Meg Whitman's "Vision Thing"

The billionaire former CEO of eBay, Meg Whitman, has formally announced her candidacy to run for governor of California. Her "platform" (if one can call it that) is nothing short of a scorched earth campaign against the public sector she seeks to manage. She wants to fire 40,000 state workers, slash another $15 billion out of the state's already depleted general fund, eliminate "overly generous" pensions for public employees, and scuttle any new regulations designed to stave off global climate change. She also wants to build more prisons.

So right-wing and extreme are Whitman's proposals that even Arnold Schwarzenegger had to distance himself from her radical and nihilistic prescriptions for state governance, which ignore both practical constraints as well as the disaster these measures would wrought if ever implemented. Schwarzenegger's office had to point out that 40,000 more layoffs would end up emptying a lot of the state's prisons (the only "social program" California Republicans care about), and that it would be unwise (politically) to chuck the new climate change regulations.

According to the Sacramento Bee Whitman hasn't even bothered to vote in any election during most of her adult life. How's that for civic engagement? Her megalomaniacal pursuit of the governor's office fits in nicely with the class-warfare we've come to expect from California Republicans. Another arrogant CEO comes down from on high to bless Californians with her talent for making lots of money presuming that governing the nation's most populated state is the same as producing widgets (or at least selling widgets through an on-line auction house). I wish someone would tell these people that government institutions are supposed to be democratic and deliberative, not profit-generating institutions. It's a testimony to Whitman's overblown ego that she thinks she can just step in and become governor by dint of her private sector bona fides. That might be all one needs in the Republican primaries but in the general election hopefully voters will demand more.

Just because Californians tell pollsters they don't like the Legislature doesn't mean they want to fire 40,000 more state workers, build more prisons, and scrap climate change measures; neither does it mean they like what Schwarzenegger is doing. Why else would the governor's approval rating be on par with George W. Bush's when he left office?

Next year, Arnold Schwarzenegger's circus will leave Sacramento. The cigar tents will be packed up and his menagerie of lobbyists and hangers-on will follow him out of town. And like a departing circus it will leave in its wake a barren field strewn with garbage and elephant shit. Whoever is the next Republican nominee for governor will have to at least promise to clean up some of this mess. The last thing the state needs is a Margaret Thatcher wannabe.