(San Francisco, California) – I am in the Bay Area helping a good friend and client open a new restaurant in Napa, but as always there is a host of political issues to chat about this week, including big items here in California that could have a ripple effect across the nation:
It All Started Here – The U.S. Supreme Court met Friday to discuss how it would handle legal challenges to California’s Proposition 8 and other gay marriage issues. This will likely be the biggest civil rights-related case the U.S. Supreme Court has had to rule on since Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas in 1954, and it has some parallel considerations. In 2004, then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom shocked everyone by ordering the City Clerk to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. At the time I said it was either political suicide, or the boldest political move I had ever seen, and that ultimately the U.S. Supreme would decide (the issue, and Newsom’s political fate). Well, almost nine years later, here we are. Newsom is now Lt. Gov. of California, but could seek higher office if his side wins in the Supreme Court.
Rice, Part II – For weeks I have been surprised by those Democrats who have criticized Republicans who oppose U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s possible nomination to be Secretary of State. Many have called it racist, saying Republicans oppose Rice simply because she is black. But Republicans point to Rice’s failed handling of the aftermath of the fatal attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya as their reason. How ironic that people are so quick to play the race card. When you look at another Secretary of State nominee, with the same last name (and the same skin color and gender), no one made such claims. Condoleezza Rice was approved by the U.S. Senate on a vote of 87 to 13. But she was attacked for her competence. U.S. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) led the opposition saying that she wanted "to hold Dr. Rice and the Bush administration accountable for their failures in Iraq and in the war on terrorism." No one called Boxer a racist, so they shouldn’t call Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham racist either. Their votes are questioning Susan Rice’s competence, not her race; just as Sen. Boxer’s vote was on Condoleezza Rice’s competence. The race bating is out of bounds and represents a political double-standard.
A Taxing Question – While here in California I have been studying Proposition 30, which voters approved by a wide margin in November. It raises the state sales tax by .25 percent for the next four years, and it raises income taxes on people making over $250,000 a year (sound familiar), for the next seven years. The money is earmarked solely to fund public education in the state. I wonder if President Obama might look to why Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA), was successful in raising taxes, while Obama has not been successful to this point. My analysis is that Brown’s succeeded because, a) the taxes were temporary, with a specific time limit; and b) the money was specifically earmarked for something – namely education. As I have said before, if President Obama wants enough Republicans to support raising taxes on those making over $250,000 he has to give his opponents something. It’s political horse-trading time as we approach the fiscal cliff.
If I Were a Rich Man – In discussing the fiscal cliff, many reporters and politicians keep referring to people that make $250,000 as rich or wealthy. That’s not necessarily accurate or fair. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the cost of living and real estate prices are staggering, that level of income is hardly rich. For a family of four, trying to save and send kids to college, it’s a good middle-to-upper-middle class income, but it’s far from wealthy. The same is true in other expensive places to live, such as Washington, D.C., and New York City. Reporters, politicians (and others) would be more accurate in saying President Obama wants to raise the tax rates on the top 2 percent of wage-earners, or those who make more than $250,000 per year.
Is That the Same Gov. Jerry Brown? – On the East Coast, I get asked this a lot, because California has a two-term limit for Governor, and Jerry Brown already served two-terms from 1975 to 1983. It’s a great trivia question, but the answer is that term limits were passed after he left office, so he can’t be penalized by what’s known in the Constitution as an “ex post facto” law. He was elected again in 2010, and if he wins a second (technically a fourth) term in 2014, he will then be term limited.
Will He Run Again? – At age 74, Jerry Brown is in good health and is likely to seek his fourth and final term in 2014. Among the Republicans being mentioned as a possible challenger is someone we discussed above, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice is the former Provost of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. If it was a separate country, California would have the fifth largest economy in the world. It relies heavily on foreign trade, and Rice has a lot of international connections. She could give Brown a real challenge if she runs.
Misery Loves Company – Since I have most recently worked and lived in California and Rhode Island, I found a recent study by “24/7 Wall Street” amusing. It said the worst-run states in the U.S. were: 1) California, and 2) Rhode Island! I sure know how to pick where I live!!! In truth, I have loved my time in both states, the state governments notwithstanding.
As always, I welcome your questions, opinions and disagreements! Just click on the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.