Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Invented Recall

The Former Governor of California has produced a biography of his public life what in most circles would be charitably called "invented."  Many of these things leave out key details but this one, by all accounts, is even more an exercise in fantasy.   The former Governor has had at least three careers - as a body builder, movie star and politician.   I cannot comment on his first two careers but had to live, as a Californian through his third.   In one of his movies, The Last Action Hero, he comes off as a relentless pitchman.  The problem is that his political career could have been a lot better, had he backed his pitch, which hit a chord when he was first elected, with substance.

The voters of California recalled Arnold Schwarzennegger's predecessor, Gray Davis because he seemed to be without a clue about how to balance the state budget but also because he was commonly seen as being too solicitous to the public employee unions.  When the tech bubble was expanding he promoted huge new spending that had long term implications; when it exploded, he seemed to not understand that he needed to reduce spending.  Voter's rejection of Davis was unprecedented; so Schwarzennegger had a real opportunity.   The Governator came in an almost from the start seemed to demonstrate two capacities which would not help him.

First, many of his staff were not up to the job.  When she came to California, colleagues in the state warned me that she had read a lot of her own press clippings but had a profound inability to hear.  (Not a physiological problem.)  The Governor immediately moved to eliminate an increase in the fee to license vehicles which had the dual problem of not creating growth and increasing the financial problems facing the state.   In his first few months he could have done a thoughtful review of state spending but instead through his director of finance produced a set of proposals that were sloppy at best and surely poorly thought out.

At the same time, his attention span was limited, except when it cam to talking about himself.  When the legislature did not fall over to his charm he made comments that a fawning press might have liked but were unlikely to generate much respect within the Capitol.  That led to a couple of budgets which were hypothetical, at best.

He sees as one of his major accomplishments the enactment of AB 23 - which led California to lead the nation in adopting stringent cap and trade limits which have begun to kick in.  There is little doubt that the adoption of this measure will have long term negative consequences on economic growth.

When the book came out he did a series of interviews, where his feigned contrition for his now well publicized affair with a domestic, was an embarrassment.  But then what you realize after a while is that the person is just like the book, always about promoting himself.   The state could have done better.

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