Prop Zero
The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

Meg's Northrop Gaffe

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    NEWSLETTERS

    If Jerry Brown had a more effective campaign, he'd be punishing Meg Whitman for a monumental gaffe: her declaration that a major aerospace company left California even when it hasn't.

    John Myers of KQED does a very thorough job here of showing all the ways Whitman got this wrong. Whitman said the bad business climate had forced the company in question, Northrop Grumman, to relocate to Virginia from Southern California. In fact, only Northrop executives moved to Virginia, and they did so to be closer their biggest customer: the federal government.

    Why should we care, given the complete disconnect between reality and political rhetoric?

    It's not just that Whitman got this wrong. (Please alert me when a candidate for governor in California gets something right, for that would be real news). Or that she's asking Californians to hire her, despite her lack of experience in government, because she's such an expert on jobs.

    It's that Whitman, like so many candidates around the country, are running on the notion that tax cuts and the private sector produce growth, and that government gets in the way.

    And the Northrop story -- heck, the history of Southern California -- argues the exact opposite. Government can propel growth. It was federal government's defense and aerospace spending that brought wealth and people to Southern California in the middle of the last century. And the decline of that government-funded industry, particularly after the end of the Cold War, has contributed more than anything to the past two decades of economic difficulty in the region. No tax cut or incentive has been able to replace what government helped seed.

    For Whitman to use the largest surviving aerospace company -- and the 30,000 workers who remain here -- as some sort of phony example to make a false point is shameless, even for her and her opponent in this utterly dishonest gubernatorial campaign.