Jerry Brown and the Dead Language

Jerry Brown likes to drop phrases from an archaic language, Latin, to spice up his interviews. When discussing the hard work of politics, Brown recently told a journalist, Ad Astra per Aspera, which he translates as “to the stars through the thorns.” His penchant for the language of ancient Rome even prompted the CalWatchdog website to satirically suggest we can all learn to talk like Jerry Brown and become governor by visiting Wikipedia’s handy list of Latin phrases and putting them to use.

While this eccentric use of a “dead language” conjures up an image of a benign, tweedy, pipe smoking intellectual, there should be no confusion. Jerry Brown is a bare-knuckles political brawler willing to use brass knuckles when it suits him.

However, instead of Latin lessons from this governor, what Californians want is to hear his solutions to our severe problems and to have them communicated in plain English, and Spanish, too, for good measure. Besides suffocating regulations, higher taxes and a bullet train, what does he propose to do to relieve unemployment and help the private sector dig out from under this severe recession? What reforms will he advocate for education, spending and government employee pensions, pensions -- given only cosmetic attention by the Legislature -- that are saddling taxpayers with $500 billion in unfunded liabilities?

The governor seems content to ignore these issues and to focus his efforts on attacking those who disagree with his policies -- meager as they are -- and who believe California is moving in the wrong direction.

He dismisses opponents of his Proposition 30 tax increase as “deniers,” as if those who think our tax burden is high enough already are akin to those who denied the earth revolves around the sun. For some ethnic communities, “deniers” has an even more ominous implication.

During a speech to the NAACP, he likened those who contribute to a campaign to defeat his measure to “people who liked to run around in hoods.”

He condemns out-of-state political action committees opposed to his Proposition 30 tax increase, but it is okay for his powerful government employee union allies to spend nearly $40 million -- money extracted from the paychecks of union members without their permission -- to pass Proposition 30. And out-of-state union help for his ballot measure is just fine, too.

There can be no doubt that he and his campaign allies have pushed the compliant media to produce negative and misleading stories, filled with innuendo and lacking in substance, about individuals and organization that oppose his tax increase. Anyone who disagrees with the governor better get ready to duck.

And his attacks are getting personal and peevish. When a CBS reporter politely asked the governor to review a video showing Caltrans workers using taxpayer funded vehicles for personal use, including trips to the liquor store, he called the journalist a “thug.”

Californians of all political stripes don’t react well to Chicago style politics. It would be poetic justice indeed if Brown’s strong-arm tactics were a contributing factor in the defeat of Prop 30. If so, those of us hewing toward more rational and reasoned policy debates will be able to tell the Governor sic friat crustulum -- which would be Latin for “that’s the way the cookie crumbles.”

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -- California's largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers' rights.