Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown, Aesop’s fable and going ‘toe to toe on aphorisms’

The stream of literature from which Gov. Jerry Brown has drawn to make a point in recent years runs deep and wide, from Michel de Montaigne and King Charles III of Spain to the book of Genesis and, in one State of the State address, “The Little Engine that Could.”

On Friday, Brown offered this: Aesop’s fable of the ant and the grasshopper.

In the fable, which Brown reprinted and attached to his most recent spending proposal, a grasshopper fails one summer to prepare for upcoming, colder months, while a dutiful ant stores food. In the winter, the grasshopper starves while the ant thrives.

For Brown, who is preparing to tussle over the state budget with more liberal Democratic lawmakers, the fable is a useful tale.

“I’m trying, in whatever way I can, to indicate that getting ready for a downturn is something that people for thousands of years have thought about, and for thousands of years, people have made mistakes and not gotten ready,” Brown told reporters at the Capitol. “So I’m really trying to frame the challenge in the long history of human beings and their foibles and their mistakes.”

Aesop, he said, “has some credibility.”

There are other Aesop fables, of course. A social service advocate preparing to negotiate with the Brown administration might find inspiration in “The Miser and His Gold.”

There are other storytellers, too. In the hallway after Brown spoke, Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, said it is “penny-wise and pound-foolish” to save money on health care programs that can result in increased hospitalization and other costs.

Of Brown, he said, “We can go toe to toe on aphorisms.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders