California Governor Jerry Brown beat billionaire Meg Whitman thanks in large part to the generous financial backing of large unions, especially the California Teachers Association (CTA). Yet during his inauguration, he walked right through a party hosted by the Orange County Employees Association without stopping to give a speech at the podium they had erected for him, leading many supporters to boo him. Then, during his inaugural address, he told unions they should not expect any favors.
While this was seen as offensive by many union activists, it should not have come as a surprise. Jerry Brown has a sordid record of union busting and supporting brutal police attacks on ILWU members. The real question is why unions supported him at all instead of using their resources to organize for the kind of massive strikes and protests necessary to make him and the feds back off.
Brown to Teachers: Fuck You, Too!
Politicians love to portray themselves as father figures looking out for the well-being of children. They also love to appear patriotic. And who wouldn’t want to seem like a populist, protecting the interests of the little guy? Big Daddy Brown got it all in one cute little package at his inauguration party, which featured a touching rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” performed by the Oakland School for the Arts choir, a charter school he founded and which he considers one of his signature achievements.
Big Daddy Brown loves children when they can serve a purpose, but does he love them enough to invest in their futures? Think again. When he said that he will address the “education problem,” he was not talking about restoring the $21 billion cut from education over the past 3 years or the fact that California is now 47th in the nation in per pupil spending. Rather, Brown’s education problem is the same one that worries Bill Gates, Eli Broad and Arne Duncan: how to privatize education. If there was ever any doubt about Brown’s true commitment to public education, one need only look at his tenure as Mayor of Oakland, where he strongly advocated for charter schools and privatization, personally overseeing the doubling of Oakland’s charter schools, including the creation of a charter military academy for low income youth of color, and the quadrupling of its overall charter student population from 2,000 to 8,000 students.
Now Brown wants to take a large chunk out of California’s $28 billion deficit by imposing further cuts on education. Yet even before he gets out his axe, K-12 schools and community colleges are expected to lose more than $2.2 billion just from lower tax revenues. Much of this is due to the loss of revenues from the estate tax, which congress refused to reinstate as part of their recent early x-mas gift to the wealthiest Americans. Additionally, many districts are expected to lose federal aid.
Brown to California: Screw the Rest of You, Too!
Brown portrayed California’s fiscal problems as an act of god, like a fire or earthquake, that requires us all to tighten our belts and work together. “The year ahead will require courage and sacrifice. . . We have to learn to work together as Californians first. . .” he said during his speech, by which he meant: “All of you need to make sacrifices so we rich can continue to acquire more wealth at your expense.” Like the rest of the ruling Republicratic elite, Brown has vowed to preserve the wealth of the rich (himself included) by keeping corporate and personal taxes low, while pledging to make deep cuts in social services, education, state jobs, pensions, and worker benefits.
The Governor does plan to float a June ballot measure that would increase the regressive sales tax and vehicle licensing fee, while eliminating a corporate tax benefit. However, many believe it has no hope of passing in the current anti-tax climate and that it is a calculated and cynical strategy to force legislative democrats and unions to accept the ensuing austerity measures.
The proposed cuts are breathtaking in their scope, affecting most state-funded programs. He plans to shrink social service benefits, close parks and reduce library hours, and further slash k-12, CSU and UC budgets, as well as early childhood development and mental health programs. There will be massive firings of state workers. Medi-Cal patients will have reduced benefits and increased co-payments. Home services and grants for low-income elderly, blind and disabled residents will be gutted. Welfare-to-work will be dramatically reduced, including child care for single parents seeking to get off welfare and into the workforce.