Bruce Maiman: California Republicans badly need a new script

09/02/2014 12:00 AM

09/01/2014 8:00 PM

In January 2011, just days after Jerry Brown was sworn in as California’s 39th governor, Tom Del Beccaro, then the unopposed candidate for chairman of the California Republican Party, told supporters that “Democrats will bear the responsibility for what happens to our state, since they hold all the offices and a majority in the Legislature.”

Well, the state is turning itself around. Is Del Beccaro or any other past doomsayer giving at least some credit where it’s due?

Nope. In a recent piece he wrote for Forbes magazine’s website, also trumpeted by the Drudge Report, Del Beccaro peddles the same dog-eared bromides, which, sadly, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Neel Kashkari has latched onto like a bad chain email.

1. “Despite net losses of millions of residents to other states, California continues to grow through immigration,” Del Beccaro writes.

Wrong. As state and federal data show, from 2000 to 2013, while 1.7 million more people left California for other states than came to California from other states, California’s population grew 13 percent courtesy of 1.7 million international immigrants and 3.9 million more births than deaths.

And the migration wasn’t illegal. Despite a nationwide uptick in the number of illegal immigrants, California isn’t seeing an increase, a 2013 Pew Hispanic Center study reported. Instead, they are heading for the South and Midwest, including undocumented immigrants leaving California for those locales.

2. “California still has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates.”

The troglodytes love this one. George Will made a similar claim last month in a wishful-thinking column about Kashkari’s prospects. What they don’t tell you: California’s unemployment rate was 12.4 percent in 2010 and is 7.4 percent today. Should Democrats bear responsibility for that?

According to the California Economic Forecast, the state added 453,000 jobs in 2013 and is on a pace to add 355,000 jobs in 2014. By year’s end, California will have created 1.32 million jobs since 2010 after losing 1.2 million during the recession.

3. “California is home to a third of the nation’s welfare recipients.”

Based on what: Medicaid? Food stamps? Temporary Assistance for Needy Families? All three? Does a person receiving all three count as three people? In a 2013 email carelessly reported by Fox News, it does, but despite being debunked, it’s still a GOP talking point.

4. “California is ranked number one in poverty.”

Kashkari hits this repeatedly, but dig deeper. The U.S. Census Bureau has two annual metrics on poverty rates: the official measure in September and a supplemental one near year’s end. The supplemental measure takes into account the different costs to live in each state. The official measure doesn’t, but it holds the most authority.

California’s official poverty rate is 16.5 percent. Thirteen other states are worse, 11 of which are red states, including Texas. That’s right: Texas has a higher official poverty rate than California.

In the supplemental rate, yes, California is worst in the nation with 23.8 percent, but of the next nine, six are red states, including Texas. With California on track to add more than 800,000 jobs in two years, and heading for a $10-an-hour minimum wage, let’s see what changes take place.

In February 2012, Del Beccaro predicted that California’s ongoing budget problems and a failure to enact pension reform would be a “black eye” for Democrats in the November election. Since, lawmakers have twice balanced the budget covering daily expenses and replenished the treasury.

Not even a golf clap from Del Beccaro. Instead, he accuses Brown of signing “a huge tax increase” without mentioning that voters approved it by passing Proposition 30 while lawmakers were cutting spending. Del Beccaro argues that we’re emphasizing high-speed rail over water, yet lawmakers approved a state water bond for the November ballot that includes money for the first new state-funded dams and reservoirs in more than 30 years. Could that or the modest pension reforms of 2012 ever have happened five years ago?

I know things aren’t perfect. California still faces billions in unfunded pension liabilities. Pathetically, it took the worst drought in a generation for the Legislature to do its job on water.

But we were told California would become a failed state, like Greece. The closest we get to Greece is when Brown starts quoting Plato.

It’s not about cheering Brown or the Democrats, but if all Republicans have got is the fate of a train, which we don’t know, while ignoring the realities that we do know, they don’t have much to go on. Would it kill them to acknowledge the successes of their political opponents? At the very least, they could get some new material.

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