So I’ve been emailing my friends in Sacramento as they get ready to come back into session, and one of my big issues, as noted before, over at WoC, is “what do folks think of Cruz”. My informal poll – one elected, three staffers, and a journalist elicits two basic themes:
1) Not the sharpest tool in the shed (“box of rocks” was used, but I think that person was a bit overwrought);
2) Enmeshed in the special-interest culture.
His trial balloon – cut the car tax while raising cigarette taxes and taxes on the wealthy – doesn’t exactly rock my world. Increasing “sin taxes” to unsustainable levels can only raise so much, and encourages the state to injure it’s citizens by promoting the sins (lotto, gaming) in order to get the revenue. The 44,000 California millionaires can only pay so much in taxes before they all join Ken Layne and move to Reno. What will we do then?
Weintraub had a great column on the state’s overdependence on tax income from the wealthy 0.5%:
Nobody knows how those wealthy taxpayers would react to such an increase. If they stayed in California, and didn’t change their behavior, the state treasury and those who rely on it for services would be better off. And certainly a tax increase of a few thousand dollars on someone making a half-million a year would seem unlikely to drive them from the state.
But if the increase prompted just a few thousand of the wealthiest taxpayers to flee California, then the revenue decline it would cause could make the past year’s drop seem mild. The truth is you could put thousands of laborers to work at good wages and probably not compensate for the lost income tax from one departed millionaire.
Even if it worked as intended, raising taxes on the wealthy would push California out on a fiscal limb that everyone already knows is weak. Had the higher rates been law during the late 1990s, the revenue growth the state experienced would have been even greater. And the decline, when it came, would have been even steeper.
Going further in that direction would make the state’s masses even more reliant on the good fortune of a few than they are today. And as the last few years have shown, in the long term that can be a very risky proposition.
So it looks like my support, at least, is up for grabs (and I’m guessing that I’m pretty typical), and if Arnie does a few things right – he’ll get it.
He did one right thing today; he got prominent investor and Democrat Warren Buffett to agree to act as his fiscal advisor. His presence raises some interesting issues, since CALPRS and CALSTRS, the large public employee and teacher’s pension funds doubtless are deeply intertwined with Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett’s investment company.
Here’s what I see as his “issues” and some quick steps he could take to make them go away.
Arnie is a rich white guy who lives in Brentwood, and makes his living in an industry that has lots of minorities everywhere except the executive suites.
He supported Prop. 187.
It won’t be hard to paint him as a guy who sees Latinos as gardeners and blacks as drivers. His own history of rising from a penniless immigrant won’t protect him against that, and in the key suburban counties in Southern California and the Bay Area – where the soccer mom and dad votes are – many moderates will be turned off if he’s seen as Pete Wilson redux (more on that in a moment).
He can easily immunize himself against that; to do so, he needs to do three things:
1) Find his own Condi Rice and Colin Powell. There are smart ethnic neoliberals in California, and there ought to be a few of them publicly advising Arnie from key strategy and policy roles. Let’s get this done next week, please. I’ll do some digging and propose some names over the next day or so.
2) Come up with his own message to the Latin and Black communities. Talk about how he wants to create real lasting opportunities for them in education (where he has some track record) and small business and jobs. Talk about what he’ll do to reduce what racial barriers may exist, and how he’ll challenge their kids to meet high, rather than low, expectations. Talk about how they in their communities are the most vulnerable to crime, and how he’ll work with progressive law enforcement to make sure that murders in South-Central get investigated as aggressively as those in Brentwood.
3) Take the message to the media that will reach the communities – go on KKBT and talk to Steve Harvey (hell, make him one of your advisers). Go on KSCA and KSSE and don’t wait to be challenged on the issue, take your case to the public and put it to rest.
John F Kennedy once said about experience
“One hundred years ago Abraham Lincoln was not running on a platform of experience. It was clear that his opponent had far greater experience, as Lincoln’s experience was confined to a few obscure years in the House of Representatives. But the country was then suffering from a President with experience, James Buchanan, who had been Congressman, Senator, Ambassador, and Secretary of State. He had been in public service for almost 42 years.
Herbert A. Garth, the historian, has written, and he mistakenly believed that he had been learning all the time [laughter], “I don’t think experience necessarily counts” [applause].
The three great qualities which characterized Lincoln’s Presidency were leadership, courage, and foresight, the three qualities that the next President of the United States is going to need in full measure if this country is going to meet the challenges at home and abroad.”
Your case to the public is that those three qualities – the ability to lead and unite the people of California in facing the severe problems we face today; the courage to challenge the web of special interests that has bound our state like Gulliver in Lilliput; and the foresight to create and sell a dream of what California can become – are qualities that you have. Can you show them?
More than anything else, this recall election is about people’s disgust with the machinations of interest group politics, in which unions, businesses, and other large interest groups manage to tilt the table so that they get what they are looking for and the state as a whole suffers.
You have to oppose that, and start to explain how electing you will start the painful process of breaking that machine.
This is shorthand for ‘immunity to sleaze’. You have two answers to that – your wife, who needs to take the issue on publicly as your proxy – demonstrating that whatever you may have done, it was done within the context of a permanent and loving relationship; and people you have done business with for years who ought to be able to testify as to your reliability and willingness to build and work within long-standing relationships. If you can’t make those two things happen, this is going to be a large hole through which you will take water.
The news today is all about your dependency on Pete Wilson and his core group of advisers. If Davis or Bustamante can paint you as a ‘pretty face on Pete Wilson’s politics‘, you’re in trouble. You shouldn’t run against the GOP, but you have to make it clear that you transcend traditional California partisanship.
There are a couple of disaffected Democrats out there you ought to be able to capture, and you not only need their endorsement, you need them to be seen visibly working as a part of your policy and campaign team.
That’s a start. There’ll be more over the next few days.