How rich: George Skelton of the L.A. Times, the crafter and enforcer of Sacramento’s reliably wrong conventional wisdom, has some 2012 resolutions he wants California journalists to follow. George instructs his lessers about taking policy more seriously; about why the Democratic reactionaries who support policies that are objectively anti-minority are liberals, not progressives; and about journos’ need to adopt the CTA talking point that reform is a chimera, so let’s worship the broken K-12 status quo. Coming a week after an amazing Skelton column in which he said it was “hard to find anyone” who didn’t think tax hikes should be shoved down voters’ throats, this confirms the Golden State’s most influential print columnist is both 1) in the tank for the Democratic establishment, and 2) in a bubble surrounded by like-minded people who never point out obvious truths or inconvenient contrary facts.
Let’s look at Skelton’s resolutions for journos, one by one:
• Focus less on the scratching and clawing of candidates and more on the substance of their policy proposals, if any.
Physician, heal thyself. If Skelton really wanted an emphasis on policy, not politics, he would finally focus on the fact that one of the most important and consequential laws in state history — AB 32 — was sold to California in 2006 based on a premise that never came true. We were told that forcing California to shift to cleaner but much costlier energy wasn’t that risky for our economy because it would inspire the rest of the world to do so in the name of fighting global warming. It didn’t. The result is going to be a huge economic disadvantage with rival states and nations going forward.
Is this a right-wing nutty theory based on “climate denialism”? No. It’s what the current energy secretary, Steven Chu, a UC Berkeley Nobel Prize-winner, told Congress in 2009. Chu said if the U.S. unilaterally went the AB 32 route and other nations didn’t follow suit, the U.S. should impose trade sanctions on those nations.
But instead of even acknowledging the Chu argument, Skelton and many other media dolts promote the lunatic idea that having costlier energy somehow benefits California’s overall economy. Yo, George, when will you ever bring up the Chu view? Yo, George, when will you stop serving up the green Kool-Aid? Yo, George, given that you ignore this Grand Canyon-sized problem with a key California economic policy, how can you lecture any journo about needing to pay more attention to policy?
Next up on George’s resolutions:
• Don’t let Democratic liberals get away with relabeling themselves “progressives.” They’re still liberals. Switching labels doesn’t change the product. Apparently Democrats have become embarrassed by the L-word.
Yo, George, what is either “liberal” or “progressive” about a state Democratic Party dominated by a California Teachers Association that supports policies that are objectively anti-minority?
To recycle what I wrote a few weeks back, Latinos understand the need for big changes in schools. But the CTA defines education “reform” as being more money for a broken status quo and will fight to the bitter end for rules that allow teachers to leave struggling urban schools for placid suburban schools as soon as their seniority allows them to do so. The CTA fights for spending policies under which ever-increasing compensation for teachers based on seniority and meaningless graduate coursework eats up nearly the entire operating budget of many school districts.
Nothing undermines California Democrats’ claims to be for “social justice” more than their kowtowing to teacher unions. One Latino Democratic lawmaker who understood this dynamic was former state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, who for her candor was labelled “dangerous” by the CTA when she ran in 2010 for state superintendent of public instruction. Romero, no surprise, was defeated thanks to the CTA’s muscle, and its preferred candidate, Tom Torlakson, won. Torlakson, no surprise, is now sandbagging reform.
Yo, George, isn’t this, yunno, news? Isn’t this way more relevant than your nattering about whether Dems bill themselves as “liberal” or “progressive”? Isn’t it way more relevant to question whether the Dems’ allegiance to the CTA is a betrayal of social justice, and maybe California Dem lawmakers aren’t “liberal” or “progressive” at all in terms of what they use their power to achieve? And to preserve?
What’s particularly hilarious about the third of Skelton’s resolution for journalists is how precisely it echoes Jerry Brown on education issues.
•Declare a moratorium on the overused words “historic,” “crisis” and “reform.” Especially the last. Every crackpot idea is not a reform. Not all motion is progress.
This sounds reasonable. But you know what it is ultimately? Spin that will help preserve the status quo. I wrote about this emerging trope last month in the L.A. Daily News:
Brown doesn’t just seem skeptical of specific reforms but of the whole notion of education reform. … The governor pairs this broad skepticism of reform efforts with a denunciation of federal officials such as U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan for not having “a trust or even a belief in local schools” — as if school reform will ever percolate up from districts in which teachers unions are almost always the most powerful force and use their clout to maximize teacher compensation and jobs protection.
Brown knows schools need to improve. (Good.) But he is suspicious of reformers and appears to doubt sweeping reforms based on broad policy changes could even work. (Uh-oh.) And he thinks local school districts could innovate their way to success if given the chance. (Oh, no!)
This is a perfect recipe for inertia … .
If Brown thinks there are no slam-dunk-obvious ideas for reform — just flashy, flavor-of-the-week ideas — that is ridiculous. Here are two: 1) There’s not a large, successful industry in the world that pays its most important employees primarily based on seniority. Nor is there such an industry that ignores which jobs are most important in favor of a one-size-fits-all pay structure.
If kindergarten teachers can have such a profound long-term effect on students’ lives, as research suggests, then why on Earth are they paid the same as high-school gym teachers?
2) It’s 2011, for God’s sake, not the 19th century. Why on Earth is our school year based on the presumption that we need to have our kids out of classrooms all summer to help get the harvest out?
These are not “siren songs.” They are obvious reforms. But as long as Brown sees school reform as an oxymoron, [we'll remain stuck with] a California education system that continues to value the interests of school employees over students. Hip hip hooray.
If Skelton thinks there are no slam-dunk-obvious ideas for reform — just flashy, flavor-of-the-week ideas — that is ridiculous.
But I’m sure that’s just what George thinks. He’s both in a bubble and in the tank, so don’t look for anything from him but the crazy, lazy idea that all Sacramento needs its more money from taxpayers, and all will be well, or at least better. In other words, the view of the CTA and the Democratic establishment in general.
In George Skelton’s Sacramento, it’s not just Republicans and conservatives who are irrelevant. It’s Steven Chu and Gloria Romero and anyone who doesn’t share his Dem-talking-points view of California. His lecturing other journos would be laughable if it didn’t have real-world consequences.
On second thought, I take that back. Whatever the circumstances, it’s laughable — the guy who promotes Sacramento groupthink and tunnel vision pretending to be a paragon of journalism.
This just in from Sal at the Calwhine Sportsbook: The odds have been set on whether Steven Chu will ever be mentioned in a Skelton column about AB 32 before he retires.
Sal sez … 1,250 to 1.
That sounds about right for our boy George. Can’t get in the way of the established narrative, can we?. And the views of the U.S. energy secretary are hardly pertinent on AB 32, yunno?