Shocker! In New Ad, Meg Whitman Comes Out Against Prop 13

The headline on this blog post isn't exactly true.

But then, neither is Meg Whitman's new ad (you can watch it below) attacking Jerry Brown.

There's much in the ad that is misleading, but I want to focus on one particular crime against history that Whitman commits here.

In this ad and in campaign material, Whitman says that Brown's big spending during his previous two terms as governor (1975 - 1983) was a failure because "his big spending turns a surplus into a billion dollar deficit."

That's true -- but only in the same way that whoever happened to be mayor of Hiroshima in 1945 might be attacked in future campaigns for "turning a nice Japanese city into a radioactive graveyard."

The nuclear bomb responsible for turning the Brown surplus into a deficit during his time as governor was called Prop 13. Yes, that's right--the same Prop 13, the 1978 initiative, that Whitman says she will protect 100 percent. So, by the standards of evidence and arguemnt employed by the Whitman campaign, one would have every right to argue that Whitman, in this ad, is saying that Prop 13 was a mistake.

When Prop 13 passed, local governments no longer had the ability to fund themselves and programs. So the state, which was running a big surplus under Brown, stepped in to bail them out.

The real question about Brown and Prop 13 isn't whether he was a big spender. The question is whether he was too frugal--whether, by maintaining such a large surplus without providing prompt property tax relief at a time when the public was crying out for such relief, Brown was responsible for the passage of Prop 13 and the resulting budget damage.

At the same time, Whitman's campaign has suggested in other forums that Brown raised taxes during his tenure. To the contrary, taxes went down under Brown. (The big tax raiser was tax-and-spend Republican hero Ronald Reagan). Prop 13 had much to do with the decline in taxes, but Whitman doesn't give him credit here. Her campaign only gives Brown credit for the damage Prop 13 caused to the budget.

Should we feel sorry for Brown? Not in the least. By failing to level with voters about Prop 13 and the need to change the budget system it helped launch, Brown created this opening for Meg's mischief. But Whitman is doing a disservice to the state and its voters (particularly those who don't know or don't remember the history) by misrepresenting a very important and relevant part of our state's.

She should pull the ad. In the meantime, California TV stations, which have an obligation to serve the public, could honor that obligation by refusing to run it.

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