Analysis: No Knockouts, But A Clear Contrast For Voters

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While pundits will likely be quick to point out that there were no knockout punches thrown on Tuesday night at the first debate, the debate did offer an at-times refreshing respite from the normal formulaic and scripted candidates’ debate.

The debate also offered the voters somewhat of a clear distinction between the two Governor’s candidates.  Voters will have to choose between the contrasting ideologies of Meg Whitman as the anti-tax conservative, and of Jerry Brown as the candidate who, like it or not, is tied to labor and public employees.

They will have to choose between the neophyte who did not even register to vote until recently and the veteran who has not only been in politics for forty years, but whose political legacy goes back much further than that, back to the 50s when his father was Governor and before.

And they will choose between the well-scripted newcomer who stuck to her 30-second attack ads, and the old, venerable and gristled veteran who told voters what he thought, whether they wanted to hear it or not.

If Meg Whitman’s goal was to stand next to Jerry Brown and not fall over, she succeeded. 

If Jerry Brown’s goal was not to have a moonbeam moment, for the most part he succeeded, although he had a few moments that would make most political consultants cringe.  But perhaps those moments worked in humanizing a man who has at times seemed to be aloof and indifferent.

Mostly, the voters got an entertaining show, which is something perhaps politics is long in need of.

Make no mistake, the State of California is trouble, and while the current governor may not be the total culprit in that, he is not the solution either.  The question voters will have to ask is whether either of these individuals can be that solution.

On the issue of the late state budget, neither candidate in particular offered much of a true solution.  Meg Whitman talked about the fact that the State of California has the most dysfunctional state government in the country.  Most of the time statements like that are hyperbole, in this case it was probably right on.

When she went into her mantra of tax cuts, though, she had deviated from the question but not from her script.  Time and time again, she returned to the issue of cutting taxes, attacking the cost side, attacking welfare, and talking about cutting red tape.

When the commentator finally forced her back onto the budget issue, she suggested an earlier start, about not waiting until the May Revise to act on the budget, and going to two-year budgeting cycles.

Jerry Brown’s theme was that while things are screwed up, the trains ran on time under his watch.  Nevermind it was a different era with different problems.  He told the voters that when he was governor, he did eight budgets, seven were on time, and one was only a week late.  He also argued that we have to cut spending and argued that there is still fat to cut, we have not gotten to bone yet.

In the first of many exchanges of the sort, Ms. Whitman went on the attack. “Mr. Brown talks about bringing people together,” she said, “and my view is, he will bring people together after he’s elected governor and it will be a meeting of all the special interests and the union, who are there to collect their IOUs from the campaign they have funded.”

Jerry Brown for his part responded, “I won’t try to respond to that TV commercial which I’ve seen so much of.”

His more general response on this night was to point out that her targeted tax cuts will take billions in revenue from the state coffers, money that will come from the schools.  He said it is not fair or right, and he vowed to protect the schools.

Despite back and forth pot shots, the candidates basically followed the script for the first half of the debate.

Jerry Brown started to show his hand, though, when responding to a question on pensions, a key issue in this campaign, both on a state and a local level.

The question from Amy Chance of the Sacramento Bee was, given the fact that he is due to collect a huge pension and has been a state employee for decades, why should voters expect him to rein in the system that has been for him a source of financial support?

“So I’m real clear,” Jerry Brown responded bluntly, “If everybody in state service worked as long as I have, the pension system would be overfunded by 50%.  If they all stay around till they’re 72 – by the way, if you elect me Governor, I won’t collect till I’m 76.  If I get a second term, it will be 80.  I’m the best pension buy California has ever seen.”

And while being off-the-cuff, he is being accurate, as one of the solutions to the pension crisis is raising the retirement age.  He did a good job of turning that one around.  Then he went into his plan, which will be to negotiate with workers, raise retirement age and contributions, and go back to a three-year running average rather than highest pay.  He argued he was the first to propose a two-tiered system back in 1982.

Ms. Whitman responded that she cannot be beholden to public employees because she is self-financed.  She argued that we owe more money than we can possibly pay – which is not exactly accurate.  She argued for raising retirement age to 65, increasing vesting periods, and having greater contributions to retirement funds by employees.

The biggest difference is that she is pushing for a 401K for new employees, and argued that she will have to have a spine of steel to accomplish this since there will be tremendous pushback by the unions, not wanting to change.  And of course, she had to again tie Jerry Brown to the public employee unions and suggested he could not make true reform since they own him.

“This is a bit like the kettle calling the pot black.  Talk about union contributions, she’s raised $25 million,” Mr. Brown responded, “And I will bet you the majority will get an immediate tax break from her key economic plan, which is to eliminate totally the California Capital Gains Tax.”

Meg Whitman acknowledged that she is not proud of her past voting record and she apologized for it.  The question, though, got put on Jerry Brown that he has twice, while Governor, run for President and broken commitments to the California voters.

When asked what assurances he could give this time, he quipped, “Age.”

“Hell, if I were younger, you know I’d be running,” he continued.  “I’d say I’m going to be 74 in a couple of years, I’m ready.”

“One more thing, I now have a wife, I come home at night.  I don’t try to close down the bars of Sacramento like I did when I was Governor of California,” he said in a rather candid reference to his fabled, more wild days, as the bachelor governor of California.

Ms. Whitman argued that Jerry Brown had no experience changing Sacramento for the positive, and also attacked his record on schools.  She said, “We need a Governor that knows how to get California back to work.”

Jerry Brown responded, “I only have thirty seconds for this?  Well, to refute all of the misstatements it would take me about a minute and a half.”

Later he talked about the amount of jobs he created as governor and the surplus.  “By the way, that surplus didn’t drop down from the tooth fairy, I created that damn thing.”  He added, “I had to fight with Jess Unruh, the Treasurer, he called my surplus obscene.”

Jerry Brown also had some candid moments, for instance, when a UC Davis student asked if he would be rolling back increases to higher education fees and other funding cuts Mr. Brown frankly said, “Not my first year.”  He said at best he can hold the line, but he did promise to do everything he can do to protect the university.

In a response that is not likely to win many votes from students, Ms. Whitman indicated that while “it breaks my heart” and higher education is one of the gems of our education system in California, she would put it to the chancellors to figure out how best to use the money in the UC system.

Meg Whitman was asked about the lack of honesty in her campaign ads.  She said, “I don’t agree with the premise of your question.”  She then proceeded to defend the Clinton ad, saying that she stood by it and the only mistake was that taxes were only higher in six of eight budgets rather than eight of eight.  “I stand by the ads, they are an accurate portrayal of Governor Brown’s record.”

Jerry Brown, for his part, said in reference to his Pinocchio ad, “I think it’s a hell of an ad.”

He continued, “Pinocchio is waiting by to extend that nose, if we get anymore of these falsifications.”

Meg Whitman would later argue that Jerry Brown opposed Proposition 13.  He said it was a fraud and recommended that it not be passed.  “The voters were fit to be tied, they had had it with ever-escalating property taxes.  Governor Brown was sitting on a huge surplus which he refused to give back to the people.  Proposition 13 passed, yet he didn’t align the cost structure of the state and ended with a million-dollar budget deficit.”

She continued, “You know what bothers me about career politicians – they refuse to accept accountability.”

Jerry Brown got the last word on the subject, “I would like to say, yes I opposed Proposition 13…  I campaigned all over the state against it, and we’re now seeing some of the problems with all of the power, going up to the state capital.”

He added, “In the November election, Howard Jarvis himself voted for me.  He did a campaign commercial, what he said was ‘Brown opposed it.  I wrote Proposition 13, but he made it work.'”

We will have a bit more on some of the specific proposals that came out of the debate.  The voters will decide which vision and which personality they liked best.  The good news is that they got a very stark contrast on Tuesday night.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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54 thoughts on “Analysis: No Knockouts, But A Clear Contrast For Voters”

  1. Dr. Wu

    David:

    Thanks for the report. Was there any discussion of AB 32 (greenhouse gas emission law) and Prop 23 which would reverse AB 32? Meg originally opposed AB 32 but has waffled lately. She lost any chance of my vote then and there.

    Not to change the subject but Arnie gave an impassioned defense the other night of AB 32 and attacked the Texas oil interests who support Prop 23. It was the best speech I have ever heard Arnie give and was quoted on Keith Oberman’s show as well yesterday (and perhaps other shows–I just happened to be watching that). Long term AB 32 matters. I urge folks to seek it out on the web and listen. It was shocking to hear a politician (albeit a lame duck) be so blunt. Even if you don’t like Arnie you may love this speech.

    Pensions also matter and here I think Jerry has a better chance of negotiating with the unions. Anything Meg tries to do, even if it makes sense, will be blocked by the legislature.

    Indeed, the $100 billion question is: How would you deal with the legislature?

    Although Jerry isn’t perfect I think he, by virtue of his party affiliation and his experience, has a better shot. I am sure Meg is intelligent and hard working but I don’t think she knows what she is doing and she has too much faith in the Republican mantra of cutting taxes. (I’d love lower taxes but how that that solve our budget gap?–get real Meg ! Don’t tell me you are fiscally responsible and start off by cutting taxes with a huge structural deficit. )

    Whoever gets elected (probably Jerry) I wish them luck.

  2. Neutral

    How would you deal with the legislature?

    Brown touched on that – I think most people didn’t give it much thought – in his usual style, by suggesting they start the budget negotiations with the full legislature in January. And eliminate the private ‘big five’ talks. It *could* work.

  3. rusty49

    AP headline today, “Anti-austerity protests sweep across Europe”, this is where California and the nation are headed. Do you really believe either of these fools, Whitman or Brown, will get California’s budget under control if elected?
    Being we have to pick one I’m going with Meg because between the two at least she’s not beholden to the unions.

  4. Dr. Wu

    [quote]Do you really believe either of these fools, Whitman or Brown, will get California’s budget under control if elected? [/quote]

    I don’t think either Jerry or Meg are fools, but I wouldn’t want to bet on either one getting the budget in order. I hope we aren’t headed the way of the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain) but I don’t think rusty is far off on that. Our long term debt and pension obligations are quite similar to the PIGS. We have better demographics and I hope a more dynamic economy but that may not be enough.

    Meg may not be beholden to the unions but they have no incentive to negotiate and instead will just say F**K Meg. Like Nixon going to China I think Jerry has a better shot if he is sincere. Its a gamble.

  5. itsme

    Re Whitman and Prop 23/AB 32: She is now against 23, but no matter. AB 32 has a clause that allows the governor to suspend green house gas emissions in times of “distress.” Whitman has already decided that these times call for holding up regulations from AB 32. So, she can have it both ways if she gets elected. Brown is solidly behind AB 32.

    Re Swharzenegger. I usually have NPR on and so caught his entire speech to the Commonwealth Club on 9/27. He took a solid position against 23 and for 32; a more liberal statement I have not heard from Dems. He made the point that renewable energy is the only growth industry in California, among several other good points. AB 32 is his baby and he’s protecting his legacy. You can hear the Commonwealth program as a podcast on NPR.

    Re our choice of governers. That’s an easy one. Are you rich enough to benefit from Whitman? That would mean an income of at least $1 million/year. If you make less than that, she won’t help you. Whitman is a corporate wolf in wolf clothing. Big Business continues to do well and the middle class continues to decline. Trickle down is a myth. Try a vacuum up.

  6. David M. Greenwald

    No matter who becomes governor, they are in for a tough task. The current legislative structure is not conducive to getting things done. Governor Brown was referencing his first time as Governor, but he might as well have been talking about Guatamala for all that has changes since he was last Governor. Meg is in for a rude awakening when she realizes that the skills she learned as CEO are not compatible with governance.

  7. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “Mostly, the voters got an entertaining show, which is something perhaps politics is long in need of.”

    I don’t think politics is in need of producing entertaining shows, it is in need to solid ideas rather than sticking to scripted talking points which don’t mean much once a candidate gets in office. Some internet snippet seemed to indicate Whitman did a slightly better job in the debate – Brown was too busy quipping. A friend of mine called to tell me she thought Brown won the debate hands down. I suspect a lot may depend on which side of the political divide one is on.

    What I would say is neigher candidate is stellar, by an stretch of the imagination. Frankly, I cannot stand either one. As Jay Leno said, you may have to pick “the evil of two lessers”…

  8. joe grey

    Clearly, Jerry Brown is not a stellar candidate for the 21st century. But Whitman would be a disaster, a repeat of the Terminator. This is for her ego, not California. Another feather in her crown; another beauty contest won. We are the hostages of egos.

    We may be at end stage — chaos!

  9. Gunrock

    “Make no mistake, the State of California is trouble, and while the current governor may not be the total culprit in that, he is not the solution either.”

    The current governor has nothing whatsoever to do with the current crisis. He has consistently tried to reduce the gifts to unions perpetrated on the state by the criminal Gray Davis (and Brown accolyte). Jerry Brown made this gift of public funds possible by allowing the public employees to “unionize” (a completely insane concept for public employees) thus creating a machine for graft.

    The public employee unions are THE problem in the state of California- nothing else.

    We get rid of the damned unions, pull state workers back to the levels of mere mortals, greatly reduce their quantity and the state will be alright again.

    I would vote for a monkey with a blowtorch for governor if he would simply commit to point the blowtorch at the Public Employee Unions- I would even hold the banana for him.

    Jerry Brown is a very nice man, I know him and like him. But he is the wrong man at the wrong time for the current crisis.

  10. David M. Greenwald

    Gunrock: Public employee unions are not the problem in the state of California. There is no empirical evidence to support the proposition that they are. We are in about a $19 billion deficit, even wholesale layoffs of state employees would not change that let alone whatever marginal increased salary unionized employees receive over non-unionized employees.

    The problems in California are more basic. First, we have experience a huge hit in the economy which has driven down revenues. And so even after cutting tens of billions from the budget the last few cycles and reducing our spending to 30 year lows, we have not been able to balance the budget. The problem is the economy not the our spending at this point.

    Second, we have a cripple political system, highly polarized but yet requiring two-thirds consent for budgets. That makes compromise difficult and reform impossible.

  11. rusty49

    “Second, we have a cripple political system, highly polarized but yet requiring two-thirds consent for budgets. That makes compromise difficult and reform impossible.”

    Thank goodness, otherwise the Democrats would really give away the store to the unions.

  12. Dr. Wu

    [quote]Public employee unions are not the problem in the state of California. There is no empirical evidence to support the proposition that they are.[/quote]

    David–are you sure? I’m having a deja vu experience here. Obviously many folks on this blog have their own opinions, but can you honestly say the unions had nothing to do with our current problem?

    We have a short term (cyclical) state deficit but also a long term structural deficit (roughly $19 billion). In addition we have long term health and pension liabilities that have been estimated at over $200 billion.

    I agree that the cyclical deficit is not the fault of the unions (full disclosure once again: I am a member of a public employees union). However I think it strains credibility to say that unions have played no role in the other two liabilities. Even without a nasty downturn California was in trouble and I’m surprised given your (good) reporting on the City’s own problems with the firefighters that you would say that public employees unions are not an issue. Feel free to walk that one back–we all say things we wished we hadn’t said. Indeed they are a key issue, along with our health care system which invites fraud and waste.

    I think our “public safety” employees need to be singled out. Our prison guards have ransacked the State to the point where we now spend twice as much per prisoner per year as the average state does and we incarcerate far to many people for non-violent drug crimes. (I suspect you would agree there.)

    I also agree that Arnie did try to improve things and was shot down. Make no mistake, our public employee unions are a serious part of the problem and if Jerry or Meg are to be successful they will have to reign in costs. I still think Brown has a better chance since he may be able to work with the legislature, but its far from a sure bet.

  13. David M. Greenwald

    I’m going to partially backtrack on you because I failed to account for one key point – a large chunk of money goes from the state to local governments – that is the legacy of Prop 13 btw.

    There are huge problems with public employees at the local level as I have chronicled (and its too simple to say it’s the unions because some of the worst excesses like Bell are non-unionized employees). But when we have these discussions, generally they are not referring to police and fire and city employees, they are referring to state employees and there I don’t believe state employees are the problem.

    Though I do I agree with you on the prison guard issue which is exacerbated by our ridiculous sentencing laws.

  14. Dr. Wu

    The prison guards are unionized ad a number of other studies (sorry can’t cite off hand) show that CA state workers are paid more than equivalent workers for many sectors. I don’t think its true for every state worker and I agree its more of an issue at the local level, but its also an issue at the State level.

  15. David M. Greenwald

    Right, but even they are paid more, that’s still a marginal cost increase rather than an absolute cost increase. The crippling thing is $19 billion on top of whatever we have cut so far, that’s well more than whatever amount we are paying workers above what we should.

  16. Rich Rifkin

    DG: [i]”Public employee unions are not the problem in the state of California. There is no empirical evidence to support the proposition that they are.”[/i]

    Your read of the state budget is wrong. You look at the percentage directly going to unionized employees and think that is all they get. But it’s not. You are also ignoring the amounts paid now to retirees, which of course is an escalating expense all going to union workers. And of course, you ignore the unionized teachers who get almost all of the money sent to school districts. Don’t pretend that the CTA is not a big part of our state’s problem.

    Further, every dollar paid to contract employees, because of our union-driven legislature, is a union wage, even if they are not in unions. (The so-called prevailing wage.) That has doubled or tripled the cost of all out-sourced expenses, including the expenses for cities and counties which are forced to follow this state law. So when Teichert maintains a road and the taxpayers pay for it, the expense is set by the unions who run the Democratic Party. It’s the same every time a bridge or school or other public building is built. We cannot even get a low-cost bidder on minor items like installing street signs, if there is such a thing as prevailing wage (and prevailing benefits) for that work.

    Also, keep in mind that the current salary figures for state employees don’t include all of the unfunded or underfunded benefits that the union workforce has been promised. That is, the pension plans need a lot more money to stay solvent and the medical insurance for retirees is entirely unfunded.

    Unions are also extremely powerful in passing other laws which were designed to benefit them, such as the 1999 law which was pushed by the unions and CalPERS to raise the pension formulas. Or the law Mariko Yamada is now pushing to make municipal bankruptcy impossibly expensive. (Note that Lois Wolk finally jumped ship on this issue. She was the only Democrat in the way of Darrell Steinberg’s attempt to push through the firefighter-Yamada bill, AB155. My guess is that Steinberg will re-pay Wolk by giving her back some of the positions he took away from her after she put a check on the CPF.)

    [i]”We are in about a $19 billion deficit, even wholesale layoffs of state employees would not change that let alone whatever marginal increased salary unionized employees receive over non-unionized employees.”[/i]

    Again, this really ignores the true effect of the unions on our entire budget and all of our laws.

  17. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”The problems in California are more basic. First, we have experience a huge hit in the economy which has driven down revenues.”[/i]

    True, but it is important to understand that unions have played a role in making our general economy worse. Take for instance the tens of thousands of lost jobs in So. California in the movie industry. All those jobs moved out of state or overseas after the unions made making a film here impossibly expensive.

    And while the unions did not cause this, our environmental laws have clearly caused us to lose a lot of manufacturing jobs. Maybe that trade-off is worth it to most of us in Davis. But it’s pretty tough on the families which had those jobs in auto-parts manufacturing, in chemicals, in furniture fabrication, etc.

    It’s these reasons in particular why our economy in this state has been in a tailspin for 20 years, other than in high tech, which mostly employs the highly educated.

    [i]”And so even after cutting tens of billions from the budget the last few cycles and reducing our spending to 30 year lows, we have not been able to balance the budget. The problem is the economy not the our spending at this point.”[/i]

    So the question becomes, what is it in our economy that we have been doing so wrong that other states have not? Regulations? Unions? High tax rates?

    [i]”Second, we have a cripple political system, highly polarized but yet requiring two-thirds consent for budgets. That makes compromise difficult and reform impossible.”[/i]

    This is irrelevant to our budget troubles. You can argue, “But if the right-wing Republicans did not have a veto-check on the majority Dems, the Dems could raise taxes in order to arrive at a balanced budget much sooner.” Yes, if we had a governor willing to raise taxes now, that might be true. But the truth is, the more we raise tax rates the worse our problems become in the long run. Our tax rates for every tax and fee they can increase are already the highest or near the highest of any state. So the people who pay the most in taxes are leaving; and more will leave the more we raise rates. Making it easier for the Democrats to raise taxes will not solve our fundamental problems.

    One thing you don’t mention is Prop 13. I think that plays a huge role in our systemic problem. It is not the case that we lack tax revenues due to it. It’s that our post-13 reliance on extremely high income-tax rates and sales tax rates has made the state far more vulnerable to revenue swings than it would be without 13. And that situation is made worse because the unions — the CTA especially — has forced the state to spend like crazy any time revenues go up, instead of ever really saving for a rainy day and smoothing out our spending cycle.

  18. itsme

    Re Whitman’s numerous comments in last night’s discussion of the wonderful business climate Texas.

    Today, Reader Supported News ran an AP article on the widening gap between the rich and poor in the US, naming NY, Connecticut and Texas as the states with the widest gaps. So, I guess Whitman’s right: the business climate is good in Texas. But, it’s what’s good for the people that concerns me. Business in America is doing just fine, but the people are not because they do not share in the profits.

    The problem with a wide rich/poor gap is that democracy doesn’t work without a large middle class.

    Furthermore, I’m not sure I like Texas politics here in California. Right now, they’re trying to overturn our landmark AB 32 so they can keep shoving their fossil fuels onto us. Thank God we’re not Texas. Can you imagine Texas getting concerned with green house gases?

    Whitman should just take herself to where the business climate is fine. BTW, wasn’t it in Silicon Valley, Ca that she made her billions, along with several other dot comers.

  19. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”How can you be involved in a discussion of facts when your journalism facts are hearsay?”[/i]

    You have the words hearsay and conjecture mixed up, Bobby. Next time, when you are being paid to atten a union meeting, perhaps you can see if someone there has a dictionary to help you out.

  20. Rich Rifkin

    [quote]Three states — New York, Connecticut and Texas — and the District of Columbia had the largest gaps between rich and poor. Big gaps were also evident in large cities such as New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta, home to both highly paid financial and high-tech jobs as well as clusters of poorer immigrant and minority residents.

    Alaska, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Hawaii had the smallest income gaps.[/quote] itsme, it seems to me which states or cities have a rising gap or a smaller one is pretty random and not really tied to the partisan policies of the places.

  21. Rich Rifkin

    Where California stands in unemployment is the really scary number ([url]http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm[/url]):

    1 NORTH DAKOTA 3.7
    2 SOUTH DAKOTA 4.5
    3 NEBRASKA 4.6

    22 NEW MEXICO 8.3
    22 NEW YORK 8.3
    [b]22 TEXAS 8.3 [/b]
    25 DELAWARE 8.4

    47 FLORIDA 11.7
    48 RHODE ISLAND 11.8
    [b]49 CALIFORNIA 12.4 [b/]
    50 MICHIGAN 13.1
    51 NEVADA 14.4

  22. Mr.Toad

    “Make no mistake, the State of California is trouble, and while the current governor may not be the total culprit in that, he is not the solution either.”

    Actually if Arnold hadn’t spent every cent in the treasury giving public sector employees 10% over 2 years in 05 and 06 trying to re-elected the state would be in much better shape today. As a result he has had to furlough workers who came to depend on those unaffordable raises reducing productivity and increasing economic hardship.

  23. caponica111

    According to a Wall Street Journal article on May 2010, Texas which is by no means a union-friendly state, has a 18 billion dollar state budget shortfall this fiscal year. Maybe we are already following the Texas model, but we just don’t know it!!

    Actually if Arnold hadn’t spent every cent in the treasury giving public sector employees 10% over 2 years in 05 and 06 trying to re-elected the state would be in much better shape today.[quote][/quote]

    Acccording to Calif LAO state civil service salary increases for 2003-04 were = 0%, 2004-05 = 5%, and 2006-07 = 3.5%. This excludes peace officers.

    California state govt fact check:
    In 1977 state govt consumed 6.6% of state’s economy. In 2010 it is 5.6%

    40yrs ago there were 9.1 state govt workers/1000 residents. 2011 there wil be 8.9 state govt workers/1000 residents. In Calif the # of state workers per population is 28% below national average.

    Welfare consumed 3% of state budget in 1998. that figure is now 2.4%.

    Public employees are more than twice as likely to hold a college degree compared with private sector employeed. (48% vs. 23%)

    Take home pay for the same job classification has declined 44% over the past 15yrs for state employees (adjusting for inflation) as a result of pay cuts, increased medical insurance costs, and furloughs. Excluding furloughs the decline has still been 30%.

    Public schools consumed 42.7% of the budget in 1998, and and 43.6% today.

    For each $100 Californians earns, the state spends $7.44. That number has been this low only 4 times in the past 3 decades.

    Calif state employees contribute 5-10% of their salary towards retirement. In the people’s republic the retirement contribution was only recently increased to 2%(?) and the city gave them a raise to compensate for this. the real problems are the ones locally.

  24. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”Calif state employees contribute 5-10% of their salary towards retirement. In the people’s republic the retirement contribution was only recently increased to 2% … ” [/i]

    FWIW, all Davis cops and firefighters on 3% at 50 have long paid 9% of their regular salaries* toward their pensions. That said, it costs the city an additional 28% of their salaries now to fund those pensions. And that number is heading toward 38%, while the 9% is capped**.

    On the other hand, most Davis employees on 2.5% at 55 have never paid anything yet toward their pensions. Most new contracts will start taking 1% and soon enough 2%. The actual employee contribution is supposed to be 8%. That said, the city’s employer contributions for those on 2.5% at 55 are lower than they are for the cops and fire.

    *With huge amounts in overtime, medical benefits, worker’s comp, retiree medical (and other non-cash benefits), 9% of regular salary equates to roughly 4.5% of employee compensation.

    **I think CalPERS sets the caps. I don’t think it is a question of state law. However, I am not sure of that.

  25. itsme

    Rich,
    Re the randomness of rich/poor gaps.
    Whether events are random or have a pattern or demonstrate a cause-effect relationship is the subject of statistics and there are thousands of excellent scholars in math, medicine and public health that have spent their lives thinking about that.

    Those who use statistics worry a lot about separating chance variation(“random” in your terminology) e.g. a few tosses of a coin from real differences e.g. the coin is weighted and heads come up more often after umpteen tosses. Generally, large samples even out chance variation; that’s why you toss the coin repeatedly to see if it’s really lopsided.

    So we have the entire US at the present time and the entire US in historical perspective. This may give us the large sample. There has been a definite loss of our middle class as we divide into two unequal parts: rich and poor. This trends has been written about for years, most recently by Paul Krugman (Princeton prof and Nobel laureate in Economics) and Robt Reich (econonomist in the Clinton administration and now prof at UCB)

    Reich’s “Supercapitalism” describes how we got to be so unfair. My simple understanding of it is that corporations, which used to take care of their workers (Henry Ford paid his workers well so they could afford to buy the cars they build), now engage in cut throat competition secondary to global, electronically driven competition. They invest largely overseas now and have much less of a stake in the US. Reich is constantly in the media that we will not get out of this recession until workers have buying power, since we are a consumer driven society. We will stay in this recession as long as 26% of our wealth is held by a just a few Americans.

    Although the trend towards top heavy corporations span several presidents, including Clinton, the pronouced pro-business policies of the GWB years greatly escalated this divide.

    Europe might provide a useful comparison of the relationship of pro-business climates and economic equality. I’ve read recently and can probably find the source with an online search, that the rich/poor divide is greater in the US than in Europe. From conservatives scorning the universal health care and other “socialist” policies in Europe and the fact that the price of gasoline is escalated with heavy taxes, I would guess that Europe is not so business friendly as the US. With this in mind, I don’t think it’s “random” that there is more economic equality in Europe than in the US. It’s just where public policy puts its money.

    I thought all of this was general knowledge to the reading public. It’s hugely important in understanding the mess we’re in and why were in it. If you assume misfortune is just “random,” you may as well go to a fortune teller for advice. If you understand how we got into this mess,you can make a plan for getting out. I’m amazed that I should have to point out the significance of the loss of our middle class to a regular columnist of our local paper.

    I think it’s this lack of understanding or knowledge that leads conservatives to think that business is the solution out of the mess. The evidence is that Big Business fot us into the mess.

    I was just commenting on the news that the rich/poor divide is especially pronounced in Texas. Since Krugman and Reich have used their knowledge and brains to help us understand how the rich/poor divide developed in America, it’s only logical to extend their national analysis to its local manifestation in Texas. A reasonable thought is that the pro-business environment (of which Whitman is so envious) is an extreme example of what is happening to us nationally. We’ve seen this trend historically in America and we see this trend in comparison with Europe.

    I guess if I were a rich oil man or a rich Ebay exec, I’d like Texas too. Only I’m not, so Texas doesn’t do anything for me. I like the way Californians still fight to equality.

  26. jimt

    I missed the debate

    Did anyone ask Whitman why she didn’t vote for most of her life, and her views on voting and civic responsibility?

    Did the immigration issues (national and state) come up?

  27. Frankly

    I had to record the debate and finally had time to watch it last night. No knockout I agree; but like her or not, Meg’s message resonated as having the type of solutions we all know we need. Other than coming off a bit like an old codger prone to profanity and bar-room entertainment, Brown certainly appeared to be the more polished and experienced politician… he even stressed that he is the more experienced politician. That is certainly not the credentials that resonate with voters these days at the national level; but maybe in screwed up California this makes him more attractive.

    It was after I watched the debate and I caught a bit if the nightly news that my blood really started to boil. Here is Gloria Allred again; pulling another media stunt like she did when Arnold ran and he had to deal with the “groper gate” crap. I’m sure if you are leftist ideologue this type of thing gives you reason to cheer, but if we are honest about the reasons the political process is so screwed up in this country, look no further than people like Gloria Allred and the media that runs with this bull****t. How can we talk about substantive issues when the media starts to turn up the volume on trivia? Why would anyone with any sense ever run for public office when this becomes the type of topic that they have to spend time dealing with. I am looking for the single media entity that I can punch in the face for this (and no, it is not Rupert Murdoch because Fox News debates this very topic ad nauseum)… what I see as one of our biggest reasons our political process is so screwed up today. The enemies of any opponent do not need to focus on debating substantive issues; they can just find some stupid story that gets the stupid main screech media making all of us more stupid. Anyone want to join me with that punch? Can you tell I am angry?

    istme: Question… do you work in, or have you recently worked in a large private-industry company? If you had, you would recognize something important relative to the populist cry about wealth gap. You might also have a completely different opinion than your two quoted, but hopelessly left-biased, economic experts: Reich and Krugman. If you are keen on believing any NYT columnist, then I suggest you read some books by Friedman, because he has a more objective view and explanation.

    To illustrate part of what has caused the larger wage gap, let’s consider Harry Potter author JK Rowling… one of the richest women in the UK… worth about $1 billion. A recent WSJ article noted how newly published authors are getting advances that are about 10% the size that they would have 2-3 years ago… because of the proliferation of eBook technology which pays the publisher about 65% of what they make on first issue hardcover books, and the author about 50% of what they would otherwise be paid. So, the gap between the top successful author and the bottom earners has been larger. Two reasons: the global market and technology.

  28. Frankly

    The global market means 6 billion potential customers versus say 300 million potential US customers. Technology allows companies to leverage economies of scale to produce more products at a lower price point. These two things allow successful companies to grow wealthier with lower labor costs. They also have to compete on price because their competition is doing the exact same thing.

    Think of the low and medium-skilled labor required to produce an eBook compared to a hardcover book. Considering that the demand for this labor falls due to technology but the supply remains the same. Companies competing for the labor would naturally be able to acquire it at a lower price. Now also consider that the global economy provides a global labor pool… again increasing the supply and putting downward pressure on the cost of this labor.

    Company managers are always seeking ways to reduce expenses as this allows the company to stay competitive and survive… and thus retain jobs. We are experiencing a global wage leveling in the previously less elastic domestic labor market. We are experiencing a technology boom that allows for automated production and delivery. We are experiencing global markets.

    What we need is a new paradigm for labor. The available jobs are high tech jobs: Computer-related jobs, engineering jobs & medium-skilled manufacturing jobs. These are also higher paying jobs. It requires that we completely reform and improve our primary and secondary education system. Other than that, we have service trades that will always require domestic labor. We need trade schools and we need to eliminate all the cheap immigrant labor that currently dominates these fields. Lastly, we need to incubate new products and services in the small business sector… these companies will hire low-skilled labor to start. However, as any new product or service matures in the marketplace, it will face competition and this will be global competition and the labor costs will again face downward pressure. Because of this, we need to constantly incubate ideas and new businesses. We need to be the state that is the easiest to do business in. Today we are one of the least easy to do business in.

    Meg Whitman knows this stuff. She has it right. Jerry Brown does not. Brown is stuck in the old paradigm. He is old. He is an old politician. He will ensure that CA does not make the changes needed to break out of this perpetual dysfunction.

  29. E Roberts Musser

    itsme: “I think it’s this lack of understanding or knowledge that leads conservatives to think that business is the solution out of the mess. The evidence is that Big Business fot us into the mess.”

    How about lack of gov’t oversight? We ended up with the mortgage meltdown and BP oil spill bc of lackin in proper gov’t oversight…

  30. Frankly

    “How about lack of gov’t oversight? We ended up with the mortgage meltdown and BP oil spill bc of lackin in proper gov’t oversight..”

    Or we had adequate oversight from incompetent overseers.

    “I think it’s this lack of understanding or knowledge that leads conservatives to think that business is the solution out of the mess. The evidence is that Big Business fot us into the mess”

    Assuming big business “got us into this mess” (it is always a hoot when people make this type of statement without any mention of the contribution of government policies and institutions), can’t we agree that big business expanded American prosperity for the decades leading up to it? Government does not produce, it only consumes. Economies are cyclical. Capitalism expects constant creative growth and destruction. What we experienced was a huge market correction from a huge bubble caused by the rise of big money gamblers working in the financial markets. Allowed to tank naturally, all these gamblers would have been wiped out and a new improved model would have risen. Instead, we have government intrusion again ensuring that most of those same bad business practices continue.

    Thinking that we can regulate these guys is another hoot. Read the book “The Quants”. These are scary intelligent math brains that play complex games better than anyone else. Government regulators can never keep up.

  31. E Roberts Musser

    ERM: “How about lack of gov’t oversight? We ended up with the mortgage meltdown and BP oil spill bc of lackin in proper gov’t oversight..”

    Jeff Boone: “Or we had adequate oversight from incompetent overseers.”

    I would argue we have inadequate oversight from incompetent overseers. I had a case one time involving investment fraud. It involved at least 60 investors that I knew of, a crooked financial planner and my client’s lawyer, who were defrauding the federal bankruptcy system. I contacted the SEC, who agreed I was right in my legal analysis, but refused to lift a finger to assist. I then contacted the federal bankruptcy trustee that oversees that banruptcy district – no help there. Apparently they didn’t care if fraud was occurring in their court system. I contacted the attorney handling the bankruptcy, who didn’t care either that he was knowingly/unknowingly perpetrating a fraud on the court.

    Later, I read a great book on the subject, involving the investment firm of Prudential Bache, an investment business which is now defunct. It took a determined DA in Washington State to bring this slimey investment firm down, by joining forces with DA’s from 18 other states, bc the SEC refused to do anything. So the taxpayers of this country are paying huge sums of money for regulatory agencies like the SEC, regulatory agencies who are sitting on their hands doing nothing, even tho the fraud is reported to them.

    I have since talked to an intern who worked for the SEC last year, who says the culture is changing. His comment was the whole Bernie Madoff scandal embarrassed and shamed the SEC into becoming more diligent about enforcement of securities laws. Well it’s about freakin’ time the SEC did the job it was hired to do. And I hope this newfound diligence is not fleeting.

    Look at the MMC, that was the federal agency that was supposed to oversee off shore drilling. It is my understanding call girls were provided by the oil industry to gov’t agents within the MMC, so these gov’t agents would turn a blind eye to any infractions by the oil companies. These same gov’t agents were watching porn on the job. It is my understanding the same sort of thing was going on at the SEC.

    If laws are in place, and not being enforced by regulatory agencies like the SEC, MMC, FTC, and so forth, why are we the taxpayers paying megadollars for useless agencies that do not engage in any meaningful enforcement? It’s a disgrace. I expect big business to do whatever they can to improve the bottom line – no surprise there. But more importantly I expect gov’t agencies charged with the task of overseeing big business to do just that, oversee big business and step in when necessary to keep things honest, rather than collecting a salary just to sit around and have a good time at taxpayers’ expense.

    The mortgage meltdown was, IMHO, more the result of gov’t politicians pushing banks into loaning to low income folks who could never afford to pay the loans back. Then these same gov’t politicians turned a blind eye when the banks rubbed their collective hands together at the gov’t go ahead, and redlined the poor and often scammed them into purchasing costlier loan products than was necessary and that they could never afford. Now these same politicians (Frank and Dodd) are pushing for banking reform, pretending they themselves played no part in the mess.

    And now the new regulations coming out are having all sorts of unintended consequences – but then look who promulgated them – the very politicians who created the mess in the first place. And no surprise, the new regulations don’t really get at a lot of the underlying problems of the mortgage meltdown – the bundling of prime with subprime loans, sliced and diced and sold off to hedge funds, so there is no accountability for the institution that originated the bad loan in the first place. (Please correct me if I am wrong on this and this issue has been addressed by new gov’t regulation…).

    And just as an aside, a bill in the senate went down in defeat that would have placed an extra tax on those companies outsourcing, and given a tax break to those companies who hire within this country. And so it goes…it is no wonder we are losing jobs in the United States.

  32. Don Shor

    Jeff: ” Here is Gloria Allred again; pulling another media stunt like she did when Arnold ran and he had to deal with the “groper gate” crap.”
    I agree. Regardless of your or my political inclinations, when I see Gloria Allred is involved in any publicity stunt I am immediately skeptical. And this election should not be decided on issues of this sort. It is infuriating.

  33. Frankly

    “His comment was the whole Bernie Madoff scandal embarrassed and shamed the SEC into becoming more diligent about enforcement of securities laws.”

    It is a shame that it always seems to require some type of crisis or tragedy before the regulators turn off their porn and get to work. Though, when they do, they generally over-steer us into regulatory hell… thank you Enron and SOX!

  34. Rich Rifkin

    [b]ERM: “How about lack of gov’t oversight? We ended up with the mortgage meltdown** and BP oil spill bc of lackin in proper gov’t oversight..” [/b]

    [i]Jeff Boone: “Or we had adequate oversight from incompetent overseers.” [/i]

    [b]I would argue we have inadequate oversight from incompetent overseers.[/b]

    Strictly speaking to the BP situation in the Gulf–my take is that there was a uniquely bad corporate culture at BP which led to this disaster. There have only been a handful of really bad oil spills or explosions in the last 10 years in the U.S. and every one of them has involved BP. The one in Texas at the BP refinery was really a terrible case of corporate neglect and the flouting of safety laws and regulations. The gulf spill reflected their same bad corporate culture.

    Exxon also used to have a seriously bad corporate culture, but since the Valdez accident Exxon changed. (Point of disclosure: I own Exxon stock.) Chevron and most other large and small oil companies follow the safety guidelines set by the government in the U.S. They don’t have disasters. But BP, up to now, has not*.

    BP needs to change its corporate culture. That will fix the problem far better than a change in government oversight, not that government oversight is faultless.

    ———–
    *From ABC News ([url]http://abcnews.go.com/WN/bps-dismal-safety-record/story?id=10763042[/url]): [quote] BP’s safety violations far outstrip its fellow oil companies. According to the Center for Public Integrity, in the last three years, BP refineries in Ohio and Texas have accounted for 97 percent of the “egregious, willful” violations handed out by the Occupational Safety and Health The violations are determined when an employer demonstrated either an “intentional disregard for the requirements of the [law], or showed plain indifference to employee safety and health.”

    OSHA statistics show BP ran up 760 “egregious, willful” safety violations, while Sunoco and Conoco-Phillips each had eight, Citgo had two and Exxon had one comparable citation. [/quote] **The mortgage meltdown, in my opinion, had two fathers: the first was the government policy of pushing too high a percentage of the population into home ownership by way of forcing banks to lend to risky borrowers and then passing on those risks to government-created corporations, Fannie and Freddie; the second was the publicly regulated banks which took on ridiculous levels of risk, because in the U.S. we now have a widespread corporate culture of running our public stock companies for the (top) employees and not for the stockholders. Private-partnership banks never got caught up in the subprime mortgage situation. They were aware of those risks and because it was their money, they stayed away. I don’t know the answer, but I think stockholders would get better management if they did not think the government would bail them out or change policies to make them behave.

  35. itsme

    Jeff Boone,
    So what would working in a large private industry teach me?

    I like Tom Friedman a lot, although I was not aware of him until after he made his pro Iraq war stance. What bothers you about Krugman’s and Reich’s ideas? It’s only what they think that makes a difference to me; I don’t care what company they keep. And I’m not so fond of the NY Times; they failed to report all sides of the Iraq War debate. I just pick and choose whatever makes sense and no one and no paper is all good or all bad.

    As for successful authors causing our economic woes, would our economcy work if we don’t allow them to write? What about sports celebs? I guess out with them too. That was an easy solution.

    I agree with your description of industry. They are doing very well. As for improving our labor pool, all your suggestions sound like socialism to me. And I agree with developing programs to make people more productive in the 21st century. So you should vote Dem.

    You’re saying this recession in just part of an economic cycle? And your training is in what exactly? It just happens that our last economic disaster in 1929 was also preceded by the development of an unusually large gap between the rich and poor. Is the gap a cyclical occurence then?
    Please develop that intersting thought.

    Yes industry had done well for us. As I said yesterday, industry now is different from industry then. It grew like Topsy and now loods like Goliath.

    As for Gloria Allread, she’s not running. It’s Meg that is and if she treated her Latino houseworker poorly and knowingly hired an illegal immigrant, she needs to answer to the Hispanics and the other employers of illegal immigrants that Meg wants to sanction. If Meg was wrong, it doesn’t make her actions right to say it was the publicity that’s to blame. Allread can be the worst person in the world, but that doesn’t change what Meg did (or didn’t do.)

    Sorry to be abrupt and not too tactful, but there’s only so much time in the day.

  36. rusty49

    Meg Whitman hired the maid from an agency where the maid declared her citenzenship when she hired on and Whitman paid her $23 an hour, hardly mistreatment. This is all just another dispicable Allred grab for the spotlight and it was really pathetic seeing the maid fake crying as she was reading her statement. This won’t hurt Whitman one bit. Latest poll has Whitman up by 1%.

  37. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”Rahm Emanuel is leaving the White House. Another rat jumping off the sinking ship and this failure of an Administration.”[/i]

    Emanuel–which literally means “God is with us” in Hebrew–is leaving to run for mayor of Chicago. If you call that “a rat jumping off the sinking ship,” then I wonder what you called it during the GW Bush Administration when Mel Martinez quit to run for the US Senate in 2003? when Paul O’Neill jumped ship to criticize Bush’s policies? when Christine Todd Whitman quit to argue against her boss’s policies on the environment? when Mitch Daniels bolted after submitting his low-estimates on the cost of the Iraq War?

    I don’t think it’s really fair to take all those folks who walked away early from GW Bush and declare that evidence he was guiding a sinking ship. Equally, your charge regarding Rahm Emanuel smacks of bias.

  38. David M. Greenwald

    [quote]Latest poll has Whitman up by 1%. [/quote]

    That’s actually the only recent poll that has her up. Real Clear Politics Average is about a 3.2% lead for Brown, that averages all polls and last election was a pretty good indicator both in national and state elections as to the spread.

    Here’s the link to the California’s Governor Race ([url]http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2010/governor/ca/california_governor_whitman_vs_brown-1113.html[/url])

  39. Rich Rifkin

    Better forecasting than is done on RCP is done by Nate Silver on 538 ([url]http://elections.nytimes.com/2010/forecasts/governor/california[/url]) (now on the NY Times blog). Nate (in his September 15 model) has Brown up 49.6% to 48.4%. That may have changed in the last 2 weeks. But as of September 28, Nate gives Brown a 60.1% chance of winning.

    If you are not familiar with Nate Silver, he takes data from all polls, but he does not average them. He weights them based on various credibility tests and assumptions about who is and who is not a likely voter and what data-set each pollster uses to model likely voters. His models proved extremely accurate in predicting the presidential election, the electoral college, the US House and Senate, and governors races. Before founding 538.com and becoming the best opinion poll analyst in the U.S., he was an extremely famous baseball sabermatrician. (I met Nate at a SABR convention years ago in Denver, when he was introducing PECOTA ([url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PECOTA[/url]) to the world.)

  40. E Roberts Musser

    Rich Rifkin: “BP’s safety violations far outstrip its fellow oil companies. According to the Center for Public Integrity, in the last three years, BP refineries in Ohio and Texas have accounted for 97 percent of the “egregious, willful” violations handed out by the Occupational Safety and Health The violations are determined when an employer demonstrated either an “intentional disregard for the requirements of the [law], or showed plain indifference to employee safety and health.””

    Rich Rifkin: “Strictly speaking to the BP situation in the Gulf–my take is that there was a uniquely bad corporate culture at BP which led to this disaster.”

    Continued bad corporate culture could not happen if the gov’t did not allow repeated corporate violations to go unpunished and unaddressed. If the gov’t won’t carry out its regulatory function, let’s save the taxpayers lots of money and shut the useless gov’t agencies down…

    Jeff Boone: “It is a shame that it always seems to require some type of crisis or tragedy before the regulators turn off their porn and get to work. Though, when they do, they generally over-steer us into regulatory hell…”

    AMEN, AMEN, AMEN!!!

  41. wdf1

    Continued bad corporate culture could not happen if the gov’t did not allow repeated corporate violations to go unpunished and unaddressed.

    How would you propose to see BP punished in your ideal world?

    As Rifkin already stated above, BP already had a record as the worst offenders of regulation, such as they were enforced.

    Earlier you felt that holding them financially responsible for damages (to the tune of $20+billion) was inappropriate, as were public protests AMPM/BP filling stations. What’s left? Government takeover of US BP facilities?

  42. Frankly

    “Sorry to be abrupt and not too tactful, but there’s only so much time in the day. “

    My last trip to New York, at a restaurant in Manhattan, I was sitting at a patio table and two guys standing on the sidewalk started going at it. They were passionately debating some political topic… I heard the word “Bush” and “Gore” several times. I thought a fight would break out. After about five minutes one of the guys looks at his watch as says to the other, “hey we need to go get some lunch or I’m going to be late.”

    I remembered thinking how much more we could accomplish as a community if more of us could do what these two did… debate passionately but not take the arguments personal. The problem is identity politics. Too many have wrapped up their persona with their politics, so any debate about their politics feels personal. Certainly wars have been fought over ideology, but the design of our democracy was to be a participatory government – sort of like a volunteer fire department – where participating in politics was not a profession, but a temporary civic duty that required a break from our regular life pursuits.

    My point here is that I would encourage you to not be tactful, and just use the little time you have to make your point. As long as you are a basic good person, I would still have lunch with you and most likely enjoy it!

    “How would you propose to see BP punished in your ideal world?”

    Let’s not ignore natural economic punishment. Corporation are economic entities. They are motivated primarily by the flow of money, just like a dog that responds primarily to the offer of food.

    This is one of the great failures of government regulation and the mindset of those that tend to problem solve in dreams of top-down, central control. Just start thinking of large corporations as dogs. How do you train them to behave? At some point the rolled-up newspaper and yelling stops being very effective. For example, how about tax breaks for the companies within a given industry that have a safety record exceeding some benchmark?

  43. E Roberts Musser

    wdf1: “How would you propose to see BP punished in your ideal world?

    As Rifkin already stated above, BP already had a record as the worst offenders of regulation, such as they were enforced.

    Earlier you felt that holding them financially responsible for damages (to the tune of $20+billion) was inappropriate, as were public protests AMPM/BP filling stations. What’s left? Government takeover of US BP facilities?”

    Let me make several points here –
    1) It still is not clear who was at fault in the BP oil spill. The blow-out preventer was finally retrieved from the bottom of the ocean, and is now in the hands of the feds for evaluation.
    2) BP had emergency plans in place that were woefully inadequate, as does every other oil company engaged in off-shore drilling. None of them is equipped to handle a major oil spill, and the gov’t now knows this.
    3) BP suggested some safety measures to the MMC (fed agency that oversees off shore oil drilling), yet the MMC said “no”. It is not clear why.
    4) BP had a poor safety record with a number of violations (I think Rich’s comment indicated 87), yet it appears BP was allowed to continue drilling unabated w no substantive consequences for its violations.

    So, what would I do on relation to:
    1) Wait and see what the feds say was the real reason for the BP oil spill, but take the conclusions with some degree of skepticism, since BP was providing call girls to overseeing gov’t agents. If BP was largely to blame, fine them so it really hurts; and make them pay for all reparations. If BP goes bankrupt bc of it, so be it. But I will add that I have no doubt there were multiple villians in the screw up, such as Trasocean and Halliburten. It is called strict product liability. You provide the product (oil), you screw up in extracting it, you pay for any damages. It is the cost of doing business. As you know, Exxon did not end up paying for the true cost of the cleanup from its oil spill in Alaska.
    2) Emergency plans of any off shore oil drilling company must be updated and reasonable. If the oil companies cannot do this within a reasonable length of time, then they should be shut down. They’ll manage to come up with a reasonable plan to deal with potential oil spills. Then the feds need to check to make sure the documents are truthful – that the equipment stated in the paperwork does exist. In the past, the feds just took the word of the oil companies that they could deal with a large spill, not fact checking the emergency plans. Instead the feds were too busy entertaining themselves with call girls and watching porn.
    3) The feds need to be investigated as to why they would turn down safety measures suggested by an oil drilling company. A US Congressman on the investigative committee (a Democrat by the way) suggested just this, feeling the MMC was just as culpable in the whole mess, but he was summarily shut down by the Chair of the committee who had an agenda to destroy BP at all costs, rather than look at all the underlying causes of the oil spill. And there were many underlying causes, not the least of which was because of the failures of the feds to properly oversee what was going on. Of the culture in the MMC doesn’t change, another oil spill is almost certain.
    4) If the feds had seriously fined or temporarily shut down BP early on when it first found safety violations, I suspect we would not be here discussing a massive oil spill in the Gulf.

    Does that answer your question on what I would do? I listened intently to the BP hearings, and was extremely frustrated at the fed gov’ts finger pointing at everyone else except themselves…

  44. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”If the feds had seriously fined or temporarily shut down BP early on when it first found safety violations …”[/i]

    Chances are very strong that the people who live in the Gulf region and either work for BP or for one of BP’s many subsidiaries or for a BP subcontractor or for a company which sells products or services to employees of these various outfits, notably the food and beverage industry, would have exploded in rage if the Obama Administration ‘shut down BP early on.’ Fox News would have had round-the-clock coverage of all the massive unemployment in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi caused by the shutdown …

    Now those folks surely (in hindsight) would have been quite wrong to have exploded in rage, to have accused the president of being a foreign-born tool, to have screamed that global warming science is as fake as biological evolution, but you know that’s what their response would have been.

    And in a climate of natioal unemployment rates climbing over 10%, the idea of closing down BP as you suggest would have been politically unfathomable.

  45. rusty49

    Gloria Allred worked for a Brown campaign and has made donations to him. I hope this whole maid thing backfires on the Democrats. The Democrats are so desparate they’ll try anything. Pathetic.

  46. E Roberts Musser

    Rich Rifkin: “Chances are very strong that the people who live in the Gulf region and either work for BP or for one of BP’s many subsidiaries or for a BP subcontractor or for a company which sells products or services to employees of these various outfits, notably the food and beverage industry, would have exploded in rage if the Obama Administration ‘shut down BP early on.’ Fox News would have had round-the-clock coverage of all the massive unemployment in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi caused by the shutdown …”

    First of all, the 87 violations didn’t just happen over the Obama administration, but many admininstrations, including Bush, etc. Secondly, if the feds were serious about a shutdown, BP would have cleaned up its act rather than allow for such a drastic action. But bc virtually no sanctions were ever imposed, they kept on going the same old way with impunity. Thirdly, it is not Congress that decides what penalities that are to be imposed – it is not a political matter. The MMC and other agencies like it are supposed to be independent of political considerations, and should do the job they were charged with doing – in this case the regulation of off shore oil drilling. Fourthly, I’m sure the people in the Gulf understand the safety aspect of this issue – and would have accepted a brief shutdown if necessary to make sure BP cleaned up its act. 11 men are dead, an entire region is spoiled, the fishing industry may be impacted for years to come bc of the Gulf oil spill… those are the factors the MMC should have taken into consideration rather than any political considerations.

  47. proudsocialist

    elaine,
    i love bill maher, he’s not afraid to stand up to ppl like glenn beck and he speaks his mind. i love his show…
    he’s not afraid to ask questions like “what’s so bad about being a socialist?”
    really, what is so wrong about socialism..we are living in a socialist country…
    our roads, mail, schools, food, housing for the homeless, unemployment, social security, medicare, politicians, etc etc are all brought to you by socialism.
    if you have a problem with socialism, well then i say to you, don’t partake of its fruits.

  48. proudsocialist

    PS,
    NO KNOCKOUT PUNCHES DAVID????ARE YOU KIDDING ME? JERRY BROWN KICKED MEG WHITMAN’S COLD CALLOUSED GRINCHLIKE ASS…
    BOTTOM LINE, HE ROCKED THE VOTE AND YOUR OBVIOUS “FAIR AND BALANCED” IDEOLOGY SPEAKS VOLUMES.
    PLZ DON’T TELL ME YOU’RE A RIGHT WING REPUBLICAN ARE YOU?
    GOD NO…DAVID..NO

  49. Frankly

    “what’s so bad about being a socialist?”

    Sigh… excuse me while I become nostalgic about the memory of Joe McCarthy.

    The US has morphed into a social democracy. It is a fallacy to point out the US government-provide infrastructure as evidence of socialism given that 80% of the actual work is done by private companies. Just about everything else mentioned are examples of socialism; and frankly, none of them are working very well. Poor quality, inefficiencies and high costs… these are the tenants of government run anything. Calling yourself a socialist is something I would not be proud of for these reasons alone; not to mention the history of human misery and suffering caused by it and it’s close brothers: communism and totalitarianism.

    The main problem with socialism, and any other ideology that strives to manage human economic outcomes through central ownership and control, is the programming of constituents away from economic Darwinism. Simply put, the more people are provided for, the greater will become their expectation to be provided for, and the less capable they will become to take care of themselves.

    I find it interesting that greater number of people in this country are feeling emboldened to openly express their support of socialism, Marxism and Communism. As a tolerant country, I suppose we have to accept them and their ideas no different than we accept 9-11 conspiracy theorists and Obama birth conspiracy aficionados. I will do so warily given the potential disastrous outcomes if any of these people gain enough traction to tilt our great experiment in the direction of all the past failures of governance.

    One more point related to the standard-issue Davis progressive that claims some attraction to socialism. I think the truth is more likely an attraction to communitarianism… which means they have more in common with the Tea Party activists than Karl Marx.

    By the way, if you don’t like democratic free market capitalism, then don’t partake of its fruits.

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