'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Trust Fund Governor 

People may not realize it, but California Governor Jerry Brown was a trust fund kid before the term became commonly known. Son of former Governor Pat Brown, a man who should rightly be praised for his defense of leftists like Harry Bridges, his opposition to the internment and his commutation of death sentences, the world was open to him, the seminary, UC Berkeley, Yale Law School, studies in Central America and a clerkship with California Supreme Court Justice Matthew Tobriner. He was certainly talented, as he has demonstrated, but as a son of social and financial privilege, he was able to take advantage of opportunities that the rest of us can only imagine.

Furthermore, Brown cultivated an austere demeanor in marked contrast to the profligate stereotype associated with trust fund kids. Paradoxically, it has been this ascetic nature, the reverse side of the trust fund kid coin, that reveals his commonality with his spendthrift brethren, as both are expressions of the freedom from scarcity that defines trust fund status. Accordingly, he has always displayed an insensitivity towards those who depend upon the assistance of others, including the government, for their day to day survival and possible social advancement.

We first encountered it when Brown cynically criticized the Great Society when he ran for governor in 1974, and, then, upon his election, engaged in the small is beautiful exhibitionism of driving a Plymouth and living in a small apartment across for the capital. If everyone lived like me, he seemed to say, they would recognize that poverty is merely a state of mind that can be easily exorcised. Such was the implication of his notorious statement that public sector workers, suffering from the stagflation of the 1970s, should be satisfied with psychic income instead of real material improvements in their lives through collective bargaining.

Now, it is obvious that Jerry Brown 2.0 is merely a variation of the original release. He has balanced the budget on the backs of the poor and education, carrying out the Schwarzenegger blueprint more effectively by eschewing financial public relations gimmicks. He coerced public sector unions to agree to new collective bargaining agreements by and large on terms proposed by Schwarzenegger, and he is now proposing a pension reform substantially based upon increasing the age of retirement for full benefits for new hires to 67 and opening the door to private fund management of some employee contributions. Not surprisingly, prison guards and police officers are exempted from this essentially Republican inspired proposal.

And then, today, Brown released his proposed state budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year:

Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday proposed more deep cuts to state welfare programs and Medi-Cal next fiscal year, and warned that spending on schools, universities and courts will be reduced by billions if California voters refuse to pass his tax plan in November.

Assuming the tax plan is passed, funding for higher education and courts would remain steady while K-12 schools would get an increase. But if lawmakers approve Brown's plan, spending on the state's welfare-to-work program would be slashed by nearly $1 billion, child care subsidies would be eliminated for 71,000 children and there would be deep reductions to publicly-funded health care.

These are painful reductions - mothers and kids will be getting same welfare check in real dollars that they got in 80's, and the same for the elderly, blind and disabled, Brown said. These are not nice cuts, but that's what it takes to balance the budget.

Jerry Brown has never had kids, never had to rely upon the public educational system for his education, never had to worry about getting retrained in order to reenter the workforce and never had to confront being sick with little or no money. No wonder he displays such a lack of understanding about the struggle of millions of people in this state to stay off the streets, feed themselves and educate their children. He remains, as he has always been, a self-absorbed trust fund kid incapable of maintaining any personal bond with the lived experience of the majority of people in this state. As for the rest of us, there are the haunting words of that prescient Sex Pistols song, No Future.

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