In California, with 4.4 million Asian Americans–the most Asian state in the nation–Jerry Brown is once again the chief executive.
Are you ready for the pain?
Previously a two-term governor at age 36, Brown is back for a third term at age 72, after a mid-life spent in pursuit of the White House, and then caretaker jobs as Mayor of Oakland and state Attorney General.
The public servant formerly known as Governor Moonbeam is back on top.
As you can tell, the state’s voters believe in recycling.
But will they believe in increases in taxes, severe cutbacks in government services and union-protected government jobs?
Those are among the ways Brown will have to deal with deficits already projected at more than $28 billion over the next 18 months, and that could skyrocket to $20 billion a year for the next five years.
After taking his oath from Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (the first Filipino American chief justice in California), Brown went after the legislators in the audience.
He chastised Democrats and Republicans for their inability to agree on a way to deal with the state’s economic crisis, saying “they remain in their respective comfort zones, rehearsing and rehashing old political positions.”
He called for legislators to “rise above ideology.”
The “unity/austerity” rhetoric we’ve heard before.
Obama’s inaugural sounded very similar on a cold day in January 2009. But did that foreshadow the extension of tax cuts?
Brown may be able to succeed because he’s in a different place. He’s older. He doesn’t need another job. He may be in position to do the tough thing: Hurt people he loves.
Said Brown: “I’m not here to embrace delay and denial.”
So it seems he’s ready to hit the ground running, budget ax in hand.
But will that mean going after the labor unions?
After the inaugural, reports had him glad-handing labor big wigs at the California Labor Federation’s upscale celebration.
Big Labor helped Brown get elected in almost a push button way. Brown, you’ll recall, was up against the high-tech exec Meg Whitman, who had raised a sinful $140 million in pursuit of a government job. You might still be able find her tattered campaign playbook on E-Bay.
Brown ran his campaign like Seabiscuit, starting his run late, but finishing strong. Labor and ethnic voters gave Brown his edge. Now will they bear the brunt of his cuts?
It’s hard to imagine how Brown can get it done.
If he tries, there’s John Chiang, the state controller and highest ranking Asian American elected official. It was his heroics that saved the day numerous times when he stood up to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget dictums.
When Schwarzenegger wanted to pare down 200,000 state employees’ salaries to minimum wage, Chiang said no. One political cartoonist even caricatured Chiang as the Tienanmen Square protestor who stood up to the army tank.
Labor, of course, praised Chiang. And the Democrats reveled in seeing Arnold’s biceps shrink before our eyes.
Now with Brown at the helm, the era of sacrifice has arrived.
Are Californians all ready to take on a lot more pain?