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January 21, 2014
Viewpoints: Why I'm joining the race for governor: jobs and education

Kashkari_phone.JPG(Jan. 21 - By Neel Kashkari, Special to The Bee)

My parents emigrated from India 50 years ago to pursue their higher education. My dad taught at the local college and my mom worked at the community hospital. We were a middle class family, and the middle class in America in the 1970s was pretty good.

My mom and dad knew that the ticket to success was through education, so they insisted that my sister and I get a good education. And that one crucial gift has made all the difference in my life.

Today, the gift of a good education and the doors of opportunity it opens are out of reach for millions of struggling Californians. That's why I'm running for governor: To create jobs and give kids a quality education. Jobs and education. That's it. That's my platform.

Our schools are ranked 46th in the nation. We have the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the country and the nation's worst business climate. Twenty-four percent of our neighbors are living in poverty.

That's the status quo our leaders defend: No. 46 in education. No. 46 in employment. No. 50 in small business climate. No. 1 in poverty.

The status quo is absolutely devastating for millions of Californians.

Meanwhile, the biggest priority in Sacramento is a $68 billion bullet train from San Francisco to Los Angeles with absolutely no plan to pay for it.

We know education and jobs are two sides of the same coin. Not only is a good education the key to a good job and a better future, but a weak economy and a poor jobs climate can hurt people's chances for getting a quality education in the first place.

The good news is that we know how to fix this.

We know that every child can learn, no matter what neighborhood they grow up in or who their parents are. There are some innovative schools in California and across the nation that are starting with a clean sheet of paper and redesigning the way they teach kids - and they are having tremendous success with even the most disadvantaged students. We can absolutely give kids a quality education.

We know that there is a competition for jobs among all 50 states; California, however, isn't even in the hunt. But we should be. There's no more beautiful place in the world than California. No other state has our breadth of industries: Agriculture, high tech, biotech, financial services, manufacturing. California is a rocket ship with multiple engines running at half throttle. We need to throttle up so this economy can really take off. We can absolutely create good jobs.

We also know that it is possible to get Republicans and Democrats to work together to tackle big problems. And that you don't break the back of a crisis with small changes; you break the back of a crisis with overwhelming force. The time I spent as assistant secretary of the Treasury taught me both those lessons.

In 2008, our country faced the worst economic crisis in 80 years. We were angry that a few people created a crisis that affected everyone. We wanted to let all the banks fail - because they had made bad investments and they deserved to fail. No one owed them anything. But if we didn't act, the entire economy could have collapsed - where ATMs might not have worked and people might not have been able to cash their paychecks.

So we got the leaders of both parties to work together on the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama. Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner. Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid. Republican and Democratic leaders came together and put their country first. It doesn't happen often - but it is possible.

It took overwhelming force to break the crisis and stabilize the economy, and it was critical that we protected the taxpayers. Not only did we save the country from another Great Depression, but I'm proud to say that we got every dollar back and even made a $13 billion profit for the taxpayers.

If we could get Republicans and Democrats to work together in Washington, D.C., then I know we can get them to work together in Sacramento. If we could break the back of the terrible economic crisis, then I know we can break the back of the crises here that are destroying opportunity for California families and kids.

The defenders of the status quo may say that the state is back. They may say minor change is all that is possible. But they are dooming another generation of Californians to a life of no opportunity. It isn't fair and it doesn't have to be this way. We can't let them get away with it.

It will take a lot of work to turn California around, but the status quo is unacceptable. We can unlock California's potential to build a better future for all California families.

We can absolutely do this. And we must.

Neel Kashkari is former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury and former managing director at the investment firm Pimco.