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What Gov. Jerry Brown said on national TV: 'The Democrats have to wake up'

August 8, 2011 |  7:32 am

Democrat California Governor Jerry Brown with wife Anne Gust, file

Transcript of California Gov. Jerry Brown on 'State of the Union,' as provided by CNN

CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, CNN'S "STATE OF THE UNION": Governor, first of all, thank you so much for joining us.  I wanted you to take a California look at what's been going on in Washington.  We have just finished up a very grueling debt debate.  From your perspective, what did that tell you about Washington?

GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA:  Well, the obvious, that's it's dysfunctional, but more than that, that the Washington of today is suffering and experiencing a governability crisis.America can't govern when you have two parties so diametrically opposed. I think that is an ominous sign going forward. 

CROWLEY:  Do you have a solution for that, because I think you're right, I think people look....

...and say, they're on different planets and it's no wonder they can't come to an agreement. What do you think would help?

BROWN:  I'm telling you, we are at a crossroads, that if the Republicans cannot give up some of their ideological baggage, and if the Democrats can't find a way to create common ground, the country is going to face some decline. 

And I think the only way out of that is going to be a very vigorous election, where people lay out the stark alternatives, not muffle it like politicians like to do, kind of, you know, smooth out the rough edges.  I think we need a very clear, decisive election. 

I would say that the Republicans are gearing up to destroy the president, that the president will have to respond in a very powerful way, and the result for the country could be calamitous.

CROWLEY:  What does his response have to be? What is that powerful response?

BROWN:  He has to be authentic. He has to be powerful. He has to lay out a clear alternative and run a risk that it may not work out for him, because the -- society's in the mood where it wants a lot of things, but it's not willing to pay for them. 

CROWLEY:  So you think the president needs to run saying, folks, we need to raise taxes?

BROWN:  Well, I wouldn't quite put it in those terms, because that, we know from Mr. Mondale, is a big fat loser.

CROWLEY:  Well, exactly, but you're talking about stark contrasts.

BROWN:  Well, the contrast is what the choice is.  If you don't want to pay the taxes, you've got to cut Social Security, the military, research, highways, hospitals, schools, universities.  You have to retrench from being a great superpower.  And I think there is a bill at the end of that that people might be willing to pay.  If they don't pay then America will never be the same. 

So there is the tax reform.  There is the deductions, the loopholes.  There are a lot of ways that the president can present it.  But it may be that because of the propaganda or the state of indulgence where we are, maybe the truth cannot be spoken in a way that makes it a successful campaign.  If that's true, then we are really in for it.

CROWLEY:  Let me ask you on the specifics of the debt crisis and some of these confrontations that the president has had with Republicans. How do you -- assess his performance for me.  How has he done, as far as you're concerned?

BROWN:  Well, the trouble is, with the loss of the House, he's in a defensive position. I support him in what he's trying to do.  I just think he has to dig down into his own soul and connect with the people of America at this hour of peril. 

This is real peril.  And I don't think I've ever thought that about the United States  before.  But if we can't govern, if we're going to just be a divided government, our adversaries, the rest of the world, the dollar, the market, the global economy, this is not good.

BROWN:  Today, it appears that the ideological obsessions, particularly the no-tax identity, is so strong that compromise is no longer a viable concept. 

Now it would be better if we had more accommodating political parties. And it isn't that the Democrats are free from blame. They're going to have to look at the entitlements and do something about it --

CROWLEY:  I was going to ask you about that, because isn't that as -- clearly, I mean, you're a Democrat and I understand, you know, you come at it from that position, but I think Republicans would argue that this whole idea that you can't touch Medicare, you can't touch Medicaid, you can't touch Social Security, that kind of thinking also needs to be dropped.

BROWN:  Well, it -- because it's good to make -- score points off the Republicans by saying they're going to get rid of Medicare. And so -- and which, in many cases, is true. However, given the over-commitment and underfinance of where we are, we're going to have to reshape all these programs. 

In California, we're trying to get a waiver right now from the Obama administration to cut our Medicaid costs, and we so far are not getting anywhere. So, yes, the Democrats have to wake up. We've got to constrain costs. We have to find some tax loopholes to close or other revenue. And yes, we've -- it's not pleasant.

CROWLEY:  Governor, I wanted to ask you to stick with me.  We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we're going to talk about California's particular problems, and they are mammoth, as I know you know. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY:  Welcome back.  Sitting here with California Governor Jerry Brown. 

Again, thank you, for joining us. 

I was really struck by an L.A. -- a paragraph in "The L.A. Times" description of the budget that you signed. And, in part, it said, "The plan contains severe cuts, including reductions of about 23 percent to public universities, raising the price of medical care for the poor, closing senior centers and cutting welfare grants and cash aid for the elderly and disabled. Seventy state parks are slated for closure, community college fees are on the rise and mental health programs will be trimmed heavily."

That's from -- that's a Democratic-signed budget. (CROSSTALK)

BROWN:  (INAUDIBLE).  Doesn't sound like it, though, does it?

CROWLEY:  It doesn't.

BROWN:  Well, there's another aspect here, and that is we have to live within our means. 

I proposed that we did half cuts, painful cuts, many of the ones you just read, but also half continuing the tax revenues that my Republican predecessor put in place, but which expired. Well, the Republicans wouldn't give me one vote in order to have that balanced program.  So we have to cut. 

And I'm going to continue. We are not going to borrow, we're not going to obfuscate. We're going to put our books in order.  But it's going to be very painful, and we're going to do things that I don't think are the things we ought to do.

CROWLEY:  It looks like a strategy to sort of force the public or the Republicans into saying, let's raise taxes rather to cut this bone.

BROWN:  That's not the intention, but it is the consequence. And I do think, as a state, as wealthy as almost all the countries in the world, our gross domestic product in California is $2 trillion, to find another $10 billion in additional taxes, it does not, to me, seem excessive.  In fact, it seems like it makes a lot of sense. 

At some point, I would hope that people would be willing to pay some more money. And I -- if necessary, I believe there will be on the ballot next November opportunities for the people to say, yes, I'm willing to pay a little more money. 

If they don't, we will continue to retrench, and we will erode the university, the safety net, the roads, the firefighting, the prisons, the jails. 

So I will engage in a dialogue with California to forge another path that's more positive. 

CROWLEY:  You're a fiscal conservative?

BROWN:  I'm willing to spend. I like to invest. But I don't think you can borrow all the time. I don't like borrowing. I don't like debts. We're out way beyond the ledge of responsible fiscal management. So I'm pulling us back.

CROWLEY:  You have a 12 -- about a -- slightly under 12 percent unemployment rate. Do you have a plan to bring that down?

BROWN:  Over the long term.  The -- folks in Washington can't make up their minds. The Republicans say cut government, spend less. The liberals say, spend more in the Rooseveltian way of putting America back to work, which is what I believe. 

CROWLEY:  You have no stimulus funds.

BROWN:  Well, we have bond funds. 

CROWLEY:  Right.

BROWN:  And we are spending money on a massive, multibillion dollar renewable energy program. We have high-speed rail. We have --

CROWLEY:  Long term?

BROWN:  -- water projects. But that's what states do.  The short term is the Federal Reserve. It's the Congress. 

CROWLEY:  But in the -- in the short term -- and let's define that, two, three years --

BROWN:  Yes.

CROWLEY:  -- you see California -- if there is no help forthcoming from the federal government -- there doesn't seem to be any money left for any kind of -- (CROSSTALK)

BROWN:  Well, that's the plan right now. (CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY:  -- second stimulus.

BROWN:  If the stock market keeps falling, maybe people might look themselves in the mirror and say is this what we want for America. Do we really want to retrench? 

CROWLEY:  Do you see unemployment in California, absent any help from the federal government in the near term, --(CROSSTALK)

BROWN:  In the near term -- (CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY:  -- staying where it is?

BROWN:  Well, when I was governor the last time it got up to, I think, 11 percent. So this happens. 

There is no magic bullet other than stimulus, and stimulus has been stigmatized by the Republican leadership. And they want America to go through the -- this, you know --(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY:  Contraction (ph). (CROSSTALK)

BROWN:  -- straitjacket.  It -- this is where it is.  That's the gamble.  And I think, come November, the American people will have a better understanding of the choices.  And it really is a stark choice, I think, that we're facing.

CROWLEY:  I sense that you are angry.

BROWN:  No, I'm not angry. I'm just -- I'm alarmed at where America is.

So I would just say we'd better be very careful where we're going, and I hope that we watch it, we being the Congress and the president. And the president is the one that really has the most opportunity to turn this around.

CROWLEY: Thank you so much, Governor Jerry Brown, appreciate it.

BROWN:  OK, good.    ####

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Photo: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times (Brown and wife Anne, file).

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