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Willie Brown’s Mea Culpa

I occasionally click through to Willie Brown’s rambling column in the San Francisco Chronicle–he’s obviously trying to channel or emulate the format of the legendary Herb Caen–in large part because I always regarded Brown as the smartest and most able politician in America during his heyday as Speaker of the California State Assembly.  He flummoxed Republicans at every turn (and several ethics investigations, too, if you believe the rumors).

Today he doesn’t think much of Eastwooding, but then there’s this interesting paragraph on public employee unions:

As reforms go, the pension deal that Sacramento lawmakers reached last week is just a start to correct the mistakes that former lawmakers, including me, have made over the years.

But for all the talk about how the changes were needed to make the governor’s tax plan more palatable to voters this fall, the fact is that lawmakers bucked the unions for one reason and one reason only: They want to keep their jobs.

The unions are really bent out of shape because they weren’t allowed in the room during the negotiations, as they usually are. But why should they be in the room?

The world is changing. Years ago it was the likes of Southern Pacific and other big businesses calling the shots in Sacramento, and we were all highly critical of them.

These days it’s labor. That’s not the portrayal union leaders like to see in the media, but it’s the truth.

Real reform would be barring labor leaders from sitting on state pension boards. The boards ought to be made up of money managers who are concerned with how much cash is going in and out of the fund. There is no justification for any trustee on a pension board being more interested in spreading benefits than paying for them.   (Emphasis added.)

Willie better start checking for a horse’s head in his basement (or tailor’s dressing room more likely).

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