Jerry Brown’s Budget: We Can Do Much Better!

An Important Preamble

We as the human species really have one job on our to-do list, one responsibility, and that is to take care of the next generation. This means not just our kids or kids of people close to us, but the kids of the species. Everything else is secondary. Fortunately, we can live happy and meaningful lives while we’re handling this basic responsibility. As a matter of fact, that might be the only way we’ll be happy! As current times show, when we aren’t doing such a great job taking care of the next generation, we are likely to be leading lives filled with fear, resentment, excuses, and scapegoating.

We in California have power in this quest to set things up well for future generations across the planet. We have been looked up to in the past, not just for Hollywood but also for our education system. There is no reason our school system should be deteriorating. The current budget proposal is hailed by its author Governor Brown as turning a corner toward balanced budgets and better funding for education, but before we say, “Hail to the chief!” let’s take a moment to think about what we really want in California, and see how far we are from having that.

“We want him to win big!”

When I ran as the Green Party candidate for Governor in 2010, Jerry Brown won, easily, by 13 points. A friend asked his fellow voters, since there was no worry about Brown winning, would they please vote Green if that’s where their values really were – social justice, nonviolence, healthy environment, grassroots democracy and candidates who walk their talk by taking no corporate money. People responded, “We know Brown is going to win, but we want him to win big!” Same thing happened with Obama in 2012. People said, “We know Obama is going to win California, but we want him to win the popular vote in the country.”

“Who Are Our Champions?”

OK, so Brown won in 2010 and Obama won in 2012. They won, and won big, and yet why aren’t we happy with them? It reminds me of a plaintive question from the back of the room at a California Budget Project conference, “Who are our champions?” Apparently our “winners” are not our “champions.” They do not champion our causes. Why?

Pressure and Support

There is a basic approach in negotiating an agreement, whether it’s among peers, between parent and child, or between voters and candidates. Don’t “support” them by giving them everything they want and then expect they’ll do what you want! (Can I get a “Duh!”)

Elected officials have lots of pressures to deal with, and if voters vote for them no matter what they do (excusing their past behavior by saying at least they’re better than the other one), the elected officials would bow not to the voters, but to the pressures of the corporations who fund their political parties and campaigns. The people who decide how to allocate their candidate-purchasing funds do not say, “Oh well, you tried!” They will lower your pay. With voters, our elected officials just devise, issue by issue, a way to tell us what a great job they’re doing for us! They will remind us that, “Politics is the art of the possible,” and imply that, unfortunately, what we want and need for the future generations and ourselves is just not possible in this political climate. “This is the best that could possibly have been done!”

Jerry Brown vs. California

This leads us to Jerry “Look at what a great job I’m doing!” Brown. He is without question the most powerful political figure in California, so much so that it’s hard to figure who comes in second. And although he has responded to pressure, he had the power to do much more than he did. Last year he brought down the real Millionaires Tax and then began using the same name for his watered-down Prop 30. That was the focus of my blog “No Corporate Money vs. Jerry Brown”

The annual Forbes list of the richest people in America should come out in the next few months, and we’ll see if the progression continues. In 2011 the state had 85 billionaires and I put that on a sign and carried it to rallies until the new list came out in 2012 and I had to revise the sign to read 94 billionaires. The economy was improving, for a few! (See also blog

That’s where the money is – in the hands of the super-rich and their corporations. Jerry Brown is calling it a success that he allowed a tiny chip to be taken out of the huge cuts that he and his predecessor Schwarzenegger presided over during the past several years. There are lots of taxes that could be implemented; lots of proposals are in the pipeline; voters just gave the Jerry Brown and his Titanic party super-majorities in both houses of the legislature; and so what will our Gatekeeper-in-Chief allow to progress?

What can we do about it?

We have lots of power, and nobody knows that better than the 1%. There’s a lot we can do, and one of them is to join with the No Corporate Money campaign that you will hear more about – from grassroots sources not mainstream media – in the coming months. When we have 1 or 2 or a majority in our governmental bodies, No Corporate Money candidates will champion regular people and our next generation without having to toe the line and bow to pressure from corporations. Which reminds me of a third blog for you to check out,

There are many other things that we can do, and that we are doing. We won’t stop strategizing for change, organizing, using the power we already have, using our wallets according to our values, taking to the streets, taking to the voting booth, whatever it takes to take care of the next generation, and ourselves in the process. And we know we can lead happy and meaningful lives too.


“No Corporate Money” vs. Jerry Brown

The year 2013 is beginning, and the new “No Corporate Money” campaign is beginning as well, aiming for the California primary on June 3, 2014. We’re planning to win.

We have not yet decided whether to run a candidate for Governor. Jerry Brown will undoubtedly run and win in 2014. Although many Californians do know the behind-the-scenes Jerry, many do not.

We will run to win in other offices. We will ensure that the people of California can pressure Jerry Brown in a way his cronies never will.

Jerry Brown is the most powerful political figure in California, and it’s hard to even think of who comes in second. If Brown used his power on the side of regular people – the 99% – he would have a much better record than he has. Even his claims of victories ring hollow when you look behind the curtain and see how much better the victories could have been.

The good news is that when you look behind the curtain you also see: people can pressure Jerry Brown!

The Tax-The-Rich movement moved Brown. In 2011 his tax idea was to continue the Schwarzenegger taxes, including a 1 percent sales tax increase among other regressive taxes. In early 2012 Brown’s first tax initiative had a smaller sales tax increase of 1/2 percent and some faintly progressive income tax hikes. By March 2012, Brown was forced to change his initiative, further reducing the sales tax component to 1/4 percent (should have been zero) and proposing somewhat more progressive income tax hikes.

Jerry Brown’s problem with his first tax initiative was that some unions did not toe the line with him, notably the California Federation of Teachers (CFT). They gathered signatures for an opposing tax initiative, the Millionaires Tax, which raised more money, increased income tax rates on brackets over a million dollars, and had no sales tax increase. The CFT was working with the Tax-The-Rich movement that included Occupy activists especially Occupy Education students who had just completed the March 1st to 5th actions across the state; democratize-the-unions activists; organizations like California Calls, ACCE and the Courage Campaign; and independent political parties like the Green Party and Peace and Freedom.

Polls showed that the real Millionaires Tax was beating Jerry Brown’s tax measure. Jerry Brown decided to compromise. He called in the union leaders, weakened their proposal, beefed his up a little, and halved the sales tax increase again, to 1/4 percent. And although it no longer fit for the compromise Proposition 30, he kept the name “Millionaires Tax.”

California can pressure Sacramento by essentially electing the cabinet. The “No Corporate Money” campaign will run candidates in the executive seats around the Governor, especially seats without incumbents: Secretary of State, Treasurer, and Controller. We will run for legislative seats and local offices too.

We want to win; we plan to win, and we can win. California now has a unique chance with the new Top Two primary system. Historically “Top Two” favored incumbents and highly funded (meaning corporate-funded) candidates; ironically it also affords voters an opportunity to crack this system. Any voter can vote for any candidate regardless of political party, and so toss the much-promoted idea of “spoiling elections” out of your head. Your vote for a “No Corporate Money” candidate does not help the candidate you dislike the most.

We – the people – can win.

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