Trump could do worse than pick Abel Maldonado as ag secretary

On behalf of The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board, welcome to The Take, your opinion-politics newsletter. Please sign up for it here.

Our take


Why CalPERS and CalSTRS are wise to be cautious: The California Public Employees’ Retirement System has $303 billion in assets but is still only 68 percent funded to pay benefits to its 1.8 million members. It has been paying out $5 billion more a year in benefits than it’s receiving in contributions and investment returns, not a sustainable trend. Meanwhile, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System is only 69 percent funded for its 868,000 members, but its staff is proposing a new $181 million office tower.


Cheryl Dell: Visitors to Antarctica are not supposed to get too close the penguins, but there’s no rule about them approaching you. One gentoo penguin seemed as curious about me as I was about him.


Roberta MacGlashan and Don Nottoli: Homelessness on the American River Parkway is far more complex than how many citations are issued.

Joe Mathews: To make progress on the big problems, California must be willing to accept more small-time corruption.

Kristie Middleton: America is treating food animals better and we can all help by eating less meat.

Take a number: 1.3 million

The health news website Stat reports that national television aired 1.3 million ads in 2016 promoting prescription and over-the-counter drugs and other health messages. The media research firm iSpot.tv places the value of the ads at about $4.6 billion. Stat reports that nine drugmakers were going to spend $100 million or more each on ads this year. In Sacramento, Senate Health Committee Chairman Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, is planning a big fight with drugmakers by reintroducing legislation that would require transparency in drug pricing. The new bill is SB 17. The companies should be required to disclose how much they – and we – pay for their insipid advertising.

Their take

Los Angeles Times: Californians may have voted overwhelmingly on Nov. 8 to legalize marijuana, but Americans also elected Donald Trump, whose position on legalization has been a bit hazy. That’s a potential problem because marijuana is regulated under federal law, giving Trump and his administration veto power over whether California and the seven other states that have voted to legalize cannabis can really do so.

Chicago Tribune: Go to sleep! That’s the upshot of a recent study from the Rand Corp. As it turns out, lack of sleep isn’t just bad for our health. It’s bad for the economy.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The next Congress should make sure infrastructure development is a national priority. Flint’s calamity is a clarion call for change.

National Review: Palestinians have learned once again that terrorism has its rewards. Israel has been reminded once again that its friends can be fickle. The Obama administration is leaving office as it entered, arrogant and willfully ignorant, refusing to see the plain truth of the Middle East – that Israel cannot make peace with “partners” that long for its death.

Syndicates’ take

E.J. Dionne Jr.: The imperative of hope.

Dana Milbank: How pro-Putin will Donald Trump be?

Ross Douthat: The Trump matrix.


Delta’s decline began long before dams were built. – Seward L. Andrews, Sacramento

Maldo’s return?

Word out of Mar-a-Lago is that Donald Trump summoned California’s own Abel Maldonado for an audition to become Trump’s agriculture secretary. Not that we want to tube Maldo’s chances, but in our view, Trump could do worse. He’s a personable guy who knows California agriculture, having grown up on the family farm in the Santa Maria Valley.

Maldonado ran afoul of some Republicans during his time in the Legislature by committing the apostasy of compromising. He sided with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger by voting for a tax hike and pushing for the top-two primary system, which weakens parties but has helped moderates win seats in the Legislature.

Our editorial board went so far as to endorse Maldonado in his 2010 run against Gavin Newsom for lieutenant governor, in part because we thought Newsom didn’t much want the job. Newsom has done an admirable job as lite guv. But at the time, we wrote that Maldonado was “clearly the stronger choice.”

The Sacramento Bee’s endorsement might be one hurdle to overcome, but he may have a harder time explaining why he signed a 2015 letter denouncing candidate Trump. Dutifully recounted by the Santa Barbara Independent, the letter says: “We will never support you, your candidacy or your enterprises. Without the Hispanic vote you will not be the Republican nominee, much less the president of our great nation.” In Maldo’s defense, many of us were wrong about many aspects of the 2016 campaign.