WASHINGTON, D.C. – In 2016, for a second time, Hillary Clinton may have serious competition if she plans to seek the Democratic Party nomination for president.
“Don’t be surprised if California Gov. Jerry Brown runs for president in 2016,” James V. Lacy, author of the newly published “Taxifornia: Liberals’ Laboratory to Bankrupt America,” told an appreciative audience at a book-signing hosted by Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, at the Palm restaurant in Washington, D.C., Wednesday evening.
“Remember the ‘Massachusetts Miracle’ touted by the mainstream media in 1980 when the Massachusetts governor ran for president against Vice President George H. W. Bush?” Lacy asked. “Well, the mainstream media is doing it again, running a series of articles this time promoting the ‘California Miracle’ resulting from the economic policies of Gov. Brown.”
Lacy is a third-generation native Californian, who with his wife Janice, a former deputy chief counsel of the Republican National Committee, are partners in their law firm and political communications company, Wewer & Lacy LLP, based in Laguna Niguel, Calif.
In a 1988 speech given to the Commonwealth Club of California, Republican presidential candidate George H. W. Bush recast the Michael Dukakis “Massachusetts Miracle” as the “Massachusetts Mirage,” characterizing the governor as “just another big-spending, liberal Democrat who would drive our economy into decline.”
Bush’s counterattack scored points by charging: “My opponent ranks first in spending increases. Second in tax hikes. If this were the Olympics, his composite score would make him the gold medal winner in the tax-and-spend competition”
Brown unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party nominations for president in 1976, 1980 and 1992. He was the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in California in 1982 and previously served as California governor from 1975 to 1983.
Lacy begins “Taxifornia” echoing the George H. W. Bush attack on Dukakis.
“California is no longer the Golden State, and liberalism is to blame,” Lacy writes. “Tax-and-spend liberals who are in control have created a state that taxes and regulates more than any other state in the country, and have engineered a rotting economy with among the highest unemployment of any state in the nation. No wonder that businesses and residents are fleeing the state.”
Yet, the Los Angeles Times bragged Wednesday that Brown is planning to propose a $155 billion budget that includes an 8 percent increase in general-fund spending with billions of dollars of new spending on schools, health care, social services and environmental programs “as California reaps the benefits of an economic turnaround.”
The Los Angeles Times stressed Brown’s administration expects a $4.2 billion state budget surplus by the end of June 2014, “as opposed to the $26.6 billion deficit Brown encountered when he took office in 2011,” succeeding California’s Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Still, a U.S. Census poverty report published in November 2012 pegged California’s poverty rate at a national high of 23.5 percent during 2009-2011. The figure incorporates California’s high cost of living and the effect of safety net programs such as food stamps, considerably higher than the 16.1 percent poverty measure California reported in 2011 based on conventional reporting methodologies.
Even more discouraging, the Public Policy Institute of California reported in August 2013 that the majority of poor people in California live in working families, with 37.3 percent of poor families having at least one family member working full-time, while in another 25.6 percent someone is working part time.
Lacy insists liberalism is the problem in California.
“Long-term liberal dominance of California’s levers of power has brought a pervasive philosophy to government up and down the state that results in far too much spending and too much taxation,” he notes.
“The tax-and-spend liberal philosophy has caused low-achieving public schools; local government bankruptcies; some cases of grossly overpaid public employees; huge, under-funded public employee pension liabilities; a hyper anti-business, job-killing regulatory climate; and unacceptably high persistent unemployment, especially in minority communities.”
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in December 2013 that unemployment in California was 8.5 percent, a statistic that ranked California as 46th worst state in the percentage of the labor force unemployed, in a month when the national unemployment rate declined from 7.3 percent to 7 percent.
Lacy cited a March 2013 Field Poll that reported 72 percent of California voters described the state’s economy as being in bad times, while 61 percent described unemployment as very serious and just 36 percent expected job opportunities to improve in 2014.
He also documented that Californians pay the highest marginal state income tax in the country, 13.3 percent, as a result of the passage of Brown’s “Proposition 30” income tax rate in November 2012, as well as the highest sales taxes in the country, ranging in localities from 7.5 percent up to 10 percent, the legal limit.
Lacy further calculated California and its local governments are at least $648 billion in debt, and depending on how public employee pension liabilities are calculated, the debt could be as high as $1.1 trillion.
In May 2013, USA Today reported 10 troubled cities in California could well follow the city of Stockton, where U.S. Bankruptcy Court Chief Judge Christopher Klein ruled in April 2013 that federal bankruptcy law trumps a California law that says money owed to the state pension fund must be paid.
At the time of the bankruptcy, Stockton owed the California Public Employees Retirement System, CalPERS, about $900 million to cover pension liabilities, even after Stockton issued $165 million in city bonds to keep up with CalPERS payments as property taxes nose-dived during the nationwide economic downturn, reported Bloomberg/BusinessWeek.
“Stockton has tried to restructure some debt by slashing employment, renegotiating labor contracts, and cutting health benefits for workers. Library and recreation funding have been halved, and the scaled-down Police Department only responds to emergencies in progress,” Bloomberg/BusinessWeek further reported. “The city crime rate is among the highest in the nation.”
Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper gained national attention in November 2013 when he filed a petition with the California attorney general’s office proposing to break up California into six different states, arguing it is “too big and bloated.”
“California is clearly broken and urgently needs to be fixed,” Lacy concludes, doubtful that California’s current state legislature, dominated as it is by liberal Democrats, will ever cut taxes to attract the business needed to create the quantity of jobs required to jump-start the state’s economy.
Typical is a letter written by nine California legislators on Jan. 7, 2013, asking Brown to issue an executive order to prohibit the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, DOGGR, within the Department of Conservation, from allowing fracking in the state until health and environmental concerns are addressed. The measure aimed to block implementation of Senate Bill 4 passed in 2013 with the support of Brown, establishing a permit system for fracking.
Citing historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. at the Washington book-signing event, Lacy remains hopeful the pendulum will swing away from liberal Democratic control as the reality of California’s serious economic maladies penetrates establishment media. It’s a media, he says, that is determined to advance Brown’s national political aspiration by promoting the narrative of the “California Miracle.”
In the long-term, Lacy argues, the formula for real economic reform in California is simple: The state will not become more competitive economically until more Republicans win seats in the legislature.