Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 18 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/26/14

Jerry Brown's Service to the Gilded State

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   2 comments
Message Norman Solomon
Become a Fan
  (25 fans)

Cross-posted from America AlJazeera

California governor's return to Sacramento has disappointed

California Gov. Jerry Brown
Copyrighted Image? DMCA

Forty months after returning to the governor's office that he left in 1983, Jerry Brown is a media favorite and a hero to much of the California establishment. The present-day governor wins accolades as a highly skilled politician who has put the Golden State's fiscal house in order while reviving its can-do spirit.

Brown deserves the gratitude of powerful economic elites. But for others, especially the powerless and vulnerable, it's a very different story.

The governor insists on frugality in spending for social programs, while many millions of Californians continue to live in economic distress worsened by cutbacks in social services. Now instead of boosting aid, Brown wants to sock money away. Years of rising tax revenues have turned the state's huge budget deficit into a surplus, and this week the legislature is in special session to answer Brown's call for expansion of the state's rainy-day fund.

While Brown has shown a notable lack of urgency about repairing the state's badly frayed social safety net, he remains anxious to please Big Business. For instance, he has rebuffed proposals for new taxation of energy conglomerates. He continues to oppose a long-overdue oil severance tax, which could raise $1.5 billion per year for the state.

Among Brown's other good turns for the oil and gas industry is his support for its explosive practice of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. In March, when he delivered a speech to fellow Democrats at the state party's annual convention, many delegates chanted, "Ban fracking!" The California Democratic Party platform calls for a fracking moratorium, but the governor -- who has earned the nickname "Big Oil" Brown -- shows no sign of budging from his pro-fracking stance.

On some issues, Brown has cleared a low bar set by his Republican predecessors. For instance, he quickly improved policies on gay rights. At times he took risks to push better policies. An important achievement came when he promoted a temporary tax hike that voters approved in 2012.

But he has repeatedly disappointed -- and increasingly angered -- his party's progressive base, while helping pro-corporate Democrats in the legislature to move state politics rightward. Brown has effectively been reshaping the state's Democratic Party from the top down, turning some key aspects of its platform into little more than a wistful wish list.

A case in point is single-payer health care, also known as "Medicare for all" -- long a plank in the state party platform. A decade ago, California was at the cutting edge of efforts to enact single-payer. Twice, under Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Democratic-controlled legislature passed a single-payer plan. Both times Schwarzenegger vetoed it.

Soon after replacing him as governor, Brown conveyed to Democrats in the legislature that he didn't want to see a single-payer bill on his desk. Dutifully, the Democratic leadership made sure that no such legislation came to a floor vote.

When it comes to frugality, Brown has turned out to be rather selective.

His pro-worker rhetoric aside, Brown has also often shafted labor supporters. In 2012 he vetoed a bill to require decent working conditions for home health aides and other domestic workers,citing "consequences both unknown and unintended."

Such action is an unwelcome change from his previous tenure. As a young governor in the 1970s, Brown was a strong ally of downtrodden farmworkers. But these days, he is much more aligned with the downtrodders. In June 2011 he vetoed a bill that would have lowered the barriers faced by farmworkers trying to unionize. Thousands of United Farm Workers members and supporters protested by marching to the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento.

Since then, Brown has continued to side with growers against workers. In September 2012 he vetoed the Humane Treatment for Farm Workers Act, which aimed to ensure that agricultural workers would have access to minimum amounts of shade and water. The United Farm Workers pointed out that Brown's decision "continues the policy of giving animals more protections than those currently offered to farm workers."

The governor is pushing to build a pair of gigantic tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to move vast amounts of fresh water south for the benefit of big agricultural firms and real estate developers. Environmentalists warn of enormous damage to wild and scenic rivers. Estimates now put the project's ultimate cost at $51 billion to $67 billion. When it comes to frugality, Brown has turned out to be rather selective.

Given his record, few eyebrows are raised now as Brown caters to rich elites. So it seemed par for his course when he recently appointed and reappointed regents to the University of California system with no academic experience but with extensive wealth and power.

Nor are observers surprised anymore when he makes yet another move to resist efforts by federal judges to ease inhumane conditions in California's severely overcrowded prison system. Irked by documentation of seriously inadequate health care behind bars, Brown complained last year, "We've got hundreds of lawyers wandering around the prisons looking for problems."

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Rate It | View Ratings

Norman Solomon Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Norman Solomon is cofounder and national coordinator of He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 Democratic National Convention and is currently a coordinator of the relaunched Bernie Delegates Network. (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Clinton's Transition Team: A Corporate Presidency Foretold

The Growing Campaign to Revoke Obama's Nobel Peace Prize

Is MSNBC Now the Most Dangerous Warmonger Network?

Obama's Escalating War on Freedom of the Press

Obama's Speech, Translated into Candor

The Long Road to Impeaching Trump Just Got Shorter

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend