- Who are you?
- What is your platform?
- Why is Jerry Brown the worst governor in the country?
- Humor on the campaign trail?
- What is Anti-Naderism?
Keeping it short...
Born and raised in Michigan, in cities then country. Graduated from Rockford High, math award and class poet. Back to Detroit for college. Learned that being dominated by rich corporations does not guarantee a prosperous city, though Detroit was rich in many ways: Motown was still there. Scholarship student; majored in foreign languages; graduated Phi Beta Kappa and moved to Boston, Massachusetts for ten years. Moved to San Francisco; married; had a daughter Natalia. She graduated from UC Santa Cruz and formed a rock band. I learned to ballroom dance. Living in a community house. Motivated by my time in Detroit, my basic transportation method is bikes, buses and buddies.
Always about money. Language major prepared me to learn computer programming languages; became a programmer, systems analyst, project manager. Worked in the financial industry: mutual funds, stocks, bonds, real estate mortgage loans, pension funds. Switched to non-profits such as Pesticide Action Network and Women's Economic Agenda Project. Worked in other sectors too, including schools, labor unions and the government.
A friend from a spiritual center told me he had a dream I was in politics. I said, "I hate politics." He said, "Try the Green Party, it's brand new on the ballot." Took his advice; it was 1992. What keeps me with the Greens are the values of nonviolence, social justice, grassroots democracy and ecological wisdom; and the understanding that it really is all interconnected: all the people, all the problems and all the solutions, spiritually and politically. And very importantly, Greens walk the talk: candidates take no corporate money. Ran for Controller in 2002 and 2006, following the money and seeing how it relates to values. Received over 400,000 votes in 2002, setting the record for the highest vote count of any Green Party candidate in a partisan statewide race in California. Ran for Governor in 2010 after the global economic meltdown. Running for Controller in 2014, and asking Californians for support and votes in the June 3, 2014 “Top Two” primary, so that we can implement the solutions we know exist.
As your elected Controller, I oppose the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the 1% and their corporations. As a candidate and an elected official, I will accept no corporate money in any form, such as lobbyists, developers, and Political Action Committees (PACs). I will do the following.
Implement a Publicly-Owned State Bank for California
Determine the best option or options for a successful implementation of a State Bank, and get started on it. Day one.
Advance Fair Taxes in California
Broadcast in every way possible the real rates of taxes people are paying now, to show that despite whatever the “stated” rates are, people in families with less income and wealth are paying at a higher rate than people and corporations with more income and wealth.
Audit Proposition 13
Publish the real long-term effects — good and bad — since 1978. Support the growing understanding among regular people that we can retain the good parts that kept residents especially seniors in their homes AND fix the bad parts of Proposition 13 that hurt California's schools, services, and infrastructure. Prop 13 also served to increase inequality of wealth. Audits of public finances are a vital part of the Controller’s job. I will do the big audit: Prop 13.
Change the Conversation in Boards and Commissions.
Bring the voice of the people to the table as a key member of many boards and commissions focused on finance, budget and taxation. (Even a "lone voice" is very important. As the saying goes, either you're at the table, or you're on the menu.) Make California a more equal state and increase real opportunity for people.
Enforce Existing Laws.
Enforce the taxes that are currently on the books, stop focusing audits on lower income taxpayers, and start focusing on concentrated wealth. Close loopholes that have enabled rich corporations and individuals to avoid taxes.
Make Taxes More Fair.
- Higher tax rates for the high income tax brackets, starting first with the billionaires.
- Financial transaction tax, like the sales tax paid on other purchases.
- Lower sales tax rates, because they hit lower and middle income people the hardest.
- Reduce fees for everything from college tuition to park entrance fees. Fees are a form of taxation.
- Close the property tax loopholes that benefit commercial and corporate properties at the expense of homeowners.
- Oil severance/extraction tax, like every other state and governmental jurisdiction in the world.
- Estate tax, to stop the situation exemplified by the Walton family of Walmart, which owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of America. Meanwhile, Walmart workers are given low wages and benefits.
- Wealth tax, as in France, India, Lichtenstein, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and now Spain and Iceland. The inequality of wealth has become so extreme that making future tax rates more fair will not make up for the excesses of the past. Decrease the disparity of wealth and increase opportunities for everyone, now.
- The list goes on.
I could make a good case for the statement that Jerry Brown is the worst governor in the country.
I know there’s a lot of competition, and Californians might nominate Governor Rick Perry of Texas or Scott Walker of Wisconsin, but only Jerry Brown has had a golden opportunity to fix a huge, nation-changing problem that originated in his first term as governor almost 40 years ago. Brown has blown that golden opportunity.
Why bring up Brown in a race for Controller or any other office? The answer is that in the June 3, 2014 primary election we have a chance to elect no-corporate-money candidates who will not toe the Jerry Brown line. We need to look at the actual results, not the hype.
Good old Proposition 13 — both wonderful and terrible — was approved by voters in 1978, three years into Brown’s first term as governor. It flattened property taxes, required a two-thirds supermajority of the legislature to raise taxes, and ignited a “tax revolt” that spread across the country. People often credit the “Reagan revolution” with increasing the disparity of wealth and weakening government, but Reagan wasn’t elected President until 1980, two years after Prop 13 passed.
Although Jerry Brown officially opposed Proposition 13 in 1978, his opposition to the ballot measure was weak, and, more importantly, he refused to solve the problem beforehand. Homeowners were desperately struggling with the problem of seniors and others losing their homes due to rising property taxes. That problem could and still can be solved in better ways, but voters in 1978 backed Jarvis-Gann’s Proposition 13 only after they were thoroughly frustrated by the lack of response by their elected government officials. Jerry Brown was then and is now at the top of that list of officials in California.
Since then, the once-enviable public school and university system, the legacy of his father Governor Pat Brown, began to unravel and now California is near the bottom of all states in per-pupil expenditures for public education.
Jerry Brown’s missed opportunities to keep the good and fix the bad of Prop 13 are many. As Attorney General in 2010, Brown helped derail an effort spearheaded by author and linguist George Lakoff to change Prop 13‘s super-majority rule for taxes. In 2012, when Brown was governor for a third term, voters were ready to increase taxes to fix the budget problems. Brown proposed a tax initiative that was increasingly beaten in the polls by a competing initiative called the Millionaires Tax. Rather than support the preferred tax, Brown called its backers into his office and forged a compromise which lowered the taxes on the rich, retained a regressive sales tax increase, and made the tax temporary rather than permanent, necessitating another initiative effort down the road to retain the taxes. (Jerry Brown talks tough when he cuts spending, saying that he won’t “kick the can down the road,” and yet that’s exactly what he did with the 2012 tax initiative.) The main feature Brown kept from the preferred tax was the name, Millionaire’s Tax.
Then he gained a huge advantage. His team — the Democratic Party — enjoyed a two-thirds super-majority in both houses of the legislature, and they already held every single statewide office. Couldn’t blame the Republicans any more. What did he and his team do with that? Raise taxes on the rich? Implement an oil extraction tax like every other place in the world? Implement a sales tax on financial transactions? Close the loopholes that flipped the property tax balance and now enable corporate and commercial properties in total to pay less than residential properties? No, no, no, and no.
In addition to taxation and Proposition 13, there's his record of weak half-measures-only on prisons, banking, immigration, fracking, and healthcare.
Brown stood with Governor Schwarzenegger in opposition to amending the three strikes law to apply only to violent felonies, and later as Governor himself, Brown defied court orders to reduce prison crowding, thus maintaining California’s position as having the second highest incarceration rate in the world, second only to the United States.
In banking, the legislature passed a bill to study a State Bank, and Jerry Brown vetoed it, and continued to rely on Wall Street banks.
As to healthcare, the legislature passed single-payer healthcare twice only to have Republican Schwarzenegger veto it. When Democrat Brown took office in 2010, the legislature didn’t bring it to a vote. Instead they pushed Obamacare. Compared to the healthcare systems of other wealthy industrialized countries, Obamacare is the worst. If Jerry Brown had worked with the Democrats in the legislature to pass and sign single-payer healthcare, California could have led the country in creating a healthcare system as good as those enjoyed by other countries.
All in all, it’s a dismal record, and the worst of it, the part that really caps his qualifications to be crowned the worst governor in the country, is that his results are presented as big successes. His rhetoric about balancing budgets, rainy day funds, making the tough decisions, and not kicking the can down the road all serve to distract people from the widespread deterioration of our schools, justice system, healthcare, environment, and finances. Reagan was called the “Teflon president” because his bad acts seemed not to stick to him. Now that California has both the biggest increase in super-rich individuals and the highest poverty rate of any state in the country, Jerry Brown could be called the “Teflon governor,” and the worst governor in the country.
CAUTION: Some of this may only be “humor” if you’re a candidate running for office, and some only if you’re a no-corporate-money candidate running for office on the Green Party ticket AND you’re looking for humor in order to retain your sanity. I don’t know!
Frequently Asked Questions
Tied for most common question in the Controller race are “What does it do?” and “Is there a P in the title?”
Crashing the private party
“You don’t belong here.”
That’s what security officer Harry said to me outside the gubernatorial debate in San Rafael, California on the evening of October 12, 2010. I was the Green Party candidate for governor. Although I had never been arrested before in my life, if he really wanted to get me to move, those were not the magic words.
I had been in what was called the “free speech zone.” You can tell you’re a flesh and blood person when your “free speech” is allowed in an area far from the action and behind a barricade. For a corporate person, especially since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in early 2010, “free speech” was any amount of money it wanted to spend on political campaigns.
Behind the free speech barricades, supporters held signs saying “Let Laura debate” and a few reporters pushed their microphones across the barricades for interviews. In some cases, it was the first time in the race they had covered a candidate who was not a member of one of the two Titanic Parties.
A young man in the crowd approached me to say “you should at least be in the audience” and gave me — and a friend — two extra tickets he had. Those tickets got us through the first gatekeeper, but on the steps of Angelico Hall of the Dominican University, security guard Harry recognized me because of the interviews with reporters. Tickets to be in the audience had been assigned by lottery to specific people, so he assumed the ticket was not mine, snatched the ticket out of my hand, grabbed my arm, and hauled me off to the police. My friend was left undisturbed.
The police put my arms behind my back, placed me in metal handcuffs, dipped my head, and sat me in the back of a squad car. The charge? “Trespassing at a private party.”
Private party? We wish it were a public party!
You’re famous but nobody knows you!
In the fall of 2012 I was phone-banking in the Sierra Club office for no-corporate-money candidates running for City Council in Richmond (the largest city in the country with a Green Party mayor). I handed out leaflets with State Bank and a bio on one side and an introduction to the No Corporate Money Campaign on the other side. A Sierra Club volunteer read the bio and said, “So you’re the person who was arrested outside the gubernatorial debate. You’re famous but nobody knows you!”
I know who you are!
I have to admit, it is fun to be recognized occasionally, especially when it catches you by surprise. I’m sure that has happened a lot to Jill Stein, who ran for president on the Green Party ticket in 2012 and who helped crack open the electoral system with her participation in alternative televised debates. Often in 2012 and even later several people came up to me and said, “I know who you are!” I would smile broadly and they would say, “You’re Jill Stein!”
“If you had been in the debates…”
A local TV talk show invited the four non-Titanic gubernatorial candidates to appear. I’m grateful — most corporate media want to ignore us. The host asked each of us three questions with the same format, ending with, “We know you weren’t in the debates, but if you had been, what would you have said? You have 30 seconds!”
Why only boys?
During the 1992 presidential elections, my 8-year-old daughter Natalia and I were in the car listening to the radio. She suddenly asked, “Mom. Why are all the presidents boys?” On a lot of levels I wanted to say, you know that’s a REAL good question, although I knew she simply referred to women as “girls” and men as “boys.” I said, “Remember that I've told you about customs, which often aren’t right or wrong but they’re just what people expect? Well, like customs, there are traditions in the way people think. And there’s a tradition of people thinking that boys are smarter than girls and make better leaders. Of course it’s not true.” And she said, as adamantly as an 8-year-old girl can do, “Well, NO!!!!”
Gee, can I threaten you too?
A friend who was on the City Council was running for mayor. A political organizer at a union told her candidly that although he was new to the local political scene, he understood another candidate for mayor would hurt the union if they didn’t endorse him. What could my friend say to that? Maybe “In order to get your endorsement, is there some way I can threaten you too?”
I don’t like dynasties.
During my Governor run in 2010 a guest at a house party said to me, “I like Jerry Brown.” I must have been in my “don’t take it personally, just be curious” mode, so I asked, “What do you like about him?” She answered, “Well, I don’t like dynasties...” I was puzzled about that, since she seemed old enough to know that his father Pat Brown had also been Governor of California. She continued, “… and Jerry Brown doesn’t have any children.”
Any stress lately?
Early in my run for Governor I started feeling a tightness in my chest that lasted long enough for me to go to Kaiser to have it checked out. After my first-ever EKG the doctor said, “Your EKG was fine. Have you been under any special stress lately?” I said I was running for Governor, and he said, “That might do it.”
Clean your room…
I’m a firm believer in the practice of meditation. Sometimes I ask for answers to specific questions. About the time of the EKG test, I asked, “What in the world should I do in this campaign right now?” When the answer is unexpected and yet you realize it totally prepares you for the larger picture (like, getting organized and maintaining a high level of energy), you know it’s coming from somewhere other than your usual mind. The answer was, “Clean your room and stop eating sugar.”
Hope and cynicism
I’m also a firm believer that hope is an essential human nutrient (be sure to avoid the artificial kind). Still, it’s sometimes hard to stay positive and keep your hopes up. When I’m faced with cynicism of my own or anybody else’s, I think of two quotes. George Carlin said, “If you scratch a cynic, you find a disappointed idealist.” And in the play The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, Lily Tomlin said, “I worry that no matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up.”
Speaking of favorite quotes
In summer of 2007 I decided to learn to ballroom dance, and I love it, and my honey, whom I met at a dance. (It’s a great way to meet — you are in each other’s arms by the time you learn each other’s names.) This helps explain one of my favorite political quotes, by Emma Goldman, “If I can't dance I don't want to be any part of your revolution.” In a related way, I believe that the ultimate feminist statement is, “Girls just want to have fun!” (Now what’s all this destructive stuff and how can we clean it up and have some fun!)
At their 3-year anniversary party last November I asked two friends how they met. They said, “Laura, you don’t know? It was at your election night party!”
Anti-Naderism is the idea that voters should not vote for candidates that "can't win" or else they will help the candidate they don't like. This is an idea that was strongly pushed by the Democratic Party after the 2000 presidential election. Democratic Party adherents blamed Green Party candidate Ralph Nader for the fact that George W. Bush took the presidency rather than Al Gore. [See NOTE below for a short, very incomplete list of reasons Bush took the presidency.]
To me, the problem is the reduction of people's power — more precisely people’s perceived power and ability — to effect change in the United States. McCarthyism in the 1950s decimated the organized power of the Communists, Socialists and unions. These groups, I believe, should be credited with creating the New Deal, more than FDR.
In the late 1990s and 2000s, people were beginning to vote outside the two huge (Titanic) political parties. Just as McCarthyism caused people to back away from communism, socialism and unionism, anti-Naderism caused voters to back away from political parties and candidates whose values and policies they preferred. Both McCarthyism and anti-Naderism narrowed the options that people felt comfortable choosing, and channeled voters into the narrow chute of corporate-controlled parties and candidates.
NOTE: An incomplete list of reasons Bush took the presidency includes: the Supreme Court selected Bush; Gore lost his home state and Clinton's home state; Gore focused on Florida's butterfly ballots and not the disenfranchisement of African American voters despite appeals by the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus; Gore actually won the popular vote in the country and lost the Electoral College vote due to Florida — neither Titanic Party has done what it takes to eliminate the Electoral College, or to implement ranked choice voting and proportional representation. Open questions include: who knows how many more Democrats voted for Bush than voted for Nader; who knows how many Nader voters would not have voted at all if Nader had not been on the ballot.