The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

September 28, 2010
Whopper watch: Tracking half-truths, embellishments in debate

Whoa, that didn't take long for the first truth-stretcher.

Jerry Brown said that Meg Whitman wants to suspend the state's landmark climate change law.

She does, for one year. But that's not the entire story.

After some hemming and hawing, she came out last week against Proposition 23, the ballot measure which would all but kill Assembly Bill 32 because it would suspend it until the state's unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters.

Brown was also right in saying that eliminating the capital gains tax, as Whitman proposes, would mostly benefit the well-off. People with adjusted gross incomes of $500,000 or more do pay about 82 percent of the total state capital gains tax in California. The state's annual take  has ranged from $3 billion to nearly $12 billion over the past decade, averaging about $7 billion a year.

But when he said that money would come straight out of schools, that's not in Whitman's platform. That could be the result, given that school spending makes up so much of the general fund budget. But it's not what Whitman is proposing.

Whitman isn't immune to leaving out context and putting the worst possible spin on Brown's record.

She criticized what Brown did as mayor of Oakland on schools, but she didn't mention that he had little direct control since an elected school board was in charge.

While as Whitman says, Oakland was labeled in one rating as the fourth most dangerous city in the nation when Brown left office, overall crime actually dropped substantially over his term.

And though she's correct that California's unemployment rate was 11 percent when Brown ended his time as governor, the national rate was 10.8 percent at the same time. The state's current rate, 12.4 percent, is substantially higher than the national average of 9.6 percent.

Later during the debate, Brown bragged about how he vetoed state employee pay raises twice. He neglected to mention, however, that after the Legislature overrode his vetoes, he agreed to smaller salary hikes in those instances.

Brown also went after the California Chamber of Commerce for ads critical of him, saying that it should be forced to disclose how much it spent on Whitman's behalf. He didn't acknowledge, however, that the chamber pulled the ads in April after the Democratic Party and others complained.

For her part, Whitman was asked about criticisms of some of her TV ads. She stood by them categorically, even though The Bee and nonpartisan groups such as have found them misleading.

But given all the claims and counterclaims lobbed back and forth during the hour-long debate, their first, Brown and Whitman managed to stick mostly to the straight and narrow, avoiding big lies or completely outrageous whoppers.

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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