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Friday, March 7, 2014

Governors and Credit-Claiming

At The New York Times, Timothy Egan says that California is doing well.
It’s unfair to give all credit for the Golden State revival to Jerry Brown. But the man, who will be 76 next month and was both the youngest and oldest governor of California, and who just announced a plan to run for a fourth term with an approval rating approaching 60 percent, deserves the lion’s share.
This article overlooks some important things.  By one measure, California has the highest poverty rate in the United States.  By another, it has one of the highest levels of inequality. The roads are bad and the schools are mediocre.  As the governor has acknowledged, unfunded liabilities are a big threat, and some cities have already gone bankrupt.

True, the state did not have a budget crisis last year.  But if Brown deserves the "lion's share" of credit, why are so many other states -- pursuing very different policies -- doing just as well?

Jerry Brown, Chris Christie and many of their fellow governors across the country are taking credit for the effects of a national economic recovery.

A few years ago, the effects of the Great Recession were causing huge fiscal problems for the states.  Demands for spending were up and revenues were down.

In California, Brown sees an improved fiscal situation and says his policies are responsible.  In Wisconsin, Scott Walker sees an improved fiscal situation and says his policies are responsible – even though his agenda is different from Brown’s.  (See his book Unintimidated.)  Ditto Chris Christie in New Jersey, Rick Snyder in Michigan, and Andrew Cuomo in New York.  Some states are in trouble (e.g., Illinois), but most governors of both parties are in good shape. 

Of course, if there is a downturn, these same governors will morph from heroes to goats, even though they aren’t any more responsible for recessions than for recoveries.