Notes of a Reporter at Large • 06-02-11 PDF  | Print |  E-mail
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Friday, 03 June 2011 14:50

Speaking of Politics

By Mel Lavine

Special to the Times

I attended a talk last week by Peter Schrag. He was the editorial page editor and political columnist of the Sacramento Bee for many years. Schrag still keeps the pot boiling, turning out books and pieces on California  politics.

Let me share a nugget or two from the lecture. Schrag says people should not have been scandalized by the recent news about Arnold. It was plain, or should have been plain, to anyone following the campaign in 2002. But people weren’t listening. So we got the governor we deserved, not the one many (not me) thought they were voting for. In so many words, Schrag dismissed Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California 2003-2011, as a Hollywood showman.

As for his successor, the former and present governor, Schrag was not impressed with Jerry Brown’s earlier performance from 1975 to 1983. Too much moonshine. But he does have hopes since Brown regained the office this year. Schrag draws inspiration not from Jerry but from the governor’s wife, Ann Gust, a former executive for the Gap, and a longtime girl friend whom he married in June of 2005. She’s the one Schrag seems to counting on to apply the toe weights.

Meantime in Washington,  as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman sadly noted, no one is seriously talking about creating jobs. “Not the Republican party,” he said, “unless you count its ritual calls for tax cuts and deregulation. Not the Obama administration, which more or less dropped the subject a year and a half ago.”

We could, he argues, have W.P.A. programs “putting people back to work doing useful things like repairing roads... We could have a serious program of mortgage modification, reducing the debts of troubled homeowners...”

He recognizes that any serious effort to tackle unemployment “will run into a stone wall of Republican opposition.” But that’s not a reason “to stop talking about issues.” As he sees it, the more policymakers “fail to do anything about the problem, the more they convince themselves that there’s nothing they could do.”

As we speak, Republicans in Congress are intent on putting the Dodd-Frank reform law in limbo. The legislation was intended to protect consumers, not bankers. But the Republicans in the Senate have served notice on President Obama that they would not confirm any nominee to run the new Consumer Protection Bureau unless Democrats agree to water down the new agency’s powers. Towards this end they have been giving  Elizabeth Warren, a consumer advocate and Harvard professor, who has been setting up the bureau, a very hard time. She has stood her ground.

“The only question,” said the New York Times in an editorial, “is when Mr. Obama will start pushing back.” The legislation was enacted into law nearly a year ago.

Mel Lavine was a television producer for many years with NBC News and CBS News in New York. Contact him at his e-mail address: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .





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