Jerry Brown’s Indictment of the US

Jerry BrownThe two news organizations that I turn to now are Al Jazeera America and the Los Angeles Times. Why? Because the former is really good. And the latter is good and has not yet started charging me to read it. (Although I feel certain that this is coming.) But even more, over the last six months, I’ve found myself feeling more and more estranged from the dominance of “national” politics, which is defined as whatever is going on in Washington and New York. Don’t get me wrong. I really like both New York and Washington. I have very fond memories of them both. But they are not nor would they ever be home. It isn’t quite right to say that I’m a California boy, though. I’m a left coaster as defined by American Nations. And that means that I’m not really at home down in Los Angeles. But the Times covers my section of the world. (The San Francisco Chronicle still kind of sucks online, unless you’re really into sports.)

One of my heroes is Jerry Brown. This doesn’t mean that I agree with him about everything. But as far as politics goes, there is no one better and I tend to think there is one one who is even equal. We had a great experiment here in California. You see, one of my most hated canards is that politics is easy and if we just got rid of the professional politicians, we could solve all our problems. We here in California got a chance to try that. We elected (and I am not proud of this) Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of the truly great state of California. (Really, what is with all this “great state of…”? Is Wyoming really a “great state”? I don’t think so. If it were part of California, we might call it the “great congressional district” but that’s about it!)

Arnold SchwarzeneggerLook: I have lots of problems with Schwarzenegger, but I fully admit that he is a very smart and capable man. But he was a political amateur. You could see this when he spoke at the 2004 RNC. He spoke in glowing terms about Nixon. Well, as you know, I’m a big fan of Nixon. But Schwarzenegger made two mistakes. First, he mistook political rhetoric for political policy. Hey: listen to what Paul Ryan talks about! It’s all about leveling the playing field and getting rid of crony capitalism. Then look at his budget. It’s all about unleveling the playing field and taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. This is the most elementary political error one can make, and it is primarily a mistake made by conservatives—especially immigrants. His second mistake was to believe that the Republican Party of George Bush the Younger was the same as the Republican Party of Richard Nixon the Only. Hell, at that time, the Republican Party was mostly pro-choice! Now the only choice that the Republican Party believes in is the choice of the rich to do whatever they want and the choice of the poor to try to make ends meet with the crumbs that the rich leave on the table.

So it was no surprise that Mr I’m Gonna Take Charge was a complete failure as governor. But who knew? Maybe no one could fix California. And then, the 73-year-old former governor Jerry Brown came into office and showed what a professional can do in the job. He did many things that I was none too happy about. But hell, what was he going to do? I’m none too happy that I can’t afford season tickets to the San Francisco Opera. Life sucks some times and when a state is billions of dollars in the red, there is going to be pain. (NOTE: this is not true of the federal government!) And he managed the situation in the best way that any man reasonably could.

Now that California’s budget problem is solved, the question is what are we going to do with the money. Brown has some very good ideas, including $1.6-billion addition to the state’s “rainy day fund.” Of course, not everyone is happy. The courts think they ought to get more money. The court system thinks it’s getting the shaft (defined as $105 million more per year), but the Brown administration has said that other parts of the government—most especially education—have suffered more and thus deserve more. Again, I don’t agree with him completely, but he does his job well—probably better than any other politician.

Bearing this in mind, consider the news from yesterday, Brown Rules Out Presidential Bid. There has been a lot of talk about him running. After all, you could cite the “California Miracle.” But he said no. What’s important is how he said it. According to the article:

“No, that’s not in the cards. Unfortunately,” he told reporters at a news conference before brightening about his current job: “Actually, California is a lot more governable.

That should make us all pause. Legislatively, California is a mess. It is almost impossible to raise taxes. Every two years there is up to a score of really bad ballot initiatives that the corporatocracy has gotten the people to ignorantly put there. Statue of LibertyAnd then we have all the other problems of Washington including a Republican Party committed to destroying the government. So if Brown thinks that California is more governable and he is the best executive of the last two generations, what does that say about the state of governance in the United States?

I absolutely do not believe in revolution. I am committed to pacifism. I think that violence always makes things worse for the people (Like me!) who just want to live their lives. But today, at least, I am very pessimistic. The only possibility for a more just society may be to destroy it and start over. Because day by day, the United States is becoming a less perfect union. And the fact that a great man like Jerry Brown would rather stay in California than deal with the country as a whole is a perfect example of this.

This entry was posted in Politics by Frank Moraes. Bookmark the permalink.

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.

17 thoughts on “Jerry Brown’s Indictment of the US

  1. One thing about the Governator: he was decent to his staff.

    When my mom was dying, my kid brother, a former-liberal-turned free-market believer, got paid by the Schwarzenegger brain trust to go to Portland and work via computer while nursing a dying person for six months. After that, my kid brother went to work for Bain. I don’t like Bain; I didn’t like Schwarzenegger. Hand it to those people, though; they made decisions that harmed innumerable families, and couldn’t have cared less because the people they harmed were poor and unworthy, but they did show some degree of principle sticking with and backing up their own kind. That sounds inevitable but there are a lot of companies that wouldn’t lift a finger for even their top executives. Ah-nold’s people did. That was a nice, kind, decent decision on their part. That they couldn’t be as compassionate to the populace they were elected to represent (well, not the poor, poky ones, not on the payroll, at any rate) strikes me as completely mad.

    Maybe I’m the mad one. (Well, I certainly am, in quite a few ways, but we’re talking politics here.) Maybe it’s rational to give a well-liked fellow employee eight ways of leeway to deal with awful personal trauma, and meanwhile be 100%, totally invested, in a system of belief that says the single stupidest thing America can do with a very large tax base is to allow any poor, hence fairly worthless, individual to feel slightly as human as somebody who works for a governor?

  2. @JMF – I think you misunderstand. I don’t think that Schwarzenegger is bad man. I just think he is a political amateur. When he was governor, he didn’t go out of his way to hurt the poor. He was just incompetent. He didn’t know how to do the job. And what, other than this stupid American belief that politics is not a profession, made him think he could do the job?

    Of course, it isn’t just politics. In general, Americans don’t think anything is a profession. Need some writing done for a newsletter? They have an aunt who likes writing. Need a computer fixed? They have an uncle who tinkers with computers. Need a company logo? They have Photoshop! Need a country run? Phil Robertson will do a great job!

    Do you know what this country needs? A little humility. If there were an Old Testament God around, he would rain down such pain upon us for our hubris, few would get out alive. But don’t worry! There is no Old Testament God. So all the happy talk about this being the "best country in the world" can continue on. We rate well down the list in everything except the bad things. So if people want to feel good that we have high infant mortality and income inequality, than hoo-fucking-ray, we are number one. But from my perspective, we look more like number two.

  3. I have been reading a sad, disturbing book on Israeli/Palestinian politics recently (it’s really sad, I won’t recommend it.) And at one point, a racist politician says, I don’t want to get rid of all the Arabs. Just all but one. What if I need someone to fix my refrigerator?

    That’s a perfect summation of how people in privileged positions regard those who aren’t. And how totally insane our economy is; you work for a financial firm, doing nothing of any value to anyone, you are well-paid. You fix refrigerators, which is sure as hell a damn useful skill set, you are paid immeasurably less. Also, your kids will be turded on from birth by the kids of the financial firm’s employees. Or would. if they went to the same school. Which they won’t.

    And the problem is everyone regards this as normal. The nice people in the governor’s office think it’s normal. The nice people fixing refrigerators think it’s normal. It’s not close to normal; it’s nuts, and it can’t be sustained in the long run.

    "Number two." I wish that wasn’t true. I’ve love to think my country wasn’t a piece of poop. I like rooting for the home team — who else would I root for? Unfortunately my country is run by twerps who make it impossible to root for it. It’s not even as though the bar I set is preposterously high. Just, maybe, you know . . . not quite as crazy?

  4. @JMF – I appreciate that you have picked up on my not at all subtle claims of depression in not recommending the book. I have, however, been looking for a balanced history of that conflict. I really do want to know more, but I find bias in everything I read. (But I’ll admit, in the US, there is far more bias on the pro-Israel side.)

    You pretty well summed up my political philosophy. It is a lot more Marxist than it used to be. The truth is that our society is upside down. People get paid pretty well to do jobs that are easy and yet fulfilling. Think: college professor. But doing hard labor is generally not well paying. Where it is, it is just the legacy of unions and that is dying, so it really doesn’t matter. I think as a society, we need to do something to equalize wages. I’m not talking about everyone making the same amount of money. I believe in incentives. But what we have is totally out of control. And the biggest problem is that the people don’t know nearly how bad it is. And they still think it is really bad!

    I’m sorry about that "joke," but I’m glad you got it. The truth is that Thomas Paine is one of my top heroes–certainly in the top five and he is my very top political hero. I honor him and I honor his hopes for this country. But most Americans wanted to keep him out of the United States when he tried to return from France. That strikes me as very telling. And I know that if Thomas Paine were around today saying [i]exactly what he was saying then[/i] he would never get anywhere in politics. (Of course, he was never a politician. He was far too honest a man even then to be a politician.) Today, people would call him a Limey socialist. Which is what he was. But he was a better man than 99% of Americans alive today. And he was a better man than 99.99% of politicians and political writers today. He was certainly a far better man than I.

    What I’m saying, as always, is that I love the ideals that I was told as a child that this country stood for. But just like most whistle blowers, there is no one quite so angry as a true believer lied to. And I feel like that. This is not the country it claims to be. And I say either live up to our ideals (At least try!) or give up the pretense. Hypocrisy is dangerous.

  5. The thing I love about Paine is he was originally successful saying what he wanted to say. And then saying what he wanted to say bit him on the ass. And he continued right on saying it. To the end, he actually respected the readers who’d given him success in the first place. So much that he couldn’t lie or condescend to them if he tried.

    That shows a sense of honor much higher than Burke’s, and one I wish I could prove I shared. No dice. At least I can share some fuckup stories with friends almost as funny as the colossal misadventures Paine had in French prison . . .

  6. Nice job, Frank. CA was lucky as hell Jerry is still around and doing what he does, try to make government work for real people.

  7. @JMF: "you work for a financial firm, doing nothing of any value to anyone"

    That sad kind of ignorance is the left’s equivalent of the tea party’s nonsense. While some things financial firms are useless (or even destructive), there is a usefulness to accumulating and allocating capital; to forcing management to unlock shareholder value; to push sectors in some situations to consolidate, and some large conglomerates to break up. Look at how many privately held firms (often family run) are run in to the ground. The financial sector represents crowd sourcing of information, and financial firms are needed to keep the mechanics of that running.

  8. @Ron Beau – The financial sector is important for moving capital. However, the vast majority of what the financial sector now does [i]is[/i] useless. At our peak, we were pushing 50% of our economy being finance. That’s nonsense. Otherwise, I will let JMF fight his own battles.

    @JMF – Paine [i]was[/i] an honorable man. And as far as I can tell, one cocky son of a bitch.

  9. @tpartynitwit – Thanks. I’m glad we have him. Especially at this point in his life, he’s a practical guy. My biggest problem with modern conservatism is that it is all ideology. Before any problem can be addressed, they come up with a long list of things that [i]can’t[/i] be done on ideological grounds.

  10. @Ron Beau: Thanks for acknowledging that you agree with some of what I said (basically, in rant mode, not thinking anyone would be bothered by it.) I enjoyed reading your response.

    Here’s my response to you, which I hope also acknowledges some of your points and disagrees with others.

    The basic notion of a LLC is terrific. Let’s say there are, in the world, only two islands, each full of people who loathe the other islanders and occasionally shoot at opponents from their battleships. A bridge is proposed between the islands; inhabitants on both islands vote to reject any such waste of their efforts/resources.

    Now, let’s say some enterprising souls on each island come up with the idea; we’ll build that bridge ourselves. We think the commerce between the islands will be immensely attractive to both sides, so much so that we can charge a toll for using the bridge and crossers will happily pay it.

    So they get a handful of other islanders to agree with them. Few think it’s a good notion, not enough for a majority on either side to agree to it. Our entrepreneurs do manage to convince enough islanders to pony up the money needed for building the bridge, in return for a portion of the tolls.

    This idea may be a lucrative one; it may be disastrous. (Personally, I think reducing hatred between islanders is good business and good for society, as you probably agree.) The great benefit and brilliant innovation of capitalism is how it enables good ideas to be financed. If our bridge builders think, "we can raise startup money, try this out, if it fails then our dream has died," they will be more likely to give it a shot then if their situation is "we can raise startup money, try this out, if it fails all the people we borrowed from will want us dead."

    That’s what capitalism should be. That’s the tremendous usefulness of it; individuals can try out ideas the majority doesn’t think worthwhile. But is that how the financial sector functions today?

    There used to be an old joke about banking, calling it the 3-6-3 business. Give depositors three percent interest, loan out the money to investors at six percent interest, be done with work and go golfing by 3:00 in the afternoon. That was thought of as a boring, stale job. And it probably was. It was also socially quite useful, and paid very little more than fixing refrigerators, teaching school, doing whatever your talents enabled you to do.

    While I don’t intend to insult people who work in the financial sector today . . . do you really think such a job is vastly more important than fixing fridges? I’d argue that it’s not. That it’s highly destructive, to be perfectly honest. I don’t see why, if you’re being currently useful to a crummy company, you should be put in a far more privileged societal class than people who fix fridges.

  11. @JMF – It would be nice to have a mechanism to alert others to the fact that someone has replied to their comments. But right now, we have no such thing, so it is very likely Ron will not see your comment.

    To me, there is a very big distinction between normal banking and investment banking. That’s really the distinction you are getting at. I’m more than willing to admit that some investment banking has a positive effect on the economy and society. But I do not think the good outweighs the bad. I think that "creative destruction" is mostly a crock. I think what it actually does and has done over the last half century is remove jobs that normal people have and take the resulting gains in productivity and give them all to the rich.

    So much of what I was taught to believe about this country and our economic system is just flat out wrong. The idea that everyone has an equal chance or even a chance at all is wrong. The [url=][i]Monopoly[/i] analogy[/url] is apt:

    [quote]Let’s imagine that you’re invited to a game of [i]Monopoly[/i]. And you arrive at this game to find out that all the property’s been divided up. All of the money has already been handed out. But you’re told, "Hey: go ahead and sit down. Play the game; we’re going to give you a chance to play just like everyone else.[/quote]

    That’s modern America. And anyone who thinks it isn’t is either ignorant or vested in the interests of the power elite.

  12. Yeah, it basically sucks that the Internet has no sane form of functioning, Ron had valid points. I wish a zillion people who think like him and a zillion people who think like me could argue it out. That’d be, um . . . democracy? That what it’s called, right?

    No such luck. For now, it’s ya go to where ya read the stuff you agree with. There’s zero actual debate. It’s flame wars and trolling. That’d be acceptable if farting around on our computers was a really small part of our existence. It’s not; is is, for better or worse, the majority of our existence.

    Almost as if humans inherently possess both rational, let’s-make-this-brief-lifespan-as-good-as-we-can qualities, and also "we are dicks" qualities. Somehow, our creative abilities have invented a way for us to be as maximally dickish to each other as possible with the smallest possible repercussions.

    BTW, the show I thought of as comparably awesome to "Deadwood" was "Northern Exposure." I admire it now, after not getting into it when it first aired. Both shows aren’t really Westerns; they’re about how people relate to people, using the Western format as a metaphor.

    For random blathering nonsense I feel like typing, I’ll go off on James Garner. "Rockford Files" = totally awesome. "Murphy’s Romace" = even more awesome. As I’m a twerp, I’ll mention "Support Your Local Sheriff," which is probably a silly-seeming movie today but blew my mind when I was eight or so. Garner stuck his finger in an assailant’s gun and calmly explained how pulling the trigger would be a rather poor choice. I’ll remember how Garner recited that dialogue until the day my brain stops remembering things. He couldn’t win with force. He won with logic, and an appeal to the other guy that used logic. It’s possible the assailant was then killed or humiliated. I was eight; I remember my favorite bits.

  13. @JMF – Ron is around here and I think he is a liberal. He probably doesn’t really disagree with you. I thought he was wrong to focus on that one phrase out of context. Let’s face it, without people producing actual things moving money around [i]is[/i] useless.

    When I wrote that, it occurred to me that you might mean [i]Northern Exposure[/i]. When it was in its first run, I was in graduate school and I [i]loved[/i] it. I’ve gone back however and found it really annoying. Of course, it does help that I later saw Janine Turner (who I had a crush on) on a talk show and she was kind of stupid. And then she became a Tea Party idiot with bleached hair. I do admire Rob Morrow though. Actually, the casting on the show was really good. John Cullum has one of the show-stopping numbers in [i]1776[/i], "Molasses to Rum" about the hypocrisy of northerners regarding slavery:


    I love [i]Support Your Local Sheriff[/i] so much that I also like [i]Support Your Local Gunfighter[/i]. But what really makes the films work is Jack Elam. I also really liked Joan Hackett in the first film.

  14. Turner is beyond gorgeous, or was until she became a loonburger (I didn’t know that before, now I do. Sad.)

    Collum in "1776" is amazing. But then, he is amazing. He’ll be singing on stage until he drops dead.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.