Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman faced off Tuesday night in Davis, Calif.
Not because, as the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters reported, Brown, the Democrat, “doesn’t know when to stop talking.” Nor because, as NPR’s Ina Jaffe commented, Whitman, the Republican, “always hit her talking points – whether or not she was asked about them.”
It was that the debate – which featured a moderator and a panel of three journalists – tried to stuff too many questions and too many issues into a mere one hour. The result is that every question and every issue appeared to have equal importance.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Sure, California voters are interested in immigration, the death penalty, global warming and campaign attack ads. But they are nowhere near the most important issues facing the Golden State at this time.
Not when California has the nation’s third-highest jobless rate. Not when some 3 million residents are out of work – either because they can’t find work or because they’ve become so discouraged they’ve given up looking for work.
For those 3 million pitiable Californians, the most telling moment of last night’s debate was when debate panelist Marianne Russ of Capital Public Radio asked the two candidates what they would do to create jobs.
Whitman, who as former CEO of EBay grew its payroll from 30 employees to more than 15,000, promised “2 million new private sector jobs by 2015” if elected governor by making California “more business friendly.”
Her plan is to offer targeted tax cuts to businesses that create jobs, eliminate the state’s factory tax, which, she said, “penalizes manufacturers,” eliminate the so-called start up tax, which, she said, is “a big stop sign in front of budding entrepreneurs,” streamline business-related regulations and create an economic development team to compete with other states for businesses and jobs.
Brown’s jobs plan is simply to invest in California’s nascent clean energy industry, which prompted CPR’s Russ to remark, “You talk about green jobs, but that’s just a small portion of the state economy.” She asked Brown what he would do to create jobs across every sector of the economy.
Brown replied, “When I talk about green jobs, I’m not just talking about solar collectors in the desert. I mean hiring young men and women in the roofing companies that I’ve seen in Southern and Northern California. You can put people to work retrofitting the inefficient buildings in California by the hundreds of thousands.”
He added, “From the energy policies created when I was governor,” between 1975 and 1983, “over a million jobs were created over a 30 year period.”
But most of California’s 3 million unemployed are not 20-something-year-old roofers. More than 95 percent work in industries other than clean energy. Brown’s jobs plan has nothing for them.
Whitman’s jobs plan is not perfect, but it holds far more promise for out of work Californians than Brown’s.
On that issue – which is far more important to the state electorate than any of the others that received equal time last night, including the death penalty, immigration, global warming and campaign attack ads – Whitman came out ahead.