Has Jerry Gone German?

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There was something unmistakably German about Gov. Jerry Brown's introduction of his revised budget proposal Monday -- particularly in its embrace of austerity.

Brown directly waded into the debate in Europe -- between Germany (which has promoted austerity) and other countries, most famously Greece, that are overburdened by debt and fighting austerity measures -- even as he talked about the California budget and initiative process.

Brown suggested that California could be on the path of struggling European countries if it didn't embrace cuts -- and that the world needed to cut back.

In this context, Brown's budget is all German. He embraced austerity -- cuts to health and human services and other programs in the near term, and big cuts to public schools and universities in the event that his temporary tax-hike ballot initiative doesn't pass in November.

And he went so far as to suggest that we take a German attitude about all of this. "A modicum of stoicism" was Brown's request of assembled reporters, and of the public. He also asked Californians not to indulge instant gratification.

This isn't likely to be a winning argument. Californians aren't a stoic lot. And instant gratification is a pretty good description of California's social religion.

Indeed, the Germans themselves seem to be souring on austerity. The German economy is at risk in large part because austerity in troubled countries hasn't worked at restoring economic growth or reducing debt. And German voters in the country's largest state (North Rhine-Westphalia, the California of Germany, at least as a matter of size) just voted against the party of Angela Merkel, the austerity-loving German chancellor.

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Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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