Editorials

Who’s liberal? Jerry Brown smacks Trump, GOP on giveaways

Gov. Jerry Brown refers to a chart regarding his revised budget plan, noting that an economic downturn is coming, during a news conference at the Capitol on Thursday in Sacramento.
Gov. Jerry Brown refers to a chart regarding his revised budget plan, noting that an economic downturn is coming, during a news conference at the Capitol on Thursday in Sacramento. rpench@sacbee.com

Not that we need more political comeuppance, but there it was: The Democratic governor of the liberal fortress that is California lecturing the Republican president and conservatives in Congress about taxation, penance and paying as you go.

Jerry Brown is liberal on many issues, but not on money. On Thursday, he called Trump’s promises of deep tax cuts and new spending “voodoo economics” and gambling.

“This idea that we’re going to have a massive tax cut and a trillion-dollar infrastructure program and 175 bases throughout the world, and we’re going to solve all these problems, and we’re going to end cancer and have a moon shot to do so, is absurd,” the governor said at a news conference announcing his revised budget plan.

“You need money to do real things,” said Brown, who at 79 isn’t running for another office. “Otherwise, it is basically a fraud on the people. I am dubious there are big tax reductions afoot. Certainly, the people who have been getting wealthier and wealthier should not be the ones who receive it.”

In the revised $183.4 billion budget he released Thursday, Brown proposed that legislators agree to a plan, devised with help from Treasurer John Chiang, to pay down California’s pension debt by $6 billion.

There’s not much glory in making a debt payment. But the state’s overall liability is $279 billion. And Brown, in the third year of his fourth and final four-year term, chose a responsible path that would help the next governor avoid a pension meltdown.

Increasingly, voters see it Brown’s way. A Quinnipiac University Poll this week found 54 percent of respondents would rather see Democrats control the House, compared with 38 percent who favor Republican control.

Brown’s budget analysts believe sales and corporate tax revenue will flatten in the coming year. But they predict $2.5 billion more than was expected in January, thanks to higher-than-expected personal income tax payments, and that is thanks to the capital gains of rich Californians.

Brown proposes a sober approach, giving $1.4 billion more to schools. That would raise public school spending to $74.6 billion, $18 billion more than a decade ago. Brown also offers $500 million more for child care for poor parents, and $600 million for in-home supportive services workers who care for the infirm.

Mostly, he anticipates an economic downturn and is concerned about the irresponsibility of Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress. The budget document points out that “Congress and the president have suggested major changes to Medicaid, trade and immigration policy and the federal tax structure.” The GOP’s American Health Care Act would force the state to cut billions and threatens the health care of 5 million Californians.

“The tax plan in the Trumpcare Act was a massive giveaway to the most advantaged people in America. So that was an abomination,” Brown said. Congressional Republicans who followed Trump’s “dictates” by voting for a bill knowing that it would disrupt the lives and health of their constituents “are going to have to do penance for it.”

Increasingly, voters see it Brown’s way. A Quinnipiac University Poll this week found 54 percent of respondents would rather see Democrats control the House, compared with 38 percent who favor Republican control. A mere 36 percent of voters approve of the job Trump’s doing, and that was before he fired FBI Director James Comey.

The numbers are brutal. But politicians who have been around as long as Brown don’t need polls to know when a reckoning is coming for public servants veering wildly off track.

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