I love the lead-up to elections. Despite the campaign smears, scrambling for votes, the lies and all of the dirty realities that come along with American politics, it’s a time during which we create visions of the future — often based on ideology, but visions of the future nonetheless. After these visions are presented to us, the country makes a single choice concerning the way in which we wish to proceed; it’s a choice that ultimately can’t please everyone, but it’s a clear, irrevocable path we face together, nevertheless.
And as a California community, we are now in this precarious, yet exhilarating time of revisions and visions. The primary election, largely dominated by Meg Whitman (R), Steve Poizner (R), and Jerry Brown (D), will be June 8 — in only three weeks.
I can’t vote for a Republican in the Primary June 8, but the Republican race seems to me to be the most politically intriguing. When I first looked at the candidates for governor of California, Meg Whitman seemed to be the most interesting candidate. She held an executive position at eBay and several other executive positions at popular companies — Walt Disney, for example. She also seems reasonable when she speaks, and many of her ideas are, in fact, just that: reasonable.
One of the more important issues for me in choosing a candidate, however, is their position on taxes and spending — especially considering the tumult the next governor will face due to our dysfunctional legislature, which suffers from painful ideological enmity. One detraction from Whitman’s platform, on this point, is the fact that she does not support a repeal of the 2/3 vote needed to pass a budget. For the past two years, this has been the major obstacle in passing budgets.
Whitman’s campaign website states, “We simply cannot afford a big, across-the-board tax cut that would irresponsibly grow the state’s oversized debt level and drop our bond rating to junk status.” She’s correct in that simply cutting taxes will increase the debt level. It’s simple logic. Cutting taxes decreases state revenue, and as long as spending remains the same, the debt level will rise.
But my problem with Whitman’s proposed spending cuts is not so much that I disagree with what she believes the state legislature should cut; rather, it is the ambiguity in her plan that leaves so much to question. She doesn’t clarify what she believes can be cut from the budget on her campaign website to my satisfaction.
In her “Cut Spending” section, she states that she wants to reduce the state workforce by introducing a hiring freeze. This idea will not help our unemployment problem, and I don’t think it would do much to cut spending. California’s unemployment has been consistently above 10 percent and reached 13 percent in March. She wants to fund education and retain the income tax level, and she doesn’t specifically mention that she wants to cut welfare. How, then, will she reduce California’s debt?
There’s just so much undefined about Meg Whitman that it’s hard to really draw conclusions about her as a candidate — especially when information emerges that she served on the board for Goldman Sachs and engaged in now-illegal activities.
The Sacramento Bee reports that Whitman “was a personal banking client of Goldman and engaged in ‘spinning,’ a now-banned practice in which the investment bank gave her first crack at buying shares of companies going public. When the shares became widely available — and their prices soared — the stock was sold for a quick profit.”
The newspaper reports that she made $1.78 million from spinning. In her defense, the practice was legal when she made her money. But the simple association with Goldman Sachs is enough to ruin a candidate, because the company is under such heavy investigation for wrongdoing.
The sad part of this story is that Steve Poizner joined with the Democratic labor organizations to serve his own interests and released his own campaign commercial against Whitman. Not the type of stand-up guy I would want in office. Jerry Brown, the Democratic candidate, has run a clean campaign so far and, to the extent of my research, has not released a campaign ad with this information.
The reason the Democratic labor organizations targeted Whitman is simply that she is the bigger threat to their November hopes of taking back the governor’s mansion. Perhaps one could argue that she showed bad judgment in “spinning,” but it’s not an interesting claim to make as a foundation for why she should not be governor.
Frankly, a race between Whitman and Brown is the kind I want to see in November. Jerry Brown has extensive experience and knowledge concerning the position of governor, having successfully served as governor of California from 1975 to 1983. Meg Whitman is a relatively reasonable conservative, and I imagine will more fully develop her plan for California in the coming months.
The race would be challenging for both sides and, I think, would really cultivate an interesting political discussion in California. If, after the dust settles June 8, Meg Whitman is still standing, I say, “May the best man win.”