC Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project last week, illuminates a fundamental difference in the Manichaeistic politics of millennial conservative leaders, who endlessly exalted the former president during recent celebrations of his centennial, and the real-life record of Reagan himself.

From his days as California’s governor, when he backed what was then the largest tax increase in state history as part of a bipartisan budget agreement, to the world-changing agreements on nuclear arms reduction he forged with Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan managed to maintain his commitment to his  conservative principles while finding ways to cut acceptable deals with Democrats in the Legislature and the Congress.

His approach contrasts with the current crop of ideologues, from Washington to Wisconsin and Sacramento, who sneer at the concept of compromise and dismiss the idea of negotiation, the twin foundations of governance that have long made representative democracy work.

“While Reagan tried to stuff everything he heard or read into the view of the world he had brought with him to Washington, he appreciated the value of compromise and negotiation,” Cannon wrote in “President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime,” his seminal biography.

“And on nearly all issues, Reagan was simultaneously an ideologue and a pragmatist. He complained to aides that true believers on the Republican right…preferred to ‘go off the cliff with all flags flying,’ rather than take half a loaf and come back for more, as Reagan believed liberals had been doing since the days of the New Deal.”

The Wisconsin con: Compare this attitude to that of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who’s become an instant hero to the mossback crowd with his political jihad against the right of public employees to engage in collective bargaining. In a taped conversation with a person he believed to be his right-wing patron David Koch (who was actually an alternative newspaper editor who punked the governor and his staff), Walker offered a candid look at his crude and autocratic theory idea of governing.

At one point, for example, he expressed contempt for the moderate Democratic leader of the Wisconsin senate, who has reached out to Walker in an attempt to settle the partisan deadlock over unions, saying the senator is “pretty reasonable, but he’s not one of us…He’s just trying to get something done. . . .He’s just a pragmatist.” Perish the thought.

“I don’t budge,” Walker then told the liberal journalist posing as Koch; he added, in what he believed was a private conversation, that while he might publicly pretend to be open to compromise discussions with Democrats, he would do so only as a way to con them: “I’m not negotiating,” he said.

A Capitol caucus of sheep: These rabid sentiments echo in Sacramento, where 30 Republican legislators last week announced a so-called “Taxpayers Caucus.” At a time when even Republican-tilted business organizations in the state back Jerry Brown’s deficit plan to allow voters to decide whether to extend $12 billion in temporary higher taxes and fees, membership in this Know Nothing caucus requires a blood oath to obstruct all bids to put the measure on the ballot.

It is instructive that the leader of this cadre is right-wing senator Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark.

Running in one of the few competitive districts in the state, Strickland in 2008 defeated Hannah Beth Jackson, an extremely liberal former Assembly member, by exactly 857 votes out of more 415,000 cast; rather than moderating his personal ideology to reflect the broad range of views held by his constituents, however, Landslide Tony chooses to grovel at the feet of Grover Norquist, the Washington-based anti-government extremist who threatens with retribution any Republican who votes to put Brown’s tax plan before voters.

While Strickland and his reckless brethren try to gussy up their stance as a matter of conservative principle, it rests instead on a set of intellectually dishonest and purely partisan canards and deceits.

Decrying Brown’s budget plan, GOP legislators refuse to put forth one of their own, placing partisan gamesmanship ahead of governance in the full knowledge that attaching numbers and detail to their worn-out rhetoric would prove the absurdity of their call for an all-cuts budget.

Rejecting reality, the poseurs pretend that the $85 billion budget is filled with vast amounts of wasteful discretionary spending, knowing that the state’s money overwhelmingly goes to K-12 schools, higher education and health programs, expenditures that enjoy widespread public support and which they lack the courage to openly and specifically oppose.

Putting ideology over rational debate, they fear California’s voters, mindful that an election testing the popularity of their no-taxes-ever policies may  reveal the emptiness of their politics. Chronicler John Diaz offers a trenchant summary of their puerility:

The governor, who relishes intellectual interchange, confronted Republicans last week in a highly unusual appearance before a budget conference committee. As is often the case with Brown, he mixed humor and in-your-face persuasion in searching for common ground with his adversaries.

“Pledges are interesting, they make good theater,” Brown told legislators. “But the fact is we have to have a plan, we need a solution, and for those who say they don’t want to vote, then why are you here?”

Good question: Why are they here, collecting their nearly six-figure salaries plus per diem, if they consider the state’s predicament the other party’s problem and none of their concern?

The great exception, again: In a recent national poll, the Pew Research Center reported results that at first glance seem to give an edge to kneejerk hardliners. By 49-42%, the findings showed, Americans favor “political leaders who stick to their position without compromise” over those “who make compromises with someone they disagree with.”

But in this matter, as in many others, California goes its own way, as gauged by a Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll taken during last fall’s campaign for governor. As we reported then, the survey:

…offers a glimmer of hope for California, finding that voters by a 2-1 margin say they’d prefer a governor “who can work effectively with others across party lines” to one who “is single-minded and will fight for what he or she thinks is correct.”

Democrats, moderates and liberals are most in favor of a governor who works with the opposition, but even Republicans and conservatives would rather have a governor who can work effectively across party lines.

The problem in Sacramento, however, has not been finding a governor who will work across party lines; the problem is finding enough legislators who will work with the governor.

How Brown is like Reagan: At a time when Brown is offering to compromise with Republicans on big issues they purport to care about, from pension reform to business regulation and a state spending cap, it defies common sense for the GOP to turn away from Reagan-style negotiated agreements. Cannon again:

Reagan did not fit the neat ideological stereotype that was presented in alternative forms by movement conservatives and liberal activists…

“He liked to see the people around him work towards an acceptable compromise, said White House cabinet secretary Craig Fuller. “Both words are important. Acceptable in a sense that it met his criteria, narrow as they might be. Compromise in that nobody got exactly what they wanted, but nobody lost.”

Like Reagan, Brown is at heart a traditionalist, embracing the old-school belief that politics is the art of the possible, fueled by negotiations in the service of finding agreement. That is why Brown keeps expecting Republicans to want to negotiate for things they want in exchange for things he wants. But the vast majority of the GOP minority doesn’t want to negotiate, because they don’t want an agreement.

Brown’s focused and patient efforts to craft a budget deal belie the  decades-old rap on him as too heedless and flaky for the painstakingly hard work of governing. He can only hope, however, that amid all the posing, grandstanding and strutting in the Republican caucus, there are at least a couple of grown-ups with the backbone to stand up and help him do the job.

Recommended reading:

Timesman Frank Rich offers a national perspective on the rejection of compromise and negotiation.

Dana Milbank of the Washpost looks more deeply at the Khaddafi-like views of Scott Walker. 

Dan Morain has an excellent take on the goofball Taxpayers Caucus.

Steve Harmon exposes the urban legend of Republicans being politically destroyed for backing tax increases.

Press Clips: Special SOS-WWJD Edition w/o Flounder

Friday, February 4th, 2011

The Little Pulitzers: Scoop of the week honors to the inevitable Steve Harmon, first to jump on the key, unanswered question coming out of the new/old governor’s first* State of the State speech:

What Will Jerry Do if legislative Republicans stick to their irresponsible position of blocking a  measure on his $12 billion tax plan from a special election ballot?

Clearly aware that Brown has backed himself into a corner with his “no taxes without a vote,” as George Skelton sagely notes,  Harmon reports that labor groups and goons are quietly war gaming ways to punish groupthink knuckledraggers — already under double threat from the new reapportionment/top two primary rules that will reshape the political landscape of 2012 — by pressuring from the middle with some long overdue, district-by-district hardball (not to mix a metaphor):

Labor allies of Gov. Jerry Brown are actively considering backing moderate challengers in next year’s Republican legislative primary campaigns with the aim of forcing GOP incumbents to think twice about opposing Brown’s plan to push a tax extension measure on the ballot.

They are also considering ramping up direct mail efforts or door-to-door canvassing within the next several weeks in the districts of potentially vulnerable Republicans who continue to threaten to block a vote on Brown’s tax plan.

No sooner had the plugged-in Harmon used his not-for-attribution sources to stomp the competition than the redoubtable Kevin Yamamura battled back with a good second day yarn, broadening the story by getting Senate leader Darrell Steinberg and other D’s to think out loud about ways and means of forcing Reps to take ownership of the extra $12 billion in cuts that would be required if Brown’s tax plan flops.

Despite Jon Coupal’s intellectually dishonest effort to give the GOP cover by re-framing the special election debate, the plain facts are that the all-cuts crowd: 1) knows full well that whacking the $25 deficit solely with spending decreases is an unserious proposition, unless they pencil out the total budgets for higher ed and prisons, just for starters and; 2) lives in mortal terror that voters will go along with Brown’s bid to extend temporary higher tax rates, thus bringing to an abrupt end their interminable, one-note-symphony about tax cuts being the answer to all of life’s problems (and, in the process, eliminating the raison d’etre, not to mention the fat salaries, of Jarvis fetish advocates like Coupal).

Nonetheless, as the clock runs against Governor Gandalf’s March deadline to move the tax measure to the ballot, his biggest political problem remains the sad fact that a huge majority of Californians have not the slightest interest in lack the basic knowledge to follow the details and nuances of this debate, which preoccupies every waking hour of folks, like Calbuzz, who have no life.

Viz: a dandy myth-and-fact primer by the Bay Citizen’s Jonathan Weber (“Only six percent of adults can identify where the bulk of the state’s money comes from, and how it is spent”) or the more direct, people-are-really-stupid column by Dan Walters  (“Voters ignorance about budget matters a big factor”).

Costco Carla back in town: Carla Marinucci, working desperately to overcome her career-threatening blunder of missing the big Dr. Hackenflack dinner with the flimsy excuse that she was “on vacation,” partially redeemed herself in SOS week when the Little Pulitzer judges honored her with the George Gurdjieff Award for whirling dervish reporting.

The ace Chronicler’s recent, l’etat c’est moi self-appointment as CEO of Shaky Hands Productions was an enterprising if failed attempt to fake her way into the first stop on Meg Whitman’s Reinvention Tour; she didn’t let the disappointment of her brief-lived stint as a high-powered business executive, however, get in the way of quickly reaffirming her status as the best multi-platform political reporter in the state, as she and her trusty video camera were everywhere at once, finding stories that no one else had.

In the space of 21 hours and 13 minutes (you could look it up), Marinucci scored the best post-speech Silver Fox quotes about the GOP blockade of his budget proposal, scooped the world on Brown wandering into the Republicans’ well-oiled back-to-session bash and enabled the aforementioned Coupal in floating his Plan B special election trial balloon.

Whew. Inquiring minds want to know: Is the mighty Hearst Corporation paying overtime these days?

Safire’s corpse takes to spinning: Our Department of Vocabulary, Grammar and Spell Check Tune Ups was shocked – shocked! – to find Governor Brown committing a horrific crime of misusage in a Voice of the West SOS advancer: :

…if we don’t get this budget fixed, California will flounder, and it will really be a real impediment to doing all the other good things the state should be engaged in.

Flounder? Really? Seriously?

As every schoolboy knows:

5. FOUNDER vs. FLOUNDER

To founder means to sink or fail. A ship founders when it goes down–as does a company. To flounder means to act clumsily or ineffectively, or to thrash about helplessly. (As a mnemonic device, imagine a flounder on dry land, flopping about helplessly.)

~Before it finally foundered, the company floundered for several months.

Jesuit education, indeed.

Egyptology: It was John Madden who famously said “big players make big plays in big games” a lovely little homily that will apparently come as news to several of the nation’s biggest name, most overpaid, media hucksters.

While Anderson Cooper led the charge in doing Actual Reporting on the scene in Egypt, CBS diva Katie Couric spent the early days of the crisis  hard at work lavishing coca butter on her all-over tan in South Beach. To her credit, Katie finally got out of her lounge chair and made her way to Cairo — well after Brian Williams, Christiane Amanpour and other network types got there.

And the increasingly insufferable Tom Friedman, supposedly the world’s leading authority on the Mideast, was in Singapore, offering us yet another droning first person lecture about, well, we’re not sure about what, leaving it to firehorse colleague Nick Kristof to deliver the goods to Times readers.

ICYMI: We’re not sure who wrote his stuff, but Mitt Romney’s delivery of the Top 10 List on Letterman the other night was quite good, raising his score in the Calbuzz Republican Wannabe Standings by 1.4%.

Thank you, CalChannel: 20 years ago today, CalChannel started broadcasting gavel-to-gavel coverage of the California Legislature.  In celebration, they’re showing the greatest hits.

“The California Channel.” as they explain, “is an independent, non-profit public affairs cable network governed by California’s cable television industry, and modeled after the national CSPAN service. The channel’s primary mission is to provide Californians direct access to “gavel-to-gavel” proceedings of the California Legislature, and other forums where public policy is discussed, debated, and decided – all without editing, commentary, or analysis and with a balanced presentation of viewpoints. To view streaming and archived video, or to learn what station carries the California Channel on your local cable system, visit www.calchannel.com.”

Calbuzz pick: Packers 31-28.

* (The speech was technically Brown’s eighth SOS, as he was quick to remind everyone after Steinberg introduced him saying it was his seventh. Sic temper tyrannis).