November 2010 Archives

Now that the election is pretty much over, with only one or two races still hanging in the balance, it is clear that this was not a great election cycle for Democrats. While the pundits analyze every which way, and with the Republicans delusional that this was a mandate for them, let's try to make some sense of just what this election means for California---and even being so bold as to consider its national implications. (Why not? Every other political junkie and so-called expert has put in his or her two cents worth).

So here's my take----with thanks from experts, exit-pollsters, and legitimate academics and observers who actually want to provide perspective and not propaganda or partisan spin...

There was one election day but essentially two elections---or two electorates. First and obviously, the one that showed up. Then there were the women, the younger voter and the voters of color who didn't show up at all....or if they did, they switched allegiance and voted "Republican." In California, the results were just the opposite. While the younger voter didn't come to the polls in large numbers, many did come for the aborted but still-alive notion that we should legalize marijuana. Women also came out, again not in numbers as large as previously, but they did have women running for the top two ticket items. Two for US Senate (but only one strongly supportive of womens rights and the other pretty silent on them except to be anti-choice) and one very wealthy but eminently unlikeable woman running for governor.

The key in California was the effort of labor and grass-roots groups to pull out the Latino vote---which came in droves. In fact, the Latino vote accounted for 22% of the electorate in California this year. While in the rest of the country the demographic was older, whiter, male voters who comprised the electorate, here we were more representative of the state's actual demographics. Latinos voted in large numbers for both Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown.

Ironically, the Latino voter may have been energized by Meg Whitman, who spent multi-millions to arouse this sleeping-giant of a voter bloc, knowing that she couldn't win without getting a substantial portion of them to vote for her. She spent millions on Spanish-language broadcasts, brandishing her credentials as a successful businesswoman and someone who would respect the desires of the community to achieve the American Dream. Only problem was that she got caught disrespecting her former household help by firing her when she decided to run for office. The great irony is that Meg's treatment of her Latina employee was so cruel and her rejection of the Dream Act for young and worthy Latino youth sent her campaign on an irretrievable tailspin.

We can't, however, ignore the fact that the voters ALSO sent a clear message that they're not about to increase taxes and thus the state's ability to fund programs, infrastructure and services. Even our beloved state parks, supported by the overwhelming majority of Californians were not given a much needed shot-in-the-arm. With the failure of Prop 21, the $18 fee attached to the VLF for state parks desperately needed maintenance and repairs, it appears that much work needs to be done to restore the public's faith in government and the benefits of investing in its programs.

Indeed, the most dangerous and sleeper issue of this election was the passage of Prop. 26 which will require all new and increased fees to be subject to the impossible 2/3 vote of the electorate. This totally under-the-radar measure is likely to have catastrophic affects on important environmental and consumer protections if the business community's interpretation of its impact prevails. Ironically, the public has made it clear it doesn't want big, polluting corporations to get a pass, yet with the passage of Prop. 26, they may very well have given them one.

The lessons of this election-both statewide and nationally are many--and the interpretations flowing from right-wing spin machines are as loud as they are baseless. While here in California we are patting ourselves on the back that we avoided the avalanche of misplaced anger and anti-incumbency, we would be remiss if we thought we were immune from the public's loss of faith and confidence in government. Far from it, the public's disdain for our political leadership and imposition of taxes was made loud and clear-- as demonstrated by the success and failure of the various ballot measures.

Yes, we remain a Blue State, but due in great measure to the Latino voters who, unlike our young and women, came out strong in this election. Nonetheless, we MUST restore the public's faith in our leaders, our government and the need to invest in the future of our state in order for our economy to thrive and the quality of life in this great state to be preserved. We have not made that case well for years and the public isn't happy about it.

That's the honest lesson of this election. Let's not delude ourselves. Let's start making our case for why we need public services, programs and protection of our resources. If we don't, we may find California starting to look a lot more like Mississippi than the Golden State of Golden Dreams.


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The Elusive "Swing" Vote

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Have you heard of the "Moveable Middle?" This is the idea that there are voters on the left who will always vote on the left, and voters on the right, who will always vote on the right, and then there are voters between them who switch back and forth. They are called "swing voters."

So the idea in politics is that in order to win elections you have to take positions that appeal to these voters, and they will "switch" and vote for you instead of for the other side. This is a fundamental mistake.

Here is what is very important to understand about the "swing" vote: No voters "switch." That is the wrong lesson. There are not voters who "swing" there are left voters and right voters in this middle segment who either show up and vote or do not show up and vote, and this causes this "swing" segment to swing.

The lesson to learn: You have to deliver for YOUR part of that swing segment or they don't show up and vote for you. That is what makes the segment "swing."

Any Democrat politician who thinks that any conservative will vote for any Democrat, no matter how far right they move, is learning the wrong lesson. All that does is cause your voters in that swing segment to turn away from you, and stay away from the polls.

This is the lesson that Karl Rove brought to politics. He understood that you can get the right-voting part of the "middle" roused up to come to the polls by moving the Republicans to the right. Instead of "moving to the center" he got Bush and the Republicans to stand up for conservative principles and refuse to compromise, and the result was that the right-leaning part of the swing segment started to show up at the polls.

The polling supports this conclusion. Greg Sargent, in Progressives and centrists battle over meaning of indy vote,

Independents are not a monolith, and what really happened is that indys who backed Obama in 2008 stayed home, because they were unsatisfied with Obama's half-baked reform agenda, while McCain-supporting indys turned out in big numbers.

. . . The key finding: PPP asked independents who did vote in 2010 who they had supported in 2008. The results: Fifty one percent of independents who voted this time supported McCain last time, versus only 42 percent who backed Obama last time. In 2008, Obama won indies by eight percent.

That means the complexion of indies who turned out this time is far different from last time around, argues Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. His case: Dem-leaning indys stayed home this time while GOP-leaning ones came out -- proof, he insists, that the Dems' primary problem is they failed to inspire indys who are inclined to support them.

"The dumbest thing Democrats could do right now is listen to those like Third Way who urge Democrats to repeat their mistake by caving to Republicans and corporations instead of fighting boldly for popular progressive reforms and reminding Americans why they were inspired in 2008," Green says.

The Democrats have taken the entirely wrong lessons, and election results show this. Instead of standing up for progressive values, they give in and "move to the right' on every issue, thinking that there are voters "in the middle" who will then switch sides and support them, when what they are actually doing is convincing those in the middle who might have shown up at the polls to stay home and not bother.


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Businesses Do Not Create Jobs

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Businesses do not create jobs. In fact, the way our economy is structured the incentive is for businesses to get rid of as many jobs as they can.

Demand Creates Jobs

A job is created when demand for goods or services is greater than the existing ability to provide them. When there is a demand, people will see the need and fill it. Either someone will start filling the demand alone, or form a new business to fill it or an existing provider of the good or service will add employees as needed. (Actually a job can be created by a business, a government, a non-profit organization or just a person doing the job, depending on the nature of the good or service that is required.)

So a demand creates a job. A person who sees that houses on a block need their lawns mowed might go door to door and say they will mow the lawn for $10. When houses start saying "Yes, I need my lawn mowed" a job has been created!

Demand also creates businesses. The person who is filling demand by mowing lawns for people might after a while have a regular circuit of houses that want their lawns mowed every week, and will buy a truck and a new mower and hire someone to help. A business is born!

Businesses Want To Kill Jobs, Not Create Them

Many people wrongly think that businesses create jobs. They see that a job is usually at a business, so they think that therefore the business "created" the job. This thinking leads to wrongheaded ideas like the current one that giving tax cuts to businesses will create jobs, because the businesses will have more money. But an efficiently-run business will already have the right number of employees. When a business sees that more people are coming in the door (demand) than there are employees to serve them, they hire people to serve the customers. When a business sees that not enough people are coming in the door and employees are sitting around reading the newspaper, they lay people off. Businesses want customers, not tax cuts.

Businesses have more incentives to eliminate jobs than to create them. Businesses in our economy exist to create profits, not jobs. This means the incentive is for a business to create as few jobs as possible at the lowest possible cost. They also constantly strive to reduce the number of people they employ by bringing in machines, outsourcing or finding other ways to reduce the payroll. This is called "cutting costs" which leads to higher profits. The same incentive also pushes the business to pay as little as possible when they do hire. (It also pushes businesses to cut worker safety protections, cut product quality, cut customer service, "externalize" costs by polluting, etc.)

This obviously works against the interests of the larger society, which wants lots of good jobs with good pay. And businesses, while working to cut jobs and pay less, need other businesses to hire lots of people and pay well, because that is what creates the demand that makes all the businesses work.

Government To The Rescue

This is where government comes in. Government is We, the People, working for that larger societal interest. In our current system -- when it works -- we use government to come up with ways to balance the effects of the profit motive -- which pushes for fewer jobs at lower pay -- with our larger need for more jobs at higher pay for us, and for the good of all the businesses. We, through our government, create and regulate the "playing field" on which businesses operate. We set minimum wages, limits on working hours, worker safety rules and other rules designed to keep that balance between profit incentive and demand, and that playing field level. (We also provide the infrastructure of roads, schools, courts, etc. that is what makes our businesses competetive with businesses in other countries. The individual interest in paying less taxes for this has to be balanced with the larger interest that we all pay more for this, but that is another post, titled, "Tax Cuts Are Theft.")

Corrupted

Obviously businesses in our system must be kept from having any ability whatsoever to influence government decision-making in any way, or the system breaks down. When businesses are able to influence government, they will influence government in ways that provide themselves - and only themselves - with more profits, meaning lower costs, meaning fewer jobs at worse pay and not protecting workers, the environment or other businesses. And, they will fight to keep their ability to influence government, using the resulting wealth gains to increase their power over the government which increases their wealth which increases their power over the government which increases their wealth which increases their power over the government which increases their wealth which increases their power over the government which increases their wealth which increases their power over the government ...

Unfortunately this is the system as it is today.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am also a Fellow with CAF.


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Jerry Brown

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In April, 2009, I wrote a post about Jerry Brown that I would like to repost today in honor of his election as Governor:

On Jerry Brown's Campaign For California Governor

He was called "Moonbeam" and mocked, but he was right, and we were right, and the country needs to come to terms with this this so we can move on and finally DO right.

Jerry Brown was Governor of California from 1975 to 1983. He was a symbol of "the 60's" even though it was the 70's, because he came from the times, cared about the issues of the times, spoke the language of the times and governed for the people, from the times. He opposed the Vietnam war. He talked about protecting the environment and conserving energy and providing education and "Buddhist economics." He fought corporate power and sued large corporations, particularly in the area of campaign finance. He was right.

For taking these positions Jerry was called "Moonbeam" and mocked for advocating things that we now all understand were correct and necessary. It is 30 years later and the country needs to get past that mocking of the people who were right. But the mocking and obstruction by entrenched interests are still in the way of letting us move on and do the things we need to do for the economy, the country, and the planet.

Now Jerry is again running for Governor of California and I think this is important to our current national conversation at a time when we must come to terms with the reasons that we have waited 30 years to start doing something about major problems. Jerry's campaign will force a conversation that will clarify for the country that the "dirty hippies" were right, that we need to learn to ignore the mocking that is a primary weapon of the corporate right, that we need to take care of the planet, that we need to take care of each other, that we need to be in charge of the corporations, not the other way around.

In his speech to the California Democratic Convention he talked about how 30 years ago he changed California's energy policies, and how the result has been that California has barely increased its energy use since while the rest of the country has. He talk about a number of things like this, but what most resonated with me was when he talked about how we educate kids. The current emphasis on testing is stifling the creativity of kids. He says we need to bring back education that stimulates creativity. Wow -- how long since I have heard "60's" talk that's so right?! Talk that recognizes our humanity and says that we are not just cogs in a corporate machine. Who talks about these things today?

A few years ago, when Jerry was running for Attorney General, I wrote

I've loved Jerry Brown since his 1992 campaign for President. During that campaign he proposed boosting the economy and helping the energy/pollution/Middle East problem with a national program to hire unemployed people to retrofit buildings to be energy efficient. Imagine if we had done that! So now 13 years later we have the Apollo Alliance but Jerry doesn't seem to get much credit for being so far ahead on this.

A few years before that I wrote,
In the 1992 campaign Jerry Brown made a suggestion that I haven't forgotten. He suggested putting the unemployed to work retrofitting buildings and homes to be energy efficient. It requires an up-front investment but it returns a more efficient economy (everyone paying less for energy) and national energy independence as a foreign policy bonus. Meanwhile all those unemployed people are getting and spending paychecks, boosting the economy. It helps everyone but the oil companies. Oh. I guess not, then.
I don't know right now if Brown can or should win and this is not an endorsement. But I think this is a conversation that we all need to have and learn from.
He did win, and the state and country will be better off for it.

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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