On Pensions, Jerry and Meg Are Pimps, Not Whores

In the furor over a voice mail recording in which an unnamed Jerry Brown aide -- or maybe even his wife -- suggests calling Meg Whitman a "whore," the context has been lost. And the context is important -- because it says something important about an important issue, and about both candidates.

The issue is pensions. The "salty language" was used to point out -- quite correctly, in this blogger's view -- that Whitman was selling herself, in a political sense, to law enforcement unions to win their endorsements. The nature of her sellout was this: While Whitman made great sport of saying she would be tough on unions and would push for broad pension reform, she would exempt law enforcement unions from the pension reforms.

That's terrible policy -- and puts the lie to pretty much everything she says about pensions.

That's because the pension crisis is primarily about cops, firefighters and other public employees who protect the public. They have the biggest salaries and richest pensions and the lowest retirement ages. And the benefits and wages California pays such workers surpasses anything paid in other states. So that Brown aide was right.

Of course, you could say something similar about Brown.

Yes, his pension plans involve taking on all public employees, rather than exempting one. But it's also clear that his particular medicine isn't nearly strong enough. Brown, in fact, proposes only modest changes. He's said publicly that he'd like to wait to see if the stock market comes back.

So both Whitman and Brown deserve to be on the business end of off-color insults on this issue.

The problem with the word "whore" (besides the fact that it makes Brown look anti-woman) is that it's the wrong metaphor. Because Brown and Whitman aren't selling themselves for the cheap thrill of votes. By failing to confront the pension problem, they're selling the state's future and younger Californians.

They're pimps, making whores of us all.

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