Gov. Brown’s 3D chess game leads to timid politics

Gov. Brown’s 3D chess game leads to timid politics

Brown JerryIf you believe Jerry Brown is a governing genius, then forgive me for laughing until I injure myself. What I think is that he’s scary shrewd at managing the narrative, at keeping people in the dark about what he’s really up to. Sometimes he uses this skill in welcome ways.

The gov knows the bullet train doesn’t make sense, but he can’t bail on it without infuriating key constituencies. So maybe just maybe he tells this to AG Kamala Harris, who wants to be his successor, and then what happens? The state appears to try to lose in the court fight over the project’s legality.

That’s pretty cool if true. Good for Jer. But sometimes his 3D chess is solely about making him look good, not serving the public interest. Here’s part of my U-T San Diego editorial:

“… Brown is right: The state needs a ballot initiative that would create a ‘rainy day’ fund to limit the damage from boom-and-bust budget cycles caused by oscillating revenue. …

“But Brown’s proposal has a huge fundamental flaw. If it becomes law, money in the fund could be tapped at any time after a majority vote of the Legislature and an ’emergency’ declaration by the governor.

“Such loopholes have long doomed similar fiscal protections in California and other states. Many lawmakers don’t want to make tough decisions on budget matters and operate from a self-serving, short-term perspective: What will get me re-elected? …

“The governor knows this. He’s been watching Sacramento in action for more than a half-century. He realizes that courage is not a defining characteristic of Assembly and Senate members.

“So what is Brown up to? From his short-term perspective, touting this proposal gives him one more chance to burnish his media image as a tightwad in a capital full of spenders — and when he’s seeking re-election, too.

“Proposing such an easily gamed reform to such a big ongoing problem suggests members of the Legislature aren’t the only ones with a courage deficit.”

After his 99.4% likely re-election, Brown in theory could be crazy-ambitious with what he tries to accomplish in his last term. I wonder if he’ll shoot for the moon or settle for just being scary shrewd.

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