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Joe Guzzardi Why is Jerry Brown taking on the toughest job in politics?

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Joe Guzzardi

Posted: Saturday, December 4, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 6:50 am, Sat Dec 4, 2010.

Why Jerry Brown, a 72-year-old career politician, would want to govern California is a mystery. Hasn't he had enough? Maybe Brown wanted to save the state from Meg Whitman, the most unqualified gubernatorial candidate since ... well, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Politics has no tougher job than governing California, the majority minority state with at least three different geographic subsections: north, south and central. What may be good policy for one is bad for another.

Brown's best starting point would be to follow his own long ago advice. Back in the 1970s, during his first gubernatorial term, Brown said, "Small is beautiful," his reference to California politics and lifestyle that earned him the nickname "Moonbeam."

Four decades have passed since Brown made his prescient comment. During those 40 years, in the most improbable of scenarios, Brown is again California's governor-elect.

The one word Brown won't be using to describe today's California and its myriad of woes is "small."

California's huge $20 billion budget deficit grows daily. The unemployment rate is over 12 percent. In the Inland Empire and the San Joaquin Valley, unemployment approaches 20 percent.

Since the state's unemployment insurance fund is broke, California borrows $40 million every day from the federal government to make payments to the out-of-work. Crippling interest accrues daily.

Overpopulation, which feeds the challenges that have forced California to the brink, is Brown's biggest problem.

When Brown paid tribute to "small," California's population was 20 million. Today, it's more than 38 million. Using the U.S. Census Bureau's projection of 2 percent annual growth, by the time Brown's second term expires in 2018, California's population will be more than 45 million.

All of California's woes would be minimized by fewer people. Overcrowding in schools and hospitals, highway congestion as well as the demands on limited water supplies, welfare and dwindling jobs could all be lessened if California had fewer residents.

In what represents good news from a population perspective, people are moving away from California. The problem is the painful reasons behind their departure, like high unemployment, the budget deficit and a sour housing market that appears to have no solution.

By far, California's most worrisome concern is housing, which has yet to reach the bottom. Only a few years ago, people with modest incomes that once would not have qualified for a mortgage could purchase lavish homes. That market, which includes upscale neighborhoods like Newport Beach and Malibu, has completely collapsed. As the real estate market enters its weak winter selling season, Southern California reported that October home sales had their secondworst month in a decade.

Values are further depressed by not only a huge backlog of unsold homes, but also what is known as "shadow inventory," those houses that are close to foreclosure but not yet listed or properties that owners don't want to offer at depressed prices.

In a recent survey, Zillow found that nearly a third of homeowners would consider selling their homes if the market were better. Nationally, that would mean between 11 million and 30 million homes that aren't listed but are waiting on the sidelines.

Employment and real estate are variables beyond Brown's control.

Without strong recoveries in both, Brown can't turn California around. I'll return to my original question: What motivated him? At his age, the golf course should be beckoning.

Joe Guzzardi is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization.

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  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 3:35 pm on Tue, Dec 7, 2010.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Charles Nelson posted at 8:40...Jerry Brown invented space based satellites...

    Oh Charles, you only got half of it... First he invented it... then he lived in and governed California from the Satellite with code name " Moonbeam Special".... or so it was reported in the Huffington Post, I heard.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 3:31 pm on Tue, Dec 7, 2010.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    John stated...Darrell, It was Malathion which had to be used...

    John, did more research... you are right... below is an exerpt:

    Over the next few days, the California Department of Health Services rallied itself and flooded the airwaves
    with experts assuring the public that the chemical was harmless in small doses---that Malathion was no
    worse than bug spray used around the house. They set up a hotline (it received 8,000 calls the first week),
    convened a Medfly Health Advisory Committee, and planned studies of the effects of the spraying. Within
    24 hours, the news media began to report the expert take on Malathion and the fervor began to die down.
    The California Supreme Court turned down the injunction request and the spraying went forward as

  • Charles Nelson posted at 8:40 am on Tue, Dec 7, 2010.

    Charles Nelson Posts: 259

    So, let me get this right, Jerry Brown invented space based satellites, and Al Gore invented the internet?

  • John Kindseth posted at 8:02 am on Tue, Dec 7, 2010.

    John Kindseth Posts: 245

    Darrell, It was Malathion which had to be used because he dithered until it was nearly too late.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 12:49 am on Mon, Dec 6, 2010.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Thanks Kevin... read the article and thought these comments kind of sums it up...
    Its not why he originally was called moonbeam... its what it evolved into that is so important.
    Once a hack, always a hack. Brown was a laughingstock as governor in the 70s and early 80s. Johnny Carson made him the brunt of many monologue jokes.

    He was terrible and bears a lot of responsibility for the state of California's debt, because he made it possible for state employees to unionize and thus began the spiral of insane salaries and perks for bureaucrats in California.

    In addition to that he is an irrational flip flopper who claimed to be green but sprayed paraquat on people's homes by air. And a host of other lame brained decisions. No to Brown.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 12:42 am on Mon, Dec 6, 2010.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    John Kindseth posted at 5:45 pm...but I will see your hand and raise you "Over-regulation".

    John, I cannot top that one... right on...but second to that... maybe prevailing wage … and PERS and STRS…

  • Steve Schmidt posted at 7:13 pm on Sun, Dec 5, 2010.

    Steve Schmidt Posts: 2672

    The link doesn't really address the actual origins of the term. In the 1970's Brown suggested that California should use satellites to facilitate communications in case of a major earthquake that might have wiped out the land lines and radio towers on which contemporary communication technology depended.

    Today, of course, satellite communications are the backbone of almost all hardened emergency response systems.

    Governor Moonbeam.... what a crazy guy!

  • Kevin Paglia posted at 6:53 pm on Sun, Dec 5, 2010.

    Kevin Paglia Posts: 2106


  • John Kindseth posted at 5:45 pm on Sun, Dec 5, 2010.

    John Kindseth Posts: 245

    Joe: Overpopulation of the unproductive is certainly a biggie, but I will see your hand and raise you "Over-regulation".

  • Steve Schmidt posted at 5:43 pm on Sun, Dec 5, 2010.

    Steve Schmidt Posts: 2672

    My other brother Darrell, do you know why people started calling Governor Brown "moonbeam"?

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 9:51 pm on Sat, Dec 4, 2010.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    The light from the "moon beam "shows us one thing... California is truly the land of fruits and nuts in choosing him to lead the way.

  • Charles Nelson posted at 6:26 pm on Sat, Dec 4, 2010.

    Charles Nelson Posts: 259

    Great question Mr. Guzzardi. One could probably make a strong argument that senility has already ravaged his brain. But, with the history of ideas that have always emanated from it, how would we ever know?


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