I wonder if Gov. Jerry Brown is overcompensating. During and after his first governorship, he was criticized for ignoring the nitty gritty of budgeting and governance in favor of broad visions. (He was too visionary for some--one columnist famously dubbed him Moonbeam). Now in his second governorship, he has been relentlessly focused on fiscal details, first of the budget and now pensions.
The focus is nice, but it's not enough. California has been mired in the details of these debates about budgets and pensions for years. What's needed now is not only focus but also more vision. The governor needs to come up with a new story of California, a new vision, that isn't merely about cuts or taxes or pension caps but offers a new way forward and a path to a better place.
But Brown has not risen to the occasion. His budget proposal is all about the trees--particular cuts -- and misses the forest, which is the need to transform the process itself. His 12-point pension proposal, while full of solid details and fixes to curb abuses to the existing process, suffers from a similar deficit of vision. The big unanswered question for those of us who aren't public workers and don't have their retirement security is: what does this mean for the rest of us in our old age? Brown is missing an opportunity to think bigger and redesign the public pension system in a way that's so fiscally sustainable it could be a model for re-establishing private pensions.
While running for governor last year, Brown promised he would bring "an insider's knowledge and an outsider's mind" to the office. Well, we've seen his "insider's knowledge." But his mind seems trapped inside the maze of Capitol conventional wisdom.