The Nostalgia Factor: Was Jerry That Bad?


I remember when he became governor the first time. He was quite a change from Ronald Reagan. The new governor was a bachelor former seminarian who said things we weren't used to coming from a politician.

"Remember," he accurately predicted  to the capitol press corp, "there will be just as many problems when I leave as when I arrive. They may be different but there will be problems."

Yes, there were but it seems like the problems the state faced at the time he left are dwarfed by what we face today. The Whitman campaign argues that Jerry Brown is part of the reason for that. For example, it was Jerry who signed the law granting collective bargaining for state workers.  Not a bad idea at the time but now the state faces a massive unpaid debt to state worker benefits that far outstrip that of those in the private sector. Many state workers will actually live longer in retirement at nearly their full salary and full health benefits than they did actually working for the public.

Gov. Brown also, it can be argued, paved the way for a tax revolt that should never have happened. Inflation was rampant (another Jerry, as in Ford,  was handing out presidential "WIN" buttons which stood for "Whip Inflation Now"). As a result home values were climbing fast. In some cases on the coast they had doubled overnight. Now remember this was back in the day when most people didn't consider their homes "investments" but rather a place to live.  While property owners were getting slammed the state was reaping the benefit but frankly didn't have all that much need for the extra cash. Jerry Brown now takes  credit for the billions in surplus money but had he turned around and used it for tax relief you never would have heard of Howard Jarvis. He didn't and Prop 13 is now an untouchable element of California governance.

But back then the legislature worked. Ballot measures were actually few and far between . Budgets came in on time. The UC and CSU system were still pretty much free. Nobody worried too much about those who crossed the border illegally, unemployment wasn't a major problem and there was still a feeling that the state's best days were ahead.

And the governor was interesting. Remember when Jerry thought the state should have its own space program?

It has been said that if you hear a song you hated when you were a teen, you will enjoy it as a middle aged adult.  It isn't the song, it is the memory of what life was like back when. 

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