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California GOP Candidate: Brown Oversaw Middle-Class Downfall

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

At Ballast Point, California gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari tasted a few beers and purchased a six-pack of Calico Amber Ale.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari on Thursday blamed Gov. Jerry Brown for what he sees as California's decline over the past three decades, saying poverty and unemployment have climbed during the time that Brown was a member of the state's political elite.

In some of his most aggressive remarks to date about the Democratic incumbent, Kashkari said Brown's political legacy is "the destruction of the middle class of California."

Citing U.S. Census figures from 1980, when Brown was last governor, Kashkari said the state's poverty and unemployment rates have climbed precipitously since then, while its ranking in terms of a well-educated workforce has fallen.

"He says it's the California comeback; we're on top of the world," the former U.S. Treasury official said during an appearance before the Sacramento Press Club. "Forty-sixth in education, 46th in jobs. No. 1 in poverty. Jerry Brown's legacy is the destruction of the middle class of California."

California had Republican governors for 23 of the last 34 years, but Kashkari said the comparison is fair because Brown is seeking re-election based on his 40-year political career.

"If he's going to make his experience the anchor of his campaign, then we're going to make him answer for his experience," Kashkari said.

Brown's political spokesman, Dan Newman, said just the opposite is true. He credited Brown with California's economic turnaround after repeated years of multibillion-dollar budget deficits.

"California and the nation were in a pretty deep hole after President Bush and Governor Schwarzenegger, and we had deep deficits, the economy was struggling and our schools were suffering," he said. "Governor Brown came into office and in a few short years eliminated a $27 billion deficit, turned it into a surplus."

Brown, 75, who has held elected positions including mayor of Oakland and attorney general since he left the governor's office in 1983, campaigned to become governor again in 2010 on a theme that he had "an insider's knowledge but an outsider's mind." In his announcement last week that he would seek re-election this year, Brown noted that he first ran for governor 40 years ago, but his letter to supporters focused primarily on the last three years.

Newman noted that Brown also led the campaign for Proposition 30 in 2010, which temporarily raised income taxes on the wealthy and temporarily raised the statewide sales tax to boost state revenues by about $6 billion a year. Some of that money is being dedicated to education, which had seen deep cutbacks in recent years.

Another change pushed by the governor and signed into law directs more money to schools with the highest need, defined as those with the highest proportion of low-income students, English-learners and foster children.

Brown "fundamentally reformed education funding so the schools that need resources the most are able to get them," Newman said.

Kashkari, a 40-year-old political neophyte who is best known for overseeing the bank bailout when the recession hit in 2008, spent most of his speech Thursday focusing on education reform and what he said are the state's failing schools.

Republican governors in other states have improved education for poor and minority children by embracing charter schools and allowing private school vouchers for children in poorly performing public schools, he said.

Those policies are strongly opposed by California's powerful teachers' unions, which are a crucial source of political fundraising for Democrats.

"There's just sort of a level of absurdity for a candidate like Kashkari to be lecturing about poverty and income inequality," said Newman, Brown's spokesman. "This is a guy who is of Wall Street, by Wall Street and for Wall Street - and he's lecturing us about income inequality and poverty?"

Kashkari has pegged his net worth at under $5 million. He said he planned to file his financial disclosure form on Friday. Brown's financial disclosure, released this week, shows he and his wife own millions in stocks, including more than $1 million in the fast-food company Jack in the Box, more than $1 million in an Oakland real estate development company, and several stocks valued from $100,000 to $1 million.

Kashkari was asked whether he could offer any concrete proposals to address education, but he said it was premature to offer detailed plans because voters are not yet paying attention.

He also slammed Brown's continued support for a $68 billion bullet train project despite waning public support and a series of legal setbacks, calling it "the most egregious example we have of misplaced priorities of this governor and of Sacramento."

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Avatar for user 'ptsstaff'

ptsstaff | March 7, 2014 at 10:10 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Government actions resulting in over regulations on businesses, over taxation and uncontrollable fees are contributing to the middle class becoming an endangered species as the inequality has deepened. The results are that consumers are paying for over regulations to businesses.

Extra costs resulting from government actions on businesses are a slight inconvenience to those making the big bucks such as those making the big bucks. Those behind the over regulations, over taxation, and uncontrollable "fees” on businesses are mostly the highly compensated, and most with sweet defined retirement benefit packages waiting for them upon retirement, i.e., those that CAN afford the higher costs that trickle down to all citizens for products and services.

Those that earn less than $20 per hour, which includes virtually all those in the food and hospitality industries, are the ones that can least afford higher costs for power, transportation fuels, and food. There is minimal impact to those that can afford the results of our relentless business unfriendly efforts, but little hope for those that barely exist at today's cost of living.

How will the political environment explain to the middle and poor classes why over regulations and more costs being imposed on businesses is helping to improve the inequality of the middle class that has been growing rather than shrinking?

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 7, 2014 at 11:03 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

The bullet train has got to be the absolute stupidest project in the world. What a huge waste of money.

I don't see what the problem is in giving people vouchers for private schools. I do not want to send my children to our hoodlum-infested prison yard schools where drugs and violence are rampant and most kids graduate illiterate, if they graduate at all.

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Avatar for user 'casualobserver'

casualobserver | March 7, 2014 at 11:11 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Prop 13 is what destroyed California. No money for schools, no money for infrastructure, no money for progress. Part of that shrinking middle class are those who use to have decent government jobs providing the services we have come to expect, as well as the construction jobs that were funded through government spending. Low taxes and low regulation sound good but only if you value quantity of life over quality of life. Look at the states who go that route. The jobs they produce are overwhelmingly low paying, not middle class wages, and at a price of poorly regulated sprawl and pollution. If that's your idea of Nirvana then please, please move there and make room here for those who want more out of life.

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Avatar for user 'stevefromsacto'

stevefromsacto | March 7, 2014 at 11:22 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

The selective memory among Republicans is amazing.

For example, Kashkari ignores the fact that "little" things like the Great Recession of 2008 and the increased concentration of wealth in the hands of a few have had more to do with the downfall of the middle class than anything Gov. Brown did or did not do.

p.s. Another example is the Republicans screaming about President Obama being "soft" on Russia. However, when Putin moved in on the Republic of Georgia in 2008 and President Bush did nothing, the Republicans never had a word of criticism for the President.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 7, 2014 at 12:17 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

casualobserver do you think that a construction job is middle class in California? Maybe if you own a construction company or property development company you can live a middle class lifestyle. Sorry but the union paradise of factory work does not pay middle-class wages, not even close.

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Avatar for user 'casualobserver'

casualobserver | March 7, 2014 at 1:12 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

JM, perhaps you should check in to the typical rates for the skilled trades. But thank you for raising the issue of the role of unions, which raised wages for working people above the slave rate which unfettered Capitalism deems sufficient.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 7, 2014 at 2:36 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, I know an electrician or HVAC technician can make near $100,000 a year. As I said, this is not anywhere near a middle-class income in California. Most technical jobs pay much less than this, from $12-35 per hour. Sorry, that is low-income living. People with no education cannot make a lot of money in this day in age unless they are very lucky, smart, or self-motivated.

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