Is Governor Jerry Brown still a moonbeam?

In 1976, when Jerry Brown was California governor the first time, Chicago columnist Mike Royko famously dubbed him “Governor Moonbeam.” The moniker stuck, even if Royko later apologized for it. But perhaps he had a point after all.

Starry-eyed, perky optimism does indeed have its place. Without dreamers, we wouldn’t have much in the way of new ideas. But, these times we’re living in, they’re grim.  This ain’t no party. This ain’t no disco. Yes, it’s the eternal conflict between what could be and what is.

Jerry Brown of course became governor this time during deeply troubled times for California, and it’s certainly a credit to him that he even wanted the job (again) when he could have simply retired and spent his time playing with the grandkids. But he did want the job. However, his Administration seems to take the view that it’s still the Golden Era for California.

The current budget debacle is a case in point. A supposedly balanced budget passed. But, it was based on hugely perky estimates of future revenue, and all that’s come crashing down. The projected revenue isn’t there, yet the rose-colored glasses from Sacramento continue to view everything as fine, just fine. Such deliberate denial of reality has been going on for decades when it comes to the California budget. But the tradition does indeed continue unaltered under Gov. Brown.   

The governor is still quite capable of making Moonbeam-esque statements, as witnessed by his recent comment about raising sales and income taxes in 2012. “Sales and income could pass under certain circumstances. It could. And it couldn’t,” he said, helpfully adding that chances of passage would increase if it wasn’t opposed by powerful interests. While one can certainly appreciate the Zen koan riddle-like implications of legislation that could or could not pass, I’m guessing that a California populace that already feels overtaxed and not getting much for their money will not be wildly enthusiastic about new taxes. In other words, the chances of passage likely approximate ‘oink, oink, flap, flap’. And would such increased taxes mean Californians might be able to get an actual human being on the phone when they call a state agency? Inquiring minds want to know.

Now that the budget has a temporary band aid on it, the governor has turned his focus to jobs. In a startling development, he has appointed a job czar and continues to tirelessly promote green energy as the way to create jobs. He said, and I quote:

     “Even the brightest people in the world have a hard time figuring this out, and there’s a certain amount which is just the global economy doing its thing. So, the governor has a function, and I’m exercising that function, I think, in a very creative, positive way.”

His Pollyanna perkiness comes singing through, even if some may ponder, “I have no idea what he meant by that.”

There are multiple problems with relying on green energy to produce jobs. Grid-scale renewable energy projects are heavily reliant upon government subsidies, loan guarantees, and support. That funding is probably going away, leaving future California projects to scramble for financing. Also, jobs created by building big solar or wind farms are short-term in nature. Those workers will be unemployed when the project is done. But mostly, green energy isn’t producing much in the way of jobs now. It may in ten years, but unemployment is way too high now. 

The way to the next golden era for California is not by pretending that the previous one still exists. California has major problems and Gov. Brown just doesn’t seem to be addressing them.