Gov. Jerry Brown, excoriating Republicans for their “obsessional” opposition to taxes, warned that the country and California are “entering turbulent waters” economically and politically in the wake of the Capitol Hill brinksmanship that barely averted disaster when President Barack Obama signed an agreement Tuesday to raise the debt limit with only hours to spare.
“The specter of a country that can’t govern itself is not pretty,” Brown said in an interview with Bay Area News Group. “We saw that here in California. Luckily we could do a budget with a majority or we might still be arguing about the budget.”
Brown said that the unprecedented move by Republicans to tie the debt ceiling vote — which has always been done without condition —to their agenda is a dire signal that the country’s democratic traditions are in danger.
“For whatever reasons, the political process is breaking down and it’s becoming harder and harder to govern and meet the problems of the state and nation,” Brown said. “And while politicians are fighting, the country is suffering. Democrats did step up to the plate. Republicans didn’t want to govern.
“I’d say the obsessional position taken by people who oppose taxes at all cost and also oppose cutting anything that’s popular” is at the core of the problem, he said.
The biggest impact in the short term of the Congressional debt limit agreement is the lack of stimulus in the deal, “which means the economy will creep along instead of roaring back,” Brown said. “Economists are worried about the failure to add jobs because jobs mean spending. If the federal government is going to contract at the same time, then unemployment will tend to remain high for a while.”
How much pain will be felt at the state level is hard to say, Brown said, but at stake are hundreds of billions of dollars in federal health programs, education, highways and other areas.
“I do think the federal government has to balance its books, and it’s got to make tough decisions, and I do agree you’ve got to have revenue as well as cuts,” he said. “But I do think they should be deferring the cuts by putting them into law and investing in jobs, whether in Civilian Conservation Corps or high speed rail or bridges.
“We need a bold Rooseveltian thrust forward and Republicans just don’t believe it. They believe government is evil and to feed the beast is bad. If that’s true, then a modern society like America is in trouble.”
Brown said he saw first hand during budget negotiations the fear that Republicans have of bloggers and activist groups, such as Grover Norquist’s Americans For Tax Reform, which extracts anti-tax pledges from most Republican candidates and incumbents.
“It’s getting absurd, this obsessive character of the Republicans. They’re deathly afraid of being recalled,” he said. “Any time one of their blogs or activists groups said something, they all ran for cover. If we’re going to have our whole country run by a small insular minority, we’re in for big trouble, state and federal.
“So, it’s a regime crisis that is very, very serious,” he said. “I’m going to do everything I can in California to keep working with both parties.”
Brown also said he is “definitely looking into the possibility” of going to the ballot with an initiative to do “what we can to put the state on firmer footing.”
He was likely referring to taxes, but he may also look at structural changes as well.