Don’t Get Meg’d

Jan 29, 2011 No Comments

By Nik Dixit

To Californians, these sights are becoming alarmingly familiar. However, while few would disagree that our state is broken, giving up on it would be a mistake. So much hangs in the balance—on the environment, marriage equality, and the future of public education, California is at a crossroads. It’s more important than ever that we elect the right leaders to take us forward.

In this year’s race for governor, we couldn’t have two more different candidates. Democrat Jerry Brown offers the steady hand of experience, while Republican Meg Whitman is running as a political outsider. However, as a Californian and as a student, I believe Jerry Brown is the wiser choice. He has both the character and the ideas to revive California, while Meg Whitman fails on both counts.

One unshakeable constant throughout Jerry Brown’s life has been his commitment to public service. The son of a former governor, he began his career on the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees. Since then, he has served as a secretary of state, governor, mayor, and attorney general. While his record shows the strength of his character, it also has concrete implications. He has seen government from every angle, and has the relationships and experience to hit the ground running. He won’t need to learn on the job, and he’ll be guided by a genuine commitment to the public interest.

In contrast, Meg Whitman’s civic record has been spotty at best. She didn’t bother to vote for years, only recently became a regular voter. She claims she “had…things going on”, but so did millions of other Californians who nonetheless cast their ballots. Voting is a responsibility—thousands of Americans fought and suffered for the right, but Meg Whitman never cared to exercise it.

She claims her political inexperience is an advantage, but so did Governor Schwarzenegger, another “outsider” who has overseen record deficits. His tenure proves that one needs policies, not just personality, to succeed. Here again, Meg Whitman comes up short.

The centerpiece of her economic plan is a massive tax break for the wealthy, which is not only inequitable but also bad budgeting. Specifically, she hopes to eliminate the tax on capital gains, 82% of which go to the richest 1% of Californians. She completely ignores the fact that tax cuts cost money—in this case, $5 billion. Her plan will make our deficit even worse, and thus require cuts to basic public services like education. It’s no surprise that 20 economists (including 7 from UC Berkeley) called her proposals “deeply flawed” and said they would “deepen California’s budget crisis and…reduce unemployment”.

On the other hand, Jerry Brown has the ideas and the judgment to guide our economy forward.  We don’t even have to speculate about his performance; we have an empirical record from his prior two terms. Call him quirky, but you can’t disagree with his results. As governor, he created 1.9 million jobs—more employment growth than any governor before or since. He was also a pioneer on several other fronts: he marched with Cesar Chavez, and he made California the leading state in green technology. He also passed a majority of his budgets on time, and he built up a record surplus. Jerry Brown not only has ideas about success, he has concrete experience creating it. If our state worked half as well now as it did under his leadership, we wouldn’t be the national laughingstock we are today.

Another area in which Meg Whitman fails is education. She supposedly wants to increase UC funding, but doing so while cutting taxes is impossible. Her specific plan is to spend $1 billion more, and offset the cost with amorphous welfare “savings”. Ignoring her plan’s inhumanity—it would shred our social safety net during the worst recession in decades—it is utterly infeasible. The Sacramento Bee examined her proposal, and concluded such “savings” simply do not exist. Accordingly, it described her plan as “mostly misleading”.

While Meg Whitman claims to be our friend, Jerry Brown is the true student candidate. A Berkeley graduate himself, he more than doubled UC and CSU funding as governor. He plans to help students again, as he has declared higher education one of his top priorities. He has specifically spoken out against recent fee hikes, and believes we need to stop them as soon as possible. The contrast couldn’t be more clear—while Meg Whitman wants to cut taxes for the wealthy, Jerry Brown believes education, from K-12 to our colleges and universities, should come first.

Meg Whitman’s had one year and $150 million to polish her image, but she can’t hide the truth. She has no experience in civic life, and she has dangerously misguided policies.

Jerry Brown, on the other hand, is exactly what we need. Just as he did in the past, he will strengthen our economy and begin the long process of rebuilding our schools. He’s the candidate we should support—as citizens, as Californians, and as students.

Fall 2010

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