Advising Arnie

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.
1. Race.
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.
2. Experience
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.
3. Character
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.
4. Partisanship
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.

14 thoughts on “Advising Arnie”

  1. Advising Ah-nold

    Over at Armed Liberal, I’ve started what I think will be a series of posts advising Ah-nold on how to lock up my support (and the support of the tens of thousands of Californians like…

  2. How about a salary cut to say 1998 levels, or at least a cola elimination on state employees. Everyone in the private sector is vulnerable to a reduction in wages in tough times; why are public employees immune?
    Why are the only choices are raising taxes or cutting services. What about getting the same services for less.

  3. What about Ueberroth? He had a quote on Tuesday(?) that I thought you would like regarding bipartisanship and he has a history of facing challenges well.
    Aside from the issue of electability, what do you think?

  4. Matthew,
    In answer to your question, I have three words: public sector unions. More to the point, public sector unions fund and support Democrats. I believe Davis tried to renegotiate with the unions, but was unsuccessful. Unless the unions choose to renegotiate, the State is stuck with the contract per the US Constitution’s Contracts Clause.
    I can *sort of* see the unions’ point, inasmuch as public sector workers went without pay increases in the last downturn. But if you want to follow the money, look at the increase in pension payments.

  5. Ann –
    Two things re Uberroth: a) he doesn’t have a chance at breaking the logjam – he doesn’t have Panetta political connections or Arnie’s direct pipeline to the state’s voters; b) this isn;t something you can be diffident about, and his entry into the race was the picture of diffidence.
    Matthew –
    What Ann said. I have a super-secret plan (actually, it’s so blindingly obvious it’s probably wrong) about what Arnie should do about this, but I’ll save it for the next post.

  6. “How about a salary cut to say 1998 levels, or at least a cola elimination on state employees. Everyone in the private sector is vulnerable to a reduction in wages in tough times; why are public employees immune?”
    1. Because we don’t get stock options, year-end bonuses, etc. in the good times like my friends in the private sector do.
    2. We don’t get COLAs – we get whatever the governor & legislature agree to, which is often 0%. For example, last year the state agreed to pick up the employee’s share of the retirement contribution in exchange for not giving us a raise. This year, the state stopped paying our contribution in exchange for a 5% raise which, after taxes, will probably mean a reduction in take-home pay. Now Davis wants to take away the 5% too.
    3. If you want to go after excessive salary and retirement increases, focus on the safety employees (CHP, prison guards, etc.). The rest of us got lower increases under Davis and were hammered under Wilson, while the safety employees made out like bandits no matter who was in charge.

  7. Sin taxes… Hmmm. How about just legalize prostitution? Porn Industry? Ripe, you might say… MissCarey – Don’t want to see her BlockBusters, or BallBusters, but HEY! How about Miss Behavin’? All of this, of course, is with MY tongue in MY cheek, because I think the PornIndustry sucks, and that’s more than literal. Anybody want to touch THAT with a 10′ POLL?

  8. James –
    I’m genuinely curious…given a choice between 5 – 10% rollbacks in salary and benefts, and a 5% – 7% cut in emplyees, how would you vote?? (note that I know that neither one is a desirable choice, and I’m not suggesting that we could cut 5% of the State’s employees without serious effect)
    That’s the real choice the public unions will have to make in the coming year; the interesting problem for them is that the political fallout of making the wrong choice (and I don’t yet know which one that is) will be immense…

  9. A.L.,
    I’d much rather take the cut in employees than a cut in pay, but I’m not in any real danger. The notice Davis recently sent out only applied to people with less than 30 months of state service.
    Not that the union would listen to me – I refuse to join; even though they started pulling $43/month in “fair share” fees from my paycheck as soon as Davis became governor (talk about an incestuous relationship).
    My bet is the union will choose a pay cut because that option will have less of an impact (virtually none?) on their revenue.

  10. Arnold Update

    ARNOLD UDPATE….A few miscellaneous musings about the Arnold campaign: Hugh Hewitt claims that “some Sacramento whispers have AS’s internal polls approaching 60%.” That sounds like a big stretch to me, but I thought I’d pass it along anyway. Armed Lib…

  11. Matthew King said, “Why are the only choices are raising taxes or cutting services. What about getting the same services for less.”
    That is a great theory….but it’ll never happen. The public workers have ‘union mentality’. The friggin’ state can go bankrupt and they can lose their jobs, but they’ll never take a pay cut. Not anywhere in the equation. If everything was cut 60%, expenses and salaries, etc.,…..California would be ‘closer’ to being back in ‘reality’. The price of a home is obscene…..right on down the line. Want to have a decent economy? Get back to the ‘real’ world. For what it cost the average CA resident to buy a house, they could live like a king in the normal parts of the US. When that real estate market pops…….it’s gonna take a tidal wave of people with it. Hocked to the hilt, to live in a friggin’ shanty….fight the traffic….pay the taxes….pay the insurance…..victimized by the crime…..intertained by the ‘colorful’ little liberals that have flocked out of the ‘closet’. I must agree, it’s damn tempting…..but I think I’ll pass.
    I was just passing through, so flames will be of no use. Have a nice fiscal year.

  12. leave arnold alone he is only trying to run an election without a parade of interest groups gone wild, besides how can you be so against mr. buffet?

  13. Wow..interesting thread here. You all are mighty quick to cut someone elses pay to finance “services.” And while those services may be important, so is buying the groceries, paying the mortgage and clothing the kids in a world that is increasingly more expensive, not less. I was especially fond of the notion of cutting the safety employees pay. When you talk of these things you should be considering that State Safety employees are not the highest paid in their profession. In fact, they run somewhere slightly above the middle. Now, these are the people that are supposed to pull you out of burning buildings, take on the terrorists, catch the robbers, provide emergency medical assistance and stand between you and harms way. Okay, stay with me now…do you really wish to be the lowest bidder for vital services? Sure, if you get in trouble in Los Angeles or Fresno, there will be well paid professionals to come to your aid, but do you really want the rescuers that respond to your emergency on the freeway to come from the minimally qualified crowd that gets the lower paying jobs because the best candidates have been swept up elsewhere? And before you start speaking disparagingly about prison guards, I suggest you spend thirty seconds performing their very dangerous and thankless job. State prisons house the worst of the worst offenders, many of whom have nothing left to lose. Try spending 40 hours a week in such company. I think they earn every dime. I guess what I am saying here is that it is awfully easy to sit in your safe computer room and judge the needs of others, but in the process you should broaden your view to the potential consequences of the available choices and how you would feel if those choices were pointed at your own livelihood.

  14. Experience in Government is what put California in the position they are in.
    California needs more Arnolds and less experience.

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