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Sorry, Fresno. You're just a sacrificial lamb in all this.
It may not be big news in national politics, but California actually has a gubernatorial election this cycle. Incumbent Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, who has overseen California's emergence from the Great Recession, is being challenged by business-friendly Republican Neel Kashkari, who is perhaps best known for working for Goldman Sachs and overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program under both the Bush and Obama administrations. Kashkari, who has never held elected office before, earned a spot on the top-two general election ballot after a bruising fight with the ultra-conservative but significantly underfunded state assemblymember, Tim Donnelly.

This battle for the right to lose to Jerry Brown was widely seen as a referendum on the future of the Republican Party, at least in California. One one hand, there was Neel Kashkari: the son of South Asian immigrants, moderate on hot-button social issues, and focused on conservative, pro-business economic policies. Donnelly, by contrast, is a border-patrolling minuteman who was arrested for trying to bring loaded guns onto an airplane, and race-baited Kashkari by claiming that he supported fundamentalist Islamic law. Donnelly earned the vast bulk of grassroots Republican support, but Kashkari had better fundraising and far more support from establishment figures, and prevailed.

No independent prognosticator believes, however, that Kashkari has any shot at unseating Brown. The incumbent dominates current polling and has high favorability ratings, even among Republicans—mainly because of the economic recovery the state has experienced during Brown's tenure. To try to even the odds, Kashkari pulled his latest campaign stunt. In an effort to gain some media traction and poke a hole in Brown's narrative of recovery, Kashkari spent a week posing as a homeless, unemployed man in California's economically depressed Central Valley, and penned a piece on his experience in the Wall Street Journal.

More below the fold.

Now, Kashkari merits some plaudits for doing what most Republicans cannot bring themselves to do: attempt to gain a new perspective by seeking to understand the plight of the poor. The Ayn Rand faction of the Republican Party would do well to heed his message that the poor don't want to be poor, but that circumstance often leave them few options. But Kashkari's proposed policy solutions show that he is so myopically wedded to conservative economic orthodoxy that he learned nothing from his experience.

I walked for hours and hours in search of a job, giving me a lot of time to think. 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. Period. Like others, I have often said the best social program in the world is a good job. 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.

Kashkari had the luxury of having his "homeless trek" only last a week. But multi-millionaires who don't have a gubernatorial campaign or a lucrative position on Wall Street to go back to afterward aren't so fortunate. For the proud people Kashkari met in Fresno who are looking for work as hard as he claims to have, those food stamps and those welfare checks are the only things that keep them fed and sheltered, as opposed to sleeping on the park benches that Kashkari was unfortunate enough to enjoy. And as for the minimum wage? If Kashkari had landed a minimum wage job and actually needed that job to support himself, he might be singing a different tune. What good is working fulltime, after all, if you can't make enough money to afford to live?

Ultimately, though, it's true: good employment is a better salve than a social program. The irony? Kashkari is substantially basing his campaign on opposing California's high-speed rail plan, which would start in the Central Valley and bring tens of thousands of jobs to the area for years to come. Instead, Kashkari advocates for the failed supply side solutions of tax cuts and elimination of regulations. Can Kashkari point to a single regulation that was preventing him from getting a job in Fresno? Likely not. Would any employers he contacted have hired him if only their taxes were slashed, as opposed to keeping the change? Also not likely.

Kashkari is right: the Central Valley needs jobs. But the contrast between the progressive and the conservative visions for how to accomplish this could not be more clear. The progressive vision is to spend money on badly needed infrastructure jobs that will not only support the economy in the short term, but create long-lasting development down the road and improve society as a whole. The conservative vision is to give more money away in tax cuts to those who need it the least in the supposed hopes of indirectly enticing employers to hire, even as public infrastructure crumbles.

Kashkari views himself and his campaign as the way forward for a new brand of Republican campaign strategy, but when the rubber meets the road, all he can propose is the same set of tired, top-down, supply side economic ideas that have been proven ineffective at every turn. And in another irony, he may have significantly hurt the best chance Republicans have of claiming a statewide office in California: the Republican mayor of Fresno, Ashley Swearengin, is in the runoff against progressive Democratic Board of Equalization member Betty Yee in the race for State Controller. It certainly doesn't help Swearengin to have the top of the Republican ticket in California essentially trashing her economic stewardship of the city.

California began its resurgence once the voters gave Democrats a supermajority in the legislature and elected only Democrats to statewide office. This allowed us to pass on-time balanced budgets, rebuild our gutted social safety net, fund our schools again, and get started on badly needed public infrastructure projects. Kashkari's stunt in Fresno proves that Republicans still haven't learned their lesson about how to manage an economy.

See Hunter's treatment of the topic here, replete with a campaign video.

Originally posted to Dante Atkins: the author formerly known as hekebolos on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 06:11 PM PDT.

Also republished by California politics.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I just read about this yesterday. (21+ / 0-)

    He started out with $40 to spend for the week on food.  He should have started out with five dollars or less.  His trip to Subway was the first indication that he has no clue on how much money a homeless person has to spend on food since even a cheap sandwich at Subway is about $5 and food stamps will allow a maximum of $3 a day and for most much less.  

    A former neighbor of mine used to get $80/month to eat on for herself and her husband.  Then it went to $40/ month and last I knew they were getting $15/month.  Which translates into about 50 cents a day for 2 people. I'm certain they aren't eating at subway, and are likely existing on Ramen noodles.  

    He also gave $500 to a food bank/soup kitchen for feeding him.  Then he went back to his 10 million dollar mansion and posted the crap he did.  

    •  Hi, I am a transient just arrived in Fresno. Do (10+ / 0-)

      you have any jobs?  I'll do anything, full-time, part-time.  I am not one of those creepy, dangerous transients, so please just give me a job.

      I would have given a lot to see him working in the fields, with his soft banker hands.

      ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

      by slowbutsure on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 07:20:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hey, I just got into town with this film crew. Can (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dodgerdog1, slowbutsure

        you hire me?

        I posted this in the comments for kashkari's video, and also in this diary by
        librarisingnsf
        . Rather than try to repackage it, I'm pasting it here.

        It's amazing how the many posters on youtube pay no attention to the fact that kashkari is being followed by at least one camera operator. Perhaps they think that all people who are down on their luck are the subject of documentaries?

        I hope this stunt backfires in the face of the whole California rethuglycan party. We have a Democratic majority here, but it can never hurt to add more.

        Hey, I just got into town with this film crew. Can you hire me?

        I don't think so, future losing California 2014 gubernatorial candidate.

        This is a terrible stunt. It's dishonest on every front -- including the fact that you were lying to people you were asking to employ you, because you had no interest in sticking around, and you didn't really need the work. It's also an insult to people who truly struggle to survive on the streets. Being an over-privileged rich guy, you aren't very resourceful, nor do you have the true appearance of someone who is genuinely down and out.

        Certainly, in Fresno, there is little work available. However it's incredibly arrogant of you to assume that the reason you couldn't get hired is because there isn't any work available. Even if there had been work available, nobody would have hired you, because it's creepy to have some guy and his producer come in to one's business and ask for work while filming. Furthermore you went to a bunch of businesses which weren't doing too well, so of course there wasn't any work available.

        The ironic thing is that you didn't go to walmart, target, mcdonald's, temp agencies, or any other of your party's favorite exploiting employers. Apparently, you never even so much as submitted a resume to anybody -- which you could have prepared and printed at the local library for the cost of the copies. Of course you'd have blown your cover if you had, and you still wouldn't have been hired for most minimum wage jobs, because understandably they don't like to hire white collar workers used to giving orders instead of taking them.

        Truly jobless and houseless people do a lot more with a lot less than you had and they know how to get money better than you do. Hell, you were even too lazy to collect cans and bottles for redemption. You could have made $50 or $100 a day from recycling if you had actually worked at it. But that wouldn't have fit your story, would it?

        Instead you went to charitable organizations for help, even though you actually needed none. I'm skeptical that you actually slept on the street for longer than you needed to for some usable footage and I bet you had your credit card in your wallet to bail you out at all times.

        You should make substantial donations (from your own money, not your campaign's) to all the support organizations you defrauded for meals or other support -- I'd be shocked if it has even occurred to you to do this.

        Everybody knows you're the guy who was picked to lose to Jerry Brown. Of course you're gonna milk it as much as you can in order to get that high paying lobbying gig after you lose in November. But if this stunt of yours wasn't so offensive it would be laughable.

        You're a total phony. You fool nobody who thinks for him or herself. You're definitely not governor material. I dare you to leave this comment up.

    •  Food stamps (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OooSillyMe

      I have a girlfriend that was getting $16 a month for her and her elderly mother (who has since passed).  Who the hell can live on $16 a month?  

  •  F*ing idiot - HSR in CA is already 20 years behind (10+ / 0-)

    any asshole opposing it by cos-playing homeless in Fresno is not only clueless about necessary growth, but misunderstand how the 8th largest economy in the world needs to stay that way

    "To me, it is not only a waste of money, it is a great example, it is a symbol of Sacramento having the wrong priorities," Kashkari says in the video. "If I were elected governor, we're going to cancel the bullet train and we're going to focus on the state's real priorities, which are jobs and education."

    Yet the project's proposed financing includes a mix of sources including state bond funds, federal aid and private investment. Kashkari has yet to issue detailed policy proposals for education or jobs creation, his stated priorities, and he has not said how he would craft a state spending plan.

    The $68 billion rail project is an issue Republicans believe they can exploit in attacking Brown. The Democratic governor is heavily favored in his likely re-election bid this year, but public support for the troubled project, a priority of Brown's administration, has fallen off since voters approved it in 2008.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "If we appear to seek the unattainable, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable." (@eState4Column5)

    by annieli on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 06:51:45 PM PDT

    •  Uh, what? (0+ / 0-)
      "If I were elected governor, we're going to cancel the bullet train and we're going to focus on the state's real priorities, which are jobs and education."
      I'm sorry, but wouldn't the construction create jobs?  Wouldn't we have to hire people to operate and maintain the trains and tracks?  UGH.  Dumbass.
  •  just looking at the photos (5+ / 0-)

    it was easy to tell he wasn't homeless. He was way too neat, clean, and well-shaven. I also suspect most homeless people who are trying to get a job aren't asking for work at every business they pass: the jobs aren't available, and they'll go to people with phones and fixed addresses first.

    (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

    by PJEvans on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 07:00:10 PM PDT

  •  George Will supported Kashkari in wapo op ed (6+ / 0-)

    when I read what will wrote, you would have thought Kashkari was the 2nd coming and was going to save repubs and destroy Brown

  •  Nicely done Dante, especially the part about CA... (4+ / 0-)

    Nicely done Dante, especially the part about CA's legislation. Here in Texas, we're having tasty dreams of delicious blue...anything!

  •  Ironically, the GOP mayor of Fresno (8+ / 0-)

    supports the high speed rail for the reason you mention, I think unemployment is at 10% in the city or region. She is running for controller and she, not Kashkari, seems to be the best chance at a win for the GOP statewide, although I think the Dems wins there too.

  •  I thought that must be the same guy who unhelped (0+ / 0-)

    us in '08 and then went off to pout in a cabin somewhere- recognized the name. And he still hasn't learned. I saw that briefly on Yahoo this afternoon but it sure scrolled away fast.

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 11:07:18 PM PDT

  •  What he doesn't get.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OooSillyMe, CoyoteMarti

    He started with a change of clothes and $40 in his pocket.  He was already ahead of the game, in comparison to many homeless people.  

    Let him go a MONTH, with no change of clothes, and no money, and then he can talk to us about homelessness.  (a month would give him a better understanding.  1 week, not so much)

  •  We've had 40 years of "Supply Side" economics (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, CoyoteMarti

    It started in earnest with the Great Flim-Flam Artist, Ronald Wilson Reagan and the laughable Laffer Curve.  They created the "Trickle Down" idea on the back of a dinner napkin one day and sold it to all of us rubes.  The super rich loved it because they were destined to get even richer at the expense of their lesser folks.
    And for 40 years, the economy had stayed in the toilet, with the net result of the top 1% grabbing all the gold.  And keeping it.  
    The economy grows when money is in circulation, not when it sits in rich people's off-shore accounts.  It's time to raise taxes on the rich and get money circulating again.  Stop this Trickle Down bullshit because it never worked.  
    Ronald Wilson Reagan was so wrong on so many fronts, it's hard to get your mind around all of his failures.  

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