Bench Memos

Disaster in California

My “This Day” entries for today signal only a small part of what was perhaps the saddest result on Election Night for me (as a native of California, with lots of family and friends there) and the most ominous for the nation: the election of Jerry Brown as governor of California. As one commentator summed it up:

No state is in a bigger fiscal jam than California, with its structural budget deficit and massive unfunded liabilities for well-compensated public employees. The state’s business climate is atrocious, and unemployment has topped 12 percent. Yet California voters on Tuesday not only sidestepped the national backlash against liberal Democratic policies; they declared that they want more of them.

The voters resurrected the career of their 1970s-era governor, Jerry Brown—well known for his “small is beautiful” policies, which squelched infrastructure growth in what was then a rapidly growing state, and for his support for collective bargaining rights for public-employee unions, which paved the way for many of the state’s fiscal problems today. Those unions bankrolled his campaign for governor this time around.

I hope that I’m proved wrong, but expecting Jerry Brown to help solve the problems he did so much to create seems as foolish as, say, having Barney Frank craft financial-reform legislation. (Gee, I wonder why that legislation didn’t reform Fannie Mae.)

On the legal front, Brown’s multiple derelictions of duty as state attorney general in failing to defend California’s marriage laws should have led more directly to impeachment and disbarment than promotion. And the same Brown who appointed terrible state supreme court justices like Rose Bird three decades ago can be expected to do as poorly—or even worse—this time around.

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