Those of us “old school” Democrats have been encouraged by someone who has to be considered the true Democratic leader of the Party and his accomplishments in office. No, I am not referring to President Obama. I believe that Gov. Jerry Brown of California is the real head of the Party, at least in terms of policy and practice.
Inheriting a State that virtually mirrored the Country President Obama inherited when he was elected, Brown has accomplished what we all hoped for from President Obama. California was teetering on the edge of an economic collapse, the product of years of Republican economic policies. There was rampant unemployment, a decimated education system and record deficits. He inherited a State government bitterly divided along partisan lines. In short, California was a microcosm of the country and the dysfunctional government that President Obama inherited.
Of course there are some important differences between getting things done in State governments from the Federal government, but how Jerry Brown turned around California is an example of using Democratic Party principles in practice and with the leadership required. Whereas President Obama went to Wall St. to get advisors to get out of the mess Wall St. created, Gov. Brown went outside the revolving door of bankers. President Obama passed a tepid economic stimulus package. Brown went at it like a modern day FDR. Obama got the banks back on track, but left the unemployed behind. California now has one of the most employed States in the Country.
Brown ended the political patronization system of budgeting, killed as many Democratic golden gooses as Republican ones, and raised taxes on millionaires, whereas Obama has allowed more taxes to be assessed against the middle class than millionaires. Like Sherman’s march to the sea, Brown was less concerned about his legacy than in winning the war.
Republicans huff and puff about California’s high taxes, but they are speaking to their constituents: billionaires. Most people in California are paying less taxes and Brown has begun to target corporate tax loop-holes that have allowed an estimated $1 trillion in sales without taxes. This will fund one of the most ambitious infrastructure construction campaigns since the 1950s.
Democrats huff and puff about how the improved economy has benefitted California, but that benefit would have never been realized without Brown’s ability to increase taxes on the wealthiest. There is also an argument to be made that California’s resurgence has done as much to lift the national economy as vice versa. Throughout it all, Gov. “Moonbeam” (as he used to be called) exercised a quality sorely lacking in D.C., namely … leadership.