California's Republican candidate for governor said he spent a week living as a homeless person in search of a job to test Gov. Jerry Brown's claim that the state is making a comeback after the economic downturn.
In an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal, Neel Kashkari said he took a bus from Los Angeles to Fresno earlier this month with $40 in his pocket, and set out to find work. He turned to park benches and parking lots to sleep at night and got food at a homeless shelter.
A video crew documented his week.
The 41-year-old Kashkari went to dozens of businesses, offering to wash dishes, sweep floors, pack boxes and cook meals, but he was unable to find a job. He accuses the state's politicians of ignoring the poor and said California needs to reduce regulations and improve education to help create jobs.
"I walked for hours and hours in search of a job, giving me a lot of time to think,'' wrote Kashkari, a former banker and U.S. Treasury official who helped oversee the federal bank bailout during the recession.
"Five days into my search, hungry, tired and hot, I asked myself: What would solve my problems? Food stamps? Welfare? An increased minimum wage? No. I needed a job,'' he wrote.
A recent poll shows Kashkari trailing Brown by 19 points in a race that so far has generated only sporadic public interest.
Dan Newman, a spokesman for Brown's campaign, said he was having difficulty reconciling Kashkari's "bizarre campaign stunt'' with his assistance for big banks.
"If one truly cared about the homeless and had $700 billion to spend, would he give it all to big banks and ignore families struggling to stay in their homes?'' Newman wrote in an email.
Kashkari said he walked for miles in 100-degree heat searching for work with a backpack, a change of clothes and a toothbrush. He showered once, and was awoken each night by security guards or police, who asked him to move on.
He said he was committed to finding a job, but had to change his focus about halfway into the experiment to find food.
"Like others, I have often said the best social program in the world is a good job,'' Kashkari wrote. "Even though my homeless trek was only for a week, with a defined endpoint, that statement became much more real for me. A job was the one thing that could have solved my food, housing and transportation problems.''