Posts Tagged ‘George Deumejian’

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.

How Gov Candidates Sell Amid Doom and Gloom

Monday, February 1st, 2010

California’s candidates for governor face the gnarliest combination of public anger and economic distress in decades, making the 2010 race a text book case study in political communications: How does a wannabe governor effectively tell extremely pessimistic voters he or she understands the depths of their misery, without succumbing to despair, and while offering hope for the future that doesn’t over-reach or seem totally naïve?

Call it the Carter Conundrum, in homage to failed one term President Jimmy Carter, who simultaneously faced double digit inflation, huge unemployment and the first assault on America’s national security by violent Muslim fundamentalists. He famously screwed the pooch in that deal by tapping fully into the gloom and anxiety of voters about the seemingly intractable conditions they faced – and got walloped by a sunny and upbeat Ronald Reagan in 1980 for his trouble.

In watching the candidates for governor so far, Calbuzz sees markedly different approaches to the problem. Here are some rail bird observations on the strengths, weakness and holes in their strategies, at the first turn of the race.

What the candidates face. A few factoids to set the stage:

California voters have a most dismal view about the direction of the state, as both the Field Poll and PPIC show about eight in 10 voters saying we’re on the wrong track.

Part of it is the state’s higher-than-national unemployment rate, part the years of failed leadership, massive budget deficits and political gridlock in Sacramento. The Field Poll reported that 59% of voters, including 54% of Republicans, expect Gov. Schwarzenegger to leave the state in worse shape than he found it – along with near universal (95%) agreement that we’re experiencing bad economic times and the feeling among a significant strong majority of people (54%) that they’re personally worse off than they were a year ago.

Interestingly, the last high point for optimism, when Californians thought the state was clearly on the right track, was back in August 2000, as 59% of voters said they were better off than the year before and Gov. Gray Davis enjoyed a 59-35% right track-wrong track assessment.

Of course the economy was in far better shape and neither the Enron-induced energy crisis nor the 9/11 terrorists had struck yet.

As a political matter, however, there was another dynamic at play: Davis, consciously and conscientiously, chose NEVER to convey bad news, but personally only conveyed good news. If the Parks Department was going to cut fees, for example, that was an announcement for the governor. If the Parks Department was going to raise fees – that was an announcement for the Parks Director. It was at least part of the reason why his approval rating was around 60%, two years after his election.

To some extent, this is simply political Public Relations 101, which Schwarzenegger seemed not to understand, at least at first. He spent his first two years in office constantly decrying how bad things were in California. The result: People believed him.

After voters waxed his 2005 2004 initiatives, he re-emerged as Hopeful Arnold and his approval ratings went back up. That they’ve fallen again is mostly due to global, national and state economic woes, but also  because he consistently focuses on problems and points the finger of blame – his State of the State speeches are notable exceptions – that remind everyone things are terrible with no way out.

The Jerry & Jeremiah show: Given Attorney General Brown’s duck-and-hide, Rose Garden strategy, it’s early to assess fully the themes he intends to stress on the campaign trail. Back in April, in his speech to the state Democratic convention, he was a thundering populist, railing against investment bankers and corporate power. In September, in a talk to Willie Brown’s power breakfast in San Francisco, he tried a new line – “optimism of the will” –  that was one-part Joel Osteen and one-part Frederic Nietzsche, which combined with stock rhetoric about hope and the Golden State.

More recently, however, he’s devolved into full Jeremiah mode, recalling the biblical prophet of doom and gloom who played a central role in the aptly named Book of Lamentations.

“The state is profoundly screwed up,” Brown said on KGO the other day, “and anybody who thinks they got an idea, I would say, ‘Give me a call, I’d like to listen to it.’ Because I can tell you we’re in for blood, sweat and tears over the next four years no matter who runs.”

Putting aside the fact that, because it’s Jerry, we’re not entirely sure whether the blood sweat and tears reference was to Churchill or the guys who made “You Made Me So Very Happy,” the statement itself would have made his top political consultants wince, if he had any top political consultants:

Here’s the thing: People know the state is profoundly screwed up – they don’t need to elect somebody to tell them things are screwed up. What they’re looking for in a leader is someone to show them a way the state might not be screwed sometime in the pretty near-term future.

If Brown stays with the Jeremiah act, he’ll end up getting tossed into a cistern, just like the original guy. Especially with those Old Testament eyebrows.

eMeg and the culture of “I.” Meg Whitman’s message could not be clearer: “I will not let California fail.”

Echoing the Brown line, eMeg tells people, in her carefully controlled appearances , that California is screwed up, schools are lousy, we spend too much, state workers are greed heads who deserve to be fired and nobody in Sacramento knows anything.

Pivoting, she then essentially says that the only hope for the state is Meg Whitman – “I will not let California fail.” eMeg can turn things around because she has experience in the private sector, knows how to whack a payroll, cripple the unions and smack sense into the worthless Legislature.

She can do all these things, it seems, because she has “a spine of steel,” i.e. she’s got more backbone than Schwarzenegger, who made essentially the same arguments as her in winning the 2003 recall. So: She’s more muscular than Mr. Universe. Really? Will voters believe this?

Her diatribes about California being a mess may resonate, but what, really, can she do about it? Will voters believe that she has a clue how to get things done in the political hothouse of Sacramento when her only experience is being the Alpha Dog in a corporation where she yapped and everybody around her yelped? That’s not how politics works.

Poizner: Yes we can. Interestingly, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who’s nowhere in the polls, is at present the only guy who’s selling a message of better days ahead.

Part of it is his strong focus on private sector expansion. Where eMeg aims her moral rectitude and disapproval at the need to inflict pain on the processes and politics of the Capitol, Poizner seems to view Sacramento as a side show and focuses his campaign critique on the need for economic growth.

Part of it, too, is the specificity of the solutions he offers. As a policy matter, we happen to think his prescription of radical tax and spending cuts is Flat Earth Society stuff, but at least he’s got a plan, which he presents in a soft-spoken but upbeat manner.

Poizner’s biggest problem is one of stature: He looks like a nerd, especially compared to the commanding figure of eMeg and the ascetic Brown.

But that’s not altogether a bad thing: If Californians have a history of electing charismatic governors – Reagan, Jerry Brown I and Schwarzenegger – they also have a tendency to course correct with low-key, pragmatic nerds – George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Davis come to mind. It’s no accident that Deukmejian just endorsed Poizner.

Poizner sells himself essentially as an engineer, a guy who wants to get under the hood and get his hands dirty fixing stuff. There are worse messages to try in the troubled political landscape of 2010.