Jerry Brown’s Liberal Bona Fides

Jerry BrownYesterday, Reuters reported the next California budget will be in surplus. The article goes out of its way to make Jerry Brown into a hero. Not only has he balanced the budget, but he is fighting those spendthrifts in the legislature who want to to bring spending back up as much as possible. Now, the obvious reaction to this is to applaud him. But not so fast!

I have been a big supporter of Brown over the years. But he isn’t perfect. What’s more, he suffers from what I am coming to think of as “Democrat’s Disease”: the desire to be remembered as a politician who was “above politics” and “responsible.” But is running a budget surplus in the middle of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression really the responsible thing to do? Now is the time when the California government should be doing all it can to stimulate the economy. Normally, state governments don’t have that much power in this way. When they do, they should use it.

Digby has a slightly different take than I do, but it is equally valid:

So, what we have is a typical Democratic chump who sees his “legacy” as being the wonderful leader who left a surplus when he left office. We’ve seen that movie before. It came out only a little over a decade ago. And what’s the plot? The Democrats preside over the creation of a recovery and surplus and burnish their “fiscally responsible” bonafides by cutting vital programs and emphasizing “saving” their surplus rather than restoring those services. The Republicans then ride into power on the promise that they would hand out hundred dollar bills like candy in the form of tax cuts. (“It’s yer Muneeeeee!) And the next thing you know we’re back in deficit and it’s time to start cutting even more. The Republicans usually let the Democrats do this dirty work because well … cuts are unpopular. Tax cuts aren’t.

She goes on to point out that in the end, the Republicans will still tar Brown as a “tax and spend liberal” because he did, after all, raise taxes. It is amazing that Democrats do this kind of thing over and over and over again. But I think this comes from the fact that Democrats who make it to high office aren’t all that liberal when it comes to economics. And this is why I think more and more that we liberals really need a new party. Because I for one, care first and foremost about economic issues. The social issues can sort themselves out after we get a slightly more egalitarian society.

So overall, I’m pleased with Brown’s management of California. And after Schwarzenegger’s governorship, it should be clear to all that governing really is a skill and we really do want professional politicians. One would think this would be obvious. You would never prefer to hire a plumber who has neither experience nor education. But now that Brown has shown that he is a great governor, maybe its time to brandish his liberal bona fides.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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