Monthly Archives: January 2010

Obama’s Rush to the Economic Right: Will Sacramento Follow Suit?

Taking in President Obama’s state of the Union speech while frying patty melts for his kids, one thing struck the Blue Dog big time: Obama came out of the gates running for the center. In fact, his momentum seemed to carry him across the line and into Republican territory on jobs and the economy. Obamas’s most surprising, and apparently sincere, admission that business is still the engine that drives the economy was refreshing and even startling. Good for him. And let’s hope the Republicans find it in themselves to work with him instead of trying to sabotage the country for political gain in November.

And Obama should get credit for stabilizing the economy and starting to clean up the crap left by the previous Administrations. But his claims of jobs creation, however, rang a bit hollow. After all, the avalanche of recovery funds have chiefly been absorbed in protecting public sector jobs. In fact, the Stimulus Project suggests as much as 75 percent of the mega funds have gone to entitlements and government works.

Saving taxpayer-funded jobs ain’t the same thing as creating jobs. Government may employ people, but it doesn’t create the underlying wealth and new revenue. It absorbs, redistributes and transfers wealth. And yes, it plays a critical role in curbing private-sector abuse. This is all the subject of a whole different conversation. The point here is that government jobs are the offspring of taxpayers and especially the loins of business.

One wonders if the liberals in Sacramento heard Obama. Or were they too busy watching Nancy Pelosi and Joe Binden grin ear to ear as if they had just sipped the Kool-Aid or were in on the same joke?  One worries if the California Left really does get it. Here’s a classic example: A few months ago, there was a “Jobs Summit” held in Sacramento to explore  ways to create jobs. According the press account, there was an array of traditional Democratic stakeholders — labor, public employees unions, government, academics, think tanks and the like. But guess what? No mention of the economic engine Obama talked about. Apparently business wasn’t important enough to have a seat at the table. Never mind business is the table, as Obama pointed out in his speech.

We are in big trouble if this “summit” mentality mirrors the current mindset in the Capitol, a notorious Slaughterhouse for pro-business and private sector job growth initiatives. Growing business is serious business, and is getting more urgent. Consider that California’s nearly 13 percent unemployment rate is nearly as high (about 2 points less) than Michigan, which has been decimated by the gasping auto industry.

Obama called on policy grounded in “common sense”  and post partisanship. Whether this can happen in DC is anyone’s guess. Here in Sacramento, the stakes are higher and the divisions perhaps even greater in terms partisan rancor.

Nonetheless, let’s think big, and positively. So here’s a call — albeit a naive one –  from the millions of silent Centrists who would love to see the following from the California Legislature:

(1) Make private sector job creation its number one priority. And that doesn’t mean hiding behind the long-term dream of  “green job creation” at the same time regulations and laws are passed to ban products, shut down what manufacturing is left, hamstring farmers, mandate bureaucratic reporting of information that is already readily available just to curry favor with special interests and activists groups, etc.

(2) Steinberg and Perez should each reach across the aisle and name a moderate, respected Republican in each house as a Job Czar, who would serve as advisors on job-related legislation.

(3)  Run every bill through an economic filter with analysis from an independent third-party group of economists — as well as from Capitol staff and their bosses.

(4) Create a legislative Siberia for any bill that creates a new program or bureaucracy.   State office buildings already are littered with programs that don’t have adequate funding.

The Blue Dog likes to start from the ideal and work backwards, lowering expectations as we go. So let’s think big. Sacramento Dems – take a page from the Democrat in Chief. Create an environment friendly for jobs growth and you’ll ultimately have plenty of tax revenue to address the many ominous ills in our state.

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What Scott Brown Means for Jerry Brown, et al

Depending on your pundit, Scott Brown’s stunning ascension to Ted Kennedy’s vacant Massachusetts Senate congressional seat is either a crippling defeat for the Democrats or a harbinger that Republicans will soon hold sway throughout the nation.

In reality, these are both oversimplifications and miss the point. From this Left Coast moderate perch, Brown’s surprise win is a victory for the great swath of independents and moderates who cut through both sides of the aisle.

What moderates lack in colorful political personalities and a party all their own, we make up for with a nasty habit of abruptly slamming on the brakes when we see either fringe taking control of the wheel. President Clinton learned this. So did Newt Gingrich. This is what seems to have just sent shockwaves through the nation’s political circles.

Anyone listening? There is a reason the nation’s fastest growing political force is gathering around the independent, moderate center. We may not have the power to hold conventions and catapult candidates out of the primaries. But we serve as critical check-and-balance calibrators and defiant momentum changers.

Massachusetts’ liberal base is legendary. So there is no denying Brown’s victory sends a powerful signal. But is it one Senator Barbara Boxer will understand or heed? If she exhibits the entitlement mentality and arrogance displayed by Democrats along the Eastern seaboard and in DC . . . she could well be toast. No matter what, the likes of Carly Fiorina and  Tom Campbell should suddenly feel very, very emboldened.

In the race for Arnold’s seat, Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner will have to look over their shoulders as they pander to the Republican’s hardcore right. It seems Jerry Brown would do well to take advantage of being unchallenged (for a race he hasn’t officially entered) and stake out centerfield while his adversaries charge wildly to right before trying to veer back to the middle post June.

The moderate pendulum is not just swinging, but rather assertively at that. November is suddenly getting interesting.

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What’s Your S.O.S.?

Governor Schwarzenegger delivered his final State of the State (SOS) address this morning. It was a mixed bag. Sober reality check. Wistful glorification of California’s can-do spirit. A vague, punch-drunk plan of attack for rescuing California.Protecting education, cutting prisons, tax breaks. They all sound wonderful. How this stacks up with financial and political reality is highly suspect. But give the Governor credit for connecting the dots and trying to move ahead in the face of insurmountable odds.

Depending on your viewpoint and situation, S.O.S. can mean a lot of things.

* For castaways desperate for salvation, it’s the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass – “Save Our Souls.”

* For soldiers sick of canteen food, it’s “Sh*! on a Shingle.”

* For cynics in the capitol press corps and in The Building, it’s “Same of Sh@#.”

* For liberals, to paraphrase Democratic ex-Speaker Karen Bass, it’s “Save our Shreds” of what is now the social safety net.

* For Arnold, it boiled down to the “Same Optimistic Speech.”

The Blue Dog thinks it was very well-written and delivered pretty well. But the feel-good tone evaporated minutes after the speech . . . just inventory the pitiful track record of a Centrist Governor sandwiched between too-far right Republicans and the dominant left-wing Liberals. They are all talking about collaboration now. But as Sacramento political pundit Steve Swatt so nicely put it: “By summer the olive branches will be fire wood.”

Achieving some measure of budget reform should now be Governor Schwarzenegger’s drumbeat to a proud legacy, It’s a worthy goal and the Governor should be applauded for that. The Legislature should, but of course, won’t, do anything meaningful or visionary to help him.  After all, a broken system cannot fix itself.

Yes, Governor, California is a wonderful place indeed. But her glow has faded and she can’t rely on her looks any more. The fresh-faced beauty queen is now a haggard middle-aged woman with missing teeth and a crack pipe in her hand.  Optimism alone is not going to change that fact.

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