Jerry, Barack, and the GOP

The governor and the president appear to be finally realizing that Republicans aren't interested in making deals.

Since taking office in January, Governor Jerry Brown has repeatedly attempted to strike compromises with Republican lawmakers. First, he tried desperately to reach an agreement on a pact that would have extended some existing taxes for the next few years in order to avoid drastic budget cuts, particularly to higher education. Then last week, he unsuccessfully attempted to ink a deal that would have raised taxes on out-of-state corporations in order to reward California small businesses and stimulate the creation of more jobs in the state. But Republicans in California and throughout the nation have made it clear in the past few years that creating jobs and educating young people are not priorities. Indeed, the only issues the GOP seems to care about these days are cutting taxes, shrinking government, and winning elections.

Over the weekend, veteran Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton had an illuminating piece on how the anti-tax lobby now dominates Republican politics. Skelton noted that the most powerful person in Sacramento last week wasn’t Brown or some legislative leader, but a man named Jon Coupal. Who is he? He’s the head of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and his influence on GOP lawmakers is so strong that the governor invited him personally to his office on Friday for a chat.

It didn’t work. Coupal told Brown that his organization had no interest in backing any proposal that includes a tax increase, even if it might help small businesses. And so, without Coupal’s blessing, Brown’s proposal died in the state Senate a few hours later, failing to garner the two GOP votes needed for passage — even though the governor had previously convinced two Assembly Republicans to vote for it.

On the national stage, anti-tax guru Grover Norquist is Coupal’s equivalent. Norquist has so much influence in Washington, in fact, that many GOP Congress members, not to mention Republican presidential candidates, have signed his pledge not to support any proposals that include higher taxes — even if it’s just about closing loopholes. Republicans are now so rabidly anti-tax that they won’t even consider proposals they previously endorsed.

For the past three years, President Barack Obama has attempted to reach similar types of compromises with Republicans as Brown has tried to make in California. But the president hasn’t had much success either. In fact, Obama, who has bent over backward to give Republicans what they want only to be spurned repeatedly, finally seems to be getting the message.

In his speech to the nation last week, the president struck a much more aggressive tone with the GOP. In a passionate and powerful address, he called on Republicans to pass his new jobs bill, a $447 billion proposal designed to put America back to work. The president noted that every idea in his plan had been accepted previously by Republicans, before they became the Party of No. “The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy,” the president said.

Republicans, however, immediately made it clear that they have no intention of ending the partisan war, let alone the political circus in Washington. In a piece published by Politico, a Republican staffer summed up why. It’s all about politics and who’s going to win the next election: “Obama is on the ropes; why do we appear ready to hand him a win?” the staffer explained. In other words, Republicans are saying that if the president’s plan helps the economy, it’s bad for the GOP because it might help Obama get reelected.

Similarly, Brown also now appears ready to abandon his fruitless attempts to reach compromises with the GOP. At a convention in Las Vegas on Monday, he forcefully called out Republicans, too. “There’s this idea that [if] you have a little extra tax, that somehow that’s an evil,” the governor said, according to the LA Times. “And we’ve got a group in California, that every time you try to raise a little money for more roads and more dams, for more bridges, for more train tracks, they block it.”

It’s taken Brown and Obama a while, but they might finally be figuring it out. Since 2008, Republicans have been in no mood for compromises — unless you call a “compromise” getting everything you want. And even then, the GOP may still say “no,” particularly if they think that agreeing to such a “deal” might help a Democrat win the next election.

Three-Dot Roundup struck a deal with legislative Democrats and Republicans, agreeing to scuttle its attempts to overturn the state’s new online sales tax law in exchange for not collecting sales tax in California in September 2012. … The Oakland school district may close up to ten schools this year because the district increasingly realizes that it has more campuses than it can afford. … BART police, who seem to overreact to every incident they encounter, handcuffed and detained several journalists during a protest last week, including Chronicle reporter Vivian Ho. BART cops even refused to release the journalists after they produced IDs, the Chronicle reported. The journalists’ big offense? They were interviewing protesters. … After the FBI last week raided Solyndra, the Fremont solar company that abruptly went bankrupt, Congressional Democrats and Republicans began to question whether Solyndra’s CEO lied to Congress in July when he said the company was in good financial shape. … The state legislature approved a bill that bans the sale of shark fins in California, although it was only one of a few pieces of environmental legislation to win approval this year, the San Jose Mercury News reported. … Berkeley High hired two new security guards, bringing its total to twelve as the campus attempts to avoid a repeat of last year’s violence, the Berkeley Voice reported. … And the City of Richmond appears to be having success with its daytime curfew law, which steers truants to need social services, the Contra Costa Times reported. Richmond enacted the law last year after city officials recognized that most youth crime happens during the day.


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