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Jerry on 2nd Reading: Is He Too Zen For The Moment?

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    SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 03: California governor Jerry Brown (R) and his wife Anne Gust Brown (L) enjoy a hot dog during the People's Party after he was sworn in as the 39th governor of California by California on January 3, 2011 in Sacramento, California. Jerry Brown will begin his third term as California's governor 28 years after serving his last term. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jerry Brown;Anne Gust-Brown

    I wrote here yesterday that Gov. Jerry Brown's inaugural was a smart speech with an important message that Californians need to buck up and prepare to sacrifice. I still feel that way, but there's one section of the speech that's more troubling the more I read it.

    This passage came late in the speech:

    "It is sobering and enlightening to read through the inaugural addresses of past governors. They each start on a high note of grandeur and then focus on virtually the same recurring issues—education, crime, budgets, water.

    "I have thought a lot about this and it strikes me that what we face together as Californians are not so much problems but rather conditions, life’s inherent difficulties. A problem can be solved or forgotten but a condition always remains. It remains to elicit the best from each of us and show us how we depend on one another and how we have to work together."

    That sounds cool and philosphical. It's also total bunk.

    Of course, the issues facing the state are timeless, in some sense, particularly education, budget and water. But what California faces governmentally are NOT "life's inherent difficulties." California has problems on issues but it has deeper problems of its governing and fiscal systems that are peculiar to California and not inherent in anything. Our inflexible initiative process is like no other process on earth. That's not inherent. We have more two-thirds vote requirements and other constitutional spending and tax mandates than any other state in the country. That's not inherent to life. And we have a broken election system that we could change (and are beginning to change).

    Brown, however, has expressed no interest in dealing with these systemic problems. And in this speech, he suggests the state's problems aren't even problems. They are merely conditions, destined always to be with us. Brown is being praised this morning for his leadership and realism yesterday. But this part of the speech showed neither. This is fatalism. And it isn't even realistic. Californians face systemic problems, hard problems, but they can be fixed--by adopting new systems of initiative, budget and elections that have proven records of success in other parts of the world.

    If the speech is any guide, Californians who want to fix the state's problems shouldn't count on much help from the new governor.