Monday, January 03, 2011

Jerry Brown's inauguration

"Without the trust of the people, politics degenerates into mere spectacle; and democracy declines, leaving demagoguery and cynicism to fill the void." - California Gov. Jerry Brown, in his inaugural address 01/03/2011.

Brown tried to frame his Governorship's mission in community terms, referring to his German great-grandfather's journey to the American West on a wagon train and invoking philosopher Josiah Royce on a "Loyalty to the community, to what is larger than our individual needs." The wagon train is a classic traditional American sentimental image of community effort.

I'll post video in the next post. The prepared text is here, but he did some ad libbing, too.

The Josiah Royce quotation intrigued me. You can read Kelly Parker's 2004 article on Josiah Royce in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I'll post more about that later.

David Siders, Jerry Brown becomes 39th governor, promises 'a tough budget for tough times' 01/03/2011. The Sacbee's Excerpts from Brown's inaugural address actually managed to include the Josiah Royce reference, which may be the most significant part of the speech.

Anthony York's report in the Los Angeles Times is better: Brown sworn in as California's 39th governor 01/04/2011.

Daniel B. Wood of the Christian Science Monitor has a pre-inauguration analysis in Jerry Brown as California governor, Act 2: Can he save the state? 01/03/2010.

Since the state's reporters are far too willing to grant anonymity for things that don't require it for any reason other than the convenience of politicians and officials - and maybe to enhance the dramatic mystique of the reporters - it's hard to know how far a report like this one reflects leaks from Brown's team: Kevin Yamamura, Brown to propose broad list of budget cuts Sacramento Bee 01/03/2011. He reports:

Brown, to be sworn in this morning, wants to slash virtually every state-funded program to help balance California's massive deficit, in many cases resurrecting cuts sought by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger but rejected by lawmakers. Brown would restrict Medi-Cal access, divert low-level offenders to county jails and cut deeply into California State University and the University of California.

The Democrat is counting on lawmakers to approve the cuts to encourage voters to also provide revenue. A June ballot measure would extend higher tax rates on income, vehicles and sales set to expire this year, as well as eliminate a new corporate tax benefit. The money from the vehicle and sales tax extensions would be sent to local governments, which would take on some functions the state performs now.

Brown also wants to take money from voter-approved accounts that fund early childhood development and mental health care, a plan similar to one rejected by voters in 2009.

Brown's widescale cuts seem designed to hit services that permeate every part of Californians' lives. The reductions to state parks and libraries, for instance, are minuscule against the backdrop of a deficit greater than $25 billion over the next 18 months. But park and library closures would surely draw the attention of middle-class families.

So would cuts to the state's two university systems, which Brown will pursue one year after Schwarzenegger singled out the state's higher-education system for protection.
Here's columnist Dan Walters, also a pre-inauguration piece, Brown 2.0 will face old issues Sacramento Bee 01/03/2011. Walters sometimes has some decent observations. But he still seems to blame Jerry Brown's first governorship for everything from the Republican-led "tax revolt" of 1978 and following years to potholes in 2011. This, for instance, is silly: "Brown 1.0 virtually halted the state's once-expansive highway construction plan three decades ago, and with the state's population now 50 percent bigger, it has the nation's worst traffic congestion and second-worst pavement conditions."

Yes, Jerry did restrict highway funds during his earlier governorship, much to the annoyance of developers and local government officials. What Walters surely knows but conveniently neglects to say is that this was part of an approach to boost public transportation. Jerry was the last Governor of California to give public transportation the emphasis it still deserves. Without what he did then, traffic congestion would be much worse.

This sort of whiny old-boy cynicism is one of the emerging scripts for "Jerry Brown 2.0".

I know it's not news that our press is lazy. But couldn't some of them be a little more imaginative than running vague comparisons of questionable meaning between the 1970s and today? The San Francisco Chronicle does the same thing: Then and now: A look at Jerry Brown and California 01/03/2011. hey, did you know that Jerry was single 40 years ago and he's married now? Wow-wee!!

But the Los Angeles Times in their pre-inauguration story of Jerry managed to focus on the present and the immediate future! Anthony York writes in Brown's success could depend on his first 100 days 01/03/2011:

Brown plans to pass a budget through the Legislature within two months, instead of the usual seven or eight. Those involved in budget discussions with him say he then plans to ask voters to extend temporary increases to the state sales, income and vehicle taxes that lawmakers and the governor enacted in 2009. Voters have already rejected an extension of those taxes as part of a 2009 special election, and Republican leaders have indicated there is no GOP support for putting the issue back before voters.

Brown's main charge will be to keep voters on his side, even as he introduces a series of spending cuts and potential tax increases that are bound to be unpopular.
He does reference Jerry's earlier period. And he uses a meaningful reference: "During his first stint as governor, he said California was entering an 'era of limits.' Now, Brown is promising deep spending cuts, including some in his own office."

What he doesn't say is that Jerry was mightily ridiculed as a DFH for talking about the "age of limits", even though the Arab oil boycott had provided the most dramatic kind of demonstration of the limits of a fossil fuel economy, as did the oil shortage during his second term in the wake of the Iranian Revolution of 1979. He used the slogan both to emphasize environmental priorities and to try to give a progressive spin to the shortage of governmental resources that was a reality in the serious recession of 1973-75.

This whole notion of the "100 days" of a new administration being critical has become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, applying a standard relating to the flood of activity of the Franklin Roosevelt Administration in early 1933. Like many favorite notions in political commentary, it's pretty much like a baseball statistic: it holds good until someone does something different.

The Calbuzz pre-inaugural piece is uncharacteristically bad, downright silly, including the title: Five Key Questions About Krusty’s Inaugural 01/03/2011.

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